Microsoft to Squeeze Windows 7 onto Netbooks

By  |  Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 12:04 am

Windows 7At an analyst meeting in New York City today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the company was working on a low-end edition of Windows 7 that’s designed to run on netbooks. The increasingly popular budget notebooks rarely run Windows Vista, in part because that OS’s hardware requirements–formulated in the pre-netbook era–simply exceed what most 0f the low-cost machines have to offer.

Microsoft’s interest in netbooks is an acknowledgment that Windows 7 needs to compete with lower-cost solutions that come preloaded with Linux and even Windows XP. Other potential entrants, including Google’s Android OS, are also threatening Windows’ dominance.

The company’s failure to compete in the low-end market has profoundly impacted its finances. Windows client revenue recently fell 8% as a result of PC “market weakness and a continued shift to lower priced netbooks,” according to Microsoft’s second-quarter earnings release. Even so, Ballmer stated that about 90 percent of netbooks have been shipped with Windows XP, during today’s conference.

And that trend is significant: netbook sales are steadily increasing. This month IDC found that netbooks account for 30% of sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market alone.

Outlining Microsoft’s strategy to appeal to netbook buyers, Ballmer said that Microsoft is developing a low-end version of Windows 7 designed specifically for netbooks, and will provide an upgrade path to more powerful versions of the OS. Windows 7 is designed to work well on inexpensive laptops, he said.

Ballmer didn’t talk about what features the Windows designed for netbooks will and won’t offer, but the company has already announced that the bargain-basement Windows 7 Starter Edition will only let users run three programs at once. My take is that Microsoft would be wise not to appreciably limit the functionality of Windows 7 on netbooks, or customers will vote with their feet, and PC manufacturers will choose another operating system that makes the most of what netbooks have to offer.


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jeff Says:

    If I had a netbook, I’d use Linux.

  2. Dave Perry Says:

    No need, but thanks anyway, Microsoft!

  3. Marcus Orlando Says:

    Here’s my two cents:

    I used to love Microsoft Win XP. I am an I.T. professional and until Vista I was pretty much a Windows proponent. Vista is actually the reason I am a Linux zealot now. Vista is garbage, Microsoft has learned, and is positioning Windows 7 to be the recovery.

    Microsoft is able to command RIDICULOUS prices because of their monopolies with manufacturers. Ever wonder why everything JUST WORKS in the Windows realm when you turn on your shiny new Netbook? The manufacturers are paid by other software developers (McAfee, Roxio, etc.) to put their software on your machines. This allows Microsoft to maintain dominance over Linux through incentives.

    So while Linux is “free” it actually COSTS a manufacturer the revenue from third-party developers to put it on there. Which is why you’ll continue to see XP on your machines until Windows 7 arrives.

    I WOULD NOT pay extra for Windows 7 Home Premium vs. Win 7 Starter Edition on a Netbook. You won’t catch me with Windows 7 as the only OS installed; I’ll turn that machine into a dual boot very quickly.

    Just my two cents.

  4. Eric Luckett Says:

    I made the mistake about six months ago of buying an EEE PC Netbook with Windows 7 in it. It is total crap. My printer and my brand new external DVD drive will not work on it. Those thieves at Microshaft want to stick their grubby fingers into my wallet to fix their faulty product. This is a complete rip-off of the consumer. I am looking for a class action lawsuit to join in now. I feel Best Buy, EEE PC, and Microsoft sold this junk knowing it was a bad product.

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