Like a runaway process, Apricot quickly killed off the option to have Linux on their netbook offering. Instead of selling the Picobook Pro with SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition as previously announced, consumers can purchase it with any operating system they like. As long as they like Windows XP. While the lack of choice may bother some, consumers can take solace in a price reduction. The original SuSE-powered Picobook was priced at £279 while the XP version was set at £328. The new price for a Windows XP Picobook Pro is £299.
Linux is a perfectly good platform for the netbook market, but Apricot’s actions underscore two challenges that we’ve seen. First, for better or for worse, we currently live in a Windows world. Far more people are familiar with Windows than other operating systems, although recent market share numbers show that this is slowly changing. The familiarity of a Windows environment was evident (and the main driver for Apricot’s decision) based on this comment from the company: "The Linux version proved too complicated with initial testers, who would opt to purchase and install XP any way."
We’ve also hinted at the operating system implemenation as a netbook differentiator. Since the vast majority of current netbook components are the same, the operating system itself is part of the equation. Some netbook vendors such as Acer and Asus are customizing Linux distros to make them simple to use. They’re tweaking Linpus Lite, Xandros and Ubuntu to help ease the consumer transition, which can have a positive effort. But it falls short mainly because there are so many distrobutions with different looks and feels. The Ubuntu Netbook Remix or Intel’s Moblin project might help here because what’s needed is a consistent Linux environment or two, not a dozen different customizations.