back to article Google boss backs subsidized Linuxbooks

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has hinted that his company - or at least its partners - will one day subsidize the purchase of extra-low-cost Linux netbooks in an effort to promote the use of its myriad cloud online services. "What's particularly interesting about netbooks is the price point," Google's Willy Wonka told a room full of …


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  1. E

    It is a good idea

    I recently bought an eee pc 1000HA and I find it an excellent tool. Laptops have always suffered from having short battery life and being heavy. Netbooks are light, and the eee pc 1000 series demonstrates that battery life can be 5 or 6 hours. The machine can do voip/skype/whatever and it runs a browser and SSH client nicely. Heavy word processors are over-rated, a lightweight word processor is good enough for most purposes.

    Way, way, way, way back in the day there was a competition between x86, RISC, SPARC and PPC for the desktop: x86 won then but this is a market where competition could again have an effect and drive the price/performance ratio. Linux has an advantage over Windows in that it runs on x86/x64, also ARM, also pick your CPU. So do the vast majority of KDE & Gnome apps.

    Therefore Linux has a competitive advantage in a market - netbooks - where the CPU price is extremely sensitive and (IMHO) there is real reason for competition against Intel & AMD processors. A portable OS applied to heterogenous hardware competing in a fairly common form factor could cause a (I hate to use jargon) paradigm shift.

    Netbooks are already extremely successful, it would be very nice if they were adopted as value added marketing tools. Certainly with Linux there would be little likelyhood of vendor/OS lock-in: people would make RPMs or distros for the little beasties. A telco giving me a netbook with an ADSL contract would have a hard time stopping me or charging me for installing GCC, for example.

    Problem is, they'll eviscerate the high margin Core2 & Phenom market. Then again, with 32 nm process tech soon ready and the small size of a netbook CPU, margins on netbook CPUs could be high enough to make up the difference.

    If that is actually the case, who wants to bet a beer that Intel executes, AMD vacillates, and ARM & Fujitsu (sparc) & co. retrench ;-(

  2. ffrankmccaffery

    cheap and nasty

    just like googles suite of applications and whatever linux distribution itll be running on

    it maybe a wet dream for marginal buyers like the poster above but a nightmare for the majority of computer users wholl have little patience for googles half baked programs and linuxs countless problems

  3. gjw
    Jobs Horns

    spending money?

    Every idiot can spend money, but they should start making money anytime soon for a change. Real money not the phoney stuff the FED is printing at the moment. Because our Chinese friends aren't going to give the mericuns a free ride for ever.

    Horned Jobs for obvious reasons.

  4. Dave Bell

    The Big Assumption

    A netbook is a very portable computer.

    Cloud computing depends on internet access.

    There's an obvious problem here.

    If a netbook can't do anything useful without access to the internet, it will only be useful in a few places. This idea depends on there being the right infrastucture.

    If this doesn't make you wonder about BT's router upgrade apparently turning it into an Openzone access point, you might not be properly awake.

  5. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    It is not what you've got, its how well you use.

    Do not be fooled into thinking that a hardware device is the great white hope answer to present ills. And by a hardware device, I would class any consumer product in that bracket whether it be electronic, electric, mechanical or even static decorative possession. They are merely means of temptation to encourage you to spend Cash and enrich Capitalism and especially those who would have the Currency flow through their System of Banks/Laundries, for whenever you are sitting in charge of the Flow and Currency Distribution, are you able to Invent more Currency and choose to whom it should Flow/Go ........ which was the Old [Analogue] Way of doing Big Business.

    Things have Changed Fundamentally and QuITe Radically of Late, as you may have Recently Noticed and the Old Way of Doing things,.......[ with its Usury Banking Systems and Discriminatory and Subjective Discretionary Services in Exclusive Supply of Cash Reserves/Sponsored Credit from Businesses which Easily Print and Mint Money, which is a Public Convenience Used as a Reward/Carrot/Stick to Generate Product and Industrious Energy with Spend/Turnover, which returns the Cash/Credit back to the System for ReUse,..... but with the System ALSO expecting the Return of the Sum Creditted/Spent to be Returned again, together with an Added Sum of Arbitrary Interest, which Creates an Additional Unnecessary Burden on they who are Generating the Currency Flow with their Industry and/or Intellectual Property Conversion into Product for Cash Spend, and which keeps the Banking System alive] .... is Dead in the Water, is it not, as IT has been found to be both Predatory and Cannibalistic and a Self Serving Payola Ponzi Scam?

    And I do apologize for the unusual and quite excessive length of that sentence. It does though contain and explain all that is Wrong and Toxic in the Present System, and that which would need to be Quickly Discarded and thrown directly into the Trash, and left behind in the Past for a Dim Memory to Remember as being Recorded in History , in the Future.

    The Future is Formed, and such is the Ubiquitous and Smarter Invasive and Inquisitive Nature of Information Technologies and Intelligently Designed Processing Architectures, also Naturally Phormed by what One would do with hardware devices, which are Better Utilised with their Owners Plugged in/Turned On and Tuned In/Connected to Networks InterNetworking in Clouds and/or across Global Intelligent Information Grids, Sharing Ideas for a Greater Mutual Intelligence, which Leads a Following Building the Future by Virtual Means and Intellectual Property Share....... and Currency Distribution and Free Flow rather than Banking Management and Administrative Blockage.

    And you can be assured/horrified/informed that the System is being/has been BetaTested in a Running Pilot of the Free Flow Credit ControlLed System to ReGenerate and Energise Economies and Industry.

    And More on that, later.

    And Paris, because she is a hero to those who haven't a lot but know very well how to use IT to Create a Perception of Definitive Real Advantage ...... to Disadvantage Puerile Indifference and Macho Competition.

    And all of the Above is what IT is all about, ma cherie, n'est ce pas?

  6. TeeCee Gold badge
    Gates Horns

    Hang on a minute.....

    Big company bribes resellers to install the O/S of its choice in an attempt to tie the users in to its own software suite and freeze out any opposition sales.

    Haven't we been here before?

    Hmm, this might need a clue for the hard of thinking......need a suitable icon.....aha!

  7. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Initially Money to those who can Spend IT 42 Create DisProportionate Wealth for Novel Distribution.

    And for all you Doubting Thomases and/or Moribund Thinkers out there, not thinking and thinking "It is not what you've got, its how well you use." ... Posted Wednesday 4th March 2009 08:06 GMT, is an alien rant, here is something similar from someone you might consider more earthed? ..... ....... except he's quite a bit further behind the Curve and nowhere in Sight of those out in the Front and at Point and on Master BetaTest Pilot Duties. But at least he's got Vision.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taking over the world

    If the cloud apps were up to snuff they wouldn't have to give away anything.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    And those problems would be....?

    And they compare to Windows' countless problems how....?

    I have some problems with the Linux distros I have tried (KDE is unstable...the window managers are confusing...) Some of this comes down to my ignorance whilst I fiddle about and learn. A few are genuine issues (i.e. KDE 4.2 - it is actually rather flakey). But these issues are no more than I experience on Windows on a daily basis.

    I have lost count of the number of times on Windows I have had to play "kill the process" or just rebooted to get a USB device to a state where I can unplug it. Very frustrating. Or a file is locked by something and I have no idea what. Or having to manually search for, download and resolve compatibility issues with drivers. Then there's the lock-ups, virii, trojans, bloat, cost.....

    I like this idea and I will be interested to see how it pans out. Hopefully it will bring more quality into the Linux arena, which is often still a hobbyists play pen. I guess the main gripe I have with Linux is documentation, or the lack thereof. Actually, scratch that, there is too much. Disparate, unmanaged, uncoordinated and not new-user-friendly.

    So sure, Linux has problems but no more than Windows does. And when low-price-point is the target you only have two choices Linux or XP; and as MS will be killing XP soon.....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    And just what will be the price?

    Google subsidizing the hardware means they will dictate to the manufacturer what is installed.Hello google gears, mail, google docs, search as the home page etc etc. it will be nothing more than a gateway to google services. And yet they still don't think they are a monopoly, or that there is anything wrong with this business practice.

    And before everybody pipes in with - but you have a choice, if you don't want to use it install a competitors product. That's exactly the same position as a Microsoft OS. If you don't like the per-installed stuff use someone elses and yet everybody still cries monopoly.

    Subsidizing the hardware is no different to Microsoft offering massive software discounts to OEMs. Both serve the purpose of making the inital cost to the consumer cheaper and so getting your product into a dominant position in the market.

    Its about time Google moved something out of perpetual beta before trying to shove their half-baked projects down peoples throats. Hopefully it isn't going to be too long before this whole 'cloud' idea disappears again. Should only take 1 or 2 massive outages. It isn't a new idea and it has failed before for that same reason.

  11. DutchOven

    RE: And just what will be the price?

    AC wrote: "Subsidizing the hardware is no different to Microsoft offering massive software discounts to OEMs."

    Except that it is fundamentally different.

    You're not going to be paying (anything at all) for the OS. You're also getting discounted hardware.

    MS have a different model, you pay for the OS. It might be cheaper than normal retail when included with a new PC but you *do* pay. You don't get discounted hardware as part of the deal either!

    ...and let's face it, that's a rubbish deal for anyone who is replacing an existing PC, who already has a licence for Windoze or who doesn't want Windoze in the first place.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Google CEO Eric Schmidt has hinted that his company - or at least its partners - will one day subsidize the purchase of extra-low-cost Linux netbooks in an effort to promote the use of its myriad cloud online services."

    Isn't this pushing into new markets using marketing clout, as in, not allowed by the competition commision?

  13. Big Bear


    “Laptops have always suffered from having short battery life and being heavy.” – not sure how you go about quantifying this one I’m afraid! I find that the big desktop replacement/gaming laptops are big and heavy with short battery lives, but the small ultraportables I use for work when I need to travel to my job are the same weight as your Eee, have as good or better battery life as well, and have superior ergonomics. However, while I won’t deny that the price of these machines are 3-4 times that of the Eee, their increased performance does mean I can run anything I like on them without relying on a “cloud” someone else provides across a network that is not subject to other users impacting it in the public domain… you get what you pay for I suppose!

    Have to agree with the rest of the posters here about Google positioning themselves as the new evil empire and hoping to dominate the mainframe… errr… cloud computing world. Still yet to find someone to explain to me what this means to the world when the global networks are clogged by 2010 with cloud computing, HD streaming, legal fileshares, etc… why would I want to put my critical infrastructure at the whims of this with a cloud supplier, which would probably require dedicated pipe to said supplier and thus removing the “choice of supplier” advantages that cloud touts as a selling point!

  14. The BigYin

    @AC - 10:20

    "And before everybody pipes in with - but you have a choice, if you don't want to use it install a competitors product. That's exactly the same position as a Microsoft OS. If you don't like the per-installed stuff use someone elses and yet everybody still cries monopoly."

    Here is the difference.

    If I don't like FF, I can uninstall it completely and use Opera.

    If I don't like Nautilus, I can uninstall it completely and use soemthing else.

    If I don't like Gnome, I can I can uninstall it completely and use (say) KDE.

    If I don't can see where this is going.

    If I don't like IE, I can I can't. And why does Outlook Express keep popping up, I thought I had removed that. So with MS, you are stuck with what you are given (whether you think you are using it or not).

    As to Google mandating Gears etc, you are probably correct. If they block the removal (or restrict installs/usage as Apple do with the i{hone) then we can cry "monopoly". Until then we'll juts have to wait and see.

    Oh, a monopoly also require market share. Linux has barely 4% of the market. it will be a long, long time before and Linux distro (no matter how restrictive) and fall under a "monopoly". And given the heterogeneous nature of the Linux world, it may never happen.

  15. xjy
    Paris Hilton


    ... these things ain't. Think a bit historically. Fridges were originally exclusive, like cars. Phones too. Anyone remember telegrams? Air travel?

    Give these developments a decade or two, and only design and deliberate function-based performance alternatives will distinguish the machines. Basic form and function will only differ like radios and landline phones. And broadband & wireless will be everywhere, like roads and road signs.

    Basic funding will be radio-style with a central collection system plus advertising (maybe). Unless the state decides that this kind of electronic connection is so fundamental to work and social and cultural interaction that it funds it all out of taxation, so people won't even notice it. Or do you ever hear anyone moaning about VAT, which is a totally unjust single-rate tax on rich and poor alike (worse than Thatcher's repugnant poll-tax).

    The arguments between small chargers and free advocates will be like those about ways of funding public transport in metropolitan areas.

    (Paris, cos she's a kind of celebrity infrastructure...)

  16. The Badger

    RE: And just what will be the price?

    "MS have a different model, you pay for the OS. It might be cheaper than normal retail when included with a new PC but you *do* pay. You don't get discounted hardware as part of the deal either!"

    And what exactly happens when vendors offer Microsoft-laden computers at the same price as a Linux version or less? It's well known that software vendors pay to have their crapware pre-loaded (antivirus trial versions and so on), especially on Windows systems. Whether Microsoft plays any role in that directly is another matter, but we can't rule out strategic discounts and other subsidies taking place behind the scenes.

    What we should expect from regulators is them mandating the availability of hardware without an operating system or crapware bundled. If people then demand Windows plus crapware, if this effectively gets them a discount on the price at the cost of having a bunch of bloat and advertising in their face, then they would be able to choose this. But this should not diminish availability of the raw hardware, and pricing should remain transparent.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Netbooks are like electric cars

    Everyone thinks they are probably a good idea, but they aren't enough of a real car to replace your real car and they aren't actually much fun to use.

    Its a lethal combination.

    If you want a real revolution, you'll need a "home hub" with fibre from your telco, SMS, email, voip, media recording/streaming, general server and backup functions and your own private cloud.

    Then having a few netbooks around the house might be useful. If eveyone has a similar setup, you could just hook into your friends wifi with enough speed to get back to your own home system at lan speeds.

  18. James Taylor


    I realize it isn't the main point of the article, but the following sentence leapt out at me:

    "He pointed to a recent snafu where Google's search engine blocked access to the entire internet."

    That seems a tad harsh. As far as I know, Google problems like that are hardly "situation normal." Or are they?

    P.S. Good to see that amanfromMars is back with his usual refreshing take on reality.

  19. E

    @ffrankmccaffery, big bear

    'marginal buyer' - I can't agree. I've got three very nice desktops at home. I just wanted a very light notebook with good battery life and my requirements of a laptop are not heavy. As for Linux, every OS has irritating things - I prefer Linux/UNIX irritations to Windows irritations.

    Big bear - Matter of perspective I guess. I had a Macbook Pro, nice machine and it got about 3.5 hours to the battery charge. But it ran MySQL, Apache quite as well as an average desktop for development work and I just don't need that kind of power or it's approx 5 lb in my briefcase. I have network access at work and at home to some fairly heavy iron and most of what I use the eee for is either running ssh sessions or reading the Inq and el Reg. It's not a cloud front end, but it is I guess a front end for better machines. FWIW, I would not trust anything very important to Google or Amazon (or whoever's) cloud - I have no belief they would not at some point attempt to assert ownership, or perhaps mine the files people store on their clouds.

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