This week, Wal-Mart announced that it would cease selling Everex’ Linux-based gPC desktop due to poor sales. Because we wild’n’crazy folks at LAPTOP focus on mobile technology, we couldn’t help but wonder if this is an omen of things to come for the CloudBook. We spoke with Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group for his thoughts on the CloudBook’s (and other low-cost Linux notebooks) chances of survival. This week Wal-Mart announced that it was pulling Everex’ Linux desktops from its shelves. Is this the result of a market shift from desktops to notebooks, or the fact that the computers ran Linux? The sales weren’t very good and I suspect that, as it’s been in the past and as it’ll continue to be, Linux isn’t ready to be sold to a mass market audience. Do you think that the poor Everex desktop sales are an indication of what we should expect from CloudBook sales? I suspect not. They’re two different products for two different customers. I think it was a mistake for Wal-Mart to sell the gPC. I think it was a mistake in general for them to put those type of products on the shelves. It was a mistake at Everex to think that Wal-Mart could sell them. If Wal-Mart comes to you and they say that they want to sell your product, people get excited. In the U.S., that’s 3,500 stores. The fact is, it’s not the appropriate place for those products to go from a Linux perspective. It’s not a brand name; customers aren’t going to know what it is. While Wal-Mart customers want low-cost products, they also want an idea of where a product came from. These small, Linux-based notebooks need to be sold to people who know what they are buying. Several known companies are rumored to be jumping into the low-cost notebook space. If one them were to use Linux as an operating system, would it help Linux’ mainstream recognition? Just how much does branding come into play? It helps, but doesn’t solve the problem of devices appropriate for the customer base. Just because something is cheap, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. When you’re in the PC market, there’s lots of opportunity to make money by selling specific products to specific customers. Linux notebooks have a very specific customer base and should be focused on them and not less-tech-savvy users. What about the Asus Eee PC or Dell Inspiron notebooks that feature Linux operating systems? They are enthusiasts’ products and sell to a very limited number of people. The machines are focused on small niches, and can do okay in that type of atmosphere. But as a product to be sold at Best Buy or Dell.com, Linux isn’t there yet. So is that why Asus is including XP in the next iteration of the Eee PC? They want to get into a different audience. Certainly you’ll need to go to XP to get the better audience; there’s no question about that.