The NetBook Battlefront … 1 point for Windows?
Over the past couple of days I’ve been reading about the higher than normal return rate of Linux netbooks. Being a Ubuntu user, I was curious as to the reason why that would happen. I believe that Ubuntu (eerrr, Linux) 😉 is a better operating system than Windows XP and much better than Windows Vista but why are they opting for Windows?
It seems that it all stemmed from the reason that most of those who bought the Linux netbook was expecting something that would look similar to Windows in terms of interface. Being a Windows user myself, here’s some of my thoughts about the situation on what I’ve been seeing in the currently available NetBooks.
The customer is always right. I believe that Linux is all about choice. I know how flexible Gnome, KDE and XFCE are but a lot of Windows user don’t. And for them to start learning and discovering just how great Linux is, they’ll have to first use Linux. So I think that a good way to do it is to give what the customer wants and at the same time show them choices. How? Create a Linux netbook distro that will offer a Windows look alike UI as an alternative interface they can use.
The best user interface is NOT everything to a lot of people. I know Linux has such a great UI. Most Linux netbooks offer an interface that is a “better” alternative to the Windows UI. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much if it’s the most advanced UI in the world. People (and more than 90% of them have been using Windows) don’t really like to change something that has worked for them. When they started buying the netbooks, they were expecting that these devices are small versions of their desktops / notebooks which are mostly Windows.
Marketing plays a key role so a consistent UI will gain better exposure. If you take a look at the variety of Linux distros being used in different netbook brands, you’d see a different look and feel from each one. These sort of dilute the whole thrust of marketing Linux to the masses. I believe that a unified look and feel from the different distros will help a lot in introducing Linux to them.
A good way is to create a Windows look alike UI that the different distros can offer to buyers as an alternative look and feel they can use. But the Linux distros should still have the same consistent look. Have you seen the Ubuntu NetBook Remix? Maybe it can be used as the unified look and feel of Linux on netbooks.
Money changes the playing field. Microsoft’s revenue of June 2008 is about US$ 60 billion. In contrast, Redhat for example has only about US$500 million last Feb 2008. As I see it, those dollars can do a lot of “work” for Microsoft to sway things their way in terms of marketing dollars.
Every Linux user should get involved. This is one reason I am writing this post. I believe that every Linux user (whether you are using Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Fedora, Debian, Mandriva …) should get involved. If you have a blog, write about it. If you code, create something that users can use. Do you know that there actually quite a number of good open-source software that only runs on Windows. If you’re a writer, help in documentation … Help out in your own way. Tell other people about Linux. Let other people know that they have a choice — something better .
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.