Netbooks installed with the Google backed Android operating system are set to come out in July or August of this year. Is this going to finally send Linux into the mainstream and what does that mean for the Linux community?
Is Android a Linux Distribution?
Although the platform built on top of the Linux kernel, according to Google Engineer Patrick Brady, it is not a Linux distribution. It does not support the X-windowing system nor does it use the standard Linux libraries including the Gnu C Library. In fact, the C language is not even officially supported.
Even though Google denies that they are creating a Linux distribution, many people in the tech world refuse to believe it (see articles here and here). Instead they believe that Google is stealthily setting the stage to bring Linux into the mainstream and take on Microsoft.
What will Android do for Linux?
Whether or not Android is a Linux distribution, it will still bring attention to the Linux operating system. Very few people in the mainstream understand that there is a difference between the Linux kernel and a Linux distribution. Android will be a Linux “flavor" whether it wants to be or not.
When Android was only able to run on mobile phones, this was not too big of a deal. People are used to having different apps for the iPhone than there are for the Blackberry. Not being able to use an app designed for a LiMo based phone on an Android based phone is not an issue.
However, now that Android is being ported to Netbooks, the fact that it does not natively support applications designed for Linux may be a bit confusing at first. Fortunately, the operating system is completely open source. There are already suggestions for the creation of an Android application that allows for the use of a sandboxed Linux environment in order to run native Linux applications.
The fact that Google and the OHA used the Linux kernel for its operating system is mutually beneficial for both Linux and Android. Linux is a powerful and stable kernel on which to build an operating system. And, of course, being open source means millions of eyes on the code, creating a better product. However, the mainstream consumer probably won’t care about that. Instead, they will take notice because it is backed by Google. Linux may have finally gotten the push it needs to take on Microsoft.