back to article Microsoft cries netbook victory against Linux

Microsoft may be on its way to vanquishing Linux in the war to dominate netbook operating systems, but the ground could be shifting against Windows. An NPD Retail Tracking Service report states the Windows installation rate on netbooks has grown from 10 per cent in the first half of 2008 to 96 per cent in February 2009. With …

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powerful netbooks

Netbooks need to be more powerful. Upgrade the screen to 17" and the keyboard to one with numeric keypad. RAM should be 8GB, 600GB HD, quad core 6GHz liquid cooled CPU, top end games graphics. A decent battery. Blue Ray player. Surround sound 5 speaker system, gaming chair, games sticks and steering wheel. A wheeled trolly to carry it round in and full Windows Vista.

People are not so much after the Windows Quality as the familiarity. They need to realise that a Netbook is not a notebook or desktop. Obviously many people are attracted by the smaller price, however the number of MASSIVE laptops I see people enjoying means that actually they just want a proper computer that is not stuck to a desk.

The netbook needs to downgrade further. It needs to be even smaller. The battery to last longer. But the screen should be super super sharp and bright. If it becomes challenging to get an operating system to run fast on it then that will be linux.

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Linix vs. Windows on netbooks

The problem with this is:

1. People expect Linux to work like Windows. It doesn't matter if Linux is a better or worse user experience, it's what they have become used to.

2. Getting hold of a Linux loaded netbook these days is not so easy. Why? If you have to wait for a Linux netbook, but can immediately buy a Windows one then it doesn't take much imagination to understand what will be bought first.

3. Windows loaded netbooks often come with a better hardware spec' than Linux equivalents at little extra cost (more RAM, more hdd capacity). Never mind the fact that the Windows equivalent probably needs the extra hardware to run acceptably, but when a buyer looks at the spec' they will see more computer for not much more money and will naturally gravitate towards it.

4. Nebook OEMs don't help the cause by loading crappy distros or highly limited distros on them. If they loaded something like Ubuntu 8.10 it would be an entirely different user experience. Ubuntu just works out of the box on my Dell Mini 9 and has all the functionality of a desktop install. By comparison the flavours of Linux on earlier EE's or Acer's just looked and worked awfully.

5. People enlightened enough to buy netbooks with Linux are pretty much on their own unless they are of a geeky persuasion. Manuals are often poor or non-existent. People who have become used to Windows need less help if WIndows is installed, but if they are to make the jump to Linux then they need some sort of assistance.

A perfect example of this is a friend who recently bought a Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu on it. She phoned me to complain that she couldn't find Windows to do her Excel spreadsheets on! Never mind that Windows is an o/s and Excel is an application (she and many other do not understand the difference). She is a typical user and she's also a very clever woman (a police detective with a distinguished career), but she is not a geek and she is not interested in computers (they're a tool to her). The fact that Mini 9 had Open Office on it with a perfectly capable spreadsheet app' that could read Excel files never occurred to her because documentation was poor.

Once I had shown her how to open, read and convert file formats she was very happy. Now she wants to install Photoshop and does not understand that Windows apps can't be installed under Linux (let's not get into the discussion about Wine)..... This is the kind of problem that prevents a wider acceptance of Linux in the marketplace.

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Jobs Halo

OSX again!

Like someone else up here I bought a Dell Mini 9 with only one idea: to get OSX on it. I ran into some trouble installing it at first, but now it works like a dream. With some rough edges, but still quite dreamy. Now I have a small light portable and affordable Mac (in addition to my iMac at home) for on the go. If you look at the MyDellMini forums you can see a LOT of people installing OSX on it, so if 16% of the people buy a Linux netbook, then I would posit that at least another 20% go to OSX netbooks. As soon as Apple comes out with an ARM based OSX laptop, complete with app store, they will demolish any marketshare that Windows now might enjoy.

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N

I dont believe it...

I dont believe half of the statistics that are published any more,

I mean 10% to 96% in how many months?

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Jon
Gates Horns

Lockin

I would have loved a quick booting, long battery life, cheap linux eeePC, however one of the main considerations was to run my memorymap 3d mapping and walk planning software on it while sat in a tent. Unfortunatly this software only runs on windows. So I had to get a windows one.

That is why MS worries so much about obtaining an over 90% market share. They need to ensure developers never see market sense in developing drivers/software for linux. As soon as a windows competitor gets say a 10% market share it may be econmically viable for a software house to build two versions. Then it is a slippery slope as a wave of people itching to leave the horrible buggy world of windoze but are locked in by apps or drivers finally can.

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@Nick Davies

I don't think people are missing the point. These locked down Linux flavours are not a nice experience. I've seen people look at the UI and say "Ugh!". And if you need to delve a bit deeper then it's not always that easy.

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Samsung NC10

The NC10 is the pick of the current crop of netbooks, but I could only buy one with a Windows license. However, several hours after I bought it the machine was running Ubuntu Linux. Anyone know how I can return an unwanted Windows license for a refund, as I don't recall agreeing to the EULA (there wasn't one in the box, and I never booted Windows so I didn't agree to one if it's presented first time you boot the machine)?

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Gates Horns

@jay019

"I also see they have changed the EULA so we couldnt even get a refund for the crud we didnt want."

Huh, what? You can't claim a refund from the retailer for an unused MS license?

Reg! We need this investigated!

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Pirate

RE: Pocket sized netbook

It's called a BlackBerry. It's already fully compatible by design with M$ Office, it is secure and employs the best encrypted push email solution available, and is a decent phone too. For years I have used a BlackBerry with a number of external keyboards (via mini-USB) to complete real MS documents out on the road. I've tried BB-compatible mini keyboards, a folding keyboard, a roll-up keyboard, even tried an inflatible keyboard (not a success!). The iBone is just playing catch-up.

If I have the space or desire to carry a netbook then it is only slightly more effort to carry around a proper laptop, which offers a better screen (nice for DVDs) and much better performance, with much larger drives allowing dual- or even triple-boot options. With a BlackBerry available for when the laptop has been left at home, I still see no reason to buy a netbook.

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tmobile eee 904hd

I got my Asus EEEPC 904HD "free" for signing up for another 18 months with tmobile. It only came with Windows XP; but I just installed fedora 10 and it works out the box with the tmobile dongley things.

+1 sale for MS, +1 user for Linux, +1 for monopolistic behaviour

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Linux

Linux is great - but not the ones on Natbooks

I bought an Acer Aspire One, with Linpus Linux. It was awful. I did not get the administrator password, when I created one (using Terminal) I could not download Firefox 3, searched for hours how I could upgrade to Openoffice 3, and used the Terminal for everything. In the end, I wiped it, put Xubuntu on - still had to change one driver for the wireless - and it worked.

Why do Netbook producers believe that buyers cannot be trusted with a normal version of Linux? I do not need big buttons that compartmentalise my life into "Work" and "Play" - and if they want to do that, market research would show that a specialised "Porn" button would be just as much appreciated.

Dell is right selling their Netbook with Ubuntu. That system is much, much better. If Dell wasn't so expensive.

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Linux

Refunds for unused Windoze? You're having a laugh.

The hardware seller will say "The description said it included windows, if you didn't want windows you should have asked for a non-windows machine."

M$ will say "talk to your hardware seller."

Count me in with the "bought windows machine, wiped it, installed Linux" crowd.

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Go

The Power

Oh the power of effective marketing. It's not a matter of which is better, Windows or Linux, it's a matter of which is "marketed" properly to the target population. And MS is very, very good at this.

On the "home turf" of corporate marketing, Linux is at best a distant second and always will be until all the fanboys and hacks get truly organized and learn how to properly "sell" their product.

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@ Mark Wolstenholme

The MS EULA states (or, at least, used to state) that you can claim the cost of the unused license back from the retailer. People have done this and there have been cases where it has gone to court.

Is the MS EULA ha changed, then this is a very serious matter.

If retailers are not fulfilling their part of the EULA then this is also a serious mater.

Er Reg - how about buying an XP netbook, slapping some *nux distro on it and seeing if you can claim the MS license fee back?

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Switched my Aspire One to Windows

And why?

Because the supplied version of Linux sucked. The update procedure was horrible and many applications had not been updated by Acer in months - even though they contained known security issues. Patching some of them by hand using standard Linux procedures caused other things to break.

Windows XP is a horrible OS, but at least I can keep my machine relatively secure and I'm not spending all my time in the console sudoing away.

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@Nick Davies

If there is any truth in the "people return more Linux netbooks" and "people buy Linux to install XP" statements then it would appear that you are wrong.

As someone has stated above -- the default OS installs on netbooks makes people say "ugh". Put it this way: If you saw a netbook with a horrid six-huge-icon display and one next to it with XP, which would you think was the best?

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pictures of ballmer

Please, stop using pictures of Ballmer. The man's face makes my coffee taste several levels of wrong.

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Bronze badge
Coat

I think that's all the cliches aired now...

Linux is for geeks?

Well, yes and no. What many folk who say this sort of thing tend to forget is that, in order to run a computer properly, they need to know what they are doing. Windows is no different in this respect to Linux. I spend most of my days sorting out problems for Windows users and, believe me, the sort of questions being raised there are no different from those folks I see griping about the mysteries of Linux. Certainly, Linux was once a pretty unfriendly beast if you didn't have a solid lump of shell and admin training behind you at the very least, but there are now various distros out there that can be used by any oik. Ubuntu has already been mentioned, and I'd add a few to that, including Puppy, for example.

Linux machines being returned?

Well, I think El Reg already debunked that myth. The Microsoft pundits really need to do their homework.

Windows 7 for netbooks?

Maybe. However, I have a few niggles about that. I've been giving this "new" OS a going over and find that, although it seems to work, it is still more power/memory hungry than XP. Enough to make it unusable on a netbook? Not too sure about that. If it will run on my PIII test kit, then it may well do it, but it will be a matter of how much it can do.

Netbook is dead?

This is the clincher, though I'm not convinced that it will be the OS that kills it. One of the ideas behind the netbook originally was that it was supposed to be cheap, yet I notice that the price of so many new machines coming onto the market are such that you could go and buy a low spec laptop for close to the same money. This is what could, IMHO, kill the market.

Oh, and for the folks that are touting the ARM as a possible contender, may I just remind you of a little machine called the Acorn A4? I still have mine. It doesn't get any use these days since the PSU needs replacing. Yes, it's possible to put an ARM based machine together, but is there a will to do it?

What has he gots in his pockets, then, precious?

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Flame

@Peter Day

Try using your Epson printer on Windows *WITHOUT* using the supplied CD or downloaded driver from Epson. I think you would probably have more problems than on any mainstream Linux.

Badger the printer providers to give you either an install CD for Linux, or instructions to configure the excellent built-in Linux printer subsystem (like CUPS) to work with a new printer.

Don't use different rules to compare Linux with Windows.

Mind you, I do agree on other peoples comments about Xandros. My (very early) Eeepc 701 is running Ubuntu Hardy (I've standardised on an LTS release), because I got tired of re-installing Xandros each time the UnionFS filled up. Don't think it's a generic UnionFS problem, more a problem with the way it was configured.

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@ 'Windows is too crufty for an architecture port'

You should realise that Windows is already on x86, x86-64 and itanium - both client and server. Whilst you could argue that x86 32 and 64 bit aren't /that/ different, Itanium certainly is!

Porting to a different architecture is not an issue - the lack of applications is the problem.

Just as Linux suffers badly (assuming you get past the technical recovery tools and sometimes limited set of drivers) from not being able to run the apps many people expect right away, Windows ARM would suffer from precisely the same problem. I can't see Microsoft wanting to port to and support an OS and many of its popular apps on an entirely different platform.

ARM is a false dream - learn from the history of transmeta. Low power, slow, and hot. The reality was that no-one cared about the low power usage as the processor is only one of the power sucking components : chipset, memory, graphics, video, i/o etc.. You'd better hope it's fast enough, too, as slow does not sell. See Atom vs VIA or Celeron, for instance.

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Coat

distro

i'm not alone in buying XP version and dual booting - the linux implementation was very poor with ubuntu eee being much better.

Bring on the touch screens and we'll see how the cheap edition of XP does.

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missing the vital point "support"

The problem with the netbooks was the rush to push them out with linux clients on them, now I am not getting into the fanboy windows v's linux garbage.

what the issue was was support most people who bought the netbooks early on really got their first glimpse and trail of linux, now as it is "different to windows " and has "different issues" users where unfamiliar with the product ,now the problem being most high street retailers selling the netbooks had little or no exprience in linux sales or after sales support.

This gave paople a very uneasy and confusing introduction to linux and probably did more damage linux than good , thought i do have to agree with many posters that netbook now are just cheap laptops and as such are to pricey.

it is the push the button and it works syndrome that is what the market wants ,linux needs to make up ground in the backend support for the "General public" to get to that point

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Linux

@By Mike Kamermans

It's Steve Jobs, not Ballmer's face, that was removed as it made children cry, caused calves to be still born, bread to go mouldy and your wallet suddenly get pilfered by some bit fat bloke from Redmond with a bald head.

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Linux

@The BigYin

I know what the EULA _says_.

I also know that _some_ people have managed to claw back refunds through the courts.

But frankly, although my refund claim is currently "being processed" I'm not holding my breath.

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AA1 & Linpus - OK With My Kids

"I bought an Acer Aspire One, with Linpus Linux. It was awful. I did not get the administrator password, when I created one (using Terminal) I could not download Firefox 3, searched for hours how I could upgrade to Openoffice 3, and used the Terminal for everything. In the end, I wiped it, put Xubuntu on - still had to change one driver for the wireless - and it worked."

I bought the AA1, followed the tweaks given here last December, referenced sites like Macles to install other apps & left the 4 original windows.

Then bought a second AA1 & cloned it from the above.

Result:

2 AA1's configured for kids both with learning difficulties to use without problems.

No waste of printer paper\toner with them constantly printing every 5 minutes, forced them to e-mail it to me before I would print it.

Able to connect & access schools server for homework.

Skype for their friends.

Media playback.

Minimal requests for tech support from dad (see below) initially - None since January.

No pratting about with updates for AV, M$, firewalls or complaints about speed\lockups.

Administrator password is set up at initial setup & IIRC easily changed with sudo.

I do wonder how many Linux machines were reformatted with ahem illegal copies of XP.

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Anonymous Coward

Amateur

Well, out of 7 domestic computers, only 2 run MS.(I'm mean!) The Dell Linux netbook which we ordered on the 5th March 09 was finally delivered on the 2nd April after 3 delivery promise revisions. Some customers are still waiting. Dell appear not to be able to keep up with Linux demand. Dell claim that 33% of shipments are Linux! I do note that many buyers are installing OSX instead of / as well as, Linux. Some are also parallel installing old copies of XP on a usb drive, which is a loss of sales for MS. My impression of Ubuntu Linux on the Dell is very favourable. It was childs play to add Sea Monkey to the desktop---easier than trying to do so with XP! Adding it into the network was also easier than with XP.

I wouldn't buy MS shares!!

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J
Linux

Another

Here' s another user who was "forced" to buy XP, only to install Ubuntu (Easy Peasy 1.0, more specifically) soon after. Very pleasantly surprised by it, actually. The UI is quite nice, and I can always use the Desktop Switcher to use it as a regular desktop. But I found out there's little reason to have all that empty screen on such a small device. On the other hand, some apps (GIMP) behave a bit weirdly out of the traditional desktop mode.

Interesting, I had no clue people were installing OSX on these little beasts! That's cool.

When I got the mini-laptop, I did let it boot XP. First, I wanted to make sure the hardware had no problem, which it didn't, before I tried installing Linux (also used Asus utility for updating the BIOS). So, if the Linux install borked at some level, I would know it was not a hardware problem. Then, a quick download of Easy Peasy 1.0, install it to a USB stick and install the the Eee 1000HE. Worked perfectly, wireless, camera, everything (so it seemed at first). Later I discovered the sound was very low, but that was documented on the website for the distro, and it was easily (for me) fixed. Just in case, I let it be a dual boot option, with 10 GB for XP and the rest for Linux. You know, just in case. I'm getting about 6 hours use out of it, with WiFi on all the time. Maybe Ubuntu is not as efficient, or maybe I must lower the screen brightness to ridiculous levels, but I can't see this machine doing the 9.5 hours advertised. That said, for me 6 h is more than good enough.

Yes, as I ranted in another thread a while ago, I believe netbooks don't exist anymore. What I am typing on right now from Chicago airport is a mini-laptop. The 701 was a netbook; this is not. I'm sure both MS and the manufacturers want the netbook to disappear and the good ole days of selling fat-margin, overspecced (for most people) machines to be back. This because, as I've noticed, as many must have, a mini-laptop is enough for almost all the computer time.

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Gold badge

Ummm...

Am I the only person here intrigued by all those saying "I bought a Linux netbook but it was crap so I put XP on it.". Presumably, having declined the OEM licence for XP at the time of purchase, these good people have paid full whack for their XP and thereby almost doubled the price of their netbook, and yet they *still* think it is worth the money.

Would any one of you care to confirm that presumption, or provide an alternative explanation?

Mine's the one with the FAST ID badge in the inside pocket.

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Heart

Numbers Game

I still have my original Eee 701 4G around somewhere, sadly it sees nowhere near as much use as my N800. Aside from issues it has with certain websites (BBC, I'm looking at you) a version of the N800/N810 with twice the battery capacity and an 8.4" screen would be ideal. Funnily enough, that's Linux on ARM with proper industrial design and it basically 'just works'.

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oh no :(

It began as a promising look, due to the tech stuffed into those netbooks, but tech has allowed windows to gain a foothold.

Linux will now never win, because with all that is microsoft - no one can argue they have the worlds most aggressive sales system, its the one thing microsoft has working 100% if its a computer then microsoft will target it, adapt and resistance is futile you are installation number 95893

And it hasnt stopped now borg gates has left. I guess he told them how to do it before he went. Bill gates has that legacy - he was a sales genius.

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Linux

If only Linux had a marketing department

Most people say they want windows because they have no idea what Linux involves. Everyone I've showed the GUI on my eee pc 901 has had no problems using it at all.

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Jobs Halo

@ J

The OS X on EEE PC guide. Vanilla kernel from a stock install disk, everything supported, no issues at all.

http://eeemac.blogspot.com/2009/03/install-os-x-on-eee-pc-900a-901-1000.html

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Alert

BSD

Actually, I think if anything is going to take over from XP on netbooks, it will be some sort of BSD-derived OS.

NetBSD, OpenBSD and FreeBSD all have the "BSD loophole" in their licencing agreements (which pre-date the GPL): anyone is free to take the software, modify it just enough to make it thoroughly incompatible with the original and treat it as closed-source. (Back in the days, that wouldn't have been such a problem as it is today, because almost no two computers could run code compiled for each others -- so you pretty much needed the Source Code.)

Once a company is building cheap clones of first-generation ARM processors (now patent-free; and since memory has become cheap, thanks to Windows, it doesn't matter anymore about a simple MOV instruction taking 4 bytes) they can simply compile a customised BSD variant with a few applications, burn it into a non-replaceable one-time PROM and not have to worry about their competitors ripping them off. Even better, from their point of view, they can ensure *in hardware* that future versions are incompatible -- past versions of your own products are always a greatest threat than other people's products.

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Just upgraded my kids eeepc701...

...to ubuntu "easypeasy" (intrepid), and it's deadly. Well done to the creators, everything works flawlessly. I never used the xandros installed distro coz it was crap.

Now I'm mosning when she asks for it bck -- stupid small keyboard...

Conor

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