Group pitches Linux for free netbooks from mobile carriers

A Linux advocate urged Chinese companies to offer Linux-based devices and download stores

Mobile carriers may start giving away netbooks for free, and Linux-based application stores could help them profit by doing it, the head of a Linux advocacy group told Chinese companies on Monday.

The move by carriers to sell netbooks at a discount and seek revenue from later application downloads is an opportunity for Linux, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said at a Beijing forum. He urged Chinese and global companies to consider offering devices and download stores based on Linux.

But while Linux has some advantages, user habits and slim software offerings on the operating system mean Windows will continue to dominate on netbooks in the near term, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Selling discounted netbooks to users who buy a mobile data subscription would extend a sales strategy widely used for mobile phones. Carriers often sell phones for below retail price and let a user's subscription fees make up for any loss.

AT&T already sells subsidized 3G netbooks in the U.S., and China Mobile has announced similar plans. Carriers worldwide are likely considering the option, which lets them charge for added services like downloads of music, videos and software, said Gold.

Those downloads could come from platforms like the iPhone App Store that target mainly mobile phones today.

Competition could push netbook prices down as more carriers subsidize them, which would make putting Linux on the laptops an attractive way to cut costs, said Zemlin.

"In less than a year, I predict that the new cost of a netbook will be zero," Zemlin said.

A carrier that creates its own application store using an open source OS also avoids having to share download revenue with the OS designer, he said. The carrier can then pocket more of the revenue itself under any split arranged with application developers, he said.

But users could find Linux limiting. Linux does not support the wide pool of programs that Windows does, and most users favor Windows because they are more familiar with its interface, said Gold, the analyst.

Carriers would also incur costs by customizing Linux to create their own download stores, or by handing the task to a device maker, said Gold.

Windows could get another boost if the low-end version of Windows 7 proves effective on netbooks when the new OS comes out this year, he said.

But it remains attractive for carriers to subsidize netbooks, which costs less than doing so for a high-end smartphone, Gold said. Netbooks can run from US$300 to $400 off the shelf, while an iPhone is $599, he said.

Some Linux-based download stores are already open or in the works. The Android Market for phones and upcoming netbooks is based on Google's Android OS, which uses a Linux kernel. China Mobile plans to open an application store based on an Android-based mobile OS it is developing.

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Owen Fletcher

IDG News Service
Topics: Linux, netbooks

Comments

Anonymous

1

How exactly does Linux play intp this?

This seems like a political rather than any sort of economic or technically-driven pitch.

What's the unique value of Linux in this situation? A slightly lower Bill of Material in exchange for what exactly?

If you're going to subsidize something based on services or application purchases, wouldn't you want to tap into the largest base you could? How does Linux help that?

Anonymous

2

yeah, but....

I fail to see what's the value added by Linux in the business case. The way I see it, there's really nothing Linux dependent in this (you don't have to share app sales revenue with MS). Or is the idea to create a customized closed Linux distribution, where the only way to get apps is buy them from the carrier (talk about irony).

Anonymous

3

Value added by linux?

DUH!
Linux can offer an operating system that is customized to the hardware without the bloat of windows ie: smaller faster better, since the os does not have to be universal to all possible pcs. Furthermore, linux allows the manufacturer to avoid microsoft licensing fees (provided they play nice with the GPL).

Lastly the bit about little software for linux is a load of bull hocky, as there are open source alternatives to most office software and emulation layers exist to run windows applications in linux. Free open source App repositories already exist and contain most of the programs an average user would need.

Anonymous

4

Netbooks with integrated 3G modem

It is nearly impossible to buy a Netbook in stores or on the net without contract that has an integrated 3G modem.

I wonder why is that so? I would really like one of those, but almost nobody wants to offer them. I can get a 300mb 3G data plan in Germany for an additional 10$ a month.

ACER, ASUS, do you read me?

Anonymous

5

useful if it is done this way...

... include an official repository, like the app store, with closed source apps that offer a certain guarantee of quality(i.e., support) and if people want to roll the dice with free apps they can add other unsupported repos. This could foster a nice ecosystem of professional level apps that target Gnome/KDE and help introduce people to linux development.

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