What about Linux? With just 10 percent netbook market share, the open-source OS is a toothless tiger for now. But Linux-based netbooks may encroach on Microsoft's success in the near future. Two looming threats: Google may decide to run its operating system, Android, on netbooks and low-power processors from smartphone chip licenser ARM may take off in netbooks.
Despite hints that Google may compete on netbooks, nothing is confirmed. For the time being, Linux flavors such as Ubuntu will struggle for consumer and corporate attention on netbooks against the comfort of the Windows brand, analysts say.
The software/hardware architecture behind those "90 percent" of netbooks are Windows XP Home Basic and x86-based Atom processors-Intel's smallest and lowest-power microprocessors, which now live inside nearly every netbook on the market.
Although neither Microsoft nor Intel is getting the big profit margins they want from such a low price-point market as netbooks, the two companies do have a good thing going, analysts say.
"Microsoft and Intel are winning a market using an old OS and its smallest chip, respectively," says Roger Kay, president of consulting firm Endpoint Technologies.
ARM Aims to Change the Game
One company eager to change this dynamic is ARM Holdings, a UK-based intellectually property company that designs, licenses and sells processors that are used in nearly all smartphones and most recently in Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book reader. ARM processors are lauded for their power efficiency, long battery life and low price.
For these reasons, ARM is transitioning its CPU core to netbooks and plans to bring with it the company's many licensees such as Qualcomm, NVIDIA, TI and even Apple. Ian Drew, vice president of marketing at ARM, said there will be ARM-based netbooks arriving in the second half of this year. He declined to mention from which computer makers.
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