About a month ago, research firm IDC released a report summarizing personal computer (PC) sales and their projected growth over the next few years. Included in the report are Desktop computers, Server computers, and Laptops. The boost in sales and projected growth are due to the upsurge in consumers purchasing low cost portable computers (Netbooks) like the Asus Eee PC and others. You'd think that increased sales of these low-cost, ultra-portable computers would lead to greater adoption of Linux but the opposite is actually true. In fact, the return rate of Linux Netbooks is about 4 times that of those equipped with Windows XP according to a Laptop Magazine interview with MSI’s Director of U.S. Sales Andy Tung.
What? 4 times the return rate of Windows XP Netbooks?
This actually doesn't surprise me. People buy a low-cost Netbook thinking it has something they're familiar with and when they get it home--it doesn't. So instead of learning to use this new fangled thingy (Linux)--they opt to return the unit for one with Windows on it. It isn't that they are too dumb to use Linux. It isn't that Linux doesn't work for them.
The answer is familiarity.
People use what they have become familiar with and that with which they are comfortable. The majority of people just want things to work and look like they always have. It may surprise those of you who like Linux to know that there are people who aren't curious, who don't want to tinker about with something, and who don't want to learn something new.
If Linux had been the first operating system they used, a Windows computer would be just as foreign and labeled as unusable--and would be returned. Personally, when I buy myself a Netbook, I'll buy one with Linux on it but I would never buy one for my wife, my in-laws, or my kids (although I spend countless hours at my in-laws' house troubleshooting various Vista problems for them).
So how will Linux ever gain significant ground in the Desktop space? It won't until it's more available, more familiar, and is a true choice for consumers. Right now it just isn't. The Linux community needs a marketing effort to bring Linux to the average user. Until that happens, Linux remains a geek thing--not that there's anything wrong with that.