Why Linux netbook crashed and burned

A friend of mine, Tom Henderson, asked me recently: Who killed the netbook? His well-thought-out answer blames a combination of smartphones; expensive but lightweight computers like the MacBook Air; and the rise of tablets. I think all of these played a role, but I put more blame on Microsoft and Intel.

While I would say netbooks are dying rather than dying, I have to agree that they are certainly not as popular as they once were. As Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, recently said in a statement. “Mini-notebook [Netbook] shipments have contracted significantly in recent quarters. Specifically, sellers agree with analysts. Lenovo President and COO Rory Read recently said “netbooks are pretty much done.”

I think netbooks – cheap little laptops – are on the decline because Microsoft and Intel have finally managed to wean original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) off Linux and low-end – with low profit margins. corresponding – the hardware.

This has always been Microsoft’s plan ever since they were first spooked by the sudden explosion in customer interest in netbooks. When netbooks first appeared, almost all of them ran Linux. Microsoft, which was then stuck with the resource pig known as Windows Vista, just couldn’t compete. So, reluctantly, Microsoft breathed new life into Windows XP Home and sold it off to OEMs to kill the Linux desktop on netbooks.

They succeeded. Mind you, the last thing Microsoft wanted was for people to keep using XP. They wanted, oh how they wanted, users to turn to Vista. But, they also didn’t want to cede the low end to Linux. So instead, they ditched XP Home to lower-priced OEMs to drive Linux out of netboooks. It worked.

It was clear how things were going to play out in June 2009 when, I’m not kidding, Asus chairman Jonney Shih after sharing a press conference with Microsoft vice chairman, OEM division Steven Guggenheimer, apologized for showing an Androd-Linux Eee netbook the day before.

Mission accomplished, Microsoft finally shut down the XP netbook production line on October 22, 2010. Today, you can still get XP through the downgrade route from some versions of Windows 7, but you can’t. for netbooks.

Today’s netbooks almost all run Windows 7 Starter Edition. Or, as I like to call Windows 7 SE: Crippleware. Seriously, if you want Windows, more power for you, but at least get Windows 7 Home Premium.

As for Intel, while their Atom processors made netbooks popular, they never went crazy for it. After all, every Atom-powered netbook sold was one less Pentium Dual Core laptop that could have been sold at a higher price and margin. From the start, Intel wasn’t crazy about netbooks. In 2008, Stu Pann, then Intel’s vice president of sales and marketing, said, “If you’ve ever used a netbook and used a 10-inch screen, that’s fine for an hour. It is not something that you are going to use day in and day out.

So if you’ve ever wondered why you couldn’t find a $ 200 Linux netbook from a branded OEM these days, now you know. It was really Microsoft with an Intel chip in the CFO’s office.

Oh, what about Chromebooks? They are playing a different game. Google doesn’t want them to be the replacement for cheap laptops. Google wants Chromebooks to be the relatively inexpensive replacement for your daily desktop / laptop needs.

Related stories:

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Intel launches the first Sandy Bridge chips for Ultrabooks

Five Chromebook Problems for Business

The first Chromebook review: Samsung Series 5

Windows Endgame. The failure of the Linux desktop

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