Windows Kicks Linux Out of Netbook Market

It's official: Windows dominates the netbook market, too. Just a year after the netbook phenomenon threatened to provide Linux with an inroad to the lucrative consumer market, Windows now dominates that market. A year ago, Windows accounted for less than 10 percent of the netbook market. But today, market researchers at NPD say Windows ships on a whopping 96 percent of netbooks.

"The growth of Windows on netbook PCs over the last year has been phenomenal," Microsoft's official Windows blog reads, quoting the NPD numbers.

But it's even worse for Linux than is immediately obvious. Not only are consumers overwhelmingly choosing Windows, but those who do get a Linux-based netbook are four times more likely to return it to the store than those who get a device running Windows.

"Those who try Linux are often returning it," Microsoft's corporate blog continues. "Users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn't deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back."

Clearly, Microsoft's pricing strategy has worked: The version of Windows XP that Microsoft provides to netbook makers is estimated to cost less than one-quarter the price of the versions it provides for other types of PCs. Microsoft says it will price Windows 7 similarly for netbooks when that OS is released later this year and that—unlike Windows Vista—Windows 7 will work wonderfully on the low-priced machines.

And, of course, things can change. Wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon are now investigating the notion of selling subsidized netbooks to customers in a manner similar to cell phones, and in that market, margins are even more razor-thin than is true with traditional PCs. These carriers are allegedly looking into all kinds of netbook solutions, including those based on Google's Android system, which was originally designed for phones

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