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Countering the Arguments Against Unbundling Windows 624

Posted by kdawson
from the package-with-a-live-cd-and-wrap-with-a-bow dept.
An anonymous reader sends in a link to a blog posting by Con Zymaris arguing for competition regulators to force the unbundling of Windows from consumer PCs. The argument takes the form of knocking down one by one the objections raised by "unbundling skeptics."
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Countering the Arguments Against Unbundling Windows

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  • But then ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NoSPam.barbara-hudson.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @09:57PM (#20906407) Journal

    "GASP! Windows won't be FREE!"

    So many people only use Windows because they think they didn't pay for it. That's why they have such a low expectation of quality - when it crashes they say - Well, I didn't pay for it, so its not like I can ask for my money back."

    Unbundle it and let the competition flow. I can see Apple doing a big push for OSX as an aftermarket product. Also, Novell's openSUSE 10.3 is a keeper.

  • by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@gmail . c om> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:05PM (#20906459) Homepage
    Was the triple-negative really necessary?
  • Re:But then ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by athdemo (1153305) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:06PM (#20906473)
    Highly doubt you'll ever see Apple putting OSX out for the x86 market. If they do that, Dell could push out a bunch of mac clones for way cheaper than Apple themselves offer. They wouldn't be as pretty, but it wouldn't be in Apple's interest anyway. The people who want OSX right now have to buy a Mac, too, and that's how they like it. (Well, you can pirate osx86, but you can pirate everything)
  • by kyrhash (1166823) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:06PM (#20906479)
    From the Article: "What about the Apple Mac? Shouldn't that also have the OS X operating system unbundled? No, for two reasons. Firstly, the Apple Mac is a product with hardware and software from a single vendor. If Microsoft wanted to sell a Windows PC that it itself made, then this also wouldn't be a problem. It would substantially tick off Microsoft's hardware OEM partners, but wouldn't be a problem from a competitiveness perspective. In fact, if that happened, there would be a substantial acceleration of hardware partners adopting alternative platforms, like Linux. Secondly and more crucially, the Apple Mac doesn't have 95% market share, and the immense leverage that such market share delivers unto Microsoft. If Microsoft Windows only had 5% of the market, then there would be no pressure to unbundle it from consumer PCs. We wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place."
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:10PM (#20906515)
    Sure us nerds can sit in our ivory tower and say that people would like Linux (or other alternatives)because they won't know the difference. But the truth is: people don't want to do backflips for an operating system in order to make it work the way they want. Windows just plain works for the vast majority of people. I guarantee that the unbundling of Windows from PCs in the EU will have no effect on Microsoft's sales just because people will use what they are comfortable with.
  • > "I would think that if Linux was that much better than Windows, that consumers would demand Linux powered PCs. If you build it, they will come."

    Most people don't even know about the possibility of alternatives. To them, a PC is any computer that runs Windows, same as, for a long time, the Internet was Internet Explorer or AOL.

    The cost of an OEM Windows license is a large portion of the cost of a new machine, compared to any time in the past. For the cost of Windows and Office, you can buy 2 or 3 computers with no OS, and install linux. the problem is, the consumer is not given a choice, so we don't know how many would take the opportunity.

    Since that choice never happens, software developers develop for the Windows platform, ensuring lock-in.

    Of course, now that Novell's openSUSE can run Windows in a window in a VM [slashdot.org], there's more reason to buy a new machine with linux, then move your old copy of XP or 2k to a virtual machine on your new box, rather than paying the Microsoft tax a second time (and yes, you can move your license to your new hardware, despite what Microsoft tries to FUD. Just make sure you remove it from your old hardware at the same time).

  • Re:hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:15PM (#20906553) Homepage
    I'm not sure... I've been able to get my girlfriend and sister to use my linux system without problem. What needs to be done is to focus on out-of-the-box usability. Turn it on, jump through a minimal number of hoops, and never worry about it again. Kinda like Macs do. We need to hide the "magic" of config files, the different system services, and the rubble from the various wars (KDE vs. GNOME, RPM vs. Debian packages, etc). Windows has done this very well, and it's time we caught up.
  • Most people don't even know about the possibility of alternatives. To them, a PC is any computer that runs Windows, same as, for a long time, the Internet was Internet Explorer or AOL.

    You miss the point. Buy a thousand motherboards, chips and cases, put Linux onto them, then walk into computer stores and sell them. There's nothing that precludes you from selling Linux PCs of your own brand.

    Surely, someone could sell Linux PCs, preloaded off the Internet, or even through a catalog. At one time, Michael Dell built PCs in his dorm room and sold them over a catalog. Instead of trying to get the government to force Mr. Dell what to sell, why can't you sell what you think should be sold.

    Please, spare me the excuses. Microsoft has no monopoly power over you, if you sell Linux powered PCs.
  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:20PM (#20906591)
    In deed. I agree with the hiding of all the things that make Linux so daunting. And congratulations on bringing your sister and girlfriend into the light. But not all people have people like you by their side every step of the way. What if someone who really likes music but knows nothing about computers decides to try Fedora (or some other flavor of Linux with an easy install process) and is wondering why all their MP3s and WMAs aren't playing in Amarok? Who will help them?
  • Re:But then ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by athdemo (1153305) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:26PM (#20906649)
    Yeah, I know you can run OSX on regular old x86 hardware. I got it running on my rig from some torrents of it, but I don't use it.

    What I was saying was that I think that they could turn the majority of the potential software only sales they'd be making into full blown hardware/software packages. Someone that wants OSX is usually going to be willing to shell out the extra few hundred bucks or so to get the Apple hardware with it, and those that actually need OSX for whatever reason would then be forced to get the hardware with it, which would be a better deal for them.
  • by LordGlenn (656863) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:28PM (#20906671)
    I read tfc but I guess I'm stupid. I'm all for unbundling, but why can't I pick an OS and have Dell/Hp/whoever install it for me before shipping? I don't think the avarage consumer wants to install their own OS.
  • Actually, I think you're missing the point - competition only works when there is no pre-existing monopoly that got there via illegal means.

    We depend on the government to step in to protect us from predators who use illegal means to gain control of a market, same as we depend on them, via police and firemen, for local protection from robbers and fire.

    Extreme situations call for extreme measures - unbundling sales of the OS isn't anywhere near extreme. To turn your argument on its head - if Windows is so good, it should have no fear of being able to compete in a truly free marketplace, solely on its merit.

    Free competition scares the crap out of Microsoft, because it can't win. Where its forced to compete, it loses market share - just look at the embedded, server, and cluster markets.

  • by headkase (533448) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:32PM (#20906699)
    It isn't. No matter how you try to cut it - geekiness is ingrained into the culture.

    Look! This text is on a different line.

    I used <br> tags.

    Slashdotters are so used to doing things in a technical way that they disregard the very real usability issues that surround Open Source. If I put text on a different line in this textbox I should not have to know or care about the br tag. This is FOSS's greatest barrier to adoption in a nutshell.
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:33PM (#20906713)
    I guess it opens another can of worms: what constitutes your own branded OS? If Dell buys the rights to use the Windows source code, makes some superfluous changes, and calls it DellOS... can they bundle it? Are you going to start regulating the source of the OS source code now?

    There are better ways to break the MS monopoly if you are so inclined - break off the company's OS division, for instance. Or, force the company to license its code. Or, split MS into two companies with identical product offerings. Each of these is a one-time move that would probably remedy the situation, whereas the solution in TFA would require constant regulation.
  • by EXMSFT (935404) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:33PM (#20906715)
    You're not stupid. The average consumer doesn't want to install their own OS. The average consumer cannot install their own OS. The author of the post makes several assumptions that the average consumer is just as much of a tech-loving, curious prosumer as he is. They aren't.
  • by markdavis (642305) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:38PM (#20906747)
    1) Microsoft is a convicted monopoly. Apple is not.
    2) Microsoft has a hugely bigger install base than Apple does.
    3) Microsoft does not make computers or bundles of hardware/OS. Apple does.

    Forcing Apple to play by the rules that should apply to Microsoft doesn't make sense; not now, anyway.
  • by director_mr (1144369) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:38PM (#20906749)
    These articles that talk about how Microsoft is shoved down our throats read more like Geek fan fiction than actual good policy. Its as if the writers fantasize about a way to show people Linux is the one true Operating System, and the only way is to take away the convenience of using Windows. No manufacturer is FORCED to bundle Microsoft XP or Vista with their hardware. They have the option of not including an operating system at all, or also selling Linux versions. The reason this is not more prevalent is that there is no demand for it. If there were wide demand for pre-installed Linux boxes, they would be out there all over the place. I can recall quite a few Linux boxes that were sold as ultra-low cost alternatives to Windows boxes and they failed in sales quite badly. One of them that comes to mind was sold at ALDI. Microsoft may have unethical tactics, but to force changes on the way computer manufacturers bundle and sell their equipment is an exercise best left to communist and socialist countries where the government knows better than the consumers and businesses in the market place. There is no barrier to computer sales that I can see. If I wanted to, I could sell a director_mr brand computer tomorrow. BUT BUT no one would buy it you might say. That is because the demand for computers is being met adequately by the marketplace. If you really think there is demand for pre-installed Linux boxes then sell them, and become the next Dell or Gateway or HP. Forcing Dell or Gateway or HP to be what YOU want them to be by changing the laws and making them become that is VERY inefficient and foolish.
  • by OverflowingBitBucket (464177) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:46PM (#20906837) Homepage Journal
    ... without the regulators taking sides...

    Attempting to stop a convicted monopoly from dealmaking that excludes competitors or allows them to collect money per PC regardless of the OS isn't a matter of regulators "taking sides". It is stopping said monopoly from abusing its position further, and actually giving competition a chance to thrive in an area despite the monopoly's best efforts to exclude.

  • Strawman (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:52PM (#20906895) Homepage Journal

    You're not stupid. The average consumer doesn't want to install their own OS. The average consumer cannot install their own OS.

    Who claimed they did want to install their own OS, and what does that have to do with bundling? Bundling is unrelated to pre-installation.

  • by brue68 (1159419) <brue68.gmail@com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:54PM (#20906901)
    actually, the evidence seems to suggest that advanced users of windows have a more difficult time switching than novice users. A novice is used to clicking through menus and trying to figure out the buttons, whereas a more experienced user already knows shortcuts and practiced movements. So, given a stable install and a novice-friendly distro, grandma may actually be more successful with Linux than the experienced gamer just my $0.02 would make a great study, any graduate students in need of a thesis?
  • "The craziest part is, you obsess over Dell PCs, and Dell's are the biggest stock part PCs of them all. They don't do anything special - stock motherboards, stock CPUs, stock graphics cards. There's nothing Dell puts into a PC that you could not put into yours when you sell it."

    All my PCs are self-built (laptops excepted). Been like that for years and years. I have never owned a Dell or a Gateway.

    "There's absolutely no reason a consumer could not benefit from that offering, and its not Microsoft's fault that you Linux people are too big of pussies to actually sell your own offerings."

    Actually, now that Christmas is coming, I plan to give away a few hard disk/openSUSE install combos as small presents. I know a few people who are running windows on hardware thats 2-3 years old, and could use both the extra disk space, and the stability of linux. They'll be able to continue running Windows via a VM (no longer a need to dual-boot) until they get used to the new setup.

    There's tons of Windows users out there who are only a hard disk away from running linux. They get to keep all their old data, they don't have to shell out big bucks for the latest bloatware, etc.

    If every linux user did this for just 2 people this Christmas, Microsofts' stranglehold on the market would be over in a year.

  • Re:But then ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NoSPam.barbara-hudson.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:58PM (#20906933) Journal

    I was in Future Shop this weekend with one of my daughters and her boyfriend. From the conversations I heard, a lot of people don't want Vista.

    If her laptop can take a second drive, its cheaper to install a second drive and linux than to buy an XP retail license. She can then run Windows in a virtual machine right on the linux desktop. (oh the irony or funning Windows in a window).

    Also, check out the "downgrade rights" - everyone's doing it nowadays.

    Or suggest she return the laptop because its not fit for the purpose for which it was purchased.

  • by Tsagadai (922574) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:59PM (#20906939) Journal

    A computer manufacturer also can't support every single OS out there.
    Of course they can. All they have to do is make their hardware work to a set of common standards. That's why so many different operating systems work on different hardware already, the manufacturers' made there hardware open and follow standards and guidelines. It's pretty simple really the only reason they don't is they are producing a shitty product or they are lazy. There is a 3rd reason that they are deliberately making their hardware uninteroperable but that is another issue.
  • Imagine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FranTaylor (164577) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:00PM (#20906951)
    If Windows had a package system like rpm for its internal parts. If you're setting up a server, don't install the gui. If it's a gaming machine, don't bother with all the database stuff. For a development machine, install everything. Windows would actually be a lot more interesting and useful.

    "Naaaah" - Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber
  • Very Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:34PM (#20907153)

    Quite an interesting topic, but I prefer arguments that are contrary to the position opposite of that which counters the arguments against unbundling Windows. Or to put it another way: for unbundling windows. I know it's not quite a triple negative, but it's very unclear and I see this type of writing all the time in slashdot head-lines. If you're against someone who is not for undoing something, then just say you're for undoing something, or against doing something. Reduce it to its logical minimum. Why not use "Countering The Arguments For Keeping Windows Bundled", or "Countering the Bundled Windows Apologists"?

  • by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:50PM (#20907235) Homepage

    A minor aspect of the article's proposal that I like is the requirement that the manufacturer include an MS Windows recovery CD. Some manufacturers don't do that, even though you are paying for MS Windows. The last HP machine I bought had no CD. Instead, it had a hidden "backup partition". That's okay if you just want to reinstall the system after it has been corrupted, but useless if the drive dies or you decide to replace it with a larger one.

  • by AvitarX (172628) <<gro.derdnuheniwydnarb> <ta> <em>> on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:53PM (#20907251) Journal
    Unless people consistently mount /home as noexec, malware will be a problem for Linux or OSX as soon as the get market share (based on Firefox I would say 10-20 percent is the magic number).

    Once something gets into a users .rc files or whatnot, it is plenty useful as a mail relay, or a pop-up maker.

    Virii in the traditional sense probably won't be as bad, but do they even exist anymore?
  • points.

    The ideal situation is where every PC vendor must sell the operating system as a paid option for the PC. This helps people decide if they really want to pay for it, and doesn't force many people to pay for software they are going to rip out anyway. Selling a bare PC with both Windows and Linux on separate media is bad for the consumer, bad for the OEM (more tech support calls, etc), and so forth.
  • Again, the question isn't about competing with Microsoft. Microsofts' model is dying - who wants to compete with that? Then you'll be worried about the next linux-like thing to come along and eat your lunch.

    Boy, I wish I could die like Microsoft. They have double digit growth in both revenues and earnings per share, and are set to pass 50 billion dollars in revenues this year. For all of this talk about Google competing with Microsoft, Google's revenues remain a paltry few billion a year.

    Yeah, that sounds like dying. Boy, I hear them death rattles now... Microsoft, on the verge of shutting down... except for that "oh we made 50 billion dollars this year part". Microsoft makes more in one month than all Linux distributions -combined-.

  • Did you read that article at all? It says, the proportional cost of bundled software climbed from 5% to 50%

    Ah, but what's the proportional value of the software? See, you need to think more like a salesperson. Cost is irrelevant. It's the value that is added. And, look at all the value Windows adds to a PC..

    a) You have Direct X 10, for games. And, there are a ton of games for Windows.
    b) You .NET, for business applications development
    c) You have a pretty good web browser. Yeah, IE has its flaws, but it works pretty good for most people. That is, I can go to the baseball site, get the scores, and it works.
    d) You have interfaces to a whole bunch of consumer appliances, from digital cameras and video players, and more.
    e) Vista has a really cool sound model that I am eager to play with.
    f) Unicode (UTF-16) is built in from the ground up. NTFS stacks up well against Reiser and ExtN for most applications. Remote Desktop and Terminal Services for Windows work really well...

  • by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:03AM (#20907633)
    Why does every unbundling argument always seem to boil down to forcing end users to install the OS from scratch? An unbundled option can be:

    1. Preinstalled Windows
    2. Preinstalled Linux
    or
    3. Blank Machine

    It only needs to be another line-item option in the system configuration. OEM blows the correct image and includes a Windows CD + Sticker for Windows customers, and a Linux CD for Linux ones, and nothing for the blank customers.

    Come on, this is trivial. Just have the assembly tech plug the drive into a fixture, hit the correct image choice, and bingo-bango, it's ready.
  • Re:hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by humanifesto (1169647) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:17AM (#20907681) Homepage Journal

    if your NIC is supported, Vista will go and grab the drivers off the in-tar-web.
    How, pray tell, will Vista grab drivers off the in-tar-web, if it is not able to use the NIC it is trying to find drivers for?



    I understand that Windows is easier to use because you're used to it, but people need to realize that this is a a very big "because". If you were to take a complete computer newb, sit him down in front of two computers (either both pre-installed and pre-configured, or neither), I would be willing to bet that the majority of people would figure out the Linux box faster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:32AM (#20907757)
    Astroturf bingo number 3 [slashdot.org], claimed for B26.
  • This is stupid! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:56AM (#20907885) Homepage Journal
    God this is stupid! This isn't about lack of choice, it's about whiny nerds upset that the world doesn't work the way they want it to. What's the problem now? Linux adoption not fast enough for you? I've got two computers on my desk, neither of which have windows on them, and neither of which EVER had Windows on them. There is no need to "unbundle" Windows from computers because you can already get computers without Windows.

    This won't harm Microsoft, it will harm PC manufacturers and resellers, who will bear the entirely of the market disatisfaction with the unbundling. People will still buy Windows, only now they will be paying Microsoft full price for it.

    The big hurdle you whiners need to get over is that Windows has 90% market share because people have voluntarily chosen to buy Windows or PC with bundled Windows. It may not be the choice you would have made, but that give you no excuse to government and its police to impose your will on others. IF this is that important to you, get off your high horse and go out and buy a computer without Windows on it. Sheesh.
  • by PinkPanther (42194) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:57AM (#20907889)

    This is interesting- because a similar trick could be done with any Linux distro as well.

    But here is where we get into the Catch-22: no bundleware vendor wants to build a product for a platform that has a small install base. Linux's install base cannot grow if it cannot compete. It cannot compete if people can buy a PC with MS-Windows for a "nominal price", which they can only because bundleware is made available for MS-Windows.

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @02:37AM (#20908065)
    That's a great answer if you're more anti-MS than pro-consumer. The pros and cons of unbundling for a consumer don't change whether the vendor has 1% of the market or 99%.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by QuietObserver (1029226) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @02:56AM (#20908143)
    I'm not sure that's the best method Apple could use; Steve Jobs himself said he has no intention of selling junk, and that is a fairly accurate description of most of the hardware in the cheap machines on the market. The Mac is more expensive, true, but the hardware is also very high quality.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @03:57AM (#20908395)
    Much of the value in OS X is everything Just Works.

    As soon as you start pushing it on random, unknown hardware, everything Just Does Not Work.

    or it Sort Of Works.

    or It Worked In Our Lab, You Must Be Doing Something Wrong.
  • Not about Linux! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:01AM (#20908409) Homepage Journal
    Unbundling windos is not about Linux. It really isn't.

    It's about opening up the market to other competitors. Another Beos? Another OS/2? There is no reason why there should be only two OS available for computers, one of them only managing to still stick around because it's free (in both senses).

    There is no operating system market. Unbundling windos is about re-creating that market. Innovation (not only in features!) only happens in a free market. That's what this is all about.
  • by aidan folkes (740086) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:32AM (#20908783)
    IF, and this is a big IF, Microsoft was forced to charge full retail price only, they would sacrifice the tiny retail market in a heartbeat and reduce the price to same as the existing OEM prices.
  • by kestasjk (933987) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:37AM (#20908805) Homepage
    Okay so people are saying "Put Ubuntu on it", "No, put OS X on it", "No, put Fedora on it".

    Either it comes with an OS bundled, or it doesn't. If it does that OS is getting users in an anti-competitive way, if it doesn't users won't have a clue what to do with their computer.

    Also face it; there's no way computers with an OS other than Windows is going to be sold by default, because everyone expects and is familiar with Windows and understands Windows applications.
    People freak out enough over Vista, which other people say didn't have enough changes; imagine someone handling a new OS with all different software that won't run their old software. Forget it, come back in a decade after a long weaning process and maybe the "debate" will be worth a look.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suckmysav (763172) <suckmysav@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:09AM (#20909031) Journal
    "hardware is a commodity item"

    Only if every man and his dog makes similar hardware to run the same software as all their competitors.

    The fact is that Apple is primarily a hardware company. They stated on many occasions in the past that they wanted to usurp the position once held by Sony. I think we can all agree they've pretty much kicked Sony's corporate backside in that regard of recent times.

    To elaborate further, apple are a hardware company that uses the uniqueness of their software in order to sell their hardware.

    The beauty of apple products is in the user interface. Since no other manufacturer is able (for whatever reason) to match the quality of apples various user interfaces apple is able to monopolise the sales of the hardware required to obtain their "superior" interfaces. If they were to sell OSX (or indeed the iPod OS) to any Tom Dick or Harry with a commodity hardware PC then they would lose their ability to monopolise the sales of the hardware needed to obtain their superior interface.

    If you don't think Jobs doesn't understand this then you're a fool.

    "If I were Jobs I would spin off the hardware into a separate company."

    If you were Steve Jobs then apple would now only be found in the history books alongside the likes of CBM and atari. This is exactly what the Pepsi guy tried to do in the 80's and it almost sent apple bust.

     
  • by Tom (822) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @12:11PM (#20912825) Homepage Journal

    These companies, or their representatives, are welcome to offer Dell, et al, deals for loading their OS in place of Windows.
    I don't get personal often on /. but with all due respect, are you really such a complete moron that you don't get it? No company offering a PC operating system has any chance of survival. They won't even get the venture capital to get going. Thanks to the exclusive OEM deals that MS has made all around, there is simply no way you will ever get enough market share to recoup your initial investment.

    This is not about what has more value to the customer, because the customer doesn't ever have that choice. Aside from the tiny minority of geeks we around here represent, every damn computer comes pre-loaded with an OS and your choice boils down to "Vista or XP" now, and "XP or NT/2k" before that, and "98 or ME" before that, and so on.

    And I think the "crippling" argument has been slashed, cut, shot, burnt and cremated about 5 years ago, so let's just have a few seconds of silence for the poor straw man.

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