An open letter to Asus
Having been on vacation for 5 weeks — with my Eee PC —, I only just became aware of your new site It's Better With Windows *), and the fact that you no longer sell netbooks with Linux. Unfortunately, you have not provided a way for your customers and potential customers to comment on this site, so I'm left with less-efficient means to publicly let you know what I'm thinking about this move. In short: You're making a big mistake! Here's why.
"Windows helps you quickly and easily get online…"
So does Linux. It was really easy to get online with my Eee PC, both at home and while traveling, in spite of the clunky Xandros user interface. But Windows networking is a nightmare — it will also "help" you to get online, but not so quickly and not so easily. Surely you know that by far the most websites and mail servers are running on Linux (or a Unix variant)? (At least you are being consistent and running your sites on Microsoft-IIS/6.0 with ASP.NET. But why?)
"…and connect to your devices and services…"
When you connect a device to a Windows machine, it has to go through a whole rigmarole of detecting the device, and installing it (if it's detected properly) before you can use it; and then when you want to disconnect, you have to "safely" Unplug or Eject hardware again or you will get scolded. Not so with your Xandros Linux OS: you plug it in (or pop in a memory card) to use it and a dialog pops up what you want to open it in (if you have the File Manager already open, you can just cancel as it will be automatically opened in the File Manager anyway). When you're done, you just unplug it or remove the memory card, and it quietly disappears from the File Manager again. Windows can learn something from that! As to connecting to services, see above and below.
"…without dealing with an unfamiliar environment…"
Sorry, Asus, but that "unfamiliar environment" is of your own making. Xandros may be easy to use (it is, just not easy to configure), but it's an unfamiliar environment to both Linux and Windows users. Besides, different versions of Windows are not exactly the same either, so being faced with a different version than you're used to can feel just as "unfamiliar" as a well-designed Linux distribution might do (in addition to which networking configuration is different on each version of Windows as well). Meanwhile, some 10% of desktop machines are running Mac OS X now: for the users of those machines Windows would not be an advantage at all, and Linux might actually feel more familiar to them, too.
There are plenty of Linux distributions tailored to netbooks that present a graphical user interface that's "familiar" even to Windows users (in fact, they're designed to be that), and many Eee PC users are in fact running such a distribution on their machines. Personally, I really hate the Xandros user interface and its lack of configurability, so I will put a different distro on my machine now that I'm back from my trip. Even if you wanted to keep your own Xandros as a Linux option, you could easily have listened to your user community and provided a choice in Linux distros, since the community has already been quite busy tailoring distros for these machines.
"…or major compatibility issues"
Of course, the "compatibility issues" are actually Microsoft's problem. For instance, line endings are the same nowadays across operating systems, with Microsoft's being the exception (and causing problems when uploading files to a web server unless you take care to specify that the line endings must be "translated"). The different line endings can also cause problems with email. Using Linux, there are no major compatibility issues (except with Microsoft operating systems, that is). But since we're talking about a netbook it's best to be compatible with what is the norm on the net — and that is not Windows: Linux causes fewer compatibility issues on the net than Windows does.
Windows delivers a dependable experience that Microsoft and a worldwide community of partners stand behind.
Pardon? Due not only to its popularity on the desktop, but largely to its design and lack of openness, there are far more vulnerability issues with Windows than with any version of Linux or Unix (or even OS X for that matter, built on top of an open source Unix variant). I do not even trust Windows to do automatic updates — not even "critical" ones — since they frequently cause vulnerabilities, like they recently did again. Anyone who knows anything about the dangers out on the 'net should not completely trust any operating system at all but I definitely trust Linux, with the eyes of a worldwide community of millions of developers to scrutinize and fix the free open source, much more than closed and secretive Microsoft Windows.
Although I am both a Windows and Linux user, when I started looking for a netbook to use on my travels, it was clear right from the start that a netbook with Linux would be the way to go: it would be more secure when connecting from untrusted access points, and there would be fewer compatibility issues with email and updating websites than there would have been with Windows.
That made an Asus Eee PC a good candidate, and immediately excluded some other options, so I went with an Asus Eee PC 901: light enough to really travel with, powerful enough to do everything I needed to do (and more), and available with Linux. What is more, effectively the Linux model was cheaper than the Windows one: you'd get 4G SSD space more for the same amount of cash — put differently: Windows isn't free on a netbook: you pay for Windows by getting a less-powerful machine for the same amount of cash. But in spite of being assured by an Asus representative that the Linux model was available in the Netherlands, a lot of searching revealed that it wasn't: I had to buy mine in the UK.
Even though I dislike the Xandros user interface (and had no time to experiment with other distros before I left) It performed flawlessly during my trip through Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And I had no fear that I would pick up any infection when going online (though my USB stick picked up a trojan when plugged into a Windows PC in an Internet cafe — but even that was no threat for my netbook: there was no way it could execute the trojan's .exe files when I plugged it in!).
Sorry, Asus, but apart from a no doubt lucrative deal with Microsoft (which you don't mention), your "arguments" for Windows are no more than FUD: spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about Linux by telling downright lies about Microsoft Windows. Asus used to deserve praise for making its netbook available with not only Windows but also Linux — even though it wasn't available in every country — but now you deserve only to be scolded for spreading lies about Linux and Windows. Maybe it's more "familiar" with Windows (at least to some, even if compared with a far more "familiar" distro than Xandros), but it's certainly better with Linux: more secure, more dependable, and with fewer compatibility problems.
Don't tell lies
Asus, if you really want to only sell machines with Windows on it, that's fine (though that choice means you're losing a lot of potential customers). But please be honest about it: if it makes economic sense for you to do so, say so. If you don't want to support Linux users, say so (but you could at least provide a platform for them to support each other).
But lies are a rather risky marketing technique, they'll often come back to bite you. Just don't tell any lies, and stop spreading FUD. Please.
*) Interestingly, I found the domain itsbetterwithwindows.com is not owned by Asus, but by KeyServices, Inc, a small marketing firm in Monroe, Washington, USA, and was registered in December 2008.