Coping with MS-specific hardware
Microsoft Windows is still unfortunately the most widespread platform which is why most major hardware manufacturers still first and foremost make sure their hardware works well with Windows. Even if Windows Vista is a flop in general compared to previous Windows versions, it is reasonable to assume that hardware manufacturers will prepare their hardware for various novelties that Vista may be offering.
The biggest problem is in hardware with features which are designed specifically for operation with Windows and Windows-specific features. You know those keyboards and mouses with special buttons and even LCD screens? Those are usually designed for Windows and they usually offer Windows-only software on CD to flawlessly take advantage of these features.
Reading a wired article about the novelties in the PC world that 2007 may bring I encountered the following line:
Manufacturers will add small second screens to laptops, utilizing Microsoft's SideShow platform to let users get e-mail, addresses and other information without firing up their machines. Redmond claims Windows Vista will allow painless setup, and expects SideShow to show up in keyboards, remotes and cell phones.
This takes the whole tie up between Microsoft and Microsoft-specific hardware even further. Manufacturers are getting ready to design hardware that works perfectly with this Microsoft SideShow platform. The obvious question us GNU/Linux users should be posing is "what about us"? Will this work with GNU/Linux the way it works with Microsoft? How do we address the problem?
GNU/Linux hardware support is extremely commendable. Basically anything that doesn't work yet doesn't work because of lack of cooperation of the hardware vendor. However, when it comes to the specific type of hardware designed to work with specific types of software, we could be left in cold.
As the price of laptops and PCs continues to drop and people start buying more of the luxurious peripherals (not just plain keyboards and mouses, for example, but those with special LCD screens and other widgets) the problem of supporting those becomes relevant.
Just like 3D desktop, we may see it as silly and unnecessary, but you can't argue against the market forces. If people demand it, we have to have something to offer, or otherwise our liberating platform may be irrelevant to many.
I welcome any opinions you may have on the subject.