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Want to play Medal of Honor or enjoy The Dark Knight on a Windows-Vista-powered netbook? Your chance could be coming this summer.

Microsoft has certified drivers for Windows Vista Home Premium for use with Nvidia's small and sexy ION graphics acceleration platform, which juices netbook performance.

The development means games, graphics, and Blu-ray movies should run on netbooks as their producers intended - with guaranteed high-speed and detailed picture quality.

Nvidia also said it's working with Microsoft, OEMs, and software partners to deliver netbooks and small form-factor PCs this summer, priced as low as $299. Nvidia didn't respond to requests for further information on which OEMs Nvidia is working with.

The price point and use of ION are significant for Nvidia and Microsoft. The companies are promising netbook users the same media quality and reliability as a regular PC or notebook running Windows, over the current netbook operating systems of choice - Windows XP and Linux.

Windows Vista Home Premium is already available on machines from netbook makers, but not so much on the netbooks themselves. Nvidia's architecture also powers those notebooks.

Netbook pioneer Asus, for example, ships machines that run Windows Home Vista Premium, but whose sheer size and price - 10.2-inch screen size, 3.5lb weight, and $700 plus price tag - puts them squarely into the notebook category. Asus netbooks that run Linux are smaller - seven inches, two pounds, and $300 - but don't feature ION.

Clearly, the union of Microsoft and Nvidia is intended to get at least a toe into the netbook market for Windows Vista Home Premium from a price perspective and challenge both Windows XP and Linux. The former is costing Microsoft money while the latter is popular with manufacturers for its low cost but - as ever with Linux on PCs - not been so well received by mainstream consumers.

ION is designed to speed up the performance for Intel's Atom processors, which has seen uptake in netbooks. Nvidia has claimed the combination of its GeForce 9400M motherboard used in ION and Atom can boost graphics by a factor of five and video transcoding by a factor of 10 compared to the standard Atom-powered netbook minus ION.

Mike Ybarra, general manager for Microsoft's Windows division, in a statement pointed to the opportunity Microsoft has in bringing the media experience found on Windows-powered PCs and notebooks to netbooks through support for ION. "What many people call a ‘netbook’ today is really a small notebook, and users expect it to perform like one," he said.

"With NVIDIA's ION platform combined with Windows Vista Home Premium, consumers can get an affordable, premium Windows experience in a small notebook or desktop form factor." ®

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