Microsoft already won the Netbook OS wars
GigaOm’s recent entry talks about the “Fight for the Netbook Operating System” and I say what fight? I think Microsoft already won that battle months ago.
I wrote something similar back in October 2008 (Is Linux Failing the Netbooks?). Some might say it’s too early to say yet all the signs are pointing to Microsoft XP taking the role of the quarterback.
- Asus was a pioneer with the netbook and they did it with a free Linux-flavored OS, Xandros. It was supposed to be the big chance for Linux to go mainstream but the idea that netbooks are underpowered and can only run light OSes like Xandros or Ubuntu did not fly. Windows XP became the #1 alternative. If my Pentium 3 450MHz with 256RAM can run XP very well, why not a Celeron 900MHz or an Atom 1.6GHz?
- Acer and Asus fought fiercely at the top of the list for market share and moved on to develop newer models. None of the newer models have the Linux option. Everything runs in Windows. Acer and Asus would not say why they scrapped Linux altogether but I think we all know why. Even the switchers from Vista didn’t really moved away and went Penguin; they just downgraded to XP.
- After sales support could have been costly. It’s cheaper to get tech support for Windows than for Linux. Besides, most sales engineers on the retailers side are just familiar with one OS, Windows. Retailers would not spend more money for a new hire just to be able to expertly support Linux.
- Windows 7 is just around the corner. Even if XP is permanently laid to rest, Windows 7 will eagerly wait to replace it (skipping the dreaded Vista altogether). The timing is just right.
Well, there could be other potential contenders like the Android OS but it’s just that — potential. In a new but growing market like netbooks, everybody wants in and competition is so fierce that one wrong move could spell your defeat or success. HP learned that the hard way with the Mini 2133.
The time to experiment on an OS+CPU netbook combo is over and I think no one else is willing to bet on alternatives.