Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, has struck back at claims made by Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc about Windows’ success in netbooks compared to Linux. Most of the claims made by LeBlanc are refuted quite accurately by Canonical’s Chris Kenyon in a blog post titled “Microsoft, FUD and the netbook market”.
There is one specific point in Kenyon’s blog post that really stuck with me, and it has to do with competition and price. “Of course there is a significant benefit for users who do not select Ubuntu or another Linux distribution,” Kenyon writes, “The price of XP crashed last year due to competition. So even if you bought a netbook last year with XP – feel free to smile when you see an Ubuntu PC. It’s amazing what an open market can achieve.” Rarely do I agree so thoroughly with salesmen (which he effectively is). Competition and choice are always good in these types of markets.
Of course, the infamous return rate element gets a thorough mention. In the original LeBlanc post, it is stated that Linux netbooks see much higher return rates than Windows netbooks. Kenyon doesn’t actually refute that, but he does make a very snide comment towards OEMs shipping crappy implementations of Linux on their netbooks – one of the most-often heard complaints on OSNews. “The really big news for the industry is that well-engineered Linux netbooks have similar return rates to XP,” he writes [emphasis added], “What makes a real difference to return rates is not whether it’s Linux or not, but the quality of the device’s hardware and the ability to fully partake in web and media experiences.”
Kenyon makes a very good point here. Many implementations of Linux on netbooks are downright awful, but that’s not solely the fault of OEMs. Linux distributors and their parent companies will have to be more active in educating OEMs about Linux. In fact, I think at least the major Linux distributors should band together, and provide a central place for OEMs to get information and help regarding Linux.
I already addressed the issue of hardware support in our original coverage of Microsoft’s blog post. Microsoft implied that Linux’ hardware support is inferior to that of Windows, but that’s downright nonsense, of course, and Kenyon agrees. “Ubuntu and most Linux distributions support over 3000 printers over 1000 digital cameras, and over 200 webcams. It also supports them without the need to search for drivers on dubious websites or load drivers from a CD. Just plug and play.”
Microsoft would be wise to shut people like LeBlanc up. If you want to compete with Linux, then do so by improving your product (like they are doing with Windows 7), but don’t resort to the FUD tactics of yore.