High Netbook Return Rate? Windows Is the Problem

By Caitlyn Martin
June 8, 2009 | Comments: 47

On May 14th in a piece colorfully titled "Game Over For Linux Netbooks", Bill Weinberg wrote about a very high return rate for Intel Atom based netbooks:

...an Intel executive has stated that some of its computer resellers selling Intel Atom-based netbooks have seen 30 percent return rates.

The Brooke Crothers story quotes Intel marketing chief Sean Maloney as saying at an investor meeting yesterday that the main reason for the returns was that the resellers were not being honest with customers about the shortcomings of netbooks versus Pentium-based notebooks. "

Note that the quoted story wasn't referring to netbooks running Linux. It was referring to all Intel Atom powered netbooks. I am assured over and over again by tech pundits like Mr. Weinberg that nowadays almost all those netbooks run Windows, not Linux.

Did it ever occur to people that Windows might actually be the cause of the disappointment customers face and the high returns? An insightful analysis in the tech-no-media blog on June 1st says precisely that and asks the question: "Is Windows killing the Netbook?"

... a lot of consumer that had purchased netbooks were returning them when they realized that these small machines were not able to perform all the tasks of a full size computer, like playing games or editing video."
That's certainly true if you're running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, all of which are significantly more resource hungry that any of the Linux distributions typically offered on netbooks. When you add anti-virus and anti-spyware software plus a personal firewall, the minimum requirements for a safe and secure Windows system, the poor netbook is so bogged down that performance is poor. The fact is that many tasks that are painful or even impossible on a Windows netbook are very doable on the same hardware running a well optimized Linux build.

Tracy Anne Barlow of LXer.com and Australia's Feral Penguin Computers recently related her own experience:

At the computer show we were at on Sunday [...] there was another exhibitor there with a Win XP based netbook. In comparison to my Ubuntu powered netbook it was slow [like] wading through molasses to use. I commented on this, and the bloke said, well it's only supposed to be used for Web surfing and such, but I can't imagine that experience would be any too exciting. I pointed out that my Linux powered netbook was not only not slow, but was capable of being used as a highly portable stand in for my main desktop machine, he had nothing further to contribute.

I managed to demonstrate just how responsive the Linux powered netbook is to quite a number of people, and explained to them that with Linux on the machine I was able to use the netbook as a stand in for my desktop machine while traveling.

It amazed me just how slow the Windows machine actually is. It's no wonder people are returning them in droves."
Like Ms. Barlow I have seen Windows versions of netbooks and was truly underwhelmed by the performace compared to my own system with nearly identical hardware running Linux. Ms. Barlow was fortunate enough to be able to demonstrate the difference between the operating systems in a public forum. Sadly, even in stores that still carry Linux netbooks most of the sales help simply doesn't have the knowledge and experience to do the same. Online retailers who carry both Linux and Windows netbooks also do nothing to tout the performance and security advantages of Linux. The typical consumer is used to and knows Windows so that is what they buy more often than not. They get the system home and the results are disappointing. Had they only been shown Linux as an alternative they might have been fully satisfied with their netbook purchase.

Microsoft may actually be benefiting from this state of affairs. They have been engaged in a full court press to do away with the netbook term completely and simply tout the systems as small, cheap, underpowered notebooks. If companies just make the machines a bit bigger and more powerful (not to mention more expensive) Windows will run fine and customers will be happy as clams. This also suits some hardware vendors who would like to move their customers up the product line to more expensive and more profitable machines.

Like Ms. Barlow I use my netbook for everything and anything. I've been completely happy with my Sylvania g Netbook Meso (review) in the over four months I've had it.

Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers may also be misjudging consumers. Toshiba sold a lot of Libretto netbooks which weren't called netbooks from the mid '90s up until a couple of years ago, all at premium prices. There has always been a market for really small and really portable. There always will be. This is where Microsoft and Lenovo and yes, even Dell, HP, and Asus, are all now missing the boat. If they leave a void in the market someone else will step in and fill it. Many of the ARM powered systems recently announced are similar to the original EeePC in size and weight. Some are even slightly smaller and lighter. Asus wasn't considered a major systems vendor before the EeePC. The original 7" EeePC running Linux put them on the map. There are plenty of smaller, upstart vendors offering or preparing to offer ARM and MIPS based systems under $200, each and every one running Linux and able to do serious work. I expect some of them will succeed in the marketplace just as the original EeePC did. The small Linux powered netbook is here to stay.


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47 Comments

Since the netbooks are inexpensive, low-margin items, they will basically have to sell themselves. Therefore, there might not be the resources available to either train the sales people or to allow them to spend much time on any given customer.

@Phil: There is also a significant cost in dealing with returns. If nearly a third of units are being returned it would be less expensive to spend an hour or two on training that it is to deal with all the returns. It actually would cost less to have sales people know what they are doing. The improvement in customer service would help sales beyond netbooks.

I think a major problem with the brick & mortar store is that they not only want the hardware sale, but they want to sell you a carrying case, office software, anti-virus software, tech support to install the extra software, etc...

It's the whole mono-culture thing that Microsoft was festered upon the world. It's a juggernaut that will take time to evolve.

Thinking about it some more, I now think that there is another factor causing a lot of returns that hasn't been mentioned here - the SSD drives that are commonly used. This doesn't affect all brands or models, but the SSDs in many ASUS EEE netbooks seem to be especially bad. What I discovered with the 900 that I purchased last year with the 16G PHISON SSD is that the computer would not respond to any user input for about one minute after the Windows XP desktop screen appeared, after which it would behave more or less normally. I'm not sure what Windows is doing during that dead time, but the same computer behaves much better with FreeBSD installed.

@phil

One of the reasons that XP with an SSD is not responsive is that the disk scheduler which is optimized for a conventional hard drive can't be turned off. Since an SSD is not a rotating platter with an oscillating arm it doesn't need this additional overhead.

With Linux you can pass the kernel parameter elevator=noop which disables the disk scheduler to no ordering/write when needed. Wear leveling is not an issue with noop since that's handled at the hardware level.

one point the blogosphere fails to mention is:

the win versions _crawl_ with all the anti${WARE} when you run on battery.

you're proc is only running half speed!

an 800 mhz unplugged from your wall all loaded up ... is no computing experience.

you can truly understand these return rates.

Long live Slackware!

@warp99

That may be one factor, but there is another issue that I think has a bigger impact...read this article by anandtech. the initial focus was on one particular Intel SSD product, but the issue is much bigger than that.

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=13

--

Phil

@phil and @warp99: One point I should add is that the optimization that warp99 suggests is not something most users have to worry about. Anyone who buys an off the shelf netbook preloaded with a well configured and optimized Linux distribution will have SSD performance already maximized right out of the box. As you correctly point out such optimizations do not exist for Windows XP. This adds to the Linux performance advantage.

@phil: I have been following various SSD studies including the ones by Anandtech. SSD performance deterioration as the devices age is going to happen regardless of whether the system runs Windows or Linux. Most netbook vendors aren't going to advertise the make and model of their included SSDs. So, while the information is very interesting to the technically minded it doesn't really help make a purchasing decision. It also doesn't change the fact that Linux is going to perform better on SSD storage than Windows, regardless of whether these are the best or the worst of the SSD.

@anon: At least in Linux CPU scaling can be tuned to usage, not just battery life. I believe the same is true in Windows XP. However, having said that, Linux runs well on an original Asus EeePC clocked at 600MHz. Windows wasn't offered on those systems for good reason. Some of the low end MIPS based netbooks have clock speeds under 400MHz and Linux still performs well enough. Linux is far less resource intensive and therefore performs better than Windows on low end hardware. Windows won't even run on some of these systems.

I'm really happy with my Eee901 (atom)running Ubuntu NBR (easypeasy 1.1). It does what I want (firefox - gmail, greader, etc; tweetdeck; skype; watch AVIs; and a little text editing) just fine.

A friend bought an Eee900 (celeron processor, 1GB RAM) with linux on it. Subsequently he put Win XP on it and found it sluggish compared to the Xandros Linux it came with. Then he put Win 7 RC1 on it and found it no better in performance.

It doesn't surprise me that early model netbooks with Windows OS are being returned, especially if users are not aware of their limitations and expect it to do everything a full laptop does.

Nice, incisive article. I just would like to add one thought:

A good number of customers may be returning Windows-run netbooks due to performance issues. But the decision to buy a Windows-run unit instead one with Linux was most likely made by the customer in the first place because of her/his familiarity with Windows and, conversely, ignorance of Linux and its capabilities). This suggests the need for a well-funded, sophisticated educational and marketing campaign. It would be a grievous error for the Linux community to pin their hopes for spreading Linux on netbooks alone.

It's really the makers of these netbooks to blame. In typical greedy fashion the makers of these machines dropped XP on their in a heartbeat when MS were forced to essentially free pricing for the dinosaur. People subsequently buy what they are familiar with. It isn't their fault XP runs like a pig. But it is the greed of the manufacturer to place those units on sale in the hope of more sales because of the windows logo.

The irony is too sweet that now they will be making less sales as a result of those decisions.

Maybe intel and moblin can see past the short sightedness of companies such as Asus. Maybe brick and mortar stores will wake up. Maybe someone will write a virus good enough to render the worlds installations of Windows null and void simultaneously.

I think open source should spend less time coding for Linux and more time developing spyware, virii and malware for Windows. Windows users deserve it.

Just me - What a diabolical idea, which I think won't further the cause of the Linux community.

I consider myself a Linux advocate (I use mostly Ubuntu and Fedora), but I think there are additional clearly understandable reasons why vendors do not expose the performance advantage of Linux on netbooks, beyond profit from added-value software. First and foremost, most of these vendors depend on Microsoft for all kinds of products, well beyond netbooks. Showing Windows as a bad option surely won't help improve relationship with MS. Other than that, as you already suggested, selling Linux means knowing Linux and knowing how to support Linux, at least at some basic level of handling immediate customer issues. Many vendors, particularly small ones, simply don't want to make the effort.

I have an eeepc 900 which I put kubuntu 9.04 (upgraded from instaled xandros) and it runs perfectly, including desktop effects, watching divx, surfing the web etc (I've even used it as a firewall / wired to wireless to internet gateway on ocassion. Anyone who has installed XP will tell you that it's reasonably usable until you put on the AV, SPAM, install all the additional software that sits running down on the toolbar and then (on a netbook at least) it's completely unusable.


Ruairi

I'm typing this on my Xandros-based eeePC 701. I use it pretty much anywhere to do (almost) anything. I use it with wifi or with my broadband modem or my broadband router. I don't own a cell phone: I use my eeePC to make my phone calls. I listen to streaming music. I keep my bookmarks on delicious.

thx a lot for clearing up this myth in public Caitlyn. I am trying to educate people every day about this, since the linux rant was made up by MSIs' Andy Tung in a Laptopmag.com interview last year.

I feel like Don Quichotte with all these spindoctors around me.

Sascha
Netbooknews.com

Shrewd. Kill off the netbooks by running Windows on them. Microsoft knew most customers would blame the sluggishness on the hardware, not the software. "Windows is not that slow on my laptop!!!"

and once again the consumer world essentially misses out on technology innovation at the hands of MS. Simply because they can't be competitive on the platform. It's disgusting. Blatant and disgusting.

And yet, you wont here M$ saying anything about the returned netbooks running XP. They'll just keep forcing the initial sales figures down our throats.

@just me: You wrote: "I think open source should spend less time coding for Linux and more time developing spyware, virii and malware for Windows. Windows users deserve it."

That is the one and only think that could kill FOSS and make it pretty much universally despised. Thankfully the communities around FOSS, including Linux, would never go that route.

@Rich: Your wrote: "Microsoft knew most customers would blame the sluggishness on the hardware."

Pretty much. Of course there is the little problem of 3.5 million Linux netbooks sold last year, plus all the ones sold in 2007 and this year. They aren't sluggish and more people are aware of Linux than ever before. By the end of the year we should see netbooks with ARM CPUs that won't run Windows anytime soon. That, plus additional MIPS based models, are the best hope for getting Linux back into stores and into the hands of consumers.

All: Really good comments today. Keep them coming!

Real issue is "What happens when the Linux netbook is returned?"
If the buyer says "Gimmee my money back" then the reseller is taking a loss in opportunity and restocking.
If the buyer says "Okay, I'll trade up to the Windows version", then it's not so bad for the sales chain.
Any stats available on that? I doubt it.

@stoneguy: You are assuming Linux netbooks are returned at a significant rate. According to Asus, Acer, and Dell it just isn't so. Most Linux netbook customers are satisfied with their purchase. If Mr. Weinberg's numbers are correct many Windows customers just aren't. You can't have numbers on events that aren't happening in any significant numbers.

The other issue you are ignoring is that most brick and mortar retailers don't have Linux versions. If they did when the unhappy Windows user returned their systems they'd have a much better alternative to offer them.

Nice try at twisting around an article about dissatisfaction with Windows performance. Didn't work, of course, but you get credit for trying. It's awfully hard to defend the indefensible and that's pretty much what a Windows install on a netbook is: indefensible.

I've been rather taken aback by all the commentary I've seen over the years about netbooks being slow, only good for web browsing, etc. I don't know why I didn't put a simple 2+2 together. Of course, they are sluggish if you're running Windows on it! As an IT professional that's probably the #1 complaint I get all the time: my computer is running slow. Doesn't matter what the computer is, Windows gets slower and slower over the years (months or even days!).

@caitlyn: Surprised you took my response as a "twist". Heck, I bought my ASUS 900 with Xandros on it from a brick-and-mortar store. But maybe I could do that easier because I live in Canada :)

I think it would be very interesting if someone could do the following research:
1) No. of netbooks sold. No. w/Linux, No. w/Windows.
2) No. of netbooks returned (w/Linux and w/Windows).
3) Point 2 should also look at whether the Linux netbooks had been reinstalled with Windows and visa versa. I don't know that that data will be available.
4) Whereas all Windows netbooks must be running XP or earlier we don't really need data on the version of Windows, but what distro of Linux were they running? How does this correlate w/returns. I would suspect more are returned with the original factory install version: most of which suck. (e.g.: Linspire).

I know I had some other points to address, but can't remember right now. The point is, however, to get to hard numbers to counter those who are saying that netbooks don't work, are slow, etc., that Windows is winning out on the netbooks, etc. I think Caitlyn might have really hit on something and it would nice to prove it.

Which netbook came with Linspire preloaded? I'm not aware of any. Certainly none of the major brands did.

I would argue that the majority of preloaded Linux distributions do not "suck" at all. Ubuntu Netbook Remix may not be everyone's cup of tea but it is well implemented on my Sylvania g Netbook Meso. I triple boot the system and I do prefer other distros than Ubuntu but there is nothing wrong with the implementation. From what I've read the same is true on Dell systems with UNR. I've also heard good reports about SUSE on HP.

If you are referring to Xandros Presto on the EeePC or Linpus Light on the Acer Aspire One I think most of the complaints are from seasoned Linux users. For the average non Linux-savvy user the reports and reviews online have generally been excellent. I think the Linux savvy user is not the target audience for these distros. The same is true for Moblin and Android, the two we are likely to see the most of in the coming year.

The only really poor implementations I am aware of are gOS on both the Everex Cloudbook and the Syvlania g Netbook, and SUSE on the MSI Wind.

The numbers you are looking for a pretty much impossible to come by and when we do get them they are conflicting. IDC numbers are fairly well trusted and they put Linux at 24% last year. All the numbers I saw for 2008 put Linux between 24% and 30%. IDC puts total sales at over 14 million, which means Linux came in at 3.5 million units sold at a minimum. 2007 was 100% Linux and the units sold should be able to be found online. For 2009 we have sketchy numbers from different vendors and some numbers that clearly are false. For example, Microsoft claimed a 96% share but used a survery of brick and mortar retailers (online sales don't count) and only those in the U.S. (the rest of the world doesn't count). Since the majority of Linux sales are online that produces a very skewed result. Dell and HP are still claiming strong Linux sales.

I just skimmed over the comments, so forgive me if I rehash anything. I bought a XP netbook with a SSD drive, and honestly if I hadn't been internet savvy enough to have looked up all of the tweaks needed to make it stop stuttering and locking up, I certainly would have sent it back. It was practically unusable, and I'm definitely regretting not at least trying a Linux one. I'm using this as a work machine (I'm a writer, so all I need is something that can run a browser and a word processor), so I just didn't want to take the time to learn a new operating system. I'm certainly regretting that decision, given how much time was spent messing around with this thing.

@Tiffany: You can always install Linux side by side with Windows XP so your decision doesn't have to be final. There is plenty of help, both online and from Linux User Groups (LUGs) to make the experience painless.

You really don't have to learn the operating system. You will still point to the word processor icon and cllick to open the application. Will it be Microsoft Word? No, it won't be. However, it likely will be OpenOffice Writer which does a really decent job reading and writing MS Word files. Ditto your browser which will be Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. The basics will all be very similar to what you're used to.

The fact that you found this article and responded to it intelligently me tells me you have no fear of or problem with computer technology. The fact that you could fix problems with XP tells me you are not a typical user at all but rather someone who has a degree of computer savvy. Is there a learning curve? Yes. Is it a difficult one? For you, probably not.

Linux offers you a computing experience with no fear of infection with a virus, worm, or trojan, no spyware, none of the malware that is so common on Windows. Upgrades are always free as is most of the software you will ever want or need. You won't need a personal firewall because that's built in. Linux offers not only better security by design but also offers improved performance (the point of this article) and improved reliability and stability. These are the reasons I use it and not Windows.

Well I knew it was inevitable that windows xp was going to have bad performance on netbooks. The requirements alone just kill the entire thing alone. But what can you do windows was built upon software that was insecure and not so good. Such as I think: The Xerox Windowing software for their printers, MS-DOS, and others that I am not aware of.

With such code in the code base being mission critical you won't see windows getting any leaner in the future. The only way that they could make windows run on the netbooks if it was to be an older version of windows than xp such as 98. The only way to make a new version of windows work on netbooks is if they rewrite the entire code base with efficiency and security in mind. And in fact that is the only way Microsoft would be able to compete on a level field with BSD, Linux, and Unix at all. So as long as Microsoft is this lumbering giant you won't see any good improvements for the Windows-netbook sector.

So sorry for going off a bit and maybe for a few wrong bits but in all I think that I did my best not to bullshit anyone. So have a good day.

Hey Caitlyn - thanks so much for the information. I actually do use Open Office and Firefox already, so those are the big leaps - my main problem are a few .Net 2 based programs that I've been relying on, and would be hard pressed to give up. However, to actually get the performance level I should be out of this netbook and especially the ssd drive, I think I will try your idea of dual booting...now to go research which flavor I'd like. :) Thanks again!

Caitlyn! You're right, of course. Linpus, not Linspire! I use Ubuntu Netbook Remix and love it. But then I'm very particular to Debian. Anyhow, I don't know anyone except Linux users who have purchased pre-installed linux computers. All of them have serious complaints about the Linpus and Xandros installs and support for the respective netbooks, as you mentioned. However, I remember complaints about upgrades going bad or not at all. Something like that. That would be a bad experience for a newbie. My best experience getting people to adopt Linux is in those situations where they have little or no computer experience (something very rare these days).

Probably the real reason that Brick & Mortar stores aren't carrying Linux netbooks is that whether they sell or not, the stores aren't making much money on them.

The profit margins on computer systems is notoriously thin, and the real money is in "follow-on" sales such as anti-virus suites, utility suites, Windows games, Office and "Productivity" software, and warranty upgrades. Of course best of all are the regularly re-occurring support/maintenance services (aka Windows-cleaning: malware removal and registry cleaning or reinstall) such as offered by "Geek Squad" which are now heavily advertised. Those who "save money" by not bothering with supplementary software will either need the maintenance service, or will even buy a new computer.

Windows 7 rc on my msi U100 rocks. Photoshop cs4 and Lightroom 2 run fine on it. The onone plugins also work fine.

I'll say this once. I've used Fedora and I've used Ubuntu on a G4 powerbook. I never found anything that worked like Lightroom 2 and Photoshop with the ononeplugins. Digikam and Gimp don't come close or Krita with those packages that I'm using in Windows.

I tried Ubuntu Studio Jaunty on my MSI U100. I did not see any speed difference.

Keep in mind also that I was running a Linux distribution the last few years (Fedora 7 -10) along with trying Ubuntu from time to time.

Correct me if I am wrong but I do not remember anything like Genuine Fractal or Phototune in either linux distribution.

In the end I downloaded Windows RC 7. Photoshop cs4 trial and the Onone trail. Now my Nikon DSl and I are very happy. We would also be even happier if there were Linux programs that did what the onOne software does.

@carlf: For probably 95-99% of users the Linux equivalents, such as GIMP instead of Photoshop, are more than adequate. I know of a couple of professional graphic designers who use and swear by GIMP which, IMNSHO, does about 95% of what Photoshop does. If you absolutely need those last 5% then running Windows makes sense for you.

I can't comment on the other Windows apps you mentioned because I am simply not familiar with them. They are almost certainly outside the realm of what most people buy netbooks for. Heck, the average user can't and won't ever learn to install their own OS as you have done.

Please don't insult my intelligence or the intelligence of my readers and claim that Windows 7 runs as fast as Ubuntu. I've seen the two side by side on identical machines. Once you add antivirus, anti-spyware, and personal firewall software, all of which are absolute necessities on Windows, the Windows 7 system ran about as fast as molasses running uphill in the wintertime. It was painful to use.

For the overwhelming majority of netbook users a system loaded with Linux is the superior choice in terms of both performance and security. I will concede that there is a very small percentage of users with specialized needs or desires that are better off with Windows. You may fit into that group and I am absolutely fine with that. You are anything but a typical netbook user.

Can you watch video stories on cnn.com (for example) under Linux? Shallow as it may seem, this is the biggest reason for me to turn on the Windows box.

--

Phil

@Phil: Yes, I can watch CNN video just fine under Linux. I do all the time, mostly in Firefox. That is no reason at all to stay with Windows. What gave you the idea that CNN video wouldn't work in Linux?

My bad, or maybe not.

Since the flash-10 port is so badly broken under FreeBSD I assume that it was basically broken. Anyway, I downloaded the ubuntu netbook mix, and am running it from the USB flash drive.

However, the flash-10 did not come automatically with the netbook remix, and the instructions from adobe didn't work well when taken literally (dependency issues). I did get it running by just going to the correct menu in the ubuntu menu system, though.

So switching from FreeBSD to Linux is something that I'm now seriously considering.

@Caitlyn Martin: What I suggested with passing the noop parameter is not really an optimization since you're just turning off the disk scheduler.

You are correct that any competent manufacturer would have already made changes at the kernel level so the parameter would never need to be passed.

http://www.ononesoftware.com/detail.php?prodLine_id=2
Is there anything like the above program in linux?

@carlf: I honestly don't know. I get the idea that Eyefract and GLFract would offer a subset of the capabilities of Genuine Fractals.

The customers I have supported who needed high end video capabilities were doing 3D animation and used proprietary tools like:

http://www.sidefx.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1021&Itemid=270
http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/index?id=7635018&siteID=123112

In these cases Windows was not used because it could not scale up to the high performance hardware that the clients required. These companies had migrated from SGI servers and workstation to Linux. In any case this isn't what you're looking for.

Considering the discussion is netbooks I find it hard to believe that anyone would run the kind of video processing software you pointed to. Once you add anti-virus, anti-spyware and personal firewall software to Windows you simply wouldn't have enough horsepower to run fractal software on a netbook. You are mixing apples and oranges.

Bottom line: If you want that software, fine, run Windows. Don't make the specious argument that this is a showstopper for netbook owners. Probably 98-99% of users wouldn't purchase or use software like this and almost nobody would try to do so on a netbook. Your missing software argument is a red herring when it comes to netbooks.

I have never claimed that Linux is a panacea for everyone, just maybe 90-95% of everyone.

photo editing for my personal use and family not video editing.

The best photo editor for Windows is The GIMP.

http://www.gimp.org

Back when there were more Linux netbooks at retail (and a choice between the two), they had a higher return rate than Windows netbooks.

http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/hardware/soa/Linux-teething-problems-affect-netbook-returns/0,130061702,339292575,00.htm

The reason the return rate is so low now is that the people who are buying them are comfortable with Linux -- confused consumers aren't buying Linux machines at retail and expecting to be able to run Office 2007 (and possibly that old Home Designer 2003 app they bought a few years ago) on them.

It's simply a fact that average consumers don't really get Linux -- yet.

But yeah, an appropriate Linux is going to be able to run a lot leaner than XP on these machines -- distros like DSL and Puppy run fine on old machines with far less processing power and memory than an Atom-based netbook.

Not only that, but if you drop in an 11.6" screen (becoming more common) or 250 GB HDD, you have to ship with Vista instead of XP -- which is going to fare even worse in the performance comparision.

So while I don't think it would be correct to extrapolate that Linux would have a lower return rate than Windows if it were sold in the same volumes on netbooks, we can certainly agree that people who prefer to run Linux can get better real-world performance for the same price.

@wanorris: The MSI claim of a higher return rate (four times higher, in fact) for Linux machines has been thoroughly debunked. Mr. Tung of MSI made the claim before his company had offered or sold even a single Linux machine. Asus has claimed there is NO higher return rate for Linux. The Intel claim isn't that Linux is the problem; it's that poor performance is the problem.

DSL and Puppy are incredibly poor choices and not exactly user friendly. Any normal distro (Ubuntu, Mandriva, etc...) will still run much faster than Windows XP.

Finally, it isn't that consumers don't get Linux. Most typical users don't care if it's Windows or Linux or anything else and really don't get the differences. They want their apps to work and do the tasks they need to do. Anything beyond that is irrelevant to most consumers. I don't think the public will ever "get" Linux and I don't think it's important that they do.

My take on this has changed over the last few days. Based on my experiences with the Linux that came on my 900A and on my longtime experiences with using FreeBSD on the desktop, I thought that only Windows would be usable by the typical customer for a netbook. After installing UNR on that netbook, I now think that Linux is a perfectly suitable alternative to Windows. Perhaps I'm a bit late in coming to this conclusion, but I can't really think of any application suited to this machine (in terms of CPU horsepower and screen size) that is unique to Windows. The only qualm that I would have about setting my mother or siblings up with such a system is that they might try to buy something like Home Designer or an Aquarium Screen-saver at Target or Best-buy and install it.

After using UNR for almost a month, I'm less enamored with it. The functionality is great (after a few minor updates), and the suspend features are most welcome. The drawback IMO is that it is very sluggish by comparison with a slower computer (900 MHz non-Atom EEE) with FreeBSD and windowmaker. I haven't looked into why it is so sluggish, but I suspect that all of the tons of extra running processes (launcher, maximus, etc) is the source of slowness.

@Carif
Well just over a year later and i am curious whether you 'still' use the netbook for video editing with the same programs under the same Windows or whether new licenses or re-installs have been vital at some point. Also i wonder if malware has been an issue at any point during the year.

@Phil
Most people have not heard of BSD as it is considerably less famous than other Unix based platforms just as Apple or Linux. Often people lump Linux & BSD together as "non-Windows" platforms (forgetting Apple). A lot of the software available for one is already ported to the other. The differences between linux & BSD are very slight when compared to the difference between Windows and either. The ethos is very similar too although again there are some slight differences.

If you are approaching linux from the completely opposite direction of the discussion here then i would recommend trying distros from the Slackware or Arch families rather than the "noob-friendly" distros (such as Ubuntu or Mandriva and such) which are mostly aimed at making it easy to migrate from Windows to linux.

OTH if you have already made it as far away from Windows as BSD then why not stick with it as your main OS while experimenting with other distros for fun? In linux-land we call such people "distro hoppers".

Windows tends to keep the OS, programs, settings and data all on 1 partition and 2nd partitions are handled extremely clumsily. With linux it becomes very easy to keep all the users data & settings separate (just move the /home) so it is easy to install a different OS without losing data, or even have 2 different OSes sharing the same data & settings.

Linux offers people freedom OF choice whereas most people prefer freedom FROM choice and like to be told what to wear, what to eat and what to think. People like to just follow old out-dated fashions rather than to inspire new fashions. Until Linux becomes the tired boring old one that everyone uses & stops being the exciting 'new' option most people will avoid it.
Regards from
Tom :)

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