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Innovation

Why Microsoft won round one of netbook wars

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.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

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.

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