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HP's Windows Bundle Trouble 697

Posted by Zonk
from the i'm-sorry-please-enter-your-option-again dept.
narramissic writes "A French consumer group has filed 3 lawsuits against HP, saying the company's practice of selling consumer PCs with Windows pre-installed violates a French law that 'prohibits linking the functionality of a product to another product' — not to mention that consumers wind up paying for an unwanted OS. For its part, HP contends that it is not in violation of the law because the OS is integral to the PC. 'The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn't work,' said Alain Spitzmuller, legal affairs director for HP France. 'We believe the market is for products that work.'"
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HP's Windows Bundle Trouble

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  • by Loco Moped (996883) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:23PM (#17263594)
    He's pretty much shot himself in the foot, 'cause now he's got to prove that Windows works.
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:24PM (#17263602)
    Forcing software sales along with hardware ones?
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:25PM (#17263612) Homepage Journal
    then it works.
    It may not have all the functionality that someone wants, but it does work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MinutiaeMan (681498) *
      But when you buy a new car, do you not also expect it to come with a tank of gas? I certainly wouldn't want to have to push my car over to the nearest gas station to fill it up!

      That being said, I do agree that PC manufacturers need to offer choice of operating system at the time of purchase. But it's not entirely HP's fault... HP doesn't want to be put at a competitive disadvantage by being forced to pay higher prices for Windows on their machines, which would drive their prices up. France should be goin
      • by BiggyP (466507)
        Based on the product arguement they can only really give consumers a choice if every aspect of the machine works with either of the operating system options they provide, if they choose to design a computer with a lot of windows only hardware inside then it's going to be a problem as they're building computers which cleary link to the functionality of another product.
      • by tepples (727027) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [selppet]> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @12:21AM (#17265462) Homepage Journal

        But when you buy a new car, do you not also expect it to come with a tank of gas?

        BIOS is a tank of gas. Windows is a 3-year gas card to one brand of gas station.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It has a bios, doesn't it?

      then it works.
      It may not have all the functionality that someone wants, but it does work.

      Yes it does, and I'm outraged! I do not want to be forced to use the products of monopolists like Phoenix and Award.

      I want HP to offer me the a choice of open source BIOSs for any PC I buy from them regardless of the implications for function and support efficiency.

      I want the bios chip to be blank so I can flash it with the bios of my choice.

      That's it, I'm forming a consumer group and suing!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NotQuiteReal (608241)
      Yes, but when Joe Sixpack (or, in this case, Pierre 2 Litres) turns on his new PC and it says:

      Reboot and Select proper Boot Device (Réinitialisation et dispositif approprié choisi d'initialisation )

      Don't you think he might call HP and say "My PC doesn't work!" ???

      Have you ever considered this; Most people want "Windows" - if PC's didn't come with it would Microsoft make more selling retail copies at retail prices vs the couple of extra bucks they get now, with the de facto "Windows tax".

      On

      • but when Joe Sixpack (or, in this case, Pierre 2 Litres) turns on his new PC and it says:

        Reboot and Select proper Boot Device (Réinitialisation et dispositif approprié choisi d'initialisation )

        Don't you think he might call HP and say "My PC doesn't work!" ???

        People don't call Sony when their PlayStation game console says "Please insert a game". Here's what the HP tier-1 phone tech support person would say:

        Press the button on your computer's DVD drive to open the tray. Find the CD labeled "Linux Operating System", L-I-N-U-X, that came in your computer's resource pack, and place it in the tray. Press the button again to close the tray. Now press the power button to start the CD. Then just do what the screen says.

  • by Taagehornet (984739) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:28PM (#17263648)
    'The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn't work,' said Alain Spitzmuller, legal affairs director for HP France. 'We believe the market is for products that work.'
    That would be like selling printers without including the paper... Oh, never mind...
    • The real analogy is being legally mandated to not sell paper with your printer. Which I hope we all agree is lame; it's not like anyone's keeping you from installing someone else's paper.
      • And no jokes, please, about "installing paper"; I took the verb from the analogous situation (i.e. operating systems) instead of the one I was describing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by darkonc (47285)
        They're not necessarily asking to Mandate that HP sell machines without OS. Just that people not be forced to buy their HP-computer with MS-Windows.

        The paper analogy doesn't really work because paper is a consumable, so once you finish off your box of (mandated) Weyerhauser paper, you can buy the rest of your supplies from Scott, or whomever.

        This is especially a problem because, nowadays, MS-Windows is a significant part of the price of a low-end PC. This might be more like buying a $200 printer and fi

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That would be like selling printers without including the paper... Oh, never mind...

      Speaking of which, isn't it annoying when you buy a printer and it doesn't come with a USB cable? HP, I'm looking at you. Maybe in France they include the necessary-to-function-beyond-printing-out-test-pag es data cable with their printers?
  • by NineNine (235196)
    So, how are complicated things sold in France? Are cars sold without tires? Are lawnmowers sold without blades? Are shoes sold without laces? Are pizzas sold without toppings?

    This sounds like a very confusing and difficult place to do business. Well, considering their unemployment rate, maybe it is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bryansix (761547)
      I'm sure the summary does not cite the law correctly. However it is obvious that a Pizza with toppings is still one product. However it is also obvious that an OS is a completely different product from a Computer.
    • by The Bungi (221687)
      And when/if this group finally wins this lawsuit (French consumer law! yay!) HP will sell PCs without an OS in... France. And everybody will buy these PCs... yes, because Francois wants to install Ubuntu Christmas morning. Or better yet, buy Windows retail for $199 or whatever that's in Euros instead of getting it bundled for $40.

      Oh yes, the "Microsoft tax". Always a winning argument.

      • by NineNine (235196)
        You're right. Geez, and I thought that my dad had it bad having to put together a bicycle every few years in the middle of the night. I can't imagine my poor dad having to stay up late to install an OS because he's not allowed to buy a working computer. Wow.
    • by Foofoobar (318279)
      I have had to sell pizzas to customers without toppings when I worked at a pizza place. I had one customer who was allergic to cheese and another who was allergic to tomatos and couldn't have the tomato paste. Cars have to be made 'road ready' (except in the case of cars for salvage) but all other options are up to the consumer. There is no 'ready for the internet superhighway' law so this is not unreasonable to request a computer without an OS. It's not impossible to offer, they just can't do it due to Mi
    • by TeknoHog (164938) on Friday December 15, 2006 @09:27PM (#17264202) Homepage Journal

      In (Soviet) Finland, it's illegal to bind the sales of cell phones to a certain network. It's exactly the same logic as with computers and operating systems.

      It isn't really applied to computers though; when I bought my current laptop last year, I made a vague attempt at Windows refund, only to get a reply along the lines that computer+OS is a single product. I'm mainly pissed off of the fact that this probably counts for the Windows market share, even if I never accepted the EULA.

      However, there is a recent exception to allow such binding for 3G phones. It's meant to accelerate the adoption of new technology, since the 3G phones are comparatively expensive. So instead of paying the full price of the phone, it's spread over a, say, 24-month service contract.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    During the riots and car burnings last year, Disneyland France cancelled the nightly fireworks displays because every night, French soldiers would surrender to Czech tourists.
  • I wish I could also sue them for all the crap that comes ON TOP OF Windows. Google Desktop (even if you say no to the license, it stays there), Google Toolbar, Diskeeper Lite which hijacks standard OS tools like defrag and wants you to buy a worse version, Symantec Internet Security (notoriously hard to uninstall), and all those useles IBM utilities and whatnot.
  • More specifically, (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fred_A (10934) <fred@NoSpaM.fredshome.org> on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:31PM (#17263688) Homepage
    That law won't let you make the buying of one product the condition for the buying of another. In this case, of course, you have to buy MS Windows (and assorted crap) in order to be able to buy the PC.

    In addition to this while the EULA specifically mentions a refunding process, resellers won't honour it.

    Both the ministry of commerce and the bureau in charge of the consumer protection have given advice on the matter to the effect that the OS and the PC are two distinct products and that the sale of one cannot be bound to the other. So normally any PC for sale should have its price listed as X + Y + Z where X is the machine, Y the OS and possibly Z the extra software. However since the resellers won't comply, the courts will have to sort it out.
  • Bad analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seifried (12921) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:31PM (#17263690) Homepage
    A car without gas doesn't work, yet I am free to buy a car without gas in it and bring my own gas to use in it. As far as computers go I order barebone machines all the time (Sun X2100's being a great example, they offer Solaris, SuSE, Red Hat, Windows or no OS). I can do the same from many vendors for desktop systems. Apparently selling machines without an OS is acceptable to a large number of consumers.
    • better analogy:

      it is not required that you buy a dvd of a movie when buying a new dvd player.  Certainly
      the new dvd player is useless and performs no function until such a time as you load a
      dvd of some content.   One can view the pc in a similar manner - it plays content, be
      that the windows os, linux, bsd or your own home grown asm os. 
  • "doesn't work" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by doshell (757915) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:33PM (#17263710)
    'The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn't work,' said Alain Spitzmuller [...]

    In other news, auto dealers are now obliged to sell cars with all the gasoline they'll ever need to run, CD players must come with the complete works of modern music prepackaged (RIAA fees included), and TV sets have to carry recordings of all future programmes to be aired.

    • You've got it backwards. The situation is that HP is obliged to not sell the computer with the OS. Do you think it's sane and/or reasonable to mandate that CD players can't come with music? TVs can't come with bundled DVD sets? Etc.? I, personally, don't.
  • How many cars and trucks are sold in France without a driver? By his reasoning, a vehicle without a driver is not a product because it doesn't work.

    How many pastry ovens are sold in France without a heat source? By his reasoning, a pastry oven without gas or electricity is not a product because it doesn't work.

    How many wine glasses are sold in France without wine? By his reasoning, an wine galss without wine in it is not a product because it doesn't work.

    I can't think of an example involving cheese

  • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch.gmail@com> on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:36PM (#17263736) Journal
    Honestly I don't see why HP's argument is flawed, without an OS the PC is useless for things that consumer's want to do. HP could install Linux on every PC they ship, but the problems inherent in that should be easy to see for anyone, even the most die-hard linux fanboy (I'll give you a hint, basic computer + linux + user who knows nothing about PCs = PROBLEM). Basically the computer they're selling is largely useless to the average consumer without an OS pre-installed, and so either HP would have to change what they sell from full working PCs to almost full working PCs or they just need to win this. Face facts, without an OS the computer is no where near as useful. It's like telling McDonalds to stop putting their food in bags, because it's unfairly forcing the consumer to pay for something (the bag) that they're probably going to throw away. Or telling TV people to not ships cables with the TV, because it unfairly links cable sales to TV sales when the user may want a different cable. Admittedly Windows is more expensive but the situation is largely the same...
    • by Bryansix (761547)
      Actually you are just a hater. Most users who know nothing only use their computers to go online and check email. Most distributions of Linux will just work out of the box for these purposes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      So are toys without batteries; but they are still products.

  • For its part, HP contends that it is not in violation of the law because the OS is integral to the PC. 'The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn't work,' said Alain Spitzmuller, legal affairs director for HP France.

    I beg to challenge HP on this: -

    A PC without an OS can actually work, by allowing the installation of another OS without much hassle. Here, working should be interpreted as the actual PC being able to respond as expected to the user when switched on, instead of displaying Window

    • by NineNine (235196)
      Here, working should be interpreted as the actual PC being able to respond as expected to the user when switched on, instead of displaying Windows related stuff.

      A PC without an OS generally shows a black screen with "No Boot Record Found" or something like that in white letters. Are you really willing to pay $500+ for a machine that can only do that? That seems pretty absurd to me. I've never seen anybody staring at a monitor like that.
      • by bogaboga (793279)
        A PC without an OS generally shows a black screen with "No Boot Record Found" or something like that in white letters. Are you really willing to pay $500+ for a machine that can only do that? That seems pretty absurd to me. I've never seen anybody staring at a monitor like that.

        Yes I am willing, for as long as I am paying *no* Windows Tax. In that case, Knoppix and other "Live CD" distros would come to the rescue.

        • by NineNine (235196)
          And you think it's fair to force everybody else to have to do the same just because you're not smart enough to buy a computer that doesn't have Windows on it? You think that millions of people should have to pull their hair out installing operating systems because you don't want to be inconvenienced?
  • not to mention that consumers wind up paying for an unwanted OS

    I think it would be more accurate to say that consumers wind up paying for an OS that you don't want.
  • Great news! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Conti (914631)
    When UFC files a lawsuit, they generally have studied all aspects of the case and they are almost 100% they'll win. And indeed, they do often win. That's a great news for French consumers. HP's reply is plain stupid, and won't last long at the tribunal.
  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:52PM (#17263892) Homepage
    I guess there's a good chance I'll get modded down for the heinous crime of coming out in favour of Microsoft here, but why should HP be sued for not selling a computer without an OS? It's like suing a company for selling a pen that comes with a cartridge. Sure, the pen could be sold without one and the buyer could get them separately, possibly even cheaper, but the fact is that the majority want to buy a pen and use it as-is. The same goes for computers.

    I think HP should sell PCs that come with other OSes (or even no OS at all) - simply because I think there is a market worth taking there. However I don't think it's for any government or "consumer group" to try and force this on a company.

    To look at it another way, there are plenty of PC manufacturers that solely sell PCs with DVD writers, monitors, keyboards and/or mice. Just like an OS, none of those things are *needed* in the strictest sense, yet nobody seems to be up in arms (or rather up in lawsuits) about that.

    While I've greatly enjoyed watching the anti-trust decisions go against Microsoft in the EU in recent years, it seems that those legitimate victories for consumer rights are now being turned into a witch-hunt by various organisations in Europe who see the anti-MS sentiment as a means to get their hands into Microsoft's very deep pockets.
  • by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Friday December 15, 2006 @08:53PM (#17263894)
    A DVD player without a DVD is not a product, because it doesn't work...
    A DVD player without a TV is not a product, because it doesn't work...
    A toy without batteries is not a product, because it doesn't work...

    While you need to go to a store to buy batteries and DVD for your non-products,
    for an OS, you may not even need to go to the store. You could download one of many free Linux (or BSD or other) OS's many of which do not even need to be installed to function.

    Perhaps batteries are not the best comparison.

    • "A DVD player without a DVD is not a product, because it doesn't work..."

      yes it does. You turn it on, you get a screen on the TV, and you even get an indcator that you don't have a disk.

      "A DVD player without a TV is not a product, because it doesn't work..."

      Again, I get little lights on mine, and if I put a dvd in it still sends a signal to it's output. it works fine.

      "A toy without batteries is not a product, because it doesn't work..."

      Of course it does, children can play with it just fine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nick_davison (217681)
      For an OS, you may not even need to go to the store. You could download one of many free Linux (or BSD or other) OS's many of which do not even need to be installed to function.

      Assuming HP shipped you a PC with absolutely no O.S. installed, how exactly would you go about downloading this wonderful free O.S.?

      A great solution if you already have a PC. A pretty lousy one if you're picking up a phone, squeeling, "Bleep, bleep, blurrrrrrp, bleep" at it, then desperately noting down the bleeps and burps it sends
  • They're not broken, just not fully set up.

    Not to mention that saying Windows in integral is saying the PC won't work with Linux flavors, BSD flavors, or BeOS -- all of which have (or had) free distributions ready to be stuck on the hard drive by either the user or HP.
  • by voss (52565) on Friday December 15, 2006 @09:09PM (#17264056)
    Inserting into purchasing process

    WHICH OPERATING SYSTEM DO YOU WANT PRE-INSTALLED

    ( ) Windows (add $99)
    ( ) Red Hat Linux (add $39)
    ( ) Suse (add $39)
    ( ) NONE
  • And your point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nsayer (86181) * <nsayer.kfu@com> on Friday December 15, 2006 @09:25PM (#17264188) Homepage
    "The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn't work"

    So he is just trying to imply that the only thing that fits the definition of a PC OS is Windows. I call Shenanigans.

  • This is great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday December 15, 2006 @10:31PM (#17264724)
    Maybe we can get more countries to file lawsuits like this - against as many companies as possible.
    Cell phones that force us to use Symbian OS instead of letting us roll our own. Cars that are bundled with Renault engines instead of letting us install one from Abarth.

    hell, why not just make it illegal to assemble anything from components and let us build it ourselves.

    Then their system will be as tort happy as ours and we will regain some of the advantages we lost. Viva la France - Libertie, Egalitie, Unbundletie!!!
  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Friday December 15, 2006 @11:08PM (#17264936) Journal
    So... HP sells a product that apparently could cost less without the OS installed. So why doesn't someone else just sell a barebones PC? Why does the law have to be inovolved? Why do we have to use the government to force a company to sell their product in a way that some consumers want? If the company isn't meeting the consumer requirements then some other company can capitilize on that opportunity and create a product... why must HP sell HP products any way other then the way HP wants to. If customers don't like paying the price then don't pay it. It's simple... no need to give these silly beaurocrats any more power.

  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:20AM (#17265852) Homepage Journal
    There are lots of lies in this article:
    • First is the presumption that a computer (shipped) without an OS is useless... I can pop in a Knoppix disk and do most of the things that people use their computers for without installing any OS -- banking, messaging, skype, word processing, photo editing, etc., etc., ... His statement is false.
    • second is that that that Windows is the only OS that anybody would ever want.
    • third is the implicit claim of the (many) astro-turfers that this suit is meant to prevent HP from selling computers with MS-Windows.... From TFA:
      UFC said it wants consumers to be able to choose the software for their machine and get reimbursed for purchasing an OS they did not want.
      (emphasis mine).
      Nothing wrong with consumers buying an HP computer with Windows, as long as that's what they want (which will be the case for many -- but not all -- consumers).
    It's more like if every major hospital in the country forced children born there to be baptized as Roman Cathoic -- and required that the parents pay a tithe to the Roman Catholic Church for the 'privilege'.

    Now, yes, you can turn around and have the child declared Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish or Muslim, etc., but you still won't get back the $75 that went to the RC church.... and, for some people, just having the taint of the RC church on their children is almost as bad as being declared pagan. -- and, for some people, explaining to your parents back home why their grandchild's Birth Certificate says Roman Catholic is going to be, uhm, delicate.

    Of course you also have the option of having your child born at home, but some people really like the convenience and safety of a large hospital.

    [I'm RC, myself, so I can (I hope) get away with this analogy.]

  • ACCC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ambush (120586) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:32AM (#17266532)
    It's a real shame that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission seems completely oblivious to Microsoft's behaviour. The ACCC refuses to consider this issue despite repeated submissions and complaints.

    If simply all computer vendors were legally obliged to itemise the computer and operating system in all advertising, *and* make the operating system optional, it would immediately level the playing field for all competitors.

    Our government departments are, indeed, in Microsoft's pocket. Heck, our entire country is in America's pocket.

  • Product Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:58AM (#17266658) Homepage
    I know many of the Linux zealots here will bash HP for not offering alternative OSs as an option, but remember that when your average consumer (ie: grandma) purchases a PC they expect a certain level of support and functionality.

    If grandma has a choice between:
        A) Desktop + Windows for $800
        B) Desktop + Linux for $600 .. it's quite likely she may want Option B. Then when she gets home to install it, and then has any number of problems (her ISP won't support her, her printer doesn't work, her nephew can't email her, her bank won't support Firefox, her old copy of MS Office won't load, etc etc etc) then she's going to call HP.

    At that point, HP's costs increase trying to support Grandma, or HP risks seriously upsetting a customer and possibly getting into further legal troubles. It's a lose-lose for HP and Grandma.

    A business should never have be forced to give its customers a choice. If it makes business sense to only bundle Windows, then it should be free to do that. Let someone else sell a Linux box, take the risk, and see what happens.
  • by d_jedi (773213) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @05:11AM (#17266994)
    I mean, there's software in there. How dare they bundle that!
    What if I don't want an optical drive? How dare they bundle a DVD burner (ie. another product) with the computer?
  • by dheltzel (558802) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @08:33AM (#17267706)
    The argument that an OS must be installed to make the computer useful can be easily refuted. Most PC's (I assume HP's, but can't confirm) will search for a boot server if their is no OS installed. This is handy for business use, but could also be exploited by home users if the cable/DSL routers had an OS they could download to a new OS-less PC. A router engineer could easily add a small Linux install like Puppy or DSL to their home router and then people could buy a bare PC (no HD required) and plug it in, it could boot the minimal Linux image from the router and become an "internet appliance". It'd be really cool to store all the changes and new files to a USB key so you could take it to another "appliance" and run it there as well.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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