For those that decry the constant prediction of the “year of the Linux desktop” I am happy to say that next year Linux may actually ship on more desktops than Windows or the Mac. That is right, I said next year. What is driving this? Two words: fast boot.
Matt Richtell of the New York Times wrote a great article  on Sunday about the demand for faster start up times on computers. In the story the chronicled how HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and a array of other PC makers are starting to develop “machines that give people access to basic functions like e-mail and a Web browser in 30 seconds or less.” Here is the interesting part: Linux is providing that access.
Ashlee Vance, also of the New York Times, did a great follow up piece on the story chronicling just how prolific this trend is becoming. He states, “Over the next few months, the instant-on technology should become mainstream. Here’s a look at what’s available and what’s coming in the instant-on market.”
The evidence is overwhelming:
“ - DeviceVM – This Silicon Valley start-up has emerged as the leading independent maker of instant-on software. H.P., Lenovo and Asus use modified versions of DeviceVM’s Splashtop software. In all cases, they provide quick access to a Web browser, instant messaging software, photos and voice over Internet protocol software. The large PC makers tend to ship Splashtop on laptops aimed at consumers.
- H.P. – Today, you can buy HP’s Envy laptop with the Instant On Solution software, which is Splashtop in disguise. In the coming months, H.P. plans to ship it on an undisclosed number of systems.
- Dell – In an unusual move, Dell has done a lot of customization work with its instant-on tools. The company plans to ship something called Latitude On with a pair of laptops. This Dell-made software will permit access to e-mail and the other basic functions. The software will actually run on a separate ARM processor, often found in mobile phones, rather than a standard Intel or Advanced Micro Devices chip.
- Lenovo – By early next year, Lenovo will ship a version of Splashtop on some of its consumer laptops.
- Phoenix Technologies – This software maker has been working on a downloadable software package called HyperSpace. It will let you start a Linux-based system early, while Windows boots in the background. People can then switch back and forth between both sets of software as they desire. It should be widely available in January with Phoenix charging a monthly subscription fee to the software.”
What does this mean for Linux? First it means that Linux is more central to the user experience. As the New York Times points out, this is “Microsoft potentially losing the user experience.” Linux is not only powering fastboot applications, but the Moblin project has already demonstrated  a five second boot at the Linux Foundation’s recent Plumbers conference.
We may see a world at the end of next year where Linux ships on almost every notebook computer regardless of whether it is loaded with Windows. This in addition to the huge potential of the netbook, mobile internet device and mobile Linux market can mean huge and immediate inroads for a Linux desktop, albeit not in the form most people had predicted many years ago when the first “year of the Linux desktop” was declared.