Lemmings

From an e-mail I received today from my Windows guru (he really is, no kidding) coworker:

Sorry, Linux: Windows dominates on the netbook too
For a while there about a year ago, it seemed like Linux was going to see a small resurgence on the PC client, with netbook makers shipping the open source OS on their systems in order to save money. But it’s funny what feedback can do: As it turns out, most netbook buyers actually want Windows, and thanks to cost-saving efforts by Microsoft to supply netbook makers with a low-cost version of Windows XP, that’s exactly what they can get. So now, in early 2009, over 90 percent of netbooks ship with Windows, and not Linux. But hey it could be worse. A whopping 0 percent of netbooks ship with Mac OS X.

Yes, MS did an outstanding job making Windows licenses cost less for netbook makers than Linux licenses. At least to begin with. They had to. How else could those manufacturers have afforded to ship Windows? After all, Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) costs $0 per copy. There’s no way all those hardware companies who ship Windows at a loss, would they?

[Update: The latest news as of 4/20/09 is that MS has been charging Netbook manufacturers less than $15 a copy for WinXP. Such a “revelation” from “unnamed sources” only confirms my hunch that MS once again exercised its full monopoly power to dominate an emerging market. As expected, not a peep from the cowards and thieves who are supposed to regulate this sort of thing.]

Interesting how those that did ship Linux passed on UNR and instead developed their own costly, in-house distributions that lacked both the high quality and support available with Ubuntu. In fact, they even took the legal risk of keeping the source for critical hardware drivers secret in violation of the GPL — just to maintain their proprietary advantage “just a little longer” (all have since released their source in response to being called out on it). Almost as if they wanted to fail in that first round.

Ironically, like the Watergate break in, all that was really unnecessary.

As one IT manager said at a forum last year, “American companies, America, loves Windows”. It has nothing to do with quality, performance, capability. Open source aficionados have their own irrational, “faith-based” loyalty to Linux, of course. So do fans of the BSD’s, Solaris, AIX and MacOS. In the words of the song:

Every computer crashes,
because every OS sucks.

An interesting thing that doesn’t get noted often, however. When netbooks were first introduced most were priced under $300. Now, just as Linux has disappeared from the netbook market, so have those sub $300 prices (Radio Shack/AT&T’s “$99 with 2 year data plan” deal, that actually winds up costing $1,500 over that period, doesn’t count, neither does anything you’ll see online, because shipping will always put you over the top). Coincidence?

Of course none of this makes any difference to me. Having test driven a few netbooks at the local computer store, and spent a good deal of time hacking an XO at home, I continue to be of the opinion that the things are pretty much useless for the purpose intended and not worth what they’re asking. The only thing changed is that even in today’s distressed market, with electronics and computer retailers collapsing left and right, new laptops actually cost more than they did a year ago. Monopoly capitalism is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it?