Open source fans, rejoice: The Year of the Linux Desktop has arrived. Or something close to it is on the horizon in China, at least, where Dell has reported that more than 40 percent of the PCs it sells run a variant of Ubuntu Linux that Canonical helped develop.
Specifically, Dell said that 42 percent of computers in China run NeoKylin, an operating system that originated as an effort in China to build a home-grown alternative to Microsoft (MSFT) Windows. Also known simply Kylin, the OS has been based on Ubuntu since 2013, when Canonical began collaborating with the Chinese government to create an Ubuntu variant tailored for the Chinese market.
Earlier versions of Kylin, which has been around since 2001, were based on other operating systems, including FreeBSD, an open source Unix-like operating system that is distinct from Linux.
Ubuntu Kylin looks and feels a lot like modern versions of Ubuntu proper. It sports the Unity interface and runs the standard suite of open source apps, as well as specialized ones such as Youker Assistant, a graphical front end that helps users manage basic computing tasks. Kylin's default theme makes it look just a little more like Windows than stock Ubuntu, however.
Given the relative stagnation of the market for desktop Linux PCs in most of the world, Dell's announcement is striking. And in light of China's hostility toward modern editions of Windows, the news does not bode well for Microsoft's prospects in the Chinese market.
Dell's comment on Linux PC sales in China—which appeared in the form of a statement by an executive to the Wall Street Journal—comes on the heels of the company's announcement of $125 million of new investment in China.