Home / News / Laptop News / Microsoft: 96 Per Cent of Netbooks Running Windows

Microsoft: 96 Per Cent of Netbooks Running Windows


Microsoft: 96 Per Cent of Netbooks Running Windows

We all know that netbooks have been selling like hot cakes. We also know that the major reason for that is their low price, so you might think that the generally cheaper Linux-based models would be the most popular. Apparently not though.

According to a post on the Microsoft Windows Blog, of all netbooks - which Microsoft sensibly classes as a sub-$500 (~£350) machine with a 10.2in screen size or less -sold as of February this year, Microsoft's OS was installed on 96 percent. By contrast, in the first half of 2008 only around 10 per cent of netbooks were sold running Windows.

Notably, not only do more customers have Windows based netbooks, but the return rate is four time lower than for those that are Linux-based. Whether that's familiarity or because Windows is "easier to use, just works out of the box with people's stuff, and ultimately offers more choice" I'll leave you to decide.


Windows Blog.

Francesco Mastellone

April 9, 2009, 8:08 pm

This saddens me a lot. Too many things went wrong for Linux. First, the choice of distributions. Then the weird differentiation: manufacturers never marketed the fact that Linux was free, they made the Linux versions slightly more or slightly less powerful than the XP ones and applied confusing pricing. Then the avaibility: Linux netbooks are hard to find on store shelves - I resorted to buying mine on the internet. And Microsoft made XP very cheap very quickly.

I just hope manufacturers won't stop providing Linux alternatives. The Windows tax has to end some day.


April 9, 2009, 8:24 pm

If this is to be believed, I don't think it's that surprising. To most people, Windows is synonymous with the PC so taking your shiny new Linux netbook out of its box only to discover it's completely different to what you're used to must be a bitter pill to swallow.

Also, netbooks are way more pricey than they used to be. The likes of the &#163160 Eee PC are nowhere to be seen any more; you can now pay twice as much for a netbook. Of course, you'll want Windows for that kind of money :)

Brian ONeill

April 9, 2009, 8:32 pm

Well you can see the scenerio, a non technical punter is is a tesco doing their shopping. They see a bargain laptop for &#163199. They bring it home, the kids get exciting, they then try to install some games they picked up, and maybe some software, but weirdy nothing will install. They bring it back to tesco, 'this thing does not work'.

Linux is ok for hard core geeks but windows/mac is what consumers want.


April 9, 2009, 8:55 pm

This was done to death on Slashdot on Monday.The salient points are :

1. The figures are from Microsoft and are based on one single month's sales in the USA. Worldwide Linux has about 25% market share.

2. Much to their annoyance they had to keep XP alive as Vista is too slow to run on netbooks.

3. They've sacrificed the perceived cost/value of Windows by having to sell it at rock bottom prices

4. They artificially restrict the spec of netbooks that they will allow XP to be installed on. ie a maximum of 1GB ram, 160GB hdd or 16GB SSD, no graphics cards with DX9 or above, single core CPU and 10" screen.

5. As the price of netbooks has inexorably risen there's a slew of $150 netbooks due to be launched this year based on ARM processors which Microsoft are going to have to virtually give away Windows to compete. If Windows will run on ARM that is.

Irrespective of the true figures one thing is sure. Linux is slashing the cost of a Windows netbook. Everyone would be paying a lot more if it wasn't around.


April 9, 2009, 9:05 pm

"Linux is ok for hard core geeks but windows/mac is what consumers want."

Coouldn't put it better myself Brian.

Simon Fraser

April 9, 2009, 9:18 pm

I haven't managed to find the NPD report they refer to and the blog doesn't seem to link to it (why wouldn't they?). I have read elsewhere, however, that this report only refers to USA sales and just for the month of February, which, if true, makes this statistic a very selective one, though I wouldn't argue that XP is the majority seller.


April 9, 2009, 9:31 pm

@basicasic: Thanks for that, all good points.

I don't think the ARM processors are x86 compatible, so no XP. Same goes for NVidia's Tegra?

It will be interesting what Microsoft does with Windows 7 on netbooks. Surely that's the OS that netbooks have been waiting for? Perhaps MS will have other ideas.


April 9, 2009, 9:43 pm

How well did the other manufacturers handle Linux? On my eee 701 Asus made rather a bad job of it, they didn't include wine and even if you wanted a program with a Linux version there was no way to make a shortcut for it. It also needed a lot more tweaking to deal with the small screen. I remember that the dialogue box for the skype eula was too big, and the accept button was off the bottom of the screen.

If other manufacturers made similarly poor efforts then I can see why windows has become more popular, despite it's disadvantages (such as a poor interface for a small screen and a lack of bundled programs).

@Chris: I think you're overestimating that factor - remember that most people only buy new computers every five years or more so they'll be getting a different version of Windows each time so with most Linux distros acting so similaly I can't see that small difference being a big factor.

@Brian ONeill: You sound like you've got something against Linux if you're including mac with windows since the same scenario would happen with a compuetr running OS X.


April 9, 2009, 9:45 pm

'"Linux is ok for hard core geeks but windows/mac is what consumers want."

Coouldn't put it better myself Brian.'

As a hardcore geek, that's fine with me. Just don't expect me to fix/clean the virus infestations, botnets, rootkits, etc., any more.


April 9, 2009, 10:03 pm

@basicasic: No thanks for that, your anti-MS bias is just too strong to not clutter your opinions. :-)

That said the original post on the MS site is obviously written from the other side, so shouldn't just be swallowed as is either.

It might just be US (which is fair enough coming from MS) and February but surely that just shows the growing trend away from Linux and towards XP? Overall yes perhaps Linux has 25%, but that is a figure that's dropped (as pointed out in the article) from 90% at the same point the previous year. That to me is telling and trying to defend that is like trying to hold back the tide.

Yes Vista is a bit of a slug on a netbook (tho personally I'd rather have it than XP) and yes MS has had to take a hit to their earnings to keep XP competitive. We have Linux to thank for the latter.

As Brian stated the general public want a familiar machine they can run games on and Linux is just not ready for that yet. Sure they can bring out cheap machines with ARM processors, but people will still have the same problem with Linux as they do now. I think most people would rather spend &#163250 for a Windows machine against &#163200 for Linux just to get a machine that works more easily. That seems to be why most people pay more for Apple after all...


April 9, 2009, 10:05 pm

@Chris. Microsoft have already stated that netbooks with Windows 7 will also have limitations with a big addition. Only 3 applications will be allowed to run at the same time although users will be able to upgrade to a more 'complete' (ie expensive) version if they wish.

They also intend to keep plugging away with XP on netbooks as well.


April 9, 2009, 10:52 pm

I'm happy to have just bought a Linux Eee 901.

I simply don't believe Microsoft's publication. In my opinion the information is either cherry-picked or outright falsified.

"Linux is ok for hard core geeks but windows/mac is what consumers want."

"I think most people would... spend &#163250 for a Windows machine... that works more easily."

No, Linux is good for everyone, not just "hard core geeks". The issue with the small Linux marketshare is most certainly unfamiliarity and public ignorance. (Similarly with SSD imo)

Re: Video Games,

Echoing Xiphias, Mac also has problems running Windows games.

Also, who is geekier, the gamer who must have windows to run the latest games or the casual internet browser in need of a versatile, mobile computer? Just saying...


April 10, 2009, 12:27 am

"public ignorance" is the reason for slow alternative uptake, and nothing more. There is no doubt or argument.

I hear, "I can't move to Linux, it's too much of a change. Oh hey, have you seen the new Windows, it's so different!" Do you ever listen to yourselves? The learning curve from XP to Vista to 7 is _NO_ different than the learning curve from Windows to Linux. Do you still own your first car? Did you not learn where the new light switch is? Did you have a problem learning that?

Linux is, in fact, good for everyone. Good for the novice whose mind isn't cluttered with Windows. Good for the advanced user who wants choice and control. Good for competition which promotes innovation. Good for the economy because it promotes alternative revenue streams, not just paying for the same old thing over and over with a new face on it. Innovation from Microsoft? When? Do your research. Look into the origins of the PC and its OS, and the GUI. Gates originally turned IBM away; didn't want to be in the OS business. Facts.


April 10, 2009, 1:37 am

Bear in mind we're talking about Linux that's pre-installed on a commercial system so many of the common Linux problems like component driver issues and lack of free MP3 support won't come up. Wine (and Cedega?) works transparently and all the common file formats can be used.

The main problem still seems to be that there are some widely used peripherals such as mobile broadband dongles that either don't have Linux drivers or don't have a good install process.


April 10, 2009, 1:59 am

Most people, I include myself in this, also buy a new computer just to get the latest version of Windows. I know for a fact when W7 comes out next year, I'll be treating myself to a new laptop with W7, and telling myself I've gotten a pretty good deal compared to purchasing W7 seperately. The actual cost of preinstalled Windows is a fraction of the price of retail, thus, you can spend the money effectively "saved" from purchasing seperate windows, to buy slightly more powerful hardware.


April 10, 2009, 1:59 am

Most people, I include myself in this, also buy a new computer just to get the latest version of Windows. I know for a fact when W7 comes out next year, I'll be treating myself to a new laptop with W7, and telling myself I've gotten a pretty good deal compared to purchasing W7 seperately. The actual cost of preinstalled Windows is a fraction of the price of retail, thus, you can spend the money effectively "saved" from purchasing seperate windows, to buy slightly more powerful hardware.


April 10, 2009, 2:41 am

Linux is not good for everyone, I used to use linux and it is exactly what the consumer doesn't want I remember the trouble it was just installing flash not having a simple install file that does it for you. then you need WINE to do anything normal on it. linux is exactly a little too techie and by far for the average consumer.

neither linux or SSD are to do with public ignorance just the fact SSD is so expensive and the storage size is pitiful and doesn't actually provide much real benefit, I dont car if my PC takes an extra 30seconds to start up over SSD or the fact it takes a little extra time copying a file and thats exactly what every other consumer wants.


April 10, 2009, 3:13 am

Yes, Linux is not the most user friendly OS around but it can, and will, improve. I've installed Ubuntu 8.10 and find it extremely easy to use, even coming from an OS X background. Also, it seems, it's the badly thought out distributions found on some netbooks that are the problem, not Linux. Maybe when Ubuntu's Netbook Remix launches it will solve some of these problems.

You have to remember as well that these quotes have been taken from a Microsoft Blog, not an independent study. And (as has already been pointed out) they are figures taken from retail stores in the USA. I'm sure online sales are a different story. And I'm sure the uptake differs from country to country too.

Rather then wanting a 100% dominance of Windows on Netbooks, wouldn't it be better for the consumer to have some competition in this space. As one earlier comment said, Linux's dominance of the early netbook market brought down prices and forced Microsoft into offering XP cheaply for netbooks. Without competition what incentive is there for Microsoft to keep innovating? Some might say Window's 7 leanness was a result of Microsoft wanting to be competitive on Netbooks.


April 10, 2009, 3:38 am

Drivers anyone? I so wanted to adopt Linux over the years for all its purported benefits over bloated commercial offerings, but sadly time and time again I find my self reverting back to a stripped down version of XP pro. Why? Because it works!

In my opinion Linux is just a pain in the ar$e for everyday computing. It's great for specific tasks like running a home media center but with it's endless flavors and constant need to keep searching from drivers and updated software just to keep if functional, I don't see it ever catching on in the main stream.

Shame, because if a few versions could be standardized (ubuntu?) and drivers and software could be easily updated and easily available (well developed and tested and supported), it could catch on. But I suppose you would end up having to charge for that level of service...which brings us nicely back to XP again!


April 10, 2009, 4:33 am


I share your comments whole-heartedly. I was hoping that a linux hobby would end my reliance on windows of one flavour or another, but I gave up completely a year or so ago. I found it to be a near constant battle to keep up to date with drivers and updated software. Whilst I don't consider myself to be super tech-savvy, I know far more than the average Joe on the street.

XP is the easy option. It's fast, reliable, and to coin an Apple phrase, it just works.

Francesco Mastellone

April 10, 2009, 4:55 am

@lifethroughalens and Marek: problems keeping up with software updates? That's a new one. Most distributions have package managers that do that for you. You could try a server-grade distro like Debian if you don't like updating, I guess.


April 10, 2009, 5:03 am

"The learning curve from XP to Vista to 7 is _NO_ different than the learning curve from Windows to Linux."

Couldn't agree more. I have never used Linux before and I got so sick of Vista that I installed Ubuntu using Wubu on my system and within minutes I was doing everything I was doing on Windows! In fact I only went in to Windows to manage my Zune and that was it!

Then I got serious and partitioned my hard drive to dual boot Ubuntu, and let me tell you it has been great! I was nervous of course, I think unwarranted because of things I had heard, like driver issues and unfamiliarity. But all my things work on it except for my mic :( . But I'm in the market for a new PC, so I'll probably buy one from system76 or Dell.

For school I'll need to run Windows but that's where VM Ware comes in!

All in all I'm very happy with my decision, Ubuntu will be my main OS for the foreseeable future, and Windows will be there just in case!

Different OSs different people that's all. Like cars.


April 10, 2009, 9:56 pm

@lifethroughalens, Marek and others

Some strange criticisms of Linux. Having a unified package manager works beautifully - so much better than having (as with Windows) dozens of programs running their own bloated update managers.

I wonder what hardware you have trouble finding drivers for (unless your machine is very new). For my one-year-old machine, Ubuntu 8.10 natively supports the video card, monitor, printer, USB wireless dongle, bluetooth dongle, everything - all just works perfectly with zero effort. Same with two laptops (a Vaio and a Dell) that I put 8.04 onto. Conversely, with Vista (as with my older machine running XP) I constantly had wireless drop-out problems. And when trying to install the bluetooth dongle, Vista tried to install 7 drivers for it, and always crashed on the 5th!

I think people are put off having tried Linux distros from a year or two ago (I myself was). But with Ubuntu, in particular, things really have moved forward


April 10, 2009, 11:26 pm

Well i too have a EEEPC 701 and it came with linux.

I've put XP on the 4gig main disk and have the supplied linux Xandros on a SD card and use that if i want to boot quickly just to use the net, if i need XP i boot into that instead.

Works beautifully and in response to the person who said you can't put shortcuts to apps on the desktop in the supplied Xandros, yes you can!


April 11, 2009, 6:38 am

@SweetFA: I know you can technically, but editing text files and trying to get the paths right with Linux's awful filesystem (assuming you can find where the program installed to in the first place) is an awful lot of work for something that should take two seconds.

comments powered by Disqus