Breaking the Camel’s Back

Most people have heard the phrase “the last straw“.  When it comes to Microsoft, people will moan and groan that they wish their Vista computers didn’t suck so bad.  Yet they still bought them, many even knowing Vista’s reputation.  Most knowing, first hand, Microsoft’s reputation.  Why?  Because that’s what they came with.

After reading my 2010 post, “John” added a comment to to Ubuntu’s Bug #1: “all we need to do in order to get rid of Microsoft once and for all is cutting their connections with hardware vendors […] bundling Windows with the majority of new computers (most notably laptops) and therefore denying ICT users’ the right to freely choose their OS is probably the the fundamental cause of all this mess. […] i suggest we should do our best to make bundling illegal

Imagine for a moment what only allowing blank computers to be sold would do for Linux adoption.  Yet its a harsh remedy; OEMs wouldn’t be able to sell functional products and average users would be forced to do something they just do not do right now because it seems scary: install their own OS.  What is really needed is some way of making that final purchase step for the consumer just ever so slightly too painful to bear: add up all the grief you’ve ever had with Windows, all the terrible things you’ve ever heard about Vista, [update July 28: for real, here and here] and just make one last annoyance visible for the consumer to reflect upon before finalizing their purchase: the ‘Microsoft tax‘…  Here’s what I replied for Bug #1:

I’ve been thinking about this thread on-and-off all day and just a few minutes ago a possible solution struck me:

What if OEMs were required to sell the software separately from the hardware, BUT still be allowed to preinstall?  Specifically, think of this scenario:

Major OEM makes notebooks and preloads them with Windows, but does NOT activate them.  The notebook has one price and a sealed envelope with the OEM Windows Key Sticker, backup CDs, etc. has a different price.

If the user wants to buy Windows for the notebook, they just pay the extra $ for the envelope too and when they first bootup the machine they enter the code and affix the sticker as per the EULA.

Oh wait, what’s that other stack of disks next to the Windows envelopes?  Ubuntu Linux disks?  What’s that you say; they’re FREE?   And Ubuntu can do pretty much everything Windows can and a few things it can’t?  And if I don’t like it I can come back next week and still buy the OEM Windows disks?  Hmm…

In this sort of environment, how long do you think Microsoft would last? O:)  How long would it take for the OEMs to just start preloading Ubuntu to save the hassle?  Is anyone, perhaps starting in Europe, up for a little legislation? >:)

Update: Speaking of Vista’s reputation, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I note today that MS is planning on spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to “overcome the common view that Windows Vista is a failure”.  Wouldn’t this be like spending lots of money to counter the ‘common view’ that Ishtar, Waterworld or any of these weren’t that good?  Perhaps instead of using that money to pretend that a sucky product isn’t, they should partially reimburse past buyers, or discount future sales, or maybe just invest in making the current or next product better.

Also, I note that there’s an article up mentioning that businesses that want to switch away from XP can save one to two thousand dollars per seat in hardware and software costs by switching to Linux and reusing old boxes instead of Vista on new machines.  But if you do that, how will Microsoft pay for the ads that tell you what a great deal you got running Vista? ;)

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10 Responses to “Breaking the Camel’s Back”

  1. JohnMc Says:

    Don’t get me wrong I like the idea. Equity of OS choice should be the norm.

    However there are issues with this. Unless those Ubuntu Disks as tuned by the hardware OEM for that hardware the install Ubuntu OR Windows would be problematic.

  2. ValentineS Says:

    That is what should be done, and should have been done way back when. For that matter, they could even let the consumer pay for it before it is shipped out, but at least give the option. Let the consumer decide if they want to pay the extra money for it before hand. Believe it or not, many people will still opt to include MS Windows and won’t want the hassle of activating it more than they do now.
    We should make them do like a certain chain in Europe has been required to do, list the price of Windows (and all the software for that matter) separate from the box itself. Itemize it so we can see, like they do for options in cars, or any other myriad products.

    Now is as good a time as any to start.

    ,ValentineS

  3. Richard Chapman Says:

    Very good point. It’s the level playing field we never get to see. Yes, the people, who are called consumers by the corporations, would get to see just exactly what they were paying for. Thanks.

  4. dan Says:

    There is an easy solution:

    Require the HD with the preinstalled OSs to be sold separately. Almost every user can manage popping the case open and plugging in a HD.

    Let the user see the two G drives next to each other and see the winblows one costing twice as much and let him decide. Then individual’s choices will crush the Redmond Mafia.

  5. Bob Says:

    To the JohnMcC item, Dell already offers pre-loaded Ubuntu, so this shouldn’t be too big a problem for others. The details on building a custom-install disk for ‘buntu are well-known, so it could just be as easy as paying $XX for the Windows install disks or $YY for the Linux. Given how seldom you see a ‘tuned’ Windows install disk anyway, something like Ubuntu that Just Installs on the box would probably stagger Joe User’s imagination anyway.

  6. ian Says:

    dan: most users would find installing a hard disk – even just opening the system unit – daunting. Some users find typing on the keyboard scary – the computer is too strange and mysterious for them.

    You may think it is easy – the average non-technical person will think it is like trying to open up their TV set and install some hardware there. Even I – with 20+ years of computer programming experience – don’t like opening up boxes that often (I am a programmer, not a technician).

  7. ian Says:

    By the way, one Australian PC vendor (who I have no commercial interests in) does allow a perfectly free choice between Windows and Ubuntu – see this page for a good example:

    http://www.pioneercomputers.com.au/products/configure.asp?c1=3&c2=148&id=1984

    Just look down all the options to find the Operating System choices – they do this for virtually all their PC systems, not just one or two models. Note that the prices are all in AU$, which is not quite equal to the US$.

    I just wish that Dell and HP and Lenovo did the same as this vendor. Then people would start to see how much Windows is costing them, and we Linux users could get our PC systems with a free Ubuntu, and pay no MS tax.

  8. promotinglinux Says:

    I support the adaptation of Linux, but I think there is a place for *both* Windows and Linux in this world. Why not work with microsoft instead of seeing them as the enemy?

  9. Limulus Says:

    Um… hmm… warning about the above promotinglinux.com site; its an odd parody and some parts are NSFW.

  10. vadirkp Says:

    promotinglinux.com, thanks for your contribution to the troll cave! http://vadi-blog.com/2008/07/15/the-troll-cave/

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