No retail channel for laptop Linux

No retail channel for laptop Linux

Summary: One Geek Squad member suggested he go online, and said Dell is selling kit. An H-P representative he happened upon admitted they got nothing.


Tommy Bass at Mt. HoodAs promised, I sent a reporter into local stores this weekend, looking for laptop Linux.

To protect my identity, I disguised myself as a 63-year old Vietnam veteran named T. Bass. (OK, I bought him lunch and he called me when he finished.)

Tommy visited chain stores in Atlanta and Columbus, as well as a small Atlanta retailer, and drew all the blank looks I expected.

One Geek Squad member suggested he go online, and said Dell is selling kit. An H-P representative he happened upon admitted they got nothing.

This is why Linux remains, in the desktop and laptop space, a hobbyist market. It only exists through the online channels hobbyists use.

This is true even though Linux is lighter in its use of system resources than Windows, and many popular applications come in Linux versions.

Of course, when Wal-Mart offered bargain Linux boxes last year they flew off the shelves. It's not a question of demand.

It's a question of supply. Retailers insist on higher-priced goods for the sake of their margins. Microsoft's policies push manufacturers into putting Windows on everything they push down the channel.

Yet I've seen how Value-Added Resellers can up-sell hardware and capture niches for Linux, in areas like retailing and education.

For most consumers, however, there's still a big gap between them and a Linux laptop. Stores.

Topics: Operating Systems, Laptops, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Please do not forget

    that many of the reviews posted online at Wal-Mart their disatisfaction with the system.
    Yes these were in most cases "newbies" but the point:

    That unless the person is very sure of what they are buying, in the end if they dislike it, they will blame Best Buy or Circuit City.

    Now with the percentage of people in the market looking to purchase a computer other then a Windows or Apple machine, why would you really want to chance losing that customer's future Television purchase to a computer who's sales volume adds little or anything to the "bottom line"?
    • Build support into the price

      Stop making excuses for monopoly and cupidity. Wal-Mart dropped the Linux units because they cost too little, and said so.

      Linux laptops cost less to make than Windows laptops. You can put them on sale at the same price and offer greater support to the Linux buyer, while retaining the same profit margin.

      Yet no one does it. Because we have a government-endorsed monopoly. Those Microsoft contracts which tie large vendors to Redmond are still legal, and so long as they are, it's going to be hard to get Linux into the channel.

      Fortunately, as I've noted, we have VAR channels. Where the problems you describe don't seem to exist.

      But that's not where the big market share gains will be made.

      There is an enormous opportunity here waiting to be grasped. Yet no one is grasping it. Why?
      • I got to ask...

        Wal-Mart "dropped the Linux units because they cost too little". I'm guessing the margin was too small. Why is that cupidity? If as you seem to imply the spread of Linux depends on changing the rules of the business world then Linux is going to have a hard time.

        Microsoft cannot prevent OEMs from offering Linux with their hardware so why are you blaming the Microsoft monopoly?

        You say "You can put them on sale at the same price and offer greater support to the Linux buyer, while retaining the same profit margin." I don't mean to be disrespectful but if it's so easy and if there's such a great opportunity waiting to be grasped why don't you do it? Maybe the reason why nobody or few people do it is because few believe in the statement I quoted above.
        • Right;-)

          "Microsoft cannot prevent OEMs from offering Linux with
          their hardware so why are you blaming the Microsoft

          Since the antitrust settlement MS has been prohibited from
          their past behaviour of threatening OEMs. Today they get
          their way with marketing support money, particularly for
          MS Office.

          A leopard doesn't change it spot, unfortunately for US
          consumers you do change administrations (resulting in
          dropped prosecutions of abusive monopolies).
          Richard Flude
      • Those are some really ... "unbright" statements

        First dim statement, ?Wal-Mart dropped the Linux units because they cost too little, and said so.?

        Please show me where Wal-Mart said that, since I imagine they know how margins work I have to believe you pulled that statement out of your rear. Profit margin has nothing to do with the cost of a product! It has to do with what you can sell it for. If you buy something for $100 and sell it for $125 then you have a 25% margin. If you can only sell it for $101 then the margin is 1% and not worth stocking it.

        I imagine it had more to do with the high return rates and low customer satisfaction for the Linux units in general. It's Wal-Mart, believe me if they made money selling it, they'd still be selling it.

        Additionally, the profit margin on computers isn't that high to begin with. All the retail channels have to compete with Dell and the margins are really pretty small. The only reason Circuit City sells computer is because people buy the extended warranties and peripherals, that's where the money is. When I worked there a lot of computers were sold at a loss, but if we didn?t push the warranty our Job would be in jeopardy!

        Second dim statement, "Linux laptops cost less to make than Windows laptops. You can put them on sale at the same price and offer greater support to the Linux buyer, while retaining the same profit margin."

        The price difference between any computer equipment with or without Windows should be about $100. That is the price of an OEM copy of Windows ($200 for business, but we are talking retail channel here).

        Lastly, if you want Linux to the masses you need to tie it to a successful known partner. You need Google or Oracle to come out with a version or endorsement for connecting to its cloud, and Apps. And by that I mean when you get the computer home you enter your Apps username and password or are prompted to create an account, and you are done. In that you?d have a list of applications you could install for your version in one place. No Yum.conf files to edit, for other applications.

        AOL could have done this in its heyday, but didn?t. Ironically if they had they likely wouldn?t be in the position they are in today, struggling to stay alive.

        One last thing, the Retail channel isn't the path to success for Linux, it's businesses. You are asking a single user to save $100 to use Linux, when you can't get cooperation's to save tens of thousands to millions to make the switch? Get real, Linux isn't ready for the desktop yet. It lacks the tools, applications, and manageability of Windows. Progress is being made, but it isn't there yet.

        Oh and for the record, I am a Linux Server Administrator.
        • Linux is ready for the some cases.

          "Get real, Linux isn't ready for the desktop yet. It lacks the tools, applications, and manageability of Windows."

          That's not entirely true. What it comes down to is this. If you give this computer to your grandmother, will she be able to use it without help? Well, it depends upon the distribution of Linux you are using. A good example of the complete desktop package for Linux is Linspire (formerly Lindows). It's very easy to use, their error messages use clear, non-jargon language that the average person can understand, and installing software requires a single click of a mouse, the rest is automated.

          As for applications and tools, there are lots of traditionally Windows based programs that have been ported to Linux. The tricky part is installing the software. Linspire's Click-N-Run software solves that problem. Recently, they've been making it available for use on distros other than Linspire including most Debian based distros like Ubuntu.
  • Very true. We will have to grow a critical mass through online offerings,

    and hobbyists, professionals installing Linux for parents and others, etc, that can not install it themselves or get it pre-installed. Adoption rates will pick up after Linux is available in BestBuy, CircuitCity, etc. The critical mass is coming. The pase of Linux desktop development is on a tear right now, imagine when we have a critical mass and it is available at mainstream retailers.
  • Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Competition

    [url=]You Go FTC, protectors of Consumer Rights![/url]

    [b]..."The Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition champions the rights of American consumers by promoting and protecting free and vigorous competition. The Bureau:

    * reviews mergers and acquisitions, and challenges those that would likely lead to higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation;
    [i] * seeks out and challenges anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace, including monopolization and agreements between competitors;[/i]
    * promotes competition in industries where consumer impact is high, such as health care, real estate, oil & gas, technology, and consumer goods;
    * provides information, and holds conferences and workshops, for consumers, businesses, and policy makers on competition issues and market analysis...."[/b]
    D T Schmitz
  • Why the rush?

    Why did we get all excited over DELL's Ideastorm website?
    Because it was teh first sign of a major player giving Linux the time of day.
    That was just LAST year.
    Of course, Dell went in half assed and hid those 3 models on their site.

    The first name manufacturer really onboard was ASUS when it added embedded Linux in some motherboards (which they upgraded to ALL motherboards) and the wildly popular EEE netbook which helped launch the whole netbook category.
    That was Halloween 2007 which means the EEE is not even a year old.
    Since then we have seen this summer's netbook bonanza take off at Taiwan's Computex and by the end of 2008, 20 manufacturers will be carrying Linux.
    I agree with some of your points but the netbook is the first major entry into the pre-installed field and it seems that Linux is doing very well. And like I said before, its not even a year old.
    Dell seems to be getting there with more lines being made available with Linux, their highly awaited netbook and their own embedded Linux instant on option. (explain to me the silence from the Linux fearing tech media about something which can get you access within 5-10 seconds.)

    Asus as well will be adding more low cost lines but what is needed now is to get the companies who have taken their Linux plunge with the netbook, to expand to their other lines.

    When Dell has a Windows/Linux option on all their lines, we'll have crossed another milestone but looking back at the past 12-18 months, we've come a long way baby!

    My aunt just bought an Acer One netbook at Staples ($340) last week (the Linpus Linux is very easy to use).
    Had you told me 12 months ago that I could buy a Linux powered computer at Staples, I would have done a little jig.
  • The ecosystem needs to adapt.

    Let's take a Vista laptop sale. It needs to be $799 or better to run Vista well (a decent experience). That is what I have found after many many rounds of experimenting. Next, here is what Best Buy will sell 95% of the time.

    1) Geek Squad building the recovery DVDs and "optimizing the experience", $79.99
    2) AV.
    3) Geek Squad AV installed $39.99 (this only part of the time).
    4) A few software titles. Amazing thing, all computers come with AWESOME suites until you buy it, then it is a constant barrage of
    - Well, you need an office suite
    - Do you plan of editing movies
    - You MUST buy a backup software suite.

    #4 is the most interesting. The real sale comes after the sale.

    I would suggest that few people who purchase a $799 notebook get out of the store for under $1K.

    Let's look at the corrolary. Using Circuit City link cause that was the laptop I bought a week ago. This machine is close, I bought one for $399.

    I paid $399. I installed Mandriva. If it was OEMed with Mandriva (similar to the way I OEMed it), #1 through #4 are simply not needed.

    They don't know how to upsell a non Windows product. It all starts with AV. 103% of all Windows users KNOW AV is SOP and just a cost of using a computer. {Gotta love how something that never should have existed became SOP}.

    So, what could Best Buy have done.

    1) Have knowledgeable staff that could tell me the $89 more expensive laptop runs Compiz 2X as well.
    2) Geek Squad offers me a bundle whereby they set up automatic backups to a USB drive for $119.

    Right now, the entire pyramid is based on sales derived from Windows at the top. People are scared of Linux because they haven't thought of the NEW ways to sell other things besides AV and Tools with WIndows.

  • No money in it, no value to the consumer

    I'm so tired of the Linux crap I hear...why do I call it crap? Because little Johnny tells his friend next door that his dad just bought a new computer and they run out to the closest store and buy a game to play on it. Guess what? The game is for Windows. Not convinced? Just ask mom or dad about the software they want to use on it and see if they all work on Linux?
    • They do.

      All OEMed Linux boxes come with access to 20K+ applications free. What are you talking about? Your argument is backward, because there are fewer standard ways (AV, Anti-Malware, "Optimization") to gouge the customer, the stores are NOT inclined to sell it.

      For consumers, my 40+ converts (friends and family), Linux and Open Source in general have probably prevented 40K+ being pumped into the MS enabled ecosystem and their "obsolete" systems just keep on rolling.

  • RE: No retail channel for laptop Linux

    In my opinion it all has to do with available applications for Linux. Many of the programs I use have no Linux equivalent and there for Linux is not an option for me. If the same applications were available for Linux as for Windows, I would switch.
  • Walmart has one... only but; you can have it shipped to a store for free.
  • RE: No retail channel for laptop Linux

    What a pity!
  • Circuit City has one

    Circuit City is selling the Acer Aspire one AOA110-1722 Netbook with Linpus Linux for $380. As of today their web site shows it's in stock at two stores in my area.
  • Why? just follow the money....

    The co-marketing money, that is. Microsoft Corporation, although convicted of abusive monopoly behavior, maintains its monopoly power by doling out (and withholding/reducing as punishment) vast amounts of money.

    It's sort of like buying "fire insurance" from the mob, only backwards-- Microsoft pays YOU to be evil *for* them. (With the Mafia, you pay them NOT to be evil.) Very sneaky, and very clever.

    BTW, many persons (including myself) noticed and protested, with specificity, this and other gaping holes in the modified final judgement. We were ignored and even abused by Ashcroft's DOJ. (My protest was re-written, without consulting me, to be utterly meaningless, THEN it was declared to be a non-issue).

    "Oh", Loverock and others will say, "that was years ago, Microsoft does business fairly and legally now." NO THEY DON'T -- just look at the BRM fiasco their cronies created to ram "OOXML" down our throats a few months ago. Just look at the fines the EU has had to impose in order to FINALLY get usable documentation, required by Court Order years ago, for competitors to operate in Windoze networks. Just look at the all the new 'P' members of SC34, and see how many of the National Body members were BRIBED by Microsoft to be there. Follow the money!

    Microsoft has built a criminal empire out of it's monopoly power, it's secret wire protocols, it's secret data formats, and most of all --- the $billions which they have "earned" from overpriced product in the past, and now "spread around" to assure more of the same. Microsoft has created some revolutionary software (e.g., truetype fonts in Windows 3.1), but they're a criminal company.

    *YOU* should not do business with these criminals on their terms, good alternatives do exist.
    Rick S._z
  • RE: No retail channel for laptop Linux

    just went to the Linspire website... its says "the world's easiest desktop Linux"
    Well, after 5 minutes on the site I got so frustrated about it, it ain't funny. Sorry to say but that is not the way you treat a potential customer. I tried to feedback to them, but there is no contact link. It seems you have to pay to be able to send them an email!
    And in the features list they use X for available. Just doesn't communicate "available" to me, the customer...

    This way Linux is definately not going to break into the mainstream market...

    D Frost from NZ
    • Not sure of your point,...

      but if you really have an interest, maybe a good place to start is

      A good primer or overview of the major or popular Linux distros can be found here

      Another which may be of some interest
  • From a consumer's perspective...

    1) I am a consumer
    2) I use a computer at work
    3) I have kids that love computer games
    4) I dont have a computer at home

    -Buy a computer that can be used by the whole family

    -I'll buy a computer with decent specs so my wife and I can use Google, watch Youtube, chat and check our email. Obviously, we don't really care what OS the machine runs as long as it has Mozilla Firefox.

    -Our kids on the other hand, insist that the computer run WINDOWS so they can play all the games we bought for them previously and the NEW GAMES that are coming out. They also point out that PIDGIN on Ubuntu doesn't have the "rainbow" colored fonts that Yahoo Messenger has. And besides, all their friends are using Yahoo Messenger... DUH!

    -My wife and I decide to buy a high-end machine pre-loaded with Vista Premium.

    Sound familiar? :D