Netbooks spark Linux redesigns

Linux interfaces are being redesigned to take advantage of the limited resources and smaller screens of netbooks.

While there were no signs of touchscreen applications, Good OS is providing easier access to Web-based applications on gOS 3 Gadgets Linux.

The desktop interface of gOS 3 Gadgets includes a search bar to cull information from the Wikipedia encyclopedia on the Web, and an icon to access Google's Gmail. The desktop also features Google Gadgets, mini-applications for users to play games and check system resources like battery power and the strength of a wireless network signal.

The OS is built for netbooks and Google's applications make sense, Liu said. Google's Gadget applications use little power, and Web-hosted applications could be better for laptops with limited resources, Liu said.

GOS 3 Gadgets also prepackages Google applications like Picasa and Google Earth. It will be available free in September, and the company is in talks with PC makers to preload the OS on low-cost laptops.

IDC predicts that netbook shipments will reach 9 million by 2012. Demand for Asustek's Eee PC netbook exploded last year, when it sold 350,000 units in its first quarter since its October launch. However, Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, went on to say that Windows-based netbook demand would be higher than Linux-based netbooks.

Some users will buy Windows netbooks due to familiarity and the applications that work on them, Gnome Foundation's Peters said. However, Linux is easy to use for average consumers who don't worry about the OS and look for the computer to work properly.

Peters ordered a US$350 Eee PC online from Amazon.com. It arrived the next day and started working out of the box. It was inexpensive and easy to use, she said, and it didn't entail the tons of research needed in buying higher-priced standard laptops.

There may be confusion on what Linux distributions netbook users should choose, but the variety of options ultimately will benefit the buyer, she said.

"It's good to have different distributions as they target different types of users," Peters said.

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