MSI – Wind Netbook Return Rates Higher for Linux Versions

Just read this interview in which MSI’s US Sales Director Andy Tung discusses his company’s netbook offerings.

One of the more interesting points raised is about the rate of returns by dissatisfied buyers. The Linux models come back at least four-times as frequently as Windows versions.

You mention the return rates being high. Has that been the case with the Wind as well?
We have done a lot of studies on the return rates and haven’t really talked about it much until now. Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box. They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.

There’s a bit of irony in all of this. One of the frequent complaints about UI paradigms in Linux and other operating systems is that they’re “too much like Windows,” as though a foreign operating system isn’t a large enough hurdle in the crusade (ahem) to expand Linux adoption. The rest of the system isn’t as familiar as Windows, and this is what trips a lot of new users. The zealots ignore this and think they need more novelty rather than less.

Never discount the importance of familiarity. While the crusaders scoff at making things too much like Windows, the novelty of Linux alone is one of the barriers of ever expanding adoption. People do not want to learn new operating systems; they want ease and comfort. Never mind their devices tend to work better in Windows, the applications are more mature, and so on. As much as the masses may say they dislike Microsoft (and being at the top of the food chain makes them a big target, fairly or unfairly), they really do prefer Microsoft’s software.

Maybe instead of trying to reinvent user interfaces and create novel user experiences, you should do your own surveys and focus groups to see what normal users want if you’re really convinced users don’t want what Microsoft (or Apple) have to offer. After all, that’s what those software companies have done to see what will and won’t work, and what will and won’t sell.

With a tiny fraction of market share and evidence mounting from companies like MSI that have tried to play by your rules, how long before you listen to the masses rather than fight them? Ignoring the data and presuming people don’t want a Windows-like experience is nothing but projection. That won’t increase Linux adoption, it just keeps you preaching to your own choir.

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