Windows 7: Netbook killer

The following is a prediction of things to come in the next year.

I get the feeling that Microsoft is trying to kill the netbook market with Windows 7. In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft announced a new edition of Windows 7: Starter Edition. The Starter Edition is only capable of running 3 applications at once. Their purpose for this “Starter Edition” is two-fold. First, it is meant to be a sufficiently crippled version of Windows 7 so that they can sell it dirt cheap for use in netbooks. Many people will not buy it because it can only run 3 programs at a time. (Update: MS changed their minds on this after significant blacklash from the community, but Starter continues to have other strict limitations) They’ll pay a significant premium to buy a netbook containing a “normal” version of Windows 7 (Basic or Home) because it will be Microsoft’s flagship operating system. That’s different from today’s market. Microsoft can afford to give away Windows XP for dirt cheap on current iterations of netbooks because it’s already really old, and they’re busy trying to sell Vista. Buying a netbook with Windows 7 Basic or Home will increase the total cost so much that the devices will no longer be “worth it” to people unless they really want that small form-factor ultra-ultra-portable.

Second, most of the people silly enough to purchase the Starter Edition will find it so incredibly annoying to use that they will either have to pay to upgrade to a non-crippled version of Windows (again significantly increasing overall cost of the device) or they will discount their netbook as “a toy” of little value. This attempt by Microsoft to upsell the netbook market is probably going to kill it. Any way you slice it, Microsoft-based consumer interest in the market will wane.

Then, of course, we have Linux-based netbooks. By October, Ubuntu 9.10 will be available. It will likely boot on your netbook in 15 seconds or less if it has an SSD. It will come fully featured with an office suite, IM client, email client, web browser, media player, image editor, and much, much more. Oh, and you’ll be able to run every single application at once if you want to. Graphics will be performing fantastically, and the user interface will be strikingly refreshing. And of course you’ll get all of this for the low, low price of $0. Let’s just hope that Canonical can get it installed on a number of prominent netbooks whose manufacturers won’t hide it behind a curtain so that consumers will realize that they’re no longer subject to Microsoft’s crippleware. They can have an extraordinarily functional, free system on any machine they want. Ubuntu needs to capitalize on Microsoft’s idiotic move here, and I think they will.

6 thoughts on “Windows 7: Netbook killer

  1. AFAIK most Win7 netbooks will have Home Premium preinstalled. The Starter Edition is just ridiculous, also the vendors got that 😉

    • I don’t doubt that some OEMs will want to ship Home Premium on their netbooks. My question is, will they be able to price it competitively if they do. If netbook prices continue to inflate because now the copy of Windows on it costs $70 instead of $15, it’s going to hurt the overall netbook market. What’s the point of buying a $450 netbook, when you can get a decent full-sized laptop for practically the same price? The small form factor is good, sure, but netbooks aren’t really made to be full-time computers. Most people need one computer with “normal” size and power. So the question will be, do they really need to buy a netbook that costs just as much as the laptop they’ve already got? The answer is likely no, especially in this economy, where it’s hard enough to find a price point for netbooks.

  2. I doubt Microsoft is trying to kill the Netbook market; true Notebook sales may decrease as Netbook sales increase but if Microsoft is selling Windows either way then what does it matter?

    But I see your point about the increased cost of Home Premium will drive prices up and demand down. I’ve read a lot about how people think Netbooks will run with Starter Edition over Home Premium; I think that will be a small market because demand for a Starter Edition will be low.

    My prediction is people will find a netbook with XP if they’re looking for cheap netbooks, and they’ll get Win7 Home Premium if they’re willing to spend the cash for the features it brings (over XP). This will be true through June 2010 (XP’s new end date, I believe). As you may know it’s almost always cheaper to get Windows pre-installed than to have to purchase and install it later. This is one reason why I might be willing to put down the extra cash for a Win7 powered netbook. Later I can partition or wipe the drive and install Linux if I really want to, but I will always have Windows as an option.

    Beyond that (2010 deadline) I’m not sure what will happen, but with Linux always on the prowl (and the possibility that Apple may release one) I think the market will shift to Linux netbooks (aside from novice users entering the netbook market who might not like the unfamiliar environment).

    • They might not be overtly “trying” to kill the market, but they effectively will. Plus, are you sure they’re not trying? Almost every netbook runs on Atom, and Intel has been actively developing the Linux-based Moblin platform for use on the devices.

      I also disagree that Notebook sales will significantly decrease with increasing netbook sales (see my comment above).

      I do agree that having the low-cost XP option will change things. I didn’t realize Microsoft had moved that date back quite so far. Beyond the 2010 deadline though, it’s going to be an interesting market.

    • To Karen who just wrote today, Prayers to you and your heart and loss. God is stpeping in and giving such a peace I cannot believe it! I hope you know the joy of his love and gift. Best Always, Mary

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