One of the things that has been most-surprising about the advent of Netbooks is that it has become less about the hardware as much as how mainstream operating systems and applications have had to adapt to fit within their confines. In the earlier generations of these machines, operating systems like Windows Vista just didn't cut the mustard, which is why most Netbooks you can buy right now are either running Windows XP or a variant of Linux.
While that is certain to change with the release of Windows 7 in late October, which runs leaner and meaner than Vista ever did (and could even come on a thumb drive), Microsoft's stumble opened things up for other operating systems to come in and fill the gap. Many consumers have more of a choice than ever with alternate operating systems that are becoming easier to install and use on these smaller machines.
One of those, called Jolicloud is launching in beta in the next few months. Created by Tariq Krim, who founded and later left widget-based start page Netvibes, the alternate OS has been designed for Web workers, or people who do most of their work (or play) on Web applications and services.
I've been giving it a thorough run-though over the past few days and have come away impressed at what it's trying to do. Some bits and pieces are definitely still beta, but the underlying approach of making Web sites and software applications feel the same, as well as introducing users to new ones to use is really innovative.
How it works
Jolicloud centers on a directory of applications that can be sorted by genre, release date, and popularity. To download or remove them from your computer, you just click on their icon and it does the rest. Jolicloud groups both Web apps and software programs under the same name umbrella, and both are added and removed from your system in the same manner. There's also a normal add and remove programs tool just like you get in Windows, but it's easier to do it from Jolicloud's rounded and simplistic interface.
Jolicloud is designed to let users hop back and forth between apps that all use the entire screen. Apps you have open stay in a top menu bar and can be switched back and forth just by clicking on them. Alt+tab works too.
Interestingly enough, you don't actually launch any downloaded app from the directory screen. Instead… Read more