Enough with the sensationalist Linux headlines

You would think that self-professed computer nerds and/or geeks would actually read articles instead of just headlines, and you would think that tech journalists would actually try to get across facts instead of just latching on to controversial-sounding sound bytes.

Nope. Unfortunately not.

I’ve seen two major instances of this recently. One is the headline about Linux netbooks being returned at four times the rate of Windows netbooks. Oh, the anti-Linux trolls latched on to that one right away. Well, of course, Linux isn’t usable. People thought they were buying a usable system and then they had to return it because Linux is only for nerds.

Uh, no.

If you read the actual article in question, it’s specifically about the MSI Wind netbooks, and the representative giving the statistics clearly says it’s a matter of people dealing with something unfamiliar and unexpected. Here’s an exact quotation:

People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box. They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store.

And Asus has said the return rates on Linux Eee PCs are about the same as the ones for Windows Eee PCs:

I think the return rate for the Eee PCs are low but I believe the Linux and Windows have similar return rates. We really separate the products into different user groups. A lot of users like the Windows XP, but in Europe a lot of people want the Linux option.

So really what this means is that MSI doesn’t know how to market its products properly, and Asus does (as did Apple with its Think Different campaign). When you have a product that’s unfamiliar to users, you have to do two things to get it to sell.

  1. You have to maximize sales with the users who are open to new things.
  2. You have to tell the other people that different can be good.

And then there’s the old Mark Shuttleworth “no money in Linux desktop” hype. Yes, Mark Shuttleworth did, in fact, say

I don’t think anyone can make money from the Linux desktop

but when you couple that with

never seen selling shrink-wrapped packages of free software as a workable idea. The only way to build business around software is with [added costs] services

he’s clearly saying that the whole idea of selling software is outmoded. He’s not saying Ubuntu won’t ever make money. He’s saying the money comes from a different place. But people just see the headlines and think, “Ah, so those anticapitalist free software fanboys finally admit there’s no money to be made for open source.”

Just give it a rest. Linux has enough real problems as it is. No need to make up new imaginary problems.

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