In netbook market, Wintel monopoly healthier than ever

Summary:Booth personnel I talked with basically confirmed what I wrote about this in May, that there is a price lower than free. Microsoft can pull demand through Best Buys and Fry's with collateral, promotion, and other marketing aids. No Linux vendor has the money to compete with that.

I am filing this week from CompuTex, the Taiwan computer show. (Think Comdex, written in Chinese.)

I came here in search of successors to the Linux Laptops I wrote about here a year ago.

What I found was that the makers of those laptops, Asus and MSI, have switched entirely to Windows.

Microsoft has one of the largest exhibits at this show, as large as Asus and MSI's own stands. The three companies seem to have embraced the fourth floor of the Nangang Convention Center, one of four halls housing the latest from Taiwan and the rest of the Far East.,

The two Taiwanese companies are taking different approaches.

  • Asus is sticking with the same basic footprint as before, but offering larger keyboards on units where it has larger 10 inch screens. It is also adding more flash memory to keep prices in the $4-600 range they held last year,.
  • MSI sees netbooks as the bottom of a laptop push. It's offering very thin models (think MacBook Air), with much wider screens, along with large keyboards and space near the front to rest your wrists. Weight starts at a little over 3 pounds, rising to just 4, and these should over time become true laptop replacements.

I was told by another show visitor, a Chinese-Canadian, that there was a speaker on Monday talking up the Android operating system on ARM chipsets, but the battle appears to be over on netbooks running the Intel Atom chip. Microsoft won.

Booth personnel I talked with basically confirmed what I wrote about this in May, that there is a price lower than free. Microsoft can pull demand through Best Buys and Fry's with collateral, promotion, and other marketing aids. No Linux vendor has the money to compete with that.

As a result both Asus and MSI look as much like conventional PC vendors as HP and Dell as you can possibly look. In stores this Christmas they may be their successors, because their netbooks look really good.,

But the old Wintel monopoly, for now, is healthier than ever.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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