Netbook Market: Is Microsoft Winning?

Apr 08, 2009

While Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc is celebrating his employer as winner in the netbook market, opportunities are opening up in the Asian market for the netbook's even smaller relative, the so-called mobile internet device.

Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc quoted as a source for his Microsoft success story some statistics from the NPD Retail Tracking Service. The NPD study found that his company had made significant retail market advances in the netbook sector over 2008. LeBlanc:"We've seen Windows share on these PCs in the U.S. go from under 10% of unit sales during the first half of 2008 to 96% as of February 2009." His explanation: "Initially, some in the industry viewed low-cost netbook PCs as a new challenge for Microsoft and an opportunity for Linux to make inroads in the consumer market. Some believed consumers wouldn't want or need their netbook PC to be a full-featured PC. In fact, the exact opposite turned out to be true." He felt that this "full-featured PC" argument made a Microsoft victory unavoidable and even cited further evidence that the Linux device return rate was "four times higher" than Windows.

Microsoft had been putting timely pressure on netbook hardware producers, while also offering Windows XP at competitive prices, apparently with huge success. Linux providers such as Linpus out of Taiwan are meanwhile considering counterstrategies. It is especially the Asian-Pacific market that is showing evidence of a trend reversal: mobile internet devices (MIDs), or handhelds for short, seem to be gaining a Linux market.

From an interview with the Asia-Pacific media, analyst Ian Lao of the In-Stat market research firm forecasts future successes for the open platform running on MIDs. MIDs first of all distinguish themselves by definition from netbooks in that they have no keyboards and are four to seven inches in size. Because Asian character-based languages are easier to enter via touchpads, MIDs are gaining popularity in that part of the world, according to Lao. He goes further: "MIDs, as more passive, 'content-consumption devices', fit Linux's role so far on the consumer side, where it has successfully run systems for users looking to consume media, but not create." One proof of concept is Ubuntu's "full desktop experience" on the energy efficient ARM processors. Chinese hardware provider SmartQ will also soon release to the marketplace a super-affordable SmartQ 5 MID based on Ubuntu. Lao: "Linux definitely has a growth path with MIDs."

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