Possibly Microsoft's most important strategic goal for Windows 7, in addition to redeeming the brand damage done by Windows Vista, is to dominate netbooks, now the fastest selling segment of the PC market.
This may not bode well for the Linux operating system. With netbooks, the open source OS with a highly tech-savvy audience found a market where it could legitimately threaten Windows. But Linux will face an uphill battle in this category now that the sleeping software giant has been awoken to the opportunity that netbooks present, say industry analysts.
[ Related InfoWorld special report: Early looks at Windows 7 ]
Top netbook vendors Asus and Acer, which together account for the majority of the netbook market, run Linux on roughly 30 percent of their Eee PC and AspireOne netbooks, respectively -- a figure that dwarfs Linux's nearly 1 percent share of the higher-end PC market. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Lenovo released netbook products in the fourth quarter of 2008, all in the $400 price range and offering a choice of either Windows XP or some flavor of Linux.
[ For more on products in the hot netbook category, check out our hands-on looks at Asus' Eee PC 901 and 1000 and the N10 netbook, the Cloudbook Max netbook, Elitegroup's G10IL mini-laptop, MSI's Wind low-cost laptop, Giga-byte's M912X mini-laptop, HP's Mini-Note netbook, and Acer's Aspire one. ]
But Microsoft designed Windows 7, unlike notorious resource hog Vista, with netbooks in mind (click here for a video demo of the Windows 7 pre-beta running on a netbook). According to Microsoft's Windows Consumer Product Managing Director Parri Munsell, "Windows 7 has been optimized and engineered to run on anything, from the smallest notebook to the most loaded laptop or desktop."
Netbooks crept up on Microsoft
Why is making Windows 7 small form-factor friendly a necessity for Microsoft? The company was caught off guard by a sudden netbook spike in popularity in 2008 that bit into its bottom line.