Revised WinXP policy dooms Linux desktop prospects without real OEM marketing efforts

Revised WinXP policy dooms Linux desktop prospects without real OEM marketing efforts

Summary: It should come as no surprise that HP is considering expanding its Linux PC efforts, given that its top rival is selling Ubuntu Linux PCs in the U.S and Microsoft is trying to kill any potential interest in them.

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It should come as no surprise that HP is considering expanding its Linux PC efforts, given that its top rival is selling Ubuntu Linux PCs in the U.S and Microsoft is trying to kill any potential interest in them.

HP began selling Red Hat Linux PCs in Australia and is reportedly considering expanding that pilot program to other nations, including the U.S.

Contacted yesterday, an HP spokeswoman denied that the PC giant confirmed any such plan to media outlets. But she would not deny the reports. HP, like any other company, is constantly reviewing its PC strategies, she would only say.

That doesn't shed any new light on the authenticity of those reports. But it's no stretch to think HP is considering another drive at that market since Dell began selling pre-installed Ubuntu Linux PCs from its own web site in late May.

HP's Personal Systems Group, after all, would be irresponsible not to at least consider an expansion of that pilot program as it keeps an eye on Dell's progress with its Linux desktop effort.

Although the Linux desktop holds only about two percent market share, and is projected to gain little more share over the next year, Ubuntu's sudden rise in the consumer market offers new hope for Linux advocates, who year after year have been disappointed by the inability of the Linux desktop to enjoy even some portion of the success of Linux on the server.

Microsoft, for its part, continues to virtually own the desktop operating system and Office suite desktop market. Still, its recent market behavior signals that it is not taking any chances when it comes to Linux, or any other threat, on its prized desktop.

Microsoft's revised Windows XP downgrade rights policy that quietly went into effect this summer, for example, is designed to kill two birds with one stone: jumpstart PC sales and prevent Linux desktop vendors from exploiting its Vista headaches.

Lackluster Vista sales and resulting pressure from OEM partners likely had more to do with Microsoft's decision than anything else. And the company isn't really giving away anything, at least on paper: Vista Business and Vista Ultimate customers have always had the right to use their existing downgrade rights to Windows XP.

Microsoft has made strides at bowing to customer demands in recent year. Still, the fact that Microsoft has backed down on such a critical licensing policy -- when customers upgrade to new Windows (and Office) products -- makes one wonder if Dell's recent Ubuntu Linux PC announcement or HP's Red Hat Linux PC deal in Australia (or even IBM's Symphony OpenOffice launch) isn't raising a few eyebrows in Redmond.

Even as the company's strategies evolve to address what it considers to be more significant future threats by Web 2.0 services such as Google Apps, it is not be wise for Microsoft to dismiss the threat of Linux or any open source software on the PC desktop of today, particularly as the compatibility of OpenOffice with Microsoft Office improves and big names like Novell, Red Hat, IBM and several European governments apply more and more pressure to break its iron grip on the desktop PC.

Thing is, I'm not so sure Microsoft should be worried at all.

Unless Dell and HP step up to the plate with real marketing efforts for desktop Linux, it's doubtful that the open source desktop will gain any traction in corporations and in the mass market.

I can say this from personal experience. I have been in PC buying mode for the past several weeks and would not even be aware that Linux existed as an option on the Dell desktop if I did not write about it as part of my work as a journalist.

On Dell's main page, for instance, the only reference to the Ubuntu Linux offering is listed in small print, under the Essentials Link category, and ironically, under the "Still looking for Windows XP?" option, as Open-Source PCs.

Honestly, how many consumers know what that means? Consumers are hardly aware that Vista is out there. They may have heard of Ubuntu, but Dell makes no mention of Ubuntu Linux on its main page or in its promotions.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's relaxed policy on Windows XP is featured prominently in a colorful box on the main page.

Dell is free to design its web site and ads as it wishes, but its marketeers must know that its Linux option is invisible to ordinary consumers and only visible to those who follow the industry closely. So what's the point?

If I were an uninformed consumer who heard rumors that Windows Vista isn't all it was cracked up to be, and I went to Dell's web site for more information, I would surmise that Dell is advocating Windows XP as a substitute. I would not see Ubuntu Linux, or Linux, for that matter, as an alternative operating system choice. I would only see an option dubbed 'Open Source PCs.

The point is not to demonize Dell, for the company is at least doing its part to promote choice of operating systems on the PC desktop. But again, without a serious marketing effort by Dell, HP or Lenovo in the U.S. to promote Linux on the desktop, it will likely continue to flounder.

Novell, Red Hat and IBM can boast all they want about the benefits of open source software on the desktop (and Michael Dell can play with Ubuntu at home all he wants) but it means little without the active backing of and marketing of major PC manufacturers.

Topics: Microsoft, Dell, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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163 comments
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  • You forgot that MS PAYS For those Ads on Dell's site

    There are TONS of "marketing funds" available from MS for vendors to push MS products over their competitors.

    Ever wonder why everyone says "XXX recommends Windows Vista"? It's not because they genuinely feel that way - it's because MS pays them for that.

    Same thing for Intel - Intel pretty much pays for the ad if you include the Intel Inside logo or jingle. AMD has only recently gotten into the game?

    Who's going to pay those costs for Linux?
    ITGuy04
    • Charge $10.00 for the OS or applications...

      add it as part of the cost of the system. Ad is paid for. ]:)

      I think that would be a tenable solution. I mean look at it this way. Since people are so f***ing oriented on money, adding $10.00 to the cost of a Linux system is negligible to the customer and provides a source of finance for Linux ads on the Dell page or HP or Lenovo.

      You take to equal hardware systems, it's going to cost a minimum of $60.00 for the Windows system due to the OEM OS cost, but the cost of the Linux system is $60.00 less. SO adding $10.00 to the cost for advertising is still putting the Linux system at a lower cost than the comparable Windows system. ]:)

      What do you think?
      Linux User 147560
      • More like $100 per box.

        Given the low volume of boxes sold $10 wouldn't come close.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • How do you know what their volume of sales is?

          That information has not been "leaked" yet and any statement about sales volume is pure conjecture and speculation. ]:)

          To quote you "Prove it."
          Linux User 147560
          • Thats easy.

            If the numbers of Linux desktop machines is STILL around 2% then you can safely assume Dell is selling no more than that same percentage or MUCH lower becaue MOST Linux users install it themselves.

            See, common sense isn't that hard to follow if you try.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • In other words...

            "if" becomes fact.
            jasonp@...
          • In his world

            it appears so. As for the desktop penetration, again there are no solid numbers to say how much Linux has actually taken of the desktop market. It's also a speculative guess at best. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • No, common sense is common sense.

            If you lack it there is little I can do for you.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Actually he has

            common sense. Stats are manipulated with relative ease. Three in four dentists recommend this toothpaste. Only four dentists were interviewed and three of them work for the company. If the market share was only 2% then why is Microsoft even bothering to run ads to counter Linux. You don't throw money into advertising unless you expect a ROI. If you have already locked up the market, then why give a competitor name recognition by mentioning him in your ads? Microsoft knows that. Have you seen MS Word compared to Wordperfect or Wordpro lately? They no longer represent a threat so Microsoft completely ignores them in their MS Office ads.
            alaniane@...
          • Why the belittling tone?

            Unnecessary.
            nizuse
          • And just ignore the fact

            that most Linux users build their own machines.
            Beat a Dead Horse
          • That's a mighty big "IF"

            I've seen numbers much closer to 10% which means that, given the dearth of commercial support, an awful lot of folks are taking a look at Linux and booting Windows off existing machines.

            Which means that the claimed share of over 90% for Windows is also on shaky ground ... those copies of Linux had to go 'somewhere' and the OS most often booted off a machine to make room for Linux would be some version or other of Windows.

            Since MSFT counts licenses purchased and doesn't concern itself about whether or not they are ever installed, the statistics get murkier and murkier.

            I figure that 2% number to be the most pessimistic currently bantered about ... not the most reliable.

            Sort of like the opinions posted here by certain individuals.
            Jambalaya Breath
      • can't charge for Linux

        The GPL forbids it.
        Dell can charge for technical support someting modic like $50/year and bundle it with the system.
        For the first year Linux will have the cost advantage.
        Linux Geek
        • Nonsense

          Nothing in the GPL (version 2 or 3) forbids you from charging for GPL'd software. It merely requires that you provide the source code to the recipient. Now, this does create market forces that limit what you can successfully charge for the software over time, especially with the presence of the Internet. However, I challenge you to quote any phrase of the GPL that forbids charging for a GPL'd program.
          FamilyManFirst
        • Sure you can charge for software ...

          Under the GPL you charge for Linux, but you must supply the source code. What do you think Xandros and Linspire are doing? :)
          MisterMiester
        • No, you are incorrect

          You need to learn the GPL there buddy. ]:)
          Linux User 147560
          • Show us the terms

            If you think the GPL forbids it, kindly quote the part of the GPL that does forbid it.

            Sir, I think [b]YOU[/b] have to study the GPL.
            mannyamador
          • Um...

            It doesn't and that is the point I was making to the ding bat in the post I replied too. I have studied the GPL V2, been using it since 1999. I think you need to go back to reading comprehension 101 and start over. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • I think he . . .

            Replied to the wrong person, it sounded to me like he was replying to the Geekster . . .
            JLHenry
          • TERMS

            From GPL 2:
            "1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's
            source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you
            conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate
            copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the
            notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty;
            and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License
            along with the Program.
            You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and
            you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee.
            2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion
            of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and
            distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1
            above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
            a) You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices
            stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
            b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
            whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
            part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
            parties under the terms of this License."
            From GPL 3:
            "When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for them if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs, and that you know you can do these things.
            To protect your rights, we need to prevent others from denying you these rights or asking you to surrender the rights. Therefore, you have certain responsibilities if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it: responsibilities to respect the freedom of others.
            For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights."
            Update victim