Here comes Linux's iPad clones

You can pre-order an Apple iPad starting today, Mar. 12 -- but do you really want to? I get why you'd want an iPad. I'd like one, too. But when I consider that there are soon going to be literally dozens of cheaper, Linux-powered iPad-like devices on the market, I find it easier to resist putting $499 on my credit card.

I tell a lie though. The Apple iPad isn't really $499. Just adding a power cord to the iPad will cost you $29.00. No, I'm not making that up.

On top of that, Apple will be including DRM (digital rights management) on e-books and other iPad content. I really, really hate DRM. I have this old-fashioned idea that when I buy a book, be it an e-book or a paperback, I actually own it. As we already found when Amazon deleted already bought and paid for books on the Kindle last summer, that's not the case.

Under some DRM schemes, you can't back up your media, you may not be able to play it on all devices, and its quality may degrade. Oh, and lest, we forget, if the copyright owner or the company that created the DRMed media decides you can't view or listen to it anymore, that's it. Your books, music, movies, or what-have-you can either be silently deleted or it simply won't play anymore. I don't need this.

All that said, I agree the iPad is really cool. I predict with absolute faith that the iPad and its clones are going to kill off single-purpose devices like Amazon's Kindle and GPS units within the next three years. How can it not work out this way? For the same price as a high-end, dedicated device, you can get a tablet that will do everything they can do and far more.

But — and this is the important bit — you don't have to buy an Apple iPad to get all of the iPad's goodies. ARM, a mobile microprocessor power, is predicting that we'll see no less than 50 ARM processor-powered iPad clones by year's end — and these ARM-powered entertainment tablets will all be running Linux.

There will be also other Linux-powered iPad clones. Some of them will be running Android. Others will be running MeeGo, which is Intel and Nokia's combining of their embedded Linux efforts. These latter devices will have the new Intel Atom Pineview processor family at their heart.

All these Linux entertainment tablets are going to be cheaper than the iPad. You can expect to see the first of them by midsummer. Some of them will not force DRM on your content and, unlike the iPad, you'll be able to watch Adobe Flash videos on them.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: IT Certification Study Tips
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies