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Reader Feedback: Windows, Linux and Netbooks

First of all, friends, bravo to you. It's fairly rare that your editor actually takes the time to read his own blog posts online (there is just so much to do here -- seriously), so it was a very pleasant surprise to notice this week that the comments sections after a bunch of these posts have been getting a pretty good workout. Your thoughts e-mailed to lpender@rcpmag.com are always appreciated, and we promise to get better about running them here, but we also love it when you get some conversations of your own started in the blog entries themselves. So, thanks, and keep up the good work.

Now, as for those e-mails: We've had tons of them lately, and we're way behind on getting them into the newsletter. So you'll be seeing more in the next few weeks, but please do keep contributing and throwing more onto the pile -- like this one, for instance, from Paul, who writes about downgrades from Windows 7 all the way back to XP (most likely, as far as we can tell, in response to this blog entry). Sayeth Paul:

"I do not know what Microsoft considers a downgrade, but if it wants to make it a real possibility, it needs to enlist the help of the OEMs: Dell, HP, etc. I am an independent computer technician. I custom-build my own line of computers and not one of them has had Vista. I have only had one person ask me for Vista. I have had many people ask me to downgrade their name-brand computers from Vista to XP, but it cannot always be done. If the OEM has not released drivers for XP, then you cannot run XP.  I had one client who thought I could write drivers for him. I do not even want to think about that insanity, even if I was a programmer. Another hitch in downgrading is that you must purchase XP to do the downgrade. So it would cost one of my customers $150 plus tax for XP and my $90 flat-rate charge for reinstalling the OS. Also, most of the bundled software will not be available for your downgraded computer.

"If they don't want Vista, I would rather give them Linux. They can have Ubuntu Linux for free. If you get the proper version, it comes with free support for its lifetime. Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and many other software bits all included with the free OS. I have a friend to whom I gave Ubuntu loaded on a low-end Pentium IV, and he loves it. For the same effort it would take to learn Vista, you can learn an excellent OS such as Ubuntu."

Paul, first off, you've provided us with a wonderful segue to the next e-mail. And as for your comments, we see where you're coming from. We're hoping that Microsoft's cooperation with OEMs on Windows 7 is much, much, much better than it was for Vista. It'll need to be because, as you say, Linux is getting better and providing a more realistic alternative all the time.

Oh, Linux might never have even double-digit market share -- especially in the enterprise -- but as we've seen from the netbook craze, it doesn't take all that much of a dip in Windows revenues to put a dent in Microsoft's finances. In fact, that leads us into our next e-mail (again, thanks for the transition, Paul) from Rob, who addresses the notion of netbooks in the enterprise:

"We are seeing some interest in netbooks, selling only the XP Home ones so far. We have had customers inquire about XP Pro on them, and we've sold a number of Atom-based desktop machines with XP Pro. Once XP goes away and the only reasonable option is a crippled version of Windows 7, I expect to see Linux become MUCH more popular."

Full disclosure here: Your editor's netbook (we won't say which one it is, only that it does run XP) finally arrived and has been magnificent thus far. At a price of about $360 -- and that included shipping and an upgrade to 2GB of memory, which your editor's wife skillfully installed -- what's not to like about the deal? A lot of office workers, maybe most, use a couple of Microsoft Office applications and a browser every day (and maybe Solitaire for the old-school types), and that's about it. Why all the expense, then?

Again, if OpenOffice.org or Google Apps is compatible enough with Microsoft Office, and if Linux is free and fairly stable these days (and if there are enough people who can support it, which might be an important point), why spent hundreds of dollars per PC plus hundreds more in software per user? Without any sort of volume discount, a pretty nifty netbook running Linux available for $250 is a reality today. Eventually, CIOs, CEOs and boards of directors are going to start wondering why their companies spend so much on the technology basics.

We're advocates for the Microsoft channel here at RCPU, and we don't want to see anything take money out of the pockets of Microsoft partners. And while we're far from predicting some sort of netbook-Linux revolution in the enterprise, we can see the model becoming more popular as companies continue to cut costs. A lot of Microsoft's business model simply comes down to convincing people that they really need Windows and Office, preferably the latest versions running on a powerful laptop. Well, do they? It's getting to be a serious question.

That's enough babbling for this week. Thanks to Paul and Rob for their contributions, and to you other folks who have written to us at lpender@rcpmag.com, keep an eye out here for your e-mails. And keep popping those comments into the blog entries. We'll try to jump into the conversation now and then.

Posted by Lee Pender on 05/07/2009 at 1:22 PM


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