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Linux netbook market share dwindling down

I read an alarming article today about the reduction of the Linux netbook market share. It seems that the netbook market is experiencing a reduction in sales of Linux based units according to Acer. With Acer now overtaking netbook sales of Asus, I was curious as to the real reason why this is happening.

So I sort of went around computer shops to have a look at what was being sold. From the looks of it, it’s not because Linux is not a viable alternative to Windows. I see several reasons why the Linux based Acer units are actually not selling in the local market. If you’re a Linux user, maybe you can checkout what’s happening in your area and post them here for others to read. Here’s a list of my observations.

acer-aspire-one-linux-xp

Probable reasons why Windows-based Aspire One units are outselling Linux-based Aspire One units

  1. There’s NO Linux-based Aspire One units available on sale at the outlets. Now, how can you sell a Linux based unit if there is nothing to be sold. I’ve been to at least 5 computer shops and I didn’t find any Linux models but did find available Windows models.
  2. From a hardware standpoint. The hardware specifications of the Linux models were limited. If you take a look at what was being sold in the market. Linux based Aspire One units that have small storage capacities are the only ones available. This is opposed to being able to buy a Windows based unit with either a small capacity SSD or a large capacity hard disk installed.
  3. From a pricing point of view. There is little price difference in a Windows based unit compared to a Linux based unit. When I finally got to a store that has a Linux based Aspire One. The cost of the base Linux loaded Aspire One is just a couple of thousand pesos lower than the base model of the Windows unit. The sales people, being not to familiar with Linux was pushing for the sale of the Windows based unit instead of the Linux based unit.
  4. ACER is a computer vendor. If you look at it, Acer is a company that is more concerned about selling netbooks and not selling Linux netbooks. Linpus, the operating system that is used in Aspire One, has no global marketing infrastructure to push for Linux-based units. Compared to Microsoft, they are practically non-existent.
  5. The Operating System and software. This is, in my opinion, one of the major reasons why Windows is gaining ground for several reasons:
    1. If you take a look at the Aspire One Linux based unit’s interface, I don’t think it’s the most appropriate for a netbook like Aspire One (and for most netbooks right now). At a glance, you’ll think wow great big buttons that provide easy visuals for basic functions. But I think that the Linpus interface is geared more towards computers that has touch screens. I think that the most appropriate interface is still the menu-based system wherein they are in an accessible small area. Why? Try moving the pointer across to click the large buttons.
    2. Any marketing person will tell you that you shouldn’t make drastic changes in a product packaging. Now take a look at the current scenario. Windows own a more than 90 percent market share. People are used to using the “Windows packaging”. I’d say if you want to make dent into that market, Linux should not make drastic changes. People (most) don’t appreciate it.
    3. One thing I love about Linux is the choice and freedom. But it’s also the lack of a single cohesive and consistent look and feel that is also what can be considered it’s weakness. It’s like Windows against several strands of yarn rather than a well entwined rope that will slash at Windows.

      I think Ubuntu, the undisputably most popular Linux distribution, can and is playing a major role in this area.

My thoughts on how Linux can sustain a market growth on the desktop

Current market is more than 90 percent Windows operating system. There are a lot of different Linux distributions available which offers choice, freedom and its own strengths as a distribution. But I think that we need to think about having a more cohesive and common “battlefront” in order to really sustain a bigger growth on the desktop. At the moment, I think Ubuntu can very well be that lead and I really hope that all the manufacturers would use it as the default desktop option for Linux. This would not only place a single consistent Linux in front of the users but will also encourage people to support greater growth for a single Linux which will eventually trickle down into the other distros to spur creativity.

Linux is all about choice. One thing I love about it is people forming into a community to create something that is useful and still provides the ordinary user the freedom. Try reading the EULA of a Windows license and you’ll know what I mean. But not everyone (in fact I’d say a good over 80 percent of people) can go delve into the software and hack it to create / modify Linux to get what they want. The other 20 percent of those who can needs to put the choices and possibilities up front so that they will be able to use.

Global Marketing is the key. I can not stress this enough in my site. Windows is a company with more than $50 Billion in resources. On it’s own feet no individual distro is anywhere near this figure. Last time I looked it’s not even near the billion dollar mark. There are only a few companies in the world that would be able to match Microsoft’s resources. One of them is Google. I would really love to see Google invest resources and it’s clout in a single desktop Linux distro in at least the same manner it has led the mobile world by creating the Android open mobile platform.

Awareness will help a lot. If the 80 percent part of the users can know more about Linux from the other 20 percent it will really help move Linux into the desktop. If you belong to this 20 percent, I want to encourage you to share Linux to others. More and more people are getting online. Create a blog and write about Linux. If you have a blog and you use Linux but haven’t gotten to write about Linux, now is a good time to start.

I hope that the individual strands of Linux would band together to form a big rope that will be able to tie a stronger knot to the desktop computer.

Gerry Ilagan

Gerry Ilagan is into mobile apps and WordPress development at @speeqs. He loves to write about electronics, the Internet of Things, mobile phones, and #crazyideas.

Comments

Barry John Williams
Reply

I think another point you have missed (and certainly is true in the UK); netbooks are being bundled with 3G adapters for mobile internet which makes perfect sense. However, whilst many 3G dongles do work with Linux, it is still an enthusiast market as many of the Telecoms companies do not support Linux directly. Therefore most of these bundled netbooks are sold with Windows XP.

Note that Vodafone in Spain is probably an exception here, whilst I don’t know for sure if they sell Linux machines in stores, they do have an R&D wing developing Linux Vodafone software.

xISO_ZWT
Reply

The biggest hurdle is not the user, it’s the OEM (It’s always blamed on the user). They either are not strong enough or have the will to stand up against MS/Intel collusion. I say let the MS/Intel-centric OEMs die in the market and support the newer forward thinking OEMs that may come up on the scene.

liezie
Reply

I agree with some of your points. I had a hard time finding a linux one with the specs that i wanted.
But I heard from somebody who works at mediamarkt that a lot of customers who buy the linux flavored one, bring it back. a lot more then those that are sold with windows.

we simply have to face it, not everybody has our good taste. 😉

ashton
Reply

When netbooks were first introduced, you could find them only with linux distributions. Microsoft understood that they had a problem, so they extended XP Home OEM life to summer 2010 .
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a netbook with linux either in a computer shop, or in a computer distributor/reseller.

gerry
Reply

Hi ashton, so it’s the same situation in your location. Wonder if it’s the same situation in other countries

TripleII
Reply

Here’s what I wrote Acer on Friday.

“Hello, I am writing this on my 8Gig SSD Linux Acer Aspire One. I have a concern regarding your Linux offerings. I have several friends who want an Acer Aspire One, however, they want the 120gbyte hard drive based versions. You do not offer any Linux versions with the standard hard drive.
The reason I am writing this, I would like to find out when/where I can purchase a Linux or OS free version of the Acer Aspire One with a standard mini-hard drive. Barring availability of any hard drive based Linux models, I will be forced to reject the EULA on the deprecated XP version and will, on principle, demand the refund on the OS that will not be used.
I don’t want to waste hours on that process, and you don’t want to waste the same time on your end on this process, but I will be forced to (on principle).
I would like to hear by the weekend on whether this is possible, however, will start the process of removing XP from a hard drive based One early next week if I don’t hear back.
My Real Name
P.S. I love your machines, 5 so far. One for me, 4 for others and counting.”

You know what gets a vendor’s attention, CONSUMER DEMAND. What we need to do is simply DEMAND what we want. Acer Aspire One with 120 gbyte hard drive is Windows ONLY. I have 3 people who want that hardware and don’t want Windows, hence the email. Maybe it’s time that we in the community set up a centralized location where hundreds to thousands of us can ENFORCE the refund of the XP distro included, post exactly how we do it, who to call, what BS not to put up with. You know, as written, Acer wants to sell hardware, and doesn’t really care about XP except that is it a revenue stream of kickbacks. If it cost them more than the kickbacks MS offers due to us consumers demanding the choice we want, it would not take long.

gerry
Reply

@TripleII – What’s even better is maybe a site can be setup where we can group together those who are interested in buying a computer with a given config and then have the manufacturer contact the site even before we purchase them.

That way, we get what we want and we don’t have to go to the process of a refund.

It’s more like pooling the demand and getting the “orders” satisfied according to the specs required.

I think that would really make everyone happy — both consumers and manufacturers.

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