If all roads led to Rome in the ancient world, perhaps it could be said today that all digital roads lead to Microsoft. And just as in the ancient world not all roads really led to Rome, today there are a few alternatives when choosing an operating system. Incoming freshmen at American universities are now more likely to arrive with a Mac, and some rebels and technophiles use open source operating systems on their machines, but if you use a PC, you still probably use Windows. When will open source finally make that jump to the mainstream?

Apple’s software has made this jump, at least in the realm of gadgets. Through their popular devices such as the IPhone and IPod, Apple has made themselves relevant to a new generation of consumers. Open source needs one success to showcase its own relevance, and what better product than the netbook!

It almost seems as if the netbook was made for open source. The nature of its size and whimpy processing power makes it an ideal candidate for a lean-and-mean operating system rather than chunky and clunky old Windows. The drumb roll please….How has open source fared in the nascent netbook market? A recent article in PC magazine quotes a study by research firm NPD, “96% of netbooks sold recently ran Windows.” The market is begging for a Linux machine as sleek and intuitive as Apple’s gadgetry. Will someone come along and give them what they want?

You can read the article Netbooks and Linux: a Complicated Story on the PCWorld website by following this link:

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/162872/netbooks_and_linux_a_complicated_story.html

The article explains all the typical reasons that consumers give for not wanting a computer — especially a netbook — that runs Linux. The perfect storm of complicated software problems and unfamiliar hardware issues makes for an imperfect computing experience. Despite Linux’s early failures, I believe that if ever there was an opportunity for open source to make its mark, the netbook is it.

What do you think?

(1) Does the very nature of open source make it a poor choice for a company looking to earn a profit?

(2) Would you buy a netbook that used Linux instead of Windows? Why or why not?

(3) Besides the netbook, what other products could take advantage of an open source operating system?