There has been a number of news stories lately about Microsoft and netbooks. The upshot of the articles has been how amazed people have been that Microsoft is not overtly hostile to netbooks. The second round of news was that folks at Microsoft consider many netbooks to just be little notebooks.
Why does this surprise anyone? Many computers sold as netbooks are basically notebooks with small screens and cramped keyboards. They have nearly the horsepower of a desktop computer with hard drives nearing 200GB and one or two Gigabytes of RAM. This is a far cry from the original netbooks which had tiny four or eight Gigabyte solid-state hard drives and and 512MBs of memory.
Most importantly, these new netbooks/notebooks run Windows. If nothing else this should make Microsoft sing with glee and do cartwheels. When the first netbooks were introduced with Linux as the OS, many immediately predicated the demise of Microsoft. Clearly, the rumors of its death was greatly exaggerated.
While the original netbooks were okay (and only okay) for Internet access at Starbucks, they were close to useless for nearly everything else. Why? Because most people use Windows applications not Linux applications. If you want to take any of your important applications with you, you can't. Like that presentation that you are flying in for. You don't need a big honking laptop for just that. But you do need PowerPoint. And, while I love OpenOffice.org (I'm writing this using the Writer application) it just isn't want what most people use. Neither are online applications.
For Microsoft, it gets even better. Most netbooks use Windows XP. They get to drag a little more revenue out of their dying old product and get set up for Windows 7. What's not to love? More money!
All of this money also comes with the gratification that they kicked Linux, as a desktop OS, right in the teeth again. They also proved that that the desktop OS still matters and that not everything is online yet and might never be.
Finally, for those who really want a netbook to be what it was supposed to be, our buddies in Redmond will soon roll out an online (and viable) version of Office. You will be able to access it from your Windows 7 notebook and show the customer your PowerPoint presentation. Microsoft everywhere, no matter where your office is.
It is no surprise that Gates and Ballmer are not intimidated by netbooks. They own the netbook market. I can see them doing their happy dance right now. And it's not pretty...