Linux Netbooks: A Tough Ticket?

Why don't PC makers sell more Linux netbooks? Maybe because they simply aren't making enough of them.
Why don't PC makers sell more Linux netbooks? Maybe because they simply aren't making enough of them.Jay Lyman is an analyst for The 451 Group who focuses on enterprise open-source software issues. He recently posted a blog entry describing the difficulty he had finding an Acer Aspire One netbook with a pre-installed copy of Linux. According to Lyman, the problem was that while loads of Aspire One models running Windows XP were in-stock and available, the models running Linux were in many cases simply sold out: "The message for Acer and other manufacturers: up your ratio of Linux netbooks. While North America seems to be the main market for these machines, about 30% of which run Linux by most accounts, among my dwindling options for obtaining the right Linux netbook were in Canada and the UK. However, the shipping costs added onto my minimal netbook expense of ~$350. While there were a number of online outlets that were sold out of the Linpus version, most of these same places had hundreds, sometimes thousands of XP netbooks in stock." As some reader responses to Lyman's post suggest, supply-and-demand issues aren't the only possible explanation. Hardware OEMs, for obvious reasons, keep mum about the arrangements they make with Microsoft to procure volume-priced copies of Windows XP (Vista is a non-issue here, since it won't run on netbooks and never will).

And clearly, if Microsoft considers the Linux netbook market a significant threat, it will respond by offering OEMs equally significant incentives to flood their distribution channels with Windows netbooks.

It is also possible that many netbook OEMs are still wary of their own Linux customers, due to concerns about providing adequate service and support. Some netbook vendors will work through these issues quicker than others; where Acer stands in this process, however, is anyone's guess.

The truth is, all of these issues probably play a role here. And while this is an annoying situation for some Linux netbook buyers, it isn't necessarily bad news for the Linux netbook market as a whole. As Lyman points out, "the dearth of Linux netbooks available in the face of many XP netbooks available further confirms the idea that going forward, Linux will be increasingly prominent and important in this explosive new market."

By the way, bMighty just posted a brand new, illustrated guide featuring seven business-friendly netbook models. Whether you're looking for a Windows or Linux netbook, this is a great place to start researching your options.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer