Looks like the "netbook" is shaping up as the major way Just Plain Folks will get a little Linux into their lives. Further evidence for that comes in the form of Mandriva's new Linux distribution specifically for Intel Atom-powered machines: Mandriva Mini. Too bad you can't download it yet.
Seems like a bit of a paradox, doesn't it? Right now, and as far as anyone can tell, Mandriva Mini is only being supplied to OEMs. I talked to a press contact at Mandriva about whether or not Mini would be made available for general download, and this was the verbatim answer I got: "For the moment, Mandriva Mini is only for OEMs and ODMs. Maybe we will consider to make it available as a general download later on; but it is too early to say so."
Fair enough. In fact, the Atom hardware itself is equally brand spanking new, so it's not as if the hardware itself is going a-begging for something to run on it. But caveats aside, I still think it would have been wise to let both OEMs and Ordinary People grab ManMin (hmmm -- maybe not the greatest abbreviation there) for themselves as soon as it was baked and ready. Sooner, even: that's the approach Ubuntu and, well, most every other Linux distro maker has taken, albeit with a big BETA caveat.
I also can understand that Mandriva probably feels it's best to let OEMs deal with Mini first, since they will have the hardware on-hand and will be (in theory) that much more skilled in getting the kinks out. My counter-argument, though, is "Never underestimate the powers of tinkerers". Let the hacker contingent get their hands on it and they'll make discoveries about what works and what doesn't that nobody else would ever see coming.
Maybe Mandriva feels it will be simpler to manage feedback from OEMs easier than it will be from regular users. That's not an insoluble problem, either: set the quality bar high enough for feedback submissions that only those truly dedicated to making Mini into something better will pipe up. It's always easier to create a community now instead of later on.
[Note: I've asked Mandriva if the source code for Mini also will be available generally, but I haven't heard back yet about that. I would imagine that would be the case, but I wanted to be sure.]