Study: Windows clobbers Linux on netbooks with over 90% share

There's been a lot of talk -- including from me -- that Linux is hurting Microsoft because of its big market share in netbook sales. But recent figures from the research firm NPD Group show that it's a myth. Windows now has more than 90% of all netbook sales. The game is over.

Back in November, I had written that Linux accounted for about 30% of all netbook sales. I based that number on a report by Bloomberg which said this:

Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc., which together account for 90 percent of the netbook market, are using the rival Linux software on about 30 percent of their low-cost notebooks.

But that was then. This is now: A study by the analyst firm NPD Group has found that more than 90% of netbooks sold in November, December, and January shipped with Windows on them. Just as important is that only in December did netbook sales truly take off. So the earlier 70% Linux figure is on a far smaller number of machines sold. Stephen Baker, Vice President, Industry Analysis for NPD, told me this in an email:

According to our numbers the percent [of netbooks sold with Windows] is over 90% for the last three months (November, December, January), when sales actually began to happen (these are US numbers only). Before that there were very few sales and Linux was a much higher percent. For example 50% of all netbook sales in 2008 occurred in December in the US.

Does this mean that netbook sales won't continue to hurt Microsoft? No --- netbooks still mean trouble for the company, because Microsoft gets fewer dollars for Windows shipped on a netbook than it does for Windows shipped on a PC or laptop. And netbooks owners are unlikely to buy Microsoft Office.

But it does mean that when it comes to netbook sales, Linux is a paper tiger.

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