Dell Says Linux Netbook Returns A Non-Issue

Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner recently talked about netbook and claimed that retailers experiencing higher return rates as compare to MS-Windows operating systems:

And the reason that we were able to make so much traction – because this is the first real test of the value of Windows – the reason we were able to make so much traction on this particular space is because we went to retailers and said, “Hey, what are your return rates on these Linux netbooks that you are getting?” And they said, “Oh, gosh, they’re, like, four or five times higher than what we’re seeing on other PCs that have Windows.” I said, “Exactly.” So let’s do the TCO story. Let’s talk to customers. And you can’t find a retailer – I challenge you to find a retailer who wants to sell Linux on these netbooks, because the returns are bad. The customer complaints are bad. And our ability to really showcase the value proposition with Windows has never been greater and was never tested more than it was with this particular product. But we’ve made great progress there, but the up-sell opportunities with Windows 7, because it runs so well on these low-end laptops, is going to be tremendous for us.

However, Dell turned down this claim. Todd Finch, Dell senior product marketing manager, said

the number of Linux returns are approximately the same as those for Windows netbooks. He categorized the matter of returns as a “non-issue”. “They are making something of nothing,” he said of Microsoft’s claims. Finch appeared to be referring to Dell’s own netbook sales. We are not seeing any technical reasons for why they are returning Linux machines so…we don’t see a significant difference between the return rate for Windows versus the rate for Linux. We’ve been quite pleased with the stability and technical soundness of the Linux machines.

In other words demand is the main problem here. Most buyers are not aware of Ubuntu or another Linux option while placing an order. Just look at Dell’s online web store. They are not advertising Ubuntu at all. You need to search for Ubuntu on their site. I see Dell ads everyday, but they never mentioned or recommend Linux option.

Netbooks are perfect for Linux as user don’t play games or run photoshop with tons of special effects. Linux offers speed and security over other Operating system. Linux is perfect for the Internet, email and word processing. Novell, Red Hat, Dell and Ubuntu need to market Linux and increase awareness among users.

In the end it is all about choices, let the user select Linux or Windows. What do you think?

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30 comments… add one
  • dhaval thakar Aug 13, 2009 @ 11:56

    yes, you are right about user choices.
    I am linux admin, I used win xp for office / personal use. no doubt this is best microsoft OS but linux is much better. while using xp I had to reinstall OS every 3-4 months. main reason was performance. ever since I started using Linux for office / personal use there was no reason for re-installation unless I wanted to try diff linux flavors.
    Since applications like vlc, firefox, thunderbird & open office available on both linux & windows, switching to linux is no tough job.
    Many people still believes that you need to run few fancy commands to use USB drives / network / play CD – DVD. Actually Linux is plug & play OS, try WIFI on ubuntu even novice user can.

  • MADrod Aug 13, 2009 @ 12:18

    I totally agree with you my fried. I wonder what would happen if some company let’s say Dell spend just 20 % of the effort what they spend recommending MS products recommending Ubuntu products.
    I think things would be very different for netbooks market share.
    See you.

  • Dan Aug 13, 2009 @ 12:51

    Dell should resell those returned computers. I am sure that unlike returned Windows computers, they work flawlessly. Hey, I would be first in line to buy one of those returned linux ones rather than a returned windows one or even a new windows one.

  • Joel J. Adamson Aug 13, 2009 @ 15:11

    I’m always surprised to hear Dell talking about how they champion “open source” and “Linux” because I get their catalogs every month with no mention of their Ubuntu offerings. Not only that, but when my adviser bought me a computer, I couldn’t get it without Windows from Dell (I could from Lenovo, but our department only deals with Dell). I am on a campus where every undergrad is required to have a laptop, but anywhere Dell advertises, they only mention Windows Vista.

    I would put some of the blame on pressure from Micro$oft, however. Remember when Compaq tried to give users options of which OS to load? I bet M$ is jumping on Dell from all kinds of legal and monetary angles just for offering GNU/Linux to people who ask for it.


  • Johan Aug 13, 2009 @ 15:17

    I just like this slogan “Netbook manufacturer X recommends Windows for every day use…”. So now the less informed can realise there must be more OS’es available for netbooks than just Windows, and for more than just your average daily use!

  • Philippe Aug 13, 2009 @ 15:32

    The point is that among a user population trying to use a replacement/new system, there is always a few of them that take a learning curve as a pain in the

    So, whatever Linux quality and ease of use, new users will always complain, feel less confortable, express regrets about “the good old times” and good old Windows XP …
    and there will be more of them while Linux spreads over the world.

    Linux already rulez among open-minded IT people,
    but in the long run, and Linux will rule … The World !!! 😉

    — Philippe

    PS: To typos here :
    Title : netboo_t_ => netbook,
    Last chapter: p_r_efect => perfect

  • Dad Aug 13, 2009 @ 15:54

    Regarding why Dell doesn’t promote Linux on their machines: Once again it looks like the 800 pound gorilla only has to glance at a “customer” to keep that company from doing anything which challenges Redmond’s profit base. Said “customer” will thus do nothing to earn that glance – such as promote a superior operating system that requires a thinking user.

  • Paul Aug 13, 2009 @ 17:00

    I put Linux on a computer for my mum, who has almost never used a computer. She doesn’t even know it doesn’t run Windows, or that it “should” (if you believe what some people say), and I have less problems with her technophobia/lack of geekness than when I have set her up with Windows machines several times previously.

    I guess what I am saying is, to people who have not used a computer, or rarely used one, before, a nice user-friendly Linux distro like Ubuntu is an order of magnitude better than any version of Windows no matter how “easy to use”.

  • Ollie Aug 13, 2009 @ 17:04

    I’d like to say that I’m a big Linux fan first off…

    I do think that what people want from a laptop that aren’t a “techie” are the average stuff; use iTunes and their iPod, surf the web, print a letter now and again. I went fully linux with my desktop, running Kubuntu 9.04 x64 and found it was great – but I couldn’t use my iPod or update my TomTom Satnav. These were important to me – I’ve paid a lot of money for these things and if I used Linux they weren’t updatable with the Linux platform – which was frustrating. I tried to get things to work, and although I’m not a Guru I can hold my own with Linux – and just gave up.

    The main issue with Linux entering the mainstream is that Microsoft has the market when it comes to “killer apps”. I need MS Office for work (primarily Outlook) and I can’t run that reliably on Linux. I can’t use iTunes or update my Satnav – and as an advanced user if I can’t do it what chance does my 72 year old Dad have?

    What would really break down the walls for people is if Linux was easier to use (good job so far by Canonical with Ubuntu) but we have to make 3rd party vendors start writing apps for Linux. If Apple did this with iTunes then this would really put Linux in the spotlight and others would start to consider it a real contender. The reality is that Apple only provide a Windows version of iTunes because most desktops/laptops used in the home are Windows. That’s not running Linux down, that’s reality.

    The BBC in the UK now support Linux for their iPlayer which is a great step ahead; but the BBC is a public service in the UK and aren’t driven by the demands of the “free market”.

    So I guess what I’m saying is a computer – an expensive item for most people – has to bring value beyond just web surfing and writing letters. Running down Redmond isn’t the solution – we need to get 3rd party vendors like Apple onboard to make Linux the success it deserves.

  • Joel J. Adamson Aug 13, 2009 @ 18:30


    The point is that a netbook is not a standard laptop. It’s not a productivity machine. Netbooks are designed with browsing the web in mind. For that you don’t need Microsoft-anything. I have one of the early EeePcs and trust me, it’s good for a few other things, but it’s not a full-on computer.

    Furthermore, if you’re reporting the sorts of problems you have with running GNU/Linux on a laptop, you may not be looking hard enough. There are plenty of applications that will manage an iPod, and the one I’ve heard is the best is Amarok, the KDE music player (i.e. you have it in Kubuntu). By “not looking hard enough” I mean that you may not have explored these issues yourself and may have only heard this from your friends or somewhere online. I see features for doing stuff I would never do with a computer (e.g., using an iPod) all the time on my distro which has a reputation for only being usable by sysadmins (not true, of course). Trust me, everything’s there, it’s sometimes just hidden. And I agree that for someone like you, it’s frustrating that it’s hidden.

  • Trey Blancher Aug 13, 2009 @ 18:35

    Hmmm, the comments of the Microsoftie run hollow with me. I have a Samsung N110 netbook, which I immediately installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix, while keeping the existing Windows installation intact (or so I thought). UNR has run and is running flawlessly on this machine, but on the second boot (before I got a real chance to use the supplied WinXP Home), Windows refused to boot. After several calls over several weeks, and shipping not one but two Samsung labeled WinXP install CDs, Samsung support suggested I send the system in to be re-imaged. I refused, since UNR was working, and I finally did get Windows back on there, and it’s working.

    So, if I was going to return this unit it would have been because of Windows, not Linux.

  • Bruce Trainor Aug 13, 2009 @ 19:04

    I just took delivery of my second netbook with Ubuntu O/S. I am happy and am not a computer wizz, just a 77 year old guy who appreciates the no nonsense approach of Ubuntu vs Vista, I mean you really have to want Vista.

    It is the second because the power supply on the first fried. This time it is a Dell, my first, and I am happy with that too.

  • Terry B Aug 13, 2009 @ 20:18

    I think that the biggest things that cause the returns are customers not actually knowing how to use the computer itself. Simple things like how to install software, where to find software, how to do the same things that they would do if they where using Windows. I think that if Dell was able to put up a simple “how to” page would help with dropping the amount of returns that they where getting.

  • Paul Aug 14, 2009 @ 17:18

    The big question, Trey, is why leave Windows on it at all? 🙂 Think of all the space you would have available for more Linux programs, or media files, or whatever.

    Ollie > iTunes does run on Linux, more or less. The iPod Touch isn’t capable of handling the Mac OS, so they had to use Debian, therefore they had to make a truly Linux version of iTunes to run on it. The Mac version is not far off from being able to run on Linux anyway, since the Mac OS is Unix.

  • John Aug 15, 2009 @ 0:58

    I found the hardest part of switchingg from windows was just working out what things were different and how it was done in the new OS. In general I have been really happy with Linux, but I would say that it us still challenged from a user experiance point of view on laptops. This is not a Linux issue specifically but more with X11 and screen resolution switching and detecting changes in config when coming out of sleep etc. For these things osx is still king but win7 is looking really promising now.
    For me the thing keeping linux on my netbook is the small footprint and rebootless updating. Only kernel upgrades have required reboots so overall it just boots and goes. This is important for a device that’s sole reason for being is conveniance.
    Compare this to osx which just recently needed to install an update fixing bind. This still asked for a restart, and I’m not even running a DNS server on my mac.

  • WAEL ELDEEB Aug 15, 2009 @ 12:24

    becuase …………….linux users always marter than windows users

  • WAEL ELDEEB Aug 15, 2009 @ 12:27

    windows server like baby ….need care every time you must keep your eye on it all time ….but i install Linux servers and forget them…….that’s why……i love linux @ my live.

  • Mark Nassal Aug 16, 2009 @ 15:11

    I was part of the Windows 7 beta program and have been running the OS on several machines for quite a while. I even installed it on my HP Netbook, which was a big improvement over XP. The problem is even after beefing the system up to 2GB, it was still lagging in speed.

    I had been running Ubuntu off a USB stick periodically and found that even off the stick it ran faster than Windows 7. I jumped in the water replace Windows 7 with Ubuntu and have not looked back.

    See: for my post on the upgrade

  • Avin Aug 17, 2009 @ 11:20

    I am big fan of Linux. I have two computer at home. I installed Windows XP on one computer for my brother which is studding animation and Animation software is not available for Linux like MAYA, 3D Max etc. and One computer is mine I installed CentOS for me. Every 3 ,4 month I have to format and Install Windows XP again and again because of Viruses and Performance. and other side My Linux machine Even I forgot when I had last formatted my PC. In short I am trying to say that Windows never compete Linux for Stability, Performance and Flexibility.

    My Choice is always Linux…………

  • Joel J. Adamson Aug 17, 2009 @ 16:51


    Wow! I forget how slow Windows is until I use it 😉


  • Paul Aug 17, 2009 @ 17:45

    Excuse me? Maya runs perfectly well on Linux, and even Mac too:

    You can also get Blender, which is a Linux 3D package (although it eventually does get ported to Windows in time).

  • Paulo Aug 23, 2009 @ 18:23

    Ohay! At last, some reasonable voices are echoing on the hills!!!!!!!!!!
    Yes! Netbook really is a productivity machine. I use an Acer Aspire One for it and it runs very fine, including some basic tasks on audio and video. I run it with Ubuntu Linux, despite of a Windows XP copy had come in it. More: You can easily convert your netbook in a desktop: just plug an USB mouse, an USB keyboard an a VGA monitor and be happy.

  • kiranjith Aug 24, 2009 @ 9:18

    Hi friends,
    e’m runing linux (centos 5.3) in Dell vostro 1015 laptop and now made all the drivers working with Linux with 4 GB of RAM.. (Now all drivers are in the latest kernel)
    Now running 4 VMware instances + 1 Linux at a time. Could this can be achieved by using any one of the Microsoft product????
    thats it…

    when was running XP on my laptop after pressing the power on button i can go n complete my loo mean time to finish the boot up … 😛
    damn xp..
    and it can be only safe if u install and lock it up in ur bank locker..
    even they makes us to buy their as well as their partners product. Why shuld we depend upon some one like them..
    get in to our free world and enjoy the freedom 🙂
    i love Linux coz its free n flexible

  • Jon Aug 24, 2009 @ 20:04

    Dell’s £199 ‘Ubuntu’ netbook was in advertised as a budget laptop for several months in the ‘Metro’ (free paper on the London Underground). They’re definitely not hiding it – but don’t push it too much either – definitely not for everyone

  • Joel J. Adamson Aug 25, 2009 @ 17:42

    @Jon: in the US the only mention I saw of it when I wasn’t going out
    of my way was that it was on the mass media news when Dell first
    started the program. However, they didn’t say “Ubuntu,” “Linux,”
    “GNU,” “free software” or even “open source.” They said “As a result
    of its IdeaStorm website, Dell will be shipping laptops without

    @Paulo: sorry, by “productivity” I meant running numerical analyses
    with billions of iterations 😉 Seriously though, I didn’t mean that
    you can’t use one as a productivity machine; I meant that the original
    idea was to connect to the internet and use something web-based e.g. use Google Apps.
    Strangely my wife’s EeePC has both OpenOffice and links to Google Apps
    on the Launcher.


  • Troy Sep 14, 2009 @ 2:18

    The only thing I’ve seen online so far is one case of some college girl who whined and moaned to the local news paper that linux was evil because it didn’t come with a copy of MS office, this despite the fact that she had to intentionally order the linux version of the netbook (try to order the Ubuntu version on Dells website and then tell me its an easy mistake.)

    Truth be told I want a Netbook, but primarily to run as a remote terminal for my linux box, can we say YAY BYOBU? I think we can…

  • Computers Sep 20, 2009 @ 5:44

    Cute posting. Very detailed and informative. Good work. Thanks for posting.

  • Manny Sep 21, 2009 @ 12:15

    I am an avid Linux user, server admin, etc. I have been using Linux very intensely for over 10 years. Yes, I agree Linux has come along way, and it really is a great, robust, secure and stable OS.
    When it comes to people’s knowledge on when and how they buy a netbook/laptop it’s a totally different story. I think that 9 out of 10 people who buy a Linux driven netbook and return it are the people who bought it because it was cheaper, because the sales person told him/her “ohh it’s almost like windows – you can use your mouse”, or because if it didn’t run Windows it may indeed be a Mac.
    I also agree that most people who return it are going it not because they can’t use it, or because they can’t figure it out, but because it’s different. You have to realize you’re dealing with Joe Blow who can barely use Windows (if that) and now he’s in a totally different world – where he’s simply lost.
    Linux PCs are just being sold to the wrong market, simple. I guarantee you, take a nicely equipped Linux based netbook or even a full size laptop to any decent college campus, advertise it to the Computer Science department and you’ll get 0 returns on sales.
    This is just my two cents.

  • Allan Oct 4, 2009 @ 6:37

    Dell has a history of downplaying problems and threats. Micheal Dell once said that Apple would not survive as a company. Just some food for thought.

  • arkens Oct 4, 2009 @ 13:35

    we use windows and linux for work. we also sold many netbook and notebook in 2008 /2009 with linux preinstalled(with post configuration by us) or just installed and configured by us. we worked very hard on os configuration, ad hoc documentation for our customers,made a lot of docs & howto’s to prepare them to be the more relaxed as possibile on their new os (they were all coming from winzoz).we also partecipate to a project in a private school where we have installed linux on all workstation and on the netbook of every child. it has been a success this year we are going to renew the project.
    i think it’s very important to make customers as comfortable as possible that they are not goig to be lost or alone. every customer has been an ethusiastic new linux user.
    Only one was not completely satisfied, but problem was solved changing to other linux distro. sorry for my bas english.

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