One of the surprises of 2008 was the runaway success of the ultaportable/netbook form factor. Now that systems running Windows XP are available people tend to forget that it was the low cost and small footprint of GNU/Linux that made this category possible in the first place. Without free software, the new machines would have been forced to run Windows Vista, making them too slow and too expensive - and hence failures. It was only because Microsoft saw GNU/Linux walking away with this nascent market that it executed a massive U-turn over Windows XP, and allowed it to be installed on these systems.
On Open Enterprise blog.