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Will Tablets Replace PCs?

February 27th, 2011 Benjamin Horst

The iPad and forthcoming tablets from Android (and perhaps WebOS) are likely to displace PCs, at least in the developing world where the installed base of either is currently very low. The first country to watch is China, while India and much of Southeast Asia won’t be far behind. Since Android is open source, it will probably become the largest platform, but iOS devices are likely to take the prestige/luxury niche.

James Allworth discusses much the same idea on his blog post “The Fall of Wintel and the Rise of Armdroid.” Reporting on the Consumer Electronics Show, he writes,

The iPad and its many clones were not really the main story of the show. The main story — which almost nobody covered — was that this year’s CES marks the beginning of the end for Microsoft and Intel.

This transition has been a long time coming in the PC industry. Ironically enough, both of these two big players have seen the writing on the wall for almost a decade. But as is so often the case, incumbents find it immensely hard to disrupt themselves.

Allworth predicts tablets will undermine the sale of PCs to the point of extinction, and points out major milestones that have already occurred on that path:

At CES, for the first time, almost all of Microsoft’s OEM partners abandoned Microsoft exclusivity; and Microsoft’s next-generation operating system has abandoned Intel exclusively for the first time. There’s no reason to believe that either of the two companies are going to be able to turn this around. On one hand, ARM processors are perfect for powering these handheld devices. Manufacturers can customize to their heart’s content. And Android is on track to dominate the operating system space (though maybe not profitably). Both ARM and Android — Armdroid — are providing everything that tablet manufacturers need, and doing it more effectively and at a lower cost than Microsoft and Intel are able to.

We will be able to look back and say that this was the CES that saw Wintel fall and Armdroid rise up.

This outcome seems likely, though I don’t imagine PCs and laptops will disappear from offices and homes in developed countries for quite some time. However, in the developing world, this will become another case of technological leapfrogging–just as China jumped over landline phones directly to mobile phones, I think they’ll jump over PCs to arrive at tablets. The same for India and other countries in their rapid-growth phases.

As a participant in the LibreOffice project, then, I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of developing ODF editors for these upcoming platforms!

France’s Gendarmerie Ubuntu Case Study

November 3rd, 2010 Benjamin Horst

The French Gendarmerie (national police force) has been gradually moving its software infrastructure to open source over the past several years, starting with the adoption of on Windows, and now moving to Ubuntu for more and more of its desktop computers.

While some governmental migrations have surprisingly cost more than proprietary software (due largely to training expenses and ancillary software, I suppose), the Gendarmerie has realized huge cost savings from the beginning of their migration.

Canonical discusses this example in their case study, French National Police Force Saves €2 Million a Year With Ubuntu.

After switching from Microsoft Office to and Internet Explorer to Firefox, the police force decided to upgrade 85,000 PCs to Ubuntu Desktop Edition, removing its reliance on the Microsoft operating system almost completely. As well as simplifying maintenance and improving ease of use, Ubuntu Desktop Edition is saving the police force €2 million a year in licence fees alone. By repurposing 4,500 machines to act as local servers, it has also dramatically reduced its hardware expenditure.

KDE’s Social Desktop

July 5th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Slashdot pointed out the gradual arrival of the social desktop elements long-planned by the KDE project in Social Desktop Starts to Arrive in KDE.

The concept behind the Social Desktop is to bring the power of online communities and group collaboration to desktop applications and the desktop shell itself. One of the strongest assets of the Free Software community is its worldwide group of contributors and users who believe in free software and who work hard to bring the software and solutions to the mainstream. A core idea of the Social Desktop is connecting to your peers in the community, making the sharing and exchanging of knowledge (PDF) easier to integrate into applications and the desktop itself.

This ties in with the Dashboard Concept I’ve been working on as well. Integrating web with desktop applications is one important step, and then moving beyond that to integrate social software makes it yet more valuable to the community of users.

Brazil’s Telecentro Program Expands

June 1st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

In a recent post, the North-by-South blog announces Brazil is aggressively expanding their Telecentro program, community free software workshops and technology education.

The Brazilian National Support Project for Telecentros (public computer labs with free, public Internet access) intends to support the deployment of 2 – 3,000 new Telecentros and towards achieving the goal of 10,000 active Telecentros by the year 2010. Almost all of the Telecentros are built using entirely free and open source software. Adding to the social benefit of the project, the rapid timetable will be met by training Brazilian youths on how to install Linux, configure the workstations and servers, and get the Telecentros online, up and running.

What an excellent national project that will pay future dividends as generations of Brazilians learn computer skills on open platforms, and then become the very developers to advance those platforms in turn.

Firefox Has 270 Million Users

May 13th, 2009 Benjamin Horst reports Firefox Hits 270 Million Users, Without Linux.

The open source Firefox web browser from Mozilla now has some 270 million users. That’s the figure that Mozilla staffer Aza Dotzler is now claiming, and it’s not an easy number to calculate.

Calculating the number of users of any open source application is notoriously hard, but Mozilla has some techniques that can help it arrive at a reasonable estimate. It measures the number of installations pinging the update servers daily, and multiplies that by three to reach its guess.

But the system doesn’t count Linux users of Firefox. Author Sean Michael Kerner writes:

If we take Fedora’s number of users to be 13 million, Ubuntu Linux’s to be another 8 million, then roll in Debian, SUSE, Mandriva and Gentoo users, I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Firefox easily has over 100 million active daily users and nearly 300 million users total (but that’s my own calcuation).

Ubuntu 9.04 Hits the Streets

April 23rd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

That’s right, today is the release day for Ubuntu 9.04, Jaunty Jackalope!

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more.

One of the most user-friendly Linux distributions, Ubuntu’s combination of an attractive user interface, strong community of developers and users, and backing by a well-capitalized company (and leader), have pushed it to the forefront in recognition and into a true competitor to the longstanding dominance of Windows and other closed-source software.

Further, as a small taste of what the future will bring, the agility of open source is demonstrated by the quick creation of a mature netbook-tailored version in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Hungary and Tatarstan Choose FOSS

April 13th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Our friend Christian Einfeldt reports on Slashdot that Hungary and Tatarstan (in Russia) have made strategic moves to adopt Free and Open Source Software.

On April 2, the Hungarian government announced that it will be modifying its procurement rules to mandate that open source procurement funding match expenditures for proprietary software, according to Ferenc Baja, deputy minister for information technology. In Tatarstan, a Republic of 3.8 million inhabitants, the Deputy Minister of Education announced that by the end of this school year, all 2,400 educational institutions in Tatarstan will have completed a transition to GNU/Linux, following a successful pilot program it rolled out in 2008.

With the 2010 annual conference to be held in Budapest, Hungary, this is especially timely news.

Androids in the Home!

April 8th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Google’s Android platform, while starting slow, shows a great deal of potential and has piqued the interest of many phone vendors and carriers. In the NY Times’ piece T-Mobile to Use Google Software in Devices for Home, Ashley Vance discusses new T-Mobile devices planned for Android.

T-Mobile plans to sell a home phone early next year and soon after a tablet computer, both running Android, according to confidential documents obtained from one of the company’s partners. The phone will plug into a docking station and come with another device that handles data synchronization as it recharges the phone’s battery.

There have been many rumors of netbooks adopting Android, in part because it is expected the brand power of Google would be strong enough to convince buyers they don’t need Windows. In fact, T-Mobile’s home phone sounds very much like a phone-netbook hybrid to me:

T-Mobile’s use of Android to advance its ambitions also shows just how blurry the line has become between phones and computers. Its tablet-size phone device resembles a small laptop without a keyboard and has a seven-inch touch screen. It would handle basic computing jobs like checking the weather or managing data across a variety of devices in the home.

25 Highly-Anticipated Open Source Releases

April 6th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

ComputerWorld publishes a lengthy piece titled 25 Highly-Anticipated Open Source Releases Coming This Year.

It’s a roundup of some major open source project releases scheduled for the rest of this year, although article commentors pointed out a number of important projects that weren’t mentioned… which shows how important and enormous the field of open source has become.

Firefox 3.5, Ubuntu 9.04 and 9.10, Android, Maemo, Eclipse, 3.1, Kaltura, Dimdim, Foswiki, WordPress, several open source hardware projects, and much more.

It’s going to be a huge year for open source!

Dvorak Prefers Ubuntu

April 3rd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

John C. Dvorak, a PC Mag columnist long seen as a major Microsoft apologist supporter, has become enamored of Ubuntu for himself and his readers, and expresses it in a recent column, Dvorak Likes Linux:

The critical mass has been reached, and it’s time everyone tried Ubuntu.

A strong statement, and a major shift for the irascible writer. He expands it with:

I seriously like the Ubuntu 8.10 implementation and will now install it permanently on my latest machines. It’s a winner…

In many instances the complexity of Linux turns out to be smoothed over by the Ubuntu architecture. It’s so good that I’m a little annoyed with myself for not getting to it sooner.

It’s a pretty amazing change for this IT veteran, made even more so when he caps off the piece with this:

If I had a small or mid-size company, I’d probably use only Linux and open-source software, just to stay out of the way of the software police and their onerous “audits”—another abhorrent situation that, to me, is intolerable.

Congratulations, John, for coming around! Welcome to the new world.