Windows 7 on netbooks: Maybe it's not a Linux killer

I've frequently written that Windows 7 will kill Linux on netbooks. But given that most Windows 7-equipped netbooks ship with the underwhelming Starter Edition, I may well have been wrong. And new evidence shows that Linux on netbooks is alive and well, no matter what pundits like me have said in the past.

Computerworld just published the results of a survey from the shopping site Retrevo.com, which found that 61% of people don't know that there's a difference between Windows 7 and the Windows 7 Starter Edition — and that 56% of those who then found out the differences between the two said they would not be happy with Starter Edition.

The Computerworld article notes that, according to Retrevo.com, 23 out of 28 netbooks sold on Amazon.com are equipped with Starter Edition, which means a lot of potentially unhappy Windows customers.

At $80, the price to upgrade from Starter Edition to the full version of Windows 7 is steep, particularly for people who have opted to buy a low-cost netbook.

That's bad enough news for Microsoft, but there's worse as well. A recent study from ABI Research found that 32% of people worldwide will buy Linux netbooks this year, versus 68% for Windows. Other studies have shown Microsoft with a far more dominant lead in netbooks, but those studies are for the U.S. only.

Jeff Orr, an analyst at ABI, says that he expects that eventually, Linux will outsell Windows worldwide on netbooks because netbooks running ARM processors will become popular in less-developed countries, and Linux will take the lead there.

I'm not convinced Microsoft will stand by idly and let Linux take the lead worldwide — I would expect deep price cuts on XP- and Windows 7 Starter-equipped netbooks overseas. But Microsoft clearly has its work cut out for it to hold off Linux, because Windows 7 doesn't appear to be a Linux killer, as I previously expected.

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