Apple and Microsoft are getting ready to release some new, updated machines that will hopefully address issues such as lack of innovation and “all-around craptitude.” It kind of makes me wonder if the open source community is prepared to try some introspection and ask some hard questions.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Microsoft had a kind of emotional breakdown when they started “hearting Linux.” Years and years of calling it everything but a milk cow led to a CEO shakeup (not really the cause, but still…) and supposedly a full-on acknowledgement that the open source people are onto something. Congratulations to them for coming to this realization after 25 years.
And we’ve done our share of well-deserved dogging them for that and now, well, I guess it’s time to kiss and make up. But in the meantime, I believe we need to be curious about what they’re doing in terms of hardware innovation.
Sure, Linux and open source has always been more about substance over style. Raw machine power and reliability are what we want, not necessarily chic design and gorgeousness. I said “necessarily”. But we live in a world where hit records assures rock star status. Likewise, Linux needs a machine that rocks like Sabbath, but looks like Taylor Swift.
Why? Because, my friends, this is a new era. Newer Linux operating systems that exist to have a broad appeal are not slouches in the looks department. Design and ingenuity are now complementing power and efficiency. We’ve always known this was possible. But there are those who are actually doing it. Look at the likes of Elementary, the MATEs, the Budgies; they’re all producing something with beauty and brains. Shouldn’t our hardware do the same?
Don’t misunderstand; I love my System76 Gazelle Pro. It’s…attractive. It’s got it where it counts. Meanwhile, on the shores of Librem Land, they’ve got unbelievably gorgeous laptops that go to the extreme in security, but pay a hefty price in performance and hardware bugs.
Let’s not get into the fact that the prices for up-to-date configs on these machines are “Hoo Lordy!”. Let’s pretend for today that money is no object.
Isn’t it interesting how in so many years we’ve not made the same connection between aesthetics and all the other qualities that make us really want to buy a machine that ships with Linux? Not to sound elitist, but I’ve often thought of Linux people being the smartest people in the realm of technology. We’ve got a lot of folks who contribute on a non-technical level and have the design chops to make Jony Ives envious. Where the heck are they?
And why would an open source effort, with amazing design, release a half-baked laptop concept at the peril of getting less-than-stellar reviews on quality upon release? Moreover, why would they send a nasty response to reviewers for something they brought on themselves? A word to the wise would be to not put it out there unless it’s your best work, in this instance.
The sad part is I really don’t have any hard answers to these questions. Some may be locked into purchasing agreements for certain types of hardware housing that need to be reviewed. Some are banking on innovative concepts and designs to get them through the day. Here’s the fact–it’s not about surviving. When you’re all-in on hardware that everybody recognizes and uses on a daily basis, it’s about making the other guy go into survival mode. And making small batch PCs and laptops would only do more to place the onus for quality as well as design on the manufacturer. It’s about growth–going from small to big and maintaining the balances between quality, innovation and aesthetic.
Have you seen the big boys lately? Even HP has cleaned up their act–and they had some fugly machines. Quality? Ehhhh…I don’t know. I’d like to get my hands on one of their newest and try them out. But for sure, they’ve upped their game since they realize that they might be actually competing against the likes of Apple.
And Chromebooks? Have you seen some of the newest of these machines? The new Acer Chromebook 15 is just lovely! It’s a good, solid machine and not even that much more expensive than its predecessors.
This only makes the point even more relevant. You don’t have to price yourself out of business to put on a better looking outfit.
Granted, I understand that in the Linux world it’s often a matter of moving sand dunes with teaspoons. Often, the rug gets yanked and, lo and behold, where the heck is Mycroft? What happened to the promise of mailpile? Why can I only name three companies that manufacture and ship PCs with Linux pre-installed?
Maybe it’s time some effort is focused on addressing these issues to make Linux pre-installed hardware more of a driving force. Thank God for System76 and Entroware, ZaReason, and ThinkPenguin. But we need more competition in this market. That kind of energy comes with innovation, good looks, reliability and even lower prices pre-installed.
That’s what I call a dream machine.