Windows On 96 Percent of Netbooks? No Way!

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A Microsoft exec has announced the death of the Linux netbook. He’s ignoring the world picture, and speaking too soon: Linux is still alive on the tiny laptops at least for now, says Joe Wilcox

I was going to let this one go, but too many blogs or news sites are picking up Friday’s Microsoft post about Windows share on netbooks.

Brandon LeBlanc put forth the 96-percent figure in a Friday blog post. Later that day, Todd Bishop and I discussed Brandon’s post over IM. He writes for TechFlash. We both debated blogging rebuttal, qualifying posts, which neither of us did. I should have nipped this one in the bud, as they say.

Brandon writes

The growth of Windows on netbook PCs over the last year has been phenomenal. We’ve seen Windows share on these PCs in the US go from under 10 percent of unit sales during the first half of 2008 to 96 percent as of February 2009, according to the latest NPD Retail Tracking Service data.

Brandon quotes US figures, from US researcher NPD. He doesn’t misstate the figures in his post, but they’re easily misread as being for everywhere, which they are not. Depending on netbook—or mini-notebook—configuration or market sold, the figure is more like 80 percent and less in some markets, more in others.

About 80 percent of netbook volumes are going into Western Europe, according to IDC. The tiny portables are huge there. In EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) netbooks account for 30 percent of all consumer portable sales.

The point: The Americas and Asia account for the other 20 percent of mini-notebook sales. That 96-percent Windows represents a small portion of the global netbook market.

Brandon banters on about the market transition from Linux to Windows:

Not only are people overwhelmingly buying Windows, but those that try Linux are often returning it. Both MSI—a leading netbook PC OEM—and Canonical—the vendor supporting the commercial distribution of Ubuntu Linux—stated publicly they saw Linux return rates 4 times higher than Windows. Why such a disparity? Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back. Here’s a telling stat: In the UK, Carphone Warehouse dropped Linux-based netbook PCs, citing customer confusion as a reason for a whopping 1-in-5 return rate.