MSI: Wind Coming to Major Retailer, New Models Coming Soon

The MSI Wind has been the netbook to reckon with. Its release back in June put big-name manufacturers on notice that a little known manufacturer could churn out a quality product. Turns out that was only MSI striking the match. MSI’s Director of U.S. Sales Andy Tung certainly thinks his company isn’t done shaking up the netbook pot. He has plans to keep the Wind flying ahead of the competition. In our hour-long interview, Tung shared that:

  • The Wind U100 will be available at a national, and very large retailer in the coming week. The Wind with a 3-cell battery and Windows XP will be priced at $399.
  • MSI will expand the Wind product line with a business-focused Wind U120 (or what he kept calling the Wind 2). The Wind U120 will have a whole new look, SSD and hard drive options, and 3.5G connectivity. It will hit the U.S. in late November or December and will be priced under $600.
  • Linux netbooks are returned 4 times as often as ones that run Windows XP.
  • The Wind Desktop will be brought to the U.S. in the coming months.

Tung left few details out in our chat about the future of the Wind. Check out the full interview below and stay tuned for our review and images of the MSI Wind U120. The Wind U100 has been a global hit. Can you share anything about its success? Netbooks have become a really huge category, and even bigger than we thought. The launch was great and demand was strong at the time. But we are seeing the demand grow even more month by month. And I think right now it’s also being fueled by the economy. People want to buy something good but cheap enough. I only expect the number to go up because, with the Wind, we are going to be able to reach national and regional retailers. We will announce availability at a major U.S. retailer next week. As for numbers, I can tell you that we sell about 150,000 to 250,000 MSI Winds a month. That doesn’t include the rebranded MSI Winds. However, our sales have been capped by the supplier of the Atom CPU. It seems as though brick-and-mortar retailers have been hesitant to stock netbooks or have even ignored them, at least until now. Why do you think that is? Retailers have been hesitant to bring netbooks into stores because at that moment they were afraid that the netbook category would eat at their notebook sales. They were also only selling the only available product from ASUS, and sales were only okay, and they struggled with return rates, especially of Linux systems. But now it has become more of a trend and these retailers just have to be in this business. You mention the return rates being high. Has that been the case with the Wind as well? We have done a lot of studies on the return rates and haven’t really talked about it much until now. Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box. They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks. Interestingly enough, we struggled with the Linux version of the Wind U90. Are there plans to tailor a Linux OS for the Wind? We plan to bring the Linux version to the U.S by the end of the year. But we are working on some of the issues with the SUSE Linux and even continue to explore other flavors of Linux. We have discussed Ubuntu with a Mac OS type of look and feel. We are talking to different suppliers to figure out the best user experience. Part of MSI’s business plan has been to team up with other OEMs and let them rebrand the Wind under there name. What is the business model there? Part of MSI’s business has always been the manufacturing/OEM business so we have opened the doors for our partners to take the Wind under their brand. The Wind is a very popular product so, as a manufacturing company, we benefit by the more companies that bring the Wind hardware to market and their orders. On the shelves then, what will differentiate the MSI Wind from the rebranded models? There might not be much differentiating them. However, we are hoping the MSI brand and our marketing will set it apart. Our industrial design will also be a bit different, but also the package around it will prove it, including reviews by the media and customers. Some individuals still struggle to buy a Wind U100 with a six cell battery through e-tailers such as Amazon.com. Have you caught up on production of the system and the batteries? The battery problem has been almost completely resolved. And by the end of October we should be completely caught up with the battery problem. The six-cell battery is now available for purchase. And the allocation from Intel [of Atom] should be a lot better heading into October. There have been rumors of a nine-cell battery. How much runtime do you expect that to bring to the Wind? Actually the 9-cell battery is coming from a third party supplier and not from MSI. And we expect it provide 7 plus hours of power. Like the iPod, we are starting to see a lot of companies create accessories for this product. Customers will be able to buy lots of different accessories soon, including special carrying bags and peripherals, like mice. Is there anything about the original Wind you wish you could improve? Starting this month we will deliver the U100 with some upgrades. We have a six-cell battery version now where we have upped the hard drive to 160GB, the wireless to 802.11 b/g/n. That version will be $479. Heading into the holiday season, we will offer all the U100s in a red color as well. We are also continuing to drive the price down. Next week, the Wind with a 3-cell battery and Windows XP will be available at a national retailer for $399. Are the plans then moving forward to expand the Wind product line? We are focusing right now on keeping the original model the same as I mentioned since it’s been a hit, but we are also working on a Wind 2. The difference will be in the customer segment. The incoming product is being called the Wind U120. It is an extended model of the U100. The U100 is perfect for consumers like teenagers and families, but we think it’s too cute for business users. The U120 looks more like a business type of solution: it doesn’t include the round corners but more a square-like look. We were thinking more of a ThinkPad type of a design. I can say that the industrial design is totally different than the original Wind. What types of specifications will the U120 or Wind 2 have? At first it will be available with a hard drive, but we will offer a solid state option at a later date. Some people love a larger 120GB hard drive, but others like a 20GB to 40GB SSD option. It will have a 10-inch display, and also expect it to also have 1GB of RAM. We really think the 10-inch is perfect for this category and the keyboard is the same size as the one on the current Wind, if not a bit bigger. We expect to release it by the end of November or early December. Any plans for a dual-core Atom processor in this version? Or mobile broadband? No Intel is holding off on the mobile version of the dual core Atom processor. I don’t think we will see availability of that processor until the second half of 2009. The U120 will have 3.5G connectivity. Here in the U.S., we are in the process of talking to the cellular carriers. The original design had WiMax but WiMax implementation isn’t as fast as we would like it to be. Any idea of the pricing of the U120? It is still a netbook so we plan to keep it in a competitive price range. I would say no more than $600 dollars. Any plans to release the Wind Desktop in the U.S.? Yes, I do plan to release it here soon. With Lenovo and Samsung entering the market with 10-inch netbooks, how do you differentiate the Wind? Well you would be surprised who makes those notebooks. But we have a really good start and we have been endorsed by the media and the press, so we have a really solid starting point. The next job for us is enlarging our awareness. We are also continuing to improve our industrial design. People are buying by features but the looks seem to be even more important. The Wind in some ways has made MSI more of a household name. Has the success of the Wind impacted MSIs core notebook business in any way? If you look at MSI, our brand has always been an in-the-box brand. People don’t recognize the company that makes the laptop. So we have had a lot of benefits from releasing the Wind and getting our name out there. We now are going to show people about the Wind and beyond. Starting in October we are going to be releasing a 12-inch notebook at $699. We are also really improving our gaming notebooks. The Wind is great, but you will see more and more from the MSI brand.

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  1. chop Says:

    yea just under 600. i’d love to see that

    /sarcasm

    just like the original wind was planned to be released in june at a price point of 499 to beat out all the others, yet wasnt available til august at the earliest, and price jumped to 549 with most etailers charging 599. id love to see what the “wind 2″ is gonna be gouged at.

    until then ill enjoy my $340 1000h.

  2. del Says:

    Yeah, the Wind has been a bit overpriced, but sylvania is planning to sell a rebranded Wind with Linux, maybe it will be cheaper? Also Zareason currently sells the wind desktop in the US for $299.

    Dell was also planning to sell a 12 inch netbook in October, but it remains to be seen if either of them can actually ship on time.

  3. Mike Cane Says:

    All hail Joanna, Queen of Netbooks!

    Great interview!

    I was just in J&R this morning and saw the white Wind. The cover had this awful squiggle design with what also looked like to failing hearts! No frikkin way would I ever buy that!

    Now, a RED Wind — WITHOUT squiggly goop on the lid — sounds fantastic!

  4. design Says:

    FTA:

    We have done a lot of studies on the return rates and haven’t really talked about it much until now. Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box. They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.

  5. Brent Emery Pieczynski Says:

    Those micro-managing perverts which interfere with my life, would desire to shove the most deluxe version of Microsoft, onto a net-top computer. The whole inside of the machine would be jerry-rigged, that tech-support would use the corrupted-government to steal money from me. That system would blame these problems onto Linux, I place the blame onto Microsoft, where liars will not allow a machine to be left, inside of the specifications, which would allow even desktop computers, to function for Internet access. I’ll be delighted when Microsoft does die, then I can be the salt to the Microsoft-Cult’s open-wounds. As a celebrity on Weblo, my adversaries can look up information about me.

  6. code4fun Says:

    If the Wind U120 is going after business/enterprise, they’ll have to make changes to allow easy access to memory slots and hard drive since IT guys will want to be able to swap this out. A higher resolution WXGA (1280×768) display similar to the HP2133 would be a plus.

  7. JonGl Says:

    It’s a shame about the Linux return rate. One wishes they could provide some documentation to help ease people through the transition, and maybe even some bookmarks in the browser. Maybe as an alternative, provide both Linux and Windows on the Wind, and _certainly_ offer either easily installable Linux drivers, or a full install CD on their web site. For myself, however, I bought the Windows version expressly to install Ubuntu Linux on it. Perversely enough, the wireless driver in Windows didn’t work when I bought my Wind, and it took me over an hour to download it, and install it twice (including multiple restarts) before I got it to work. With Ubuntu, following the instructions on msiwind.net, it took me 5 minutes or less to get wireless working. I seriously think it matters what distro they ship on these things…

    -Jon

  8. anonimo Says:

    If the return rate is higher for linux netbooks, it only indicates MSI has not delivered a serious solution.

    I am not seeing what this guy claims and we set lots of netbooks at my company.

  9. Ron Says:

    “The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.”

    But that doesn’t give any real information.

    Is it a 4% vs. 1% return rate? 8% vs. 2%? 0.4% vs. 0.1%? 40% vs. 10%?

  10. Evgeny Says:

    > Linux netbooks are returned 4 times as often as ones that run Windows XP.

    I haven’t bought Wind, but I bought “MSI S430-031 Sempron 3600+/ SLED10″

    I found out many problems:

    1. root and user passwords are absent .

    2. SLED10 without any SP (SP2 – current)

    3. wi-fi doesn’t work out box ( only ndis for SLED10SP1, and rt2x00 for opensuse11)

    4. suspend to disk and to ram doesn’t work (any)

    5. mp3, dvd don’t work out box.

    If I wouldn’t know linux, I return it for backmoney

  11. Mordt Says:

    This is bunk…
    Most of the problems encountered by people having “troubles” with linux are the fault of those that install it.
    I “refurbish” computers for a living…this basically means that I replace a minimum of hardware (if broken) and I install Linux instead of Windows… (Ubuntu, specifically)…
    I have learned, by sad and hard experience, that the troubles my customers experience are my fault. Currently, I give a good setup that I have a minimum of service calls on. My clients are people who cannot afford Vista and the necessary upgrades to run it…
    So far, no serious complaints, and no returns. And these people are first time Linux users.

  12. Jack Says:

    You guys need to focus more on improving the software/hardware integration for GNU/Linux builds. It isn’t that MS Windows XP is what people are comfortable with so much that the GNU/Linux hasn’t been tailored well for the main stream. Fix it. Until you do that you’ll continue to see a high return rate. Release a better GNU/Linux product and it’ll actually sell better. Right now you’re just seeing it in terms of dollars and cents. Every company who has ever looked at GNU/Linux that was has failed. I’ve got lots of experience with the masses using both MS Windows, Mac, and GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux will be what Mac’s operating system is for the iPhone if you develop it.

  13. Pustoolio Says:

    Too bad I can’t play. I won’t use a crap OS (MS) or a hacker OS (linux).

  14. Shawn Says:

    The return rates high? No crap, the people just see its cheaper, can’t get a proper explanation of what linux actually consists of, but it and its not at all what they expect.

  15. Randy Kramer Says:

    I’d like to echo Ron:

    Ron Says:
    October 5th, 2008 at 2:25 pm
    “The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.”
    But that doesn’t give any real information.
    Is it a 4% vs. 1% return rate? 8% vs. 2%? 0.4% vs. 0.1%? 40% vs. 10%?

    Can somebody provide that information?

  16. DK Says:

    Of course the Linux version is going to be returned more often. Many consumers haven’t even heard of Linxu, they don’t realise the difference between it and Windows. The salesman in the store just wants to make the sale, they might not realise what Linux is either.

    Even if the implementation of Linux was good, even if Linux was tweaked to be a better desktop OS, people would still be returning them just because their windows software/hardware doesn’t work.

  17. Mrs. M Says:

    They dumped Linux Debian on us at work without training, explanation or warning and we hate, hate, hate it. I have been using computers at work and at home since the 1990s, Windows and Mac, and this is the worst thing I can imagine. Huge amounts of time spent trying to figure out the most basic things about computer operation now – instead of working. Can see NO advantage from a user standpoint and their version of PowerPoint really stinks! Why couldn’t they have just used Linux for the server and left our XP interface alone! Gnashing of teeth!

  18. A-DI Says:

    I think the return rate stuff might be true.
    People are too used to play around the Windows.
    I just bought a eee Linux version. No kidding, not as familiar as I think (comapre with Windows)
    My daughter asked me to return it, so I did it.
    Well, nothing wrong with it, just not familiar

  19. carlleigh Says:

    “Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box.”

    They bought the wrong box. It is hardly surprising that they return it. This is just a FUD article. If I was SUSE I’d be dropping MSI quick.

  20. Wilson Says:

    I think most people won’t return their cell phone because it is not running Windows Mobile. In fact, I never have a cell phone/PDA running WinMobile.

    Linux is still in a up hill battle on Desktop market. Most customer position Netbook (Wind, AspireOne, Eee…) as a “smaller, lighter, & cheaper” notebook. They still want to “install” application on it.

    If the build-in program on a netbook can satisfy all my need, I won’t try to install new program on it. it doesn’t matter what OS it uses.

    As long as users treat netbook as desktop, not appliance, the issue is always there.

  21. j0nn0 Says:

    Echoing Ron and Randy (re: Lies, damned lies and statistics)

    How many Linux Winds were sold vs. Windows? If there were 4 times as many Linux ones sold, then they are about even.

    Also, what was the SUSE DE like? People are used to Windows running slow, but if they are confronted with XFCE for the first time, they may just have a panic attack. Even if it does run faster.

    Was a manual included in the box? I doubt it.

  22. Mike Says:

    I bought Wind 100 with Windows couple months ago. I’m quite familiar with Linux but linux is still not able to compete with Windows in terms of ease of use (desktop). Every times something is wrong it is not possible to diagnose it without much deeper knowledge or google. And google answers are sometimes just plaing wrong, moreover there is so many versions of linux and so many versions of packages that getting correct answer is matter of luck.

  23. laptop Says:

    Nice interview. Microsoft needs to improve more alternativies for cell phones…

  24. Bob Says:

    I never really like microsoft os on pdas, it seems tacky at time to me further more they are pretty expensive at that and nothinhg really to make up for it either and again thats my opinion, i prefer the blackberry over any other phone available at online retailer

  25. Roynux Says:

    I bought the first version of the MSI Wind.
    The Suse Linux installation on this computer was pure lame. The only decent thing was the background picture.

    The hard drive was split into / and /data, most part of the disk was on data but it was not writable by the user! It was impossible to install/update software.

    The only think I could do was typing letters.

    I tried one day then gave up and installed Ubuntu (8.04). I just needed a bit of search for the wifi.

    So the problem was not Linux, no the computer, and no the user. The fault was MSI’s.

    Tell me what the problem for the manufacturer is to
    1) Select a free mainstream Linux distribution
    2) Install the latest version on the computer and verify that everything is ok

    Success guaranteed at low cost.

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