There’s been a lot of talk over the last few months about the future of Linux on netbooks. When the OLPC Foundation, Asus, and other early netbook makers decided to preload various Linux distributions instead of Windows on the earliest netbooks, there were a few goals. The OLPC Foundation wanted to embrace open source ideals while keeping software licensing costs to a minimum. Asus wanted to design a custom user interface that was easy to use even by people with little to no computer experience. And to keep the software licensing costs down so the company could sell cheap computers without cutting too deeply into the profit margin.
But a year later, most netbook makers offer Windows as an option. And in October an official with MSI said the company was seeing Linux versions of the MSI Wind laptop returned four times more often than Windows models. And then Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux essentially confirmed that Linux notebooks are returned more frequently than Windows laptops.
Now Asus is weighing in, and CEO Jerry Shen says the company hasn’t seen any major difference between Linux and Windows Eee PC return rates.
So what’s going on here? It’s hard to say, because nobody’s really pinpointed why MSI and Canonical say Linux models are returned more often. It could be due to the fact that the MSI Wind U90 with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop was half-baked. The operating system didn’t suit the hardware, and some components, like the webcam, just didn’t work out of the box on Linux models. Or it could be due to the fact that manufacturers and retailers aren’t doing a great job of communicating the differences between Linux and Windows machines to consumers. While many people will find that a Linux computer does everything they need it to, the last thing you want to do is walk into a store and purchase a computer only to take it home and realize for the first time that it has a completely unfamiliar operating system and can’t run some of your favorite programs.
My guess is that Asus has simply done a better job of marketing their Linux machines, so that customers have a good idea of what they’re getting.
Asus did it right, and it paid off.
They didn’t just slap a Linux distro on the Eee Pc. They turned Xandros into a dead simple OS. I think you could hand a Linux Eee Pc to just about anyone, and they’d be set.
At this point, Dell is the only other manufacturer that seems to get it, as far as Linux on netbooks is concerned. Again, they didn’t go with a half baked effort, and I’ll bet it’s paying off. The Mini 9, with Ubuntu is a joy to use, and like the Xandros Eee, I’d have no problem recommending it to anyone.
Having tried purchased both Linux and Windows based netbooks, I think Linux is the way to go. It’s slim, doesn’t need any resource hogging security software and when the interface is done right, it’s a pleasure to use. I applaud Dell and Asus for properly implementing Linux in their netbooks, and I look forward to HP’s upcoming Linux based Mini.
I see two other eee701 fans, I just have to comment. Yes, Asus made a really good package. I was already an ubuntu dilletante but I had never heard of xandros. When I opened ‘er up I saw the plan immediately. For instance, if you are outside in sunlight those big icons are the only way to go. The user community is very good–and fun. I loaded up all the suggested tweaks but they don’t make that much difference. Then I tried booting ubuntu with the Canonical disc. That was a yawner plus the wireless connectivity is a frustrating mess with ubuntu. Wireless is what this little box does best. Try what you might, you can’t beat what you get out of the box.
I think that Asus’ Xandros implementation was near flawless, not that I care that much for Xandros or KDE, preferring Ubuntu and Suse on my other computers, but out of the box, the experience on the original 701 EeePC was so good I had no qualms recommending it to Linux newcomers. If all you wanted was a very portable machine to do what most of the non-technical people I know do with computers—web, email, youtube, word processing, skype—without the virus hassles of Windows, and on the cheap and under 2 lbs, it was hard to beat the original 701. Actually it still is.
At the age of 31 last year I got my first linux computer, asus 701 4g with a xandros distro, there were a growing community at eeeuser.com and the very first day i had figured out linux 101 and switched to the full desktop, that distribution was working almost flawless, only the video skype wasnt on out of the box but was just an update away.
The fact of being a preinstaled linux was a plus, I wanted to try an OS without the heavy antivirus load, it was easy to choose between a midsize MAC OS ($1200 macbook) or a $400 ultraportable eeepc.
There is a lot of people just searching for an alternative to VISTA, I have now instaled UBUNTU eee and it looks event better that xandros.
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