Windows 7 is hot pick in enterprise netbook market

IT staffers were asked which netbook operating systems they had decided to standardize on in the next 24 months

Microsoft has a lock on the enterprise netbook market.

According to a new study of 145 IT professionals, the operating system of choice for IT netbooks is Windows 7, followed by Windows XP. The three alternatives, Linux, Mac OS X and Google Chrome, each won the allegiance of 10 per cent or fewer respondents.

IT staffers were asked by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a custom market research and consulting firm, which netbook operating systems they had decided to standardize on in the next 24 months (respondents could standardize on more than one). Nearly a third, 29 per cent, said they planned to standardize on Windows XP, which Microsoft repositioned in 2008 and 2009 as it saw netbook sales beginning to soar.

Netbook computers spark corporate interest

That means an operating system with no future is far more attractive than Linux, Mac OS X or the fledgling Chrome operating system. Only 10 per cent of respondents said they would standardize on Linux for netbooks, 8 per cent chose the Mac OS, and 5 per cent chose Chrome. Two-thirds or slightly more were decided firmly against all three. As the report noted, "some of these companies (Google and Apple in particular) have not fully launched in the market, with Google's Chrome only still in its development and testing phase."

That's something of an understatement. The 8 per cent may be expressing just a fervent fan boy wish: rumors of some kind of Apple netbook have been rife for months, despite repeated and firm denials by the company that such a computer is planned.

But 38 per cent picked Windows 7 as a standard selection. As part of its repositioning, Microsoft intervened in the Windows 7 engineering work to ensure the operating system would be well suited for netbooks. Only 21 per cent of respondents indicated they would not be standardizing on the new Windows release for future netbooks.

A substantial group -- 41 per cent -- fell in between the two definite decisions. That may be due more to uncertainty about the role of netbooks in the enterprise than uncertainty over Windows 7.

In a June report based on interviews with members of its Enterprise IT Panel, the consulting firm found that 20 per cent of companies had deployed netbooks, but these tended to be limited to a handful of select employees who are often out of the office. Nearly half of the IT staffers in the survey said that netbooks were used by 5 per cent or less of all employees in their company.

The main attractions of netbooks were their lower price tags, cited by 71 per cent of June respondents, and size and portability, cited by 68 [er cemt. Generally, IT departments stick with their existing laptop providers when weighing a netbook purchase. Netbook vendors are also offering longer battery life, as in HP's announcement in early 2009, in addition to bigger screens and more powerful CPUs.

Still, 29 per cent said they have no plans to deploy netbooks, and another 50 per cent said they had "some intention" of making use of them. The main obstacles, according the Chadwick Martin Bailey report: perceived lack of processing power to run local applications, and the small size of netbook screens and keyboards.

The most recent survey confirmed June data that shows enterprises see netbooks as tactical decisions -- deployed for a relatively small group of highly mobile workers.

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John Cox

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