The proliferation of affordable netbooks is good for everyone – consumers, that is. Computer manufacturers loath it (high volume, low margin business) and so does Microsoft: they can’t exactly sell $100+ worth of software on a $200 machine. So they come up with all sorts of evil plans.
First there was the Windows 7 plan: the low-end Starter Edition, the one to be installed on most netbooks would only allow to run 3 applications at a time. I predicted Microsoft would be facing lawsuits, if not for the actual limitation then due to less than full disclosure on sales of netbooks crippled by Win7. The Wall Street Journal did not go as far as lawsuits, but it called it a big gamble: Microsoft Gambles on Windows 7 ‘Starter’. Finally it looks like Microsoft may have come to their senses, possibly deciding to remove the 3-app limit. Of course this would question the very economics of Win7 releases, removing the incentive to upgrade to costlier versions.
Microsoft and Intel have reached a consensus to decrease the upper screen-size limit for netbook PCs equipped with Windows 7 from 12.1 inches to 10.2 inches, according to sources at Taiwan-based ODM notebook makers, who added that this may have a negative impact on VIA Technologies. The restriction is expected to end PC vendors’ 11.6-inch Atom Zxx-based netbook product lines after the launch of Windows 7, the sources noted.
Great timing, just as manufacturers all but phased out 8.9” netbooks and are settling on 10” not as the upper but the minimum screen size, and are introducing more and more 12’” or 11.6” models. I’ve often stated it’s not only about size, in fact the most important and often ignored screen spec is resolution. Why? It’s the “Net” part in netbook: most websites are designed at a resolution of 1024×768 and with the current crop of netbooks maxing out at 600 vertical resolution, reading them, let alone interactively working on some is a a major pain – a lot of scrolling up and down when the mouse-pad is typically the Achilles-heel of these these computers from a usability point of view.
Only now are some manufacturers starting to announce 1280×768 or higher resolution netbooks, and they are typically in the 11.6 or 12” range (you need extremely good vision to work with such resolution on a smaller display). So here we go, now that the industry woke up and starts shipping the first True Netbooks, here come Microsoft and Intel trying to suffocate this segment again.
This is nothing remotely resembling market forces reacting to customer demand… it’s monopoly in action, pure and simple. InfoWorld hit the nail on the head with their title: Microsoft and the great netbook price-fixing scam of 2009.
Can’t wait to see Round 3. In the meantime I’d be quite happy with a Linux (perhaps Android) –based 11.6 or 12” netbook with 768 vertical resolution. Lightweight, free of Windows bloatware.
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