NETBOOK INNOVATOR Asustek has announced that it will ship three models of its Eee PC with Ubuntu 10.10 preinstalled.
Canonical announced Asus' decision to load the Eee PC 1001PXD, 1011PX and 1015PX with Ubuntu 10.10 from 1 June as one that will "make it one of the most user-friendly PCs on the market". Previously the majority of Asus Eee PC netbooks came preloaded with Microsoft's Windows operating system, although it wasn't always that way.
When Asus introduced the Eee PC back in 2007, it shipped with the Xandros Linux distribution, however once Microsoft realised that netbooks were becoming a big seller, it came out with a cut down version of its Windows operating system. Since then the majority of netbooks sold have been preloaded with Microsoft's operating system, however it seems that Linux on netbooks is having something of a renaissance.
Ubuntu has produced a 'netbook remix' version of its Linux distribution for several years catering specifically for netbooks. However the difference between having an operating system preloaded and one that needs to be downloaded and installed is massive. Many users don't want to bother installing another operating system, a fact that has not been lost on Canonical.
Chris Kenyon, VP of OEM services at Canonical told The INQUIRER, "The deal with ASUS is an important one for Canonical which will put Ubuntu in the hands of a larger audience, people who would not necessarily download Ubuntu, but would be happy to buy a computer knowing that it will work perfectly on that hardware. Also, Canonical's extensive work with manufacturers helps make all future versions of Ubuntu run perfectly on specific machines and individual OEM's hardware."
Stanley Chang, product director at ASUS said, "Since its creation, the ASUS Eee PC has provided, and continues to provide the best cloud computing experience to users, while Ubuntu is an open source OS renowned for its customizability and stability. To fulfil the various needs of a diverse market and user base, the strategic alliance with Ubuntu is absolutely a win-win cooperation."
Chang's comment about how Ubuntu can fill "the various needs of a diverse market" is a vote of confidence in Ubuntu and the Linux community in general. Ubuntu has always been marketed as a user-friendly distribution and Gerry Carr, marketing manager at Canonical told The INQUIRER that Microsoft is its main rival, not other Linux distributions. He even said that he "does not mind if people choose other [Linux] distributions".
When asked why Asus chose Ubuntu over other Linux distributions, Kenyon said there are many reasons contributing to the marketability of Ubuntu. "There are a number of factors that make Ubuntu an attractive proposition for ASUS and its customers. Ubuntu continues to set the standard for slick design, ease of use and security, it is the world's third most popular operating system, and [it] has the most number of users in Linux. We [Canonical] were looking at publicly available data on the operating systems accessing Wikipedia last week and found the web site serves more pages to Ubuntu PCs than to the Ipads - there are a lot of users out there."
The only question left is Asus' decision to ship Ubuntu 10.10 although Ubuntu 11.04 came out back in April. It could be that Asus has been working on modifying Ubuntu 10.10 for some time, however according to Kenyon that is not the case. When asked if Asus made any modifications he said, "Nothing more than bringing together the best of the world's free software, building a stunning operating system with a superb set of integrated cloud services."
Asus said that "many more" Eee PC models running Ubuntu will be available later this year. Linux fans will hope that in the three years since Asus started shipping Linux on its Eee PCs users will have realised that Linux is far more lightweight and suited to netbook computing than Windows. µ