Netbook OSes: Which will rule the enterprise?

Windows may have the early lead, but don't rule out Linux just yet

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An open field

So industry watchers give Windows (specifically, XP) the early edge as the netbook OS choice in the enterprise. But possibilities for a challenger remain open, most say.

Lenovo is one OEM willing to hedge its bets when it comes to Linux on netbooks for the enterprise. Although it currently offers Windows XP, the company is willing to consider Google's Chrome operating system whenever the search engine giant reveals an actual working product. A Lenovo spokeswoman says her company "is actively assessing the Google Chrome operating system's development."

Enterprise IT managers might do well to put aside heavy emphasis on the OS, Orr suggests. Comparing netbooks to other small gadgets, and moving away from comparisons to the traditional notebook, may divine the answer.

"There's a lot of opportunity for general computing platforms," Orr says, as well as specialized gadgets like connected navigation, portable media players, mobile gaming consoles and follow-on devices to Amazon's Kindle e-reader. "All take advantage of a minimal hardware platform and a minimal operating system to provide a really good user experience to solve a particular need."

This minimalism will become the case in enterprises just as it has in the consumer market, Orr says. "I don't believe that a netbook solves all needs. It's not going to replace the computer that's being used in a cubicle with a large screen, where you have heavy graphics, rendering and a lot of processing."

Ultimately, he says, the OS is going to be the last question on most netbook users' minds -- corporate or consumer.

Howard Wen reports for several technology publications.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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