Jolicloud: Ubuntu Linux Touch Screens Meet the Cloud
Ubuntu Linux will ship on roughly 5 million computers this year, according to Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. And that number could grow further thanks to Jolicloud — an Ubuntu-based operating system designed to blend netbooks with cloud computing. Moreover, Jolicloud recently gained touch-screen support, which could position the OS for mobile Internet devices (MIDs). But is Jolicloud ready for partners? Here are some insights.
Jolicloud had been in private alpha for a long period of time. Roughly 6 months ago, I received my invite and installed it on my netbook, but it only worked so-so. Not all hardware had been supported yet, but it had potential. Even better, it’s built on Ubuntu 9.10.
The idea is simple: Keep the on-board software light, run all the main software in the cloud, and beef up the browser. Jolicloud has a special interface where you can download and install apps, too. No Linux comprehension required. And the list of Jolicloud supported apps keeps rising and rising. In short, Jolicloud seems to fit Canonical’s vision for Ubuntu-driven Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs).
Still, nothing about Jolicloud made me feel like it would offer me something my OS X install couldn’t. It has a small layer of social networking built into the OS, but it just felt wonky. But that’s just me, and that was 6 months ago.
Fast forward to the present, and Jolicloud has made some decent improvements, one of which happens to be touch. You can head over to Jolicloud’s official blog to see it in action and get a list of supported hardware, but it’s really simple to explain: the screen can be used with your fingers. Apps float around very similar to moving icons around on your iPhone, Android, etc… and it looks polished and accurate — even small buttons seem to have no issue being pressed.
But here’s the thing: Your netbook isn’t an iPad. You have a mouse. So the whole keyboard + mouse + touchscreen thing feels nearly redundant.
Even so, Jolicloud touch paves the way for non-keyboard devices (e.g. tablets built with more ‘standard’ PC hardware) to have alternate choices and support in a world dominated by Google Android, and it also obviously adds support for pen-tablet netbooks that weren’t supported in the past. What’s more, it’s one of the first cloud-based Linux distros to be in the arena before Google Chrome OS has had a chance to make it big.
Competition keeps people honest. New feature sets innovate and differentiate.
So, will Jolicloud start a trend? That’s the one thing yet to be seen.
So where do partners fit into this conversation? We concede: It’s a bit early for Ubuntu in the channel. Although Canonical is busy building an Ubuntu channel partner program, the effort is still in its infancy. So it’s far too early to predict how JoliCloud may — or may not — play in the channel.
Meanwhile, JoliCloud and Canonical both face growing competition in the netbook market. In addition to recent Windows gains on netbooks, Novell has launched a SUSE edition of Meego for netbooks.