As a longtime Linux user, I remember hearing about netbooks for the first time. It was an exciting feeling — finally, Linux will be able to beat Microsoft and that too on a completely new platform. However, when Windows-based netbooks started coming out, I was thoroughly disappointed. Microsoft had once again managed to monopolize an emerging market, paling Linux back into insignificance. Furthermore, just when we thought that the netbook market was growing, iPad took the industry by storm, becoming the quintessential secondary device. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, Google announced Chromebooks giving another massive blow to the already-dying netbook market. So, the question remains, is this the end of Linux-based netbooks? Seems like it is.
What went wrong for Linux
At the time when the concept of netbooks was new, Linux didn’t have a single user-interface that was truly netbook-ready. Of course, there was a feeble attempt by Canonical called UNE, but its stability left a lot to be desired. Many vendors and customers were unhappy with the Linux-based netbooks, resulting in numerous returns. Meanwhile, the ones loaded with Windows XP were selling like hot pancakes. It is not known as to why vendors started opting for Windows all of a sudden, but the change was, if not fishy, a game-changing one. Microsoft even ‘claimed’ in 2009 that 96 % of the netbooks were running Windows. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Windows 7 came out, which was instantly adopted by many netbook manufacturers.
The changes in the netbook market were profound and people were already touting this as another success for Microsoft. However, this rapid growth was prematurely thwarted when Apple announced the iPad in 2010, making it an ideal secondary device. It is no big secret how rapidly iPad gobbled up netbook sales taking the market downwards. Of course, there is a big opportunity for netbooks in developing countries but there is not much evidence of them being successful in those markets.
Chromebooks vs Netbooks
Earlier we wrote an article which outlined the reasons why Chromebooks might become popular. Of course, those were just predictions; however, Chromebooks, successful or not, have a huge potential to decimate the netbooks industry. Chromebooks, by getting rid of the operating system, give a netbook user just what he or she wants — web browsing. Chrome OS does have its limitations as compared to Windows 7 or Ubuntu, but they are fast and stable which itself makes them a better product than a netbook. More importantly, a user doesn’t feel any significant drop in performance while using it.
Netbooks on the other hand are reported to have failure rates much higher than that of laptops. A consumer wouldn’t want to spend his or her hard-earned cash on such a device, instead, that person will opt for the simple, no-fuss Chromebooks. Also, the Google branding itself gives Chromebooks a huge edge over netbooks.
The future for Linux-based netbooks
As far as netbooks are considered, the future is ARM. Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows will also run on the ARM platform. This decision secures Microsoft’s position as the top netbook operating system. However, that doesn’t imply that Microsoft is without any serious competition in this falling market. New players like Android and Jolibook are already gaining some recognition and if things go right, they might even pose a threat to MS-dominance. But, the fact remains that netbooks as a whole are on the decline, and there is hardly any chance that they’ll be able to take on big players like iPads, Chromebooks, and various tablets that are waiting to enter the market.
For Linux-based netbooks, the future is even more bleak as they have no chance of survival against these million dollar bigwigs. It might sound like a harsh assertion but Linux-based netbooks are either dead or already breathing their last. There are hardly any chances that Unity will be able to salvage this failed hero.
What’s your Opinion?
This, of course, is my opinion. What do you think about Linux-based netbooks? Are they dead? or do they have a chance of striking back? Feel free to challenge my views, or even start a flame war if you want in the comments section below.
Image Credits: crowolf