Thursday, March 19, 2009

Netbooks: Missing the bleeding obvious

I'm seeing quite a few articles about how Linux netbooks are losing more ground to Windows netbooks. Phrases are tossed around like, "not ready for prime time" and "users snub Linux netbooks".

This is starting to get to me. Not because I'm a "Linux nut" but because I think its misleading.

I live in Australia, and I've witnessed first hand how Linux has lost turf to Windows in this market. For me, it stems from two main issues.

Issue number 1: Microsoft woke up.

Yeah thats right. This isn't a conspiracy theory - its plain facts: Microsoft realised the threat and moved quickly to stem the flow.

I saw it go from being Linux netbooks on shelves to being PURELY Windows netbooks on shelves in the space of one week. Honestly, I suddenly couldn't even FIND the Linux netbooks anywhere in the stores that used to ship them. And I'm telling you, it wasn't because people weren't buying them - please realise that these same Linux netbooks actually caused the explosion of sales in the first place.

It comes down to this - Microsoft went into damage control. They pulled up their sleeves and started "offering incentives" for the stores to take the Linux netbooks off the shelves.

Really, I saw it happen - we went from choice to no choice in a matter of days. It wasn't because Linux wasn't offering a compelling solution - it was because Microsoft moved to kill it before it caught on. Think about it, if Microsoft thought that Linux on netbooks wouldn't sell well, then why did they extend the life of the now ancient XP just so they could get a place on them. Surely, if Microsoft didn't think Linux on netbooks was a threat then they would have just waited 'till they'd released a solid Windows 7.

But no, they knew it was a threat. And they killed it. The market didn't choose. Microsoft made their choice easy. Yeah, thats right - they removed the other choice.

Seriously, the average buyer doesn't think too much about it - they walk into the store, look at the product, ask if it can do XYZ (which all these Linux laptops can do) and then buy it. They don't even think that it says "Windows" - heck, the eePC even LOOKED like Windows.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that what I'm saying is a bit far fetched. I'd encourage you to visit the site http://boycottnovell.com/ and read a bit about how Microsoft has been behaving. Please note that they are official documents from court hearings in Microsoft anti-trust cases (ie. ITS REAL). Unless you've read about this, and I mean -properly-, then I would encourage you to NOT post your Microsoft Fanboy Shrill comments.


Issue number 2: Corporate branding killed the Linux star.

I'm sure you've noticed that there isn't just one netbook going around - the market is veritably flooded with them now. The next thing you'll notice is that almost every different netbook is running a different breed of Linux distro.

Now I'm not against choice, but what is happening here is that these companies are so consumed by their desire to "make something unique" and "stand out from the pack" that they've shot themselves in the foot.

Just look at the first generation eeePC's, perhaps even the new ones. They all run an ancient kernel and old software. I'm sure any one of you who has used Linux 5 years ago and who have also used Linux today would agree that we've come SO far that we can hardly recognise ourselves! And here these companies are pushing yesteryear onto us! I just consider that dumb.

One thing that they've failed to realise is that John Smith will want to plug his new camera into his eeePC or Aspire and have it download his photos. I'm telling you now, he'll have a better chance with that if he's using a NEW distro with the LATEST advances rather than his archaic 2.4.x kernel! That goes for all kinds of devices the average user will want to plug in. What were these companies thinking??

Anyway, I should wrap up my rant. I'd like to just stress that THE MAIN REASON for Linux not 'catching on' like we'd have hoped is not because of point 2, but rather, point 1.

It really does come down to how Microsoft has played this. Microsoft didn't allow the consumer to choose. Really, how could they? They knew Linux was a threat, they KNOW its "ready" (however you define that) and they are willing to bend over backwards to keep the average Joe from getting used to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Odd, but cool

An Australian company called Kogan (www.kogan.com.au) is preparing to launch its own netbook into the market.

These devices will come shipped with the Ubuntu based gOS. Its good to see that they're not dictated by Microsoft here.

The thing that caught my eye though, was that they said they had also tested other systems on their laptop and were offering to install them if the user wanted. One of the things they listed was KDE4 - amongst all the other Operating Systems they were mentioning. Odd, but hey - they must think its cool!

KDE4 is mentioned at the bottom of this article: Australia's Cheapest Netbook

The specs of the laptop are actually pretty good. The only thing I would say is that they're using a regular HDD, not SSD.

All things considered, its good to see a company of Kogan's size actively push Open Source (and particlarly, KDE4!) into the public's eye. I would be interested to see how these netbooks perform in the real world.