In netbook market, Wintel monopoly healthier than ever

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

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  • Smartphone functionality on Netbooks

    The next generation of netbooks (aka smartbooks) are likely to include hardware typically found in smartphones (i.e. touchscreen, 3G, GPS, accelerometer, compass, etc.). This hardware will enable smartphone functionality like location-based services, cell phone calls, SMS, automatic screen rotation, etc.

    Desktop OSes don't support all of this new functionality, so smartphone OSes, like Android, are likely to be utilized.

    Mobile operators are likely to favor smartbooks like these, because they can generate revenue from:

    1. data contracts.
    2. phone calls & SMS.
    3. app purchases (e.g. operators get a cut from Android Market app sales).
    4. value-added apps & services that leverage the capabilities of these "smartphone-like" devices.

    Netbooks running a desktop OS don't offer these same revenue opportunities, for the operators.
    • One comment...

      [i]Desktop OSes don't support all of this new functionality, so smartphone OSes, like Android, are likely to be utilized.[/i]

      Keep dreaming...
    • My first Windows machine used a touchscreen

      My first install of Windows, version 1.10, was on an HP 150 TouchScreen computer. I added a mouse but for the first week or so used only the touchscreen. And that was in the late 80ies.
    • Two words: Android Netbooks nt

  • RE: Netbook market looks lost to Microsoft

    That's because very few care about LinSux (Geek and pro wannabes like 'Linux Geek' etc) LOL
    • RE: Netbook market looks lost to Microsoft

      Very few care about or even know about linux because of the MS flag waving and lack of unbiased education about operating systems. Very few realize the power of the linux/unix operating systems and the small amount of space they require to operate in vs MS.

      As another posting pointed out....look at the pros and cons of each system before you decide but don't slam any one of them. What you don't like may be the best thing for someone else.

      For a netbook computer it seems that linux would be the perfect fit due to its power and small size vs the large size of MS.
    • Funny...

      90% of the people who have used my Asus Eee PC never even realize it runs Linux. And a lot of people have tried the thing, it gets a lot of attention.
  • RE: Netbook market looks lost to Microsoft

    "Booth personnel I talked with basically confirmed what I wrote about this in May, that there is a price lower than free."

    Don't worry, Dana.

    That simply means that Microsoft is *paying* to have Windows in netbooks.

    Don't forget that they have slashed their prices, initially to $15, but now, even below that. (Can you get an exact figure from Asus or MSI? That would be very interesting.)

    But even Microsoft can't afford that low price forever. They have almost 100,000 employees worldwide, and their shareholders have high expectations.

    What will happen when they try to increase their prices to $50 or $100?

    People will keep buying XP while it is available for free, and then we'll see Microsoft competing with Linux.
    • Win7 may cause a shift

      I declared that Linux lost the war about three months ago. As a Linux advocate, making that statement hurt, but it's true. There are several reasons for it.

      The "lower than free" doesn't necessarily imply XP is being given away (though the word on the street is that large OEMs get it for $15). It may mean that the bundled trial-ware and share-ware creates an income for the OEM which is not available on Linux.

      Another major factor is that the netbook market is no longer selling netbooks: the newer products are low-cost notebooks. Then name netbook gives away the intended purpose of the product -- to check e-mail and do browser-based stuff. People have decided they expect a laptop replacement, with word processing, a keyboard they can type on for hours, and even (unbelievably) photo editing software. These needs have driven the RAM up from 256MB to 1 or 2GB (only 1GB if MS has its say), have exchanged small SSDs for spinning HDs lots of space, and have pushed the price into the $4-600 range. Manufacturers are happy to get out of a race to the bottom.

      When Win7 comes out, it is expected to cost $50 for the netbook (SE) version. That price point puts it out of the sub-$300 market, but I'm not sure that there's a lot of money to be made at the bottom of the market.

      I'm still looking forward to the ARM Cortex, Loongsoon/MIPS, and XCore86 stuff that's coming out the end of this year. I just hope it makes it into Korea without being tariffed to infinity.
  • Find a logical reason to bash, than come back.

    Every operating system has its advantages and
    disadvantages so dont just bash one, look at each

    Linux allows for more creativity and its open to
    anyone who would like to try their hand and creating
    their own perfect OS. Also larger developing user
    base can write patches quickly.

    Disadvantage : The OS is not mainstream and lack of
    software compatibility in the commercial market

    Windows is good for compatibility for the mass of
    software and its much more known to the mainstream.
    Easy to navigate.

    Disadvantage : The #1 reason it gets nailed with many
    viruses and other variants. Also closed source, you
    see what you get. Windows also must try to make
    itself compatible and stable on 1000s of different PC

    Apple Macs are great for sound and video editing. I
    know many DJs who use them and also because of its
    smaller OS footprint in the world, less viruses and
    variants exist for it. The OS is developed for the
    hardware it manufactures so stability is a major plus

    Disadvantage : Lack of major mainstream software
    compatibility. Closed source and OS is only developed
    for itself.

    I hate it when people just come and says something
    "Sucks". Look deeper, or is typing to stressful or
    your hands and fingers?
  • You always have the EC to fall back on

    Don't worry Dana, if people won't buy Linux netbooks in the competitive market, you could always force people to buy Linux netbooks in the legislative market.
    • Very True.

      Tragic - but true.
      • Hey Fark.

        ProTip: No need to feign sympathy. We know how you really feel.
    • Wrong.

      They wouldn't/couldn't do that. Now please, I want to hear more of your idiotic verbiage so tell me why the EC/EU can do and act as Microsoft does.
      • Why the EU doesn't trust Microsoft
    • LMAO

      Ain't that the sad and sorry truth?
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • Good point

      Maybe they'll try to make MS put linux on a windows disk and attempt to force ms to distribute competing OS's! Just a continuation of the lame EC tactics :)
    • LOL - how true...nt

  • A few serious points

    1. MS is currently dominating the netbook market in the western industrialized world. No question about it.

    2. MS accomplished this by essentially buying the market. No question about that either, although after buying a Linux netbook (currently running XP) that would connect to the web, but not to my home network out of the box, I do not think MS had a particularly difficult battle on its hands. If that is a buyer's first experience with Linux, the netbook will be returned in most cases. Idiots.

    3. "but the battle appears to be over on netbooks running the Intel Atom chip. Microsoft won." This is a rather mindless and silly assertion, because the netbook market is such a new category. The battle on the desktop has not even been won. MS was there first, is the dominant leader, but Linux is growing long term, albeit slowly. Linux will become successful in developing countries first and then spread. The netbook battle has just begun, and the ultimate victor remains to be seen. Besides, victory against MS is a relative term. 10 to 20% worldwide for Linux would be a victory. If you have a victor, you also have a looser. The only thing for certain about Linux is that it is not going away, therefore it cannot have lost.

    4. To all you mindless fanboys and "mine is better (bigger) than yours" crowd who keep posting the same pointless garbage over and over again: If you do not have anything interesting or constructive to say, then say nothing. If you knew how absolutely imbecilic you make yourselves look, you would truly feel embarrassed. But that would of course require a certain level of maturity and perspective....
    • Care to explain how MS bought the market?

      First you would have to prove that MS is losing money on netbooks. Considering that XP is now 2 versions old, the $15/license (if that is what they are charging) is pretty much pure profit. Note that making less profit is not the same as buying a market.

      Next you go on to admit that, well, Linux actually lost this one because the Linux netbooks weren't as good as the XP netbooks. This concedes the point that MS [b]deserves[/b] to dominate and that if Linux netbooks (in their current form) dominated, you would have to admit that the inferior product (in its current form) won.

      As for your other points, I basically agree. I have used Linux for a while now and have nothing but good things to say about it. My Linux home server was [b]rock[/b] solid, my MythTV wasn't totally trouble free but was very functional, and the only complaint I could have about my Linux desktop is that it didn't support the games that I played, hardly a damning comment.

      However, Linux is losing (or gaining very slowly) because of [b]Linux[/b], not because of Microsoft. (Edit: Linux isn't doing great in the consumer market which is what this blog is about. Linux is doing quite well on the server and even on the corporate desktop. I want to make that distinction before people start throwing out LAMP statistics.) Linux is competing in a market based economy and expects to win without doing any marketing and, as you admit, by unleasing inferior products on consumers. Whether that is because Linux can't be configured properly (I don't believe this is true) or not a single company has been able to configure Linux properly (also difficult to believe), it doesn't change the fact that Linux's slow (sometimes negative) growth can't be blamed on anyone but "Linux". What I find most ironic about Linux is that the thing that makes it so strong (there is no corporate body behind "Linux") is exactly what makes it so difficult for it to compete [b]in a market based economy[/b].

      You felt that my EC comment was useless but I stand by it. Linux, the way it is currently being handled, can only win if the government dictates to consumers that it must win. Personally, I hope someone will step up to the plate, invest the money, and win the battle by marketing this fantastic OS.