Are 'naked PCs' good for businesses?

Silicon.com's CIO jury gives its verdict on whether "naked" PCs, or PCs sold without an operating system, are really cheaper for businesses.
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
UK businesses have backed calls for computers to be sold 'naked'--without a bundled Microsoft Windows operating system.

On Monday. European think tank the Globalisation Institute made a submission to the EC proposing that all PCs and laptops should be sold without an OS in order to foster competition and bring down prices, saying the current practice "imposes an extra cost on virtually every EU business."

Three-quarters of silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT director panel have now backed that call for naked PCs, although the argument is far from straightforward.

Carl Whitehead, IT director at Betbrokers, said naked PCs without an OS would probably increase choice and reduce costs for about a third of buyers.

He said: "The rule should be that wherever a PC or laptop is sold with an installed OS, it must always also be available without an OS but with any utilities the manufacturer feels like including. This will help to limit the monopoly marketing power of the big players, who have an interest in reducing choice and flexibility."

Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer service at Ashford Borough Council, agreed but warned computers without an OS can work out more expensive.

He said: "Remember that the staff cost of installing an OS on new equipment is significant."

Other IT chiefs also backed the argument for optional, not compulsory, naked PCs. Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, said: "Currently we purchase some PCs that predominantly run Linux but Windows is kept as a boot option - but how much is it used? We also run a few Macs now that use Parallels to provide a Windows OS - and of course this means purchasing Windows XP as a stand-alone option, which seems disproportionately expensive. Clarifying the real cost of the parts of a PC purchase would be a good thing."

Graham Yellowley, director of technology services at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, added: "While Windows is the predominant operating system in use it is not the only one and there should be a choice made available for purchasers allowing for either no operating system, or an operating system capable of executing on the PC."

But not everyone is in favor of a Windows-less PC option. Stuart Aitken, CIO at the Medical Research Council, said: "Do we really want the burden of building every machine, getting all the drivers etc? In any event you can get a PC with a different OS if you want to."

Ben Booth, global CTO at research and polling company Ipsos, said: "Of course we should continue to push for better pricing from Microsoft but those of us old enough to have been around before the 'Windows monopoly' remember the high costs and lock-in caused by incompatible proprietary systems. Having a standard OS avoids this."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Stuart Aitken, CIO, Medical Research Council
Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer service, Ashford Borough Council
Bill Ashworth, IT director, Countrywide Surveyors
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Ben Booth, global CTO at research and polling company Ipsos
Chris Broad, head of IM&T, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Paul Haley, IT director, University of Aberdeen
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
Carl Whitehead, IT director, Betbrokers
Graham Yellowley, director of technology services, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

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