Linux has been making inroads into PC sales lately because it runs so well on lightweight netbooks with limited RAM and processing power. Windows 7, though, appears to run well on lightweight hardware as well, which could mean that it's Microsoft's Linux killer.
At the recent PDC, where Windows 7 was unveiled, Windows and Windows Live senior vice president Steve Sinofsky claimed that Windows 7 used less than half of the 1 GB of RAM on his Lenovo S10 netbook. Making the new operating system lightweight has clearly been Microsoft's goal. In addition to light RAM use, Windows also strips out a variety of applications, including Windows Mail, among others.
Of course, it's one thing for Sinofsky for claim Windows 7 runs on a netbook. But how does it work in real life? According to this review, Windows 7 pre-beta works well on an ASUS Eee PC 1000H with a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM.
The writer found that Windows 7 uses 485MB of RAM. Despite that light RAM use she notes:
things are pretty smooth in terms of performance...in my use of the Eee PC 1000H for the entire evening I didn't have any hang ups while simultaneously chatting on Skype, writing this post in Wordpress, editing pictures in GIMP and uploading video files using Filezilla.
She did say, however, there were some problems with video playback. Keep in mind, though, that Windows 7 is pre-beta.
I expect Microsoft to push Windows 7 for netbooks hard. It's a tremendous growth area, and it's where Linux has been gaining traction. I wouldn't even be surprised to see a netbook-specific version designed for lower-powered processors and less RAM.
Given all that, Linux's growth in netbooks may be just a blip on the radar after Windows 7 is released.
Update: For more reasons why Windows 7 may kill Linux, see this blog post, which quotes ASUS CEO Jerry Shen saying he will release a Windows 7 version of the Eee PC in mid-2009.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld, and the author of more than 35 books.