Practical Technology

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Why the Linux netbook crashed and burned


A friend of mine, Tom Henderson, asked 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 those played a role, but I put more of the blame on Microsoft and Intel.

While I’d say netbook are dying rather than dead, I have to agree they certainly aren’t as popular as they once were. As Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, recently said in a statement. “Mini-notebook [Netbook] shipments have noticeably contracted over the last several quarters.” More to the point, the vendors are agreeing with the analysts. Lenovo president and COO Rory Read recently said “Netbooks are pretty much over.”

I think netbooks—small, inexpensive notebooks–are declining because Microsoft and Intel have finally succeed in weaning original equipment manufacturers (OEM)s away from Linux and low-end—with corresponding low profit margins –hardware.

This was always Microsoft’s plan since they first were cold-cocked by the sudden explosion of customer interest in netbooks. When netbooks first came along, they almost all ran Linux. Microsoft, which was then stuck with the resource pig known as Windows Vista, simply couldn’t compete. So, reluctantly, Microsoft gave Windows XP Home a new lease on life and sold it below cost to OEMs to kill the Linux desktop on netbooks.

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