Last week, MSI reported that return rate of its Suse-based netbooks was four times as high as that of the Windows XP version. Because of a lack of specific information, there was a lot of speculation about how high that return rate actually was and whether it was significant. Some doubted MSI's motives for making the announcement, citing the lack of a Linux version in many markets.
I wasn't surprised, though, given that the MSI Wind comes with a webcam and wireless, but the Linux software for the netbook doesn't work well with either of them. Who wouldn't return faulty / non-working hardware? The return rates might be 80%. Who knows?
Interestingly, Canonical has come out in support of MSI's claim, saying that returns of open-source netbooks are also higher, though it doesn't confirm MSI's 4x return rate. It appears that customers don't get what they expect. Sometimes, Canonical asserts, that is due to poor disclosure from the seller, typically online where the specs aren't clear and the customer can't get hands on the device. Sometimes, though, it's a problem of customer ignorance -- they just don't understand what the specs mean.
People want XP on their computers. It's pretty obvious these days. They don't really want Vista. Few want Macs (though the number is growing). Even fewer want any kind of Linux or Unix.
I think it's clear that netbook manufacturers need to drop the "it's a computer" line and push an appliance concept for their Linux-based netbooks. If customers don't expect a laptop or laptop replacement, they are more likely to want XP on it. If the manufacturers can create a great miniature interface that just works and isn't designed for expansion, why would anyone complain?
I mean, they're not complaining that the iPhone doesn't come with Windows, are they? Or are they ...?