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Microsoft Decides To Take On Linux On Low-Cost PCs

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  • The pitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#23361334) Homepage
    "For just a little extra money, you can have degraded performance and not have to worry about all that controlling-your-own-hardware nonsense"

    Alas, like most of their similar pitches, I'm putting my money on it working spectacularly.
  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:55AM (#23361338) Journal
    You create artificial shortages and cripple the hardware to keep the market from "eroding". I guess we don't don't create markets to sell products anymore. We create them for their own sake. That's quite a monster you got there.
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:56AM (#23361346)
    How will Microsoft compete? It is very common knowledge that Windows runs slower on any given system than Linux does. The low-end PCs are not beefy by any means. Linux will just feel snappier and also shouldn't need as much RAM for similar tasks.

    In the low end, it seems like all MS will be doing is highlighting their shortcomings.
  • Of Course! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <AdHocTechGuy@ a o l . c om> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:58AM (#23361362) Journal

    Limiting the hardware specs ensures a healthy profit margin on the OS. Sounds like good business.

    We wouldn't want folks loading "WinXP lite" on good hardware. It might run really fast and have fewer conflicts, then they'll come to expect that from us in other products.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:01PM (#23361384)
    Do business schools teach their students that it is somehow a good idea to accept the terms of a "discount" from one supplier that require you to ship a POS product, when if you go with another supplier, it's absolutely free and you can sell whatever you want?

    It seems people were buying the EeePC just the way it was, with Linux and all, and using it just fine. I can't speak to it myself, as I have no use for such a device. However, what rationale is there for screwing up a perfectly good market just to make Microsoft happy, when they weren't a player to begin with?

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#23361388) Journal

    The first is that they limit screen size and also prevent you from having touch screens. Maybe it's just me, but the probability of any device I own having a touch screen goes up the smaller the screen size is, so this seems like they are shooting themselves in the foot.

    The other thing that really leaps out is this:

    The goal apparently is to limit the hardware capabilities of ULPCs so that they don't eat into the market for mainstream PCs
    I can think of a lot of other companies that have tried to limit the capabilities of products in one market segment so that they don't compete with those in another (IBM with the PC, SGI with low-end graphics hardware) but I can't think of a single company where the approach has resulted in anything other than them losing the market to a competitor. Maybe the MS monopoly is so strong that they can do this, but I doubt it somehow.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:21PM (#23361552)
    So ... your mythical Windows user bought the cheapest box he could find ... and then wants to spend MORE money ... at WalMart ... on applications?

    When he could just download the app at home.
  • by AndGodSed (968378) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:24PM (#23361582) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, the specs seem high enough.

    My real reaction to this is nausea. In effect this is what is happening:

    "Please please pleeeaaasse sell XP on your products! We'll even give it at a discount, but then you need to do what we say specs wise."

    C'mon, why the limits on the hardware specs? Is it to limit the choice of the customer?

    "Sorry sir, if you want a touch screen with that baby we'll need to limit you to using Vista. I know you are supposed to have a choice in the matter, but Microsoft policy dictates otherwise. Yeah, in effect they get to decide what you can run on what you buy. A linux alternative, uh sure - I think dell offers a similar spec device with Ubuntu on it... wait, where are you going!?"

    When will MS begin to put the interests of their customers first? If they can develop a custom version of Windows for mobile devices, surely they can develop a custom _modern_ version of Windows for low-end or micro laptops.

    If a linux community can do that, why can't they? Are they admitting that the open-source community which they deride so is capable of something they are not?

    Could it be that they cannot develop something like this? I say they definitely can, so the only other alternative is that they don't want to - hence they don't give a rats ass what the customer needs.
  • Re:And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JayAEU (33022) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:45PM (#23361700)

    I run XP on my first gen Eee PC because I wanted Windows. It runs just as quick as the default Xandros and other Linux distros I put on it.

    [...]

    People bash on about XP being slow and crappy on these low power systems but in reality it isn't.
    That's all peachy dandy as long as your install is still fresh. Give it a few months and your precious XP will be crawling like a dog as it does on any other PC it's been running on for a period of time.

    With Windows, you'll have to reinstall to regain your original performance. With Ubuntu, it won't degrade in the first place.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:51PM (#23361746)

    IBM with the PC

    And then IBM tried to protect the IBM PC market from lower-price competition with the crippled PC-Jr.

  • Good ole joe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:02PM (#23361818) Homepage
    I know Joe. He wants a lot of things. He wants our web design firm to make it so that whatever funky formatting he tries to paste in from MS Word will come out in the site exactly how it looks in Word.

    Joe has a problem: the cost of creating an online application that mirrors Word (and Excel and friends) exactly is in the several-millions, and is furthermore legally proscribed by patents anyway.

    We can hook Joe up with some great RTEs and OOo templates that work for a couple thousand dollars, but Joe wants the illegal multimillion dollar project for $2,000.

    I'm not interested in trying to accomodate Joe anymore.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:02PM (#23361822)
    ***His pitch was a word for word copy of the MS FUD you get on their website.***

    Perhaps you might wish to consider politely turning down any job offer that results from the interview. There are good reasons for having a Microsoft environment. The beauty and elegance of Microsoft's software is not one of them.
  • Re:E.g. EeePC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @01:09PM (#23361882)
    bingo, that's why everybody is squealing. Asus cut the harware specs to cover the windows costs. To the average user, it will look like two things cost the same one "broken" without Windows but a few GB of ram (who cares about 8GB when there's 500B drives for cheap?) Stores simply won't sell without windows, and I'm sure MS has advertising agreements to sell the Windows stickers with big box stores so the Linux version won't see shelf space.

    On another note, a lot of good the "patent" agreement did Xandros here. They got "blessing" to sell their linux with windows "compatible" functions only to have Microsoft come and eat their lunch when they actually make sales.
  • by Larry Lightbulb (781175) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:12PM (#23362366)
    Joe User likes doing crosswords, so much so that he uses Across Lite to do the New York Times crossword. For his Windows box he clicks a link and follows the prompts. For his Linux box he, well, he has to know what this means: "Across Lite is available in a statically linked (to Motif) version and a dynamically linked version. Both versions are ELF binaries. The a.out versions have been discontinued. If you must have the last a.out version, send E-mail to the Across Lite Help Desk" "You must use gunzip or an equivalent to uncompress the file and tar to extract the program and puzzle files. Check the README file in the distribution for starting instructions." Joe User sticks to doing crosswords on his Windows box.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DECS (891519) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:14PM (#23362384) Homepage Journal
    That would typically happen in a market with competition. However, Linux is not a commercial competitor on the desktop. No PC maker has it in its own interests to sell, market, or develop Linux, so it's not being sold.

    The reason that HP or Dell or some smaller company isn't pushing hard for Linux is because there's no proprietary value in doing so. If Company X invested huge amounts of work into making Linux ideal on the desktop, other companies could take that work and put it on their own PCs. Unlike the server market, there's no real business model for earning revenue just from support as Red Hat does. Even Red Hat sees no market potential on the desktop.

    That leaves PC makers willing to push Windows, even when it is not the best solution (particularly in mobile devices). There's no development investment to be lost to other hardware competitors.

    The only company that isn't pushing Windows is Apple, but that's because it has its own proprietary OS, which is like (LIKE not is!) a superset of Linux with a custom GUI and dev frameworks. Apple can invest heavily in Mac OS X knowing that other companies can't just take its work and reuse it to add value to their own PCs. Incidentally, that's also part of why Apple has no interest in selling Mac OS X as an OS for other PCs: it serves as a major differentiator.

    Until PC makers individually work or group together to develop their own OS (imagine a consortium between Dell and HP to develop a desktop Linux), the only other desktop OS will be Mac OS X. That is unlikely to happen because of the competitive barriers of Windows (installed base of software, drivers, and familiarity, but more importantly the fact that Dell and HP can't afford to have Microsoft jack up their Windows OEM prices due to the fact that they've started selling Linux PCs).

    And so the status quo is resisting any change. It would take a lot of outside pressure to push PC makers to do anything different. Continued popularity of the Mac might help, continued problems with Vista might help, and continued progress on making Linux easy to use might help, but the real problem is that PC makers lack much vision and don't want to upset their business or take any risks because the commodity hardware market is very low margin. There's simply little room to compete in between Apple at the slick premium top and Windows at the high volume middle.

    It makes sense that PC makers wouldn't want to continue paying Microsoft $30-50 per OEM license to put Windows on a PC that sells for $700 and has a $350 bill of materials, but it appears that they're more worried about investing millions into Desktop Linux and seeing no real return because everyone else would share their contributions to the GPL software base. Of course, if you're selling ten million PCs, those OEM licenses are costing a third of a billion dollars, so at some point you'd think Dell and HP would exercise some leadership in investing in Desktop Linux. But again, Microsoft can simply raise their OEM prices and inflate the cost of Windows per PC, making any efforts to diversify a no-win gamble.

    10 million Windows PCs @ $30 Windows OEM = $300 M of Windows licensing
    vs
    5 million Linux PCs @ $0 Windows OEM = $150 M of Windows licensing saved, potentially invested into Linux development
    5 million Windows PCs @ a punitively priced $60 Windows OEM = $300 M of Windows licensing, all potential savings lost

    As long as Microsoft can charge whatever price it wants for its monopoly utility software on an individual basis, it can effectively make Linux impossible for larger PC makers to invest in. If Microsoft's OEM prices were open and regulated like most every other monopoly, then alternatives (particularly free ones) would have a chance to compete. As it is, the only way to compete with Microsoft is to compete full throttle as Apple does - all Mac OS X and no Windows dependancies at all.

    Zune Sales Still In the Toilet [roughlydrafted.com]

  • Re:The pitch (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:24PM (#23362476)
    The fact is that it's quicker to develop high quality software on the MS platform. Their server OS's are generally quite good, and they have a superior level of integration compared to a similar Linux server performing similar duties (e.g. IIS, SQL, Exchange type stuff). I've developed a whole lot of Linux/UNIX software and a moderate amount of Windows software. Developing in Java is reasonably nice, I'd give the experience a 7/10. Developing in .NET I'd give a 9/10. Most Linux people who blather on about Microsoft aren't real developers, or have little or no experience developing modern application software in Windows. Typically they're sysadmin-cum-developers who made the move from sh/perl to PHP/Ruby type environments and now consider themselves uber-developers.

    There are things Linux excels at. Scientific computing. EDA. Supercomputing. Batch systems running certain types of afforementioned applications. "glueware". When we do write Java services for specific reasons (deployment issues into a predominately Linux environment, for example) we do prefer to host them on Linux.

    Microsoft continues to hold hearts and minds of developers simply because they've made .NET so nice and because there's nothing like VS2008+TFS. Continued ranting from the SlashDot crowd isn't ever going to change that, no matter how many stars you wish upon.

  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:24PM (#23362482) Homepage Journal
    Yes, but Linux dominates the ULPC market, and that has Microsoft's attention.
  • by canuck57 (662392) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:36PM (#23362580)

    Guess what the REAL reason MS is going into the low cost PC market? CONSUMER DEMAND.

    No, the real reason is to try to stem the numbers of people getting exposure to Linux and finding out that it is quite capable of doing the job for a fraction of the Micro$oft cost.

    And to add to it, since Vista is too fat to fit they are going to be using the soon to be discontinued XP base to do it. Go figure.

  • by canuck57 (662392) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @02:50PM (#23362688)

    He's gonna have a hell of a time finding where to put the CD in on one of these low-cost laptops. I have yet to see one with an optical drive.

    First, CDs are dinosaurs. Just download it.

    If you need to, just ship the software on a USB which can also double up as storage. Seriously, in bulk they are cheap. And can be reused for backups. In my case, these can get it off of my Linux media server. With 1TB of disk on the end I could watch 200 movies.

    The last laptop I bought, I took the CD-DVD player out and put a second battery in it and never used the CD-DVD device. And if kids use it, one less thing to break and consume power uselessly.

  • by canuck57 (662392) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:12PM (#23362868)

    if people want Windows XP because Vista sucks, then shit.. Microsoft should just RECALL Vista completely (they've basically admitted that its bad... very bad), chuck it in the trash and start over... not tell people they can have it but only on sucky-slow laptops with itty-bitty screens. the ONLY reason XP is being obsoleted is because Microsoft says it is so they can sell Windows, again, to 100's of millions of users.

    WeSaySo Corporation isn't listening. This is just like New-Coke and Coke-Classic all over. The only way OEM Vista users can get XP is if they re-purchase a 2nd XP OS for their systems. A double dip. Brilliant to pump up sales numbers, but people are getting tired of Microsoft games. So much so, Microsoft drives people to Linux. But this will backfire on Microsoft in the end.

    OEMs are not talking, but I bet systems with Vista have a higher return rate chipping away at profits in a competitive market.

    For example, I am waiting for an economical commodity laptop PC that runs XP or Linux. No, I am not going to order a extra expensive business model so I can get over priced XP. I will not buy one with Vista as long as my old one holds out. And if they think they are going to get $200 for XP Pro and $400 for Office....they are smoking crack.

    Microsoft better get used to the idea that the PC including Microsoft software is a commodity. And that means their market elasticity in pricing is shot.

  • Re:The pitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DECS (891519) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:17PM (#23362908) Homepage Journal
    If only Vista had the ability to run across multiple machines.

    Which highlights the HUGE elephant in the room on this issue: the whole thing is a marketing ploy, not a tech related solution.

    The Problem:
    Microsoft is finding its core PC maker customers are bleeding away at the very low end ($300 PCs) where the Windows OEM license is just too expensive to justify. If it allows this to continue, progress made in Linux on those devices will trickle up into more and more complex and sophisticated devices, quickly making OEMs wonder why they're paying for a Windows license on full price desktop PCs and laptops.

    Microsoft's Solution
    Announce that Windows can be stripped down and will be sold for low end PC devices (ie, a marketing announcement).

    The Real Solution Required
    Developing a scalable OS that can actually work on low end PC devices. Currently, Linux scales down much better than Windows XP, and Vista is only getting larger. Microsoft has to invest in stripping down XP, another distraction from Vista.

    Microsoft spent ten years working on WinCE, which doesn't work well enough for anyone to use in the hand held PC realm that it was expressly designed for. If you want to argue about technology limitations of the day, then remember that desktop Linux was being developed at the same time as WinCE, 1998-2008. WinCE can't blame its shortcomings on existing technology of the day.

    There is no evidence that Microsoft has the technical chops to developer a suitable mobile OS. "Embedded XP" is just XP sold to fill the market for PC-based devices. "Embedded CE" is just WinCE sold for non-PDA devices. Microsoft has no mobile OS to sell, and clearly has no ability to develop one anytime soon. It couldn't deliver decent performance in Vista within a half decade of trying, and that was just a PC desktop OS overhaul.

    Linux already works and is free.

    Interestingly, Apple has ported its desktop OS to the iPhone/iPod Touch "WiFi mobile platform" as a low power, flexible, but intentionally limited feature set (ie, not a desktop GUI nor a small laptop), offering a different alternative to Linux based micro-laptops rather than trying to ape them.

    Microsoft should have pursued an original strategy like Apple or delivered a mini-desktop that works like the Linux community. Instead, it's in the position of trying to FUD Linux to death with a press release, despite not having the technology to sell.

    Of course, this has all happened before.

    The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile [roughlydrafted.com]

    Zune Sales Still in the Toilet [roughlydrafted.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23362922)
    Ten years ago worrying about gasoline prices wasn't a big deal..but the prius and insight hit the market, and now folks are dumping their SUVs. Now all the majors are coming out with hybrids and plug in hybrids are closer and all electrics will be coming as well. Ten years once a credible decent product made the first sale. Stuff changes man. MS has made hundreds of billions, but it isn't carved in stone they always will. Open source just keeps getting better and better, and I am not reading too many headlines about throngs of people going on and on how much they really appreciate the vista upgrade. The Asus eeepc was the first serious game changer, just like the ipod was. There were computers before, and music players, but sometimes all the details come together and whammo, a runaway hit. Lower cost light weight/portable hardware combined with free linyx is a dang good combination. MS is *lucky* they have XP to fall back on right now, and even then people are going to be changing. Inevitable, the younger folks want it, they become the bosses of tomorrow.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:23PM (#23362938)

    The fact is that it's quicker to develop high quality software on the MS platform.
    I strongly disagree with you.

    I have written in DirectX, XNA [youtube.com], openGL [blogger.com]. I have written shader programs on both platforms [blogspot.com]. I don't have any links to my DirectX stuff, but here's some more [blogspot.com] thing's I've been working on.

    There is no difference in the development time it took me to make these applications, apart from the XNA game being a group project so it's the most fully developed. Each language, API and platform is equally as challenging as the next.

    It's not the language, API or the platform that counts, it's the developers experience! There is no silver bullet! [wikipedia.org]
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:28PM (#23362986)
    > somebody else on their way up will.

    Oh course. It is always thus. All of the established players were fearing where this would end up. Now they think they head this off at the pass and declare that what everyone really wanted was tiny $500 machines instead of $500 machines with 14" screens and 120GB hard drives.

    But there are plenty of Chinese manufacturers without a vested interest in the current product catagories and retail outlets who don't have a horse in the computer races. Imagine these:

    1. Take 1 15" LCD panel, strap $50 worth of computer to the VESA mount on the back. Give it enough smarts to get itself onto most broadband connections via wired or wireless. Sell em through Big Lots or some such deep discounter. Or imagine an LCD TV/DVD player with a brain upgrade, a WiFi antenna and a USB keyboard/mouse in the box.

    2. Grab an ARM system on chip, a smallish LCD and whip up a $120-150 portable. Forget making it especially small or light, just go for CHEAP. Again, push em through stores that don't HAVE a computer department to worry about cannibalizing.

    How about this for an idea for a totally new form factor. Imagine a clipboard form factor. Screen at the top, keyboard at the bottom, a flat sheet of lipo battery on the whole bottom. NO hinge, NO bother. CHEEP. Add a vinyl folding cover if ya just wanna pay lip service to protecting the screen or want to make it a 'notebook'.... heck, add a place for paper and go for the 'portfolio with a computer embedded' form factor. :)

    At any rate, Moore's Law will keep driving down the cost of a system capable of running Firefox. Eventually we have to get low enough Microsoft won't be able to stay in this game of limbo and then the game changes.
  • All about the UMPC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @04:01PM (#23363278) Journal
    These hardware restrictions, particularly the ban on touchscreens, lead me to suspect that what MS is really trying to protect, without totally giving the new tiny-cheap-laptop field to Linux, is the UMPC. Remember, "UMPC [wikipedia.org]" doesn't just mean "little laptop". UMPCs were supposed to be a bold new category, remember all the "Origami" hype? Essentially, the vision of small, portable computing that MS specced out was that of fairly powerful devices, with touch screens required and keyboards optional, running straight Windows Vista and accompanying software, with a touch screen interface slapped on top. Unfortunately for them, the "fairly powerful" requirement made UMPCs surprisingly expensive and made their battery life suck pitifully, without actually making Vista run all that well.

    The first few versions utterly sucking is something that MS is used to, so there was reason to believe that they would work this one out as well. Costs would gradually go down, chips would get less power hungry, and so on, and the UMPC would eventually worm its way in. Then the eeePC and friends show up(arguably, the tradition of tiny laptops goes back a long way, various PC makers have been pumping them out for years, although in small quantities and at high costs, and the OLPC project can be said to have spurred cheap, small laptops; but the eeePC was the first to hit the western mass market). Compared to the UMPC, the eeePC and similar are pretty boring tech. Just normal laptops; but smaller. Thing is, this is one of those situations where modest ambitions are a real blessing. UMPC goals required hardware that was either unavailable or too expensive. eeePC goals required nothing more than the willingness to slap together parts that are already cheap and common. Even if the eeePC and its ilk were all running XP from the get-go, they would still be a kick in the teeth for the UMPC. I doubt that the category is dead; but the road to acceptance, particularly for consumer level applications, became much steeper and much rockier with the advent of the eeePC and similar. The fact that Linux is showing up for the party is adding insult to injury.

    I'm thinking that the hardware restrictions serve a few purposes:
    Keep a clear distinction between UMPC(now positioned as "premium") and the teeny laptop("budget"). Teeny laptops kill UMPCs at being cheap; but MS hopes, at least, to preserve certain features as UMPC only.
    Keep Linux from creeping upward. Obviously, MS doesn't like any machines not running Windows; but they would rather preserve a "linux=cheap gadget/Windows=real computer" distinction than not. By not allowing high end features to creep in(or, at least, forcing OEMs to make more hardware variants if they do), MS can keep eee type boxes from gradually shading into full computers or "premium" small computers.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @04:21PM (#23363478)

    Actually a good question, though it doesn't sound like it. But if I was hiring someone for my Windows network with some Linux background I'd probably like to know if he's an open source evangelist that'll try to push it everywhere even when not suitable, or a practically oriented person with a broad background that'll use the right tool for the job.

    Well that was more or less what I meant, it's a good gambit to figure out the mindset of the candidate and that's just as important as technical ability. Evangelism isn't an issue, zealotry is and that arrogant and dismissive attitude cuts both ways but there are a couple of caveats. The GUI can often mask severe holes in an employees knowledge -- even monkeys can be trained to press buttons. Furthermore, employees are often more productive if you give them the freedom to use their preferred toolset and working method.


    As Werner Vogels put it [acmqueue.com] (quote from page 2)

    Developers of our services can use any tools they see fit to build their services. Developers themselves know best which tools make them most productive and which tools are right for the job. If that means using C++, then so be it. Whatever tools are necessary, we provide them, and then get the hell out of the way of the developers so that they can do their jobs.
  • A good case. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AndGodSed (968378) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @05:22PM (#23364062) Homepage Journal

    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.
    I bolded that. If you read tfa you will come across this:

    Twenty or more other designs are expected to enter the market over the next six months, and Microsoft expects 10 million to 13 million of the devices to sell this year, according to the documents.

    Analyst IDC's forecast is more modest: On Thursday it said it expects ULPC sales to hit 9 million units by 2012, up from 500,000 last year.
    Again I bolded.

    a)Say M$ is successful and is able to sell XP on every second of those ULPC's. That is a lot of PC's running Linux.

    b)Now if a gaming developer manages to develop a high quality game that (1) runs on Linux and Windows and(2) runs on their lower specifications it would make a killing in the market.

    c)If they develop a high quality inter platform game for these ulpc's, they could pitch their product to the vendors of these ulpc's to include as pre-installed, and make revenue from game related content, and maybe even from the inclusion of these games.

    Why is this a good idea?

    i) By conservative estimates there will be 9Million of these units sold by 2012. That is four years from now. WinXP will be very outdated by then, so MS will either need to ship a competitive modern OS for these, or Linux will be the dominant OS, so beginning a cross-platform development process makes sense. At best M$ will be able to gain 50% of the market.

    ii) 9Million units are a lot. This is a lucrative gaming market. The Playstation (the PSP) and Nintendo (the DS) offerings have shown that mobile gaming is alive. Preparing a product for the boom to come makes sense, as these products become cheaper they will continue selling well.

    iii) A possible sales pitch to the makers of these products is this: A range of games for these devices will radically expand the market. Parents will feel better about buying their children a portable productivity tool that also plays games as opposed to buying a dedicated entertainment device. Adult gamers will also spend money on a combined device rather than having to buy two separate devices.

    iv) The hardware specifications also lend these devices to a satisfying gaming experience. Many of them have wireless networking functionality, internet access will soon be a given, and they come with lots of processor power and RAM. Graphics support might be problematic in the short term, so 3d games that are graphics intensive might pose a problem for now. MMORG, FPS, Racing and strategy games will all be popular on these devices.

    v) Since the ULPC is in essence a device based on x86 compatible architecture it will be easy to port games to the traditional gaming PC, making it easy to for once effectively bridge the divide between mobile and home-based gaming. The internet will make it possible for both to play games online against each other.

    In closing, there is a lucrative, largely untapped Linux (and windows) market for the gaming industry. If effort is made to develop a range of games for these devices it will mean revenue over a very long term. If extra effort is put into developing the business model properly a gaming developer might be the first to offer a game that can be played transparently on the ULPC, the PC and the Laptop. This will be a first, and good firsts make money.

    Money is a motivator, and if you develop for the ULPC linux market you are also by default developing for the Linux desktop and notebook market, hence you will have broken into not only a wide market of mobile gaming, you will have broken into the linux gaming market, and you will not only be a market leader, you will essentially be the market owner on most common platforms today and tomorrow.

    I would be surprised if a gaming developer isn't already working towards this goal.
  • Re:The pitch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mazarin5 (309432) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @07:19PM (#23364916) Journal
    If there's one thing I'll give them, it's that Visual Studio is very, very nice. This is because it's necessary to make things as convenient as possible for developers at all levels to develop for windows; it's a critical part of the feedback loop: more people use windows, let's program on windows <-> there's more program on windows, let's use windows.

    So they make it as easy as possible for users, and spend their time making a good suite for programmers; it's a good strategy.

    Everything else, not so good.
  • Re:Bah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ozbird (127571) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @07:20PM (#23364920)
    MS is planning on charging betweek $26-$32 bucks for Windows XP Home Edition for these machines.

    I note with interest on the "Windows Life-Cycle Policy" page that despite Windows XP Retail and OEM licenses are being dropped on 30 Jun 2008, and System Builder licenses on 31 January 2009, there's now a little footnote:

    As of April 2008, Microsoft is extending availability of Windows XP Home Edition for OEMs to install on Ultra Low-Cost PCs. The new OEM end date will be the later of either June 30, 2010, or one year after the general availability of the next version of Windows.
    I love the smell of Microsoft's fear in the morning. It smells like ... freedom.

    Still, that's only a two year grace period. Do Microsoft think the "ultra low-cost" PC just a fad? Or that in two years they'll be powerful enough to handle the three ton white elephant that is Vista? Or that they'll have a slimmed down Vista-replacement out the door by then? Microsoft's problem is that the moment they leave a gap in the market e.g. "ultra low-cost" PCs, Linux is there to step in. I expect the anti-Linux FUD and dirty tricks will be especially fierce now: SCO and OOXML fast-tracking was just the entree.
  • by ianare (1132971) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @08:45PM (#23365504)
    Photoshop CS2 is usable [winehq.org] in Linux now.
    I still have a windows partition on my home computer , but I find myself really only using it for games. At work all our dev boxes are linux.

    Remember when the biggest issue with Linux was the lack of drivers? Lack of applications is the next challenge, one that is getting closer to being solved all the time.
  • Firefox? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2008 @08:52PM (#23365540)

    ...They have a less than 2% share of the market. There isn't a company in the history of mankind which needs to focus it's business decisions based on what a competitor with less than 2% of the market is doing... especially when that company's various products hold about 94% of the market.
    But a long, long time ago, Mozilla Firefox had less than 2% share of the market, and Microsoft didn't need to focus on it, specially when it holded about 97% of the Internet browsing market with Internet Explorer 6...
  • Re:The pitch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tonyr60 (32153) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:09PM (#23366278)
    My stock response to that sort of remark is "Oh, which versions of Linux are you familiar with?" Then gently lead into the idea that one needs roughly equivalent exposure to an OS (or App, whatever) before committing to the best one.

    If the victim has half a brain you can usually make some traction. Otherwise best to just move on ASAP.
  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @11:50PM (#23366454) Homepage Journal
    From a business point of view, this is competition, something we have not seen in a while. For the past several years two things have been driving computer prices and computer use. First, MS sets the base price of OEM computers by fixing the price of the OS and the minimum requirements. IN exchange for accepting the MS guidance, MS prices retail versions of the OS at prices that encourage consumers to buy a new computer instead of upgrading. Since machines have become very cheap, MS was forced to have two levels of MS Windows.

    Second is the incompatibility of MS software combined with the widespread piracy. This has been going for 20 years. Everyone I know who moved to a MS platform moved because they pirate software. MS has knows this is a critical path to their success, so has created constructs under which they can maintain sales but still encourage a level of piracy.

    And this is why Linux will have a hard time competing, because MS will compete when it has to. We see this with Vista and the version zoo. MS should have just one version for $100, but that would kill the façade that MS has premium software, and would violate the cartel relationship with the OEMs. So we have a zoo of versions that allows the $100 entry point, but still maintains the arbitrary premium price point. Some complain that Apple obsesses over fashion, but at least Apple sells significant product at the asking price, something that MS does not do, making it much more the fashion disaster.

    So MS can and will compete with free. The TCO arguments have been proven fraudulent, so all that can happen now is create more levels, as they are doing with Vista. Artificially restrict use by geography, system, and type of user, so they can compete with free. And since most of the US see the Internet as IE, mail as Outlook, writing as Word, and programming as moving little widgets on the screen, MS will likely succeed for a while longer, because whatever anyone might think, MS provides a better value for the freetards than Linux.

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

    by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday May 11, 2008 @05:00AM (#23367702) Homepage
    Well, it would be hardly surprising if an all M$ solution was not more integrated, than a solution from multilple suppliers, in fact M$ has a reputation for making sure that solutions from alternate suppliers are in fact 'dis'intergrated when they try to run on windows with each new windows patch update, at least few a few months until the lawyers come calling.

    As for windows on cheap PCs, M$ it is just cutting it's own throat, limiting hardware specs, means the price will continually fall, making the windows and office, let's not forget office as M$ seems to be, licence fees harder to bare.

    The lost cost PC target price is around $250 above that it becomes a hard throw away buy and the difference between a full featured office suite and the absence of one is palpable. Of course M$ could always recommend OpenOffice.org, to ensure windows remain price competitive ha, ha, HA.

    Heres betting that the open note consumable market tells M$ to take a running jump when it comes to defining that market segment, high levels of competition will force all sorts of hardware specs to become available but the 10.5" screen is the natural size for very portable open note beyond that pushes it into the full note book range, so like duh. To make it clear the throw away open note is also the ideal school computer, so huge numbers will be driving the price and for school an office suit is a necessity, good luck to M$ with vista and office 2007 with that at $250 for hardware and software ;D.

  • by walter_f (889353) on Sunday May 11, 2008 @07:08AM (#23368030)
    re "It's time for manufacturers to tell Microsoft...":

    Exactly.

    For the first time, a manufacturer like Asus could have managed to achieve a position where they can say "You want us to put Windows on all EeePCs exclusively? Well, let us have your offer and we'll talk about it. Or maybe you want the Windows version of the EeePC to be substantially less than the Linux version instead? Alright, that would be... let's see... all the XP licences for free, plus some cash as a subsidy per unit... How much could that be?"

    Presumably, something like this happened for the Australian market, i.e., Microsoft and Asus might indeed have some kind of agreement down under.
    A handful of other markets might even follow, like Germany and Japan.

    But, most probably, there will be no such agreement in (say) Thailand or France or in most of the remaining 170+ countries of the world...

    Too bad for Microsoft, isn't it?

    har, har. ;-)

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