It seems that Asus’ Eee PC masterstroke took more than rival laptop manufacturers by surprise. Microsoft has been caught off guard by the sudden popularity of the cheap, diminutive devices and doesn’t like the fact that OpenSource Linux Operating Systems are benefiting the most from it.
The Redmond giant plans to counter these pesky young upstarts by tailoring its Windows XP Home offering to better suit the demands of ULPC makers. By which I mean make it considerably cheaper of course – the Eee PC’s success has been largely due to the fact that it’s cheap as chips.
However, IDG News Service reports that Microsoft has a few teeny tiny concessions it wants manufacturers to make in return for its enormous generosity: the machine specs have to be kept very low. The screen must be 10.2″ or less, it is allowed no more than 1GB of RAM and a single-core processor of 1GHz or less, 80GB is the maximum hard disc space and absolutely no touch screens either. Wouldn’t want these eating into that huge Origami market now – HAHAHAHAHA.
Emerging markets are the key area of concern – ultra cheap laptops are a cool fad here in the West, but in emerging markets they are seen as considerably more important, widening the market and helping people bridge the digital divide. For educational purposes, their availability is essential too.
As a result, Microsoft will be flogging XP Home to PC makers selling to emerging markets like India and China for just $26 per copy. OC makers who are part of the Market Development Agreement can squeeze a further $10 off that price too. In the developed world, the price will be $32.
These concessions are clear evidence that Microsoft has been unnerved by the surge of ULPCs and wants to squash the influx of OpenSource Linux OS on mainstream devices before everyone forgets how to use Windows and thus never has any inclination to Vista.
“[Low-cost PC makers] have made some good inroads with open-source, and Microsoft wants to put a stop to it,” one shady Microsoft official said.
It’s not really a surprising move really. ULPCs exposed a weakness and moved to exploit it, so Microsoft has in turn moved to protect it. It’s the limitations that are the worrying factor – ULPC manufacturers may be further inclined to limit the power of their machines thanks to Microsoft’s meddling and any machine built to run XP Home will now have been built with Microsoft specs in mind instead of giving you as much power as it could potentially have held.
I hope not all manufacturers bow to its whim though – it would be far interesting to see how powerful these ULPCs can become, keeping the prices down, the specs soaring upwards and exploring more ways of making Linux appeal to the mainstream user. Now they risk hitting a plateau at fake kind of pre-Vista Capable point. Ugh.