FUD Alert! Wal-Mart, Everex & Linux

Monday, the Associated Press released a story on Wal-Mart‘s decision to discontinue the line of Everex Green gPCs in their brick-and-mortar stores. It appears that the retail giant has discovered that the demand for low-cost ($199USD) computers is much higher online than in the stores, so they decided to make the offering a web-only one, freeing up valuable floor and shelf space for other products that do sell well in the stores.

I have several news readers on my iGoogle homepage, and watched yesterday as the headline made it through each. I was intrigued by the way the story mutated as the day progressed. For example, the first headline I saw was from Yahoo! News, ” Wal-Mart ends test of Linux in stores“. LinuxInsider didn’t alter the story much, but the title was different, “Wal-Mart Yanks Linux PCs From Store Shelves“. The tone of the new title is not as objective, but slightly more disparaging. It gets deeper. According to Linux Loop, though Wal-Mart hasn’t given up on Linux completely, they have failed to “really give Linux a fair chance“. Actually, a search for Everex on the Wal-Mart website shows that the gPC is making way for the gPC2 and the Cloudbook and gBook laptops, all of which offer gOS Linux.

The worst headline I crossed was from Wired, “Middle America Hates Linux, Wal-Mart Discovers“. Following the link, the article title actually read, “Middle America ‘Rejects’ Wal-Mart Linux Experiment“. The link was obviously a teaser. Regardless, the article had a sarcastic tone, quite a departure from the original story. The main theme shifted from Wal-Mart customers are not buying gPCs from brick-and-mortar stores to Middle-America hates Linux. Come on now, get serious!

Here’s a reality check. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Wal-Mart knows a thing or two about inventory and logistics. The company has a grossly-adequate volume of sales data to assist in pricing decisions. With unprecedented buying power, there is little left to squeeze out of suppliers. The magnitude and capabilities of the company’s logistics network are nothing short of breathtaking. Honestly, when the company’s spokeswoman says that “this really wasn’t what our [brick-and mortar store] customers were looking for,” I tend to believe her.

I’m certainly glad that the article pointed out the difference in demand between the online shoppers and the rest of us (hence, the qualification added to the quote above). To state it explicitly, the Everex Green gPC is not what offline Wal-Mart customers demanded – this pairing of product to market segment is key to understanding the decision that Wal-Mart made. It does not mean that nobody wants the gPC. It only means that selling the gPC in Wal-Mart stores is suboptimal in the current market. There are many varied reasons why this is true, but without more specific data, any attempt on my part to explain them would be purely speculative. Besides, it appears that ThinkGOS is already providing some explanations, media damage control which will undoubtedly get less press than the original story.

Personally, when I go to Wal-Mart, I am usually picking up groceries, lawn or car maintenance products, Christmas decorations or parts to repair the plumbing in the bathroom. I do not buy music there as I do not support censorship, and I do not typically think of Wal-Mart when making major computer system purchase decisions. It doesn’t necessarily stem from their offerings (which are big name brands) or their price (which I do find just a tad bit higher for some electronics items) – Wal-Mart just doesn’t scream “computer store” to me. I doubt I am alone in this.

Finally, I’d like to add that while the bulk of this article concerns Wal-Mart and Everex, and to an extent Linux, the AP still felt it was necessary to give Microsoft billing in the very first line (not that Redmond minds the much-needed free advertising, of course)! The AP just wants to make sure that everyone knows that this was a Linux-only phenomenon and rest assured that sales of machines loaded with Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system were in no way impacted. Thanks y’all! A link to www.linux.com or to Wikipedia would have been sufficient.

Cheers!
-Brandon

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13 responses to “FUD Alert! Wal-Mart, Everex & Linux”

  1. Linux Loop says :

    Quote from your article:
    “According to Linux Loop, Wal-Mart has given up on Linux altogether, failing to “really give Linux a fair chance”.”

    Quote from my article: (the Linux Loop one)
    “After around 5 months of stocking the gPC in stores, Wal-Mart has decided to stop stocking Linux-based computers in their stores, although they will continue to sell them on their website, according to the AP.”

  2. Richard Chapman says :

    I have been watching this story too. I saw the initial AP headline but didn’t bother to read the article. I knew what was coming. If you compare the announcement last November, that Wal-Mart would be selling Linux PCs, with this most recent story, something seems a little off. The speed at which this story littered the news readers and the headlines that read more like schoolyard taunts gave a revealing look into the minds of the Microsoft dependent: They are very frightened of Linux and Open Source. Not an emotion you’d expect from a group in the dominant position. Maybe they know something we know.

  3. brinkleybw says :

    Linux Loop Admin,

    My apologies. In my haste, I think I was getting the Linux Loop post mixed up with the Wired article as well as with other posts I didn’t mention. I’ve amended my post to more accurately reflect what was said. Thanks for catching it.

    -Brandon

  4. Linux Loop says :

    brinkleybw – Thank you.

  5. Phil says :

    I talked with a store manager at Wal-Mart just yesterday. This is at a store that never got the gPC at all. He did know of the gPC, but wasn’t aware of the shift to selling it only online. But he told me that if it had delivery problems like some of the other PCs they sell, he could understand the issue. It seems all their lower priced PCs get bought up faster than the trucks can bring in new ones. Their shelves in the PC aisle are frequently empty for the low price ones.

    I’ve seen a similar issue in the grocery business. If the supplier can’t keep up with the demand, they frequently drop the popular product in favor of one that, even with a lower demand, they can sell more of because more of it comes in the back door.

    So maybe the question to direct to Everex is: when are you going to ramp up production?

  6. fstephens says :

    Like you, I don’t think of Walmart as a computer store, but where I now live, we have Walmart, Staples and a handful of real small outfits. Others throughout the country are probably in the same boat, so it is unfortunate that they won’t carry LInux PCs in the stores.
    I do worry about the average consumer picking up one of these cheap computers, setting it up, then not giving it a chance because it’s different or “This ain’t Windows!”. I know one guy who bought a similar PC from Fry’s with Linspire and gave up on it. He went back and bought another with Windows to use, while the Linux box collects dust.

  7. Wade says :

    How about this headline? “88% of East Coast Reporters surveyed believe Middle America has nowhere to shop but Wal-Mart and 90% Believe Indian Attacks Persist to this day”

  8. Spartan2276 says :

    You know what I am sick and tired of the media doing this all the time, when are we going to stop bitching and bring the heat to these people. Are you guys not tired of just sitting here and whining about all this FUD. Why don’t you guys think of a way to stop this non-sense. You actually think that average users read your blogs, if they don’t care about Linux in the stores or don’t want to use it what makes you think they will see these types of facts on your blogs. Hell they have been doing this for years and all we do is sit here and take it. If this is the case then stop complaining and do something more productive about it. Let them know that you will no longer accept this BS! It is time to stand up for what you believe!

    Finish the fight
    Against MS!

  9. brinkleybw says :

    Spartan,

    Yes, we are tired of the media doing this sort of thing. That’s why we want to “lay it all out there” if you will, and let whoever stumbles upon our “whining” consider our counter-arguments and decide for themselves. We want to be a voice of reason that can be heard though all of the noise. I think spreading truth about what is being reported in the media is proactive. Moreover, while our opinions may reach the occasional newbie who is sitting on the fence about Linux, I hope we are also giving solid information to the Linux enthusiasts so that they can more competently defend against this sort of misinformation in the future. Our little ‘blog is far from the ultimate solution to the FUD problem, but it is certainly part of it.

    I am interested in knowing to whom you would like for us to take our case against this constant barrage of misinformation? The ones publishing it? That won’t do a bit of good as long as the lies help sell (advertising space, not to mention Windows itself). How about the government? My Congressmen? At least in America we have this thing called Free Speech, which we’re kinda fond of and is kinda protected here you know. Besides, it would be very hypocritical for Free Software supporters (who inherently support Free Speech) to petition the government to pass legislation to block the Free Speech of others, don’t you think? What about hardware and software vendors? That might be more productive, but it must be done in volume and in terms of sales dollars for them. In any open market for goods, supply and demand win.

    -Brandon

    P.S. BTW, considering how you ended your comment above, I think Spartan is a very appropriate ‘blog handle if you don’t mind me saying so. Kill ‘em all!

  10. capricornus says :

    Poor middle America and Europe. Unbelievable but true: Win$$ wins the marketing war and the mind quest: people really believe that a pc must have WIn$$ or it wouldn’t work. And free? There is no such thing as a free lunch, is there? Certainly not on a pc!
    It seems to be like paracetamol: the expensive branch works beter than the cheap one. Or the Mercedes is better than a Hyundai, which is not true, everyone knows, especially in Germany.

    I admire the effort WalMart has shown. WalMart has shown the essential pc-IQ of middle America: <100.

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