Microsoft and Google are set for another rivalry, this time in the netbook market.
According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the Redmond, WA software giant is engineering a version of its upcoming Windows 7 operating system specifically for netbooks.
During an investment meeting, Ballmer noted that the netbook sector is one of healthy growth for Microsoft, and that Windows is on approximately 90 percent of netbooks today. "We made a strategy a year ago that said, we will have high market share on netbooks," said Ballmer. "We priced to have high market share on netbooks. We did the marketing work to have a high market share on netbooks... we're now I think over 90 percent attach rate against netbooks, which I'm very excited about."
So what of Windows 7 on the netbook? Microsoft has already said, and many have already proved, that the upcoming Microsoft OS can run on current netbook hardware without major issues. In fact, the Win7 beta takes to netbook hardware much better than it's older brother Vista. As far as a netbook-specific version of Windows 7 is concerned, Steve Ballmer believes there will be a Windows 7 tailored for netbooks. "We have a real opportunity given that Windows 7 fits on netbooks, to think about having a special netbook edition," said Ballmer.
However, Ballmer stressed that consumers should be able to upgrade to a higher version of Windows 7 if they so desire. "Maybe somebody will want home, or maybe somebody will want the business edition of Windows 7 on a netbook. I want to make sure we facilitate letting the OEM or end customer, trade up if they want to trade up."
Many have speculated that Windows 7 Starter or Basic would be the option of choice for netbooks. However, those versions are strictly for emerging markets, and the possibility that Windows 7 Basic may start at $200, is already startling. Furthermore, Microsoft needs a light and inexpensive version of Windows 7 that can compete with Google's Android OS if it makes its way onto netbooks (which it will), and the two lowest tiers of 7 will likely be underdeveloped when compared to Android. Over the next year and beyond, the netbook sector will become a battleground, Windows 7 versus Android, and Microsoft looks like it's gearing up for battle.
For a transcript of the entire investor meeting, follow the link.