What’s wrong with Linux netbooks?

Netbooks are supposed to be the killer category for Linux. According to netbook vendor MSI though, that’s not necessarily the case. In an interview with Laptop magazine an MSI exec claims that the return rate for Linux netbooks is higher than it is for regular (non-Linux) notebook computers.

“They start playing
around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used
to,” MSI’s Director of U.S. Sales Andy Tung  said in the Laptop mag interview. “They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to
the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux
netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.”

Frankly – this doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect that most retail consumers simply don’t have a clue what Linux is. So they walk into a retail store buy a cheap netbook open it up and see something different – so they return it.

Linux does not look the same as Windows (though of course you can make it look pretty close – which is something that Xandros does well) and it doesn’t run all the same desktop applications that Windows does. Certainly there are replacement applications – OpenOffice for Microsoft Office and Firefox for IE – BUT still, if a user has a certain expectation (and that expectation is Windows) and they don’t get it…well what do you expect?

While the netbook industry has done a great job of pushing price – i’m not so sure they’ve done a great job (so far) of evangelizing Linux. Then again, this is the comment of one vendor – so it will be interesting to see if other netbook vendors have had the same (negative) experience.

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