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Windows Loaded on 96 Percent of New Netbooks

Walk into a computer store and you’ll see nearly all notebooks preloaded with Windows Vista. Check out the netbooks, and you’ll see it’s nearly all Windows XP -- and nearly as in 96 percent.

We’ve been hearing lately that Windows XP will live on through various download programs, but until Windows 7 Starter Edition ships, the eight year old XP will still be ruling netbooks.

Citing NPD data, Microsoft says that 96 percent of all netbooks sold throughout February 2009 came with Windows. We presume that the vast majority of Windows-based netbooks run Windows XP rather than Vista.

Microsoft boasts that this is a huge win, as the same NPD source also had Windows as having less than 10 percent of the netbook pie during the first half of 2008.

That means that there’s been a dramatic shift away from Linux-based OS and towards Windows. Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc explains in the Windows Experience blog, “Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back. Here’s a telling stat: In the UK, Carphone Warehouse dropped Linux-based netbook PCs, citing customer confusion as a reason for a whopping 1-in-5 return rate.”

LeBlanc also explains that consumers are now expecting more out of their netbooks. Gone are the days of the small 7-inch screen that’s just to run Firefox and Open Office, users are now wanting the same things as a notebook, only smaller.

“Some believed consumers wouldn’t want or need their netbook PC to be a full-featured PC,” wrote LeBlanc. “In fact, the exact opposite turned out to be true – a number of analysts and researchers following the space see ample evidence indicating customers really DO want netbook PCs to work like their larger brethren – and that the way the vast majority of consumers make that happen is by buying a netbook PC with Windows.”

This point is no better proved than by the Asus Eee 1004DN with its inclusion of an optical drive. The Dell Mini 10 also includes an HDMI output, and promises eventual TV tuner and GPS support.

Obviously Microsoft likes having 96 percent of the market share (and probably wants more), but it cannot continue to run on Windows XP forever. LeBlanc reiterated the company’s aim to put Windows 7 on netbooks once again, saying, “Looking forward, we can confidently say that no matter how netbook PC hardware evolves, we’re gearing up to ensure that Windows 7 will run great on them. As we mentioned at PDC, we’ve been testing Windows 7 on netbook PCs since before Windows 7 was feature complete, and our plan is to enable these small notebook PCs to run any edition of Windows 7.”

Perhaps the best thing thrifty consumers have to expect from Windows 7-based netbooks is a price tag of around $200.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.