There's been a lot of chat lately about Windows 7, Microsoft's replacement to the image-tarnished Windows Vista. Pundits are drawing up wishlists for the OS left, right and center. But I have one thing that's a must for Windows 7 - It must support netbooks.
Here's why. During Q3 of this year, netbooks showed strong, albeit single-digit percentage growth, compared to PC sales which were otherwise flat. These netbooks all ship either with XP or Linux installed. There's no Vista option available because, well, the OS doesn't support netbooks. Bottom line is that Microsoft's flagship OS won't run on the hottest PC of the year. Even the most committed Microsoft fan has to admit that this is a bit of a stumble, especially at a time when Microsoft wants us to forget about XP and embrace Vista. Netbooks seem to have caught Microsoft off-guard and forced the company into an awkward position - Yeah, what every PC user really needs is Vista, oh, unless you've just bought a netbook, in which case you can choose between a Linux distro or a seven year old OS. Brilliant. Microsoft is simply throwing away potential revenue and handing it over to Linux.
Not only would Microsoft benefit from having Windows 7 run on netbooks, netbook OEMs would also benefit from being able to offer the latest OS on the platform. Many people who I've talked to about netbooks are very surprised to find that Vista is not on offer (yes, there are a lot of people out there who want Vista ...). For people buying a new desktop system and a netbook, Microsoft is offering a very disjointed user experience, and forcing people to support two operating systems. This situation must change come Windows 7.
I'm in the market for a netbook right now and I'm leaning towards Linux. If Vista was on offer, the choice might not be as clear cut.