Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ever since I bought the laptop with that stupid Vista Home Premium on it, I have been barraged with anti-Vista links. Today however, I got an anti-Microsoft link, which is basically pushing for PCs not be sold bundled with Microsoft operating systems.

This has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever read. I'm not particularly pro-Microsoft, and I certainly haven't been supporting their ongoing OS development. If my laptop had come unbundled, I would have stuck my ancient copy of Win2K on it. This is still the original one, before the service packs came out, and installing it on a machine with a large drive is a pain beyond compare.

However, that aside. Let's first look at WHY computers come with bundled software. There was a time when purchasing decisions were made on what software came with the box you were buying. This was what people wanted, a box that was ready to go, with all the games and stuff on it for the least possible effort. That was the marketing technique that has put a computer in every home.

But what about business? Why should business be forced to pay the Microsoft tax?

OK, Microsoft didn't get to be the monopoly they are today by writing free software. They set up a business to do, ran it like a business, wrote marketing plans, ran ads. They paid programmers and created jobs. Microsoft is not a huge organisation of people working for no money.

Apple had a revolution and threw out their creator. They have never captured the majority imagination despite award winning ads. I think the lack of choice is a factor here, if you buy Apple you're kinda stuck with an Apple box and the limited number of applications available for it.

Linux went free, and have built a community of open-source programmers all working together for the Linux greater good. Nobody gets paid for their work, it's all voluntary. So there's nobody marketing Linux, and there aren't ads convincing business to switch to it . Plus, not only are there limited apps, if you write a driver that doesn't yet exist, you risk being sued.

OK, so assume the idiot who wrote that article gets his way and computers are sold absolutely clean with no OS, nothing. And assume big business doesn't complain like stink about this and decides Linux is the ultimate cost-saving system and adopts it internationally, what happens then?

If you're a volunteer open source programmer doing stuff in your spare time, at what point do you ask yourself why are you putting in all this effort so that big business - who is not paying you a salary to do this - can earn extra profits?

It may be that big business will start running Linux departments to work on developing the open source operating system as well as open source apps which will be freely available to their competitors. It may also be that an armada of flying pigs will cause the Sahara desert to bloom by the sheer combined volume of their urine falling as they fly over it.

Just look at what happened to something as low level as the Guild Wars Wiki for a perspective. Some guy had the bright idea to start a community resource which would be developed by the community. He paid the hosting. The resource grew so much that even the developers of GuildWars were using it. Now comes the crunch. As owners of the game, and making money out of it, how can ArenaNet contribute to the GuildWiki without causing upset? And if they were to start their own GuildWiki, they would be accused of stealing said guy's idea. So they did a deal with said guy, and money and share options changed hands.

Now the common feeling is that the original guy has "betrayed the trust" the community had in him. You can read about it here if you're sufficiently bored or interested. Stupid huh? But no money can change hands for Linux; that's part of the open source agreement. As people start feeling that the glory of development doesn't pay their bills while business is getting free benefit from the work they put in, they will just drop out.

Microsoft is to date the only company that has put real effort into developing and marketing their operating system. Their programmers cannot leave and go and work for Linux, because Linux doesn't have paying jobs. Apple is not opposition because it's so specialised and only works on Apple boxes. What would be interesting is if Apple decided to pull finger and write an Apple OS for PC.

Now, having gone on at length about that, I'm not anti clean machines. It does mean I could keep trying to install Win2k for the rest of my life, though I suspect it will get harder and harder as I go along. Linux isn't an option, and I'm not interested in Apple because of the way they pulled out of South Africa.{Yes, and I don't buy Kodak either] At some stage I'm going to have to get a new OS. Unless a new one comes along that is compatible with my investment in software, it's going to be Windows, bundled or not. And if I can save on hardware by getting the Windows bundle, so much the better. As long as it's not Vista Home Premium, that is.


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