Windows 7 as "Linux killer"? How times have changed!

Windows 7 as "Linux killer"? How times have changed!

Summary: Microsoft makes for an unlikely David, and Linux an even unlikelier Goliath -- but here we are. A few years ago, Linux was positioned as the "Windows killer.


Microsoft makes for an unlikely David, and Linux an even unlikelier Goliath -- but here we are. A few years ago, Linux was positioned as the "Windows killer." Now, as Microsoft is ramping up its efforts in the netbook market, Windows 7 is being positioned as the Linux killer. Interesting that Microsoft is being cast as an underdog here, albeit one with about 70% of the netbook market.

This sounds to me like lowering expectations. Not that I'm knocking Linux on the netbook. Far from it -- I've been a big believer in the concept since Asus released the Eee PC back in 2007.  However, Microsoft still has many advantages in the netbook market -- it's just that its advantages are in its market share, marketing muscle, and strong position with OEMs, rather than technical.

There are too many variables in the netbook market right now to make a good prediction which way it'll go. Too many players, for one. And the economy's downward spiral makes it an open question whether netbooks will gain from the poor economy, or if the sales will taper off along with other consumer PCs. Finally, there's Apple. While the folks at Infinite Loop haven't made a netbook play yet, everyone in the market has to be eyeing Apple with some discomfort and wondering if (or, probably more accurately, when) Apple will enter the netbook market with a Windows 7 killer.

But, even though it's an uncertain market, I'd put my money on Linux to come out ahead. Ultimately, the Linux community and vendors can iterate much more quickly and develop more compelling products than Microsoft, and unless Microsoft changes its pricing model, Linux will continue to be cheaper. (Not to mention more flexible.) Given the state of the economy, a $50 per-unit price advantage just might be a compelling difference.

I've already owned two netbooks, both running Linux. (An early Asus Eee PC, and an HP Mini.) Granted, I'm a bit biased in favor of Linux, but both machines had everything I'd need or want on a netbook -- and more than you'd get with a Windows 7 netbook. (For instance, full-blown office suites...) I'd be curious to know what ZDNet readers are looking for in a netbook -- or if netbooks are of interest at all. Is Linux going to dominate on the netbook, or is there a chance that Windows 7 will beat back the Linux threat?

Topics: Mobility, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • Is not any company "an underdog"

    when the competing product is free?
    Would not both Boeing and Airbus be "underdogs" if Tupolev were to give their airplanes away for free?

    Yes Microsoft (and Apple even) is the underdog here only in terms of cost: Microsoft could offer windows 7 for 25 dollars, yet the "competition" will still cost zero.
    • I agree

      The big time drawing card (by that I mean the initial reason to give Linux a try)for Linux has always been the zero dollar price point. When people do try Linux a reasonable number find that Linux suites there needs quite well, and as such it makes the costly Windows OS's extraordinarily unattractive for those users.

      On a netbook where there is typically some very restrictive hardware, the low operating profile of Linux makes it a very efficient OS for netbook purposes compared to the far more bulky Windows OS.

      So in Linux you have this free OS, which is what you really need in a low cost product like a netbook, and you have its highly efficient operating profile which is exactly what you need in a system like a netbook that typically has lower end hardware. Ya, I would say that in those cases Windows is the underdog.

      If Windows 7 was to give Linux a knock out punch in the netbook market that would indeed be a truly spectacular stunt because netbooks cry out for an OS like Linux.

      While I prefer Windows myself, I have used Linux and I think its a great OS, just not for me. And no, I do not believe that Windows 7 will knock Linux out of the netbook market.
      • Netbooks = cheaper MS platform for most

        I have been runnning XP and MS Office on a Fujitsu 1.3GHz, 1GB, 10.6" notebook (P7010) for three years now and I am always amazed how much work I can throw at it.

        Netbooks running W7 and MS Office would probably handle what most business road warriers would use them for.

        As such, netbooks + MS stuff would provide a cheaper alternative for many businesse in these harder times. This way they would save money, without having to re-engineer all their macro-laden templates and apps.
        • Vista terminology

          They have defined Vista

          Trojans and

          I wonder if Windows7 will top this!
          • Ah.. Gee.. Look guys, the troll came up with a "funny"...

            Just how long did it take you to come up with that one? A year? Two years?
          • Actually...

            You're the troll. The article is not affirming that Linux needs killing.
          • Please Wolfie

            Don't get all bitter and twisted . It is only a computer OS we are discussing / fighting over.
          • So, the VISTA name actually carries a meaning...

            and for so much time I thought it was just another poorly chosen name.
            InAction Man
          • Remember OLPC? -with XP?

            37.html"> XP on OLPC XO Blunder.
          • I actually believe you have just defined...

            ... malware ... We learn new things every day...
      • I disagree

        [i]When people do try Linux a reasonable number find that Linux suites there needs quite well, and as such it makes the costly Windows OS's extraordinarily unattractive for those users.[/i]

        I disagree that Windows is costly. Compare the price of PC with Windows to a PC without Windows and the difference, if there is any, is pocket change.

        I also take issue with the implication (I may be wrong about this) that people who choose Linux have few/small needs. Speaking for myself, I choose Linux in large part because I have been frustrated by Windows' inability to do things I want a PC to do.

        No, people who run Linux aren't doing so to save a few bucks. Many people who run Linux use PCs that came with Windows in the first place, so there usually aren't any savings at all. They run Linux because it works best for them.

        Of course, when it comes to applications it's a different story. I use Linux and the GIMP, Cinelerra, Open Office, Apache, KB3, Sendmail and a lot of other free stuff. I figure I've saved several thousand dollars by avoiding the costs associated with the proprietary counterparts.

        Maybe $50 of that savings is on the OS. I would gladly part with only $50 if the experience was worth it.

        none none
        • If I had to pay for the privilege of using Linux I gladly would

          Not so much for Windows, which for me is pretty much worthless. I have payed for it several times, coz they won't sell me a computer without windows, only to dump it right away and let microsoft brag about how many Windows licenses they have sold.
          InAction Man
          • Let me see if I have this right.

            You are saying Linux is golden. <br><br>
            And you are saying Windows is not so good. <br><br>
            Ok, what is your point? I mean what are you trying to tell us of any value? We've already been told by many that Linux is perfect in all ways without a blemish of any kind, almost as though many Muses have desended upon the OSS commuity. <br>
            And we've heard repeadedly for as long as this site as existed that Windows sucks over and over again. <br><br>
            Is this more of a religious gathering for most of you, where everyone in the OSS gallery needs to say this, as if to lift their voices in praise to the Almighty Linux and to cast away the devil, which is Microsoft? <br><br>
            I mean after seeing the exact same thing posted 500,000 times, all i can assume is it's ritual in nature.
          • His Point

            I believe he has a valid point. The numbers may show Windows selling well in the netbook market but the reality may be something completely different. I couldn't get the netbook I wanted with Linux on it so I had to buy the Windows version even though it was wiped out after a couple of (crash-prone) days. When I was looking at them in the store just before purchasing, I was talking to a complete stranger who was also looking at them. I never mentioned Linux at all but after about 10 minutes of talking, he said, "Windows will be the first thing to come off there. I hate it."

            Linux is not perfect. I don't know if anyone here has made that proclamation but it's not true. I do believe it to be superior though and that's after years and years of struggling with Windows on my own machines. The only reason Windows still has such market share is because it's so entrenched which is one of Microsoft's strategies. Most people I've talked to don't know they have a choice and if you present them with one they get scared about having to learn something new. Getting Linux preinstalled on machines such as these new netbooks will show them it's no harder than navigating the menus on a new DVD player.

            Vista continues to have such stifling hardware requirements that it's simply a no-show in this market. Will Windows 7 change that? I find it unlikely unless Microsoft truly makes it modular but that goes against their core beliefs. It looks like Linux will continue to make inroads, and once people are comfortable with it on their netbooks, the transition to desktop is much easier for them to handle.

            Microsoft really has a lot riding on Windows 7 and history suggests they're unlikely to get it right still.
          • I disagree with some

            "Microsoft really has a lot riding on Windows 7 and history suggests they're unlikely to get it right still."

            Actually depending on who you talk to its the opposite, 7 will be a great OS, I am speaking about before Vista came out it was destined to fail, I read and read about how someone figured out that every other OS was a great OS, win 3.1 was good, 95 not so much, 98 good, ME well I wont go there, XP good, Vista well "not so much according to some" I think its fine personally but thats neither here no there.

            My point is that history suggests 7 will be a good OS, Netbooks I dont care at all about but I know some do and I think it will be with anything else the Market will say if its a success or failure. Are the masses willing to pay extra if they need to get a OS they are familiar with? I think thats the question.
          • I did not say Linux is golden or that windows is worthless for everyone

            I did say I would pay for Linux (with all it's blemishes) if couldn't get it for free and that for me windows is worthless because I have a better choice! Windows would not be worthless if it were the only way to use my PCs.
            InAction Man
          • I used to routinely pay $$$ for Linux

            back in the SuSE 6.x - 10.1 days, and before that, Redhat.


            Because Red Hat's, and later SuSE's CD's were WORTH THE CONVENIENCE.

            I routinely paid $75 for SuSE Professional every 9 months or so...because it was a good value...a few THOUSAND apps...comes to less than $0.10/app AND a more robust, more consistant operating system (and compared to the trivial amount of software you get with Windows at $ X-hundred, it's a complete no-brainer in the value department).
          • Makes a change...

            ...from the "Gospel of Microsoft"(TM) that you preach
            over at the Apple blog.
          • Ritual nature...

            [b]I mean after seeing the exact same thing posted 500,000 times, all i can assume is it's ritual in nature. [/b]

            Cut/Copy/Paste works wonders... ;-)
          • Greetings xuniL_z

            For some , an Operating System is like a Religion or Politics.

            Passions rise up ,and abuse of the Unbeliever is released with much venom.

            Be like me- I say "Forgive them, they no not what they do"

            Bless you all.