There is No Microsoft Tax Except on Lazy Twats

Disclaimer: I openly admit I’m in a very shitty mood today and that it probably contributes to the tone of this rant. So what.

WARNING: Contains bad words. Reader discretion advised (because I’m not using any myself today).

Seems nary a week goes by without hearing some clueless fucktard complain about a “Microsoft tax” — although it’s usually in the more toxic form of “Micro$hit” or “Windoze” or some similarly inane, juvenile bullshit. This supposed, mythical “tax” refers to the cost of a Windows license included in the cost of OEM computers, which, of course, make up the bulk of computers sold.

This, though, is a fallacy. It’s bogus. It’s FUD. It isn’t a tax — not a Microsoft tax, not a Windows tax, not a tax period. Whether the free software crowd likes it or not, the prevalence of such Windows pre-installed computers in stores and online reflects what most consumers want despite the availability of less-costly alternative operating systems like Linux. To those mainstream users, Windows is an essential value-added part of the system. It’s just like the RAM or hard drive or the power supply: it’s not something desirable without it.

Contrary to the unproven claims (more FUD) of the conspiracy nut crowd in the free software movement, Microsoft doesn’t pay the OEMs to include Windows on every computer. It’s the other way around with the OEMs paying Microsoft for bulk licenses, but the idiots who foam at the mouth about Microsoft don’t really care. To them, economies of scale — such as when someone gets a bulk discount compared to someone who buys smaller amounts pays more per unit — are evil when one software company does it; I wonder how many of them shop at discount places where they get lower rates because either they or the discount places have similar deals for various and sundry goods. Buying in bulk is good if you do it at your local hippie food co-op but not when buying software? I smell some hypocrisy!

Contrary to other assertions from the anti-Microsoft crowd, it’s a win-win-win situation. Microsoft makes less money per unit in the  bulk deals but they still come out fine because they guarantee themselves a revenue stream from bulk sales. Computer buyers win because they get affordable computers that work the way they expect. The bulk deals also benefit the OEMs because the people buying their computers expect an operating system and they expect it to look and work like Windows: these computers wouldn’t sell as well without an operating system, or even with Linux.

This last point is further established when comparing netbook sales. Linux had a tremendous head start but Windows now outsells Linux on netbooks at the same rate it does on desktops. Windows 7 will be the death blow of netbook Linux (and probably desktop Linux, too, though it’s hard to call it “alive” with its paltry marketshare). Linux netbook return rates — from disappointed users who expected a user experience more like Windows — have far outpaced returns of Windows units. Why are people so much more willing to pay an extra $50-100 for Windows-based netbooks if price is the primary criterion for their popularity?

Because it represents significant value to them, not a tax.

The whiners who bitch about this faux “tax” do so on the grounds that less expensive standard run assembly-line OEM boxes come preconfigured with Windows rather than Linux. They do have plenty of alternatives if they don’t want Windows. It’s not difficult to assemble a system by oneself: if anything, that gives the user absolute control over what parts go in and whether they’re supported in whatever operating system the user has in mind for it. There are also many builders of custom computers in most communities (well, in the developed world but also in some under-developed parts of the world as well) and online. These custom computers can be very affordable for the more miserly user or they can be built to kill — the sky’s the limit. Some OEMs, like Dell, sell Linux-based laptops and desktops in addition to Linux-based netbooks. Some OEMs will also sell custom-spec’d machines sans operating systems.

The actual cost savings, though, varies tremendously because of factors like the actual cash value of a bulk OEM license. Users aren’t necessarily going to get retail value off or refunded because the OEMs don’t charge users retail value for Windows: the computers would cost a lot more if they did (oh, evil Microsoft and their bulk license agreements — how dare they save average computer users money like that!). Also, the cost of an OEM computer sans operating system often qualifies as a “special run” or custom which comes with an extra charge even if the hardware is otherwise from a standard line. That’s the price of going against the tide.

Is that a price the true-believers are willing to pay? Or do they need a whipping boy to rail about — not to mention a straw man of a “tax” to tear down while preaching to their choir?

I think the only group for whom it really is a tax is those babbling bunches of pro-Linux cunts who are either too lazy or stupid to find computers sold without Windows and prefer to whine about some “Windoze tax” that wouldn’t even exist without them because most users want and get value out of pre-installed Windows. Remember that next time you see the word tax put anywhere next to Microsoft or any of its products.

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