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Windows And Linux Prepare For Netbook Wars II

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Microsoft has clearly won the first Netbook Wars, sidelining Linux as an operating system for low-cost laptops. But, Peter Judge asks, what will happen when Microsoft throws Windows 7 into the mix?

The first Netbook Wars went to Microsoft. Originally designed by Asus as a low-cost device running Linux, the netbook rapidly became a Windows XP machine, as the likes of Dell and HP got involved. This week, Asus has confirmed that, to all intents and purposes, it no longer does Linux on the Eee – whatever it might say on its website.

Microsoft’s victory in the first Netbook War is pretty much complete then. But Blogger Glyn Moody and others have pointed out that just how much of a Pyrrhic victory this will be for the company.

“Microsoft had to sell an obsolete operating system at a huge discount,” said UK open source advocate Mark Taylor of Sirius IT. “This has already had a direct and extraordinary effect on both the revenue and profitability of their client division.”

It’s also given Windows XP a strange, zombie-like status, which has made Microsoft’s overall efforts to kill the system – and promote the next but one version, Windows 7 – harder. That’s already a hard enough task, given the EC’s decision to prevent browser bundling has resulted in European users paying more for less.

We don’t know whether the sudden conversion of netbooks to Windows was all down to customer preference (there were stories that Linux-based systems were returned to the shop more often), to Microsoft’s pricing, or to other forms of OEM arm-twisting.

But the second Netbook War is on its way, and this time Windows 7 will have go to into battle – despite the fact that, as Taylor says, “it will need to be far, far slimmer than Vista to even be able to rise from its stool!”

Windows 7’s netbook version has been designated a ‘starter edition’ and Microsoft is attempting to impose various restrictions, and rebrandings, so netbooks become “low cost notebooks” and can’t use hybrid storage. Whatever happens there it is clear that Microsoft will have to attempt to get users to upgrade to more expensive Windows options, or its profits will go down.

Meanwhile, Linux versions such as Ubuntu and Moblin keep getting better.

And others think Android will make a better netbook than Windows 7, despite being a Linux designed for phones. No one knows where from, but it seems sure that an Android netbookwill appear from somewhere, shortly, whether it is Nokia, Acer, Dell, or even HP.

One battle does not win a war…