I picked up a book in the bargain bin a few months ago, “AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War”, because I thought that I had heard the author interviewed on WNYC. I don’t know if its the same book – it seems to be written more for in “Newsweek” than a “New Yorker”. (Such a snob I’ve become!)
I’m fascinated with the parallels with Linux, however – open-source (or at least unprotected IP), incremental development, a reputation for being ugly but indestructible. The AK-47 seems to have thrived over the years because it was simple and unbreakable enough to be used by a child, the lack of IP protection meant the design could modified according to local manufacturing processes.
What does this mean for the future of the Linux Desktop? Putting aside the horrific legacy of the AK-47, what lessons could be learned? I think the future for Linux is really in the developing world, and Microsoft knows this (look at the battle over the OLPC). I think the future lies in ubiquity – situations when the user is not aware or does not care that they are using Linux. I think Linux could deliver the seamless, bulletproof experience that Windows and Mac claim if we started to think of the desktop more like an embedded application. Focused user environments with limited scope. Fast, cheap, and (in/out?) of control.
I guess the big question is whether this is a Linux that any of its current users would ever want to use?
I was in Istanbul recently, and when I went to check my email on the hotel computer, I was suprised to discover they were running Linux. It made sense – greater security, and all it really needed to do was surf the web. I asked my wife later (we’ve been having an extended…discussion…over switching the home computer to Linux recently) whether she had noticed that the hotel computer was not running Windows, and she hadn’t.