The battle for hearts and desktops

Babel disc networking

A lot of arguments are about complex nuance and deeply entrenched beliefs. They seem intractable because they are so closely related to ideology.

Well here’s one that isn’t. This is just the difference between X as tool and X as hobby:

Linux people can never understand why people would want to use Windows: all those fidgety user-interfaces, hand-holding wizards, automatic updates and patronizing marketing material. Windows users can never understand why people would want to use Linux for precisely the same reasons. They want a bit of packaged nanny-state to their operating systems and they don’t want to turn the page in the manual and find “to achieve this you simply need to re-compile the kernel with your favourite text editor”.

A new product from Pipex founder Peter Dawe at last brings us a Linux distribtion without too many bells and whilstles, but with all the features most users actually want. Debates about technical superiority aside, the new product Babel disc sounds like a neat solution and is also a  sign of the times for operating systems in general.

In additon to taking a particularly cut-down configuration of the operating system and bundling it with a Skype, MS-compatible productivity suite (open office), browser (Firefox), email, IM, even Freeview app out of the box (actually off the disc), Babel disc depends on using a fashionable new storage device called the interweb (as well as being able to access USB memory sticks and local drives).

Vista may get bigger and the new Max OS X (puma? giraffe? lion?) will doubtless do the same and become shinier. But all the variants will have this in common – all will become essentially client terminals linked into server computing power online. And where’s the revenue coming from in all this? Mac and Windows are charging for base software (and/or fancy hardware). Babel disc are charging for the internet storage. Google has a potentially cleverer idea… making money from access to your preferences and interests.

Is Babel disc to early? Perhaps. I think there’s a bigger risk it’s already too late. In the next year, Google may be able to deliver 90% of the OS experience inside the browser. That could make any computer with an internet connection and a decent processor the terminal on your own digital virtual computer: no disc, no configuration no more re-installing.

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