Linux PCs fail to sell in SA retail outlets
PCs loaded with Novell\’s Suse Linux operating system are to be withdrawn from Dion stores in Johannesburg after only two months of being offered for sale.
Almost a year ago Novell SA MD Stafford Masie said the company was looking to sell affordable Linux PCs through major retailers and supermarkets. And earlier this year Novell\’s OEM business manager Garry Hodgson told Tectonic the OEM side of the Linux business was doing well.
At the consumer-end of the business, however, the company appears to be faring less well with consumers being nervous of spending their money on something they are not familiar with.
According to Tony Calvario, MD of Incredible Solutions, the company that supplies Dion and a number of other retail outlets across the country with computer stock, the sale rate of the Mecer Celeron 2.8 loaded with Suse Linux Pro 9.3 did not meet expectations.
\”My personal opinion is that the type of customer who buys a computer at Dion is not ready for Linux,\” said Calvario. These are entry-level customers, most of whom are buying a computer for the first time. \”Ninety percent of the problem is that entry-level customers do not know Linux,\” he said. This makes the computers a difficult sell. \”We\’re waiting for a marketing campaign from Novell to create the demand.\”
Another part of the problem, said Calvario, is that the computers loaded with Suse were not significantly cheaper. \”Everybody assumes the price differential will be very big, but it isnâ€™t. There was only a R500 difference between computers with the different operating systems.\” People were unlikely to make the effort to investigate a new operating system when the price difference is so negligible, he said.
Calvario was not entirely negative. He said the Dion models were a test and that his company was prepared to make Linux computers available to the public again when there was a demand.
Tom Heubner, Novell SA\’s OEM marketing manager, agreed with Calvario that in general South African end-users were not ready for computers with pre-loaded Linux. \”There\’s still a lot of marketing work to be done,\” he said. \”Novell is currently looking at how to educate the market, both corporate and home user.\”