Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Google Businesses The Internet

Google Working on Desktop Linux 785

paulmac84 writes "The Register reports that Google is working on a version of Ubuntu, known internally as Goobuntu. Google has confirmed it is working on a desktop linux project, but declined to supply further details, including what the project is for. Is Google about to release this as an alternative to Windows?" Update: 02/01 00:11 GMT by SM: chrisd is the first among many to point out that this is just more fodder from the Google rumor mill and isn't something they are currently planning to release.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Working on Desktop Linux

Comments Filter:
  • hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fusen ( 841730 ) * on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:10PM (#14607274)
    This has been talked about for quite a long time and even supposedly seen [google.com] but what can Google do that would make this more special then any other ubuntu release/spin off?
    Also a more worrying question,would you see ads incorporated?
    • Plough in massive amounts of cash and resources. I know Ubuntu is backed by Mark Shuttleworth but the more funding/resources the better.

      • by TallMatthew ( 919136 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:21PM (#14607391)
        More to the point, what does Google plan to do that Ubuntu isn't already doing? The Ubuntu project has already made good progress in terms of usability and so forth; why would Google want to mess with a good thing? And once they rebrand Ubuntu, why would Ubuntu continue to offer their internal updates?

        It seems more likely Google would partner with Ubuntu than snapshot their product and start wandering off in their own direction. Ubuntu could definitely use the human and network resources Google has to offer, but I don't see them just handing over all their work and letting Google take over, nor does it make sense for the two to start competing with one another.

        • by sperm ( 916223 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:30PM (#14607493) Journal
          With a Google name on it, Corporate acceptance will be easier to sell, than simply "Ubuntu"!!!
          • Mod the parent up. It's simplistic, but it's incredibly true. There are two barriers to linux pretty much wiping away MSs stranglehold on the OS market. The first is the actual usability of the linux distros. Google can help with that, but it will probably be incremental over the existing efforts.

            The second major barrier is something that linux can't really overcome on its own, however, and that is credibility. The impact of having a Google-branded linux distro could be huge. Google is one of the most well-known brands in the world. Techies may be happy to choose between Ubuntu, SUSE, Mandriva, and the huundreds of other varieties of linux but to the average man or woman on the street the choices of distros make the move to linux doubtful. Having a Google-branded distro would be like a huge signpost reading "this is safe" that would encourage droves of people to try linux out. Of coruse - most people aren't going to reinstall the OS on their desktop, but it opens the opportunity for IT service companies to come in and say "you know that Google OS you've been hearing about? We can install it for you."

            For private users this is not such a big deal. But for small to medium sized (non IT) businesses - many of which outsource their IT - this could be huge. These companies want to save money on IT and they don't care very much about the nuts and bolts. If Linux is cheaper AND they feel it is safe and credible - they will switch. A lot of them already know that Linux is cheaper, but they don't have the expertise to verify how stable and/or easy to use it may be so they go with the safe option: Windows.

            Goobuntu (what a ridiculous name) totally changes this equation. Suddenly Linux is cheaper AND trusted. The reprecussions could be huge. Not just for Google-linux, but really for all the desktop distros.

            Note that I'm not saying this will end Windows at all, but that it will end the Windows monopoly. Windows is good at what it does. The market doesn't need a new monolith - it needs real competition. That's the great part about linux and open source. If you've got open standards than transitioning the software won't kill access to the data. So the companies and individuals aren't as locked into their software. And with hundreds of distros to choose from - and several close competitors at the top - we are looking at the dawn of REAL competition in the market. And that competition is what we want.

            • by jZnat ( 793348 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:59PM (#14607836) Homepage Journal
              Just wanted to mention that your "mod parent up" post turned into something far more insightful than the parent, so congrats on breaking /. tradition! :P
            • by Keruo ( 771880 )
              > Goobuntu (what a ridiculous name)

              As ridiculous as whistler and vista.
              The complete product will likely have better name.
            • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:07PM (#14607923) Homepage Journal
              The second major barrier is something that linux can't really overcome on its own, however, and that is credibility. The impact of having a Google-branded linux distro could be huge.

              Or Google's brand could be devalued by the move.

              I hate to say it, but Corel, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and several other large companies with good reputations have tried this. The result has always been the exact reverse of what was expected. Instead of Linux being risen up, the company is dragged down. Next thing you know, the company is ejecting Linux faster than you can say "What happened?"

              The problem (I think) is a lack of corporate control. Linux has always been a hobbiest's OS. When big companies come in and start trying to help improve areas where they feel Linux is lacking, there's often a lot of pushback. For example, the Sun GNOME engineers have often complained about how hard it was to get many of their usability improvements into the main trunk.

              It's not so much that one side is right and the other side is wrong (though arguments could be made both ways), but rather an extreme culture clash. The corporates say, "Our customers need this, do it" while the hobbiests say, "I think this is a cool feature, I want to work on it, you should know more about XYZ if you want to do ABC."

              Google isn't stupid. I'm betting dollars to donuts that their new desktop is nothing more than a cool network configuration tool or kiosk type scheme. Meanwhile Google will continue to benefit from all these boneheads who continue to think that they're doing a consumer desktop. Mark my words: This isn't what people think it is.
              • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:40PM (#14608274)
                Corel was on its last gasp and tried to use Linux to pull it out of its tailspin.

                Sun used Linux as a platform for Java and they were in trouble, not because they supported Linux on the desktop, but because they were still pushing million dollar servers over cheap Linux and WIndows servers.

                Novell is now using Linux to replace NDS and it is working for them.

                IBM hasn't branded Linux, but its a HUGE supporter of Linux. Not going down any where.

              • I see it a little differently. First of all large companies haven't been entirely dragged down by Linux. I don't think IBM is going to jetison it any time soon, for example, and I think that Sun still has high hopes for Star/Open Office.

                But the problem is that large companies have tried to laterally transplant linux into the marketplace. This won't work. What Google could do here that is radically different is start to build a groundswell of support. Think of it as politics. Large companies are like well-funded small-interest groups, Google is starting a grassroots campaign. If you want to get a specific earmark, go with the small-interest groups. But if you want to make fundamental changes in politics - or in in IT - you need a grassroots movement.

                By convincing individual users - in business, academic, or private capacity - that linux is safe to use Google could start just this kind of grassroots momentum. This spreads to small and medium businesses and retail (why use Windows to run cash registers with a few bells and whistles?). That kind of broad market penetration means that the employees of large companies will be able to transition more easily to linux - so eventually IBM, Sun etc. start to get what they've been gunning for as well: mainstream adoption of linux.

                Of course a lot of companies are going to find out that Windows is better for them than Linux. That's really what we want to have happen, however. Instead of politics we may actually get a more open market where people have genuine choice and therefore there's genuine competition.

                Google can contribute to this process in ways that IBM, Sun, Novell, etc. never could because Google is visible to ordinary non-techies in their day-to-day lives in ways those tech giants aren't.

              • by nospmiS remoH ( 714998 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:18PM (#14608715) Journal
                One difference: Find the most non-tech person you know who still uses a computer. Now, give them a list of company names as follows:

                1) Corel
                2) Novell
                3) Sun Microsystems
                4) Google

                Now, ask that person which companies they have heard of and what those companies do. A strong brand name is a very powerful thing.
              • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:28PM (#14608833) Homepage Journal
                The companies you mention either did Linux as a dying gasp but didn't have enough resources (Corel*) or because it was the only way they could deal with the threat to their proprietary offerings (Novell, Sun) but their hearts really weren't in it. (Besides, none of those three had/have one-tenth the name recognition among the public that Google does.)

                I think a Google Linux for the masses would be the greatest thing ever. They have the resources to make software packaging and delivery easy, they've got lots of cool apps & services they could deploy and integrate, they're smart enough to know how to make a good, clean, easy-to-use UI, they've got the resources to extensively test and then certify application compatibility (i.e., MS Office under Wine or CrossOver) and most importantly, it's a brand that everyone from a CEO to a PHB to a mail room guy knows and trusts.

                What's holding back Linux adoption now? Fragmentation, and the main support options are from companies that techs swear are great but that PHBs have never heard of. Even if a manager did listen to his techs and investigate Linux, what would he see--a bunch of distros with odd names and support from a bunch of companies that come and go, none of which he's ever heard of. Google could change all that.

                Ubuntu is a great distro--pretty, simple, works on lots of hardware. But it has a weird name and no particularly compelling features that would draw most Windows user. For every huge plus (no viruses!) there is an equally huge minus (my favorite old game doesn't work!). Google could change all that, too.

                Basically it comes down to this: if there's one company that a) could make Linux work, b) has a compelling reason to want Linux to be a success among the masses, and c) has a name people respond positively to, Google is it. They could become a major force in both the home and the office. Google can pull it off. I really hope this rumor is true.

                * Corel really could have been great. If they could have made a clean desktop and bundled NATIVE versions of Draw, PhotoPaint, and WordPerfect, it would have been awesome.
              • by podperson ( 592944 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @03:05PM (#14609246) Homepage
                I hate to say it, but Corel, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and several other large companies with good reputations have tried this. The result has always been the exact reverse of what was expected. Instead of Linux being risen up, the company is dragged down. Next thing you know, the company is ejecting Linux faster than you can say "What happened?"

                All of these companies were in a downward slide and tried to save themselves by jumping on the Linux bandwagon. They weren't trying to build a credible Linux by using their shiny aura, they were trying to bask in Linux's shiny aura.

                The problem (I think) is a lack of corporate control. Linux has always been a hobbiest's OS. When big companies come in and start trying to help improve areas where they feel Linux is lacking, there's often a lot of pushback. For example, the Sun GNOME engineers have often complained about how hard it was to get many of their usability improvements into the main trunk.

                My guess is that the problem faced by SUN is that they know jack, diddly, and squat about usability. The GNOME team is, basically, a bunch of folks trying to clone Mac OS X and the KDE team is a bunch of folks trying to Clone Windows; while this is hardly ideal, it's a heck of a lot better than trying to do whatever Sun thinks is a good idea. I fondly remember Sun fanbois trying to explain to me why it's a GOOD thing for focus to follow the mouse pointer.

                It's not so much that one side is right and the other side is wrong (though arguments could be made both ways), but rather an extreme culture clash. The corporates say, "Our customers need this, do it" while the hobbiests say, "I think this is a cool feature, I want to work on it, you should know more about XYZ if you want to do ABC."

                What does this have to do with anything? If Google wants to build its own Linux distro it can do whatever the heck it wants and so can hobbyists.

                Google isn't stupid. I'm betting dollars to donuts that their new desktop is nothing more than a cool network configuration tool or kiosk type scheme. Meanwhile Google will continue to benefit from all these boneheads who continue to think that they're doing a consumer desktop. Mark my words: This isn't what people think it is.

                There's a nice discussion of business strategy 101 here http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLet terV.html which goes something like this: every other business out there is either a competitor (someone who does what you do), a collaborator (someone who offers services that complement your services or are required for you to provide your services), or a potential customer (everyone else). If you're in Google's business then a competitor looks like, say, msn or yahoo, a collaborator looks like Internet Explorer, HP, Comcast, or the Electrical Utility, and Joe Sixpack, Brooks Brothers, Walmart, and Starbucks are potential customers.

                You want your competitors to suck and be expensive -- so you can (relatively) be excellent and cheap AND you want your collaborators to be excellent, ubiquitous, and cheap or better yet free. For Google to make money, anything that makes computers, web browsers, computer networks, electricity, etc. better, cheaper, and more ubiquitous is a Good Thing. So giving away an excellent operating system actually makes perfect sense. Will they do it? Shrug. But I wouldn't start counting dollars or donuts.
        • Marketing, intellectual property, ownership, etc. Google may be our best friend... but on a sliding scale, your best friend isn't really truly your friend if they still have allegiances with entities which work against you. Google has allegiance to shareholders, business partners, ISPs, and software companies who would leave F/OSS dead on the side of the road if they had half the chance. It's much more profitable to fleece us blind.

          I'd expect this to be a test market product. If Goobuntu makes any signi
        • by Irish_Samurai ( 224931 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:57PM (#14607808)
          More to the point, what does Google plan to do that Ubuntu isn't already doing?

          How about live person tech support on the phone?

          Google has the resources to fund this, most Linux distros don't. I believe red hat live support is for their Enterprise products, not desktop, althogh I could be mistaken.

          And before anyone starts crying "look at all the community support", I will respond with "look at all the end users who don't know what your talking about, what to search for to get help, or even describe the problem other than the effects."

          A manned call center is just for that, especially if google incorporates a secure remote control capability so experienced Linux heads can fix the problem on callers machines themselves. Imagine how many more entry level jobs would be created for Linux guys by that initiative alone?

          Also, they have the manpower to GUI and Wizard up EVERYTHING within a reasonable timeframe. If google manages to create a non-tech friendly method for configuring the really cool parts of the OS, then they will have created the road for droves of converts.
        • by aphor ( 99965 )
          The main problem with Open Source (Free) software is that forking is easy, but merging is hard. It is not wrong for Google to fork Ubuntu. It is wrong to avoid the extra care of making sure the Ubuntu community can easily merge Google's work back into Ubuntu.

          What Google *should* do is explicitly design the roadmap for Goobuntu as an iterative process of forking, releasing, merging back to Ubuntu (so that the community as a whole (not JUST Google) can support the persistent Google features, and then re-forki
    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anml4ixoye ( 264762 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:17PM (#14607355) Homepage
      "This has been talked about for quite a long time and even supposedly seen but what can Google do that would make this more special then any other ubuntu release/spin off? "


      How many times do we have to hear, "Google is seeding clouds! Is this the end of Microsoft due to a massive hurricane Google is developing in the Pacific?"

      Guys, Google is a smart company. How would creating a Linux distribution even come *close* to being a Windows killer? And, more importantly, how would that make them any money? They're a public company, so if it isn't making them money, then why would they do it.
      • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jcr ( 53032 )

        Probably because the world so desperately needs something to kill windows.

        Mac OS X is a great alternative, but Apple's giving no indication of any intention to ship it on the generic x86 machines.

      • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:39PM (#14607612)
        > How would creating a Linux distribution even come *close* to being a Windows killer?

        Linux has been good enough as a replacement for Windows for a while now. It just needs a marketing push. A Linux with google behind it might give it a chance, and perhaps would encourage games developers - a segment sorely needed if non-business people are to be seriously persuaded to kick the Windows habit.
        • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by michrech ( 468134 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:59PM (#14607830)
          I dispute this claim.

          You would have to have a company behind a distro that would set it up to be as simple to install software/hardware as possible.

          Yes, we have a few of those. Here is the problem. Most hardware makers absoloutly refuse to create drivers for linux (I can understand why) and, since they won't release their own drivers, they also will not release info for 3rd parties to MAKE drivers (for various reasons).

          It may be "good enough" to you, myself, and others who are already familiar with linux, but the vast majority of the public who might actually try it once would run into one piece of hardware that didn't work and give up on it for good (this has already been seen on MANY occasions, even complained about here on slashdot!)
    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:23PM (#14607411) Homepage Journal

      Oh, I dunno, but some must have also wondered what they could have done to make a search engine so special. After all, they certainly weren't the first folks to tread in that area.

      I can think of a few things right off that Google can add to the mix:

      • Standardization. What is the current standard distribution of Linux? Wow, take your pick, because there is none. If a company that specializes in the consumer market such as Google adds their name to a specific distribution and configured it for mass use, it would, I predict, stand a really good chance of becoming the Linux of Choice(TM) for most average desktop users.
      • Improvements. Unlike most volunteer efforts and companies that have tried to date, Google has the financial power to throw as much money into their Linux distribution as Microsoft has to throw into Windows. All of those little things that drive average users absolutely batty in Linux could, in the very near future, disappear.
      • Integration. Google has arguably made the computer usage experience massively better through such tools as the Google toolbar, the Google Desktop, Google Maps, Google Video, the search engine itself (duh), and other such stuff. Now imagine if a whole operating system is geared towards bringing all of these tools together into an integrated, easy-to-use package. Wow.

      There's lots of other opportunities there as well. Google has a history of taking stuff that kinda sorta is already out there in some form and pumping it up on steriods to the point that it's really cool. I'm willing to think that they can do the same with their own OS as well. At the very least, I'm willing to give them the benefit of a doubt that it won't be just the same ol' Linux.

      The worst case scenario is that they put out something that absolutely sucks ass, and we all stick with our existing favorite distribution. No matter how you look at it, this is win for us.

    • A possible answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:23PM (#14607415)

      ...what can Google do that would make this more special then any other ubuntu release/spin off?

      Add their name to it.

      That might not seem like a big deal, but I think it might be. Google is huge compared to most companies that put out a Linux distro. If they did this, they could very well become the standard.

      And IMHO, that would be a huge blessing. The #1 complaint you see from developers outside the Linux world seems to be "there isn't a Linux standard". And I can kind of see their point - Windows doesn't suffer from the whole RPM vs. DEB vs. whatever problem. Some systems use devfs, and some don't. Each distro has different /etc structure for storing network settings. And so on.

      But! If Google were to become the standard, we wouldn't have that as a problem anymore. Think of the possibilities! We might have more manufacturer supplied graphics drivers and more commercial software on the shelves for Linux.

      And Google is big enough to make this happen. Go Google!

    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:26PM (#14607452) Journal
      what can Google do that would make this more special then any other ubuntu release/spin off?

      Maintain it? Finish it up? Come up with a decent GUI for it? Establish a list of officially supported hardware, so that getting sound working isn't a crap shoot?

      There are all kinds of things a company with very deep pockets can do for an OS.

    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by el_womble ( 779715 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:55PM (#14607790) Homepage
      Google can do Linux the biggest favour it can: branding.

      Look at the big players in Linux:

      • RedHat
      • Novel/SuSE
      • Ubuntu
      • Gentoo

      Say any of those names in a pub/bar and people will look at you like an alien has jumped out of your mouth.

      Lets look at the identifiable brands in computing:

      • Microsoft: They're the problem
      • Apple: They've already gone BSD
      • Dell/Sony: Are hardware not software, and would inevitably make their Distro proprietary (see Apple)
      • Google: Its so crazy it could just work

      Google are so huge, that googling is almost as accepted as a verb as hoovering or xeroxing. Just by mentioning that they might be releasing a competitor to Windows they will hit every business newspaper in the world.

      To a certain extent it doesn't matter how good their distro is. If its based on Ubuntu its 95% there. If its pacakged with Google Earth, Picassa, gMail branded Evolution, a Blogger front end and Google Talk its up there with the big boys. If they can perform the ultimate trick and get Wine working as well as Rossetta does, then its an OS X beater.

      Better than all of that, a home brand name supporting linux gives hardware and software developers something to target. If they can focus on one platform rather than all of them, and know that it will be hitting consumers not geeks, that can only be good for Linux.

      Why is this good for Google?

      Providing a distro that connects, by default, to their web services means that the penetration of their advertising is increase.

      A web based company needs as many people on the web as possible. People who are polluted by viruses and malware arn't happy web consumers.

      Share holders. If I was a major share holder of Google, I'd want to know why we weren't competing head on with Microsoft. Whilst Microsoft are the dominant OS, they control peoples initial perceptions of the web: Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger, Hotmail and Outlook.

      Do no harm. Its in their mission statement. Supporting Windows doesn't exactly fit into that category ;)
    • by chrisd ( 1457 ) * <chrisd@dibona.com> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:56PM (#14609148) Homepage
      Goobuntu is our internal desktop distribution. It's awesome, but we're not going to be releasing it. Unless you work here it wouldn't work anyway. If you haven't tried ubuntu, you should, I have the regular one running on my laptop and it really is fantastic. I'd say it was debian done right if I wanted to start a debian flame war. Also, know that Google getting into the Red Hat business would be kind of dumb, and it would distract from our moon teleporter and cold fusion [google.com] projects


  • Not to sound cynical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:12PM (#14607292)
    because Google has a great track record, but I don't think Google is the right company to get all excited about when we find they're working on Linux. IBM, yes, as they have extensive knowledge and experience working with both hardware and OSes.

    Google is good at... gathering and indexing information. I don't see a Google Ubuntu being much more than Ubuntu with bundled linux versions of their various apps.
    • Yep, but you have to have expert knowledge of hardware and the OS that runs on that hardware. Google (as reported by netcraft) is the most visited site on the internet. Have you ever seen it down? Have you ever seen it "slashdotted"? No. This points to excellent hardware/software engineering.

      Many large companies "roll their own" linux and write their own tools. Google is just taking that one step further.
    • by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:31PM (#14607510) Homepage Journal
      aren't google's servers all running linux? aren't they all heavily modified customized? does google ever go down? sounds like they've got some good software and hardware engineers working for them... i think they know what they're doing.
    • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:35PM (#14608218)
      because Google has a great track record, but I don't think Google is the right company to get all excited about when we find they're working on Linux. IBM, yes, as they have extensive knowledge and experience working with both hardware and OSes.

      IBM has been an important supporter of Linux in the enterprise for servers, but they haven't done much for linux on the desktop. And it is no wonder, IBM is built around enterprise consulting, big systems integrations and such. Google has been all about making it simple for people since the beginning. Like Apple, they excel because of their minimalist design philosophy which has made for some great very usable software.

      Also, it is distinctly in Google's interest to undercut Microsoft's bread and butter OS sales with a good Linux desktop, so it will keep them focused. They don't need to make money on Linux to be successful, they just have to make Microsoft make less money on their core sales. This can be seen as a purely defensive move to take some of the wind out of microsoft's sails.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:12PM (#14607294)
    Ballmer throws a chair.
  • Google OS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnalystX ( 633807 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:12PM (#14607296) Journal
    I think it's a waste of Google talent. They should concentrate on data collection, aggregation, and dissemination tools.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:12PM (#14607298) Homepage
    Google has many fingers in many pies right now, presumably trying the
    chuck-it-and-see-if-it-sticks approach. No doubt this is another of
    those types of projects. If it works they'll hail it as a true MS rival,
    if it doesn't it'll quietly get put down in a back room a year from now
    and forgotten about.
  • First, the Google PC at Walmart and now this. I heard that Google is going to buy Windows and release it free to everyone including Office!

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:14PM (#14607316) Journal
    Perhaps this also means they will port apps like gtalk and picasa to linux, albeit just to goobuntu. Although I'd probably still use kopete or gaim, since gtalk doesn't do any session encryption with the native client (plese join me in submitting feature requests and bug reports for every release of gtalk so that they'll consider adding it)
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:15PM (#14607325) Homepage Journal
    plz reply with invites.


  • by zenmojodaddy ( 754377 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:15PM (#14607329)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:16PM (#14607333)

  • virtualization? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:16PM (#14607335)
    What if Google is planning on combining this with a virtualization product so that it can be installed under Windows? Your average user is not going to be able to replace Windows. However, Google could release this as a "security zone" which people would install on top of Windows. That, combined with perhaps an improved UI and a suite of desktop software may get a more typical user to install it.
  • by Parity ( 12797 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:16PM (#14607337)
    My desktop linux would be a very specifically limited Linux for securely browsing the web from an unprivileged account, for use by cybercafes, etc., with a default search engine of google of course. They really don't have any business getting into the OS business as such, but the web-appliance defaulting to their pages might be another thing.
    • by chundo ( 587998 ) <[gro.amsgnoj] [ta] [ymerej]> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:42PM (#14608987)

      Yeah, that's the only thing that really makes sense. Google's strength is its network computing infrastructure. It's in the position to do what Oracle mistakenly thought they could do years ago - "the network is the computer". Bandwidth is cheap now; the only smart business decision for them in this area would be to provide a standards-based, thin client OS to connect to their online services (Google.com, Gmail, GTalk, Blogger, Maps, etc).

      Think about it. What software has Google released? With the exception of software obtained through acquisitions (Picasa, Earth), it only releases web-based software (Gmail, etc) or lightweight clients to more effectively use its internet-based services (Google bar, Google talk, Google desktop).

      So assuming this rumor has any merit, you'll probably see:

      • A much-simplified version of Ubuntu
      • Possibly a new filesystem
      • Lots of development focus on Firefox

      And hopefully:

      • Increased attention to Vorbis and Theora

      In the short term that may mean they are targeting the internet kiosk market, but I think in the future Google expects all computers to effectively be "internet kiosks".

  • No! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by egarland ( 120202 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:16PM (#14607338)
    Is Google about to release this as an alternative to Windows?

    That's tot likely. What would be more likely would be releasing a dedicated internet hardware device running Linux behind the scenes that provides some combination of Internet based TV, VOIP, Browsing, and Email.
  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:16PM (#14607344) Homepage Journal
    What'll make this "sell" isn't technology but brand. Name recognition counts for everything in big business. Just their name alone can sell a decent product. We know they'll have to make a decent, relatively simple, interface. But other than that their brand name is enough to make this a huge success.
  • Good for Linux (Score:4, Insightful)

    by www.staff.ie ( 947600 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:19PM (#14607363)

    The majority of the world either don't know what Linux is, or associates it with people like us(!)

    If Google can make the installation simple, the desktop pretty, and break the "freak" tag that Linux has (and don't kid yourseldf - Linux is only for us freaks), then I think this is a great thing.

    We should support this.

  • Poll idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:27PM (#14607464)
    The name "Goobuntu" sounds most like:

    (1) A sinful dessert.
    (2) A Final Fantasy monster.
    (3) A Swahili word meaning "booger".
    (4) Baby babble.
    (5) A natural companion to "sed", "awk" and "grep".
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <(wgrother) (at) (optonline.net)> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:29PM (#14607488) Journal
    Will it be available in China?
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:31PM (#14607505) Homepage
    No, not by a longshot. We might speculate all day long, but I cannot imagine anything making a dent in Microsoft's hold... at least not yet and not with Google's influence... not yet.

    If anything, I would guess it could be yet another free software offering to install at WalMart and Fry's stores competing more with Linspire rather than Windows. It could also just be a way of weening itself away from anything Microsoft. (I suggest this without knowing what the average Google employee desktop uses.)

    If Google were to attempt to replace Windows now or even in the near future, it would fail miserably and tarnish Google's image. Now is not the time.
  • by komodotoes ( 939836 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:31PM (#14607507) Homepage
    With Google's habit of tracking and recording every bit of information it can get it's hands on (it's actually their *mission*), why would anyone trust a Google provided OS to allow privacy? They already track surfing habits through their toolbar and google-analytics, why is it a leap to think that they will use this to get even more marketing data?

    • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:48PM (#14607715) Journal
      With Google's habit of tracking and recording every bit of information it can get it's hands on (it's actually their *mission*), why would anyone trust a Google provided OS to allow privacy?

      Youll also have to ask yourself - why trust Microsoft with your privacy? Why trust anyone? Its healthy to be skeptical with anything big that will change the way you handle your data.

      Personally I saw Google OS coming WAY before screenshoots where posted, but I had NO IDEA that Google would take Linux and create a Googlux (phun intended) out of it, that was kind of a surprise to me.

      I must admit Id rather have Google becoming the next Major Operating System/platform than Microsoft, and my reasons for this are simple - more freedom in licensing because Google respect GPL and in fact support it. That doesnt make me less skeptical of the privacy issues surrounding Google though, you can trust that Ill always be breathing down their neck - and hopefully...so will you.

      Basically - I welcome Google OS.
  • longshot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:34PM (#14607547)
    "The origin of the word 'Goobuntu' is not clear, though it does not appear in online Zulu dictionaries."

    Obligatory Stewie Quote: "that's funny to me."

    Anyway, the idea that Windows desktop installations will be wholly or mostly eliminated isn't likely. So this means that Google is going after a minority stake in the marketplace. Apple stands a greater chance of offering resistance to Microsoft than any Linux distribution does.

    Google could develop its suite of internet aps and make available seamlessly from anyone's desktop - this seems more intuitive to me because you avoid a litany of issues that come with the old school download - install method.

    Frankly, isn't the download - install method really old school right now? Isn't that the whole point? Ubiquitous computing - permanent connection - no one has your source code - when patching you only have to apply once to your servers, etc?

    I can't understand wanting to fight a war over the desktop when that war's been won already. Not only has the war been won, but the OS empire has grown stale and decadent - and will destroy itself.

    I can't help but think that Microsoft is doing some smoke and mirrors play with google and has them spooked. First, they goad google into giving a billion to AOL so they could keep what they already have. Now they have Google developing a OS solution. Isn't that kind of like developing a [insert obsolete technology here] alternative?

    A cohesive, easy to implement, networked suite of applications that run both on full-sized browsers and and on mobile browsers for those progressively mobile asian kids. Once Google can reliably get geographically useful ads pushed to a mobile, then they start eating the local advertising lunch. And once they become that pervasive an advertising tool, the game is over. Google wins. But they can't get distracted; Microsoft is fucking with them.
  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:34PM (#14607557) Journal
    Why would Google (and any company competing with Microsoft) want to run Windows internally?!
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:35PM (#14607569) Homepage Journal
    Including the sparse failover functions? Screw Windows, I'll replace Sun and AIX!!!
  • by kerskine ( 46804 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:40PM (#14607635) Homepage Journal
    Just a guess, but it makes sense for Google to standardize on one desktop OS for everyone. Using Ubuntu as a base to build a Google-internal OS just makes sense. A number of other companies do the same thing - Cisco is a good example. It'll never see the light of day outside their offices because of the support cost.
  • Killer app? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwin@amir[ ]us ['an.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:51PM (#14607742) Homepage Journal
    Google Linux Live CD/DVD.

    Xine (with *licensed* DVD support)
    Google Earth for Linux
    Picassa for Linux
    Hello for Linux
    Google Desktop for Linux
    Google Talk for Linux


    Optionally avaliable for $25, with a combination USB flash drive/802.11g wireless card. Free access to Google Wi-Fi.

    Run the live CD, it tests all your hardware, if everything is determined to be compatible (wireless, etc. . .) it'll install directly to your drive.

    That addresses 80% of users right there, while "saving" them from all the security hassles of Windows. Google can run an update service, and dump newer versions of these apps right on to people's systems.

    Then Google can become one of the world's largest software stores, too; (like Linspire) think iTunes for Software, only have it all served by Google, and be designed to work on the Google Linux distribution.

    Sure; it won't be slick as OS X. But it'll be way, way slicker than XP. And think about Google's expertise; Google is good at serving lots of customized data. No one will run a better network package management system that Google, especially if Google only has to contend with ONE "stable" version of OS. They could permit other users to access their software, but it would be unsupported; if you wanted it to guaranteed work, you'll be restricted to the Google distribution, which will be tamper resistant (think root account disabled by default, administrator only enabled for power users, requirining a specific interaction with Google (please submit a request to poweruser@gmail.com if you want your system to be unlocked).
  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:54PM (#14607783) Homepage Journal
    The Goobuntu.com domain has been registered in the past couple of days, though presumably not by Google. It now redirects to a Cuban portal. Perhaps Google will have to think of a new name for the system before they launch it to the wider public.
    Open Source Software and Google both stand revealed for the Communist plots they are!
    Let every real God-fearing American instantly reject this nefarious Marxist subterfuge!
  • by RossyB ( 28685 ) <rossNO@SPAMburtonini.com> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:01PM (#14607853) Homepage
    So Google are producing a Ubuntu-based distribution. This isn't news as most large companies do this (hell, my last job had 10 staff and we were about to produce a Debian customisation). Google used to use a Red Hat distribution but are have been switching since at least November last year according to https://lists.dulug.duke.edu/pipermail/dulug/2005- November/016656.html [duke.edu].

    I'll eat my dog if this ever is released to the world as a "consumer" distribution, designed to take Windows marketshare.
  • by oscartheduck ( 866357 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:02PM (#14607870)
    Who would have thought it would take Google of all companies to finally take Linux out of Beta?
  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:04PM (#14607882)
    I guess since it wil be open source someone can discover if Google builds any nonauthorized information gathering into the system, but with all of the stuff in the news about Google would you trust an OS, for your privacy, from Google?
  • by farzadb82 ( 735100 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:04PM (#14607891)
    Well... I think the answer is simpler than it looks. I would think that revenue from Ad Sense, etc. is all secondary to this project. My thought would be that Google wants to create an OS that it will distribute for free, on the basis that unused CPU cycles are "donated" back to Google to use for its own internal processes (ie. indexing, crawling, etc.). Think about it, Google would have the worlds largest distributed parallel computer crawling and indexing away at their command all for a cost of near peanuts to what it would cost to build by purchasing all the necessary hardware.
  • Or maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AntiDragon ( 930097 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:06PM (#14607903)
    ...It's a masterplan step?

    Ok, ok...Bare with me here as I take you on a fantastic journey to the land of make believe...

    What is Google's biggest threat? Microsoft. (Not that they'd admit it..)
    What is Microsoft's source of power? Money and Marketshare (replace with "Monopoly" as appropriate).
    What's the basis for this? Desktop share and Public ignorance of alternatives.

    What is Google's power? Branding. Search engine aside, Google is riding a wave of buzz!

    Sooooo...A link to a Google branded OS on the main search page...possible follow-up links to Ubuntu or other FOSS sites... Come next upgrade cycle, more users turn to non-Windows operating systems...

    *Sigh* Well, I can dream, can't I?
  • Do One Thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AeroIllini ( 726211 ) <aeroillini&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:38PM (#14608250)
    From Google's Ten Things [google.com]:

    2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
    Google does search. With one of the world's largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we've been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service already considered the best on the web at making finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of users. Our dedication to improving search has also allowed us to apply what we've learned to new products, including Gmail, Google Desktop, and Google Maps. As we continue to build new products* while making search better, our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help users access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.


    * Full-disclosure update: When we first wrote these "10 things" four years ago, we included the phrase "Google does not do horoscopes, financial advice or chat." Over time we've expanded our view of the range of services we can offer -- web search, for instance, isn't the only way for people to access or use information -- and products that then seemed unlikely are now key aspects of our portfolio. This doesn't mean we've changed our core mission; just that the farther we travel toward achieving it, the more those blurry objects on the horizon come into sharper focus (to be replaced, of course, by more blurry objects).

    A full Googlized version of Ubuntu only makes sense if it was geared explicitly toward search: much like Apple's Spotlight on steroids. But that can be accomplished with an application, not a full-blown operating system. Google is not interested in building a product if it does not align with their core mission, which is search. They have no interest in destroying Microsoft completely, they do not want to get into an OS war, and they certainly don't want to start diversifying to the point where their "One Thing" becomes "One Thing In Each Market." They want to do search, and do it well.

    Google also does not want to replace the infrastructure in any given market; that's too much hassle. They just want to work within it. Notice, they have no interest at all in entering the cell phone or PDA market, but they certainly make their products work very well with existing technology in those markets. I think the same will hold true of OSs: they don't want to REPLACE your OS, they just want you to search with Google FROM your OS, and hopefully click on some AdWords along the way. If that means integrating their search directly into the OS so you don't have to open a browser (a la Google Desktop) then that is a step toward their goal. Replacing the entire OS is unnecessary complexity.

    My guess is that the OS is being developed exclusively for inhouse use, since Google has only confirmed its existence, not it's purpose. Everything about releasing this Goobuntu to the public is pure speculation on the Register's part. Companies roll out custom OSs for inhouse use all the time; even companies using Windows have IT departments that build their own images to propegate out to the client machines, customizing which services and programs will be available. That's a "custom OS", too.
  • by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaro@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:38PM (#14608251) Homepage Journal
    If Google is working on an actual OS, and not just something to work in the background of, say, a cybercafe computer, then this may be the push Linux needs to become a major Desktop player.

    Not that many people know about Linux. A lot of people know about Google, to the point that "google" has become a verb ("search for"). If someone suggests putting a Linux OS on a computer, the common man will be unsure and wary of it, knowing little about Linux, despite how much it's used regularly. However, say you want to put a new OS from Google on it, and a lot of people will open up. After all, they're used to the Google web search interface, a well made, easy-to-use thing. Surely they can make an OS, too.

    If Google does it right, a lot of people will migrate. "Goobuntu" (which is a stupid name) will be a gateway drug, as it were. Those who are fine with what Google offers in its OS will stay there, while those more interested in digging deeper will move on to other distros.

    Google's main hurdle is being user-friendly. Yes, yes, I'm sure you can get exactly the same result for $X_COMPONENT in Linux as you do in Windows by putting $REALLY_COMPLICATED_STRING in at the command line/terminal, but regular users will be easily confused by that. Hell, most won't even want to know about the command line/terminal. A sleek interface where most common tasks are either easy to do by the user, or done automatically, is what will push this forward.

    And, if the user just has to go into the terminal line, make the commands easier to understand and more intuitive. Move instead of mv, delete instead of whatever is there now, list instead of ls, find instead of grep, help instead of man, etc. With the processing power we have these days, short (and unintuitive) commands really aren't necessary, and if anyone wants the Linux desktop to experience growth, they need to go.

    I know that I, in my limited knowledge and use of Linux, routinely get frusturated having to search (I mean, man -k) again and again for a simple command.

    Only time will tell, however.
  • by simetra ( 155655 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:14PM (#14608680) Homepage Journal
    Thanks, I'll be here all week... be sure to tip your waitress.
  • by greginnj ( 891863 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:15PM (#14608689) Homepage Journal
    Why is Google putting together a distro? Because it's the first step in a longer-term plan.

    Note that Google recently hired away a Microsoft engineer [slashdot.org] who believes that Microsoft no longer knows how to ship software [microsoft-watch.com] and believes in the web-services model. He was one of the principal architects of Hailstorm.

    Here's what I see Google doing:

    1. Create a usable, simple, Google distro that the masses can use for web/email/etc.
    2. Market the hell out of it until they get a certain viable user base.
    3. Start equipping a few thousand public libraries with a few Google Distro machines each, and monitor their usage
    4. Here's the key step: in all high-bandwidth installations, CONVERT THE GOOGLE DISTRO MACHINES TO DISKLESS TERMINALS with the same UI.
    5. People get used to having 'their' desktop available to them in multiple locations, spanning a disked install with networked-synched customizations to the diskless terminals.
    6. The era of disk-based installs of OSs dies a well-deserved death.
    7. Profit!!

    If you think about it, a lot of Google's products (Gmail, the Google Toolbar) are introducing portable features. A new OS distro that they can eventually deploy as a diskless terminal version for high-bandwidth locations is the next logical step. And there will be more tears in Redmond when that happens.
  • "WAPI" not "Woohoo!" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cnerd2025 ( 903423 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:24PM (#14608785)

    Its all about the Windows API. For anything to become a Windows killer, the API must be extended nearly perfectly. For machines running on x86 or AMD hardware, this is simple. The API must only run pipes from the Windows system calls to the comparable Linux system calls. When there are no system calls, the machine just runs like it should. However, other hardware adds another complexity, although that can be solved relatively efficiently (a la Rosetta). Instructions can be translated across architecture at the machine level and then execute the code natively. Obviously this would run (O)2n versus (O)n on a native machine. It wouldn't really be emulation, because the entire processor and memory structure would have to be "emulated".

    Why the API, you may ask? Because the API is what gives Windows its power. Now how can I be so sure? Because most Windows users out there admit that they really dislike using their computers. But they keep coming back to them. Why? Because Windows runs the programs most users want to run. In fact, Microsoft has taken great pains to ensure the WAPI runs almost completely backward compatibly, even building in certain performance "bugs" (improving them so they run efficiently) simply so that applications that worked with Windows N will work for N++. If the popularity of an OS depended upon security, efficiency, process management, and the other technical details that we geeks care about, Windows would have died before its birth. Bill Gates' genius came from marketing, in which he persuaded all the IBM-clone companies to license Windows. Then, once a solid legion of PCs had been produced, the Windows API became ever important. Windows was always a fairly "popular" operating system, but it really took off with Windows 3.1, which led to the infamous Win95. The relative ease of use, requiring little to no DOS experience, and built in software packages, such as Works, all contributed to the overall attractiveness of the system. With the legions of developers salivating at the opportunity to pounce at all those IBM-clones, the Windows API provided the foundation of Microsoft's continued growth. What's the result? 90% (guess-timate) of the world's computers run Windows OS. Mac, Linux, and other various flavors of Unix make up the remaining 10%, along with obscure systems like OS/2 and Amiga and mainframe systems, running very old software and systems.

    The WAPI isn't easy to fall. Most notably, WINE, the application for Linux and various x86 Unix boxes to run Win32 apps, is a fairly good match for Windows, but has definite bugs to be ironed out. WINE has some problems like rendering windows not completely obeying the Windows API (like QuickTime). If Google hones in on the API issue, they will be in like Flynn. To live in a post-Windows world, we need to adequately match the Windows API. We all know how far superior a Linux or Unix experience is to Windows. We also must realize that Windows is king for a reason, and to behead the king, we need to beat the king at his own game. Google is the first company to be zealous enough to really attempt a coup. Apple is too proud (though I love Apple and am running a Mac right now).

    My reaction to this news about Goobuntu is, well, "WAPPPPIIIII!!!!"

  • by irabinovitch ( 614425 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:26PM (#14608815) Homepage
    Google's Dan Kegel will be speaking at SCALE 4x [socallinuxexpo.org] on the subject of Linux on the Desktop. Google will also be exhibiting at the show.
  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:57PM (#14609162) Homepage Journal
    I'm dreaming I know, but here's what I'd want in it:

    1) PAM module to authenticate against GMail's account database.

    2) The backing store for GMail is made available via WebDAV, much like Apple does with DotMac.

    3a) When you log by booting a Goobuntu Live CD, your WebDAV folder is mounted as your home directory.

    3b) When you log on to a system that's installed on a hard drive, it syncs it with a local disk image instead. When you log out, the synced disk image is encrypted immediately, and deleted after enough time without use.

    4) I want a browser interface for some of the stuff in there, for when I can't get to a Goobuntu box. Much of this is already covered (bookmarks, mail), but I'd like more (contact list, documents).

    Then, I could have a desktop machine at home, a laptop, and a Live CD. I could log in to any of them and have the same environment, with all my content ultimately stored on (and indexed by, sure) Google's servers. A buddy could come over and just use it. I could go to a buddy's house and just use his system. And so on. And if I'm at a kiosk at a conference, I can still just bring up a web interface and get some things done.

    (While I'm at it, can I have SyncML too?)
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @03:28PM (#14609503)
    With so many investors mesmerized by Google, slapping the name on a Linux distribution might finally give it enough credibility for businesses to consider a full desktop OS replacement. The choice of Ubuntu isn't an accident either...it's by far the best at supporting things like plug-and-play hardware and all the other stuff that makes Windows easy to use for people.

    The best thing they can possibly do is choose a single set of applications and stick to it. No regular user wants to run or learn to use three office suites, nine media players and 50+ text editors. Google could choose one vendor, plow huge amounts of money into the project and finally force some standardization in the Linux world. That's one of the chief complaints I hear from corporate IT people about Linux...their people just want one tool to get their work done. Microsoft accomodates this by maintaining IE, Office, Media Player, etc. and making sure they play well together.

Variables don't; constants aren't.