I recently wrote up my annual predictions for 2016 – the big things that I think will happen in the Linux world over the coming year. Some of those predictions are optimistic… others, the opposite of optimistic.
What follows is not that – not a list of predictions. This article is entirely about the things that I want, so very dearly, to happen in 2016. The things that, if they were to come to pass, I would be so happy I would do the dance of joy. This is my "Linux Wish List" for the year.
See also: 8 Linux predictions for 2016
And, when I say "things," what I really mean is "one specific thing that I want more than all other things combined."
That thing? Regular desktop Linux on tablets.
Yes, I mean it. I want to see one prominent Linux distro have great hardware support for at least a handful of currently shipping tablets. Hear me out on this.
Some Linux distributions can boot on one or two tablets, but not with any distinct level of success. Even with x86 Atom-based tablets, it can be exceedingly difficult simply to get anything installed. And getting Wi-Fi suspend and sound working is even less likely.
I'm not suggesting that a distro project create some new user interface just for touchscreens. I'm also not suggesting that a company try to find a hardware partner to ship their distro pre-loaded. I'm simply saying I want an image that I can download and flash onto one of a (even if it's very small) selection of currently shipping tablets – and with fully functional hardware.
Close your eyes for a moment. I know you're probably at work and people will look at you weird. Whatever. Do it anyway…wait. With you eyes closed, you couldn't read this. Open your eyes, read the whole article, then come back here and close your eyes again.
Imagine that you're at in a work meeting. You pull out your 7-inch ARM-based tablet that used to be running Android. You tap the power/sleep button and up comes the GNOME lock screen. You swipe up with your finger (as that's how GNOME works), type in your password using the on-screen keyboard (which already exists and works rather nicely), and you are dropped into the (relatively) touch-friendly GNOME Shell.
You now have a complete Linux desktop at your disposal. LibreOffice, Gimp, the full power of the terminal… you can do literally anything. Is it a dumbed down, simple interface for people who only want gigantic buttons and full-screen applications? No. But you're a grownup who's used a computer before. You can handle that. The user interface scaling can be set higher to make the buttons easy to hit with your thumb, and the on-screen keyboard works well.
I'm using GNOME here as an example… but KDE Plasma and multiple other desktop environments would work quite well in this situation as well.
Not convinced yet? OK. Try this one on.
You're on the train, heading home from work. You pull out your 9-inch, Intel Atom-based tablet, launch Steam and start playing any freaking game you want on the way home. Pair up a Bluetooth mouse or gamepad, and you've got an awesome portable gaming system. All thanks to running a full-blown, desktop-centric Linux distro on your tablet.
Still not on board? Let's talk convergence.
Many companies are focusing on "convergence." Having a tablet or a cellphone with that "everything is a full-screen app with really big buttons" design – but which transitions to a traditional desktop experience when docked with a keyboard and monitor.
That's great. That's nifty. But that's not what I want.
I want a Linux distro that works like a champ, right from the moment it's installed, on a few pieces of mobile hardware. Then I can install various desktop environments – some more tailored for use on a smaller touchscreen than others – and tweak it to my heart's content to achieve the ultimate tablet experience.
I don't need – or want – a Linux distro to lock me into a specific user interface that they're just sure I'll love. I just want the system to boot – with full hardware support – and work. If it provides me with a default desktop environment and user experience that works great on a tablet, awesome. I'm psyched. But if I don't care for the default experience, I want to be able to install something that nearly every human would consider 105% bonkers to run on a tablet. Something like a tiling window manager… such as xmonad.
Something just absolutely insane.
Because it's Linux. And that's one of the things that makes it so awesome. I can do insane stuff like that.
Now, I'll be honest. Whatever distro provides this support first will get a big, hearty high-five from me. Ubuntu. Fedora. openSUSE. Arch. Debian. Any of them… or others. I normally use openSUSE on my hardware, but I'd run Fedora or Ubuntu on a tablet in a New York minute if it were available and supported.