At least I think the point of this Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols report in ComputerWorld is that Google (GOOG) will market a desktop Linux using the version of Linux it has included in Android. If not, then the only thing ComputerWorld is saying is that Linux runs on desktops, which is hardly news. Or maybe the entire ComputerWorld article is an excuse by Nichols, a long-time Microhater, to link to an article that says Microsoft should not lay off anyone, which he does in the last sentence.
I seriously doubt that Google (GOOG) will market a desktop Linux (meaning of course they would not go into the business of servicing Linux and related software, which is how a company potentially makes money on Linux, as explained here). There is very little revenue and no profit in marketing desktop operating software. All the desktop PC manufacturers exited the market years ago. About 20 years ago, Microsoft (MSFT) began to broaden its product portfolio so that now desktop operating software only accounts for about 10% of its about $60 billion in annual revenue, most of which flows through Dell (DELL), HP (HPQ) and Lenovo. Red Hat (RHAT) never really entered the market and the Suse Linux division of Novell (NOVL), which has some revenue in the desktop space, is propped up by Microsoft. (Microsoft does not outright acquire Novell so as to avoid anti-trust litigation.) Canonical may be making some money at it but it is hard to know since it is privately held.
There is another reason that Google is unlikely to market a desktop Linux. Despite ComputerWorld’s characterization of Google as the potential “number one PC technology company,” Google has never shown any interest in PC technology. Google is in the business of providing business software to advertisers and publishers. It monetizes these business applications via advertising revenue rather than using the traditional software/service contract. There isn’t much revenue in packing bill stuffers in with a box of operating system floppies any more. Having invented and perfected personal (as opposed to enterprise) search, Google research concentrates on running some of the largest server farms known to man as well as some patented search algorithms, neither of which has anything to do with PC technology.
To the extent that the ComputerWorld article mentions web-based this and web-based that, it is referring to browser technology, not PC technology or operating software. Google IS playing around with browser technology research, providing almost all the funding for both Mozilla Firefox and another browser called Chrome. Google is interested because of the browser’s generic relationship to personal search and the possibility—still very much unproven—of tying some of its customers’ advertising to browsers.
But there really is no browser market either (as explained in this companion post, also related to an odd recent ComputerWorld article)
-- Dennis Byron