Boycott Stupid Linux “Advocacy”

I saw this morning I’m getting a little (I mean little) stream of traffic from an anti-Microsoft site. I decided to look at the referring page and saw that someone had posted a link and kindly called the linked page “a great blog posting.” Thanks for the props. And thanks to other sites and places I’ve seen that particular entry posted.

Normally I wouldn’t respond to hysterical types who frequent sites like the referring site, but I want to take exception to two who left comments. First, someone said my arguments that there’s not a “Microsoft tax” were hollow and not serious. In fact, I pointed out that the only people to whom it can even be considered a tax are those who want a different operating system than most people; I added that after explaining that most people¬† — the masses — who buy computers demand they come with Microsoft Windows. Those mainstream users, who make up over 90% of the computer market, aren’t paying a “tax” to Microsoft or anyone else. They’re getting a value-added feature at a lower price than they would get if computers came without any operating system and, accordingly, no savings from a bulk OEM license agreement.

In my blog article in question, I pointed out that those who don’t want to buy a computer with Windows pre-installed have several options. Among those options is either building a computer yourself or having one custom built either by a small custom shop or by one of the OEMs (which they will do for you but sometimes at a higher price because such a computer is “custom”). So the argument that it’s impossible to buy a computer without Windows is bullshit. You can. The question is whether you’re willing to practice what you preach. I’ve suggested before that the people who call it a “Microsoft tax” are too lazy to do that. I am correct about that. Not only are they too lazy to practice what they preach, their thinking is so slovenly that all their arguments are intractably bound to their shitty little jingos. Linux advocacy has, unfortunately, become the domain of the intellectually lazy and the brazenly dishonest.

The second commenter at that particular site makes a similar, common error among those who consider bulk OEM license agreements some kind of tax — that a lack of computers with Linux or any other operating system is proof of some kind of monopolistic “tax” on buyers of OEM hardware. I think that’s a non sequitur.

The reason OEMs install Windows by default is because of the more than 90% of buyers expect a computer to come with an operating system, and the demand of the mainstream buyers that the installed operating system be Microsoft Windows.

It’s about supply and demand. That’s all. Little or no demand for Linux, very few models are offered with Linux. Great and nearly 100% demand for Windows, guess what gets installed.

I’ve covered related issues previously, such as when data about netbook sales and returns showed displeasure with Linux-based models. The fact that Windows XP continues to gain marketshare against Linux on netbooks is prima facie evidence that demand for Linux is not only waning but it’s never really been there. When the earliest models were 100% Linux-based, the first major hack was installing XP (or, for more daring souls, Vista or OSX). Return rates were very high. Then the OEMs started selling XP-based models. Before long, the Windows netbooks were outselling Linux models at rates similar to other laptops and desktops — 9:1 or better. And the return rates for Windows models were much lower, more comparable to return rates of general computers.

It should come as no surprise when companies like HP, Asus, and Acer curtail or even eliminate availability of Linux-based models when sales demonstrate next to zero demand for Linux and nearly unanimous demand for Windows models. When Linux has been offered in the past, sales rates have never been high enough to show that it’s profitable to continue. There just isn’t the demand. At least in most Western markets.

Accordingly, it would be extremely impractical for them to put Linux on n% of computers, where n is either the rate of current Linux use or much higher (using the whiny demands of the fucktards who insist OEMs install Linux on more computers headed for store shelves). Their distribution models are for a generalized market, not for serving a niche. If n is the 1-2% (conservative) of desktop Linux users, a line up like Dell’s Ubuntu-based offerings is more sensible. But there’s simply no way OEMs are going to put greater than that amount on store shelves even if they want to: the stores won’t stock what they can’t sell and they’ve already learned they cannot sell Linux models at a rate which makes sense for them. The “if we install Linux they’ll buy it” business model doesn’t work (except in the isolated markets where demand for Linux is already high), and OEMs and retailers would rather deal with a tiny group of clueless, whiny Linux advocates zealots than throngs of dissatisfied customers who expect Windows on their computers.

Worse, in a sense these kinds of Linux advocates zealots would restrict mainstream users’ choices when they buy computers. Think about what they’re really advocating. Either OEMs and retailers comply with their demands and put Linux models on the shelves or they only stock no-OS computers and either install for customers or force them to install it themselves. No OEM or retailer is going to like the last option which will most likely drive down sales and/or increase calls to tech support. The current model is to cater to the most significant demand. Just like when you order a Big Mac it comes with the meat, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, etc., on a sesame fucking seed bun. If you want your Big Mac customized, you have to wait for them to make it for you. They’re not going to make a bunch of fucking sandwiches only one or two people are going to order, and it’s not a “McD’s special sauce tax” just because you’d rather have yours with mustard instead. Fucktards.

Geez. It must be nice to have such a simplistic, jingo-filled view of the world that lets you see supply and demand as a “tax,” or which views any deviation from the pro-Linux side as “angry” or “hollow.” I think it’s ironic the number of Bush-haters I saw using Linux and on one hand mocking the previous administrations’ “them versus us” view of the world while doing the same with the other hand with respect to software. Don’t blame me for calling out your hypocrisy or muddled thinking.

As for the suggestion that I spend my time on a platform I actually like, I think I already do that — I make my own choices without tying myself down to brain-dead “this good, that bad” thought processes. I use Linux and BSD when I want, I use Windows when I want. Big fucking deal. I’m not threatened when someone chooses to buy a computer with whatever operating system on it, I really don’t care what they choose to run — I don’t see it any different from what brands of cars they drive, what color houses they live in, which god they worship (so long as they don’t sacrifice or harm other humans), or any other personal decisions they make.

For many people, Windows is ideal and Linux just won’t cut it. Really. Get over it.

3 Responses to “Boycott Stupid Linux “Advocacy””

  1. slooow Says:

    Normally I would not reply to a post which is kind of flamey and does not go very deep in the argument. But I stumbled over this post after I gained from your insight how to fix the ‘at’ service on crunchbang which showed another side of your personality.

    I can imagine that you have been provoked by linux zealots and I admit that their quasi religious tone makes me feel queasy too. However refuting the argument of a monopolistic MS tax with the majority demands it and it is more convenient from the OEM is rather simplistic.

    Monopolistic practices are not determined if the majority demands it or if it is more convenient for the OEMs. Rather we would have to know what is the content of the agreements between MS and the computer manufacturers and the computer retailers. Since these agreements are confidential we can only make guesses from what we can see openly.

    MS is no stranger to monopolistic behaviour which has been illustrated in lawsuits in the US and Europe for example about bundling of the Internet Explorer. Since MS are under quite some scrutiny, I would imagine they are very carefully not to make to blatant.

    There are few observations which point to market exclusion in some ways. Dell has offered linux based machines but when I asked if they are available in New Zealand, they told me no. Dell lets you customize the machine and it takes some work to install the operating system and put on the MS sticker, so why is there no machine without OS at a slightly cheaper cost. One reason could be that money is made from the service contracts where they monitor your system over the internet and that is inarguably easier with a system that is configured for it.

    Then I ask myself why do computer retailers never offer linux operating systems on CD or DVD? The software they offer is MS or some anti-virus software like Norton. Do they do that because the margin is much bigger with the MS Windows and the anti-virus software or do they fear they destroying the market for these high value products if they started selling Debian, Fedora, Suse or Ubuntu on a DVD?

    A small Mexican shop owner sued the Coca Cola Corporation for forcing her to exclude competitors and as long we don’t hear from such a lawsuit from a computer shop against MS we cannot prove monopolistic practices.

    I bought a netbook recently and I could not a buy one without Windows. So I felt forced to pay for something I did not want to buy. The comparison with a tax is not warranted. With the money I pay to the government they run schools and the health system, build roads. Sure, I don’t always agree how they spend it but they do something useful with part of it.

    • lucky Says:

      You wrote, “Normally I would not reply to a post which is kind of flamey and does not go very deep in the argument.”

      I beg to differ with your assessment that it’s not “deep” but I concede it’s certainly polemic. There’s a reason for that: all of the anti-Microsoft arguments are polemic, particularly those that refer to a “tax” on new mass-market computers. That also includes your view that Microsoft is a monopoly. It’s irrelevant to me that courts have deemed it so — fact remains that consumers, when given many available choices, overwhelmingly continue to choose Windows over competing (let me stress COMPETING — which negates the entire argument that it’s monopolistic) operating systems whether they’re free (money, beer, both) or not. I believe the courts got that wrong.

      “However refuting the argument of a monopolistic MS tax with the majority demands it and it is more convenient from the OEM is rather simplistic.”

      No, it isn’t. As I wrote a few months before this particular post, calling it a “tax” is jingoistic, simplistic, intellectually lazy, etc.

      The meaningful question here is, What do consumers really want? Time and time again, despite a plethora of options ranging from Apple Mac OS to BeOS to Linux to BSD to RISCOS to Amiga to anything else (or even to no OS), the overwhelming majority of consumers have insisted that computers come pre-loaded and ready to run with Microsoft Windows. Despite Windows’ flaws and shortcomings, it is what consumers insist upon for their PCs. It’s not simplistic at all to point to the mass marketing business model employed by OEMs. They cater their product choices for the 90%-plus who want a PC that’s fully backwards-compatible with what they already know, use, and need.

      Some of the OEMs offer niche products in certain markets where it makes business sense to make such offerings. Hence, Dell has a few Linux-installed models in markets where there’s *enough demand* to sell them. They — and every other mass marketer — do this where it makes business sense; it would not make business sense to try to appease a tiny minority who will not use Microsoft Windows. They’re in business, not in zealotry or posing or advocacy or whatever you want to call it.

      If anything’s simplistic, it’s the suggestion that OEMs should make more offerings they can’t sell just out of a sense of “fairness” (against a supposed tyrannical monopoly) or to provide ersatz “competition” (against a faux “monopoly”). That would only seem sensible to a demagogue, not to someone who understands that the demand for Microsoft Windows is legitimate rather than the result of a monopoly.

      It’s ironic in that light that you raise the following point and follow it by relating how much trouble you had finding a pre-installed Linux computer in your country: “MS is no stranger to monopolistic behaviour which has been illustrated in lawsuits in the US and Europe for example about bundling of the Internet Explorer.” I find it hypocritical that nearly every standard Linux distribution comes “BUNDLED” with a lot more software than a goddamn browser — if the inclusion of a browser is the hallmark of “monopolistic behaviour” then nearly ever fucking Linux live CD and standard distro is guilty of the same thing! And worse because the Linux distros typically include an office suite and many more applications than Microsoft would include by default. Fuck, even OSX comes with all kinds of bundled software and those stupid Mac-PC ads mocked Microsoft for only including a calculator! Where’s the demand that Linux distros and OSX cease and desist from bundling any software — browsers, productivity suites, iMovie, iTunes, etc. — with their respective operating systems?! Talk about shameless fucking hypocrisy. If it’s okay for Linux distros and OSX to include browsers and apps, why shouldn’t IE be included with Windows? BTW, didn’t Microsoft address these complaints in Windows 7 *before* regulators mandated something akin to 1999?

      I think you’re operating under a delusion if you believe someone sits at each new computer and installs Windows manually. I live in Austin, home of Dell, and understand “generic” builds — which constitute the bulk of the business — include hard drives which are sourced to have Windows already pre-installed on them (to save time and money), and that more complex orders typically are installed via pre-configured images (based on common orders). These are then checked during burn-in and then it’s shipped. If that’s correct, then it’s actually more work for them to remove the operating system than to “add it.” In any event, their assembly process is repeatedly tweaked to get more units out with less work and fewer problems, which means no OS or Linux constitutes a significant variation from the norm — a special order.

      You also asked, “Do they do that because the margin is much bigger with the MS Windows and the anti-virus software or do they fear they destroying the market for these high value products if they started selling Debian, Fedora, Suse or Ubuntu on a DVD?”

      No, it’s not even the margin but the size of their market; the fact that there even is a margin on Microsoft products is certainly of interest to them because they go out of business if they don’t turn a profit, but they’re ultimately driven by what the market wants and the market doesn’t want Linux. Thus, I think they’re focused on what 90%-plus who want Microsoft Windows want and, accordingly, shouldn’t be too concerned with the 1.14% — including me!!!! — who use Linux on desktops. Seriously, do you think they’re giving up very much by concentrating on >90% of the market instead of a little over 1%?

      My contempt for vapid arguments by Linux advocates or zealots isn’t from being “provoked.” It’s from their arguments being so utterly vapid, specious, comical, and even retarded. They don’t comprehend the magnitude of demand for Windows, nor do they comprehend the marginal acceptance of desktop Linux. They act as though demand between the two operating systems is similar when Linux desktop demand is barely even palpable in comparison. Most of their arguments don’t even hold up to scrutiny — and I include the silly prattle against the non-existant “Windows tax” in that.

      I wish you’d been able to find a netbook in NZ that came with the operating and software you wanted on it, but you have to accept that what you wanted to get constitutes a niche, not a mainstream demand. I made compromises when I bought another laptop to replace my old one and my netbook — rather than buy a new one, I chose one I knew would work well under a standard Linux distro (which remains Debian for the time being). My only real option was one of the few models Dell offers with Ubuntu; neither I considered fit my needs, but a used one did. I also bought my latest desktop sans operating system — you can do. The fact that you couldn’t find a Linux netbook in NZ isn’t surprising. They’re becoming increasingly difficult to find here (throughout the US). It’s for the same reason: the vendors and manufacturers know that the Windows models far outsell Linux models, even though the Windows models cost more (the margins are basically the same adjusting for the price differential — so the prevalence of Windows on retail shelves is due to consumer demand).

      The fact that you had to buy one with Windows pre-installed still doesn’t represent that you paid a tax. You bought a computer configured for the mass market. That’s all. You could apply for a rebate as long as you never booted Windows on it or accepted the EULA.

      I stand by my claims in the two posts I made on this subject that it is NOT a tax. As I wrote last April, people buy computers pre-configured with Windows “because it [Microsoft Windows] represents significant value to them [consumers], not a tax.” The OEMs aren’t caving in to Microsoft, they’re caving in to the overwhelming demand of their buyers. The OEMs are willing — some more than others, something to consider when weighing what model to purchase — to accommodate those who don’t want Windows by refunding the cost of their OEM licenses. If you don’t want to go through those kinds of hassles, you have to do a lot more homework to find a solution to your own specific tastes and requirements. That’s why I find it lazy and disingenuous to blame others — Microsoft, Dell, HP, etc. — for your own peculiar choices as a consumer.

    • lucky Says:

      PS: I forgot to add one more feather in Windows’ cap with respect to demand. Despite the plethora (or maybe because of that) of free Linux distros available to the public, including some which even provide free media containing install images so unsavvy users don’t even have to burn a CD or DVD, many users would rather take the risks — legal and security-wise — of running pirated copies of Windows. I was going to look for data on piracy specific to Windows to support my contention that there are more pirated copies of Windows in use than there are Linux desktops but I’m not going to spend much time trying to support a thesis that’s not too important (especially considering Linux desktop use, per the wikipedia link with net clients stats, is less than 2%). However, I did find this in a quick search on the subject:

      That article says that security firm Gartner “issued a report… stating that about 40 percent of Linux PCs will be modified to run an illegal copy of Windows, a bait-and-switch maneuver that lowers the cost of obtaining a Windows PC.” Gartner also reported that in emerging markets the rate of such pirated installs was double that. That was in 2004. How less rampant is piracy today than it was six years ago?

      Point is, the legal and “free” solution is dissed by the mass market — the mass market doesn’t want a Linux desktop or laptop. That’s why OEMs generally don’t bother marketing Linux models to the general public. That’s why they don’t offer frigging Linux install CDs/DVDs. That’s why they would rather install Windows on every computer they offer (re-read my McDonald’s analogy about the cost-effectiveness of their business model which involves preparing food a set way so that it’s ready to go for the largest possible segment of their diners) and deal with the handful of petulant Linux users who demand a refund.

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