Do Netbooks And Microsoft Have A Future?

already put a dent

So you'd think that Microsoft channel partners would have developed a fair amount of skepticism about the future impact that netbooks will have on their businesses. But that's not the case. In fact, many Microsoft solution providers see netbooks as a trend that will help drive the Software Plus Services vision firmly into the industry mainstream.

"Software Plus Services addresses the netbook niche well," said Tim Ulmen, principal at Midwest IT Solutions Group, a Wichita, Kan.-based solution provider. "The performance limitations of netbooks translate mostly to the lack of processing power and RAM, but in the future, I think these performance issues will disappear without affecting netbooks' relative cost."

Adam Smith, director of marketing at Phase 2 International, a Honolulu-based solution provider, points out that many of the latest netbooks come with a 1.6GHz CPU, 1 GB of upgradable RAM and 160 GB of storage -- which is sufficient to handle the bulk of common client software configurations.

Microsoft Exchange and Dynamics CRM both run on the Outlook client, which needs a 500MHz processor, 256 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space. Microsoft Project has similar requirements to Outlook that the netbooks can support, according to Smith.

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"We don't see any problems with people using Microsoft's Software Plus Services products on the new generation of netbook computers," Smith said. "In the coming years, the requirements for Microsoft's client software won't be getting much more stringent -- but the speed and storage capacity of netbooks should improve drastically."

Netbooks' role in Software Plus Services will make even more sense once Microsoft releases Windows 7, according to solution providers.

Microsoft has been touting Windows 7's suitability for netbooks for months, and at the WinHec conference last November, showed off several netbooks from various vendors running the Windows 7 pre-beta. Microsoft plans to offer a netbook-specific Windows 7 SKU -- Windows 7 Starter Edition -- but will limit this version to three simultaneously running applications.

Given the glowing reviews of the Windows 7 beta, the lingering negative perceptions of Windows Vista and the money it's losing from netbooks shipping with the lower-priced Windows XP Home, Microsoft would be wise to get Windows 7 on the market as soon as possible.

"I do believe that there is a rush to get Windows 7 to market to address the gaining momentum of the mobile market, and the netbook is one of the driving forces," Ulmen said.