Moblin: a first look at Intel's open-source OS

The first beta of Moblin v2.0 has just been released, and I decided to take a play with it

The beta status of this release is extremely evident and, sad to say, this release felt more like an alpha. A beta should be functional, if buggy. This release was flat-out unusable for its intended purpose. It's nowhere near ready for the real-world. However, the UI components worked perfectly, and this might indicate where all the hard work has gone. I can't disagree with this decision, to be honest. A netbook OS has to look and feel good, especially in our modern world of iPhones and Android. Moblin really is up there in terms of good-looks and intuitiveness.

There's not yet any way of customizing Moblin, outside of switching the wallpaper. This is strange because that's definitely something its users are going to want to do. Netbooks travel around with their users, and probably spend a large part of their time in the user's bedroom. They're the ultimate personal computer, and as such people are going to want to customise every aspect of them.

On a technical level, I wonder why Moblin uses Gecko for its web rendering. The browser identifies itself as Firefox 3.5, so it appears that it includes the snappy new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine that massively boosts performance with online apps. But the smart money really is on Webkit right now, and Google Chromium in particular. Webkit is simply much, much faster, and as such is definitely better-suited to relatively slow computing devices such as netbooks.

Finally, ignoring Google's online services is just crazy. I appreciate Google is a giant, and we should therefore view it with suspicion, but the fact is that Google dominates the online world right now. Practically everything I do online involves Google at some point, and I'm not unusual. Not integrating Google services within Moblin is as stupid as a new word processor being unable to load and save Microsoft Word documents, for example. However, it's worth noting that Moblin is wisely seeking contributions from the community via an SDK. This might see the situation change in the future.


What's so exciting about the netbook platform is that it gives operating system designers a chance to start again.

They can forget the old-fashioned metaphor of the desktop interface that's been around since the 1970s. They can even abandon the file system concept. Instead, they can create an operating system quite simply geared-up for online activities. The computer becomes a gateway. It ceases to be an end in itself.

Such a plan might sound functionally limiting, but it isn't. Far from it. Provided the operating system is built on a browser with a capable rendering engine (i.e. Gecko, or Webkit), the user is able to do just about anything they would normally do via online applications. This will become increasingly true over the coming years.

This is a crucial point that I want to underline. Moblin is in no way a "cut down" operating system for netbooks, as I'm sure many fuddy-duddy commentators in the industry would like to see to it (the same commentators who have been around since the dawn of personal computing, and are perhaps reaching retirement age).

Moblin is an example of a platform from which you can launch your online adventures, whatever they may be. It's a jumping off point. It's the ultimate tool for online activities. It entirely shifts the user's focus to online activities, but that's cool because it's where practically all users spend their time. I know I do.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceintel atommoblin

More about AcerAppleDellFacebookFedoraGoogleIMPIntelLinuxMicrosoftNokiaOpenOfficeOpenOffice.orgUbuntuVMware AustraliaYahoo

Show Comments