12.20.11

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OSChoice Addresses Microsoft Bundling Against Choice

Posted in Site News at 11:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Call for action against unfair competition at the OEM channel

ONE impediment to GNU/Linux is the practice of Microsoft bundling inside OEMs’ territories. Users never get to even choose their software, only their hardware. This is not fair competition — an issue close to our hearts here at Techrights.

Iophk points out that “It is bundling, but there was a work-around that MS had to replace the illegal per-processor licensing.” We covered this some years ago when we showed court evidence about it. [...]”

“Anyway,” he adds, “the OSChoice idea would have to overcome that barrier, among others.”

Here is a new article about OSChouice.eu. To quote:

It is worth to note that a judge in Florence Court, Italy, ruled in favour of a user that had long been demanding the refund of the unused Windows licence from HP. Similar sentences have been pronounced in France against Asus and Acer[3], as well as elsewhere around the world. I am unsure whether those verdicts would still hold today, since Microsoft has since updated its End User License Agreement (EULA). Indeed, the EULA for Microsoft Windows 7 states that, if in disagreement with the licensing terms, one should “contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy [and] comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed”[1]. It should also be underlined that the real price the consumer pays for an OEM Windows license is unknown, as the bills of PC purchases do not show the cost of the different components. Such licensing terms are a disrespectful violation of consumers’ rights, and result in the de facto impossibility of buying many computer models without purchasing a Windows licence.

The retailers’ offer of laptops without Windows pre-installed is extremely limited and often restricted to the very low (old and cheap) or very high (and expensive) segments of the market. Of the 571 laptops available on the web site of the Italian store eprice.it, as of August 1st 2011, only 13 machines are shipped with non Windows operating systems – namely GNU/Linux, Free Dos or none. In other words, only 2.3% of laptops available on the retail website come without Windows pre-installed.

Some may argue that the 2.3% offer of mainstream stores is more or less in line with the 2.8% market share of operating systems other than Windows and Mac OS[*]. I reject this critique because the low level of adoption may very well be a consequence — not the cause — of not offering a choice for operating systems.

Furthermore, Microsoft recently announced that the upcoming Windows 8 will require manufacturers to support secure boot in order to participate in its certification programme[2]. This could potentially make things really hard for Linux enthusiasts that purchase a computer with Microsoft Windows and then install their favourite distribution on top of it, as the computer might be locked by the vendor to only run the operating system it was sold with.

We wrote about this subject very extensively in the past. The regulators need to take action to make it possible to trivially buy PCs without Windows. At present, there is no fair competition because people who do not want Windows are often forced to pay for it. We will revisit this subject later because the wheels are moving [1, 2].

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5 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    December 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Gravatar

    People want complete tools – not half. It would be idiotic to force OEMs to sell half a tool and make people get the other half elsewhere.

    Right now OEMs can and do sell computers with Windows, DOS, Ubuntu, other flavors of desktop Linux, and – with Apple – OS X. Nothing is stopping OEMs from selling any of those (assuming they are licensed to do so… and Apple does not allow others to be licensed). With desktop Linux, though, the license is easy… so anyone can easily do so.

    This whining that OEMs do not cater to the desires of a tiny minority is just silly. If I want a purple computer with orange polka dots it is not Dell’s responsibility to make one for me – it would be an uncommon desire and I would need to do some work to get mine to look that way. If lots of people wanted one like that, though, you better believe Dell and HP and the like would jump in to serve the need. But it is not their job to try to get people to like these uncommon desires… it would be my job to convince people such a computer was “cool” or offered some advantage.

    Right now desktop Linux simply does not compete well with the competition. Office software is inferior, graphics editing software is inferior, screencasting software is inferior, and this is all on a system with inferior integration and a lower focus on usability, productivity, efficiency, and error reduction. It makes *less* sense to push such a machine as it does the purple and orange one I describe above – but people who want such oddly colored machines do not run around whining about how Dell and HP must be doing them wrong. They buy paint.

  2. mcinsand said,

    December 21, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Gravatar

    Bundling?!?! I don’t think so! At the start of this, at the heart of this, you have to ask yourself one key question; are the OS and hardware available as separate UPC’s? This gets to why the industry will argue for preinstalls as well as why this is tying, *NOT* bundling. When a supplier bundles, the customer is offered a selection of available products to be packaged for a total price at a discount. If Windows and, say, the average Dell laptop were actually bundled, then you would see one price for the hardware, one for the software, and then a percentage discount on buying them together. What if the only way to buy, for example, a Ford was to pay a surcharge on top of the price of the car, with this added cost being a prepay for Ford consumables? In the current situation, the products are tied and, if tying a browser to OS is illegal, then tying OS to hardware is certainly illegal. DG versus Digidyne went a long way to reinforce that hardware and software are separate markets. We need to re-establish those lines.

    What makes matters worse is the current idiocy of putting the OS backup on a separate hard drive partition. In my experience, the hard drive is the most likely to fail and, when a user has not taken the time to make a recovery CD (happens more often than not), then it’s time to war with the supplier. This then gives suppliers the chance ot try to strong-arm customers into maintenance contracts. A Dell tech once insisted that he could not sell me a recovery CD until I agreed to pay $250 for a year’s maintenance contract.

    Preinstall tying and the patent thuggery are still MS’ only remaining tools to maintain market share (have you laughed at the ‘IP’ that they threatened B&N with, yet?). In fact, if we sold only clean PC’s, either MS would have to learn how to clean up their installs or their market share would collapse much faster. I do installs, upgrades, and general look-sees for a number of friends. A Windows install or upgrade generally is a 4-8 hour job, and getting the drivers straightened out is usually most of it. Gimme an hour and an Ubuntu, Fedora, PCBSD, or Slackware CD, and I can usually have the user up, Youtubing, Facebooking, e-mailing, and my way home.

    Regards,
    mc

    Michael Reply:

    The OS and the hardware are sold together because one needs the other. Still, you can get Windows, DOS, or any number of Linux distros… or, from Apple, OS X.

    I am for choice. I am completely against your anti-choice movement which would force anyone to sell products based on *your* desires and not what they think is best for their customers and for themselves.

    It would be like my trying to push a law where every OEM has to sell a purple computer with orange polka dots… just because I want one and I am not willing to do the work to get it done myself. It would be absurd to use force to make this happen. But that is what people who want to *force* OEMs to offer products they do not wish to offer are doing. Exact same thing. Well, maybe one difference: the purple and orange computer, as ugly as it might be, would still be just as fit for service – a computer with desktop Linux is, in general, *not* as fit for service. So what you want is even more absurd than my example.

    Here is the better tact to take: work to make desktop Linux desirable. Even once you get there, of course, markets do not generally change on a dime and it will take time for the value to spread – but *nothing* could hold that back.

    Can you think of any example of a free and easily accessible product *not* doing well in the market (not gaining lots of users). It does not happen. If and when the OSS desktop becomes a good competitor, nothing will be able to hold it back: not Microsoft nor Apple – for they charge for their products. If all else was equal, they would lose customers to OSS desktops at a fast pace.

    The OSS community needs to stop whining about how others are beating them in the market, stop trying to push laws to favor their own preferences, stop trying to force people to move to what does not serve them as well… and make a truly competitive environment.

    J.H. Reply:

    Michael,

    What kind of a troll are you?

    I don’t think most FOSS advocates really care if OEM’s offer Linux, but how about OEM’s offering hardware sans OS so they don’t have to pay for something they don’t want?

    And desktop Linux not fit for service? My Linux desktops work perfectly fine, thank you.

    Want to talk about something not fit for service? Take a look at any version of Windows Server.

    Michael Reply:

    J.H.

    You start your post with name calling – which reduces the value of your comment.

    As far as selling hardware without an OS, can you show that this would reduce the price? Include the additional SKUs for the company selling it along with the junk-ware that OEMs are paid to add to the machines (not including Apple).

    As far as desktop Linux not being fit for service, I am talking in a general sense, not your specific case. It is really not worth debating the idea that desktop Linux is behind in many, many areas, including: word processing, screen casting, email, image editing, online screen reading, presentation software, and on and on and on. And this does not include system-wide things such as a media browser, proxy icons, PDF services, automator, finding a path from almost any window, system services, consistent hot keys and menu placements and terms for things such as preferences, etc.

    To be clear: I am not saying word processing or emailing or image editing or the other things I list cannot be done on desktop Linux – of course they can. But I do not think anyone who knows desktop Linux and the competition well can say, with a straight face, that desktop Linux does these things *as well*. And this is a huge problem for those of us who are fans of desktop Linux (based on the licensing model and philosophy). To deny it, however, does not make it go away. All too often people in the open source world deny these things – as if lying about them or burying your head in the sand is going to make things better.

    If there was a demand for OS-less hardware, by the way, it would exist. There is just too much competition in the market for that not to happen.

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