The Dodge Retort

Tech, media and other interesting stuff

Bloggers Square off on Windows 7 Starter for Netbooks

Posted by jdodge349 on April 20, 2009

PCmag.com editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff takes issue with a post by Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub and anyone else who are arguing Window 7 Starter could be a netbook non-starter for Microsoft. A Wall Street Journal story last night about Windows 7  Starter prompted several posts concluding Microsoft may have opened the door to a  Linux client on netbooks. Starter promises to be a smaller and more limited version of full Windows 7.

He  scores some good points about Linux’ complexity being aimed at the wrong end of the market — low end netbooks which are typically purchased by the least technical users. At he claims netbook makers begged Microsoft to come in and rescue the market with XP because Linux was so inept. That may be true but sounds like something like something  Microsoft whispered into the ears of journalists.

If a Linux client couldn’t gain traction through three years of Windows Vista, how could do better against against a stronger rival in Windows 7, he argues. Finally, Windows 7 will not establish Linux as a client. Linux will have to do that itself. Good points all.

But he overlooks a few things and, frankly, it’s easy to to predict same old, same old. Nothing is forever. Here are my points:

1) Windows is a monopoly which means an inefficient market in terms of cost. Something like Android were it robust (granted, a big if) could succeed in the highly cost sensitive netbook market. As netbooks become giveaways subsidized by customer committing to two years of wireless broadband, hardware and software costs will be measured in tenths of the cent as they are today with cell phones. That’s the market Android and ARM are after.

So let’s not count Android out until it fails. What’s underlies Ulanoff’s position is the premise that nothing can ever supplant Microsoft Windows. He should be advocating market choice, not continuance of a market-stymieing monopoly.

Apps moving onto the into cloud also downplays the OS and local apps, creating more favorable conditions for a challenger. So why not a new OS whose primary function is a browser? By the way, Windows XP on low-end netbook  is no picnic either. It takes up almost three quarters of the space of the precious 4GB of storage I have on a Lenovo S10 IdeaPad netbook.

2) Google which has $10 billion in liquidity is behind Android. The company has a track record and staying power. Microsoft has several times that amount of cash and lost of smart people too, but the Google bench is much deeper than Netscape’s when a dozen years ago, it tried to challenge Microsoft at the OS level and failed.

3) I’m not quite sure why Ulanoff pointedly takes such issue with Weintraub whose blog I’ve come to like. Weintraub intelligently qualifies his argument. Android, Weintraub writes, must prove itself and will not just step in and take the lion’s share of the netbook OS market.

Granted a challenger always faces an uphill battle, but it’s far too early to crown Windows  7 Starter (or Linux) the winner on netbooks.

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