Netbook OS Shouldn't Matter, But It Does

Techwriter10 0 Tallied Votes 417 Views Share

Last week we heard about the first Android-powered Netbook (which I wrote about in First Android Netbook Nothing to Write Home About). Then on Friday, analyst Michael Gartenberg, who is VP of Strategy at Interpret, and who writes frequently about consumer technology sent the following Tweet:

Is Android's future in Netbooks? NO! of course not.

I tweeted back:

@Gartenberg Not exclusively, but I could see Android being a viable Netbook OS.

And Gartenberg replied:

@ron_miller hard to see it. not the right apps and no better than Linux. Linux Netbook return rate is huge.

That got me thinking that ultimately, the OS shouldn't really matter because Netbooks are supposed to be about a light weight OS and easy access to the Web where you spend most of your time. But when it comes down to it consumers are rejecting alternative operating systems, and the question is why?

Why Netbooks Anyway?

The name Netbook evolved from the not very friendly-sounding UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC. The footprint is small and it provides a way to get *online.* with a larger screen than our phones and a smaller footprint than our laptops. If the idea is to get us online, as long as we can find our browser the OS shouldn't matter, right?

I think so, but Gartenberg disagrees citing high return rates of Linux Netbooks.

Does the OS Matter?

Why would you be more comfortable with a Windows OS on your Netbook if you're not doing most of your work locally? I still don't quite get that, but people do return Linux Netbooks at a much higher rate than Windows Netbooks (which must be making Steve Ballmer feel all warm and fuzzy). People would rather deal with the devil they know (Win XP), then deal with an alternate OS.

I bought an Asus Eee Netbook running Linux last summer and the OS couldn't be simpler. You have six tabs: Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favorites. Click the Internet tab, double-click Firefox and you're on the Web. Not rocket science I can assure you, and in many ways, much simpler than Windows.

Will Android Suffer Linux's Fate?

Gartenberg suggested that Android would suffer a similar fate to Linux and he thinks it's got the wrong apps. He could be right, but when I go online with my Netbooks, I'm spending a lot of time in Google Apps, not using local apps. In fact, I'm writing this post in Google Apps before I move it to the Daniweb blog platform. For me, so long as I can access the internet with my Netbook and I can figure out basic functions (which in my experience with Linux has been really easy to do), the underlying OS really matters little.

But what I think and my experience clearly doesn't matter. What matters is consumer behavior and that is what Gartenberg has been studying for years. Until consumers realize that the future is on the Web, not the desktop, evidence suggests they would rather use Windows than take a few moments to learn a different way of operating. It's seems silly, but apparently it's hard to overcome OS inertia.

wendellanderson 0 Newbie Poster

While the stated return rate for Netbooks running Linux is exaggerated,
particularly from Microsoft and thus those that parrott the assumption, there is no question that most USA Netbook users, as well as most other PC/latop users will only be comfortable with Windows, no matter how easy and simple it is to productively utilize a Netbook.

If most of the population cannot understand and employ the Metric system - upon which the US currency is based, why should they be any more savvy or bright about other simple, non-complicated issues.

Most all Windows users cite latest Mac OS X software as "hard to use".
Accept fact that most people here are not very bright or use any common sense.

W. Anderson

woodybrando 0 Newbie Poster

I just bought a netbook, acer aspire one, last week. It came with windows xp so I used windows for a couple of days but it seemed a little slow, so I decided to try a version of linux called ubuntu netbook remix that's supposed to be faster. The installation was simple and it kept the windows xp installed so I can boot into either OS. But ubuntu did turn out to be better for me. It's quicker, uses the windows better and I was able to get two finger scrolling working which doesn't work in windows xp.
So whether or not windows sells more or linux gets returned more, doesn't tell the whole story. How many people like me bought a netbook with windows xp found it to be a little slow and then installed linux to get a faster os and stuck with it. Where are those numbers kept?

humans-enabed 0 Newbie Poster

Who Is Michael Gartenberg?

..."He was also recognized at Gartner and throughout the technology industry as the leading watcher and analyst covering Microsoft Corp."

Uh, I don't know about you.. but is there some bias going on here?

Why do these MS-puppet-heads articles constantly get passed on as being the golden word?

The first indication that this guy's preaching is a bunch of hot air is that he plays to the "Linux return rate is much higher" nonsense...

There are articles all over out there that show that the returned statement is loaded, i.e., and

Oh and "Netbooks a failure - Dell doesn't think so..."

I think it's time we have some reconciliation as to who out there is actually providing some quality technological media coverage and who is not.

We could start by pushing up the word of the non-biased for instance.

Shannon VanWagner
humans enabled

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

Thanks for the comments. I've followed Michael for a long time and I don't see him as particularly biased toward any technology, but regardless you'll note I was disagreeing with his assertions. As for return numbers, I don't know what to tell you, but I can only report what I've seen and the numbers seem to suggest that people are returning Linux Netbooks.

I don't think most people are going to load Linux on their Windows machine unless they are inclined to do so in the first place.

As for whether Windows or US users are less savvy than in any other location, I can't say. I only can speak from my experience.

Ruefrak 0 Newbie Poster

This very topic has also been on my mind as of late. I think the reason that people don't like Linux on their netbooks, or that there is a high return rate for Linux netbooks is simply that the people who bought those computers didn't want a netbook, they wanted a small, cheap laptop. Contrary to what you said, I don't think that the netbook came from the UMPC. The UMPC was designed to be a more powerful computer in a small, compact form (like the OQO). The netbook is based on the idea that people just need a quick and easy way to get on to the internet. It doesn't need to be powerful, it doesn't need to be expensive, it just needs to be a cheap way to get on to the web. Thus, the netbook is born.
The problem is that people started buying netbooks assuming that they were just small, inexpensive laptops, which they are not. If they wanted just a netbook, they would love Linux because there really is no simpler way to get online than with a Linux system. A netbook is not designed to run Microsoft Office, or Photoshop, or any other application that may be Windows specific. A netbook is designed to access the internet, and not much else.
So essentially, the premise of your story is off. The OS on a netbook doesn't matter. The only time that it matters is when someone is using this small/cheap computer as a laptop replacement, in which case it is no longer a netbook.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

Thanks for the comment, but I don't think you are correct on this. The UMPC became cheaper when less expensive chips became available and it was at the very least the precursor to what became the Netbook.

I do agree with you, however, that too many people look at this as a cheap laptop and are looking for the complete functionality package. These are amazing little machines, but it would be hard for most people I think to use them as a primary machine. I use mine when I'm on the road because it's light weight and easy to transport.

Thanks for the comment.

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