Netbooks are often thought of as just being "little laptops", but that is not the entire story. The rise of these ultraportable machines at a time when mobile broadband was becoming both more affordable and popular has arguably created a much closer relationship between these machines and the Internet, with consumers using them to check up on social networking sites, use web applications such as Google Docs and keep up to date with their email. The physical characteristics of netbooks, such as the small screens, have driven innovation in netbook interfaces up until now, but recently some alternative ideas have begun to surface about what a netbook experience should be like, with new ideas such as making web sites and social updates "first class elements" of your desktop. An interesting example of these new ideas in action is Ubuntu Moblin Remix.
Today I installed the beta version of the upcoming Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 on my Asus EEE PC. So why illustrate this post with a picture of a foam hand with the word "goal" written on it? Well, as you may or may not know I like to attend ice hockey matches from time to time and whenever a goal is scored is is fun to wave around this foam hand in celebration. When I had a look the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 today I had a similar feeling of excitement! This is a real winner.
Netbooks have become a bit of a haven of innovation when it comes to operating system user experience design. While proprietary operating systems have settled for just working or not being unusably slow on netbooks, Linux distributions have become drivers of change, questioning the traditional approaches to a computer desktop and designing new experiences like the "Easy Mode" interface on the Xandros Asus EEE PCs, Ubuntu's Netbook Remix interface and Intel's Moblin project. Jolicloud is a derivative of Ubuntu Netbook Remix that aims to bring "the cloud" and your netbook closer than ever before by keeping all of your data on the web and using the operating system simply as a launcher for web apps. It is still an alpha at the moment, so it might change quite a lot before release, but thanks to Dan Monsieurle I managed to get an invite (which was needed at the time) and decided to take it for a test drive on my Asus EEE PC.
Twitter is a never ending stream of information, some of it useful, some maybe not so, but one bit of useful information that did come to my attention today was a tweet from @IanEHarris mentioning that a Live CD image of Google Android has been developed that will enable you to try this new operating system in a virtual machine environment such as VirtualBox, or any other computer that could be booted of a CD or a USB stick. It's been known for some time that it is possible to run Android on x86 hardware with a port for the Asus EEE PC appearing earlier this year, but it was very difficult until now to get Android running on other hardware or virtual machines.