Lenovo’s Worldwide Competitive Analyst, Matt Kohut, has predicted that Linux will only ever be a niche player as an operating system for netbooks.

Speaking with TECH.BLORGE at a one-on-one briefing in Sydney, Kohut said that despite initial hopes that netbooks would take Linux into the mainstream, the reality is that Windows is becoming the operating system of choice for such devices.

“[Linux is] going to remain in a niche market,” said Kohut.

Kohut cites a poor consumer experience as one of the main reasons that the use of Linux on netbooks has declined.

“There were a lot of netbooks loaded with Linux, which saves $50 or $100 or whatever, but from an industry standpoint, there were a lot of returns because people didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

“Linux, even if you’ve got a great distribution and you can argue which one is better or not, still requires a lot more hands-on than somebody who is using Windows.

“You have to know how to decompile codes and upload data, stuff that the average person, well, they just want a computer.

“So, we’ve seen overwhelmingly people wanting to stay with Windows because it just makes more sense: you just take it out of the box and it’s ready to go.”

Kohut argues that for Linux to be successful on netbooks (or notebooks or desktops for that matter), the open source operating system needs to catch up with where Windows is now.

“Linus needs to get to the point where if you want to plug something in, Linux loads the driver and it just works.

“If I need to go to a website and download another piece of code or if I need to reconfigure it for internet, it’s just too hard.

“I’ve played around with Linux enough to know that there are some that are better at this than others. But, there are some that are just plain difficult.”

Another issue Kohut identified as a challenge for Linux was the extra support the hardware vendor needed to provide.

“From a vendor perspective, Linux is very hard to support because there are so many different versions out there: do we have Fedora, do we have SUSE, do we have Turbo Linux?

“Those are all different enough that, well, if people buy Linux preloaded from us, we have to fully support everything they own.

“So, until Linux gets to the point where it is easy, it’s not going to succeed on netbooks and I’ve not seen the Linux community make a serious effort to get to that point.

“I think that some of them even like the fact that it is a little difficult and that it isn’t accessible to the average user.

“Linux in netbooks and notebooks I don’t think is ever going to happen.”

This article originally appeared in Tech.Blorge.com on April 21, 2009.

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