When Microsoft employee, Brandon LeBlanc announced that Microsoft ruled the netbook world, he was exaggerating, shall we say, just a wee bit. I was going to stomp on him but Chris Kenyon of Canonical, the business that stands behind Ubuntu, beat me to it.
LaBlanc opened by claiming that almost all netbooks sold today are sold with Windows. Well, no, not really. The numbers LaBlanc cites are from NPD's sales survey. NPD focuses on brick-and-mortar U.S. sales, not overall sales. Notice how many Linux systems you see at Best Buy? NPD numbers say a lot more about retail channel sales than it does over-all sales. Besides, as Canonical's director of business development Kenyon wrote, "However here is an interesting fact--when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP."
Kenyon was talking about the Dell Mini 9, one of the best netbooks out there. Besides, as Jay Lyman an analyst at The 451 Group points out there are other problems with NPD's numbers when you take them out of their U.S. retail context. First, the United States only has about 20% of the netbook market, and, second, the global market is still 30% Linux. I wouldn't start the victory parade quite yet if I were Microsoft.
In addition, Kenyon observes that, contrary to what LaBlanc is trying to imply, Linux already has lots of device support thank you very much. "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."
He's correct. I find it more than a little amusing that Windows can claim better hardware support when more often than not I have to use an install CD or download a driver to use any new peripheral on Windows while with Linux the same devices just work.
Kenyon also calls Microsoft on what he's polite to call an out-and-out lie. Microsoft claims that Canonical itself has said that its Linux netbooks are returned at a rate more than four times as high as Windows netbooks. No they're not. Kenyon wrote, "Continually repeating that we 'confirmed' a 4x return over XP when we did nothing of the sort is really not worthy of a great company like Microsoft."
Actually, I think it's completely in character for Microsoft to do just that, but then I've been watching Microsoft longer than Kenyon has.
Kenyon concludes, "We look forward to continuing to delivery great product to customers who value choice. We are not saying that all of the world should or will use Ubuntu, however the suggestion that customers don't like Linux is the sort of oversimplification that a great data-driven company like Microsoft might want to steer clear of."
Well, good luck with that. I can't see Microsoft stopping its FUDish ways in my lifetime. He is right though. Ubuntu, and desktop Linux, are well worth considering.