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Countering the Arguments Against Unbundling Windows 624

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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  • Re:What about Macs? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Solder Fumes ( 797270 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:05PM (#20906465)
    The article says no. And at that point, I ceased to take the article seriously.
  • by brassman ( 112558 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:07PM (#20906483) Homepage
    Author of TFA said "meme-transfer." Bzzzzt!

    His use of "laissez-faire" as something other than "free" or "open" is simply bizarre.

    His repeated insistence that Microsoft somehow got its monopoly dishonestly wears thin by the end of the piece -- even though I agree with him. (I once earnestly wished for Microsoft to eat IBM's lunch; I won't make that mistake again.)

    I remember when the "real" computer stores looked the way videogame stores do today, with separate sections for each platform, and woe betide you if you picked up the wrong version of M.U.L.E. or Choplifter. I'd like to see an article that spells out in detail how we ended up with the Microsoft monoculture.

  • by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:10PM (#20906517)
    I think Ubuntu would have a very good shot at competing with Windows if users are given a choice...I have been mainly a Windows user for many years, but recently have been using Ubuntu on one of my workstations. Quite frankly, I have been VERY impressed with its usability and the choice of software available for free. Plus the ease at which you can install any additional software is very appealing. The other day, the integrated sound card on that PC started cutting out and I was dreading having Ubuntu start barking tons of error messages about unknown hardware, etc when I installed a spare sound card I had stuck in a cabinet (older Soundblaster card). But I was pleasantly surprised when the newly installed card started working with no prompts to install or download any drivers! My wife is big into digital photography and if I could get up to speed with The Gimp, I could totally ditch Windows!
  • by awitod ( 453754 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:14PM (#20906549)
    It seems to me that this is a bad idea for two reasons.
    The first is that it would require vendors to ensure compatibility at all levels of two different configurations and have two sets of support. Support and warranties aren't free and the cost would be passed on to the consumer either directly as vendors recover the costs or indirectly to to crappy kit if the vendors fail to properly spend the money in the first place.
    Secondly, it assumes that Linux has a god given right to exist on the mainstream desktop independent of its merits and that Windows is the inevitable winner unless someone stacks the deck. I take the long view and I think that in the end the platform that provides the best value will win and that the market will do its thing without the regulators taking sides. It might take 10 more years, but as computers evolve into things we can't even imagine (wearable? pervasive and ubiquitos with a universal network maybe?) that Windows will take it's place in the history books as will Linux.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:17PM (#20906569) Journal

    It came out a while ago that Apple has OSX running on plain vanilla x86 (non-Apple) hardware. Now look at how many people buy iPods, and compare that to the number who buy cheaper competitors, say Zunes. Apple has reached that "sweet spot" where they can have the best of both worlds - high sales of hardware/software bundles, as well as selling just the OS to those who want it on non-apple hardware.

    Dell gets the support headaches, apple gets the $$$. And those who want to "step it up a notch" are still free to buy iMacs, same as they buy iPods.

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:25PM (#20906641) Journal
    ... it might come true.

    As a MSFT shareholder, it might be nice if the company split in to OS, Software, Entertainment, Hardware, etc. complanies.

    At least then I could sell off the losers (Zune, cough, cough).

  • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:29PM (#20906685)
    This suggestion might appeal to fellow slashdotters.

    IMPLEMENTATION of the option :

    As most of us know, installing an OS - any OS - properly for a given piece of hardware can be complicated. Getting the best possible drivers (which is not always the latest version), setting all the internal OS settings to appropriate ones for the computer being sold is a complex process. I am aware that many commodity PC makers do a shitty job of setting up the software for a PC, but they DO set it up a certain way when they make that disk image.

    (if the computer is a gaming PC, the OS should be set to be efficient, if it is a work PC, it should be pre-installed with running anti-spyware and virus programs, ect)

    SO...there would be recovery CDs, but everything would be on the new computer's hard drive.

    When you start up the new pc, you would be taken to a screen where you can choose to

            1. PAY the OEM price by credit card for Windows. The partition containing Windows preinstalled, a clean disk image all ready to go with appropriate drivers, is made the primary partition. The other partitions are deleted from the drive index table. There could easily be different options : Vista Home, Premium, XP, ect, and a version of Windows loaded with other programs in a bundle. You could either pay directly if the PC is connected to the internet, or, when you bought the PC you would have been given an activation number to type in.

            2. Pay nothing, have the Ubuntu partition made primary
            3. Pay nothing, wipe the disk so that you can install your own OS.

    A small entry would be added to the BIOS Flash once you pay for Windows successfully. That way, if you have to use the Windows recovery disk, the PC already knows if you have paid for the software or not.
  • by Zantetsuken ( 935350 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:33PM (#20906711) Homepage
    I'm assuming here that the average idiot is too... well, idiotic to realize they can download a distro and install it themselves. Instead, they'll do what they always do and just spend cash to solve their problem by going to Best Buy or Radio Shack...

    Also, driver problems in both Windows and Linux suddenly aren't accounted for...

    While I really do love Linux (need to get round to trying the BSD's, etc), I can see that sort of situation being actually bad for Linux. "Oh, whats this 'Xandros/SuSE/RHEL/Linspire/etc' - its cheaper than that Windows software box over there, I'll get this instead!" They either pay the store something like $50 bucks to install it for them or are somehow able to do it themselves - "Oh wow, the interface is different!" and "Oh, shit. I can't figure out how to do what I want - Linux sucks, I should have just coughed up the change for Windows!"

    Also, the retail stores might find a way to make all the Linux distros more expensive than Windows even before people get out of the store. $50 bucks for the distro itself, $50 to $75 for Geek Squad to install it for you, and another $50 to $100 for 3 years tech support over the phone. That doesn't even include people getting home and spending time (time=money) to re-learn how to use half the GUI (only because things aren't in the same place) or paying tech support a wad of cash to learn how. Anybody that goes through that will tell their friends that its not only cheaper but also easier to just buy Windows.
  • Re:What about Macs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:42PM (#20906793)
    It is even easier than that. Manufacturers should be even allowed to PRELOAD MS-Windows and not include any other OS, if they want. As long as it is UNLICENSED. If the customer wants to ACTIVATE the preloaded MS-Windows, let them pay for it separately (for the activation code), and not through the hardware vendor.

    In this way, people who want MS-Windows have it. They have it quickly. They have it easily. They have it customized by the OEM. But people who do not want (or need) it, do not have to pay for it and are not pressured into it by the OEM. They don't have to order "special" models.
  • OEM Price (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:04PM (#20906971) Homepage
    Comments here seem to somehow imply that manufacturers should want to include a copy of Windows in some fashion with a PC that the customer can choose to pay the OEM price for. They would - seemingly - pay Microsoft for this.

    Well, that isn't how it works. The reason the OEM price is less than the retail price is because the computer manufacturer put Windows on the machine and tailored it specifically for that environment and what not. They also get to absorb the tech support load. You do not get to call Microsoft and run up their support expenses with an OEM license. Instead, you call the computer manufacturer because part of the OEM deal is they handle support calls.

    So, without the ability to control how Windows is installed on the computer it is unlikely the manufacturer is going to give you OEM tech support or an OEM price. Microsoft isn't going to give you the OEM price and take the support call load. So this would require people to pay retail price for Windows and go to Microsoft for support.

    Microsoft would love to do this. The OEM deal is in the consumers and manufacturers best interest and not all that great for Microsoft. Except for perhaps reinforcing the dominance of Windows which is unlikely to be dimenshed any time soon. Microsoft would experience 2x or 3x their current revenue should this happen.
  • by Ozwald ( 83516 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:31PM (#20907137)
    Imagine if Microsoft finally takes a critical blow leaving a vacuum for Apple to dominate. What's Apple shipping for hardware these days? Intel? Sorry AMD. What about wireless chipset? Video cards? Would be great to be vendor their choice but would suck to be the loser. Okay, fine. You'll just say that Apple will suddenly have a change of heart and allow consumers to choose the hardware. Um, ya.

    Since MS makes IE for Mac, do they have the right to complain that Apple bundles Safari? What about Real? Do they have a right to complain that Mac bundle QuickTime? What if Apple bundles an office productivity suite? The double standards are staggering.

  • by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @12:18AM (#20907369)

    not at all, the whole bundling issue was really about Microsoft adding technologies that OEMS had to pay for from independant companies to make them more dependant on Microsoft. The whole point of seperating the OS is that for each feature microsoft added for "free" as a bundle, they tightened the contract terms playing the OEMs against each other when Microsoft was already near monopoly. Now there's nobody to even buy extra piece from without stepping on Bills toes.

    Note that Apple manages to sell an equivelent computer for nearly the same cost as Dell without subisdies from Intel or Microsoft. Without plastering stickers all over their boxes, or being told what icons and media players they can have. The OEM agreements are holding companies like Dell back from innovation on their own as deviating too far from Microsoft's narrow path gets funds for stickers, TV ads, Print adds, mailers, etc pulled.

    The only fair thing to do is to reset the board... wipe out all the OEM agreements and pay one flat price for windows.. they're a monopoly, if people really need them it won't hurt their business not being bundled.. right? My opinion is that all copies of Microsoft windows should cost the posted retail price... that's what Red Hat or SuSe has had to do for years. No volume discounts.. .how stupid is it for a MONOPOLY to give volume discounts.. won't you need to buy it anyway? From them? That would immediately put Linux for Free or $79 in a box versus Windows at $199, $299, etc.. Then there will be money in the market available as people don't want to pay the higher price. That doesn't infringe Microsoft's IP, it doesn't tell Microsoft how to run their business.. it just stops them from telling OTHER people how to run theirs. And it opens up options for the free market to step in and reward Linux, Apple or whoever else may step up.

  • My solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by realdodgeman ( 1113225 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:39AM (#20907787) Homepage
    My solution: Every computer retail store should inform how much of the price is Windows tax. For example: $500, where $150 is Windows Vista Bangtastic. And you should be able to choose not to accept the licence when you buy it, and they will remove the activation CD, so you can't activate it.
  • First, cost is not irrelevant.
    Obviously, you are not in sales then. Every CEO I have ever met, every really successful sales guy I ever met, says that over and over and over, that cost and value are two entirely different things. How much you charge for something has absolutely nothing to do with how much it costs. If you can get a markup of %200, then go for it, because, its the value that you bring to the client, if they are willing to fork over that money.

    But seriously, you are not comparing that value to a Linux desktop distro that has just about every software a regular user would need?

    I personally don't think Linux has -everything- a regular user would need, but, I do also think that you are vastly understating the value of that Linux distribution. Linux adds thousands of dollars in value to a PC. That's the point you are missing. Don't think in terms of Linux v Windows, or this or that. Imagine walking into a store, with a computer, and it has Linux on it, and says, hey, here is a computer, you can word process, surf, run scientific applications, host web sites, a bunch of programming languages and a lot of sucky games, out of the box, and that's a lot of value right there.

    Don't be bitching about a monopoly, because a monopoly replies a restraint of trade and there isn't one. It's not like when Standard Oil used to go around and blow up the oil refineries of its competitors, or buy up all the rail access to a rival oil field. Nobody is blocking you from making a PC, putting Linux on it, and selling it.

    IE works for most people because that is all they know. Once they understand taking advantage of FireFox plugins, they never go back

    I like IE for somethings, and I like Firefox for others.

    So do Linux distros. Windows market status attracts driver support from appliance makers, but not as much of an advantage of the software architecture per se.

    Windows market status is an excuse. The technical hurdles are the same. There is no single Linux. The software deployment process is cumbersome on Linux, more so than on Windows. The toolchain is spotty for desktop development, unless you write in Java, and Java sucks.

    Not compelling. Too many other alternatives now

    C# crushes Java hands down, and Visual Studio is the best IDE out there period for desktop forms development, and is pretty damned good for web development as well. I'd take C#/VS2007 over Eclipse/Java any day of the week. For C++, the situation is a bit different, but I think WTL is a better app framework than anything in the Linux world... and, at the end of the day, Linux will always remain haunted by the lack of a single standard widget like the sort Windows has. Has anyone read the SDK for what the Vista API adds to the stock widget sets - new button classes, new list classes, new options for lists... a lot of stuff that benefits SDK developers down the line. Plus, there's a lot of stuff in there to support threadpools, kernel queues, all of which Linux still lacks.

    expect 6 billion in productions costs to do a lot more

    You need to really look at the SDK documentation changes for Vista to see where 6 billion went, and then, you'd see, yep, they really did spend that much on Vista, and yep, its worth it. I mean, just one new style in the button control is a week's worth of developer work - as all that's written in straight C internally in Windows, and all of the controls have new stuff in them. Then there's the enhanced kernel queue, the unified driver model, a much better low level sound interface. Honestly, there's a lot of stuff in Vista that applications are not using, because they aren't there yet. But there's a lot of stuff that's pretty cool. Vista's huge, and my next spare $200 is going to go get me one, because the value of the buttons alone in the SDK make it worth my time to spend the money on it.

    Bloody hell, they even wrote a new ::MessageBox..., and that hasn't changed since Windows 3.1, me thinks. And there's a handwriting analysis API.... just a lot of cool stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @03:36AM (#20908297)
    There seems to be a lot of discussion about preventing the bundling of Windows, or forcing "both" OSes to be installed and letting the consumer choose after they have bought it. I think everyone is missing the point. I don't care if Windows is bundled on most PCs that are sold, or if there is a version with Ubuntu pre-installed. What I want is for every PC with Windows bundled to also be available without any OS installed. It is not much to ask; it is actually less work for the manufacturer, and I want it to be cheaper than with Windows pre-installed.
  • by steampoweredlawngnom ( 996400 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @03:38AM (#20908313)
    Really guys, it doesn't have to be that hard.

    For unbundled PC's, I forsee a glorified sticky note on the front of the computer saying "To begin using your computer, insert this disk (pointing to picture of installation disk)" You put in the disk, boot it, and if the fixed disk is blank, the system asks no questions beyond the obligatory "This will install (OS of choice). OK?". 25 minutes later, you've got Windows, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, DesktopBSD, FreeDOS, eComStation or whatever OS you picked. Each OS installation disk would look essentially the same, just with the OS of choice's name and logo as a secondary feature on the artwork.

    If the install disk determines there is data on the fixed disk, it would provide a warning about backing up data, formats make data go bye bye, etc, possibly even offering to back existing data up to an external drive, if present.

    I think the insert CD and wait part is easy enough for anybody. It would be the salesperson or website's job to help the customer select the best OS for their needs. The sticky wicket there would be to ensure that no stores are being given kickbacks to push any specific OS over the others.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DerWulf ( 782458 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:02AM (#20908987)
    I don't buy it. John Doe is more likely to think that the PC and the OS can't be seperated. He wouldn't consider Windows free just as he wouldn't consider the USB ports free. Anyways, Windows XP does not crash unless you use faulty drivers or it's infected with malware. Both things are just not MSs fault.
  • Re:But then ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:11AM (#20909051)
    Totally off topic, but I met one of the people who bought a Zune yesterday. It went something like this:

    Zuner: Hey, where's your Zune accessories?
    EB Clerk: ... Huh?
    Zuner: Where's your Zune accessories?
    EB Clerk: ... We don't have any.
    Zuner: You don't have any?
    EB Clerk: We don't have any.
    Zuner: I lost my cord.
    EB Clerk: ...
    Me: Did you try Target? *points down the block*
    Zuner: Yeah. They don't have anything.
    Me: Ah. Good luck, man!

    The '...' is a stunned silence. Most of the employees that work at that store are pretty together, but this guy is an exception.

    So anyhow, the one guy who DID buy a Zune here got screwed because you can't get accessories for them. I have no idea how Microsoft plans to make it a serious audio player if they don't force the companies that sell the units to also sell accessories.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!