Friday, November 14, 2008

Netbook Numbers

I want to look at the netbook numbers and see what they say about Linux right now. There's a lot of press about the high return rate, which I think is fair, but which I want to put into perspective. I'm warning you in advance, though -- it's going to look a lot like a "BSD is dying" troll.

Reports of Linux usage (on the desktop) have wavered between 0.5% and 3% for years now. I bet it's below 0.5% here in Korea because Starcraft doesn't run natively on Linux. ;) We'll be kind and call it 2% at the beginning of 2008.

Anyway, a recent report from Britain stated that netbook sales were 30% of all computer sales in Britain. Netbooks on Amazon hold the top five positions in computers sold and eight of the top ten positions. That seems to be a lot more than 30%, but we'll go with Britain's number. If Britain's sales are indicative of Europe and Africa, that means that netbooks were 8.6 of the 28.8 million units shipped there in Q3 2008.

Both Asus and Microsoft estimate that MS Windows is sold on 70% of netbooks, with 30% going to Linux netbooks. If we accept that number as valid for the area we're looking at, that comes to 2.6 million Linux netbooks sold in Q3. In other words, 9% of all computers sold.

But what about the return rate? MSI and Carphone Warehouse both give the return rate as 20% for Linux and about 5% for Windows. Asus, which does a better job marketing and helping customers understand what they are buying, claims that return rates are almost the same. Mark Shuttleworth says that return rates for Ubuntu are higher than for Windows. Let's go with the high number of 20%, just to be safe, shall we? That makes 520K units returned and over 2M units kept during Q3. For those looking at percenntages, that's still 7.2% of all computers sold.

So ... there you go. Linux sold on eight million computers a year just in Europe. Not too shabby.

I still say that Win7 is going to kill Linux in this market if MS doesn't hit an iceberg and ask Balmer to swim in the icy water for hours while he helps Bill stay on the flotsam.

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