I normally have a lot of respect for Brandon LeBlanc as I have read almost all of his Windows Blog posts. This article though about “Windows on Netbook PCs": A Year in Review” acts almost as though the netbook battle has already been won. He write as thought the netbook market is not going to change anymore! First off congrats to Microsoft on going from 10% to 96% in netbooks (what country is my only question here). You managed to go from underdog to top dog… or so you think. One major threat to Microsoft in the netbook market is completely ignored. Yes, I know its an year in review article but from the wording they sound ready for everything… except as normal from Microsoft they are ignoring the idea of new netbooks.
When netbooks first came out this was the reason Microsoft started at 10%. Microsoft was betting everything on Windows Vista at the time and any of the original netbooks needed a SD card filled with Windows in order to run it. It took Microsoft a whole year to get to the top in netbooks and personally I think they killed one of my favorite part of netbooks! The SSD! For me a real netbook must have a SSD as to be truly as portable as a netbook promises you cannot have a spinning disc in your netbook. Of course cheap SSD’s could not fit even the slimmer Windows XP so real netbooks tend to do two things. Either they ran Linux or they ran Windows XP off a SD drive or a only allowed for minimal storage.
Now why do I bring up my idea of a real netbook? Well it is because ARM is looking to revitalize this segment of the netbook market not just by using SSDs but also by making netbooks SMALLER. And I am not talking screen sizes I am talking thickness and weight the real important factor. But why does Microsoft ignore these great advancements shouldn’t they be talking about this (no articles from Microsoft even talk about Windows on ARM). One simple fact. Full versions of Windows don’t run on the ARM architecture. Is Microsoft going to be able to play catch up here? Sure Microsoft’s Windows Mobile works on it but who would want a 10-inch cell phone? So far Microsoft seems to be missing the boat.
Now lets go back to this article which claims victory by numerous areas even though the netbook win so far has been over mindshare more then actual usefulness.
First, Brian talks about configuration saying “There’s a wizard to help with just about anything, so you’ll never need to go to the command line and manually configure things.” Now what exactly is a consumer setting up on a netbook that would need command line access in say Linux? Last I checked a netbook came fully loaded with all the drivers it would need and all apps in Linux these days have simple wizards as well. So chock down one FUD line.
Second, the argument of we got the mindshare so we win. Ok I will give you that argument. Sure everyone knows someone that can fix a Windows computer. You can claim that point.
Third, its easy to stay up to date with releases and updates. If you read the comments of the article Jonathan Rothwell does a very good job of dispelling this myth and I will try now to do the same. Last I checked every Linux distro I know does auto updates. As for predicable updates I know that this is a blessing to IT departments but allows for those wishing to exploit flaws to wait until the day after patches go out to release new viruses or utilize newly found holes in the system. As for releases well last I checked Microsoft releases whenever they feel like it. Most distros do a 6month or some other standard amount of time between releases.
As for the printer and other device compatibility Linux runs most printers. Lexmark is one of the only exceptions here and it’s because Lexmark is horrible about drivers. As for web cams Microsoft has forced webcams to be “Vista Certified” which means video over usb a standard that is implemented in Linux as well. Cameras work fine with Windows as well. In reality MORE devices are compatible with Linux as Linux supports devices from the 90s that Microsoft stopped supporting long ago.
So looking at Windows on the netbook future I think next year will be a huge change. Android netbooks means that Google’s name could be attached to netbooks hurting Microsoft when it comes brand recognition (Google these days seems to have a better reputation). At the same time with Microsoft ignoring the new hardware I think the netbook still could easily belong to Linux and Open Source.
BTW: Do not think this means I dislike Microsoft. I am merely upset with this article that pretty much declares victory while skipping around the warzone that will be the netbook market very soon (if you don’t currently consider it that).
Good point about the SSDs. The whole point of netbooks was supposed to be about portability. Netbooks have been derailed, sacrificing portability to accommodate Windows with traditional HDDs. People often bash Windows netbooks when they try to run Windows on an SSD. Windows was never designed with such latency in write speeds in mind. Linux just so happened to have a few tricks up its sleeve.
Thanks to open-source software, the options that scratched an itch for a few are now alleviating that itch for many. Thanks to closed-source software, Windows doesn’t have that functionality since it was never an in-demand request, and won’t for some time if at all.
Thanks for such a thought-provoking post on a subject that I also find really interesting. I’m a teacher and school IT coordinator looking at promoting netbooks in the classroom as a decisive move towards anywhere-anytime 1-1 computing for kids in our school. I really support Linux and see netbooks as an enormous opportunity for open-source to gain a market share.
Like yourself, I don’t agree that the battle has been won by a longshot. However, one thing that will really be important in winning back many of the would be Linux users (who have absolutely no idea about how to install an OS let alone use a command line) will be stability and ease of use. Don’t get me wrong – I think Linux has the potential to be really easy and hassle-free and I fully commend Asus, Acer, et. al for coming up with fantastic distros that have the ‘easy’ modes as default. Nonetheless, buggy-ness is still an issue. For instance, installing a printer update automatically in the Asus easy mode of Xandros completely screwed my file manager. When I went to look for a solution online, I found dozens of other users reporting the same problem. Asus’ solution? Do a factory default restore (relatively easy for nerds – stressful for pretty much everyone else).
It’s going to be a really interesting year though – and I look forward to seeing everything played out.