Gnome’s Online Desktop

A few years back there was this rumor about Google creating an “always online OS” based on Ubuntu, but this is something that it hasn’t been materialized to date. Instead, Red Hat jumped on the opportunity and they are now touting their “Online Desktop” for Gnome, which is basically that same idea.

I am a major fan of Havoc Pennington, but sometimes I don’t know what he’s thinking. After the utter failure of Mugshot in terms of user base (not in terms of engineering), he probably thinks that this time he’s got the right idea. Well, he does have the right idea, it’s just that I don’t believe that it will pan out. Like with Mugshot, the idea was interesting, until Facebook came out with a solid application API and made Mugshot irrelevant. Every action you can do with Mugshot it can be done with the Facebook API. Thinking about it, it would make more sense to write a Facebook application around the mugshot server rather than have a standalone client that no one uses.

Anyways, the reason why I am saying this will fail is because again, they forget the big picture. They optimize and write this for the Gnome desktop, not also for Windows and OSX. So basically the biggest feature of the Online Desktop, which is “login on any computer to access your data”, requires Linux and Gnome. And their idea that the Average Joe will travel the world with a LiveCD in his pocket is ridiculous. This is simply a non-open minded way of seeing both the future and the market they are in. And even if the idea becomes popular with the Linux users, it won’t bring hordes of new users to the OS. It will simply be a repeat of the MIT student of 1988 saying “I have Unix at school, and I have Unix at home, and guess what, I can see my school desktop at home using something called X11”. In absolute terms, this was then, and this is now, and it’s the same all over again.

But think about it, who the fuck cares if this guy used X11 to view his desktop at school? Given the fact that Windows did not have this feature and yet it got 94% of market share in the subsequent years, it only proves that this was either not a killer feature, or not managed properly. And as long the Online Desktop is tailored made for Gnome, it will remain “just a new Gnome feature” and not a revolution. Not having the source code of Windows or OSX might be a problem to create a fully integrated solution, but there might be ways to create something elegant and yet less integrated.

Now you ask, why does the Online Desktop have to be a revolution and not “just another feature”? Because this IS where computing is going and it would be beneficial for open source to get there first, and because that’s Havoc we are talking about. He aspires to do big things and people listen to him. If Havoc and his 10-member team can’t bring revolution using Red Hat’s millions of dollars, no one in the Open Source world can.

Except if Google steps in.


Adam S wrote on December 8th, 2007 at 5:39 AM PST:

Given the fact that Windows did not have this feature and yet it got 94% of market share in the subsequent years, it only proves that this was either not a killer feature, or not managed properly.

Not sure I agree. It means people weren’t ready for that feature. When Windows gained 94% of the desktop, no one had broadband, no one had external hard drives, and storage space was very expensive. Some computers still came with 2GB hard drives.

The world is different now and things evolve. Luckily, we have people like Havoc who work towards the next killer thing, rather than dismiss them as “never gonna work.”

The “never gonna work” people are irrelevant in life. The visionaries are the ones that matter. Even if he can’t do it, it’s likely that when it eventually is done, they will learn from his experiences.

Thom Holwerda wrote on December 8th, 2007 at 10:00 AM PST:

The online desktop will fail for the simple reason that it requires being online. Most of the folks out there are still on dialup or on slow broadboand.

On top of that, I simply do not want my crap (apps, data) to be online. The internet fails, breaks down, gets temporary slowdowns – what if I’m working on an important uni thing and the internet fails?

The online desktop is an utopian idea that is simply wasted effort. How about making GNOME itself work and viable for the future, instead of this online nonsense.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 8th, 2007 at 10:45 AM PST:

>The visionaries are the ones that matter.

Right. With the shareholder’s money.

Andrew wrote on December 8th, 2007 at 4:35 PM PST:

The day the online desktop becomes reality / requirement is the day my geekiness takes a snapshot and freezes.

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