First Skirmish: Once and Current Kings of Software

June 4, 2009
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The first big skirmish between the once King of Software, Microsoft, and the Current TitleHolder, Google, was just announced for October 22nd 2009. On that day Microsoft will launch Windows 7 including a Starter Edition of Windows 7 for  Netbooks. By that time there should be several Google Android powered Netbooks available on the market. Now consider that Windows XP currently has 80%++ of the Netbook market. Oh…. and Netbooks are the fastest growing PC hardware by far. This will be a skirmish to see which OS, Android or Windows 7, shall take the major share of Netbooks. Here are the things to look for in this Fall OS Title Fight which has all the makings of matching the Thrilla in Manila.

Windows 7 Strengths and Weaknesses

Windows 7 takes over from the current leader, Windows XP. Windows 7 is heir to  a substantial  legacy of applications to rest on. It also has  hundreds of hardware and software vendors that have been hurt by the economic downturn and who are anxious to see a Windows 7 lead revival – even if its on a Netbook. They need a winner and with multitouch Windows 7 they hope to have a vehicle to bring new features and utility to their applications and hardware. Problem: Microsoft has been getting slow on delivering development features into their maintreamVisual Studio and other development tools.

Strengths of Windows 7:
1-All those apps? -Windows XP stormed to 80% Netbook marketshare in less than 6 weeks on debut in August 2008.
2-Shock and Awe – Microsoft is not afraid to spend a half a billion or more on a Windows promotion
3-Clean-up for Windows – a hundred things from Notepad and Paint through security dialogs will be refreshed
4-NoHolds Barred – Microsoft will not restrict Windows 7 to 3 app limit on Netbook edition
5-MultiTouch GUI – Windows 7 will have multi-touch capabilities in NetBook edition
6-Partners want it – Windows hardware and software partners want Redmond to succeed

Weaknesses of Windows 7:
1-Still in De Nile – Redmond insists Windows 7 has to beat the “perceptions” that Vista is deficient.
2-Bloat Persists – Windows 7 is better than Vista but still worse than XP in memory use
3-Speed Deficiency – Windows 7 is faster than Vista in most tests but slower than XP
4-”People Ready” – Microsoft insisted Vista was easy to learn and People Ready – yeah right!
If Windows 7 requires huge add-ons of memory and still runs slow relative to an Android powered Netbook, this fight may be over with in the first round. If on the other hand Windows 7 is close enough without requiring various speed boosts, then it may very well prevail as long as the price is not too onerous. However, expect Windows XP, like IE6 versus IE8,  to garner loyalty as it is faster and more compact in memory usage than Windows 7 on Netbooks.  Finally, will a radically changed OS bring its share of bugs on the intro  scene in the tight fitting Starter Edition ?

Androids Strengths and Weaknesses

Given the dismal record of Linux on the desktop, its hard to imagine claiming that Android, built on a Linux base, has a chance against the Windows juggernaut. But remember, Linux is lean and Google has great experience in engineering Linux into doing very fast operations indeed. And in making Android with touch screen operations work well on mobile smartphone – the move to a Netbook is a move up in CPU, memory and hard disk capacity resources.

Strengths of Android:
1-It is Linux under the hood – speed speed speed with much less memory bloat
2-GUI is touch aware – NOT multi touch, but still delivers many touch screen conveniences
3-Net affinity – Lots of ties to the Web; Google is not afraid of the Net, Microsoft still is
4-Tie in with mobile phone Android – this with App store and links could be killer

Weaknesses of Android:
1-Google is stingy – if the idea of Android does not catch on, Google will let their partners bear the ad burdens
2-Google help is meager - have you found, let alone read Google docs for GMail or Google Calendar or … ??
3-developer and admin tools are mixed in quality – just check the admin for Chrome, the API developer tools
4-Google abandons multi-touch – strange choice here

Android may get a headstart on Windows 7 during the back to school computer buying season; but if Android stumbles out of the gate is there any chance Android can withstand a full Microsoft PR campaign ? Also who is responsible for support on Android problems – the Netbook vendor or Google. Help, promotion and customer support are new for or  hitherto avoided by Google.

Summary

The spoiler in this skirmish may be that the two Netbook editions may play to entirely different audiences – each being a “success” in its native demographics. Though they will have some common characteristics in their customer profiles, they will likely be distinct. Google’s will be young, Web oriented, willing to do things online as much as offline on the Netbook. Microsoft’s users will likely have some Office savvy plus one or two favorite Windows apps. But those apps can not be graphics or other CPU and screen real estate dependent tools like Photoshop, Autocad, or even some games. These resource hogs will likely not work well on a Windows 7 Netbook.

Will there be a Killer App punch available to either vendor? Well the Web connectivity and touchscreen operations will surely provide the ingredients for a potential killer app. But don’t count on Google Wave to help the Android camp because it is Open Source. Windows 7 users will just download Chrome and communicate with Wave enabled websites, blogs and Applications. Will Redmond luck out and have some 3rd party drop a killer app like Aldus Pagemaker and Corel Draw did for the early Windows 20 years ago ? Only the Shadow knows.

Whatever the case, this will be a thriller battle because both companies “perceive” it to be critical to their future. Android is the new income stream for Google; Microsoft cannot afford to have the Windows franchise so badly mauled as Vista has left it. But whoever comes out on top will not be able to rest on their laurels – because in the wings will be a formidable challenger – Apple with its Tablet.

2 Responses to First Skirmish: Once and Current Kings of Software

  1. Josh
    June 5, 2009 at 4:25 am

    What about Intel’s Moblin OS?

    • admin
      June 6, 2009 at 10:25 am

      Josh -

      I agree Moblin is definitely a contender – and so is Palm’s WEbOS. Suddenly in the guise of being smart phone OS a whole new set of challsngers to the OS “desktop” supremacy is taking place – and Linux/Unix in the guise of Snow Leopard, Android, and WebOS is getting more than just a foothold.

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