I had my first opportunity in some years to spend some time on the California coastal cities of San Francisco and San Diego. The weather was better than The Netherlands for sure, and while I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time outdoors, it was still quite pleasant. My wife Donna joined me in San Francisco on her way to link up with the boys in Ontario. I’ll admit it was not the most direct route to take to get from Rotterdam to Toronto, but the cost was not too bad and she was able to spend some time in the downtown area, doing a bit of shopping and of course visiting the local Hard Rock Cafe. We now have been to just about all of them – and to catch the few remaining ones have seriously discussed booking vacation to cover them off. While this may sound silly (and undoubtedly is) on the other hand it provides us an excuse to go somewhere new that we otherwise would not have bothered trying, and in that respect does make some slight sense (to us at least !).With business concluded on San Francisco, and Donna safely sent on her way to Toronto, I went on to San Diego for the Desktop Linux Summit. This was the fourth time it had been held and is advertised as being the only conference dedicated to the desktop – I can’t confirm or deny that, but it clearly is at least a Linspire conference which is a bit of a pity. While other vendors were there (most notably Novell, Ubantu and Red Hat), Linspire did manage to get a lot of the airtime.
Over all the conference was interesting – Linux folks and Apple folks both seem to feel as though they are being conspired against by Microsoft which while possibly being true, still makes them seem to be a bit shrill in their protestations. On the other hand, the ‘home brew’ attitude reminded me of a college campus with a ton of energy and enthusiasm by most of the people there – many of whom had longer hair than I did ! The funny thing about the event is that it is clear there is a growing gap between the open source ‘free is good’ community, and the commercial Linux folks trying to figure out how to make a living with what is clearly a solid product. From a commercial perspective I suspect many of the folks in the room just didn’t get it yet – free isn’t the answer as for a corporation as the real costs are in the support, maintenance, training, network hardware, desktops and servers required to support an enterprise. Saving a few bucks on desktop software doesn’t by itself make it an attractive proposition. In point of fact, the delta total cost of ownership between a 100,000 user base Microsoft and Linux installation is about the same, so for most companies there is little incentive to change, as any savings that do exist would get burnt up in the migration costs. Having said that, for the consumer market I think there is finally a real range of solid usable choices available from the good folks at Linspire, Xandros, Ubantu, Red Hat and most interestingly Novell. The Novell Suse release 10 which is due out later this summer is one I’d recommend and plan to pick up for my own personal use. It by far is the most complete and most visually appealing release I’ve seen (I currently run Xandros and Linspire at home together with Microsoft). Novell have really done some great work on the OpenOffice space to get a very high degree of compatability with MS Word, Excel etc. and if you connect your iPod or plug in a DVD it will work. Something to keep an eye on.
Another item to keep an eye on is what could be a real game changer – services. The one I find most interesting is the new activity by former CEO of Linspire Michael Robertson who has launched yet another startup called AjaxOS (see http://www.ajaxlaunch.com/) – no this is not a new type of household cleaner, although it could take a few established vendors to the cleaners if successful. If you assume that highspeed network connectivity is a given, then having an operating system independent suite of applications delivered via your internet browser makes a lot of sense as a) you have access from anywhere, b) its very simple and c) it is a cheaper possibly more robust model than the traditional fat client. The AjaxOS folks have a Word and Excel lookalike, a drawing package, a music player, and a video editor – add Google Gmail and Calendar to the mix plus a couple of other Google applications and you have a full featured desktop without requiring anything more than a browser enabled appliance. Could be interesting.
And I was able to locate the Hard Rock Cafe in San Diego so over all, it was a total success !