Fear and anger erupt over $3 Microsoft Suite

Fear and anger erupt over $3 Microsoft Suite

Summary: By now, most people have heard that Microsoft will be selling a $3 version of Windows XP Starters Edition along with Office and some other educational software to students in the third world, but fear and anger have erupted in some circles in the Internet community.  The two primary concerns I'm hearing across the forums are:Isn't this illegal dumping and unfair to open source solutions?

TOPICS: Tech Industry

By now, most people have heard that Microsoft will be selling a $3 version of Windows XP Starters Edition along with Office and some other educational software to students in the third world, but fear and anger have erupted in some circles in the Internet community.  The two primary concerns I'm hearing across the forums are:

  • Isn't this illegal dumping and unfair to open source solutions?
  • Why aren't (insert first-world country here) students getting these prices?

To address the first question, we must look at the definition of dumping. It is generally accepted that dumping is taking place when a product is being sold below the cost of production as a means to undercut a competitor's price to put them out of business. Some may view the mere act of selling a product at lower prices in the recipient country than in the country of origin as an act of dumping, but the recipient country wouldn't usually file a complaint unless its local industry is being undercut in prices. In this case, the competitor in question is open source software, which isn't really owned by anyone, and Microsoft obviously isn't undercutting the price since $3 > $0.

Educational discounts are also nothing new, and companies are free to donate software to the schools. I've even seen programs where Microsoft actually gives away entire suites of software, including Windows, Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server, and more to computer science departments in American universities for the mere cost of the media and shipping.

But why is there so much fear of a $3 software suite comprising a crippled version of Windows XP along with Office and a few other educational titles? Surely this is a great opportunity for Linux and OpenOffice.org to compete in a market where people have no attachment or habit on any platform, since the open source solution is 100% free. These are countries where $3 might be a few weeks' food supply, and it's still a serious challenge for those nations to pay Microsoft millions of dollars in licensing fees. Surely in a situation where we're starting with a clean slate and the potential untapped market is bigger than the entire present computing user base, free has to be more attractive than not free. For the Microsoft suite to stand any chance of winning, it would have to be head and shoulders above a much cheaper competitor.

From my test results last year, Desktop Linux required significantly more hardware power than Windows XP, and it lagged behind in performance. While Desktop Linux has lower hardware requirements than Windows Vista, it is definitely more memory hungry than Windows XP, especially when you factor in the bloat and sluggishness from OpenOffice.org (OpenOffice.org wiki on performance). Since third-world nations will be getting a lot of old and refurbished computers, a modern GUI-based Linux plus OpenOffice.org will definitely present some challenges. From a novice user and administrator standpoint, Linux is still going to be more challenging than Windows. Now I am perfectly willing to accept the possibility that my assessment of the performance and usability situation is in some way, shape, or form wrong or misguided. But if that's the case, Microsoft will surely fail, and there is no need for open source advocates to fear a $3 suite from Microsoft.

The other big question among Americans and people in other first-world countries is why they aren't getting these kinds of breaks in pricing. The perception here is that the first-world nations are subsidizing the third-world nations in software, but is that really what's happening? Earlier this week, I read the news that Vista sold only 244 copies in China (that would be 243 more copies than I expected). All joking aside, I'm not surprised by these numbers in China or in any other developing nation where people make less than 1/10th the income of first-world nations. You cannot expect someone who's making $200 a month to fork out $200 in OEM software licensing costs. They'll save up for the hardware, since that can't be copied and you would actually have to deprive someone else of their goods in order to steal it. But they're not going to pay hundreds of dollars for software when they can just copy it. What this means is that first-world nations are subsidizing what is essentially free software to the third-world countries under the current system.

Full subsidization isn't the only problem; we're all under constant attack from the hordes of zombie armies born from software piracy. The vast majority of pirated black-market software being sold in the back alleys from Moscow to Bangladesh are laced with backdoors and rootkits. Not selling them software at prices proportional to their income levels simply means the bad guys get rich selling the software and they get a zombie army to boot. Software companies like Microsoft have the opportunity to undercut the pirates by selling low-cost legitimate software, since people would rather not break the law and they would rather not have infected computers. We would all benefit with fewer zombie botnet armies roaming the Internet.

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Topic: Tech Industry

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  • Some remarks

    1. It's also seen as price dumping when you sell significantly below the price you ask your customers in your own company. This might be the case in this instance.
    2. Open source isn't the only competitor seeking to obtain entrance to this market. Think about apple, and even Red Flag Unix which might see this as an opportunity. The same applies to the OLPC which competes in the same market.
    3. Open Source is available in much more languages then MS products and provides them with server capabilities as well.
    4. Development tools are absent from the MS offering, If they really want to help, these should be included.
    5. Just a practical remark, electricity, internet connections aren't as abundant available and the computes could be subject to physical conditions to which they weren't meant to operate in (dust, heath, moist)
    • Maybe not.

      I don't think apple would be looking into third world countrys. I have never read a article where Apple cut prices like this for some other country. If so I'd like to read it. Microsoft understands that they still need to make a profit. If they were trying to sell the suite for 300+ I'd say that was wrong. But this seems somewhat helpful. And the point was made that most people my like $0 better than $3.
      • Exactly...

        Why would they? They are known for superior products.. That's like Ferrari dropping the price of their Ferrari's so that more consumers can buy it.
        • Right.

          We are not talking ipod and Apple tv. We are talking about the OS and the office suite. Do you really think that apple would do this or have done something like this for that matter. If so point me to the article.
      • you assume

        That they would want to cut their prices. If MS dumps it's product on the market for this price, they would be forced to lower their prices as well, which they probably would want to prevent.

        If this is the case, MS could be seen as price dumping because they sell their wares more cheaply than on the home market.
    • Nope.

      price dumping has to do with the established prices in the market you are entering. If there are 4 dollar and up OSes in wide use in these areas there may be a claim. <br>
      Free is also an amount that can be considered price dummping as well. In the United States, anyone that tries to undercut the established market, free included, is price dumping. <br>
      This is why most companies go with a vendor such as Novell if using Linux. <br>
      I think the Microsoft fallout and smearing is causing a political atmosphere that is allowing bending of the law. If there were 30 OS companies in the U.S. competing for market around the same price, let's say 200 to 400 bucks, and a linux vendor comes in and gives away distros for free in such a manner that it affects that established market...like they are supplying significant numbers of free softare, that would be dumping.
  • thank goodness for linux

    ...for without it, surely people wouldn't have the $3 choice
  • Computers in 3rd World Countries

    Are more powerful than the average user here, as they don't pay the extra tax burden and price hikes.

    For example, on average, yes top of the line systems are easier to come by in the US or maybe Europe. Though a home computer in China, India and most of South America would currently 1 or 2 year ould be a 1-3.0Ghz most likely double core processor on a Desktop they can change the internals out, with 512Mb to 2GB.

    When on average in the US most users will have a 5 or 6 year old laptop using a celeron processor that can't compete, some even held only with duct tape!.

    Misconceptions of those who never venture out of their cocoon.
  • It professionals and gamers

    where ever will try to have the latest and greatest, Even if they live on top of mount Everest!
  • Nice propaganda George

    "Desktop Linux required significantly more hardware power than Windows XP"

    I don't know how or what you tested George but I can tell you with certainty that the recently released Debian Etch runs significantly faster on the same hardware than XP does. You must have gone out of your way to find the most bloated and poorly configured distro you could for your "test".

    Even if Windows was free GNU/Linux would still be be a far better value.
    Tim Patterson
    • Further...

      MS see's the writing on the wall.
      Linux is a huge threat to MS outside of the U.S. and they will give away Windows in an attempt to slow Linux adoption in the rest of the World.

      In the preceding post I mention that Linux is a better value than Windows. The average Linux distro includes thousands of apps which can be had for no cost and are offered under a license which promotes and protects freedom. Language support in the Windows world cannot compare to that of GNU/Linux.

      $3 Windows is clear evidence that Linux is the future of Desktop computing. I can understand how disconcerting it must be for Windows appologists to see MS finally forced to compete again.
      Tim Patterson
    • You also have to remember...

      George can configure Windows quite extensively (He is quite good in this department and I can not come close to questioning his expertise with Windows).. and not so much with Linux since most of his experience lies with Windows.

      Hence, the difference. Makes complete sense.

      If he knew how to configure Linux like he does Windows.. We'd see an entirely different outcome then he has shown us.

      Now about your actual post. I would tend to disagree with your assessment that Linux would be a better value. In what way? As far as I can see the reason I keep Windows is because of the games... I don't even bother with any other O/S just for that simple reason.

      If I were to switch.. I'd look at Mac but again.. With the games support it doesn't have, I won't switch. Personally I'd like to try something different to see if that's what I need.
      • Games?

        You can get Doom and FreeCiv for Linux. What more do you need?
        Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!
    • George's numbers are usually wrong.....

      I boot both XP and FC6 on my big AMD64 system, and I continually to get different results than George does. OpenOffice opens a tad slower than MS Office does. Given the advantage that MSOffice has with XP preloading most of the DLL's that MSOffice uses, this shows how slow MSOffice really is. If both were loaded under WINE, leaving MSOffice to load all of it's DLL's on launch, MSOffice is much slower to load than OpenOffice. So George is wrong there.

      As for loading large documents, I found no difference in loading times. In fact, I have found corrupted Word documents that fail to load in Office, but not only can OpenOffice load them, it FIXES them!

      FC6 runs much faster than XP on my system, so I have to take almost all of George's numbers, and throw them away as useless, because they are. I don't know what system George uses, or how it is set up, but he needs to really get with it and get some other systems configured in "real world" mode. He might find his results to be a bit more plausible.
      linux for me
      • one note....

        "OpenOffice opens a tad slower than MS Office does. Given the advantage that MSOffice has with XP preloading most of the DLL's that MSOffice uses, this shows how slow MSOffice really is. If both were loaded under WINE, leaving MSOffice to load all of it's DLL's on launch, MSOffice is much slower to load than OpenOffice. So George is wrong there."

        Why would you load MS Office under WINE just to slow it down? If the advantage of the XP/Office combo is that it loads Office faster... then that is what you should comapre to FC6/OpenOffice load times.

        Before you type that reply... I know what you were trying to do, see how slow MSOffice is on it's own. But really, most people who use MSOffice, probably use a Windows OS.
  • I have to disagree with your hardware findings

    DSL Linux does counter that by quite a bit. Infact, you should consider that next time you want to see how small a Linux install can be.
    • My first experience with Linux

      was a VM with SUSE Linux 9/KDE 3.5. I ran that VM in VMWare player on my old DEC5500 box (267MHz PII with 256MB) that was running W2K. While it was not lightning fast, it was quite serviceable and could get the job done.

      Linux can be made so small that there is a project on the internet that uses a Linux kernel to reprogram the embedded processors in wireless routers to add 802.11 protocols and link speed capabilities. See http://www.dd-wrt.com/

      Nice try George but Linux is completely configurable to fit the need and the resource. Windows is not.
      • ever hear of embedded

        • Yes, so what?

          The has nothing to do with my post.

          Also, who needs embedded XP in a router any way?

          Will embedded XP run on an ARM7 processor (RISC instruction set)?

          One thing is absolutely for sure, embedded XP is not configurable as Linux - mainly because YOU DON"T GET SOURCE to roll your own build that is tailored specifically to your very own processor or architecture.

          You can keep embedded XP for whatever you might think it's good for...
          • Ok, remind which OSS is good for again.

            The standardization that it follows (supposedly) of the fact some geeks can alter the code for certain devices and we end up with so much custom running devices at the OS level even that they become too varied and complex. I fear all of the programmers who THINK they are good enough to be playing with low level code doing so all over the place. <br>
            XP provides a good set of programming interfaces while hiding the complexity underneath. Great programming philosophy.