back to article Microsoft's Windows 7 price gamble opens door to Linux

Ubuntu creator Mark Shuttleworth is itching for a clean fight with Microsoft on netbooks. Shuttleworth once told The Reg he can't wait for Windows 7 on this sub-laptop class of machines because it'll finally give Ubuntu the opportunity to compete fairly against Microsoft's operating system in this emerging market. OEMs have …


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  1. Mike OReilly

    Wanna bet?

    So Windows 7 netbook will cost $50 more. So what? Wanna bet if people will buy Linux netbook (and suffer its shortcomings) to save 50 bucks on a $300 purchase? Haven't we been on this road before? Two years of netbook history says Windows has already KO'ed Linux in the netbook ring . Early versions were all Linux, remember?

    People seem to forget that netbook vendors will have added cost of support and returns with Linux netbooks. Because of this, linux netbooks will have actually *less* operating margin than W7 netbooks, not the other way around as the article suggests.

  2. Chris Curtis

    Price point my @$$

    I say they'll drop the price come crunch time. It'll be halfway between the XP price and the 'leaked' price - maybe 35.

    I say this is a deliberate leak once again and is most likely bollocks,

  3. Henry 9

    Shuttleworth's bad timing

    Recent upgrades in Ubuntu, Shuttleworth's distribution of Linux, have managed to cause lots of hardware to stop working. My own computers have stopped playing any audio and stopped working with my web cams. There are lots of questions on complaining of hardware problems when using Ubuntu and its derivatives. If you read the you will see that there are lots of questions posted there about hardware that was working and has stopped following some update. The Canonical team has really messed up and there is no indication that they have any interest in fixing these many hardware compatibility problem.

    If you want to try Linux I would have to recommend PC Linux OS ( Their 2009.1 product appears to be working fairly well with a broad range of hardware. Unfortunately, as with all Linux distributions, there is no guarantee that any given update will break a hardware driver and leave you with a crippled machine and no idea if the developers even want to fix the problem that they created.

    Mind you I hate Microsnot but I also am very frustrated with the way that Linux distributions are managed by their developers.

    And don't even think about mentioning Macintosh. Those overpriced smug boxes are getting almost as many viruses as Windows computers.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget it!

    Microsoft has successfully managed to block Linux on the two most important fronts : the OEMs and the retailers. You have to be blind AND stupid to miss the evidence. First, we have a string of important retailers stating as one single voice that there is no user demand for Linux installed machines they never intended to offer for sale anyway. Second, the humiliation of Jonney Shih the chairman of Asustek, who after a meeting with Microsoft corporate vice president, OEM Division, Steven Guggenheimer had to apologize for a Linux netbook that Asustek has displayed at Computex Taipei in Taiwan recently (see the whole article at

    This clears the way for Microsoft to recover the loss incurred by the sale of Windows XP Home edition at an extremely low price at the expense of world wide Windows fans.

    Now Linux users will still be able to get their OS at the same low price as usual and if they manage to avoid paying the Microsoft tax, they will be the real winners here.

    Note to Windows enthusiasts : next time you'd better support Linux even if you have no intention of ever using it. Just look at how cheap you got Windows XP for netbooks because of the little cuddly penguin.

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Buried in the small-print

    "The situation is complicated by the fact that the Starter Edition price is generally not disclosed. This version of Windows is an OEM-only edition and pricing comes down to how far OEMs can arm wrestle Microsoft, with agreements then locked up under NDA." has been the case for two or three decades, but the EU chooses to challenge MS on the issue of web browser standards compliance. Talk about missing the point.

    I gotta hand it to Microsoft, they clearly know how to pull the wool over a regulators eyes.

  6. SynnerCal

    Canonical not realistic

    (Good article by the way - shame that the voting panel wasn't visible)

    Much as I'd like to see something other than Windows on netbooks, you've got to be realistic - it's not going to happen. Shuttleworth is right - Win7 _is_ pretty good, and you can bet your last 10 cents that Ballmer and co. are going to make damn sure that the door to other OS's is well and truly slammed shut. I currently run Win7RC on VMware (on an Ubuntu host!) and, assuming that the price is right, then I'll definitely be using it to replace my current XP Pro install on my desktop.

    Personally, I think that there's enough market for both Linux and Windows. Put Windows 7/XP (imho - to use a Regism - Vista is an epic fail) on the 11"+ $400+ "netbooks". Meanwhile Ubuntu Netbook Remix and others would fit nicely on the proper netbooks - the small, light and _inexpensive_ devices (<$300) that you can take to the coffee shop etc.

    I've replaced Linspire on my AA1 with UNR and its like chalk and cheese. Linspire/Xandros are just so last millenium, whereas UNR is fast and powerful, (my apologies to Fedora/OpenSuse supporters - they're probably good too). That said, it'd also be pretty neat for Apple to support MacOS on a couple of these. Choice is good!

  7. Sartori

    We will see.....

    The problem is that when people go into a store they want Windows because that is what almost everyone else has and it's what they know and what they have used at home and work. If it has linux on it they just think "what the heck is that?" and ignore it.

    If they manage to get it on some big brand machines then they need to try and make sure it gets marketing behind it. The Linux distro makers obviously don't have anything like the money MS has but they could make sure a machine is sent out to reviewers (TV, printed and online), invite them around and explain the benefits and generally show it off. If they can get people interested and showing them off on a prime time gadget show and big online magazines then it could gain some momentum.

    Windows 7 is a good OS and it will probably sell by the lorry load but I would be very happy to see Ubuntu or another distro make their case to the public.

  8. paul brain
    Black Helicopters

    As usual , greed = missing the point

    To be honest, the OS on a netbook is incidental, basic word processing, web browsing, presentation, IM etc, and if you're a tech professional, network tools , all available on Linux, with a nice zippy and 'free' environment.

    What we need is to educate / advertise to the masses that you simply don't need Windows any more on this class of device, not because the world doesn't need windows , it does, however , M$ need to understand that what they are charging for their Desktop OS's is now way off the market value.

    Charm offensive would be nice , just look at apple , offering a $29 upgrade from the previous OS. If M$ did that every single machine sold with Vi$ta would be upgraded overnight and they would make an instant profit.

    But as usual, for all the money and talented staff , they miss the point again.

    Shame. 7 is pretty good , but for now at least , my netbook will remain dual boot XP and Ubuntu.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Old news?

    ISTR that when the Eee* shipped amidst much interest there was an XP version or a cheaper Linux version.

    IASTR that ASUS found that sales of the Linux version were somewhere in the vicinity of piss-poor and that quite a few of those sold were returned for an extra-cost XP "upgrade" (hah!).

    So the *real* question here is whether an extra 20 quid on the price differential between the two versions will galvanise the great unwashed public into jumping the shark. My money's tentatively placed on "no" here.

    The elephant in the room is whether the lost sales courtesy of a 20 quid price hike are sufficiently taken up by Linux version sales to make it worth while, when the cost of stocking, distributing and supporting two parallel product lines is taken into account.....

    *There, I mentioned it. Can we have the pic now please?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Clean fight? Pfft

    The contracts will force MS onto all systems (and even those that don't have MS installed will need to pay the MS tax - ask Dell). MS will do everything it can to spread FUD about any alternative (see about 50% of the posts here).

    If it was a clean fight, MS would not even be in the picture. But it is not a clean fight and it never will be a clean fight so long as MS continues to abuse its monopoly position.

    A note for the MS shills: that's "ABUSE it monopoly position". Trying thinking before spouting your usual crap.

    Modern phones are a bit like a netbook in many ways (slightly slower, smaller screen, better at voice) and they don't run Windows. Why the hell would they need to? Going to edit a Word doc or fire up Photoshop on one? Nope.

    Thus netbooks would be a great place for some of the Linux distros to show their stuff. The more "locked down" UI would be acceptable to users of a netbook as, well, it's just a netbook and not a full PC. They would be able to use it without the "LINUX! *fears* ZOMG!" reaction that most people misguidedly get when you mention it. In fact, the suer might not even be aware it is Linux.

    Once that ease of use sinks in, the penny will slowly drop. And that is what MS wants to stop. They do not want the netbook to become a chink in their armour, so they will contractually (illegally?) compel OEMs to bugger their Linux distro version or not have one at all.

    Heaven forfend that the customer should ever be given a choice in the world of MS.

  11. Toastan Buttar

    Hardware and application compatibility.

    "The only card Microsoft has left in this game is application and hardware compatibility. "

    And they've always been the stumbling blocks for widespread adoption of a Linux-based netbook amongst the general public. People have been willing to pay extra for Windows in the past - why should it be any different this time round ?

  12. tempemeaty

    MS is so much the trickster

    Preconceived price disaster has a preconceived solution. Scare everyone with a $45-$50 price tag so they will eagerly accept there REAL price they secretly intended of about $35. MS is that tricky.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why no spec for spec pricing

    Why is it that Netbook makers do not offer the same spec with Linux and with Windows price for price spec for spec.

    I bet if you dig into the contracts it's Microsoft anti competitive behaviour behind it. It would be in it's nature to prevent direct comparisons.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    The thing is

    Ubuntu is great, I really love it. An easy transition from windows. But, I reckon yer actual user wants to run applications, and if those are windows applications, they want to run those windows applications on their new computer. They don't necessarily even understand why Linux won't run a windows application.

    When your gran can configure Wine to run a windows application on her netbook, then Linux is ready to take on windows in the home user market.

    My experience of wine is that it is wonderful but not exactly foolproof or easy.

    The guys at Canonical and Wine need to get their act together on this.

  15. Sooty

    just wondering

    how relevent the price comparison to xp starter edition is? My netbook came with xp home.

  16. Cameron Colley

    This won't make a difference.

    People will just buy Win7 machines and complain that they're overpriced and too slow -- or they won't buy "netbooks" at all. There are too many people out there who will insist that Windows is required, easier to use and generally "better" regardless of how much pain MS put them through.

  17. Charles King

    $52 retail = $34 wholesale

    "Leaked copies of Windows Vista Starter Edition are available for $52."

    Uh, yeah, sure....

    The Vista Starter Edition licences that MS sells to OEMs will consist of nothing more than a serial number printed on a COA. Selling these at retail along with media and packaging will result in a markup of at least 30%.

  18. Jamie Kitson

    Fair fight?

    Ubuntu is free, how is that fair?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Flawed logic

    >Those manufacturers will be concerned about their margins

    But the margins are transparent - manufacturers will just charge more for the Windows 7 version and consumers will understand why and happily pay the extra- as they do now presented with the choice between a cheap and fairly current Linux distro and an expensive, 8-year-old Windows release.

    Ubuntu missed the boat by at least a year - there's never been any doubt its a superior netbook OS than Vista, but there's no chance it can compete with Windows 7.

  20. Mark Broadhurst
    Thumb Down

    Not really a change ?

    Currently you get low end Netbooks which run Ubuntu and better speced ones which run Windows XP. Your always given options but the options normally are there to limit your choice rather than expand it. Its easier to support 4 types of system than 400.

    I'd see it as being sold like it currently is :

    1. Cheap as chips with Ubuntu.

    2. Average with Ubuntu.

    3. "Premium" with Windows 7.

    4. Ultimate with Windows 7.

    From your average un techy punter Ubuntu is seen as a cheap but worse option, which is why so many people punt up the extra cash $20 is not a lot in the grand scheme of things.

    I would not be surpised if a few manufacturers upped the price a bit more in order to make more of a profit and blame it on Windows 7.

  21. Chris O'Shea

    Windows Starter Edition

    I may have missed a memo, but Windows XP Starter Edition was a deliberately cut-down (crippled) version of Windows to run on low end hardware at very cheap prices to win over the developing nations who couldn't afford a machine that could run "real" Windows XP. ... Vista Starter Edition is the same.

    As far as I can tell, it was never meant to be a OS for "rich countries" to run on portable hardware, that's what Windows CE and Mobile were for.

    So the limit on number of processes, the small memory required *and the pricing* all make sense for selling to the 3rd world/developing countries, and not in competing against Linux on netbooks for the US.


    "Windows Vista Starter was designed specifically to help more men, women, and children in developing technology markets learn valuable computer skills and reach new opportunities. With the goal of addressing digital divide challenges around the world, Windows Vista Starter is the most affordable edition in the Windows Vista line-up.

    Windows Vista Starter is designed for the beginner computer user. While it doesn't provide as many benefits as Windows Vista Home Basic, it is great for the beginner user who wants to perform basic tasks."

  22. Andus McCoatover


    Wow. Now that Asus has shot itself in the foot with "It's better with Windows", I think they're out of the growing netbook market. Yes, it's growing. Number of them (various manufacturers) I see flipped open in café's and bars, buses (In Oulu, some buses have free WiFi connection) mean it's a strong market.

    What are Asus, who started the revolution with the eeepc701 gonna do now? Backtrack? Nah, they must've done a deal with Microsoft to ensure a very cheap deal. NDA, natch.

    Neat of Shuttleworth not to diss them. FUD isn't a Linux command (Though it should be. Format c:/)

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    In other news-somewhat unrelated, but still.. checkout

    That's what I call advanced! (NB, the cameras just register if someone's still using it, for power saving. Major screw-up, the cameras are too high. So if you're a deformed midget, forget it!)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I've given up...

    TBH I can see why OEM's have an issue supporting Linux it's not a tech issue it's a user issue, i've given up recommending Linux on netbooks to friends as i'm sick of the phone ringing. The problem is that it's different to their desktop/notebook, "I can do this in Windows how do I do it here?" "Where's media player?" "I don't like swapping between Windows and Linux depending on what device i'm using but I want MS Office on my desktop because of work." (and i'm not even going to concider WINE in this situation.

  24. Steve 63


    I also have xp and hackintosh dual booting on my net book

    (When i figure out hot to get dam backtrack to install as a 3rd option it will be triple boot and yes i have used teh ubiquity command and it does not see my hardrive)

    But am quite happy with it for now..

    Was consideriing removeing the xp though and run "Parrells" in Macos and see how ti runs from there...

    P.S Any one reccomand any good Linux books to read (Want to learn something new)

  25. James Pickett


    A clean fight? With Microshaft? On which planet?

    You have to wonder why they are so scared by such a small market sector. Is it that old megalomania, or just that they don't want anyone to know that there's an alternative? Was Ballmer the fat kid in the playground that nobody liked? No change there, then...

  26. damian 2

    @ Chris Curtis

    Got any evidence for this? M$ aren't doing to cut their profit margins for netbooks, surely the OEMs will want similar discounts on "full" laptops and PCs?

    Been in a bernie, son?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardware compatibility?

    The hardware compatibiltiy argument is looking pretty weak these days, particularly with distros like Ubuntu. My last three computers I've had to download Windows XP drivers for 3D graphics, printers, wireless cards...

    In comparison the only thing which hasn't worked out the box with Ubuntu has been the graphics acceleration, and getting that working was just a case of clicking "Yes please" when asked.

    Maybe I've just been lucky with my pick of hardware, but my recent experience with Linux has been that it "just works" and it's with _Windows_ that I'm left searching for downloads, changing obscure settings...

  28. Shane McCarrick

    Re: Asus

    Asus- did not shoot themselves in the foot with their 'Its better with Windows' campaign- they shot themselves in the foot when they introduced Linux to the mass market as that Linpus crap on the original 701s. Many people who were willing to view Linux with a reasonably open mind- were exposed to one of the worst distros out there- when they could have spent a couple of weeks knocking together something that would have given Mac OS a run for its money. Thats where Asus shot themselves in the foot. The really bad problems particularly with wireless configuration in Linpus- meant the return rate on the original 701s were startlingly high in comparison to industry norms- and gave Asus a bad taste of what it considered consumer's preference to be........

    FYI- I triple boot with Vista Ultimate 64 bit, XP 64bit, and Ubuntu 64 bit. I have no probs with any hardware in any of the operating systems (other than realtec codec probs in Vista- but thats a known problem). I even use Steam on Ubuntu for some limited gaming- because it saves having to kill a load of background applications. I've found the update feature of Ubuntu very helpful- and a lot more intuitive than Windows Update (my last update of device drivers for the aforementioned soundcard necessitated a restore to LKGC).

    Its not black and white. If Linux machines are sold at a discount to Windows Machines- a la the way the Acer Revo have priced its range- there is a very good sustainable market for each operating system. Shovelling an operating system out the door- without thought to the underlying hardware and what consumers really want (or need), is fatal.

  29. h4rm0ny
    Paris Hilton

    They've got the right idea

    Microsoft can't compete with Free software on price and they'd kill themselves if they tried. Their only sensible long-term approach in terms of marketing now is to position themselves as a "Premium" O/S. And with their current market share and userbase familiarity with their products that's something that they are currently in a very good position to do.

    Look at Apple - you get more bang for your buck with a normal PC, but people still buy the Apples. WIndows as the Apple of the O/S world? It's their only good option now that Linux is market-ready. But the thing is, Microsoft could actually maintain a decent Operating System that people wanted and were willing to pay an extra $50 for. I'm sure their marketing people have done their research on where to pitch the price to go for that "Premium" quality level. Let's face it - Linux has been the best thing that ever happened to Windows O/S quality.

    Paris, because $50 dollars is way cheaper than some things would cost you.

  30. tony72
    Thumb Up

    Linux netbooks are great!

    Joe public often can't live with Linux, which means there are loads of box-opened returns to be had really cheap for the cost concious like me. Either use Linux if you're that sort of nerd, or a legit OEM copy of XP Pro can be had for around £30 on ebay. Acer Aspire One, 1.5GB RAM and XP Pro for under £180, very nice.

    You can keep your crippled versions of Windows though, but then again maybe Widows Crippled Edition will result in lots of returns just like Linux, so bring it on.

  31. Doug Glass

    Same Song; Next Verse

    People will buy what's on the shelf. New products mean new prices, usually higher, and the numbness to new product price increases is rampant.

    People will buy what's on the shelf.

  32. Stuart 22

    Shuttleworth is to blame?

    Linux is going to have a hard fight against Windows at any price. Its the little things that mean my latest netbook (mini 9) is running XP. It replaces a Xandros eeepc 701.

    Xandros was fine for simple emailing/browsing - but not upto serious work. Ubuntu would have been a major advance but the pages of eeeuser were filled with the trials and tribulations of getting WiFi, sound et al working only attracted the committed geek. Shuttleworth ducked the obvious gift Asus had given him to give people another route from replacing Xandros with XP. He refused to package a 'eeepc' edition. Not till 9.04 is there something that would work 'out of the box'. Too late the market moved on. No volume to generate those little essential utilities required for syncing all my other mobile devices and assorted drivers.

    Ubuntu upgrades unacceptably killing my desktop's WiFi is unacceptable. Much as I love Kubuntu and hate Vista - I have real work to do. I can trust XP to deliver the little things I need (and hopefully Win7). When it doesn't a googled fix doesn't require Kernel recompile. If I was retired the challenge of Ubuntu would be attractive. Right now it has lost me and about half a dozen installations.

    Unnecessarily and sadly.

  33. Big Bear

    RE: The thing is (AC 16/06/09 08:58)

    I think the real turning point will be when people can run Penguin equivalent applications instead of their Windows applications natively, rather than needing an emulator like Wine. By this I mean they need to be as diverse and feature rich as the established Windows applications, with a wide choice that is easy to get to and to install and run, all of which goes back to education of the masses, not the geeky percentage of users represented by the readers here.

    One way would be the Apple way, where they supply the rich applications for you, but they have the advantage of providing a single example of an OS, rather than the dozens of distros out there, which could and do change rapidly year after year in their point releases, but then the likes of Canonical need to upskill into those areas or partner with development firms in those areas, all of which costs. The other way is the Windows way where other firms create these applications for the user, but to entice them into it, they will need to charge money for the applications, which the user then balks at (human nature being what it is) as the OS was free and has an application that does a fair-to-poor job at working like that application, which then diminishes the value of the OS in the user’s mind.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Jamie Kitson

    Microsoft is an abusive monopoly, how is that fair?

    And see how far you get trying to obtain support from Canonical without paying for it first! "Free" only goes so far.

    I'd love to see Windows 7 go head-to-head with (say) Ubuntu, openSuse and Fedora on various sets of identical hardware. Guess it's not possible to run comparable benchmarks...but it would be damned interesting it you could.

    Just did a quick check. FF is the most popular browser - it is more popular than all versions of IE added together (IE 41%, FF 47.7%). So it seems that people are voting with their feet.

    Linux and Mac have seen a slow and steady rise in popularity. Together the have about 10% (split 4.1% and 6.1% respectively), Windows share has been slowly dropping (on some sites it reports as low as 87.7%) as a result. So seems people are voting with their feet there as well.

    Of course, just because IE has a low share or that Windows popularity is falling is no excuse for anti-competitive practices or for preventing people from removing IE when they don't want it. But MS is in fear of the above trends and will do whatever it can to keep its monopoly.

    If it was capable to creating decent software, people would not be converting to alternatives.

  35. James Pickett

    The other one

    I notice that the current Maplin offering comes with Windows CE (!)

    I wonder what the deal was there..?

  36. Steve 95


    Machines in the UK don't use starter edition - so this is a non-story.

    Netbooks normally ship with Windows XP Home Edition. Windows 7 Home is rumoured to be the same cost as XP Home....

  37. stim
    Gates Halo

    ubuntu - will it ever get to version 7?

    bye bye ubuntu.

    weren't linux based netbooks the most returned product of 2008? can't see much changing - end of the day, the majoriy just prefer windows.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    W(h)ine! W(h)ine! W(h)ine!

    OSX doesn't have a Windows compat layer to "ease" people over, they simply state the bleedin' obvious. "Yes this is new and it's not Microsoft Windows, but not entirely different from what your used to. So get along to a store give it go. Bring you Windows PC into the Apple store and we'll get you moved over!" ( I believe from memory that's in one of those annoying Apple ads! )

    There's the difference! Apple not only have a massive budget for marketing and can hire the ad-men to make it happen, Apple preach and reach out to the average person and talk their language. Apple talk in terms of web browser, spreadsheet, word processor, desktop PC, home movie editing, MP3 playing, they don't bang on about running Windows apps in an emulator. Linux ads go bleating on about technical issues and compatability this and that. The average user ( if such a person exists these days!) has a core set of tasks they need to be able to do, stop selling Linux as a Windows replacement, it's not, it's a Windows alternative, like Apple is an alternative, not a replacement. If they want to pitch Linux, the tech angle has to stop, it has to reach a middle ground that we can all understand, no not dumbing down, but common ground.

    Linux needs to be pitched with the right amount of BS and the right amount of honesty, just like any alternative product fighting the markety leader. "You can run this great alternative to Windows, you can run your spreadsheet, web browser, MP3 player and home movie editing software. Best of all, the entire kit and kaboodle is 100% free! Yep, you only pay for the hardware, the software is 100% legally free! Want to share your Powerpoint presentation or spreadsheet with your colleagues? No problem at all, it's compatible with existing Microsoft and Apple software, all the software you need is right there on the PC, ready to go! Plug in and play!".

    I love Ubuntu and Fedora, use 'em all the time at work, but it will never hit mainstream until we understand it's a product and as such needs to be "sold" as such, stop the Wine crap and talk in terms of apps and tasks to be done, not technical. Lack of decent games and the inability to run Windows apps ( within standard OSX) hasn't stopped Apple for shipping bucket loads of overpriced kit by the create load has it!

  39. Andus McCoatover

    @Shane McCarrick

    Er, it was Acer Aspire One that runs Linpus. Asus 701 runs Xandros.

    Both do what they say on the tin, tho'. No less, no more.* Neither are bad. I carry my 701 everywhere. Lovely bit 'o' kit.

    My Huawei 220 3Gmodem just _worked_ on my eee701 (same as on my G/F's machine. Wireless? Just worked. Out of the box)

    My mate's Acer Aspire needed my help, 'cos the operator (DNA) swore blind that the modem they sold him (I think Huawei 192?) wouldn't work with Linux. WiFi did, no sweat, flick the switch on the front of the machine, but I only had to look up that DNA wanted the static APN name to be 'internet', and all was tickety-boo. For convenience I also plugged his SIM-card into a phone, and turned off the "PIN required" option - doddle.

    He's as happy as a pig in shi*t now. Found a job using it.

    *Friend of mine collected graveyard epitaphs. His fave:

    "Here lies Lester Moore

    Four slugs from a '44

    No Les. No more"

  40. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    RE: RE: The thing is

    >>> I think the real turning point will be when people can run Penguin equivalent applications instead of their Windows applications natively, rather than needing an emulator like Wine. By this I mean they need to be as diverse and feature rich as the established Windows applications, with a wide choice that is easy to get to and to install and run ...

    Exactly, and that's why it's important to have OPEN standards. That's standards that are OPEN, complete, and freely implementable. Like, err, ODF ! Once you have documents in a STANDARD format, then you can use any available app to edit it and it doesn't matter if you prefer Windows, Mac, Linux, or anything else.

    That is why MS fought so hard to throw spanners in the works of the ODF standardisation process, and why they bought their own non-open, non-free, alternative standard. They know that as long as you have to have MS Office to fully handle MS Office Documents, then they can use that to lock out competition and lock people in to using MS Office (and hence MS Windows).

  41. seasider

    Won't make a difference

    I agree this won't make a blind bit of difference - the Gen Public simply will not "get" anything different to Windows.

    And actually that's fine by me - like an earlier poster I can recommend PC Linux OS ( I have been using this on my home machine for some years (various versions) and it's no hassle at all. It just installs and runs reliably and fast. Other Distros might well be better - I don't know - all I know is that Pclinuxos has not caused me enough grief to even think about looking.

    OK the non-technical will complain about it not being Windows but for the technically competent amongst us it's great that the scumbags that write various malware and network borne nasties have the great unwashed and their insecure crappy Windows install in their sights and not me!

    I have to deal with Windows related nonsense and instability at work - it's a pain but I get paid for it!

    At home the no hassle Linux option is the ideal solution for me.


  42. goggyturk

    @ Hardware compatibility?

    I've got to second that. Having heard about the various compatibility problems encountered by Vista users, it's struck me how easy Ubuntu is to install and configure, and how it gets easier with each passing release. I have a young family at home, so I don't have time to fsck around with every little config file or driver any more.

    However, the truth is that Linux on the desktop / laptop will never happen now, at least not in the next decade or so. Or if it does happen, it'll be something that's like OSX or the XMB fast boot media player you get on some laptops these days, that will hide a lot of the complexity (and power!) from users.

    It's a hobbyist, enthusiast's OS, but why should that be a bad thing? That's one of the main reasons I've persevered with it for years.

  43. rhdunn

    hardware and software compatibility

    Does Linux work perfectly? No. Ubuntu has had a mis-step with their move over to using pulseaudio (but this is much improved with the latest release).

    Does Windows have better hardware support? No. Just look at the NVidia mess on supporting Vista -- unusable, slow graphics with tearing (and that if you have a Go graphics card on a laptop, it is up to the manufacturer to supply the drivers, not NVidia but on Linux you can get the driver support directly from NVidia!) And there is also the Creative debacle around their audio drivers.

    As for application compatibility, Windows broke a lot of applications. In order to get those to work, you need to upgrade (which may cost money). And then there is all the hunting around for the install CDs and license keys, and making sure that everything is up-to-date.

    With Linux, I can update the whole system easily in one step. And I don't need the gazillion reboots that you have on Windows (ok, so I'm exaggerating here :)).

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Store

    Whenever I have been in store looking at Netbooks, If I show interest in one that has Linux the staff always challenge me on whether i'm sure I want Linux. "Do you know this is Linux and not Windows? You will want the Windows version" With some even saying Linux isn't "as good"

    When it is just as good for things such as browsing the web and checking emails.

    I was looking for Linux to save money as I already had a legal copy of Win XP Pro to install on it, so thought i'd save a bit of money (and did). I need Windows to run Visual Studio, if it was just for browsing the web or doing non-MS specific programming, a Linux based OS would be fine for me.

    But the point is that the staff in stores need to be pushing Linux too, but only where it would be appropriate for the customer. Unfortunately it's all down to the opinion of the member of staff. Joe public will take the word of a PC World employee as gospel.

  45. Toastan Buttar

    Re: Hardware Compatibility

    AC said; "The hardware compatibiltiy argument is looking pretty weak these days, particularly with distros like Ubuntu. My last three computers I've had to download Windows XP drivers for 3D graphics, printers, wireless cards..."

    The thing is that people buying a new computer don't generally have to install Windows itself or the drivers for the components - that's pre-configured by the OEM. Also, if you're shopping and pick up some kind of peripheral (webcam, printer, etc.) you're pretty much guaranteed that the drivers will be on an included disk and that it'll work with Windows. If something doesn't work immediately with Linux then you've got...<ahem> 'interesting' time ahead of you. Whereas some people look upon that as a geeky puzzle challenge, the vast majority of people just want to get it working so they can start to do stuff.

  46. Rainer
    Thumb Up

    Killed by their own success

    Most people will opt for the Win7-version (if Linux is available at all) - the cost is almost irrelevant - so much is true.

    But where a Linux-version is available, the price-difference will stick out.

    What most people do not seem to realize is that a sale of Win7 for a netbook will result in the loss of a "full" sale of Win7 for a notebook, most likely.

    Already, shipments of netbooks (and the reduced price MSFT has to offer XP for) shows in their balance-sheet.

    They may win the netbook-war - but at their own expense, because Linux isn't even the enemy, it's Windows itself.

    While Linux-netbooks are not compelling to people outside special-interest markets (sysadmins etc.) - an Apple-designed netbook may very well be.

    With carrier-subsidies, it might in some cases be priced below Win7 offerings of competitors with "inferior" products.

    While not a real mass-market, Apple might once again be able to pull a high-margin segment almost completely into their control.

    Apple has no problem with a 1, 2, or 5% marketshare - as long as those people guarantee them a healthy margin.

    Apple has been adding 0.5b to 1b USD _per_ quarter to the bank (for years now) only from pleasing a very, very small segment of the market.

    Turns out, volume doesn't beat anything. Only fools would sacrifice volume over margin.

  47. fishcakes

    @Jamie Kitson

    linux is only free if your time is worthless.

  48. James Pickett


    "loads of box-opened returns to be had really cheap"


  49. Outcast

    Whats its for again ?

    Coz I forgot.

    Netbooks I mean.

    I see people (on geek forums) keep saying they want to run their windows apps on netbooks ?

    Really ?

    Like what ?

    Photoshop ? Are you for real ? Perhaps you want to play Crysis on a netbook too ?

    How many Joe/ann publics are going to lash out hundreds of pounds for Photoshop just to edit a few pix on a netbook ?


    Are you for real ? Do you have fingers the size of a five year olds ? And how much does office cost (serious question). I bet it's heaps.

    To use on a netbook ?

    So they are great for Network engineers..


    How many Joe/ann publics are Network Engineers ?

    ITunes.. Ok.. Fair comment WTF would you want to use that for ?

    Ok.. Granted you wouldn't but joe/ann public would.

    So thats a grand total of....


    Must be a real Killer app

    Personally... I bought my daughters 3 701's and I wanted them as cheap as possible and they are happy with them and what they can do on them.

    ONE daughter has so far changed to UNR

  50. Andus McCoatover

    Toastan Buttar

    Toastan Buttar - "If your toast always falls butter-side down, simply butter the other side" (Little book of Wrong Shui)

    Yep, for Mr. Average Farty, Windows is right. Just take it back to the shop if you don't get it. Or, call your mate. Or, put it back in the box, and use paper and pencil. And an abacus.

    Then, try to stick a bit of new kit on it. Re-do the shop/mate cycle. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Ubuntu 9.04 just works with everything I have.*

    That's not an 'interesting' time. God, my Granny could've done it. Sharp as a knife but she's been dead for 20 years, and we didn't have Ubuntu on my PDP-11/34.

    *Well, my Canon MP510 doesn't put the colours in the right place - I need non-freeware Turboprint, but WTF?? Neither does my Tux Droid, but I'll work it out. When I'm sober. Next week. Maybe. (iced-tea? for wimps)

  51. Chris O'Shea

    @outcast why *I* want a netbook ...

    ... actually I don't want a netbook, I want a light laptop/notebook computer with long battery life that will run the apps I know how to use and will open the documents and files I have already.

    So yes, I want Office or something that looks very much like it

    "Office Are you for real ? Do you have fingers the size of a five year olds ? And how much does office cost (serious question). I bet it's heaps."

    Just after Christmas the local Tesco was selling Office 2007 Home & Student edition for £49.99. Which is the cheapest I've seen it, but finding it for under £90 is not hard at all.

    What I want is a machine I take away with me when travelling, for weekends, or just have with me when I'm meeting friends in the pub that I can go online and surf the web, buy train/plane tickets, use google maps, copy files to/from USB memory sticks, run PaintShopPro and Flickr uploader to put some pictures up on the web to share, plus word, excel, acrobat reader, flash player (for the youtube videos etc.) ... and has a decent media player for watching films on the plane/train. If it has a DVD drive in it, so much the better.

    Is this a "netbook"? Possibly ... there's no precise definition (it's like jazz or science fiction, it's what I'm pointing at when I point at something and say "that's jazz" or "that's science fiction")

    So I know how to use office, paintshoppro, firefox, etc. and it's what I have on my desktop at home and my desktop at work .... I don't really want to learn a different set of apps just because the machine is portable. And that's *my* kill app, not having to learn different sortware to do the same thing on a different device. It's meant to make my life easier, I'm not supposed to have to bend to fit what works easiest on the computer. So my netbook is very likely to be Windows. But for the moment I'll stick with my laptop.

  52. Brett Brennan 1

    There *IS* no price difference

    At all the retailers I've been to recently here in the US, if there is a Linux netbook being offered, the price is the same as the WIN XP equivalent sitting right next to it. It's not the OEM picking up the difference: the retailer figures the extra few bucks is rightfully theirs for offsetting the costs of stocking, displaying (and ultimately having to handle a return) on the Linux derivative.

    My family and company are 100% Linux based, so I'm certainly not an MS fanboi here. But, as many other posters have noted, reality is reality. MS dominates because the average schmuck is too lazy and stoopid to think through the differences.

    Oh, and the OTHER reason that Windows is so huge on netbooks - the REAL elephant in the room that MS has ABSOLUTELY tamed: people are NOT using netbooks as they were envisioned, as light-weight portable devices, but rather as a full-replacement for a laptop computer. That means that running Works, Outlook Express, Media Player, etc. (the same "bundle" apps that come with Windows XP Home) are EXACTLY what they are looking for. It's not that Linux can do the same things better/worse: it's that MS has known for YEARS that the majority of home customers are only EVER going to use the bundled apps, and providing a cheaper alternative (netbooks) with the same package is simply going to fill the gap that has kept frugal shoppers out of the portable computer market.

  53. Don Mitchell

    Paying less for less

    People are not going to accept an ersatz substitute for Windows, even if it is free. The 2 percent market share of Linux in the desktop market has proven that. The typical PC users is not ideological, he is practical. He's not going to run an inferior system like Linux just to strike a blow against big business. He has a set of applications and games that are important to his work or for his entertainment, and Linux has failed to attract those applications. Companies like Walmart have tried over and over again to sell cheap Linux systems, people take them home, have a "WTF" experience, and return them.

    Part of the problem is that the open source model fails to attract a lot of top talent. It shafts programmers with its collectivized model ownership and licensing agreements that limit an independant software developer from doing business in a sensible fashion. He's left with the option of being a service company like Redhat, or living off hardware sales like SUN or IBM. But try to start a garage company that just invents software, and all your ideas will simply be copied before you can profit from them.

    While there is a myth of community creativity, the real work on Linux is happening in Microsoft's competators like IBM, where evidently there is still not comparable expertise or inspiration. I'd love to see a revolutionary modern operating system emerge on the scene, but Linux sure is not that! Ancient obsolete UNIX was chosen, because it was free and because Raymond and Stallman never has the talent to write an OS of their own. The hardest part of OS design is not implimenting algorithms and data structures, it is understanding requirements. And for that, LInux had depended 100 percent on reverse engineering Windows -- async I/O, journaling file systems, device driver interfaces, UI concepts and design. The Linux shells may look just like Windows and Mac, but they are potemkin villages without the important and difficult underlying technology for extensible GUI functionality.

    It's such a disappointment. As a fiscal conservative, I believe the failure of open source to innovate is for the same reason the Soviet union failed to innovate and was forced to copy Western technology. It is a failure to provide creative people with freedom, property rights and an ability to profit from their ideas. It's not just top programmers who avoid this collectivized business model, but artists and other talent. And while Linux fiddles around with its lame technology, a truly new and interesting OS has appeared, Red Dog, which is going to seriously challenge Linux in the server market.

  54. Mark Greenwood

    @Anonymous Coward

    "The more "locked down" UI would be acceptable to users of a netbook as, well, it's just a netbook and not a full PC. "

    No, when it's running XP it's a full PC. When it's running some mickey-mouse cut-down Linux with a "My First Computer" interface, it's a doorstop. That's what the Linux guys don't get... people buy them as small, cheap laptops and they expect them to work as such.

    Mine runs Linux with a full KDE desktop. It's a full PC. That's why I bought it.

  55. Rick Giles

    @ Anonymous Coward Posted 08:58

    Screw that. They just need to make programs that perform as well and just like the ones that are available for Windoze and market them better.

    The computer is not about the OS. It's about what you can do with it.

  56. Robert Moore


    "linux is only free if your time is worthless."

    I have heard this argument more times than my 32 bit computer can count.

    It just doesn't ring true in my experience. I have wasted more time trying to find drivers for Windows. Rebooting for no good reason in Windows.

    Now I admit that if you have the latest and best hardware Linux drivers can be difficult. But if you are a cheep bastard, like me, and tend to buy last years hot products, and save a stack of cash. Linux is a dream. Most of the time, just install and let the installer worry about what hardware you have.

  57. Mark Lynch

    Ubuntu netbook remix rocks

    I recently installed the UNR on my EEE Box and not only was the install really really fast (like 10minutes), but everything worked straight away including my Logitech DiNovo BT keyboard. The new interface they've made is great too, especially if you use it as a little media centre in the lounge.

  58. jim 45
    Thumb Down

    nail on head

    "linux is only free if your time is worthless."

    Exactly. All you Linux guys can go on talking to each other forever, but Linux will never escape the sandbox.

  59. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    RE:Don Mitchell Posted Tuesday 16th June 2009 15:10 GMT

    Reverse engineering windows to create linux code? boy I hope you have a good lawyer , but this sort of comment begs the question : How much open sauce code is in the latest version of the microsoft operating system? Of course we'll never know(unless someone leaks it)

    As for not earning money for my hard work in creating programs that run on a linux based OS.

    I've got some crisp £20 notes that say different.

    In creating a data communication program for industrial controls to talk to PCs, I looked into the idea of selling a complete pre-configured PC for people to just plug into the RS232 ports, set the port parameters and off they go.

    Using a linux OS would mean instead of the cheap PC box costing £500, I could buy it for £400.. install Linux, my software, then sell the box on to the customer and pocket the difference.

    Sadly, my great idea did'nt work...(damned customers not wanting to buy enough boxes to cover my costs and back to slaving on a factory floor for me)

    And the innovation case you made... well my 2007 fedora 6 os runs the beryl desktop, which can generate enough eye candy to keep even the most deranged user happy....

    And has the handy mini window preview thing that windows 7 was boasting about

    Whos following who exactly?

  60. seasider

    @ Robert Moore 15.45

    "Now I admit that if you have the latest and best hardware Linux drivers can be difficult. But if you are a cheep bastard, like me, and tend to buy last years hot products, and save a stack of cash."

    Ah I think you might have just explained why Linux is the no hassle option for me - Cheap Bastard would sum it up neatly. As for LAST years hot products - that sounds a bit excessive -but anyhow if it works for you that's fine. I believe there is a Netbook remix of Pclinuxos 2009 but frankly I'm unlikely to try it until someone starts throwing out perfectly good netbooks, like they do with PC's.

    And yes it browns me off that just about every update for a windows machine requires a reboot, and almost every update for the Linux box does not - kinda gives it away that the windows foundations are pillars of sand.


  61. This post has been deleted by its author

  62. Oliver 10

    Actually Open Source Leverages talent and energy really quite effectively

    "It's such a disappointment. As a fiscal conservative, I believe the failure of open source to innovate is for the same reason the Soviet union failed to innovate and was forced to copy Western technology. It is a failure to provide creative people with freedom, property rights and an ability to profit from their ideas. It's not just top programmers who avoid this collectivized business model, but artists and other talent"

    As some one using closed and open source OSes for years, I find that actual innovation more often than not seems to crop in the open source world, albeit in an often unpolished and non-intuitive fashion, and then commercial OSes and apps pick it up from there polishing it up and cleaning up the user interface issues.

    HTML code and the original client and server side browsers, open source project out of CERN

    Packetized Networking pretty much developed in universities as open source projects

    Active directory is a clone of network file system - out of open standards UNIX

    want to most powerful symbolic math engines, look at Maxima which is open source

    The list goes on from there, in short the Right Wing monetization of talent pays the bills but only goes so far, open source leverages often more powerful motivators like "bragging rights", public recognition of craftsmanship, and pride of ownership (not many closed source codes have the author/programmer's name attached to it for bug reports, help, feedback).

  63. Anonymous Coward

    I pity the fools

    I understand the arguments about windows, but they are not applicable to me, because I am so awesome that I can make Linux work :-D no matter what issue and trust me, I'm a fiddler, I've encountered quite a few.

    Don't care about its adoption or other people's problems tbfh.

  64. Goat Jam
    Gates Horns

    I've given up on netbooks

    Microsoft has killed them dead.

    The only way we will see Linux netbooks out there (short of US regulators growing a pair and making MS exclusive OS deals with OEMs illegal) is for google to partner with a well known CE manufacturer to produce an appliance style product.

    That CE manufacturer has to be free from current Microsoft connections but wanting to make inroads into the PC industry. Samsung, Pioneer, Sharp are three that spring to mind. If they don't have existing reliance on Microsoft products then Ballmer and his band of thugs can't pressure them into dropping products that they don't approve of.

    They could start off small with really cheap and light netbooks with fixed functionality (like the original eee, only supported properly with a decent app store for both free and paid for apps) .

    Then, as Android/Linux gains market acceptance they could expand the product lines to include more PC like products much like companies like Honda moved from being motorcycle manufacturers to car manufacturers. The first hondas were tiny, shoebox like things that were little more than 4 wheeled motorcycles with a capsule. Now look at them.

  65. elderlybloke

    There are predictions of the future

    from some of the contributors here, who are quite sure that they know it.

    They will be as good at predicting the future as the wizards at AIG , Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and others (many others) proved to be.

    That is about the only prediction that will be correct .

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows is even more expensive

    unless your time is worthless.

    Preinstall and games that is all.

  67. Muckminded
    IT Angle

    Vegas Loves These Odds

    What gamble?

    Choke on that, Microsoft.

  68. Hugh_Pym

    @Don Mitchell

    I would agree with you if you weren't totally and utterly wrong in everything you said. Still the spelling's not bad so some marks for you there.

  69. Hugh_Pym

    I predict

    As stated above MS pressure only works with suppliers who's other products are tied to MS. There is obviously a market for an internet device larger than a phone and smaller than a laptop. All those who say XP and office just don't get it - Netbook = cheap device for the masses to access the internet not cheap device that you have to buy additional software for. So I say the formula is:

    Google's Money + Linux based software + ARM Chips + Mobile Phone manufacture, retail and contracts = Netbook 2.0.

    Microsoft have done a good job in holding back the tide so far but they cannot go one forever. After all how much did Microsoft not want the iphone to succeed. They would have stopped it if they could because iphone ownership leads to visiting Apple stores. MS didn't have any leverage. A product offering good integration with the web, better spec (battery life etc) and better price is bound to succeed. All the MS tied manufactures will either have to reduce costs to compete or give up the market. MS will do everything they can to stop ordinary users finding out that you don't need Windows to use a computer. Just sit back and watch those legal actions fly.


    @Anonymous Coward Posted Tuesday 16th June 2009 04:00 GMT

    Nice link. Quote of the week has to be "No, Pressure, None"

  70. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    @Mike OReilly etc.

    @Mike Oreilly etc., no Linux is not down for the count.

    1) The figures that showed near-100% Windows sales were essentially fabricated -- Microsoft had a company collect netbook sales figures *from brick-and-mortar stores only* (where there often is not a good selection of netbooks.) Mail-order, last I heard Dell was selling about 50% Mini9s with Ubuntu, for instance.

    The Linux sales are not the few % Microsoft wants people to believe.

    2) ARM netbooks. These should cost even less, and have amazing battery life (they use much less even than an Atom). These WILL NOT run Windows (they will run Windows CE, but even Windows fans admit this is not at all the same.) The ARM's an odd chip, it'd be VERY difficult to port Windows to it, particularly seeing as how they may not have kept the NT kernel fully portable (NT 3.5-NT4 days, they had ports to PA-RISC, PowerPC, MIPS, Alpha, and x86.. .now it's x86 and x86-64 only. It's easy to put in x86-specific assumptions and not know it if you aren't porting to anything else.)

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