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Microsoft Decides To Take On Linux On Low-Cost PCs

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  • XP Home only (Score:5, Informative)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#23361394) Journal

    So if you're looking for thin & light notebooks to join your AD domain, you still need the Linux ones.

    They've just defined the features for the next big Linux boom: 12" touch screen, 100GB HDD, dual core. That was clever. Differentiate your product as the less capable one. Genius!

    These machines will never run Vista well. Let's keep that important knowledge in front of people. Intel expects to move 10 million Atom platforms in the first wave, and none will have Vista.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#23361402) Homepage

    Once Joe Random use linux on a low priced pc, why would Joe Random want to pay the Microsoft Tax ever again?

    Because Joe wants to run Calendar Creator or some such nonsense. He doesn't want to type "sudo apt-get install $whatever". He doesn't even want to use Synaptics Package manager. He wants the damn CD he bought in the bargain bin at WalMart to load and install.

    He wants IE and all the stupid toolbars.

    He doesn't want to think about this appliance he bought.

    And he especially doesn't want to go online and post a question to a forum. Even the warm and inviting Ubuntu forums. He just wants it to work. (Irony noted).

  • Bah! (Score:5, Informative)

    by njcoder (657816) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:04PM (#23361416)
    I don't know about ultra low cost pc's but I've held on to an old laptop that's falling apart, had a failing drive and the replacement never quite fit so I just pulled it out and have been using a Damn Small Linux CD to boot so I can browse the web and even VNC into my main desktop.

    I also found this today. MilaX [milax.org] which claims to be like DSL but is based on OpenSolaris. But it doesn't look like that POS laptop will be able to run this.

    MS is planning on charging betweek $26-$32 bucks for Windows XP Home Edition for these machines. That's still a significant cost compared to the price of these machines. Especially the One Laptop Per Child based on reports of what they're planning on charging. But then again it seems their prototypes wound up being 2x as much as planned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:05PM (#23361434)
    EEE comes with openoffice.

    I personally use mine as a compliment with a desktop pc, and for that it's perfectly functional. I think it can replace most of the functions of a notebook, but you need to look at what you need and then make a decision.
  • by Pinckney (1098477) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:07PM (#23361446)
    Posting again to retract the above comment. Later in TFA, it mentions that they must also have no more than 1GB RAM and a single core processor with maximum speed of 1GHz, which should still be more than enough for XP. I'm currently running XP SP2 with 384MiB Ram and a 1.07GHz Celeron cpu - it doesn't take crapware well, but otherwise performs acceptably.
  • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:10PM (#23361484) Journal

    Can someone convince me that these devices are [very] useful to the point of replacing the notebook?

    The point isn't really to replace the notebook. They'll do that too, though. A modern laptop is ridiculously overpowered for the purpose of running a well designed OS and office application. The idea is to make it cheap enough to not freak out about breaking it, to provide enough power to do your stuff but not so much that you have to be chained to a wall wart to accomplish anything that takes more than two hours.

    Can I for example, load OpenOffice.org on the Eee PC?

    Yes. And it runs just fine. And with Compiz the visual effects are flashier than Aero if you want them to be. And it will play HD video just fine. And it's got all the wireless features you would expect. And on and on. The screen and keyboard are a little small. The next generation may be better in this regard.

  • by uffe_nordholm (1187961) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#23361894)
    The one and only reason I can see for Microsoft to do this is also the reason any company would do anything: survival!

    I may be wrong, but I think the low-cost market is a brilliant market for Linux to use to slowly move into the mainstream desktop area. As such, this is a market that Microsoft must dominate if they are not to loose the battle before the war has begun.

    Consider what would happen if Microsoft did nothing about dead-cheap laptops being sold with Linux on them: first of all, average Joe would notice that it actually works, secondly that it works well, thirdly that it does not need (for now at least) umpteen other programs to keep it safe (firewalls, antivirus....) and lastly average Joe would notice that Linux is free.

    On its own, each of these points is a practically negligible threat to Microsoft, but together they have the power to quickly take over the desktop market*. Therefore Microsoft are essentially fighting for their very existence: if they do not stop Linux from getting into the desktop arena, they will eventually be forced out of it, or have the game rules dictated by someone/someones else, and neither of these two futures is very tempting for Microsoft.





    * Not today, or tomorrow. Not even next year, but at some point in the future Linux could achieve critical mass on the desktop arena, and after that quickly become the major player.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by martyros (588782) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#23361900)
    You know what's funny, is that just today I took a mandatory online training course on anti-trust regulations, just like everyone in my company does. It was funny reading the article, because like at least 3 or 4 things were specifically mentioned:
    • Predatory pricing to prevent a new entrant into a market by a company with market dominance
    • Limitations on what resellers can do with the product purchased (only on low-end PCs)
    • Arbitrary discounts to some distributors over others
    • Agreements between different members of the supply chain to limit customer choice
    If the EU is at all consistent with the policies explained in my training today, MS should be forced to either sell low-cost XP to everyone, regardless of the hardware, or not sell XP at all. Who do I write in the EU to get an injunction?
  • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:47PM (#23362172) Journal

    The Eee PC's screen isn't high enough resolution to display high definition video.

    But it does have an external video port.

  • Re:So... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:45PM (#23362644)
    Neelie Kroes [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:The pitch (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:27PM (#23362980)
    Ok, I guess I'll bite. I'm not a Linux guy - I've messed around with it as a hobby (I've actually been hankering to install Linux on one of my old dev machines and do a bit of freeware game development), but I develop computer games for a living. That means, like most of the industry, I'm using Microsoft platforms and (among some other vendors), their development tools. In general, I've always found Microsoft development tools to be best in class, at least lately. A number of years ago, Borland made the best game dev tools, and then Watcom had its day in the sun.

    At work today, we're using XAML / WPF for some of our newest content creation tools, so I've gotten a chance to play with some of Microsft's cutting edge development APIs. Say what you like, but the .NET platform, C#, and WPF are three examples of pretty innovative and solid technologies that I've seen them come out with. We're building some pretty amazing content creation tools for our designers and artists to use, and we're doing things with them that would be extremely difficult to do using most traditional UI APIs.

    I'm not going to dismiss Linux as a solid development platform. It's got an solid work history, and it, of course, has the obvious benefits of being free and open source. What a lot of people don't seem to understand, though, is that many people really don't care all that much about those last two points. Software development is big business, and developing on Windows is simply the most practical option right now (again, in my industry: game development. I can't speak for yours). Reasons:

    1) Windows is the OS of choice for large-scale game development efforts (both for Windows and console development). Some developers, such as Blizzard, admirably support a variety of platforms. I wish our company did, but there's no real economic incentive to do so. If anyone can successfully make the case, let me know. I'd love to present arguments to our company higher-ups.

    2) It's hard to find developers with the expertise to port to Mac and Linux. The current talent pool of game developers is nearly universally trained with Microsoft tools and platforms. While on-the-job training is nearly always required to some degree, any more required training is a disincentive. Yes, it's a chicken-and-egg problem, but it's a problem nonetheless.

    3) The development tools from Microsoft are excellent. I've seen some cool open-source stuff, and in fact, we do use those tools as well. What's important to us as a development house is productivity, because our real costs are in labor, not software. If buying a few hundred dollars worth of software will save all our developers a few hours (for instance, the company pays for Visual Assist X plugins for developers), it's worth it.

    Say what you like about "point-and-click" developers, but I work on both low-level game engine code all the way up to tools and utilities. The farther down I go in the code, the lower level my style becomes. In my opinion, it's simply smart to use the most appropriate development tools available for the job at hand. When I need to bang out a quick utility to help artists generate a simple XML configuration file, I can create a nice little easy-to-use utility using C# / WPF / .NET in a very short time. When I'm working on a run-time component for our engine, I'm using C++ and optimize for performance. If a "point-and-click" tool is going to improve my productivity and is appropriate for the job I'm doing, then I have no problems with using it.

  • Parent is right (Score:5, Informative)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:30PM (#23363004)

    but Teh Lunix isn't even a player in the OS market.
    Well you're right but offtopic, Lunix [wikipedia.org] was written of the c64. RTFA you moron.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:4, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:46PM (#23363122) Journal
    Oh, don't forget that most of these things are using SSD for storage, and there has never been a version of Windows that didn't just LOVE to pound the swap. I even got to play with XP embedded for awhile when I was doing some temp work with a medical supply company and even embedded it just LOVED to pound the swap. Meanwhile I have Xandros 4.1 business on my laptop with a measly 512Mb of RAM and the difference is like night and day. XP will heat up the drive after an hour and a half or so from the swapping, whereas Xandros doesn't seem to touch the drive once I've loaded my apps. I can even stand to have it setting on my lap but when I run XP it gets too uncomfortable from the heat. But that is my exp,YMMV.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @05:02PM (#23363858)

    I must be missing something. What makes this insightful? I can run that command right now (after 'setenv whatever vim') and it will install something for me. So either you're being ironic, or maybe you're unfamiliar with installing software on some Linux distributions?
    Because while that does work, most modern Linux distributions aimed at the desktop include a pretty GUI wrapper around the package manager which allows you to pick & choose what you want from a list.

  • Re:The pitch (Score:3, Informative)

    by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @07:10PM (#23364862) Homepage
    Um...I dont use it on my Palm Lifedrive because there is no Wifi support yet but Opie is freaking fantastic.

    They've done a magnificent job with it.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:4, Informative)

    by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@@@earthlink...net> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @08:04PM (#23365266)
    It's actually true in certain areas and false in others.

    If something is heavily used by programmers, it tends to develop quickly. If it isn't, then it depends on somebody with a real interest in it both starting a project, being a good programmer, and being a good FOSS project manager. This is rare.

    E.g., let's consider The Gimp. The latest version is slowly starting to change the name back from an acronym into it's expanded form "The GNU Image Manipulation Program". It's also adding some new features that *SOME* of the users have been asking for for quite a long time. It will never satisfy those whose definition of what it should be as "Just like Photoshop", but it's getting better. It definitely didn't get better as quickly as either Photoshop or Corel (whatever their painting program was called). But it's been making steady progress over more than a decade. (I, personally, prefer Deneba Canvas 8 [not 10, or X as they call it]. I like the combination of pixel based and vector art. But it's not moving to Linux, so I need to find a replacement. Fortunately, I can export EPS files, so I shouldn't lose *too* much work.)

    OTOH, consider Gnumeric. That was essentially done by the first time I heard about it. The developer made it in honor of MSExcel (though I think that's because he was ignorant of MultiPlan), and moved on to develop Mono (which I doubt I will ever know whether was any good, as I refuse to install it). But Gnumeric was really good software developed really quickly as a FOSS project, and apparently by a single developer.

    So results are all over the map. I could name several closed source projects that never made it out of Beta...even at times when I though the Beta was perfectly usable. If those had been FOSS projects, they might well not have died. There was one fancy spreadsheet program I remember that was fantastic...unfortunately it never reached the 2.0 version, because it was too slow on the then current computers. If it had survived, it might well now be the top spreadsheet. If it had been open source, it WOULD have survived. So sometimes being closed source causes programs to die no matter how good they are...if they don't suit current conditions.

    And I can think of lots of FOSS projects that probably should have died, but which haven't, because FOSS projects can live as long as one person is willing to lend them disk space and a way to be downloaded. Many of these will never turn into anything worth while. So we need to develop better tools for sorting the wheat from the chaff...and figure out better uses for chaff.

    Which is faster? It all depends. Linux went from nearly nothing to it's current state in a bit over a decade. MSWind went from DOS 1.0 to Vista in around 3 decades (probably a bit less). I think that Linux has developed more quickly. And also I, as and end user with quirks, believe that Linux has in a bit over 1/3 of the time developed into an OS that is in most ways superior to what MSWind has developed into. But others disagree.

    Another case: I would pick Python or Ruby or Squeak over MSVisualBasic on any day that you name. But which I would pick would depend on what I was doing. It's arguable that MSVisualBasic is a better lowest common denominator. Still, all three of those FOSS languages developed to their current state in much less time than did MSVisualBasic. (Except possibly Squeak...but if you include Xerox Smalltalk in Squeak's ancestry, shouldn't you include Dartmouth Basic in that of MSVisualBasic? In which case it's still true.)

    OTOH, you don't see much rapid progress in games for Linux. So some things develop quite slowly under FOSS.

  • Re:The pitch (Score:2, Informative)

    by nazg00l (699217) on Sunday May 11, 2008 @01:58AM (#23367054)

    The thing is and someone else commented on this further up is that developing on Linux is pretty similar to developing with Microsoft's solutions. Both have point and click build your own GUI programs.
    It is not only about GUI builders. In Visual Studio you can point-and-click database connections, bind data from individual table columns to your controls etc. There are application types where you don't have to write ANY code for them to work - you point and click only. What is so nice, though, is that you still can dig into such an app and modify by hand the aspects you wish, down to a fairly low level. So, for all sorts of typical stuff (like connecting to a SQL db) you point and click; stuff that are individual to your program and/or sophisticated you code by hand. This way you don't waste time on well-known, repetitive stuff. Add to that the integrated MS help, a pretty good time saver as well. I don't know of any comparable FOSS dev tools...
  • Re:The pitch (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sonic McTails (700139) on Sunday May 11, 2008 @04:30AM (#23367634)
    I also work on developing games (I'm the lead developer on Castle Infinity), and when I got the source code to the project, it based on Visual Studio. VS is a great tool, and as far as IDEs go it blows away just about everything beside Eclipse/CDT (which on the other hand is extremely so for me) with basic C/C++ code.

    We've recently moved our project from VS based project files to a CMake based solution since we're planning to port to Linux and needed GCC support. Despite the fact that our project is compiler neutral (mostly), all our developers are on some version of VS, either 2005 or 2008 (I'm using VS2005 Pro personally).

    Games often have a lot of custom tools (we have three compilers; one to generate artwork metadata, one to compile levels, and one to compile scripts) which have (or at least should) intergrate into the build process. Until CMake came around, the choices were handling these events nmake makefiles (I've never seen these in the wild; I only use them when I need to cross-compile to x64 or IA-64 using the PSDK), autoconf (which is a nightmare on Win32), or Visual C++ Project Files which could handle custom events and dependencies with an easy to use interface.

    I'm not saying that Visual Studio isn't a great tool, but until fairly recently, there was nothing that could do what it could so nicely on Windows.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:2, Informative)

    by dave87656 (1179347) on Sunday May 11, 2008 @05:32AM (#23367770)
    You are entitled to your opinion, of course and perhaps that works for you. But, some of your statements don't match others experience. We set up a Linux server with Linux clients accessing a MySQL database and a file server. The file server was setup using NFS.

    The Linux setup and the then 30 PCs (now 50) worked out of the box and required very little maintenance. What maintenance they needed was application specific (setting up a comm port for a serial-port scale) which I couldn't have done remotely with a Windows box. These machines were setup in 2002 and are still running today. We upgraded the OS once but it really wasn't necessary.

    We do have some Windows PC. We bought an external accounting package. There were 5 PC's and a server for that. Those 5 machines require multiple times the maintenance workload of the 50 linux boxes. We have liceneses to pay for the SQLServer DB and limits on the numbers of clients. It is slower than the MySQL server even though it the MySQL server is on cheap commodity hardware and the SQLServer box was the most expensive system we could find (the vendor recommended a very high-end system). And all we do on the Windows box is simple reporting.

    We run our business on the linux boxes and MySQL on cheap, standard hardware. I would recommend Windows if the application requires it or for games and some home use. Otherwise, you really can't justify it, unless you really haven't compared the two in a real world situation.

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