CeBIT 2009: Linux Wants to Win Back Netbooks

Mar 05, 2009

About a year ago almost every netbook ran on Linux. Now the free platform has disappeared from almost all of them. In an Open Source Forum at CeBIT, Warren Coles of Taiwanese netbook vendor Linpus explained the reasons why.

One reason for Linux's demise from netbooks is the choice of hardware. The resource-saving Linux would here be a victim of its own frugality: it fits on devices with a small solid state disk (SSD) and little RAM. According to Warren Coles, sales and marketing manager at Linpus, consumers haven't quite grasped the concept of SSD and see only the reduction in memory space. Taken together with the price, the netbook has been considered not only a cheaper but inferior alternative.

When Microsoft resurrected XP on its devices and combined it with more RAM and bigger hard disk on netbooks, it immediately became a success when users again sensed a more dependable environment.

Nevertheless, the Open Source community had some joy in the fact that around two million netbooks were sold in 2008.

Coles is confident at least for the near term: the Web 2.0 and RFID chip trends are promoting use of netbooks. The industry is also developing numerous mobile technologies under Linux, such as Intel's Moblin, Google's Android, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Texas Instruments' OMAP. Thanks to Moblin a Linux netbook can boot within seconds. 2009 should also add more devices with affordable ARM processors instead of Intel ATOM CPUs. Linux has long been active on these platforms.

Linpus itself is preparing its Linux distribution for the future, according to Coles. This means more WLAN and 3G support, in over 20 languages and 30 keyboard configurations. The GUIs are to be simpler yet more individualized. Part of this is easier switchovers among environments like KDE and GNOME. Suspend mode should provide further savings. These features should become attractive to hardware makers as well as end users. Linpus is working with numerous large vendors in Taiwan and has already taken its Linux to the likes of Acer Aspire one and the Lenovo IdeaPad S9. Linpus is featured at CeBIT Open Source in Hall 6, Booth E46-3.

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  • better netbook with windows

    Well, the better spec.of netbooks are ONLY with WinXP. And this is the only reason and with shame that I had to buy one like this. But soon after buying I've installed Ubuntu. Debian also do the trick. But the point is, that Micros.. is mobbing the market. Why the hell can't be the same spec for netbooks/notebooks with win and linux?? And The reason is, becouse micros... would be lose his new clients, couse the one's with linux would be cheaper.

    Thanks to all Open Source people that helped me
    Take care
  • Linux Netbooks

    The key word is "Linux". Consumers have not yet accepted Linux as an alternative to Windows and if this situation is typical, they may never. Windows is top dog and people feel comfortable with it. Linux, while more powerful and less costly is the new kid on the block and consumers just don't see a need to switch operating systems. The author makes a valid point wrt hardware requirements and that consumers aren't yet ready to accept Linux's low resource use. I would like to see Linux based netbooks and Linux itself thrive but if Microsoft manages, somehow by divine intervention, to revive Vista via Windows 7, I am afraid it will be all over for Linux's chances of capturing a reasonable desktop market. In theory Linux should be killing Microsoft now because Vista is such a pig, yet Linux is not. That situation needs to be investigated and studied and Linux itself needs to be adapted to solve whatever public relations, or usage problems it may have.
  • Disappeared?

    Dell is still selling 30% of their netbooks with Linux.
    Asus is predicting that 40% of their netbooks in 2009 will have Linux on them.

    Hence, you are just spreading misinformed FUD.
  • Clarify

    "the netbook has been considered not only a cheaper but inferior alternative."

    Alternative to what? Alternative to a laptop? who would believe a netbook can replace a laptop in every way?

    Net books fills a special need and have become popular for just that, while not
    as small as a smartphone it is a lot better for many things, not as powerful as a laptop but light enough to take almost anywhere
    The netbook fills a void.

    It is not my experience that Linux have almost disappeared
    from netbooks, I see more vendors offering them with both Linux and Windows options, it may be the
    case that the ones with Windows are outselling the ones with Linux but that does not mean
    anything much, for that is always going to be the case whether laptop, desktop or netbook, windows is
    more popular than Linux.

    Many people who understand what these devices are prefer Linux
    on them given the fact that they can be upgraded if the Linux specs are lower than the Windows
    ones, there are also reports of some people buying the better specs with XP and then removing it and installing Linux

    “Nevertheless, the Open Source community had some joy in the fact that around two million netbooks were sold in 2008. “

    Why is there joy in the Open Source community about these sales? Are they suggesting that the Open Source Community was joyous because these sales reflected good Linux sales? If so, how can one say there is a demise of Linux on these devices when sales were so good last year? We are not quite three months into 2009 what are the sales figures for this period in terms of Linux based netbbok sales compared to Windows XP based netbook sales?
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