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

In Europe, there are over 50 OEMs selling netbooks, according to IDC. Canonical and MSI aren’t major mini-notebook distributors. Acer and Asus combined had nearly 60 percent worldwide netbook marketshare in fourth quarter, according to IDC. HP ranked third with 7 percent share. Brandon’s Linux dumping claims would mean something, if the two leading share leaders had dumped Linux.

Then there is Carphone Warehouse. Brandon kindly linked to the story supporting the Linux-dumping claim—from November. The story reports Carphone Warehouse dumping the Linux-based Elonex Webbook for the Asus Eee PC 701. By the way, the Webbook is back, and running Windows XP Home, like the Eee PC. I could find no Linux-based netbooks at Carphone Warehouse.

But that’s not to say Asus doesn’t ship them. According to Asus Eee PC product information, the 701SD model carried by Carphone Warehouse lists as shipping with Windows XP Home or “GNU Linux” (a customised version of Xandros). In fact, of the 23 Eee PC models, 18 support Linux and Windows, according to Asus. Only three models, all 1000 series, ship only with Windows XP.

How about Acer, number two in netbook marketshare? The Aspire Onesite for the 8.9-inch model glows about usability and UI features—tied to Linpus Linux Lite. Acer touts Windows XP for the larger, 10.1-inch model. True, in the United States, Amazon largely offers both sizes with XP. But neither company, Acer or Asus, has abandoned Linux.

The point: Brandon stated a number that may be true for US retail for one month of sales, February. But how true is it really if some of those Windows XP netbooks also ship with Linux? Again, Brandon didn’t misstate the facts, but there is also much unsaid. He can be excused for accepting NPD’s numbers without looking at the greater context. After all, he works for a US company and his job is to promote Windows and its benefits.

In another couple quarters, after Windows 7 ships, I wouldn’t be surprised to see nearly 100-percent of netbooks ship with Windows. But not yet.