Why Microsoft won round one of netbook wars

Why Microsoft won round one of netbook wars

Summary: Free is not the lowest possible price. If you want to get sell-through at retail, you have to support the product with collateral materials, with ads, with sales training and support. Ubuntu, as a company, is not scaled to do this. Microsoft, on the other hand, has already delivered this, for years.


During yesterday's blackout in Atlanta I took my family into the wilds of Gwinnett County, for food with a side of Fry's.

It was there, while my kids perused the latest video games, that I learned why Microsoft won this round of the Netbook wars.

And there is no doubt they won it.

There are, at Fry's, a number of Netbooks on offer, including two that are true Netbooks -- no moving parts. Others had 160 GByte hard drives built-in, which I think violates the spirit of the design.

None ran Linux. All ran Windows.

The salesman was a Linux enthusiast, however, and was able to explain just why you can't get Ubuntu there.

Free is not the lowest possible price. If you want to get sell-through at retail, you have to support the product with collateral materials, with ads, with sales training and support.

Ubuntu, as a company, is not scaled to do this. Microsoft, on the other hand, has already delivered this, for years. Thus the few Netbook units on display run what is now, essentially, the "free" version of Windows, XP Home. Once you get into a true laptop, you're still stuck with Vista. I avoided that section.

I walked out with an HP 1010NR, refurbished. Its "hard drive" is an internal 8 GByte stick, but I was able to add another 32 GBytes for just $50 (with rebate) and, with a slick little case, spent less than $350 (including tax) for a perfectly usable Internet-capable machine.

I made a special point of checking out the keyboard. It's not perfect, but it is much better than those on the Asus and Acer Netbooks I have seen before. Chinese OEMs don't yet understand that some westerners are touch typists, and need a certain amount of room so the digits can play it like a piano.

Well, the total damages came to $450. The kids wanted games, and I needed a battery-operated alarm clock in case the lights go out again.

This will prove useful for my coming trip to...China.

More on that later.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility

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  • It's round two they won.

    Remember? They didn't even show up for round one.
    • Agreed

      Linux won the first round; Microsoft won the second, but it is wounded.

      Remember how Microsoft had to slash their prices to stay competitive.

      People will clearly buy Windows if they don't notice they are paying for it.

      A $15 increase in a $300 product is acceptable. $75 is not.

      Then, we're about to see the third round: ARM netbooks.

      ARM netbooks are less powerful, but can boost many hours of battery life.

      Linux runs on ARM.
      OS X runs on ARM.
      Windows XP doesn't.

      So, imagine customers looking for a new gadget, in front of the following offer:

      - Linux/ARM netbook: 15 hours of battery life, $200
      - Windows/Intel: 4 hours of battery life, $300
      - Mac netbook: 15 hours of battery life, $400

      You see? The game has changed. And the next fight is between Linux and Apple.
      • MS is porting to ARM too.

        No big deal.
        • What, windows mobile ?

          Alan Smithie
          • No

            WinCe/Mobile has run on ARM for YEARS. He's talking about Windows itself.
          • Well, Ax is a HUGE Micro$haft Bigot

            So like Glenn Beck's anti-American treasonous dittoheads, he'll believe ANY s**t Darth Ballmer TELLS him to.

            It IS [b][i]possible[/b][/i] Win 7 will run on the ARM processor - Leo Laporte certainly seems to think so. OTOH, John C. Dvorak says the beta of Win 7 Laporte's basing his belief on will need to be "protected" up the yingyang with M$FT's usual security crap, which will slow it to a crawl and bloat it into its usual impotence....
          • wow new record for making a idiot of yourself in one post

            1. Who gives s##t about politics on a tech blog
            2.What does LL know about it, really.
            3. If you actually think Dvorak actually believes anything he says you're a tool, if you are actually taking him seriously makes you're twice the tool.
        • MS's first non x86 port.

          I'm sure it'll be perfect ;-)
          • Not MS's first port

            Windows NT ran on several different processors (Alpha, PPC to name 2). WinCE also runs on several different processors.
          • RAN is the key. They don't RUN because MS thinks they can CALL it!

            As in IT. MS has IT folks lined up...unfortunately those IT folks are lined up for UnEmployment. Pity the GoverNator!
            No More Microsoft Software Ever!
          • Are you this retardedly rediculous in real life?

            cause if so, you're probably the oldest virgin I've ever read.
          • Ermmm ... no.

            They dropped support for MIPS, PPC and Alpha because there weren't enough customers for the product. It'd be kinda stupid for a business to build a product that nobody buys, rights?
          • @MamaBoy: Does your mama know what you're doing here?

            Doesn't she teach you manners? I really hope mama hasn't given you a dog, you're too irresponsible to take care of it.
            InAction Man
          • Don't forget x64 and Itanium, still shipping today (NT)

          • :-D

            This sure will be the safest and most reliable Windows ever build. ;-)
          • Dont be silly

            Windows NT ran on x86, MIPS, PowerPC, & Alpha. Later versions lost some of those adaptations, but the architecture still includes the hardware abstraction layer (HAL), so it shouldn't be a big deal to adapt to another CPU type if the market needs it.
        • No_ax...such a thorough and thoughtfull response!

          Yeah, push harder...your head may go deeper...into the sand (or were you thinking otherwise...troll!).
          No More Microsoft Software Ever!
          • Sand? What sand?

            Sand? What sand?

            Computers with Windows dominate the store shelves.

            Apple is enjoying a nice second.

            Linux is lucky to get one computer on a shelf for any period of time.

            Sorry, but that's just reality.
          • The same that's covering your head.

            You can't see it because your eyes are closed.
            InAction Man
        • And just look!

          All of those Microsoft-only apps (games especially) run on it, too!

          Oh, wait ...
          Yagotta B. Kidding