Are netbooks making Linux more mainstream?

Are netbooks making Linux more mainstream?

Ever since the netbooks (UMPCs, ultraportables and whatever else they call them) came into the market, Linux has had its share of exposures to the mainstream consumers. They’ve been received well, IMO, but the question remains — are the netbooks really making Linux more mainstream?

I can’t be sure but after some observations in the way the netbook manufacturers are behaving as well as how consumers are reacting to the variety of OSes, all I’m getting are mixed signals.


So okay, here are the positive signs:

  • First time laptop buyers will find the OS of these netbooks more acceptable than those who are already own a laptop before. This is because expectations are lower and primary usage is mostly for internet surfing. The learning curve is low in that area (which can be primarily attributed to Firefox being more mainstream too).
  • Netbooks, especially the first generation 7-inchers, are more perceived like a high-end PDA or cellphone rather than a portable PC (it also has to do with the pricing). Thus, the bundled OS becomes an integral component of the purchase. It’s like buying an internet rich capable phone — you either get a Symbian OS, a WinMo or a Linux OS — they all look and do the same things. As long as the primary features are there, the role of the OS becomes insignificant to the user.
  • Linux OS runs faster, has a smaller footprint or disk usage and sometimes, more optimized to the configuration of the netbook (e.g. Acer Aspire One’s 8GB SSD or the Asus Eee PC 701 with 4GB of SSD). Because of these constraints, the array of OS options are reduced and more often it’s Microsoft Windows that’s always left out.

On the other hand, the leading OS in the PC market will not stand still and just watch.

  • Microsoft pulled some strings and sacrificed its flagship OS, Windows Vista, and extended the life of Windows XP just to serve the netbook market. It’s a sacrifice that seemed to be paying off. Windows XP has become a staple option for newly released models.
  • Intel Atom bumped the race for processing power and allowing some hope for Windows Vista to be a bearable option for newer model netbooks. Microsoft can then use its marketing prowess to gain leverage in sales and distribution.
  • Developers are creating mods for the public to switch from Linux to Windows. This was actually the most surprising observation and I personally witnessed this. My Asus Eee PC 701 was switched from Xandros to Windows XP even if it meant I had to sacrifice more than 50% of my laptop’s storage capacity. Several other friends and people I know made the switch to XP. The “switch” is now the other way around! The “force” is really strong.

It has been reported that there’s an estimated 5 million netbooks shipped this year alone. As the netbooks gain more processing power, add more storage capacity and memory, they will slowly become the primary PC for most first-time buyers. And with that comes the idea that the preferred OS should be user-friendly (plug-and-play), familiar and above all, can run any popular software one can install. Windows XP will always to on top of mind and Linux a far second.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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13 Responses

  1. BrianB says:

    Schools should support Linux. Especially these preloaded Linux Oses, i.e. Open Office. I dunno why people insist on pirating MS Office when Open Office is almost as good.

  2. I can sense some hatred eh? Bad experience using Xandros? But Xandros is just one of the GNU/Linux distro out there. Try Kubuntu for a Windows-like experience.

    And with that comes the idea that the preferred OS should be user-friendly (plug-and-play), familiar and above all, can run any popular software one can install.

    I don’t agree :p
    The (X/K)Ubuntu distro, and the Debian flavor in general is user-friendly, plug-n-play, (Kubuntu – familiar), can run popular or alternative to popular software.

    It looks and feels “not” those because of the “windows” experience. But ask a person who first used GNU/Linux and then later turned-on a Windows OS, he’ll say the same thing. ^_^

    GNU/Linux has matured enough to compete head-on with Microsoft Windows, but Linux was never meant to compete with Windows, it’s meant to give the user the best of the best of the best of the best experience in computing.

    my PoV :D

  3. Karen says:

    you are posting too often, you’re cluttering my inbox. pls just send me newsletter only once per week. Thank you

  4. yuga says:

    @JC – I liked Xandros until the time I needed to install Nokia PC Suite.

    @Karen, sorry the RSS to email is delivered once a day. You can unsubscribe though if it’s cluttering your Inbox already.

  5. LiNTEK says:

    Go Linux…… GGggggGGGgggOOOooOOO


  6. I think the netbooks of the future will have internet connectivity on them that wouldn’t require a user to use his/her celphone to connect online. By that time, there’ll be no need to install and use some celphone software like the Nokia PC Suite.

    I am using Ubuntu 8.04, a Linux distro that’s quite familiar to Windows in it’s user interface. All of my online activities and most of my offline works are done through it. It’s really amazing that a free OS could do what Ubuntu does… without the common viruses, spywares, and malwares to worry about…

    Netbook makers know that Linux can help people receive their products more openly. It’s the reason why a majority of their releases are powered by Linux. If the first Asus Eee was released with a Windows OS rather than Xandros, It would have cost much higher which would have made the buyers more wary of purchasing one.

    Linux is a force to reckon with and Windows knows it. Come to think of it, Linux did force Microsoft to abandon their previously publicized plan of dumping Windows XP to the garbage.

    @yuga- Why not try using VMWare to install and run PC Nokia Suite in your mobile gadget?

  7. Ubuntu is very easy to use. It’s the perfect distro for those who are making the big switch from windows.

  8. -anton- says:

    It was great until I wanted to play my PC games! Hahahaha

  9. jhay says:

    I agree. Ubuntu with its variants are among the easiest distro’s to use in the Linux family.

  10. cy says:


    try to use wine so that you can run your windows games.

    visit for more info on playable games and some tweaks.

  11. I like Linux, Ubuntu to be exact, and I am using it a lot. In fact, I am now planning to totally erase my xp in my Acer Aspire 4330. I think this OS is really great after using it for more than a month now. It is a lot better compare to XP, as far as the benefits that it is giving me. I have used XP for years. But Ubuntu is really far better.

    I am using Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy. It works well in my laptop.:)

    See also my posts in:

  12. myk says:

    i currently have my laptop (toshiba tecra m6) dual-booted to vista business and ubuntu 8.04 (hardy heron). my vista is really for working while my surfing os is ubuntu.

    i must say, ubuntu works well for me and i do not find any problem using it, although i am not quite ready to abandon microsoft oses completely just yet.

  13. vince says:

    after discovering so many things concerning ubuntu, I am now ready to abandon windows. I have never seen a window OS better than UBUNTU… sorry windows, I would really have to say Bye bye…

    Why did I changed to ubuntu???
    maybe some of you are thinking about that.
    Well, here are just some of the reasons.

    First of all, I am sick and tired of cracked softwares and OS’es. And why should I pay for another 3K just to have an OS when i can have it totally free without violating any copyrights.

    Secondly, UBUNTU have just gave everything I need for a PC (except games). Unfortunately, I am not so much of a game lover. Simple games already makes my day. This is why concerning games, ubuntu is already enough.

    Third, I really love the UBUNTU community in which you can never find in windows community. We help each other in that community while for windows, I haven’t seen anyone who wants to help you unless of course if it is about cracking windows again.

    Fourth, everything is FREE… Technical support (via ubuntu forums), OS, office etc. Should I really have to spend money to have all these??? not all in ubuntu.

    See some of my posts:

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