Note to Microsoft: Your Netbook Days Are Numbered

Microsoft had a bad day on Thursday, announcing the first year-over-year quarterly decline in its history, but at least, said CFO Chris Liddell, things are very bright on the netbook front. "Our attach rate is over 90 percent," he said.

Well, that's just fine, Chris, but sometimes the past isn't prologue, it's just the past. It's easy to have 90 percent-plus market share when yours is the only commercially viable option on the market. Linux is fine, but it hasn't had a powerful organization sponsoring it and promoting it to hardware vendors -- until now. And from all appearances, Google is doing a fantastic job of promoting Android to hardware vendors of all stripes.

A relatively obscure Chinese netbook maker -- Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies -- is about to set loose on the market an Android-powered netbook using an ARM processor chip, probably for under $200. And that's just the beginning. An executive at ARM told Computerworld he expects to see 10 ARM-based netbooks later this year, and it's a safe bet to assume many of those will also be using Android.

Meanwhile, Android is starting to make huge strides in the handset market as well. T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom disclosed last week that it sold more than 1 million G1 Android-powered handsets in the first quarter of 2009 alone, and Samsung just announced it will ship its first Android-based smartphone in June.

Motorola and Sony Ericsson have also announced plans to ship devices running Android; Nokia, the world's largest cell phone maker, runs on the Symbian OS, and iPhone, of course, has its own proprietary system. That doesn't leave a lot of room for Windows Mobile 6.5 or however many new point releases Microsoft wishes to produce.

Microsoft got away with ignoring the Web as long as everything important was taking place on the desktop (most of which it owned), but the increasing ubiquity of cloud computing, abetted by faster and increasingly ubiquitous wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, LTE, WiMax, 4G, etc.) is bringing that era to a close. Windows may be trying to catch up, but the truth is that people don't love Microsoft. They love Apple, they love Google, and they love Nokia. People use Microsoft because they think they have to. Or rather, they used it because they thought they had to. Them days are over, Microsoft.