Who's leading the charge? Asus and Acer that's who.
Those two manufacturers together make up half the netbook market according to market research. They are CRUSHING the other OEMs commercial offerings. What variety of linux do they come pre-installed with? One has a Debian derivative in the name of Xandros, the other has a Fedora derivative in the name of Linpus. Even if only half of Asus and Acer netbooks are linux pre-installs instead of Windows XP installs, they represent a huge number of quantifiable linux installs. No guess work, no arm waving, these are linux pre-installs on hardware going directly into the hands of users in the millions. Netbooks are on pace to sell more units than traditional desktops all year.
Congrats to Asus/Xandros and Acer/Linpus for making linux a mainstream computing environment for the masses. You've done it. You've crossed the enthusiast barrier and put linux into the mainstream retail marketplace in a huge way. Mission accomplished. Hopefully the marketplace is big enough to support multiple linux integrators and there won't be pressure on the market to collapse down to only one linux integration specialist to service the entire netbook market. Competition is a good thing.
Okay so where do those two sit in the distrowatch ranking? At the top of the heap? In the top ten? No sir. 36 and 38 for the 6 month stats! The Linux distributions with arguable the biggest retail pre-install base for this year are not even in the top twenty on distrowatch, this week, this month, 3 months or even 6 months.
Can we please stop holding up distrowatch as viable market penetration research. Its not. The numbers just don't jive with the hard numbers about netbook pre-installs.
So how are Xandros and Linpus doing in terms of being good corporate citizens of the open ecoysystem? Xandros is hiring kernel developers at the moment. Its nice to think that this job opening is a way to turn their mainstream distribution success into increased upstream development innovation.