Microsoft has a lock on the enterprise netbook market.

According to a new study of 145 IT professionals, the operating system of choice for IT netbooks is Windows 7, followed by Windows XP. The three alternatives, Linux, Mac OS X and Google Chrome, each won the allegiance of 10% or fewer respondents.

IT staffers were asked by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a custom market research and consulting firm, which netbook operating systems they had decided to standardise on in the next 24 months (respondents could standardise on more than one). Nearly a third, 29 per cent, said they planned to standardise on Windows XP, which Microsoft repositioned in 2008 and 2009 as it saw netbook sales beginning to soar.

That means an operating system with no future is far more attractive than Linux, Mac OS X or the fledgling Chrome operating system. Only 10 per cent of respondents said they would standardise on Linux for netbooks, eight per cent chose the Mac OS, and 5% chose Chrome. Two thirds or slightly more were decided firmly against all three. As the report noted, "some of these companies (Google and Apple in particular) have not fully launched in the market, with Google's Chrome only still in its development and testing phase."

That's something of an understatement. The eight per cent may be expressing just a fervent fan boy wish: rumors of some kind of Apple netbook have been rife for months, despite repeated and firm denials by the company that such a computer is planned.  

But 38 per cent picked Windows 7 as a standard selection. As part of its repositioning, Microsoft intervened in the Windows 7 engineering work to ensure the operating system would be well suited for netbooks. Only 21 per cent of respondents indicated they would not be standardising on the new Windows release for future netbooks.

A substantial group, 41 per cent, fell in between the two definite decisions. That may be due more to uncertainty about the role of netbooks in the enterprise than uncertainty over Windows 7.

In a June report based on interviews with members of its Enterprise IT Panel, the consulting firm found that 20 per cent of companies had deployed netbooks, but these tended to be limited to a handful of select employees who are often out of the office. Nearly half of the IT staffers in the survey said that netbooks were used by five per cent or less of all employees in their company.

The main attractions of netbooks were their lower price tags, cited by 71 per cent of June respondents, and size and portability, cited by 68 per cent. Generally, IT departments stick with their existing laptop providers when weighing a netbook purchase. Netbook vendors are also offering longer battery life, in addition to bigger screens and more powerful CPUs.

Still, 29 per cent said they have no plans to deploy netbooks, and another 50% said they had "some intention" of making use of them. The main obstacles, according the Chadwick Martin Bailey report: perceived lack of processing power to run local applications, and the small size of netbook screens and keyboards.

The most recent survey confirmed June data that shows enterprises see netbooks as tactical decisions, deployed for a relatively small group of highly mobile workers.