In my experience there are two things that the masses of ordinary people do with PCs: entertain themselves and communicate with the outside world. The entertainment part is huge. My “little woman”, for instance, will have 20 pages open in her browser all day long, mostly finding out what’s happening in the outside world. At the same time, our home has two PCs dedicated to multimedia and she can access her huge collection of images of family and architecture from two other PCs (one static and one mobile). Anywhere people are working or sitting in our home they can watch video and hear music. It’s a huge time-waster…
We have the “work” side of IT well covered by LibreOffice, Chrome browser, and the GNU/Linux desktop, but the area of entertainment has been fragmented with the need to pull things in from all over the web to get what we want.
For decades people have been finding ways to use PCs to play multimedia but still the home-entertainment industry cranks out gadgets that are not PCs and which come with their own remote control. The news that XBMC is coming to Debian GNU/Linux means that this Swiss Army knife of entertainment which has interfaces for all kinds of remote controls means every PC can now control every box in the stack. In our home, the XBMC-box and a programmable remote control runs the TV, the amplifier/receiver, the surround-sound system and the VCR all with a single programmable remote. You plunk yourself down, press Activities/Watch TV and the news is on. Press Watch VCR and our 20 year old collection of kids movies gets re-cycled by our grand daughter. XBMC can run DVDs or recorded movies and control the device attached to the computer and the various entertainment units.
XBMC is now a package in Debian Sid, the experimental flavour of Debian GNU/Linux. Soon, it will be in testing and may well be released with Debian GNU/Linux Wheezy this fall. Installing XBMC manually, as we did, is a bit of work, especially pulling in additional drivers and codecs. The inclusion of XBMC in Debian should mean that process will become smooth for Debian and all its dependents, including Ubuntu GNU/Linux, the current market leader of GNU/Linux distros.
XMBC:“Linux users rejoice! Thanks primarily to the hard work of Andres Mejia, XBMC has been accepted into the official Debian distribution! In the past we have been unable to make it into Debian as the sheer size and complexity of XBMC made the review process so difficult, so Andres, an XBMC developer who was working to become a Debian Developer already, volunteered to maintain it himself. Yesterday, his Eden packages were accepted. For those unclear about what this means, Debian unstable users will now be able to install XBMC without using any third-party repositories.
We have already been included in several major Linux distributions, but Debian is a big target because of the size of the community around it. As most Linux users are probably aware, other major distros such as Ubuntu and Mint derive (or derive indirectly) from Debian, and sync their packages regularly. Andres succeeded in requesting a sync to Ubuntu in time to hit Precise Pangolin, so users of this next LTS release will be able to install XBMC with just a few clicks (or an apt-get). We hope this will lower the barrier to entry for many users who are not familiar with PPAs.”
That leaves games as the last frontier in GNU/Linux for the masses. Many developers are still locked-in to that other OS but they have surely noticed the decline in share. As that progresses, more games will become available. The new HTML 5 standard and the changes to the GUI that Canonical has made may accelerate the tendency of games to become available on GNU/Linux. The present development gives consumers one more reason to want GNU/Linux and retailers one more reason to include it on shelves. I expect Ubuntu GNU/Linux will increase in popularity as a result.