Will the Linux-Windows Netbook Change the OS Wars?

Lenovo's new hybrid Linux-Windows netbook, debuted at CES, could be a game changer.
Back in June, when I wrote an opinion piece about the enduring competition between the three major operating systems, I assumed the race would just go on indefinitely. After all, the three systems have been locked in combat for the hearts and minds of the public for years and years, and the likelihood of any peaceful resolution seemed remote, if not impossible.

But in a brilliant stroke of diplomatic ingenuity, Lenovo brought to the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a single hybrid laptop in which Windows 7 and Lenovo's custom form of Linux called Skylight operate in a sort of time-share using the same screen.

In its laptop incarnation, the device behaves as a conventional PC running Windows 7, the particular flavor of which (Home, Professional, or Ultimate) was not specified. But the entire viewiing screen can be completely detached from the keyboard base – smoothly, by hand, no tools required! - and restarted in a Linux-quick 3 seconds. It is then an independent touch-screen tablet operating on the Skylight OS, with the laptop base as a wi-fi hotspot.

This is certainly a spectacular way to bring new meaning to the term “dual boot,” but I'd like to suggest it's a whole lot more than that. Lenovo is an independent manufacturer now, but it was not long ago that it was simply the PC hardware arm of IBM, presumably fully ordained as an OEM for Microsoft Windows.

If this company with such traditional roots has taken the bold move of combining those two usually adversarial operating systems on the same device, is it possible they have received the blessing of Microsoft to do so? Or is it possible they just view themselves as a freelance peacemaker? Or – most likely of all – do they see an expanded customer base for an OS-agnostic product?

In any case, I personally hope this hybrid system is well built, sturdy and efficient, and will be a proper ambassador for both operating systems it carries. It would be such a pleasure to take a breather in the ongoing feud!

And by the way, you heard it here first: I'm no prophet, but I did wonder just last month whether Microsoft had become bipolar.

Tags: Linux desktop, Windows 7, netbooks, netbook

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