I don't understand this made-up netbooks versus "tablets" war. They're both the same kind of thing. We don't divide the phone market into whether they have a physical keyboard or not (or indeed, whether they have a touchscreen). You might as well separate devices into whether they have a webcam or not.
Trying to make it into some kind of war makes no sense either - there's nothing stopping companies producing both netbooks and "tablets", so it's not like one winning means other companies losing.
If they're releasing a dirt cheap netbook, I suspect they're setting their sights on other netbooks just as much as "tablets" (possibly more so, since "tablets" are often more expensive). Oh, and you can already get Android netbooks.
"This time round, thanks to smartphones, ordinary buyers aren't so fazed by non-Microsoft operating systems."
That doesn't make sense either - smartphones (and phones in general) were around, and popular, back then, and years earlier too.
It's not clear to me why Linux on netbooks lost out. But I don't think it's a software issue, as netbooks were sold, like "tablets", as simply "Internet and app" devices, not full PCs. Explanations include:
* People confused by Linux. It's not clear to me why this should be the case (Ubuntu is pretty good these days), but possibly there were still problems. Cut-down operating systems like Android have less complexity to them.
* Some of us do want Windows you know - and we still do. These people didn't want Linux netbooks, but they still don't want them, and won't get a phone-OS based "tablet" or netbook either.
* Marketing muscle from Microsoft - along with media hype. Linux has no company pushing for it. Android and IOS have Google and Apple respectively - along with the disproportionate amount of hype that they get in the media, which Linux never got.
@Leona A: The netbook is the small cheap computer. How is it not? No, it's not as powerful as a full blown desktop, but that's an unreasonable expectation. Plus ultra-portable laptops are these days small and cheap too, but very powerful, so why don't they count either?
Unless you mean really cheap, as in sub-£100. But I'm not sure that people have ever claimed this was coming? (And if you're going to look at historical prices, e.g., the price of some of the cheap 8-bits, do remember to take inflation into account.)