Better user-to-developer access. The software freedom concept is great and all, yet it leaves more problems than it solves for many people. Freely available code is important, but so are motivated, time-dedicated developers. Hobbyist developers are already stretched pretty thin as it is, despite the tremendous contributions they have already provided on behalf of all of us.
To further add onto the efforts of the existing developers, I believe that a bug tracking system with results is in order. Namely, pay a bounty through collection system like Fundable.org. The first benefit is seeing developers who are now able to make a supplemental income correcting bugs that tend to be put off as less important to basic functionality. And second, users will find that software regressions and other hassles are taken care of quicker, as the Google Linux effort becomes more popular. Google and motivated users alike could pool their financial resources to overcome any software related obstacles.
Further refinement with the existing applications. The great thing about the open source applications provided with today's Linux distributions is the user's legal ability to make changes to the app, then send those changes to others to use. Unfortunately, there are some things that might not be seen as critical and thus, might not ever be given the polish that it might otherwise deserve.
So for Google to help jumpstart things a bit with consideration to various user interface improvements, new functionality and even providing an application face lift when needed would be a necessary addition to the points above.
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Expected Linux user reaction to Google stepping up.
Today's desktop Linux user base is as diverse as it is conflicted. On one hand, there would be one group of people who would immediately object to Google providing such focused direction to the course of desktop Linux as a platform, even as their own distribution.
On the other side of the virtual coin, desktop Linux users who are more interested in seeing Linux gaining a stronger market share would likely celebrate seeing Google enter the OS wars with this level of involvement. I suspect the level of enthusiasm displayed through the user blogs, news sites and even in the real world would be off the charts.
My own reaction to Google making a push into the OS marketplace.
Nothing would thrill me more than seeing Google taking on the task of creating their own distribution of Linux, for the reasons I highlighted above, and because it would offer:
Improvement to availability of compatible hardware.
Greater and more cost effective methods for improving software.
A means for refining existing applications to provide the very best software possible on this platform.
Google jumping into the OS market would only work to serve all of us, as the company has illustrated time and again that they do support the basic fundamentals of open source software. Should Google opt not to get involved however, I see desktop Linux becoming something of a sideshow attraction. As new vendors such as ASUS, Everex, and others jump on board with second rate notebook solutions, I see the mainstream interest in desktop Linux becoming skewed by a handful of companies who have not made the kind of existing financial commitment to Linux as Google has over the years.
I would never wish to imply that the future of the Linux desktop is in the hands of a company such as Google. Still, the fact remains that Google is in a position to make the needed changes to the existing course we see mainstream Linux heading into before it is too late.