Microsoft is hoist by its Windows petard

Opinion – It’s something of a daft idea for Microsoft to attempt to square the Windows 7 circle by creating a “starter” version which will only run three applications on a netbook PC. Windows 7 is expected to launch this autumn. It’s almost certainly a better Vista than Vista.

Microsoft, actually, got off lightly when it offered Windows XP for netbooks. The OS was supposed to be redundant but there was just no way that Vista would perform well on these dinky little machines. And Microsoft doesn’t make anything like the profits it makes on Vista on notebooks – some estimate that it’s lucky if it gets $15 or so for XP on a netbook, rather than the $55 or so it gets on a fully fledged notebook.

Netbooks, in fact, are proving somewhat problematical for Intel as well as Microsoft. The netbook category is selling like hotcakes and there’s always the danger that sales of these things will cut into sales of its notebook processors, which make a far healthier profit margin than the Atom microprocessor.

Although, on the face of it, the “relationship” between Microsoft and Intel is still perfectly amicable, behind the purdah curtain there’s not much love lost between the two computer giants.

Intel is perfectly aware, and has been for years, that its share of the profit pie in a PC is diminishing, while Microsoft has pursued its well tested model of more or less forcing computer vendors to move to the latest OS it decides that people will have.  Latest is not always the best as far as software is concerned.

That’s much truer for software than hardware. Intel has made mistakes in the past by introducing microprocessors that aren’t exactly the bee’s knees – the Pentium 4 was not particularly advanced compared to the Pentium III – and the Pentium III-M.  But Moores’ Law continues to hold true for microprocessors. There is no equivalent of Moores’ Law for software. The more Microsoft adds “features” to its operating systems, the more it makes demands on the other components in a system.

Although it’s handy to picture Microsoft as Mr Software and Intel Mr Chips, the simplest of peeks under this particular hood reveals that the PC engine is one, and not two. Intel understands software development just as well, some might say better, than Microsoft. Intel also understands that an intelligent understanding of software and hardware can work together to turn a PC into a machine that really flies.

So it’s no surprise that Intel, which has a very close relationship with notebook and netbook manufacturers, is really on the side of Linux rather than Microsoft Windows 7 Starter Edition. It rights an imbalance where Widnows software gobbled up much more of the PC pie than rest of the component manufacturers. And, of course, Windows is a component too.

While Microsoft seems hell bent on pushing the crazy idea of an operating system which is effectively crippled, we suspect it will have to think again. No-one is interested in a car that half works, and no-one will be interested in a PC that can only run three applications. That would be like selling a microprocessor that will only work properly if you plug in a math coprocessor alongside it. Oh, hang on. Didn’t Intel do exactly that, way back when technology was far less accessible to the masses?