NYTime's story today on Microsoft’s Netbook Conundrum.
The story asks can Microsoft square the circle of having Windows 7 work on netbooks but be priced at a cost the netbook buyers are willing to pay without cannibalizing sales of the OS on more robust machines.
The danger is that Microsoft could become less relevant as Linux versions become more stable and user friendly, meeting the feature/performance needs of buyers while costing the sellers very little.
This matters to us, as netbooks are poised to be ubiquitous among our students and learners - perhaps not as a primary machine but one that is used when the user is mobile, traveling, taking notes etc. This ubiquity as a second machine will mean thar our curricular materials and learning/collaboration tools need to play nice with the size and performance of netbooks. A world of more Linux users will mean that we need to be Linux knowledgable, and be sure that our learning platforms (and eventually client apps) work well with this OS.
So what is Microsoft to do? I've said it before (and I have not seen this other places - would like to know others enaging this argumetn) - Redmond should come out with a Microsoft branded netbook. Buy Acer or MSI or some other Taiwanees OEM, and then come out with a really tight hardware/software integrated product. Sell for no margin, and make the money by having the default browser go to MS services, search mail etc. (Require a Windows Live email to buy or something). Make the netbook work as well as a Mac, which makes its products work so well because the OS does not need to serve an infinite variety of hardware - just Mac designed hardware.
Microsoft should get out of the middle ground.....be at the low-end (netbooks) and high-end (workstations and servers). The Windows 7 business will continue...as the only bundle should be with a netbook - allowing the netbook MS operating system to differentiate itself. This integrated hardware/OS netbook should stay away from a fancy presentation layer, and perhaps even the upgrade file system (when that comes). Focus on a very well integrated browser and browser based productivity suite. Get things like keyboard, screen, and design right. That could be a compelling product.