Microsoft: Don't sell PCs without operating systems

Microsoft: Don't sell PCs without operating systems

Summary: Naked PCs: Free software supporters are angry that Microsoft is putting pressure on PC vendors not to sell machines without an operating system installed


Microsoft has urged UK PC vendors not to give customers the opportunity to buy a PC without a pre-installed operating system.

Supplying base systems, or 'naked PCs', is a missed opportunity, according to Michala Alexander, Microsoft's head of anti-piracy.

Writing in Microsoft's Partner Update magazine, which is distributed to computer dealers, Alexander estimated that 5 percent of computers sold in the UK in 2006 would not include an operating system.

Alexander is keen to bring that number down, even though customers could want a base system because they want to install Linux, or because their firm already has a licensing agreement for an operating system such as Windows.

"We want to urge all system builders — indeed, all Partners — not to supply naked PCs. It is a risk to your customers and a risk to your business — with specifically 5 percent fewer opportunities to market software and services," wrote Alexander.

Linux vendors and free software supporters, though, believe these base systems can play an important role in supporting the open source market. Some are concerned that Microsoft may be attempting to use its powerful position in the market to hamper competition.

The European branch of the Free Software Foundation hopes that PC vendors will not be swayed by Microsoft.

"We would be happy to see any kind of hardware being shipped without an operating system, or pre-installed with free software. Furthermore, we would be happy to get in contact with any hardware vendor who wants to free his customers this way," said Joachim Jakobs, of the FSF Europe.

Alexander's role is to combat the use of counterfeit and unlicensed versions of Microsoft's software. In February, Microsoft launched an initiative called Keep IT Real, in which "feet on the street" investigators would visit technology vendors suspected of installing counterfeit software on PCs before selling them.

In the article, Alexander appeared to reveal that these investigators will also have a role in clamping down on the sale of base systems.

"Microsoft is recruiting two 'feet on the street' personnel whose role will be to provide proactive assistance during customer visits, and help you get the value proposition for pre-installed software and related services. Give us a call and let's get those feet walking," Alexander wrote.

The FSF Europe is alarmed by the prospect that customers who request a base systems would risk a visit from Microsoft's investigators.

"It looks like a private sniffing service which is supposed to spy on these who do not want to pay the Microsoft tax anymore. It is an incredible piece of impudence which any politician, customer and journalist should recognise carefully," said Jakobs.

When contacted by ZDNet UK, Alexander denied that operatives would be dispatched into the premises of customers who attempted to buy a PC without Windows.

"I can confirm that the... personnel are not participating in customer visits. This is an error in the copy and will be amended in future material on the subject," Alexander claimed.

Alexander also insisted that Microsoft was simply trying to help its reseller partners by explaining how they could grow their businesses by selling its software and services. But she did reiterate that the software giant is concerned that the sale of base systems may be linked to the use of counterfeit software.

"There will be a concern if we see an increase in businesses selling PCs without Windows and piracy goes into the sky," said Alexander, who also rejected the suggestion that Microsoft was attempting to use its powerful position in the market to hamper rival operating systems.

Both Red Hat and Novell argue that naked PCs can be an important part of the overall market.

"Microsoft is clearly concerned about the threat of Linux on the desktop and is trying to protect its base. Naked PCs provide customers with choice and lower the price of commodity PCs," said a Novell spokesman.

"Customers want to have choice and they don't want to be locked in by one vendor, such as Microsoft," said Red Hat's Dirk Kissinger. "We would like to see more hardware vendors give their customers the choice of pre-installed operation systems, be it Microsoft or Red Hat or other options, or raw hardware without an operating system."

Several PC vendors contacted by ZDNet UK were reluctant to comment on the issues surrounding base systems. One, though, did say that they hadn't encountered any difficulties.

"We've had no pressure from Microsoft, yet," said a representative from Chillblast, a UK PC vendor that sells some computers without operating systems.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Presumably, if Microsoft were in charge of CD / DVD players then you would not be able to buy one without buying lots of music CDs or film DVDs along with it. Just another way for them to get more cash out of the punters
  • Well, I've got 4 copies of Windows XP Home that I have absolutely no use for (and i can't get refunds on them), because the suppliers wouldn't deliver the machines without an OS.

    1 of the machines I had to buy an XP Pro license for because the supplier would only deliver it with XP Home, the rest of them are all running Linux.

    I've given up on pre-built systems now, because I pretty much can't find a decent system which doesn't come with either no OS or the correct OS installed...

    I would be much happier if the PC's were specced with no OS and you select the one you want, or if the supplier doesn't have the OS you want, then delivered OS free...
  • I demand the right to buy a PC without a preinstalled Operating System! All of my PCs since 1998 have used Linux, and all have used Linux exclusively since 2000. By what right does Microsoft dicate that I should buy useless and unwanted Windows licenses when I buy a new PC or laptop? Is this the *only* way that Microsoft expects to sell Windows Vista?
  • > Is this the *only* way that Microsoft expects to sell Windows Vista?<

    What i want to know is when is vista going to be taken to bits to reveal the stolen GPL'ed code that is undoubtedly hidden within ...

    Lets see him wrigle out of that one ..
  • Typical MS arrogance.

    The EC (European commision) should act on this. Instead of messing around forcing MS to produce a version of windows with no media player which noone wants (partly because MS wasn't forced to sell it at a lower price why?), it should rule that all PC suppliers must give their buyers an option of not having windows and getting a reduction equal to the entire wholesale price of windows paid by that vendor. If this was a legal requirement MS would not be able to put financial pressure on PC suppliers to always include windows (as they do at present).
    The EC should also force MS to stop subsidising pre-installed windows by charging much more for retail boxes (not just the usual retail markup). Both these practices by MS use their near-monopoly to distort the market and stifle competition.

    If MS had its way everyone even buying a motherboard would be forced to buy a copy of windows.
  • err Microsoft wants to sell more copies of Windows and make more money this is the sole purpose of any business
  • I'll make you an offer you can't refuse....

    It's interesting reading this after watching "The Godfather" series on TV the last few nights. Correlation of the two events is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • Computers should come with a variety pack of operating systems or people who want a computer should be allowed to just buy the hardware without third party intervention by some sort of trust.
  • System builders should be able to sell PCs wihtout an OS if that is what the customer wants. It's up to the customer to insure they have a licensed OS. This just more MS greed.
  • Think about how old is XP? Today, the life span of Windows OS has become longer than that of hardware. You will have to purcahse new machine before you will get any major upgrade of Windows. But you cannot transplant the OS from your old pre-installed mchine to new one. It's a violation of controversial End User License Agreement. Therefore, Microsoft can keep its revenue at healthy level even though Vista is coming late.
  • Another example of Microsoft trying to monopolize the marketplace. What ever happened to the freedom of choice ? I personally would gladly pick up a computer with no operating system and give linux a whirl. I've already tried about 5 different distros.
  • mmm... Sounds like Microshaft is running scared. Good!
    I never buy a system preinstalled. The only reason is I dont want all of the misc junk that come with them that I have to uninstall.
  • That's right, Microsoft - keep pushing me towards Linux. I'm getting pretty fed up with arrogant bastards like MS.

    I've already come to the conclusion that I want nothing to do with Windows Vista - whenever the hell that's coming out - and IE 7 is ugly and amatuerish at best. I've been reasonably satisfied with Windows XP, but with the attitude MS keeps displaying, I may finally dump that too, along with MS Office and any other crap that they come out with - and I've been using their products for the past 15+ years.
  • Every computer should be sold without an OS. Microsoft's ability to force an OS on customers is just another thing that strengthens their monopoly. They have been convicted in the EU and USA of using the power of that monopoly to strangle the free market. They should be stopped from being able to sign deals for pre installing or bundling their OS in the EU and the USA. This would give consumes a choice and promote competition. People who want Windows could still get it and install the OS, but they wouldn't be forced to buy a program they may not want.
  • Many more heavy-handed tactics like this and I will definitely be switching over to Linux exclusively. It's unfortunate, however, that there are still a huge percentage of consumers out there that want systems that are pre-loaded and ready to use right out of the box. For this reason alone, Microsoft will continue to be able to monopolize the OS market. Sad, but true.
  • ---Companies Selling Preinstalled Linux---

    ...and no OS. (general information)

    No OS

    (Sabio made by Quanta, like Dell-latitudes)
  • Seems like microsoft thinks that free of choice is equal to piracy. Sending people if you sell naked PC's... it sounds like the behaviour of the Mob.

    It's sad that they do things like that to keep their share of the market, Has anybody told them that they could do better software to achive the same result???
  • As a small business owner in Seattle, I can say that the biggest reason to avoid Microsoft software is that having their software on your computers puts you at risk for being shaken down by the Business Software Alliance or some similar software goons.

    A few years back, I received a notice from the BSA that basically implied that I was most likely ripping them off and they were giving me the chance to do a software audit, purchase any licences their auditing software thought I needed to buy, and then submit the whole thing to the BSA to show that I was now in compliance. In return, they would let me live in peace. The appalling guilty until proven innocent tone was not appreciated.

    Being a one person shop with 4 computers, I wasn't in the habit of thinking along the lines of software auditing. Naively, I thought having one license/computer would be sufficient. However, reading the accounts of other SMB owners visited by the BSA, it seems that is insufficient. One has to have the proper accounting setup or be subject to fines! As a startup, adding yet another thing to do did not appeal to me.

    Reading further, it seemed the court costs of defending one's self against these guys runs into the $10,000s! My gross that year was about that. In short, I could not afford to defend myself in court should these folks decide to prosecute. Whatever shake-down amount they would like to demand, I was likely to have to pay. That's essentially what happened to others.

    At that point, I concluded that Microsoft software is a liability to the future of my business and made a policy of having no more than one Microsoft box in the biz at a time. That should be easy enough to document. The other CPUs now run Linux and freeBSD which don't require any software audits ;) I really didn't have much interest in Linux nor BSD until I received that BSA letter. For me, it was a move of self-defense.

    I'll repeat, my GROSS receipts the year I got that BSA letter were about $10,000. Back then, those guys were rolling us SMB street-bums for the change in our pockets.
  • I agree - PCs should nopt be sold without operating systems! They should all be sold with Linux (or Open DOS) and customers that want Windows (XP/Vista/etc) can pay retail for it.
  • I agree with this poster 100%. I have several copies of Micrsoft software that are 100% licensed to me that I simply cannot use.

    MS XP Home, MS Works, and several Office 2000 and an Office 2003 license.

    These are simply due to the fact that pre-installed OS's are wasted on my environment. I need custom installations, with specific operating systems at different times.

    Yes, I use Windows XP Professional, but I also have Linux, Netware, and VMWare operating systems. This demanding/strongarming from Microsoft harkens back to a point in time when Thugs and Hooligans roamed free... Now they just have a couple of Billion dollars behind them.

    This has convinced me, I'm completely moving all of my systems to Linux as soon as possible. If I need XP Pro, I'll run it inside VMWare on my Linux Laptop, and make my company pay for the license.