Remember projects like OpenMoko? Thanks to Google Android, no one even realizes it's still around. Seriously, only a couple of years ago it was expected to be the concept that would bring mobile Linux efforts forward. And today? Nothing.
Are we ready to see if the same thing might happen with Linux on netbooks next? Do we really want to find out if Ubuntu's Canonical was the least of our problems with singular branding within the Linux ecosystem?
Linux challenges for 2011 and beyond
Throughout this article I have made Google out to be some kind of hidden threat to software freedom. I also realize this is perhaps a rather alarmist stance on the matter.
So let me say this. Google doesn't just take a "little bit" of a given market. Search, they own it. Mobile, they are on their way to owning it. The enterprise market, they are chipping away at it with their Web application offerings. Desktop Linux? Do we really want to wait and see?
Even more important, should Google become the de facto desktop distribution for most of the world? Does this really have any negative affect on the FoSS community at large? Clearly these are questions that I, like you, will need to wrestle with.
In my gut, I want to believe that Google is no more a threat to Linux than Apple is to BSD. Besides, should something amazing happen and Google managed to make Chrome OS a household name, would it really be so bad? Who would actually be harmed in Google finding success here and maybe finally providing us with that long sought after "year of the Linux desktop?"
These are the questions that will likely remain largely unanswered until we see all of Google's intentions, when the Chrome netbook OS is made public. If the new users it attracts are people who might never have bothered with Linux in the first place, then thats great and Chrome OS wont be a problem at all. Bundle that with a Google that makes a continued effort with their open source support and, again, I say thats fantastic.
Now some will argue that 2010 was a defining year for Ubuntu. So it stands to reason that 2011 might be a defining year for Google Chrome OS. In the end however, Fedora, OpenSuSE, and Debian (among other distros) will still be out there for those who choose to not follow the masses and instead, keep their desktop Linux experience focused on software freedom.
They may not have the media's ear quite like Google will. But distributions like these will still be there for the community, supported by the community.