Linux as a one-size-fits-all operating system may be fading into the background as new specialized distros assert themselves in consumer space.
This is not to say that Linux is going away. Hardly. If anything, the sheer pervasiveness of Linux is what's fueling the trend to which I refer: the rise of more specialized distributions with one or a few major objectives that stand apart from the idea of an all-in-one operating system.
This outcome was inevitable, really. The modularity of Linux as a kernel and operating system has fostered a steady stream of appliances devices and software platforms for some time. Whole businesses have been created (yeah, looking at you, rPath) just for the creation of custom software appliances. SUSE Studio is a tool that puts appliance creation in the hands of users. Indeed, the whole concept of platform as a service (PaaS) is basically hosted Linux-based software appliances with some nifty cloud management software thrown in.
For the most part, many of these custom Linux platforms were mainly targeted for the enterprise user, and were not something the average user on the street would really see. They might sit in the back-end of a consumer website somewhere, but nothing the end-user was really going to use directly.
But that it changing, as user-facing distros with specialized desktop objectives are becoming increasingly common. For lack of a better term, I've been calling these hyper-distros--distributions with a narrowly focused set of functions and goals.
The open source Chromium OS (and its commercial counterpart ChromeOS) could be considered one of the first of this new breed of hyper-distros. Chromium OS is built as a netbook platform that runs web apps--a relatively specialized goal.
The recent announcement of GNOME OS is another member of the hyper-distro club. This GNOME-based distro has a very narrow intent: the development and testing of GNOME itself.
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