Before you flame The VAR Guy, please keep in mind that he runs Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. But during some recent trips to retail stores across North America, he spotted five clear examples why Windows will continue to dominate Linux on Netbooks. Here's the scoop...
...from The VAR Guy's most recent road trips.
Reason One: StaplesTake a close look at the photo above. It was taken at a Staples retail store on Long Island. Sure, the special Netbook display features a range of mobile devices. But they're all preloaded with Windows XP. All of them. When The VAR Guy asked the store manager if Linux alternatives were available, the store manager replied: "What you see if what you get."
Influence: As of January 31, 2009, Staples had approximately 2,218 superstores across the globe.
Reason Two: BJ's WholesaleRoughly a year ago, The VAR Guy spotted Linux netbooks in BJ's Wholesale warehouses on Long Island. In fact, The VAR Guy purchased an ASUS EeePC running Linux from the warehouse club in 2008.
Fast forward to the present, and BJ's Wholesale didn't seem to be stocking Linux Netbooks anymore. When The VAR Guy asked a clerk where the Linux Netbooks had gone, the clerk answered: "We stock what sells." Ouch.
Influence: As of January 31, 2009, BJ's operated 180 warehouse clubs in 15 U.S. states.
Reason Three: Best BuyDuring visits to Best Buy in New York and Dallas, The VAR Guy came to the same conclusion... Numerous Netbooks available. But none of them included Linux. Another ouch.
Influence: As of February 28, 2009, Best Buy operated 1,023 U.S. Best Buy stores, and dozens of additional stores across the globe.
Reason Four: Micro CenterDuring a visit to Micro Center in Dallas, The VAR Guy spotted seven Netbooks -- all with Windows XP preloaded. When The VAR Guy asked for a Linux alternative, the Micro Center salesman said it had been several months since he had seen a Linux Netbook on the retail store's shelves.
Influence: Micro Center has 21 massive locations across the US.
Reason Five: Cellular and Wireless Broadband ProvidersIn New York, Verizon now advertises a "free" Compaq Netbook for customers that sign up for Internet, TV and phone service. Verizon also promotes Netbooks for 3G broadband customers. To the best of The VAR Guy's knowledge, all of the systems run Windows XP.
Influence: Verizon had 86.6 million wireless customers as of April 2009.
What it All MeansTo be sure, Linux has made Netbook progress. Some pundits think Linux will soon enjoy 50 percent market share on Netbooks, thanks to momentum in regions such as Asia.
Back in the USA, The VAR Guy thinks Linux will remain a niche Netbook option.
Sure, big companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard now offer Linux as a preload option on Netbooks. And targeted PC providers -- such as System 76 and, soon, ZaReason -- are launching Ubuntu Netbooks.
But walk around US retail stores, folks, and you'll discover a harsh reality: Linux Netbooks remain difficult -- and often impossible -- to find.
Some folks think Microsoft's Windows 7 release, anticipated for October 22, will trigger a Netbook inflection point and shift more users to Linux. The VAR Guy isn't so sure. Microsoft has eliminated the foolish "three concurrent application limit" that Windows 7 Starter Edition originally featured, paving the way for Windows 7 to succeed Windows XP on Netbooks.
At Least There's Choice (Online)If you're rooting for Windows, Microsoft finally seems to be listening to your request for a faster-loading, simplified operating system upgrade. And if you're rooting for Linux, there are plenty of Netbook options -- if you look online.
Oh, and one parting thought: Even if Linux loses the Netbook market share war, the open source camp continues to put intense pricing pressure on Microsoft's operating system business.
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