Linux to shine in sub-$200 netbook market

Linux vendors need to focus on the netbook as a sub-$200 appliance rather than an alternative to Windows netbooks and laptops

Even though the netbook market is one of the few bright spots in the PC market and also even the mobile computing sector, its rapid growth will not necessarily ensure the development of Linux in the mobile arena despite most netbooks offering Linux as the entry level choice of operating system.

According to a new report from at advisory and consulting firm Ovum, Linux vendors need to focus on the netbook as a sub-$200 appliance rather than an alternative to Windows netbooks and laptops. Ovum believes that Google’s Android, rather than a generic Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, stands more chance to emerge as the main platform for the netbook sector.

Ovum sees the laptop market as becoming increasingly complex, with market segments catered for by a growing variety of low-cost netbooks and laptops. Despite a strong start and boosted by the fact that they offer price advantages over the competition, Linux netbooks, says Ovum,  have now been overtaken by Windows netbooks and Linux is lagging increasingly behind in terms of sales.

The research firm though sees a clear opportunity for Linux as an operating system (OS) for handheld Internet appliances- it cites the Apple iPod Touch -  by building on its strength as a phone OS and on its potential as sub-$200 netbook OS.

It also predicts the emergence of a new generation of lower priced but less feature-rich netbooks costing around $200 or less, manufactured by the likes of Freescale Semiconductor and Asus, that will be powered by specialised Linux distributions such as Android.

Commented Laurent Lachal, Ovum’s Open Source Research Director, “Internet-connected applications (and related online stores) are key to the success of the netbook appliance/mobile Internet device. From that perspective, Android benefits from increasing support from developers/ISVs. Google strengthened its position with the February 2009 announcement that it will now allow developers to charge for applications on Android Market. The success of Android could even lead Android’s Java-based Dalvik runtime to be ported to other platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile.”

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