It's a valid question that Ive been considering for sometime now. Unfortunately I have been unable to come up with a definitive answer short of Microsoft not needing to re-invent the wheel to get people to use their product.
After all, everyone has heard of Windows. But most people have no idea what to expect from these "netbook Linux editions" designed for the smaller screen size.Who wins in the end?
In short, if you look at why a user might select one option over another, in the case of Windows, it seems to me that familiarity is winning in a big way.
I see two beacons of shining light for those alternatives looking to take on Windows 7 upon its release and into the future: Access to an "app store" and the ability to overlay two applications.
Despite the belief that overlaying two applications on such a small screen is counter productive, it's a choice that the end user needs to be presented with in an easier way. Windows alternatives for netbooks really need to have access to an application center or "app store" in order to make software installation as appealing as possible. Ubuntu, for instance, has been doing well with their Add/Remove functionality on the desktop front for sometime now.
To the end user, it's a matter of having access to applications that are able to do what they want them to. And even taking into account the inherent headaches that including proprietary code can provide, the idea of developing applications for money remains a big motivator for driving forward with some very cool software.
Assuming Google can buckle down and give Android the same kind of air time in the mainstream media that Microsoft will give Windows 7, it could be an interesting competition. A competition with plenty of hills and valleys as each platform shows off its best.
As to whether Windows 7 will own the netbook market share in the future is not simply a matter of media buzz, however. It will also be a matter of how much value a stripped down, application-lite installation of an operating system is valued, familiar or otherwise.