Ubuntu and Related Linux Opearting Systems
It is easy to forget that the netbook fad, which now sees most netbooks shipping with Windows XP, was once all about Ubuntu and, to a less extent, Linux in general. The original Eee PC ran a customized Linux operating system made to ship with only those units, but many users chose to replace it with Ubuntu because the customized Eee PC operating system was limited in functionality. To this day, many netbooks companies offer Ubuntu as a pre-installed operating system.
Ubuntu, like most Linux variants, is a fairly light operating system. It is not demanding on system resources, and while the official system requirements of Ubuntu are technically quite a bit higher than those of Windows XP, Ubuntu seems to run a little more smoothly. Those particularly concerned with responsiveness can choose "lightweight" distributions such as Xubuntu. While Ubuntu will obviously not be able to run Windows applications, it comes with an excellent suite of programs like OpenOffice, Firefox, and Transmission. Ubuntu is also free, which makes it appropriate for the low-cost focus of netbooks.
On the downside, there are many programs Ubuntu will not be able to run. Mobile gamers will not want to choose it as an operating system. More problematic is Ubuntu's less than stellar power management. It has been repeatedly acknowledged on the Ubuntu support forums that netbooks (and laptops generally) with Ubuntu installed will enjoy less battery life than systems running XP. The difference is not so large as to make Ubuntu unusable, but a penalty of thirty minutes to one hour should not be surprising.