What If Windows 7 Starter Isn't Meant to Just Stop Linux on Netbooks?
Over at ComputerWorld, Seth Weintraub waxes poetic about Microsoft's decision to offer a Windows 7 Starter edition to keep its presence strong in the netbook arena, and why this is a huge advantage for Google's Linux-based Android.
Windows 7 Starter edition is designed to run no more than three applications simultaneously -- purchasing an upgrade allows users to run, presumably, as many apps as their netbooks can handle at one time. Now, three concurrent applications at a shot might be sufficient for a number of users; it might be all that some netbooks can handle, depending on the applications and system resources running in the background. Microsoft isn't hiding the fact it is experimenting with a limited Starter, and hopefully netbook manufacturers will also make buyers aware of this. But awareness and being almost sufficient in even most cases is irrelevant. It's the concept that there is a limit, and purchasing an upgrade for functionality that most won't need every day (but when it's needed, it's really needed) that will make netbooks running alternative operating systems increasingly attractive. It's an advantage not only for Android, but any Linux distribution netbook builders optimize for their hardware.
Weintraub wrote that he couldn't imagine that Microsoft could come up with a faster way to lose market share. I agree wholeheartedly, and truth be told, I think Microsoft probably feels the same way. Does it think it will sell upgrades? Will it sell upgrades? Yes, on both counts, and probably not nearly enough. The question is, then, is Microsoft trying to get the upperhand in the netbook operating system market, or stomp out the netbook market completely? You don't need to worry about market share when there's no longer a market.
The true motive, again, is really almost irrelevant. What's clear is that Microsoft is greatly underestimating the capabilities of open source operating systems on these devices. What's more troubling is its apparent confidence that consumers won't look for, consider, or try these alternatives. Perhaps some will prefer Android over Ubuntu's Netbook Remix -- but it doesn't mean there is any shortage of viable, fully functional, user-friendly platforms to choose instead.