New Ubuntu Netbooks: More Than A Pretty Face?
The love affair between netbooks and Ubuntu continues, this time with Hewlett-Packard (pictured) and Toshiba launching new Ubuntu-driven portables. However, not all Ubuntu netbooks are created equally — especially when it comes to the graphical user interfaces. Here’s why.
HP says it is releasing a new version of their Mini 1000 netbook computers. This new version is powered by Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix and has been customized with a skin (or graphical user interface) specifically designed by HP.
HP called the new skin Mobil Internet Experience or MIE. I realize HP wants to put a good face on Linux, I think they are selling this whole concept short. From what I can tell, which is not a lot from their site, it looks like the entire desktop has been limited to a few simple capabilities. If I were a regular Joe comparing the models, I would definitely go with the XP edition because it can do everything that XP can do (or so it would seem). By putting a straight jacket on Ubuntu, HP has taken the value out of the Netbook Remix and shown just how badly Linux can be treated.
HP’s Windows Legacy
Well, that out of the way, let’s look at it from another perspective. HP as an organization is very Windows centric. The majority of their support resources are built around supporting Microsoft’s products. So, if they were to give a user an unfettered Ubuntu desktop, I would be willing to bet that they would have real support nightmares the first time someone ran “rm -rf /*” or the equivalent. So, for them, the safe road is to put the shackles on and take a very powerful operating system and turn it into a toy.
OK, now we’ve looked at this from both side of the issue, but what’s the final tally? Is this good for Linux overall or bad? I have to say that it’s baby steps of progress. Where many of us who use Linux regularly have a modicum of understanding about how to properly operate (nice alliteration ‘eh?) an Ubuntu machine, some people don’t.
This device is aimed at those people, and if you are not one of those people you can always install your own Ubuntu desktop afterward, right?
Here Comes Toshiba
Toshiba has also started shipping an Ubuntu Netbook as well, this one called the NB100-11R.
The Toshiba device offers an unmodified Ubuntu Netbook Remix desktop, which I must say is a better option than HP’s approach. No straight jackets required! And somehow, Toshiba is able to sell these little lovelies at a better price than HP’s crippled version. At 212£ (~310USD), it’s nearly 20% less expensive than the HP Mini 1000, plus you get the benefit of Ubuntu application repositories and updates. Very nice indeed!
The bottom line: If you have been waiting for an Ubuntu option before buying a netbook, the wait is over. Whether you want HP’s simple, yet functional, Mini 1000; or the whole enchilada embodied in the Toshiba NB100-11R: Your wait is over.
Contributing blogger Deven Phillips is a senior systems administrator and software engineer for a major manufacturing company based in Louisville, KY. He has used Linux since 1997, and Ubuntu in both desktop and server settings since 2006. WorksWithU is updated multiple times per week. Don’t miss a single post. Sign up for our RSS and Twitter feeds (available now) and newsletter (coming in 2009).