Geek CentralRoughly 30 percent of Netbook sales in Melbourne -- Australia's second-largest city -- involve customers requesting Linux rather than Windows, according to Geek Central, a fast-growing solution provider that serves the region. Here's the scoop and its global implications, from The VAR Guy.

The VAR Guy, as you may have heard, left the states to visit Australia this week. While wandering around Melbourne on October 26, The VAR Guy stumbled into Geek Central. The 13-year-old company has three upscale retail locations in the area, servicing consumers while also offering on-site IT support to small businesses.

Geek Central's store had numerous Netbooks -- those low-cost sub-notebooks -- on display. Fact is, Netbooks are everywhere in Melbourne, with most local retailers carrying Asus's Eee PC.

Now for the twist: Initially, Geek Central only carried Windows XP-based Netbooks. But customer demand for Linux-based Netbooks was overwhelming, according to Mike -- a Geek Central mate who gave The VAR Guy the scoop.

Within weeks of adding Linux Netbooks to Geek Central's product portfolio, the results were startling. Roughly one-third of the Netbook sales involved Linux rather than Windows, according to The VAR Guy's local source.

The Bigger Picture

At first glance, Netbooks are not a big channel opportunity or a big concern for Microsoft. But take a closer look. Already, Microsoft concedes Netbook sales are putting the pinch on Windows profits.

Crikey, mates: Microsoft faces a no-win scenario on Netbooks. The company must either price Windows super-low, or risk more Netbook customers embracing Linux.

And mark The VAR Guy's words: Netbooks will push into the IT channel, especially as devices for increasingly mobile sales forces and executives who want the power of PC applications without carrying around full-size notebooks.

In fact, Netbook sales are "on fire," according to TechRadar.com. Hmmm. Does Microsoft smell smoke?

The VAR Guy and the Nine Lives Media Inc. editorial team are blogging live from Australia October 26 through 31, while participating in a series of local managed services conferences. Note: The VAR Guy is updated multiple times daily. Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe to his newsletter, RSS and Twitter feed.

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