More controversial crap, or: where did all the Linux netbooks go?

So, I’ve been involved in a long discussion here and on IT Wire with just the most charming and polite adversary one could wish for, Mr. Telic. This has actually caused me to go out and do some boring research on stuff which I had a feel for but hadn’t really put any hard data to, and which is fairly depressing. (There’s a summary at the bottom for impatient types: search for ‘tl;dr’ – that’s ‘too long; didn’t read’, for anyone else who was baffled by that cryptic little snippet as long as I was).

So, netbooks. Mr. Telic holds out the netbook market as the counter to my theory that Linux is doing pretty crappily in the traditional operating system ‘market’. He cites numbers mainly drawn from 2008 and 2009, when Acer and Asus executives were on record as saying they were shipping 20% and “30 percent to 40 percent” of systems, respectively, with Linux installed, and one analyst said that 32% of netbooks shipped in 2009 ran Linux, and predicted that the majority would run Linux by 2012.

On the face of it, hey, that’s a pretty strong argument. On my Canonical-hatin’ sidetrack I did note that neither Acer nor Asus shipped Ubuntu on their netbooks – Asus uses/used Xandros and Acer uses/used Linpus, a Fedora derivative – which makes Mr. Telic’s point rather weaker in support of the theory that Ubuntu’s doing all the work of promoting Linux for ordinary people. (Only Dell of the major-tier manufacturers has shipped netbooks with Ubuntu pre-installed; the other major tier vendor we’ve discussed, HP, ships/shipped SUSE). But really, what I’m interested in with this post is the question of how Linux is doing.

So, here’s the thing. Are we really on the smooth track from 32% (claimed, at least – I suspect that figure was actually a little optimistic) in 2009 to a majority in 2012? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t think we are, no.

The obvious question to ask was ‘what’s the figure for 2010?’ Interestingly, I can’t find one. Not from any analyst. Especially not from ABI, the firm that was very loud about its survey which gave the 32% figure for 2009 and the ‘majority’ extrapolation for 2012. This year they have released a new study which seems to mush things up a bit, and consider netbooks, smartbooks, tablets and basically anything else in between a laptop and a phone as one big market segment – they talk about ‘Linux-based mobile devices’. The press release for the study (you can’t read the study for free, of course) is noticeably lighter on big headline numbers than the little publicity tour they sent one of the authors of the 2009 Linux-on-netbooks study. The only number the press release cites is right up there in the first paragraph – “ABI Research anticipates that Linux-enabled mobile devices, led by the success of Google’s Android and upcoming Chrome OSs, will comprise 62% of the operating systems shipping in all (non-smartphone) mobile devices by 2015.” (Again, my pesky Canonical-bashin’ muscles note that ‘led by Google’s Android and upcoming Chrome OSs’…and while I’m at it, let me bash analysts by cynically noting that their 2009 press tour didn’t really mention Android much at all. Boy, those analysts sure are great at predictions).

I Googled around and checked a few other analyst firms, but no-one seems to be giving any numbers on operating system share for netbooks for 2010. (Best I can find is a cheery prediction from December 2009, fairly typical of the genre around then, in which “mobile computing expert and Web entrepreneur Sascha Pallenberg” reckons that 50-70% of netbooks in 2010 will be running Android. Hmm.)

So, in the absence of that kind of data, and related to some back-and-forth nitpicking with Mr. Telic, I went out looking for netbooks with Linux preloaded instead. What I found was, well, a wasteland.

Let’s go with the big dogs first. Asus! The company that introduced the netbook (and whose first models *only* came with Linux). The company that was shipping 40% Linux models in 2008, and expected it to stay at 30% after that. Now, Asus has about sixty bajillion very slightly different models listed on its website, and life’s frankly too short to go through all of those. Let’s look at what you can actually buy. So, to Best Buy!

As of writing this, Best Buy offers 16 Asus netbooks through its website. How many come with Linux pre-installed? That would be none. Yup, it’s Windows all the way – a couple with XP Home, the rest with 7 Starter.

Well, that ain’t so good. Still, Best Buy’s not the only retailer, right? Let’s go with somewhere a little more geek-friendly. How ’bout NewEgg? Surely they’ll have at least a token system or two for the geeks, right? Well, uh, nope. NewEgg lists 21 Asus netbooks. 21 of ‘em come with Windows.

Well, hey, that’s just the U.S., y’know, the biggest computer market in the world. No biggy. Let’s check some other countries. Canada? Well, uh, nope. Future Shop doesn’t sell Eee’s, oddly enough. Best Buy Canada sells one, with Windows. Netlink, where I buy my stuff, sells (or at least lists, half of them probably aren’t really available any more) 42 models – every bloody one with Windows. The UK? Nope. Comet has five, all with Windows.

Well, okay, then. Asus obviously fell a bit out of love with Linux. Still, they’re yesterday’s news. Even though they introduced the sector, Acer rules it; they ship the most netbooks of any manufacturer. Best Buy doesn’t list any Aspire Ones on its US website (odd), so I went with CDW, who list 17…all with Windows. NewEgg, 8, Windows. Best Buy Canada, 5, all Windows. Future Shop, 3, Windows. Netlink, 8, Windows. Dixons, one, Windows. Comet, two – both with Windows pre-loaded, but one (it comes in a couple of colors, so there’s two search results, if you’re duplicating my results) with an Android dual boot! Finally!

So, Acer goes 1 for 44. Hey, that’s one better than Asus. Swing, batter batter…

So, well, hey, we’re not doing so great with the market leaders. Still, Mr. Telic is keen on HP and (especially) Dell, so let’s take a look at them, shall we?

So, Dell. Yes, Dell sells Ubuntu. Three current models with a current Ubuntu release, a netbook, a laptop, a desktop, all at reasonably competitive prices. That’s not horrible. It’s about as well as any distributor has done for a major OEM deal. So, moderate kudos to Canonical there. Yes. Now, excuse me while I pile on.

One, do you know how Dell expects you to get to that page? You go to www.dell.com, where you see precisely no mention of anything remotely to do with Linux. You then click on ‘For Home’ (but not any of the drop-down options under it, none of them gets you anywhere you can buy an Ubuntu system). This takes you to a big, busy page, where you may notice the bold-face, fairly prominent strapline reading “Windows® . Life without WallsTM . Dell recommends Windows 7.” What you’re going to have to work harder to notice is the third section of the sidebox labelled “Essential PC Links”, which is headed “PC Operating Systems” (you’ll have to scroll down to see it, unless you have a very high resolution and/or very small fonts). Here, under four different types of Windows, is a link called “Open-Source PCs” (and if that doesn’t scream “Buy Me!” to the average PC buyer, I don’t know what does!) Click this, and you get taken through a buffer page which starts out “We’re glad you found Dell’s Ubuntu website.” (well, yes, you *did* make it quite an excursion, I think the pat on the back is deserved…) and which has a small ‘Shop for Ubuntu’ button right at the bottom (I missed it the first two times I saw the page) which takes you, finally, to the page I linked to right off the top, where you can actually *buy* Dell systems with Ubuntu pre-loaded.

Whew. You think the above causes Microsoft to lose huge amounts of sleep? I’m betting no.

The models sold here are the Mini 10n, the Studio XPS 7100 n-Series, and the Inspiron 15n (‘n’ seems to be Dell shorthand for ‘comes with Ubuntu’). Try this. Pull down the ‘Laptops & Netbooks’ menu and click ‘Mini – Netbooks’. You get the Mini 10 and Mini 10v Nickelodeon Edition. Do you get the Mini 10n? No, you do not. The only way you get the Mini 10n is to find your way to the Ubuntu ghetto page. Try it for the laptop – ‘Laptops and Netbooks -> Inspiron’. Again, you see the non-n, Windows-y models; you don’t see the n, Ubuntu models. Only with the 7100 is there a ‘Looking for Ubuntu?’ button under the ‘Customize’ button for the Windows config. Dell really doesn’t seem to try at all to make it easy to buy an Ubuntu system unless you go looking for it, it seems. (For bonus fun, go to the Ubuntu ghetto and click on the picture of the Mini 10n system, rather than the ‘Personalize’ button. It takes you to the main Mini page…where the 10n isn’t listed. Same deal if you click ‘Product details’. *headdesk* no cookies for you! It’s like they fill the page with booby-trapped links which pull you out of the tiny tiny sliver of the Dellverse where you can actually buy an Ubuntu system…)

Quick price check. The base config of the 10n is $299, with 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard disk, 802.11n wireless, a webcam, and a 3-cell battery. The base config of the Mini 10, with Windows 7 Starter, is $299 for identical specs – except you get a 6-cell battery. So the Windows model is slightly better, for the same price. The 15n costs $579; the $529 model of the Inspiron 1545, with Windows 7 Home Premium, has a bigger hard disk (500GB vs. 250GB), more RAM (4GB vs. 3GB), and a better battery (6 cell vs. 4 cell). So the Windows model is $50 less with better specs. The XPS 7100n, again, is the best story: the Ubuntu model is $459, versus a Windows model with exactly identical tech specs for $499. Finally.

So Dell’s netbook story is a single model with inferior specs to the Windows model, which you can only find on a rather well-hidden special page, for the same price as the Windows model. It has a laptop which costs more for worse specs, and only the single desktop model seems to have positive elements to it. Isn’t it sad that this is the *best* we’ve managed?

Finally on this little tour of depression, HP is up. As far as I can find, HP offers a single netbook model with Linux pre-loaded – the Mini 2102, in its build-to-order incarnation. (They previously offered the Mi editions of three other models, and the 2133, but these are no longer available; they have an ARM-based smartbook with Android pre-loaded coming up). I can’t find *anything* that discusses Linux for non-server machines on hp.com, anywhere – clicking through I see nothing, searching for ‘Linux’ or ‘SUSE’ just brings up a bunch of server-related pages clearly aimed at enterprise server purchasers. I was only able to track this system down through the third party Linux Netbook site, which has handy listings of pretty much every Linux netbook that’s ever existed. If you go to the main Mini 2102 page – not sure if that link will work, it’s one of those crazy ones full of numbers, but it’s what I’ve got – there’s no indication that Linux is available on it, though on the general Mini page there’s a small mention of “SUSE Linux Enterprise 11″ and “FreeDOS” in the Operating System box. To actually buy it with SUSE, you have to click ‘Configure your model’, then ‘Configure PC’ (why there’s so many freaking pages to click through on major vendor sites I will never figure out), which takes you to the Small Business site, where you click ‘Configurable’, then ‘Configure and Buy’. You can probably short-circuit that a bit by going straight in through the Small Business site, but jesus. Here you can change the operating system to SUSE Linux, take out the OS Label and EnergyStar Label (yikes, big loss), and arrive – finally – at a Mini 2102 configuration with SUSE Linux preloaded, for…$461. If you ditch Bluetooth, you can get down to $452. Now, if you reverse all those steps and take the cheapest pre-configured Windows Mini 2102 model, you get the exact same specs – with Bluetooth – for $329. That means you’re paying a ‘Linux tax’ (huh?) of $132 if you buy the model with SUSE installed. Boy, that’s gonna get ‘em stampeding through the doors, that is.

tl;dr summary: where the hell did all the Linux netbooks go? In 2007 you couldn’t buy a netbook with Windows; in 2008 to 2009 you could still walk into a big box store just about anywhere and pick from a few with Linux; now, you can buy one from one store in England with an Android dual boot, one from a hidden page on Ubuntu’s site with an inferior configuration to its equally-priced Windows equivalent, and one from a very well hidden bit of HP’s site with a $132 premium over its identically-specified Windows equivalent. Yes, please do go ahead and point out the ones I’ve missed in the comments – I had a quick look at MSI but not much else – but it ain’t gonna be much compared to the flood of Windows I found here.

This is a freaking far cry from having the majority of the market by 2012. It makes me wonder why there hasn’t been more shouting, aside from this SJVN article back in May. If the netbook is the forefront of Linux’s assault on the general computing market…well, yikes. Look, I know this is pretty depressing, and not in itself terribly productive. But I think it’s important to have a clear-eyed view of things. The Linux press has a tendency to report the good news and ignore the bad; there was a lot of trumpeting of those 30-40% numbers back in 2008-2009, but it seems no-one’s too keen to note how things haven’t been going so well since then. It’s important to have a clear view of where we are, and right now, where we are – for Linux in the traditional consumer computing market – is not a very good place. I’m not claiming to have the answers for how to make it better, and I know it’s a hard thing to sort out; the cynical side of me can come up with a lot of explanations as to where all those pre-loads went, and all of them involve large amounts of money going out of Microsoft bank accounts. In a way I’m fortunate that the fortunes of Red Hat and Fedora aren’t really tied up in this hellhole of a market. But if you do have a keen interest in that market…pay attention.

59 Responses

  1. Thorsten Leemhuis
    Thorsten Leemhuis August 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm | | Reply

    Quote:
    > [...] Acer uses/used Xandros and Asus uses/used Linpus [...]

    I’m pretty sure it is/was the other way around

  2. Jeff Sandys
    Jeff Sandys August 4, 2010 at 10:21 pm | | Reply

    What I hate about the linux tax you mention and the lack of available is that we end up buying a computer with Windows installed only to delete it with a Linux install, yet Windows gets it undeserved royalty and an installation count.

  3. Pau Sanchez
    Pau Sanchez August 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm | | Reply

    Great research!
    It’s a surprise that Dell sells a slightly better computers for the same price when they came up with Windows preinstalled.

    To me that are the two main reasons why linux is not on the market right now.

    Linux has evolved A LOT lately, but there are still things that are not “easy” to do for the average consumer. I must say that I started using linux on 1999, and I’ve been using linux on my computer since around 2002. From time to time I have long discussions with my girlfriend (who has better-than-avg knowledge on computers), and I can see there are things that are not easy to explain to her, in other words, there are things that are simple to do in Windows, but kind of difficult to do in linux (again, for the average user). That’s reason 1.

    On the other hand, think that major hardware sellers make deals with Microsoft, so they can reduce the price of their computers. Expect Microsoft saying, OK you want to sell linux computers? Then the only way I will sell you my OS 25% cheaper is if you make Linux computers more expensive, or you sell a better computer with windows for the same price, …

    Linux is open (there are lots of distributions to use), so it’s the hardware vendor decission to include any of them preinstalled. The only way I see somebody negotiating is: Hey, use my distro, and I will offer you support at this price, so you don’t have to worry if your clients come to you to ask some questions about the OS. We will handle them. But Microsoft position to negotiate is more powerful.

    If the consumers don’t look for it nothing will happen.

    Finally, nobody is going to buy linux computers, is a bad deal right now. If I want a Dell with linux, I would buy it with Windows (which has better hardware), and then I would install the linux distribution I want on it. It’s cheaper, and I install the distribution I want.

    Great research and great post!

    That’s all!

  4. ¿Dónde están los Netbooks con Linux? « Blog de Open Sistemas

    [...] artículo de Adam Williamson me confirma lo que ya intuía: More controversial crap, or: where did all the Linux netbooks go? o, ¿dónde están los Netbooks con [...]

  5. Palin
    Palin August 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm | | Reply

    In my humble opinion, the question is about the Microsoft marketmen (did I say lobbyists?) pushing Windows7 as the remedy to all evils…

  6. Peter Robinson
    Peter Robinson August 5, 2010 at 12:35 am | | Reply

    Only time will tell but I think MeeGo will be the game changer here. Asus, Acer, Samsung, Toshiba, Dell and all the other major manufacturers have announced they’ll be shipping netbooks with it on. While there was a couple of devices that came with Moblin, Dell offered one, and I think Toshiba had a Suse Moblin one there’s going to hopefully be a big swing back to Linux on netbooks later this year as that starts to hit.

    The fact is that the interfaces that ran on most of the Linux netbooks sucked. The early netbooks wouldn’t run Vista and MS was being hard nosed about selling XP which is why Linux took off. That has changed with MS back tracking on XP and Windows 7 being capable of running on the 2nd gen atom device.

    Also I’m fairly certain it was Linpus -> Acer.

  7. Gabriel
    Gabriel August 5, 2010 at 12:59 am | | Reply

    This review might give you some hints about the current state of affairs:

    http://www.fewt.com/2010/02/desktop-linux-vs-windows-7.html

    Don’t worry, I’m sure that by putting the blame on Microsoft lobbysts as usual, everything will be just fine.

  8. Jan Vlug
    Jan Vlug August 5, 2010 at 1:04 am | | Reply

    I was looking for a long time to buy a net book with pre-installed Linux. I just ordered one last week from http://www.zareason.com

    http://zareason.com/shop/product.php?productid=16250&cat=250&page=1

    This is a true Linux shop.

    Here an overview of Linux laptops:
    http://mcelrath.org/laptops.html

    Some linux shops:
    http://www.system76.com
    http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/home/index.htm
    http://www.linuxlaptops2go.co.uk
    http://www.ubuntushop.be

  9. yoho
    yoho August 5, 2010 at 1:21 am | | Reply

    I think it’s more because of user habits than because of lobbyists.

    Acer and co wants to make money and do not really care for niche markets. They chose linux in the first place because there was no valuable windows alternative running on their brand new hardware (processors and chipset).

    Now that there are no more exotic hardware in most notebooks, Microsoft is able to develop and support its OS at a reasonable price (less platforms to support). And of course, most users choose windows for the same reason they choose windows for a standard PC (well-known interface, mp3s and wmvs out-of-the-box, most websites are thought *first* for your OS and browser, 99% of software is for your platform, etc…)

  10. Misc
    Misc August 5, 2010 at 3:06 am | | Reply

    All people that I know who bought a netbook with a Linux based system were people who already knew what Linux is. A friend of mine bought a MSI netbook, she is sysadmin, and she learned Linux at school. The other one was already running Ubuntu, so she decided to take it mainly for militant reasons.

    I must add that every OEM system I have seen were sooner or later replaced, because
    1) system manufacturers insist on having their own version, so you do not know where to find rpm/deb ( dell being the exception )
    2) most of them choose a version that is too ephemeral to be useful ( like fedora, with the aggressive nature of the release cycle ), dell again being the exception
    2) the integration take time, so you end with a system who do not run the latest and shiny software, and may not be supported for long, which is not good for the kind of user interested into running linux on a netbook ( again dell did it well ).

    So for me, the manufacturers didn’t fully understood what had to be done to preinstall linux.

    Frankly, I have only seen netbook running a free software system in free software events ( or at work ). Each time I take the train, or go to a pub, I see no one running anything else than windows or Mac OS X.

    And regarding the “Canonical helped Linux” topic, have you seen on Google Trends that there the number of research on Ubuntu is stable ( ie no longer grow ), and that the number of research about Linux is decreasing :

    http://google.com/trends?q=ubuntu%2C+linux&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=1

    while this mean nothing precise ( after all, that’s just mean people do less research on google about this word, this can simply mean that there is no reason to search or anything ), some people explained to me this was maybe the sign that Canonical ( and the whole free software movement ) has hit a wall. Compare with fast growing topic, such as twitter, iphone, android.

  11. Where did all the Linux netbooks go? – Blog of Leonid Mamchenkov

    [...] did all the Linux netbooks go? AdamW asks the question after doing a bit of research across several major vendors and online shops. where the hell did all [...]

  12. Misc
    Misc August 5, 2010 at 4:33 am | | Reply

    And by the way, I have also searched on french e-commerce websites ( since, according to RH, we are number 1 in the overall activity : http://www.redhat.com/about/where-is-open-source/activity/ ), and so far, here is what I found, on the major website I knew :

    fnac.com -> 0
    materiel.net -> 0
    grosbill.com -> 0
    ldlc.com -> 1, a msi nettop, with suse linux preinstalled
    cdiscount.com -> 0
    rueducommerce.fr -> 2 computer with linux, one netbook ( not selled alone, didn’t understood why ) and one msi, almost the same as ldlc.com

    amazon.fr -> 1 hp, with sles 10 ( hp 2133 ), 1 msi with sles 10 ( MSI – Wind – U90X-020FR ), and 3 others ( msi, acer ) not selled directly from amazon, some of them being new, some of them not. I must confess that I didn’t fully understood the amazon website.

    So basically, I found no ubuntu computers on what I consider major web site, and a minority running SLES, mostly from MSI.
    Given the fact that the open suse french community is “filled with growth potential” for the moment, this is quite surprising.

  13. JustSomeNick
    JustSomeNick August 5, 2010 at 6:31 am | | Reply

    Hmmm. Very convoluted topic.

    I think the recent economic recession has truly helped Linux gain a further foothold in the market generally speaking. For the most part, it would be in the mobile market (Thanks to Android, and I imagine MeeGo will have a play in this as well eventually).

    I myself use Desktop Linux, never going back to Windows. There are quirks, but I’ve loved it every step of the way so far (even in trying to figure out the heavier stuff such as patching/compiling stuff). Overall, I think ultimately it will prevail because it has the potential to scale well.

    The ‘wall’ you speak of I think is purely in the marketing area. If that hump were to be jumped over at any point (and I suspect soon will be- but this I will not get into right now, pure speculation and ideas between me and a few colleagues) then MS would be sharting bricks.

    But- look at ZaReason, System76… Lesser known, but both are gaining traction. I have a Dell Latitude D830 right now. I enjoyed it. Some parts fried on me, including the crappy Toshibad hard drives I had (Three times replaced); I plan to buy from system76.

    Also the biggest problem is that most people don’t tell the OEM they are buying stuff from them with Winblows on it, but dumping it for Linux. That would truly scale things. Some people get a Windoze refund.

    Anyways, I’m rambling. Interesting article.

  14. motitos
    motitos August 5, 2010 at 6:36 am | | Reply

    I wonder if the European Union will face this problem seriously in the near future: Microsoft is a monopoly, and probably, Microsoft and the manufacturers behave as a type of trust. Apart from making speeches at GUADEC2010, I wonder if Neelie Kroes will have the guts to act as a real European Commissioner for Digital Agenda.

  15. Randall
    Randall August 5, 2010 at 7:40 am | | Reply

    Linux-friendly shops rather than the biggest brand names:
    http://www.linux-netbook.com/system76-starling-netbook
    http://www.linux-netbook.com/zareason-teo
    The Aspire One can be found by searching (unnecessarily difficult, agreed)…
    http://www.google.com/search?q=acer+aspire+one+with+linux
    http://www.amazon.com/Acer-Aspire-8-9-inch-Laptop-Processor/dp/B001BBS76Q
    Commentary on marketplace happenings:
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090619161307529
    Someone please bring ARM-based netbook/smartbook to market;
    I’d like to buy:
    form-factor: balance readability & typability with portability (<<1kg)
    and battery life (8-12+h)
    CPU: 1x ARM Cortex A9 MpCore Sparrow (2-core 2-scalar 2Ghz @ 2W)
    RAM: 1-2G
    screen: daylight readable low-power (Pixel-Qi) ~1024×640 20cm/8"
    disk: SSD 16G
    OS: UNE-LTS (Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 Long Term Service)

  16. DH
    DH August 5, 2010 at 8:28 am | | Reply

    To continue from the other thread (where my comment is very much relevant to this thread)…

    “False choice. The choice is between $0.20 and $0.20 – the cost of Linux and the cost of pirating Windows.”

    I don’t agree with that.
    People still buy DVD and BD movies despite being able to download them for free and fully decrypted from P2P file sharing networks and usenet. The fruit company is successful at selling music with their dieTunes store despite the same exact tracks being available to download for free from P2P+usenet….

    Now obviously they (MS) wouldn’t be able to sell the thing for $300 off a store shelf with a superior product available right next to it for $0.20, but what it would do is force them to adapt their prices to be in-line with levels appropriate to actual COMPETITION. In the least it would knock them down a few notches and reduce their entirely bloated revenue levels and result in hopefully a reduction of their incredibly annoying advertising that sells their “new” stolen features that have been available in linux for the better part of a decade.

    I.e., they would get what they are WORTH to the average brainless id10t and nothing more. Fair? I think so.

    From Gabriel: “Of course. Few Linux apologists seem able to accept that lack of success may have to do with deficiencies in Linux. Your whole argument seems to be that Windows succeed because users are stupid. That lefts unexplained why technically minded people capable of installing an OS on their own find more attractive a RC of Windows 7 than any freely available Linux distribution, but who cares… at least denial gives peace of mind.”

    First off, your idea about technically minded people liking MS better is neither qualified nor even relevant. The discussion is about the OVERALL picture. What I said is that anyone who can’t install Linux (implied: on supported hardware, and a reasonably modern user friendly-ish distro) must be SO technically inept that they wouldn’t be able to make use of ANY operating system (even apple), even if it was installed by someone else. The reason being that all install requires is inserting the disk and clicking the “next” button until it is finished.

    I never said that there aren’t people who might like MS more. I said that MY ARGUMENTS weren’t based on what people liked, but rather what OPTIONS people WHO DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE are given. If someone is on a $200 budget, are they really going to go out and pay $300 for just the OS? I think its clear that that isn’t going to happen. On top of that, I haven’t even considered the TOTAL THEORETICAL COST of ALL the software. You buy your MS-preloaded system and what does it really come with? The answer is *nothing* except for a few 1-week trial versions that are included to get you hooked (followed by a credit card nag every time you try to launch it). Not even a WORD PROCESSOR — that costs an additional $300-$500. Photo editor (i.e. photoshop)? Thats another $700. Where does it end?

    Or you could just take the $0.20 option that does more-or-less EVERYTHING “pretty good” (or amazingly, depending on your perspective). Yeah sure you can mix and match your open source applications on top of MS, but that really doesn’t fit in with their master plan, which is to take all your money by whatever criminal means they can get away with. It also doesn’t work for the “don’t know any better” crowd who wouldn’t even know to search the web for “openoffice”, “gimp” (whoever thought of that name should be strangled), etc…. especially using MS’s default search engine which will no doubt try to sell them msoffice. No, sorry, these people will just put in their credit card when asked for it.

    As for your “deficiencies”…. without a single exception, every complex piece of equipment or piece of software has defects/deficiencies. That is why software continues to be changed. The question to ask isn’t whether there are deficiencies, but rather whether or not those deficiencies are enough to discard the platform. And don’t kid yourself, MS is *LOADED* with deficiencies too, and many of us DID discard that platform for just those deficiencies. I personally switched to Linux in 2003, and it was VERY rough back then in comparison to what it is now. Since then, I’ve converted my GRANDMOTHER (86) to Linux, and she can’t tell the difference. She can still look at websites, she can still email her friends, she can still type letters and print them.

    Also understand that the VAST MAJORITY of the critical deficiencies are actually HARDWARE SUPPORT related. Without the MS stranglehold, demand for Linux would rise substantially and hardware vendors would see this and MAKE SURE that their hardware is properly supported.

    One thing that I am certainly NOT saying is that forcing PC’s to be sold sans-OS would suddenly send Linux into the 90%+ territory…. but I don’t think that 25% is at all out of line. You would probably hit 75% by forcing all hardware vendors to preinstall a major linux distro. You would DEFINITELY have more “tries”, you would DEFINITELY capture the “can’t tell the difference” crowd (on price), and you would end up with a substantial number of “I don’t like it as much, but at least its free” or “I don’t like it as much, but I can’t afford anything else”-ers.

    Re netbooks (to more focus on the exact topic). Aside from the OS choices available, one of the things I’ve noticed in netbooks is the complete lack of models available with SSD’s. This was one of the great things about them and one of the biggest barriers against MS since it simply wasn’t viable to try to load MS onto an 8 GB SSD — problems as follows; 1) Lack of space, 2) BAD BAD BAD write performance and MS is a write-whore, 3) burn-out due to excessive writes. It would NOT be a good combination.

    Aside from the lack of OS choice in netbooks, there is really no more option for SSD. The SPECIFIC feature that led me to an ASUS T91-MT is that it has a 32 GB SSD (which is unfortunately big enough to fit MS comfortably… and so it thus shipped), and this, of course, sunk me into the PSB-problem (fooled by the “intel” graphics….). Well now finally (thanks adam) it is functioning adequately and is actually a very nice device. Yes I agree — an obvious example of a deficiency, lack of hardware support.

    There is obviously a link between MS and the spinning disks. The last netbook I bought (for someone else) was an AAO (I forget the exact model) with a 16 GB SSD and 6-cell battery. It was right at the tail end of the general availability of Linux+SSD machines and was actually quite hard to find. It has a run-time of something like 8-9 hours whereas the same exact model running MS and having a spinning disk yields about HALF that. Spinning disks really do pig out on battery.

    Now MY TAKE on the change in netbooks is this:
    The Linux that AAO shipped with — linpus — is SO HORRIBLY CRIPPLED that it is actually TOTALLY USELESS. This is something that I knew in advance though, so neither surprised me nor affected the choice, wiped it and installed Fedora with no swap, tmp’s in ramdisks, and disabled all caching in firefox, changed disk mounts to noatime,nodiratime, disabled ALL unnecessary services, and REALLY got that thing flying. Again, yes, deficiency — in Fedora since it really doesn’t offer any out-of-the-box netbook support features. I think Ubuntu has a netbook version that comes with these changes pre-configured.

    Given the steps that had to be taken to make THAT machine useful and fast, it wouldn’t AT ALL surprise me that the majority of “don’t know any better”‘s would return it for refund. They try to use what is there and it doesn’t work — return as “useless”.

    And so I place the blame for this squarely on the netbook manufacturers for selecting CRIPPLED LINUX. Now why they would chose to do this…. could there have been some kind of incentive? In any case, it led to MS+160GB spinning disks. It really would be interesting to know how this would have played out if the Linux netbooks came with non-crippled Linux versions, specially tweaked for the application in the same way as I did myself. I suspect that the results would have been VASTLY different.

    Note: I don’t necessarily put any credibility into this conspiracy theory, but there does exist this one: That the netbook makers preinstalled linux in most/all of their early models specifically to push back against MS for charging too much… i.e. “if you don’t give us a better deal for netbooks, we won’t buy anything from you any more.” — if this DID happen, I wonder who won out?

  17. DH
    DH August 5, 2010 at 8:38 am | | Reply

    Re “Well, yeah, but then about the same number of manufacturers said they’d ship netbooks with Android (it was a big meme for a while back there) and that hasn’t panned out at all. I tend to trust shipped product and very little else. =) I would definitely love it, though, if MeeGo laptops happened and turned out to be great hits.”

    In other words “show me the money”.

    However, I believe that the biggest reason why there haven’t been (m)any android netbooks is that it would be a really bad fit. It really is purpose-built for phones. For a netbook, you need a little more — like an always-there menu system, maybe at least tabs between running applications, some kind of guarantee that a running application isn’t going to suddenly get terminated when you run low on memory.

    I really think that in terms of Google-on-netbook, Chrome OS will be a much better fit. Most of the manufacturers who were previously yapping about Android netbooks are on the list of hardware vendors looking into Chrome OS.

  18. JustSomeNick
    JustSomeNick August 5, 2010 at 8:57 am | | Reply

    @DH Nicely written. Lots of great points you made- and yes, I agree, MS + SSD = rofl.

    Ever try a proper left-assymetric RAID 5 stack in Winblows? Hah! I’d rather use a Commodore 64.

    @Gabriel

    You forget one incredibly significant fact. There are 3 MAIN reasons why MS is as prominent as it is today.

    1. They started earlier, and had large funds backing them. It doesn’t matter how you dissect this one (one could argue unix/bsd vs MS timelines). But back then Unix/BSD existed for different reasons, whereas MS shot out software that had relatively dumbed down functionality and user friendliness. Anyone remember when Winsocks became available? Meh.

    2. Marketing. Marketing. SUPREME Marketing. FUD. That about covers it. They rooted themselves deeply in heavy advertising, sleight-of-hand subtlety in making their rivals seem inferior or not as ‘polished’. Hell, techrights and Groklaw scrape the tip of that monolithic (brown and stinky) iceberg that MS stands proudly behind. Anyone remember the Best buy ‘training sessions’? Hah. I lol’d when I read those slides. There’s a minimum of 4 I saw that were horribly untrue (and I mean, flat out lying untrue) and another 3 which were misleading. Terribly misleading. The handful that was leftover was only circumstantial and did not portray the scenario appropriately.

    3. Vendor lock-in. What they have done with big names like Dell and a plethora of other companies is simply make a pact of solidified ‘MS only’ touting. What do you think Intel did with Dell? They paid them a lot- A LOT- of money so that Dell wouldn’t sell computers with AMD inside of them. You think MS has not done anything similar?

    For that matter and more interestingly, I dare you to find evidence (which is available) of such things happening. You’d be shocked at the degree of filth MS has dished out to become this monolithic. Many skeletons in their closet, and many backs stabbed over the course of their reign. It goes back as early as the Apple & MS era- anyone remember that?

    ’nuff said. The only one in denial so far seems to be you.

  19. rg
    rg August 5, 2010 at 10:57 am | | Reply

    One correction: Sascha Pallenberg predicted that there will be 50 to 70 devices shipping with Android in 2010, not 50-70%. Looking at the number of Android smartphones and tablets released or announced this year I guess this estimate isn’t too bad at all.

  20. Jef Spaleta
    Jef Spaleta August 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm | | Reply

    The android dual boot is an interesting find. I wasn’t aware of that was out in the wild. Canonical has a new dual-boot Ubuntu Light offering to OEMs. We’ll see how that fairs against Splashtop and Android.

    Also note that HP is going webOS for its upcoming tablet offering.. not Android. It seems HP is getting webOS on the cheap to avoid having to be yet another Android vendor. We’ll see how that works for them.

    Note also that ZaReason and System76 are doing linux preinstalls including netbooks. They are niche OEMs sure, but they do exist and are committed to being a hardware retailer to to our niche community. I doubt their numbers are significant compared to the big dogs but if they are profitable companies that are not relying on the MS OEM kickback money that is a success story in and of itself. When Android devices show up at ZaReason and System76.. that will be a significant milestone. If Android can capture both mainstream and niche linux enthusiast interest..that will be the end of the debate.

    -jef

  21. DH
    DH August 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm | | Reply

    HP isn’t getting webos “on the cheap”, HP *OWNS* webos and has since they bought up the death left behind when palm died.

  22. Jef Spaleta
    Jef Spaleta August 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm | | Reply

    Not a direct contradiction to what I said.

    HP’s purchase of palm was most definitely a bargain price. HP tried to work with Canonical in the past developing the Mi interface. I suspect that they ran the numbers and purchasing palm and owning the webos stack is a long term better way of having their own linux stack.. then contracting with a 3rd party like Canonical. So yes… in the scope of HP’s long term plans.. the purchase of palm was a very cheap way to get a differentiated linux stack that they control. Buy up a failing company that is getting _CRUSHED_ by Android in the smartphone market with an excellent linux based mobile OS and reposition that OS on your newly developed web slate/tablet product line as a differentiator in the market.

    -jef

  23. AdamW
    AdamW August 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm | | Reply

    Oh Adam, shame, the shame! You went into BestBuy for field research and did not find Linux? And on that you move to other assumptions.

    My first question to you — did you ask if they stock ANY linux based (other than Mac OSX) in the store? If you had you might have tripped across the fact that BBY as corporate policy does not support Linux. Neither their sales staff, Geek Squad, or their providers are Linux aware — by choice.

    So. If I go to Death Valley, CA on a expedition for fish, on finding none, I declare that fish are extinct. I further declare the cause to be salt exposure. The lack of the presence of water is immaterial to my research, or its conclusion.

    I am not faulting your observations, but I am your methodology. The more relevant question to ask is where did the netbook market go, sans any consideration of OS? To a great extent its dried up or morphed. You can’t find form factors in the 8.2″ screen range anymore. Baseline is 10″. Many classified as netbook sport a 12″ or 15″ screen, which pushes the lower limits of a std laptop. The only differential seeming to be that the Atom processor is involved in the former and not in the latter.

    Sigh….

  24. Gabriel
    Gabriel August 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm | | Reply

    “First off, your idea about technically minded people liking MS better is neither qualified nor even relevant.”

    Of course. You don’t like it, so it must be not qualified. That’s just routine.

    “I said that MY ARGUMENTS weren’t based on what people liked, but rather what OPTIONS people WHO DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE are given”

    The OEMs are choosing for people who don’t know the difference and don’t care. And they are making the right choice.

    “The question to ask isn’t whether there are deficiencies, but rather whether or not those deficiencies are enough to discard the platform. ”

    Whatever deficiencies Windows may have, at least it IS a platform. OEMs can preload it comfortably, and IHVs and ISVs can target it safely. Can’t say the same for Linux. That’s why XP almost wiped Linux in netbooks, a 9 year old OS that wasn’t particulary brilliant technically even when it was released.

    “You forget one incredibly significant fact. There are 3 MAIN reasons why MS is as prominent as it is today.”

    Right. And they also have the superior system, at least for the consumer market. When you lot start acknowledging that fact, maybe you can do something to change it. Don’t expect it will ever happen though, it’s just easier to cry “monopoly” and blame Microsoft.

  25. KimTjik
    KimTjik August 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm | | Reply

    I actually started to write a response to Telic, but lost interest. My thought was anyway quite similar, but far far from as thorough as yours. Acer and Asus have to my knowledge never cooperated with Canonical, but probably count for the majority of Netbooks sold with Linux pre-loaded.

    I still have an AAO of the first model released with Linux. Nowadays it runs Arch and works excellent. Battery-time, 3-cell, isn’t particularly good though. Linpus was a pain and very weird system, ugly hacked somehow making it very difficult to configure properly.

    The market here in the north of Europe experienced the same pattern: first only a few models with modest hardware specifications, and then Windows equivalents for the same money but with double RAM and extra all (and probably cream on top if you ever doubted to choose Windows). Microsoft controls the channel here. The move of course made Linux users buy the Windows netbooks to immediately wipe the disk and install Linux. Microsoft won in the sense that unknowing wouldn’t get exposed to Linux. On the other hand it didn’t halt the slight increase of Linux users. Probably to the contrary, because the some savvy Windows users got interested by all the fuzz.

    A press release the other weak announced that DELL drops Linux, that means Ubuntu, from its product line on most markets. However you click here you won’t find anything. It’s not Canonical’s fault, just the old Microsoft tricks doing “wonders”. On some markets it’s said that you can buy some models with Ubuntu by phone!

    I’m not negative at all about the prospects of Linux. I just agree that there’s no basis for talking about huge gains by Linux because of Netbooks. Sure, some users turn them into Linux netbooks, just as I’ve seen some become quite neat MacOS ones. If Google fulfil their words about contributing more to Linux then I don’t mind Android having its niche on the smallest devices. Otherwise I also hope that distributions like MeeGo makes inroads, because you can actually work with them and use practically all familiar tools on them. MeeGo is a good compromise, giving the not knowing an extremely easy desktop to work with, but at the same time avoid locking out advanced users from a more powerful working environment.

    OK, I repeat a lot here, but I anyway had to wait for some paint on the wall to get dry!

  26. DH
    DH August 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm | | Reply

    “Of course. You don’t like it, so it must be not qualified. That’s just routine.”
    Obviously you are missing the point YET AGAIN. The word “qualified” means to provide EVIDENCE. I present my THEORIES as THEORIES, qualification is not required. You present your OPINIONS as FACT. FACT requires qualification. That means cold hard NUMBERS.

    “The OEMs are choosing for people who don’t know the difference and don’t care. And they are making the right choice.”
    Again TOTALLY absurd! This is not a CHOICE, it is COERCION based on what is actually an illegal anti-competitive practice. If someone doesn’t know or care about the difference, then their choice should be based on something that is TANGIBLE TO THEM, and that would be the PRICE! Not some corrupt store manager’s OPINION based on who is best able to pad his wallet.

    “Whatever deficiencies Windows may have, at least it IS a platform. OEMs can preload it comfortably, and IHVs and ISVs can target it safely. Can’t say the same for Linux. That’s why XP almost wiped Linux in netbooks, a 9 year old OS that wasn’t particulary brilliant technically even when it was released.”
    You YET AGAIN present your unqualified OPINION as FACT. If you want to make bold statements like this and present them as FACT, then you MUST qualify them! And that is not to mention that virtually the entire thing is just complete barf. “IS A PLATFORM”??? Are you trying to suggest that Linux is NOT a platform? You aren’t going to convince anyone with THAT kind of argument. Even the evil one (Balmer) would HAPPILY agree that Linux AT LEAST qualifies as a platform. Certainly he would make up a bunch of stuff about socialism and/or satan, but that is besides the point.

    And LINUX was wiped off the netbook market by XP? DUH, did you read what I wrote? I presented a much more complete and sensible argument explaining what killed linux on the netbook…. I suggest you go back and read it before presenting any more insanity.

    As for preloading windeath comfortably… the only reason why hardware OEM’s can sleep at night with the CRIME they are participating in is because of all the drugs it buys them.

  27. Adam Williamson on Sub-notebooks With GNU/Linux | Techrights

    [...] night we had a long discussion (warning: 1 MB page) about this new post written by Adam from Fedora. As he put it, “Only Dell of the major-tier manufacturers has [...]

  28. Land-of-Mordor
    Land-of-Mordor August 6, 2010 at 1:09 am | | Reply

    Do you want to have Linux on your netbook/nettop/laptop/desktop computer? Simply, BUY HARDWARE ONLY. There’re manufacturers, we call them “clonic ones”, that only sells you the machine, with no software pre-installed. The only software they ships to you are the CD drivers. Some years ago, they only selled desktops computers, but now, there’re nearly no kind of device they can’t ship.

    Yes, they aren’t worldwide known and don’t waste millions of $/€ promoting themselves or some events. But, to be honest, every component of every computer, Dell, HP, Sony, Apple, etc., comes for the same factory in Taiwan, China, Japan,…so, why buy your computer to an international company that pre-installs software that you don’t need? why deal with call centers where nobody knows of what are you asking for? With “clonics” computers you only have to go to the store close to your house, and where you bought the computer, in case something is wrong. Most of the times it’s faster an better than the best company’s customer service.

    I bought sometimes at http://www.ahtec.es (they only ship in Spain, but they have other online stores at Holland and Belgium). Their products may not be as shinny as HP and Dell ones, but are good components and run great Linux distos like Mandriva. Even they have their own Linux-Slackware distro “Isix” or you can choose WITH NO COST a SELinux CD with some models. If you want Windows, of course, you can have it, but have to pay for a original CD or DVD. For example, the same computer is 89€+VAT expensiver with Windows 7 than with SELinux or without nothing. I think that resellers like this one can be easily found in every country, but you must forget about publicity and internet ads.

  29. Gabriel
    Gabriel August 6, 2010 at 1:32 am | | Reply

    DH: no, not facts. I’m not providing any mathematical proof, so yes, it’s my opinion, based on many years using and following Linux, if that even counts for something. And I tell you what, it doesn’t make much sense to argue with someone that accuses OEMs of being criminals, so that is my mistake. People like you are only there to give a bad name to the Linux community.

  30. Marti
    Marti August 6, 2010 at 1:47 am | | Reply

    One must buy a computer without any OS and he/she install Linux on it. That’s simple. Lots of small shopkeepers sell these computers. Iv’e seen the bill of these computers and there indeed are lines like: “Windows 7 Home – 99 €”.

    I’ve asked them the price of computer with Windows OS and without OS at all and the latter is indeed cheaper. They are desktops, i dunno what’s the situation of netbooks. I don’t want them.

  31. DH
    DH August 6, 2010 at 8:23 am | | Reply

    The difference is that these small shops don’t sell pre-assembled machines from huge system vendors. They buy a box+powersupply from vendor A, they buy a mainboard from vendor B, they buy a CPU from vendor C, etc., put them all together, and you get a blank computer.

    Portables (laptops, netbooks, etc.) don’t offer the flexibility to mix generic parts together. They require specialized equipment for the custom components (definitely the case, probably the mainboard). There ARE a few vendors that get blanks wholesale, and there are a few very obscure chinese vendors that sell no-name blanks (or names using symbols that westerners can’t read), but you really don’t see much of them and DEFINITELY don’t end up with a reliable product. I had a discount laptop for a while — it wasn’t good.

    As a result, what you have available is limited to what happens to be offered by the manufacturer.

    @adam: that might have been a little nasty, I admit, but I didn’t point any fingers. I’m sure that there must be at LEAST ONE person working for (at least one, but probably for each) major OEM who DOES use drugs…. which would make my statement correct ;)

    And then of course, it is all just in theory — must have missed the “I’m sure that..” and the “I believe that”.

    Oh well, no worse than Jobs saying “Folks who want porn can buy an android phone”.

  32. DH
    DH August 6, 2010 at 8:26 am | | Reply

    @Gabriel:
    In order for crimes to be prosecuted, SOMEONE must first make an ACCUSATION. It is up to the courts to judge whether or not the accusation is valid and issue a conviction.

    If we sit back and LET them commit these crimes rather than ACCUSING them of it, then they will NEVER STOP and things will NEVER GET BETTER.

  33. Claudio
    Claudio August 6, 2010 at 8:50 am | | Reply

    I use Linux, Ubuntu to be precise. Of course my computer came preinstalled with the odd grandma OS, but that’s irrelevant. I wiped it clean at first boot, including the “recovery” partition, 10GB of whatever. what the heck do they need to fit in 10GB!? Who knows, who cares.

  34. Marie
    Marie August 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm | | Reply

    Buy cheap refurbished netbook or computer from Overstock or Geeks for next to nothing….install Debian-based Gnu/Linux distro (Debian, Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Netbook Edition, Trisquel, Gnewsense, etc.)….get great fast computer with awesome OS for under $300, sometimes under $200. ;) Why pay for Windoze computer with so many great choices? ;)

    As others have said, the numbers don’t reflect the people that buy the computers with Winbloze then wipe it free to install Gnu/Linux. Old computer can’t handle Winbloat? No problem…just choose from hundreds of Linux OS at distrowatch. Winsuck free for years now.

  35. Jon Wright
    Jon Wright August 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm | | Reply

    It’s an interesting survey but from my daily skim of Slashdot it’s been apparent for more than 12 months now that Linux lost its grip of the ‘netbook’ segment. I put it down to two reasons: 1) The Xandros mixup was a horrible distro (first hand experience) and I believe Acer’s offering was similarly retarded; 2) Microsoft got the fright of their lives and reversed their decision to retire XP, most probably giving it to the netbook makers for peanuts. I

    Then if I may, I’d like to fix your question: “where did all the netbooks go?”. In 2007/08 these devices were exciting. Small size, small enough to slide into the pocket of some very large cargo pants or the side pocket of a backpack and they came with SSDs which promised fast bootup and long battery life. The Linux-SSD combination promised and delivered 15 second bootups – a number that XP was never going to match. But then SSDs started disappearing from the specs almost as quickly as Linux. Then the size started creeping up. ASUS stated just over twelve months ago that they’d be making no more netbooks smaller than 10 inches. Poof! The segment was vacated, leaving it to niche players like Viliv and Kohjinsha as the hype machine moved on to the perpetually just-around-the-corner ‘tablet’ format.

    It’s unfortunate that even with their boot times, Linux distros are still not tuned for netbooks. Moblin promised a lot but didn’t make it until late 2009 – some would say it still hasn’t made it and we’re waiting for the second iteration of Meego which we might see in late 2010. Ubuntu’s Netbook offering just surfaced in its potentially usable and innovative incarnation a few days ago in alpha 3 – possibly to see the light of day in late 2010. There’s Jolicloud with it’s still-beta-looking-system-resource-hogging 1.0 release based on jaunty and the similarly hyped Peppermint.

    No wonder Dell got cold feet. The research in this fine article confirmed the anecdotal impressions I’d gathered from sites like Slashdot. While we’re waiting for a decent distro (don’t get me wrong, I’ve been running ‘niche’ respins and been happy doing so) for netbooks – erm, I mean the smaller cheaper laptop format – I read that a lot of Linux netbook shipments during 2008/09 got returned – thus inflating those early figures.

  36. thom r.
    thom r. August 10, 2010 at 4:17 am | | Reply

    “As others have said, the numbers don’t reflect the people that buy the computers with Winbloze then wipe it free to install Gnu/Linux.”

    Web statistics DO reflect those people, and Linux is still on 1%-2% limbo. Netbooks are supposed to be for surfing the web, aren’t they?

    The sad truth is, desktop Linux distros are not up there with XP in terms of quality… Windows 7 is so far ahead is not even funny. You can’t compete on price alone.

  37. thom r.
    thom r. August 13, 2010 at 3:35 am | | Reply

    Linux is not even free from dependency hell in 2010. Why do you think Canonical releases a new Ubuntu version every 6 months? Upgrading the whole thing just to get updated versions of the applications and new drivers is just not acceptable. Not a single OEM can take such a system seriously. And it’s not a problem specific to Ubuntu either.

  38. thom r.
    thom r. August 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm | | Reply

    “Publicity, mostly.”

    no, they do that so they can include updated versions of the apps in the repositories.

    “This just doesn’t happen to anyone any more, unless you somehow manage to break your distro’s dependency-resolving package manager and are trying to fix it with rpm or dpkg”

    it happens when you want to install a new version of an app and your distro does not include the required dependencies. Happened a lot with many ubuntu releases and popular apps such as firefox.

    “To defend Ubuntu here, that’s exactly why they provide LTS releases. It’s interesting how many people prefer to run the ‘every six months’ releases over the LTS releases, though.”

    Because they want to be able to run upgraded apps. See previous paragraph for an example. Same with device drivers, actually.

  39. thom r.
    thom r. August 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm | | Reply

    Backports won’t work when there are too many changes to the underlying system required to upgrade a complex app.

    And yes, a distribution based in rolling releases is a better solution for me and I suspect that for many, it’s closer to the way Linux and open source work… but I don’t think it’s an adequate model for mainstream market.

  40. thom r.
    thom r. August 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm | | Reply

    “Sure. But in that case, is it a good idea to upgrade all those underlying system components just to be able to upgrade the app? Within a stable release of the OS?”

    Certainly not. But Windows manage to allow that for a prolong period of time. You could even install a current Firefox version in Win2000 today just by double clicking an installer, and it’s a 10 year old OS.

    The whole point is that Microsoft is able to do that because they’re the owners of the OS, they don’t have to coordinate with anyone to decide what components form the operating system, how long is supported, and what degree of backwards compatibility to maintain between releases. The open source world is much more complex and diverse, and unless everyone tries to work together it just can’t happen, by its very nature.

    The autopackage guys understood this very same thing a long time ago, and they also knew that this was a political problem, not technical. Unfortunately, even though LSB was a step in the right direction, it fell very short of accomplishing anything substantial and very little has changed since then. In fact, it’s not even perceived as a problem, and many believe “the next Ubuntu release” or whatever will magically solve everything, ignoring the fundamental issues that plague the Linux platform to this day.

    I’d wish that would change someday, but honestly, I lost hope a long time ago.

    Anyway, thx for keeping the discussion civil and friendly enough, even if we’d disagree :-)

  41. Jon Wright
    Jon Wright August 16, 2010 at 8:42 pm | | Reply

    Chippy at UMPCPortal echos what I was saying re the death of the netbook category and the disappearance of Linux from this category (the expanded definition of …)

    Quote: “Only 3% of the devices are offered with Linux”:

    http://www.umpcportal.com/2010/08/lightweight-and-mobile-focused-3g-netbooks-and-alternatives/
    http://www.umpcportal.com/2010/08/netbook-freeze-is-more-than-just-a-summer-break/

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