Netbooks ARE the surprise attack. No time in history has Linux desktop had such broad adoption, and it's all thanks to the netbooks. In fact netbooks are a market that started with Linux, the first Asus EEEs were Linux only. Linux was chosen because it can
run on low powered hardware and it lacks license fees, both critical to maintaining the low price of netbooks. Microsoft had to come running to Asus, not the other way around.
It's Microsoft that's trying to catch up here, and it wouldn't surprise me if they did give Windows XP away for free to try to dominate netbooks like they do other PCs. Seeing how netbooks are very tight margined, I have no reason to doubt Shuttleworth on this.
Even a free Windows might offer Microsoft some respite, but it's not going to stop Linux on the netbook by any means.
Freescale is going to put out ARM netbooks are coming in April, ~$200, running Ubuntu most likely. This will be huge. And Microsoft could pay Freescale $100 per install for all it matters, it wouldn't do any good WinNT doesn't run on ARM.
Lets just see if Microsoft will have an ARM port of Windows 7, and somehow get all their ISVs to make ARM ports, while justifying license fees. I don't see it happening. Good luck anyway! But anyway Ubuntu already fully runs on ARM - all software inclusive.
Nope. Netbooks are a mistake. For Linux they're a temporary relief at best. The reasons why Windows doesn't run well on Netbooks will be solved by Windows7 and once MS drops the price for Netbook installs, then we will be back to square one. This
is exactly the same mistake that they make time after time, and I think we'll see it again with home servers now that Microsoft seems to have a pretty good solution that beats any Linux based system for ease of use and versatility.
I would like to see a lot more effort in small, dedicated devices because that's where the future is, and that's where MS is weakest. I'd like to see the community get behind the Pre, but of course they won't because someone will come up with one little reason
why it doesn't comform to the Stallman dream, and they'll pack their toys and go home. Might not be a bad thing though because I think the Pre needs developers who are more consumer focussed than your typical Linux developer.
Anyway, netbooks are just laptops with bits missing, and with everyone bar Apple reducing laptop prices, I don't think they're a particularly good long term bet.