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FSF Recommends That the European Commission Should Unbundle PCs/Windows

Posted in Europe, FSF, GNU/Linux, Windows at 3:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Peter Brown from the FSF (Free Software Foundation) argues that PCs should not be saddled with Windows and that the EU Commission should therefore take a look at the problem

April’s latest complaint about the Microsoft deal with the EU (there are many more complaints about it [1, 2, 3, 4]) has inspired the FSF’s big gun, Peter Brown, to write this post. In part, it says:

Thanks to the European Commission’s antitrust like activities, European citizens will soon be presented with a ballot choice between twelve browsers when first using a newly purchased computer preloaded with the Microsoft Windows operating system.

But is this really progress? It’s not much of a choice when you have to give up your freedom first in order to select a browser — a few of which might be free software. Why not give citizens the option of purchasing the computer with a free software operating system like GNU/Linux, or with no operating system at all? The best way to fight monopoly isn’t to give more choices after the most basic premise of the monopoly has already been agreed to — it’s to let people opt out of the monopoly from the beginning.

Thousands of Italians are preparing to sue Microsoft over bundling, as reported earlier this week. We wrote about this on Wednesday and added many more references yesterday. Marcel Gagné, a Canadian, has just written about the notorious “Microsoft tax” as well:

As I mentioned, that’s a lot of computing power for a small price tag. Even at the ‘sale price’, I’m betting that Best Buy made money and Acer made money and other people down the line made money. Add to that Windows 7 Premium Home edition which, according to my local Future Shop, is $225 Canadian for a full version or $130 for an upgrade. We Linux and FOSS people call this the Microsoft tax. There were also a bunch of other pieces of software installed, some full versions and others time-limited trials. I don’t really care, I wasn’t going to run any of it anyhow. Assuming that this story is correct in saying that NewEgg offers OEM versions of Windows 7 for $110, then my notebook could have goes a full hundred dollars less, at the very least. So now, I could theoretically have gotten all this computing power for $500 or less. Just install Ubuntu or Kubuntu or any other version of Linux you prefer and you have a seriously inexpensive, seriously powerful, and infinitely more reliable machine than the Microsoft-taxed version can offer.

How much pressure will it take to end the illegal bundling? This was challenged very strongly in France and to an extent in Belgium too. We wrote about these issues before, under posts that include some of the ones below.

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  1. clayclamp said,

    January 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm


    You (and your source) know very well that no OEM ever pays $100 for a copy of Windows. The “OEM” version sold in the US via NewEgg, TigerDirect et.al is not the same thing as what’s bundled with computers by Dell, Gateway, et.al.

    If you don’t know this then it means you’re probably not doing your homework. If you do, then it means you’re being deceptive. Which is it?

    your_friend Reply:

    No one outside of Microsoft knows for sure what OEMS have to pay. The agreements are secret so that Microsoft can illegally punish those who don’t toe the Microsoft party line. Fear of retribution is why Dell, HP, TigerDirect and other OEMs all advertise the same obviously cynical key phrases like, “We recommend Microsoft Vista.” Those kinds of OEM details have leaked and Roy published them. The model is breaking down as the price of computers dips below $250. Microsoft won’t survive when computers are as cheap as pocket calculators and this is part of why they have bombed in PDA, music player and mobile phone markets.

    The market value of Microsoft’s OS is less than zero. Given real choices, OEMs and users are migrating to free and zero cost systems. Microsoft has to pay people in it’s ecosystem to keep using Windows so they might collect the Windows tax for them. The increasing cost of the performance gap between gnu/linux and Windows makes an increasing bribe cost for Microsoft.

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