Open Source Software and Linux

Oct 10 2008   10:54AM GMT

Netbooks: Will they or won’t they boost the adoption of Linux

John Little Profile: Xjlittle

A few days ago we had this quote from all over the Internet regarding Netbooks;

“They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to,” MSI’s Director of U.S. Sales Andy Tung said in the Laptop mag interview. “They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.”

And now there is this from SuSE:

” People typically don’t care what operating system is on the netbooks, because they don’t buy them to run a suite of applications like Microsoft Office, but to be on the Web using a Web browser,” Nat Friedman said in an interview with IDG Applications Service. Novell’s SUSE Linux is already being pre-loaded with laptops from vendors including Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. The company is now in negotiations with Lenovo and HP to start offering its Linux distribution on their netbooks as well, he added.

That could be two very conflicting statements. If the marketing people will get it right though I believe that it should work.

It all comes down to the expectations of the users. The typical consumer, unless told several times over in bold print, is going to assume that he is getting a Windows machine. Much to his/her surprise when opening the box there is this strange beast that says Linux, no Windows logo, no notepad or wordpad, no Windows media player…do you get anything else with Windows?

The braver among them may try and make it work. However this is not the consumer’s bag. He wants it to work with what s/he is familiar with. So what happens? The only natural thing that can happen-the consumer returns the Netbook.

Now picture this. The marketing people do their job and hype it up as Linux so the consumer knows what s/he is getting. The even go so far as to put usage videos on their website or YouTube. And yes they must point out that these things are available to the consumer. Now the new Linux user is more than willing to get his shiny new Linux netbook to work. Someone is showing him/her where the applications are located, which applications are used to perform various tasks such as play music, create document and spreadsheets and edit photos. Now the consumer has a Netbook computer, at a low cost and is happily running Linux on his new machine.

Do consumers care what operating system is on their computer? For the most part I don’t think that they do. What they do care about is using the applications on the computer with ease. With the right marketing and hand holding and with videos showing the consumer how to use the new Netbook I think the consumers and sellers of the Netbook will be much happier. However if their expectations are different than what they are getting they are not going to be happy and the returns will continue.


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