posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th Aug 2008 12:10 UTC, submitted by judgen
IconAs we all know by now, netbooks are the latest craze in the computing world. Small notebooks, perfect for on the go, and relatively cheap. The interesting thing is that these netbooks are often offered with Linux pre-installed instead of Windows, and this prompts many to believe that it is the netbook niche where Linux will gain its first solid foothold among the general populace. "It does a lot to level the playing field. In fact, Linux looks to be quick out of the gate," said Jay Lyman, analyst with the 451 Group. However - is that really happening?

Personally, I am not so convinced that the netbook market will be a Linux stronghold. This isn't due to Linux not being ready or anything - in fact, for a netbook, Linux is 'readier' than Windows, if you ask me. As I explained in the review of the Acer Aspire One, it can run a full Linux installation with Compiz Fusion running smoothly, playing Flash and video files without a single hitch. Windows XP, on the other hand, would need more RAM, special tweaks to make it work properly on the solid state drive, and you won't get a hardware accelerated desktop.

It is not the readiness that makes me doubt the stronghold assertion. What does make me doubt is opening my eyes and looking at the reality of the internets. What are the most popular threads on netbook community websites? What requests are most often made? Which blog posts get the most comments? Which howtos and guides are read the most?

Exactly, the ones that detail how to install Windows XP on netbooks that ship with Linux (and threads that detail with issues concerning XP after installation). Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Oh, and over here. And so on, and so forth.

I stumbled upon all of these while finding ways to wreck my One doing research for the One review, and it quickly dawned on me. A lot of people keep saying that Microsoft's sales figures are misleading since you never know how many PCs pre-installed with Windows are in fact turned into Linux machines (or Vista into XP). I think the situation in the netbook market is the exact opposite: I firmly believe that many, many of the Linux netbooks are in fact turned into Windows XP netbooks. In other words, it is hard to say just how many netbooks are out there running Linux.

In case you are wondering - yes, my One still runs Linux, and will continue to do so. I mean, fat32 just to get acceptable performance out of the SSD drive? And no wobbly windows? You must be kidding me.

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