Thursday, February 19, 2009

Monopolistic practices (and cartelisation??)

Over the years that I spent at IIT, I have begun to like Linux a lot. Although I am not particular about a distro, I prefer having Fedora or Ubuntu loaded on my PC. And over time, my liking towards Linux has grown along with the fact that I began disliking Windows. There were several reasons for me to starting liking Linux. One of them is that it was free and the freedom to use Linux the way I wanted it. Also, Windows had a hundred conditions that needed to be satisfied before I could use it and continue using it. To top it off, Microsoft never offered free upgrade to later versions. Only free updates and patches for the installed version were offered. And once a new version was out, Microsoft slowly reduced and eventually stopped support and updates for the previous version. This forces many customers to either upgrade to the new version by again paying for it or remain vulnerable to various shortcomings of the installed version. Linux being available freely means that one can upgrade to the new version without incurring any costs at all.

When I wanted to buy a laptop, I decided that I would not have Windows with it. I wanted a machine that would have only Linux on it, preferably a distro of my choice. However, to my utter dismay, when I looked around in the market, none of the laptop companies were offering a choice between Windows and Linux operating systems. Neither did they offer a laptop without an operating system. I was forced to buy a laptop with Windows loaded on it. What's more, the laptop manufacturer doesn't provide a Windows CD/DVD but loads the recovery system on a partition of the hard-drive that can only be accessed by the recovery software, there by eating into existing disc space.

My laptop has since then become defunct due to a hardware failure. But, I was thinking about this issue for very long. Why don't the laptop manufacturers offer us a choice? Why are we forced to buy Windows? Of course, there are open source supporters, like IBM-Lenovo supports Fedora/Red Hat, HP supports open SuSE but where do they put their preaching into practice? Their laptops too come pre-loaded with Windows OS. Isn't this some sort of cartelisation between Microsoft and the laptop manufacturers? Sure, the manufacturers can order Linux distros at very cheap rates and distribute them on DVDs instead of trying to restrict the Windows OS to a single machine by loading it on the machine's hard drive. Why hasn't any government taken action against the laptop manufacturers? In other sectors, this kind of bundling (without offering a choice, when available) has been frowned upon by the regulators. Will there ever be action against such caterlisation? Microsoft being a dominant force in the OS market, will try to exert its influence over the laptop makers. But isn't it the duty of the regulators to see that others too have a fair chance? And with options being available, the regulator should ensure that customers get the choice of operating systems. Why should we ever be forced to take stuff from Microsoft?
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  1. unfortunately, the # of people who do not want bundled MS OS is far far far less in the minority, so it makes business sense for the laptop vendors to provide for the customer demands...MS os bundled with the laptop is around 50$ (i think, may be even more) cheaper than buying MS...

    and the few who do not want bundled s/w are the people who request a special laptop!

    BTW, ibm ships laptops with Suse and Dell with Ubuntu, and you get tech support when you buy bundled ubuntu/suse!

  2. @kaushik

    IBM and Dell offer this facility in US and probably Europe. In India, they do not offer such an option. Even the others like Sony, Toshiba, Fujitsu, etc. do not offer Linux OS bundled.

    Agreed that currently people asking for a Windows-free laptop are a minority, but how will the market grow if no choice is offered? And yes, even latest product offerings have a very few buyers in the initial days. But this doesn't stop companies from offering new products.

  3. Very true and I couldn't agree more. And btw IBM/Lenovo do not ship laptops with preloaded Linux OS, they do it only on request adn for an extra pay. When my bro bought IBM in US they charged him an extra $50 to downgrade from Vista to XP. So I guess it'll be the same with Linux. In India I guess there's not much option.