Microsoft allies seek to undermine Windows in Netbooks, mobile

Software maker's partners are seeking liberation from its heavy Windows fees by exploring Linux as a PC option.

It's hard to be friends with an 800-pound gorilla without getting stepped on from time to time. It's perhaps not surprising, therefore, that some of Microsoft's closest Windows allies are reportedly seeking to undermine their hegemonic partner with Linux initiatives in Netbooks and laptops.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Hewlett-Packard and other personal computer manufacturers are testing Google Android for Netbooks and other mobile PC devices in a bid to boost margins that otherwise get consumed by Windows license fees. These PC manufacturers are seeking to have more control and money in the growing mobile computing market.

While Microsoft has been dismissive of Linux in this and other consumer markets, it may have met its match in Google Android. There are two reasons.

First, as ComputerWorld suggests, Google's brand might be enough to carry Linux in the PC market. Consumers know Google. They might not proactively seek out a Linux PC, but a Google PC...? Feasible.

Second, Google can afford to seriously undercut Microsoft's Windows pricing because Google doesn't charge for Android. This is good for PC manufacturers that are looking to make more money in margin-squeezed Netbooks, and it's terrible for Microsoft for the very same reason. Google has shifted the competitive terrain under Microsoft's feet. By focusing value (and revenue) in the browser , Google has finally given Microsoft cause to fear the Linux PC.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft's primary partner for Linux interoperability, Novell, is setting up a Taiwanese R&D team to focus on improving Linux for Netbooks.

If Microsoft can't count on Novell and its PC manufacturer partners to play nicely, who can it trust?

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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