Market distortion example
What you see below is a current ad from an educational IT suppliers br[o]chure. It features the new Acer Aspire One netbook in both Windows XP and Linux incarnations. What’s odd about it? The lower spec machine with the free operating system costs half again as much as the higher spec one running Windows.
How can this happen?
Well, here in Victoria the state government has done a deal with Microsoft, which as I understand it essentially means all state schools get their copies of Windows paid for by DEECD. So if a public school buys a higher spec netbook with Windows XP, they get a $156 discount from the government. If they buy a lower spec one netbook with Linux they do not.
So, the government is sponsoring Microsoft’s monopoly while demoting free(dom) software at taxpayers’ expense. Brendan Scott, an Australian lawyer specialising in Free/open source software, has just commented on this issue.
Strike me pink! Less than a week after OSIA sent its submission to a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into how Victoria can better engage with open source, Cafuego reports some very concerning goings on to do with the Acer Aspire One, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and apparently discriminatory treatment by the Department of machines loaded with XP compared with those loaded with Linux (when being sold to eligible purchasers).
This one particular incident will be an excellent case study in monopoly abuse and may also serve as proof of continued abuse of market position by Microsoft.
Earlier today (late afternoon to be precise), a reader from Australia independently brought up the topic of Acer laptops. In the IRC channel he told us not about market distortion using deals but using word of month. It started with a discussion about Eee PC. Specifically he said: “Is anyone able to get GNU/Linux Eee’s anymore? We had a customer who wanted a 901 with Linux but we couldn’t get one. The major supplier is only offering XP [...] Can get Linux on a 900 Celeron but not a 901 Atom. We have had requests for both versions, but only one is made available.”
“Gartner was doing the Microsoft dance once again.”This issue of GNU/Linux-powered Eee unavailability (e.g. in the UK) was already discussed in here. Australia too had some strange incidents reported — incidents where the GNU/Linux-powered Eee PCs were made more expensive than their Windows counterparts. The company later equated the prices, trying to ‘correct’ the error despite being "closely tied up with Microsoft.”
This brings us to Acer. Gartner was doing the Microsoft dance once again [1, 2, 3]. Our reader says: “This is from within our company who is partners with Acer: Gartner did a market study fo[r] Acer and told Acer that Asus was having “a lot of trouble” with Linux and it isn’t working for them so they are getting out of it. I did note to our directors that Gartner’s biggest client is Microsoft but only a couple of people were listening.”
Further he adds: “I’m not sure what Acer is up to really. I hope they’re telling the truth because the pressure within our company not to promote Linux came from Gartner – through Acer. Acer was passing this on and not adding any caveats about Gartners ‘analysis’.” █