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Linux PCs fail to sell in SA retail outlets

By   |  September 19, 2005

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 isn’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.\”


4 Responses to “Linux PCs fail to sell in SA retail outlets”

  1. evert
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:00 am

    Less than four weeks ago I phoned two Dions branches in Pretoria trying to source notebooks or laptops specifically with Suse 9.3 Pro on. They knew nothing nor could they point me in any direction as to where they could be availible.

    The problem as I see it is that there is a market for Linux PCs (I acknowledge that it is small at the present moment) but we the general public do not know from whom and where they are availible.

    This as I see it is a very real problem. How do I find out where Linux PC\’s are for sale? It\’s rather silly to read about the withdrawl of such products but there was no info given out when they became available, so the failure is bigger news than the new product launch.

    My thought is that of course it will fail if no one has the information that the product is available at such and such a shop. Seems like doing things backwards. It is also very easy for a pro-Windows clone to point to this \”failure\” and say that \” See Linux is not up to doing the job.\”

    I understand that this is considered a \”failure\” but I want to ask this question. There are people out here in South Africa who want to buy a Linux PC \”out of the box\” be it a desktop or a notebook. Where can these poeple turn to? And keep in mind that some are first time buyers and others are looking to a second but mobile option. I\’ve tried to help two such people in the last 6 months (and I live in a rather remote corner of SA) and that tells me there are a marker for such PC\’s but they are getting lost to Microsoft becouse there is no channel to direct them to the product that they want!! If a website like for instance Tectonic or \”Go Opensource\” have a link to a retailer that sells Linux boxes it would help. Not everyone is ready or willing to take on the daunting task of installation.

    I\’m not seven saying that there will suddenly be a flood of orders for Linux PCs, but the vendor will have a response. At a later stage there can be ads in other media to broaden the audience.

    Well, that is a suggestion. Keep in mind that in small rural/farming communities people often buy on the neighbours recommendation.

  2. Bennie Kahler-Venter
    September 21st, 2005 @ 12:00 am

    Tried to buy one of these PCs myself. The actual salespeople on the floors at Dions and Hifi-Corp were very inflexible with the machines itself, and rather suggested a Windows machine. Finally I went to PC-Works in Collenade and got a Linux PC built the way I wanted it.

  3. Mandla Nqadini
    September 24th, 2005 @ 12:00 am

    Hey people!

    Thanks for making every effort to making computing more interesting. More especialy affordable. I\’m new to computers, just got to know linux but I love it! My one though is that linux can a difficult to use at times.
    I willing to learn and teach others too. If there are any orhanisation that does some of community training, I would love to in involved and let me know.

    Keep up the good work!

    Mandla (C/Town) 072 0180 845

  4. Per Qvindesland
    September 26th, 2005 @ 12:00 am

    I amnot supprised that they withdraw it from Dion at all, Dion and Linux: 2 words that does not mix right now. What irritates me is that Novell is willing to push it out to retail places with little or no product training this can only damage that product and Novell.

    On the average I sell about 18 computers per week, we offer them with Windows or Linux. On a average week we sell no less than 12 computers with Linux and the rest with Windows. It is strange that some people then say that Linux sales are going bad but this again I think falls under product knowledge and nothing else.

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