Netbooks have been heralded as the foot in the door for Linux. With the launch of the earliest Eee PC models, Asus made a bold move by only offering them with Linux pre-installed; Microsoft soon responded by working with Asus to bring Windows XP to the next generation Eee PCs. Since then, Windows XP gained market share in the netbook segment rapidly, casting doubts over whether or not netbooks would really turn out to be that foot in the door. HP has today announced that its new HP Mini 1000 netbook will not be available with Linux pre-installed in Europe.
In the United States, the HP Mini 1000 comes in two models, a cheaper Linux version, and a more expensive Windows XP model. The Linux model will not make its way to most European countries, HP has confirmed today. The cheaper Compaq variant, the Compaq Mini 700, will also not be available with Linux in Europe. The high-end HP Mini 2140 will be available with either Windows XP or Windows Vista.
The decision has apparently been made a month ago, and when asked for clarifications, HP explained that it had “assessed the current EMEA market and believes that the Compaq 700 and HP Mini 1000 [Windows XP edition] better address the market and consumer needs. As a result, the HP Mini 1000 [Linux edition] will not be introduced in EMEA.”
I’m not so sure this is a wise move on HP’s part. They may have their market research, but common sense tells me that when your competitors offer cheaper Linux variants of essentially the same hardware (it’s all Atom platform), you might lose customers if the only HP netbook they can buy is more expensive, but still offers the same hardware.
Apart from that, this is simply bad news if you are an operating system enthusiast who wants to see a healthy market where competition forces players to improve their products. Whether you prefer Linux or Windows, fact remains that competition between the two is beneficial for both. Without Linux, Microsoft would have never made performance improvements in Windows 7 compared to Vista.
Let’s hope other manufacturers will not follow in HP’s footsteps. Acer’s new Aspire One will be available in a Linux model, but no word yet on if this model might not make it to the European market. Asus has not yet made any statements about whether or not its new Eee PC 1000EH will run Linux.