May 10 2009

Why Linux Netbooks Have A Chance

Linux Penguin

Linux was the first OS seen on netbooks, but Microsoft took the market with XP. Does Linux have a chance of stealing customers back?

According to one blogger at DigiHub, the answer is no. While early Eee PCs worked with Linux, today’s netbooks have “more grunt than your average desktop did only a few years ago.” Windows 7 works well on netbooks with a 1.6 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM, and Linux is nowhere near as crowd-pleasing.

However, there may be some problems with these simplifications. The aforementioned article mentions that Linux feels “cumbersome” compared to Windows 7, but most Linux users choose the OS because it’s known to be more efficient than Windows. Sure, the new OS has a “learning curve,” but a number of adjustments to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, for example, are making the OS more user-friendly than ever.

Furthermore, any claim that Windows 7 is “the final nail in the coffin for Linux” disregards the unhappy fact that Microsoft plans to cripple Windows 7 for netbook use. The move to defend its profit margins has left Microsoft in a more precarious position, with longtime partners Acer and Intel both signaling their doubt that Windows 7 will see any kind of success.

My final criticism of the DigiHub article is of this assertion:

Here’s the big test. Find a Windows user and give them a netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix for a week. Now give them Windows 7 for a week and then see if they want to switch back to Ubuntu. I can assure you the vast majority of people will stick with Windows. Given long enough they might warm to Linux, given the right distro, but they probably don’t want to invest the time.

Simply put, that isn’t true. Chris Kenyon of Canonical noted that “when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP.” Two thirds is a lot, but hardly a vast majority.

Regardless, talk is only worth so much – sales numbers talk loudest. Linux is definitely behind, but if Microsoft continues its antics the door may open to Linux dominance.


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