Why Google is a Big Part of Linux's Future On Netbooks

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 12, 2010

One of the big debates of late last year, as Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system debuted, was what would happen to Linux-based netbooks. In the months heading up to the release of Microsoft's new OS, which has generally been well reviewed, opinions on the future of Linux-based netbooks ranged from those saying it would regain 50 percent market share to those saying its chances on netbooks were dead. Today, Windows 7 netbooks running on Intel Atom chips are dominant, but there are good reasons to believe that Linux-based netbooks, with Google playing a role, will remain an enduring part of the market.

The first thing to remember about netbooks is that they have become a critical part of the portable computing landscape--not just amusements or anomalies. Microsoft has acknowledged that the lower pricing ecosystems found in the netbook sphere have cut into its revenues. Microsoft has remained competitive in the netbook space, though, and some people believe that it will eventually stamp out Linux on netbooks.

Stephen Lim, the General Manager of Taiwan based Linpus Technologies, has made the prediction that Linux will eventually climb back to 50 percent market share on netbooks:

"More and more chip suppliers such as Texas Instruments Inc and Qualcomm Inc are jumping on the bandwagon to adopt Linux. We are also seeing more and more PCs bundled with Linux from Acer Inc, Asustek Computer Inc, Dell Inc and other computer brands."

Still, despite such predictions, the majority of netbooks run Windows 7 on Atom chips. There are a couple of wildcard factors to remember, though. Importantly, Google's upcoming Chrome OS is only a few months away, and is aimed squarely at netbooks. It is a Linux-based operating system, as is Google Android, and the team at Canonical helped shape the OS. Meanwhile, netbook players such as Acer are continuing to pursue systems that boot both Windows and Android, and there are countless other lightweight Linux distrbutions that run alongside other operating systems.

Both of Google's mobile operating systems are Linux-based, and both could have a profound, enduring impact on the netbook landscape. Before we count Linux netbooks out of the game, we should give them a chance to perform.