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Major PC Makers to Ship PCs Sans Windows 213

z@ph0d writes "This article tells how Dell, Compaq, and Gateway could announce soon they will be shipping low cost PC's without Windows. No word yet on what they'll ship with, but who knows? "
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Major PC Makers to Ship PCs Sans Windows

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  • i've read on l'abeille [] that QNX wants to join the "people" market...
    also QNX are currently making drivers for WinModem
  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:53AM (#1580599)
    This is a pretty vague article, with hardly any specifics. It doesn't state which OS these companies might be using:

    "The makers are taking a variety of approaches, the paper said. Gateway Inc (GTW) is building a line with no Microsoft software whatsoever, and may jointly market it with America Online, Inc (AOL), which recently invested $800 million in Gateway, people familiar with the plans were quoted as saying."

    While I wish I could say linux would be the obvious choice, I don't think that would be the case with these two companies. They're not going to go for an open-source OS just because they don't like microsoft. I think they'd rather give themselves a better cut of profits while keeping prices low, which means they'll probably go for some proprietary OS that they control. For all I know AOL may have made it's own proprietary OS. Somehow that idea doesn't impress me much, even if it is cheaper. I don't know if companies like Dell and gateway "mark-up" the windows OS at all, but given the low margins on computers, I doubt it matters anyway. Sure, you can make money selling a linux OS as well, but how much will it bring you when you are selling low end machines? By using their own proprietary OS they can remove a factor of control from microsoft and increase their profit margins while they're at it. Linux would only remove the microsoft factor. They'll just have to hope microsoft doesn't threaten them for this, which I wouldn't count on. Of course I could be totally wrong. I hope I am :)
  • An interesting quote from the ZDNe t article []..
    Since the initial Internet products planned by Compaq and Gateway won't run Windows 98, they can't carry out many of the tasks general-purpose PCs can. Later versions of these products may include some basic office software, industry executives said.
    I didn't realize Windows was the only operating environment/system in which I could do useful things! Thank you for showing me the light, ZDNet!
  • that's not a problem for BeOS or when linux has a journalled fs (extfs3) ready. OR if shut down really means "put it in a low poer standby state" but there's always the chance the user would pull the plug and that would be bad
  • The AmigaOS is getting long in the tooth, but a multitasking robust mature windowing operating systems in 512k may have a market, in say appliance PC's or maybe even mobile phones..

    Wonder if I'll score above zero ..
  • Three years ago, I was buying Dell servers without an OS (and not being charged for one). If you ask, they'll do the same for ANY system.

  • Can't believe they'd ever ship without an OS - the average consumer would never buy it.
    It depends a LOT on what you consider an "Average Consumer". I suspect a fair few business users could manage quite nicely with Ghost installs of $OS_OF_CHOICE (We do this already; rather than install many-many company-standard packages, we install ONE machine, take a Ghost of it, and then impress that image onto the remaining machines in the batch.
    To be honest, I can see this simplifying the job of $HELLDESK_PHONE_GUY - ship a single, bootable disk (possibly even a floppy!) that tests all the hardware shipped as standard and/or as options - all the user has to do is reboot+disk, and click a "test item xxx" button when told to. Any or all OS problems would then be the users', not the support guys - other than to ship out patches if needed.
  • Can't believe they'd ever ship without an OS - the average consumer would never buy it.
    (sorry for the typo - reposted)
    It depends a LOT on what you consider an "Average Consumer". I suspect a fair few business users could manage quite nicely with Ghost installs of $OS_OF_CHOICE (We do this already; rather than install many-many company-standard packages, we install ONE machine, take a Ghost of it, and then impress that image onto the remaining machines in the batch.
    To be honest, I can see this simplifying the job of $HELLDESK_PHONE_GUY - ship a single, bootable disk (possibly even a floppy!) that tests all the hardware shipped as standard and/or as options - all the user has to do is reboot+disk, and click a "test item xxx" button when told to. Any or all OS problems would then be the users', not the support guys - other than to ship out patches if needed.
  • I think Microsoft has beat expectations every quarter for 10 years. There is actually another way to beat analysts forecasts. Microsoft manages the forecast by talking down expectations. You can calculate the true sales for microsoft by taking the reported revenue and adding the change in deferred revenue. The true sales are about 10% higher than the reported sales. If they stopped recording unearned revenue then they would have reported sales of 6 billion even if they never sold another unit of NT, office etc.
  • Sorry to back ZDNet up, but what OS is the only place (on x86 hardware) where you can consistently:
    • Play QuickTime movies?
    • Use nearly any Netscape plugin or ActiveX control created?
    • Choose from a selection of tens of thousands of programs developed to cater to the masses (i.e. point, click, do something), and millions of other programs that, um, "need improvement"?
    • Use applications that have a consistent look and feel -- that is, they aren't binding themselves to one of several different widget themes and sets available?
    • Find a friend who knows at least something about it? (Think about this from an end-user perspective -- not everyone knows about #linux and comp.os.linux.*)
    Sure, Linux can do some cool stuff. But it's Windows that has the "everyone else uses it, so it's OK to use" factor. Can you imagine tech support calls where the user can't fathom why the computer program he/she just bought can't run on his/her new system? ("It said it was for PC, and I have a PC!" "OK, click Start..." "Um, Start? I have a foot/K/nothing in the corner of the screen." "Sorry, that program won't work with your system.")
  • The marketroids at Dell doubtless understand this phenomenon better than either of us and would price the machines accordingly. The profit margin on Linux-based machine would doubtless be greater, and they'd be doing their best to sell those rather than the Windows. In the situation you hypothesize, I would think they'd charge slightly more for the Linux-based machine while touting its improved reliability. Or, if the phenomenon is not really that strong, they might go ahead and charge only slightly less for the Linux-based box.

  • Maybe this is the best thing that could happen to Microsoft® - maybe they're just letting it happen or quietly encouraging the rise of alternatives - maybe then they can focus on quality speciality software like Office2K and leave "Windows Everywhere!" and World Dominion(TM) behind and let the monopoly charges fade away THE SAME WAY that the monopoly case aginst IBM was just dropped in the early 80's when it was patently obvious that the rise of PC's made monopoly charges irrevelent.

  • Right now it doesn't - BeOS promised that it an OEM would preinstall BeOS they'd give it to them for free.
  • I was chatting to Computacenter (massive EU reseller) about Linux on the Proliant range. They were big fans of the idea, and said that Compaq would be supporting Linux on all Proliant models shortly.

    That doesn't mean Compaq are selling boxes direct with pre-installed Linux. It means that Compaq are supporting their resellers who wish to install Linux on Compaq boxes and ship those to customers.

    For corporate sales, most of the market is via large resellers who provide value added services, so this is significant stuff.
  • This isn't targeted at the "average computer user." Nor is it targeted at people who want to run an OS other than Windows. It's targeted at people who don't already have a computer and want an Internet appliance.

    I can see this being positioned similarly to the iMac, which is first an Internet device, second a computer (according to Steve Jobs, anyway). The advertising for this device will just delete the "computer" part. It will probably also be like the iMac in that it will be all in one case and won't really look like a traditional computer. I bet it'll have a tiny hard drive and will probably be in other ways unsuitable for people who want to run a real OS anyway. I don't think this is quite the victory for the anti-MS crowd some people around here think it is.
  • by Knight ( 10458 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:56AM (#1580618)
    I like this idea on the surface, but one thing scares me a bit. If Dell decides to ship some of these machines with Windows, and some without, the ones using Linux/BSD/BeOS or whatever they use will undoubtably be cheaper. If I were a clue-free end user, that would imply to me that they were inferior OS's, since the hardware was identical. Now, we all know it's not true, and we've fought similar battles before, but for this to be a positive for us, we need to be very vocal about the fact that just because these machines are cheaper does not mean they are inferior. I mean, if I saw two identical guitars, one of which was made in China, and the other in the US, and the one made in China was cheaper, I would assume that the one made in the US was of higher quality. This, however, is a result of my lack of knowledge. For all I know, China has better processes in place, and the only reason it's cheaper is that they have cheaper labor. I think we must tread carefully into this area, and it can really pay off.

    If you need to point-and-click to administer a machine,
  • From the article:

    ... Gateway Inc (GTW) is building a line with no Microsoft software whatsoever ...

    Wow! Although I am quite sure that none of these companies are going to abandon Microsoft altogether anywhere in the near future (read: most of their money will still be made from Windows PCs), this has got to be fantastic news!


  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:58AM (#1580620)
    Along this line, consider: There are two free versions of (yes, I know it sounds goofy, but think about it) MS-DOS out there. Some sort of simple GUI (GEM? an OEM GUI) that provided only a browser and an e-mail app? That wouldn't be that hard to write if you just made it a context switcher instead of a multi-tasker. Kind of a beefed-up PalmOS. I'm not seriously suggesting this is the case, but I feel like Linux/*BSD would be overkill for a machine like this.

    OTOH, it would be easy to hide all the complexity of Linux/*BSD by having accounts that add users, start-up and shutdown the machine, and dial-in and disconnect. Just specify the appropriate commands as shells in /etc/passwd and there you have it. The /etc/skel would give each new user an account the fires straight into Netscape. The users would never see a shell.

    I don't know what it is. Its just kind of fun to know the market is changing.

    Diversity is good. Whatever they're going to use, it's better than no choice at all.
  • Some may remember the 'Windows Refund Ordeal' where by people were attempting to return their copy of win9x to the manufacture in order to get a refund. Its possible that this is in response to these attemps.

    Here is's synopsis of the events. hp3?sid=story36a9330ea874f []

    I think this is great, I don't see how anyone can disagree with that... except MS I suppose.

  • We talked to our local computer supplier about getting no OS boxes. They were fine with that except that they had to have a way to test all the parts of the box that we wanted. A 'burn in' phase to let it run for a day or two to make sure that everything works. Since they know they we just format the drives as soon as we get them, they put DOS on them just to make sure the damn things boot.

    Most places probably have a similar dilema.

  • I very much doubt it'll ship with Linux. Read the article: they're targetting the WinTV crowd with this. Can you see them getting used to logging in / out of Linux? Shutting down instead of hitting the power button? Dealing with fsck() ?

    This isn't about PC Manufacturers being Hardware people again. This is about PC Manufacturers jumping onto the cheap internet computing bandwagon. They announce cheap, "disposable", non-MS PCs within 24 hours of Sun re-launching their NCs? Guess what they're trying to protect, folks!

    The article isn't an anti-MS, or anti-Windows article. It's a pro-cheap-network-computing article.

    Discussion of OS for these puppies - or rather the OS that will be delivered with them from the factory - is nearly irrelevent, except for the fact that they're not automatically going for MS's OS-du-jour (Hmm.. targetted for early next year... Win2000 comes out Feb 17.. Coincidence?).

    henley, who has been watching too much X-files and sees conspiracies everywhere today.

  • i didn't know anglophones use "sans" for "without", french rules

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the canon's mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

    -- William Shakespeare

    Most people just say "sans" to sound educated, like they read Shakespeare. :)
  • Don't be so sure about that. We are at the point where many, many novices have PCs (and thus Windows licenses) already. I suspect that a lot of people would buy a "blank" PC and copy their hard drive over to save a couple hundred bucks, using the inevitable techie brother-in-law to deal with the inevitable driver crap.
  • I just wish that they'd say it the right way, "sawn" instead of "sands". (Or better yet, not use it at all.)
  • Can I be the first person to say Hooray! I hate having to pay the extra $$ to have them do a bad job of installing an operating system that i don't want in the first place. It's about time.

    Though I must say I don't think I want Dell or Gateway installing LINUX on my PC either. I guess I'll have to re-install anyway.

  • When you are sitting on $20 billion in cash, and absolutely no debt... you tend to have some staying power :)

    Do you know how many stock options Microsoft has outstanding? Once their stock starts taking a hit and the investors get nervous, that $20 billion will start evaporating.

  • Looks like they've been Slashdotted already. (Gosh, that was fast.)

  • Oh yeah! If I could buy a box for cheap without having to deal with the M$ hassle, I'd do it. It would have to be cheap though, because I'm broke. :)


  • I'm going to guess they're either going to ship Redhat or OpenLinux. I don't think anyone is ready to ship BeOS yet.

    I do however think we're a long way from getting a computer with a blank hard disk from a large manufacturer.

    Hopefully they'll start shipping "alternatitive operating systems" with laptops as well, cutting out the Windmodem and other Windows-only devices.
    Donald Roeber
  • Well, Linux seems to be obvious candidate in this case - but maybe the Big Guys are rather thinking about a tailored version of BeOS? After all, those machines are supposed to do is provide platform for a nice web browser, and - as I've been told - BeOS would come in here very handy.

    Dont bash me - I'm not a specialist - but do you think it is possible do device a simple OS from scratch only for that purpose?



  • The Gates foundation has the equivalent of 200M
    shares of MSFT stock. Gates has reduced his
    holdings by 360M shares in the past two years,
    which is essentially the time period the foundation
    has been funded also. So 160M shares were still
    sold outright.

    Now, the foundation, if it is prudently managed,
    should not keep all it's assets in MSFT stock,
    it should diversify. Their annual report does
    not cover what assets they hold specifically.
  • what's the point? Most people I know who have any clue about what they're doing just assemble their own systems. The others... use Windows. Who are they trying to target here? If the average user sees that it doesn't have Windows, I seriously doubt he'd even consider buying it. I think these types of people are by far their largest customer base. I don't see this as having any effect on Microsoft.
  • Yet another compelling reason to push for DSL everywhere, or better yet Fiber to the curb and ATM everywhere. :)
  • Looks like they've been Slashdotted already. (Gosh, that was fast.)

    It seems fine now. As great as slashdot it, I'd seriously doubt that a link from slashdot would make cnnfn's servers unreachable.

    just my $0.02
  • First thing I do when I get a pre-built machine is format the drives. Even if I'm doing a corporate install where I'm putting 98/NT on the machine I don't want their install. Most of them are bloated with crappy software and mis-partitioned.
    Plus it should bring the price down a bit.
  • I seriously doubt they'll ship any flavor of Linux. The article said the machines "will be designed mainly to surf the Internet" which indicates to me that they'll be targeting people who don't want a computer -- they just want something to browse that "web" that they hear everyone buzzing about. For that market segment, Linux would be about the worst possible choice; contrary to what some people around here might believe, Linux is *not* ready for the average computer newbie.

    No, actually, you are wrong. Because if you are building a "black box" that you want to lock down, and provide defined applications, to a consumer who has no computer experience, then Linux *is* the perfect fit.

    Unlike Windows, the OEM has control over the OS to tailor it perfectly to the box. Unlike Windows, the OEM doesn't have to worry about a user deleting "extra" files. Unlike Windows, the OEM can provide a truely customised, intuitive interface.

    With Linux, the consumer buys the box, plugs it in like a VCR, enters in their ISP account information, and tada, instant access to the web.

    I don't see how *that* could be beyond the grasp of a consumer. That seems actually easier then Windows.

  • As much as I enjoy Linux I would say that GW, Dell, etc. would be shooting themselves in the foot if the shipped with Linux.

    Lets look at the average computer luse.... erm... user...

    "Hmmmm I would like to access this file on this floppy disk with my brand new PC"
    ::reads manual::
    ::continutes reading manual::
    ::flash forward 6 hours later user buried in documentation, man pages, and web site printouts::
    "Argh! I give up! Back to windows! I am retugning this blasted thing!"

    User Friendliness is not one of Linux's high points. I think they would be better BeOS (which is more user friendly accorung from waht I have heard)

    Oh well. I think that this is a welcome departure from their "M$ only" atmosphere. Cheers.

  • you can use opera for BeOS, and there's a mozilla port also.
    note that NetPositive 3 for BeOS handles HTML3.2 and javascript, not too bad... of course there's no java support but who cares? java sucks anyway!
    support for HTML4 and CSS would be great also in N+
  • Hm... I think Linux has great potential in the area of "information appliances". Linux has a number of distinct advantages:

    It's portable. Linux will most likely run on any of the systems that Gateway comes out with, as long as they don't ship Windows-only hardware with the boxes. Any portability issues can be resolved quickly, in-house, for the simple reason that the companies will have the source code.

    It's cheaper. How can you undercut free? I don't see any companies trying to *pay* OEMs to use their OS. Though BeOS is supposedly free to OEMs that will use it on their products...

    It's more stable. Hey, I know. Sometimes Linux crashes, but if these computers are just "information appliances", whose sole purpose in life is Web surfing and e-mail, then it wouldn't be too tough to fine-tune the system until it becomes pretty damn hard to make it go down.

    Linux handles networks a hell of a lot better. If your ISP uses some sort of weird system for authentication, Linux probably supports it a lot more easily than Windows. And if, for some ungodly reason, you need to use non-standard protocols to communicate with somebody, you don't need $300 3rd-party add-ons to make the two systems talk.

    Linux is just as user-friendly (if you do it right). Gnome, KDE, and a number of other projects make for interfaces that either match Windows (sometimes by looking just like it!), or even surpass it (KDE, WindowMaker, Enlightenment). Once people get past the "dear god, it's not like everything else I've ever fucking used" factor, it will feel like second nature.

    I think Linux has quite a potential in the market. Funny that the article didn't mention that.
  • While I'm all for some healthy competition for MS, I can't help but wonder if this will really replace Windows with something better. Would it really be that big of an improvement oif users bought an equally restrictive OS that just crashed a bit less?

    The largest problem I see with MS products is that they don't put the user in control. Wizards DON'T help! They just make up for a bad or confusing interface - or perhaps just a complex interface that is poorly documented.

    Is this new product going to put the user in control? Or is this a non-MS OS directly competing with the goals of MS?
  • While they may not be as big as the hardware vendors mentioned above, I noticed that AST is now shipping BeOs [] systems.
  • It's true that these hardware vendors now stop shipping Windows along with the PCs.. but.. I don't think we can all assume that Gateway, Dell or Compaq is all going to ship Linux or any *nix instead. The simple reason is because most corporation(like the one I am working now) have their own NT or 95 CD image and they don't want to pay two copies of Windows License. They have already paid for their NT image license and so there's no point for them to have another copy come with the machine.
  • I think it would ship with a very small embedded-like OS, given its goal. Something like Linux is overkill for simple web surfing.

    My thoughts exactly. However, whatever OS it is, it could be a Good Thing. Here's why: companies like Dell, even though they have Linux desktops, also have evil Winmodem policies. So, you can get a ``good'' Linux desktop from them, but you're going to get screwed with a) no modem and b) second-rate mice (M$ IntelliMouse is not a major win).

    So, basically, when you buy a Linux desktop from Dell, most people (who actually use Linux.. yet I doubt most of these people would buy Dell) would want to a) replace the mouse with something from Logitech b) replace the keyboard with.. the Happy Hacking Keyboard, of course! and c) get a LAN modem and put that damn Ethernet card to good use. =P

    Of course, none of that helps Joe Public, and it doesn't help us stamp out second-rate hardware built to be Windows-only (Winmodem proliferation leads to.. suffering) or work with optimum performance only with Windows (Sound Blaster, anyone?). Knock out IntelliMice and we're really in business!

    Back to my original point, however: If Dell or anyone else ships an ``Internet machine'' it's obviously going to need a modem. And since it won't be shipping with Windows, it will need a real modem, which is a Good Thing for everyone except Microsoft (which means the GNU/Linux, *BSD, and every other crowd can rejoice about the same thing.. a rare occurance, to say the least).

  • Actually a few places (cannot recall where) do offer BeOS (well, other than BeComputing...).

    Of course they're not major names.

    On a side note, maybe they won't instlal ANY os?
    I personally would prefer this...let me handle my OS installations, since they either install crap I don't want, or leave out things I need.
    And it would cut down cost...
  • As a BeOS user, I'd say the problem is not the web-browser, it's all those damn non-pure-HTML thingies (good tech term there)! :)
    Ever have those days when you wish client-side scripting had never been created? Or wish for the good ol' days when web sites had maybe one or two images on them? Ahhhh....

    (of course, I'm kidding about the 'problem isn't with the OS I use, it's with everyone else' bit...well, partially kidding :))

  • I should have said "Windows" instead of M$ software.


  • So Dell would have to write some documentation and set up a couple of things so that they would be bulletproof. Just because _you_ don't know how to do it does not mean that it can't be done.

    The fact of the matter is that most of the stuff you are talking about would be _trivial_ to fix if you were sure exactly what the machine was going to be used for.

    A big part of the problem with Linux is that it can be configured to do too much stuff. Cut out all of the server stuff and you can make incredibly resilient client machines that are as easy to use as any Windows box around. It wouldn't have IE (which I would agree is a nicer browser), but it wouldn't crash every fifteen minutes either, and it would cost less.

    Microsoft has become the most capitalized company in the world by selling and operating system. It would be worth _billions_ to the hardware OEMs to cut them out of the deal. I imagine that you could get some pretty fancy documentation for that kind of money.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If anything, the proliferation of themable UIs just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the end user.

    If anything, the proliferation of theme-able User Interfaces just goes to show that people have an insatiable need to futz around with the computer, rather than using it for anything productive and non-self-referential.
  • ehhh ... no *wipes you off his lens*
  • Yes, but Microsoft's strength has always been that you can't use a PC without paying a tax to them. PC's without Windows are, by definition, eating into Windows market share.

    Now of course these companies are not planning on ditching Windows completely, but less than a year ago you couldn't buy a computer with Windows. That is most certainly a step in the right direction.

    Besides, once the OEMs start selling Windowless PCs they will soon come to realize that they have a higher profit margin on the non-Windows PC. If these things sell at _all_ the incentive to sell Windows PCs will plummet.
  • Gate's 'salary' is 400K according to the proxy
    statement, and his wife also works for MSFT and
    probably pulls down a couple of 100K too (but
    she's not in the top 5 so she isn't listed in
    SEC filings).

    That salary is insignificant in comparison with
    the approximately $13 billion in MSFT stock
    Gates has sold in the last two years and not
    donated to his foundation. The interest alone,
    even in a lousy savings account, is 1000 times
    his official salary as CEO of MSFT. And you
    can assume that he's got a smart investment
    manager making that money work for him.

    At a nominal 8% return, he can pay for a new
    $40 million house like the one he built every
    month, and still have $500 million a year in
    play money.

    I don't this actually happens. Likely his
    'living expenses' are in the $10M a year range,
    and the rest of the money is being spread around
    in other investments so that when MSFT crashes,
    he'll still be the world's richest individual.
  • by blazer1024 ( 72405 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @09:14AM (#1580664)
    If AOL's involved, maybe it will be the old GEOS/Geoworks Ensemble OS from back in the day. That's what AOL was originally developed on (After they stopped being Q-Link, that is.) That OS was written after the popularity of it on such machines at the Commodore 64, 128, etc. AOL liked it, and used it right away. Then Win 3.1 came out, and GEOS died. (Even though GEOS was by far superior. It was a full multi-tasking OS on even XT's... though it was slow on them:) But it screamed on a 286, even, and Windows could never claim that. It had a nice application package with it as well. The only reason they didn't become popular, is they were totally concerned about bug zapping. (The beta test lasted forever) My dad was a beta test, and they even started paying him $50 for every bug they found. Now you can only find them on palm type computers.. oh well. Maybe that's what will show up, because that would be a perfect choice for an Internet PC.. they could revive the original AOL for GEOS, and go from there. It all waits to be seen.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Perhaps it's going to be as simple as something like Caldara's dos, running their dos based ppp and web browser. With that setup they could use some very low performance hardware and still get the job done. Perhaps even at a price that would compete with say a webtv box.
  • They're not saying they will package these PCs with non-Windows OSs, they're saying they want to design PCs that are exclusively designed to browse the Web.

    That probably means they'll build a custom-made, low-feature OS whose sole purpose is to boot up, load a Web browser (AOL? Yuck.) and connect to the Internet. That's hardly a breakthrough for Open Source, however much we hold our breath.

    Lemme explain: even IF they suddenly decided to put some sort of stripped down, alternative Open Source OS on these boxes (say, a light version of OpenBSD), that would still fail to impress the general public, because this type of install won't be a showcase to alternative OS's power. It'll just mean the computer will run in a specialised, narrow focus. So you'll be hard-put to convince your grandmother Linux is so great.

    Now, what I do find interesting here is the idea of a Web browsing machine that doesn't use Internet Explorer. Is that what AOL had in mind when they said Netscape Communicator 5 wouldn't come out? Maybe they're trying to attack the Web-surfing market from another angle, by indeed building a Web browser that will give IE a run for its money.

    And, pray tell, what difference is there between Win98 w/ IE 4, and a dedicated machine w/ a Web browser? Not much. Both browsers will be at the core of the OS, and the whole box will run on a single manufacturer's products.

    But by starting by offering a cheaper alternative, it's not far-fetched to see this trend growing, and perhaps one day Netscape (if that's who they choose) will have its own dream of having a fully-integrated desktop linked closely to their browser. Ten years from now, it could be a heck of a competition to Microsoft.

    But I'm not holding my breath. I just hope they'll consider some of the work done in the Open Source movement, and perhaps push it on the mainstream. This article is misleading in its suggestion that computers will soon ship with alternate OS. This is not the point here.

    Besides, how long will it be before someone installs a custom distro of Linux on one of these boxes?

    "Knowledge = Power = Energy = Mass"

  • I very strongly believe this is happening for the same reason OEMs started shipping Linux on their PCs: the DOJ trial against Microsoft.

    The trial showed how Microsoft had OEMs, even Intel, on a tight leash. With the trial in progress, I believe Microsoft has had to restrain itself and let the OEMs do things Microsoft wouldn't want them to do, like install Linux or ship PCs without Windows.

    I've always felt that even if Microsoft is acquitted or is not slammed as hard as it deserves, if the trial goes on long enough---and I think we're almost at that point---the end result will be victory, simply because even just restraining Microsoft indirectly has been enough to allow market forces to work the way they are supposed to work: without the undue influence of monopoly power.

  • I am guessing that you haven't tried Mandrake 6.1.

    In that case, you would double click the floppy icon on your desktop.

    Linux CAN be easier.
  • Can't believe they'd ever ship without an OS - the average consumer would never buy it.

    Shipping a full(ish) version of Un*x is also very unlikely: the costs for AOL of building helpdesk systems to cover X, a shell and Internet applications would kill this idea.

    Most likely idea: free Un*x kernel for stability with no user shell. Configure through a couple of control panels. If the user rings with any problems, first support option is to re-install from CD.

    Apple had a similar idea with the crippleware bundled with Performa series. Universally hated idea, but they probably saved a ton of cash on support costs: if the average user doesn't need access to a config file, lock them out!

  • this may be moot after the dust settles in the anti-trust trust. A ruling of fact is expected tomorrow.

    These PC companies are feeling friskly because the spotlight has been put on Microsoft's business practices. If Microsoft gets a free ride from the judge, the laizze-faire (sp ?) attitude currently expressed by Microsoft will change.

    I sincerely hope this is the beginning of the end of Microsoft's stranglehold on computing.
  • Free is good, yes.

    Linux is stable, except when running netscape, which is most likely what they'd use, so there goes that theory (thought they COULD fix it)

    Linux can be setup to handle everything nicely...but it's too different. People wanting a web browsing machine (believe me there are a LOT of WebTV folk out there...) don't want to see KDE, or windowmaker, or even E. They want a web browser, that's it. On a side note, there's one thing BeOS is better at for this than Linux, for a network computer, it boots next to instantly (under 15 seconds on my was around 10 but checking zip disk slows it down...)

    Oh, and just an observation from most people that have tried to use my linux box, they don't want to get past the dear god, it's not like everything else I've ever fucking used" factor.

    Maybe the market will prove me wrong?
  • Remember that thing where pc makers have to pay microsoft for every computer, windows or not... even if you told them no OS at all... is this still how it works?
    If so then it seems like MS would still get $$ for every computer with linux/whateverthesehave, which would just be absorbed into the price but the principle still sucks...
  • by WillAffleck ( 42386 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @09:33AM (#1580673)
    The Wall Street Journal had two articles on this today (no, they only have a paid site - I read the copy we get in our non-profit's library).

    The first one said that they estimate 30-40% of all boxes shipping for consumers this year will be Windows-less, but this includes BeOs and Palm type boxes which are bailing from WinCE, as well as set-top boxen. Some of them were going to use Apple/iMac (kind of confusing, that one).

    The second article said that some MSFT technical indicators indicated, for the first time in decades, that forward revenue (upgrades for Windows, Office, etc) at MSFT were down a very large amount (10-20%), whereas the stock has counted on these increasing every year and thus commands high P/E ratio as a result. Which means that the end may be nigh.

    Figure in mid-January they'll release stats showing that MSFT boxen were a drastically smaller (70%) amount than usual.

  • Yes, Linux support costs money. But is support for a trimmed down bullet-proofed version of Linux going to be any more expensive than supporting Windows 98?

    My guess is that _long term_ supporting Linux would be a major money saver. This is especially true of Linux client machines. Heck most of the hard drive can be mounted read only for crying out loud. Cut out all of the server stuff, configure a Window manager with buttons for all of the applications that you are shipping and then sit back and relax.

    Heck, you can even preconfigure their dial-up networking and sell the machine with Internet service included.
  • OK, but what about rigging up a software button that, when pushed (as the power button) when the system was on would send a term signal to Linux, causing it to shutdown gracefully? Since we wouldn't be dealing with all the stuff that's on a "regular" Linux box, shutdown should take a few seconds at most, and would then just power down.

    That's what my Gateway box does now, and if you push the button while its off, the box starts booting. Surely this couldn't be too difficult.


  • BUT most of the documentation is written for a command prompt. Sure, most people will see the icon and think, "Oh, this accesses my floppy drive" but if you went to and tried to find that, it would tell you, in very arcane and technical language, how to do it from the command prompt.

    What, do you think the OEM's are going to ship howto's with their 'internet boxes'? I doubt it. And going to and looking for an answer, would be like me looking in a Ford Ranger manual to figure out how to replace the transmission in my Ford Taurus. There are numerous ways to do it, and I don't think consumers will "accidentally" pop the cd out the wrong way. :)

    Besides, it's more likely that these consumer devices won't have floppy drives

    Upgrading kernels is a bitch (still haven't figured it out) while in Windows it's a self-executable file you download when a dialog box pops up informing you you need to download stuff from MS's website.

    I don't think that consumers will be interested in compiling their kernel. These boxes probably won't even have gcc installed. Instead, they'll have some sort of update manager that they'll click and update the box, ala Windows Update.

    Lack of some programs that are only on Windows machines is a pain too.

    Again, these consumer devices probably won't have the capability of installing your own software. So even if it *had* Windows, the other apps wouldn't be useful. This is for people who are interested in a device to do a few limited tasks. Web browsing, e-mail, word processing, and so on.

    No Internet Explorer (yes, most people do prefer it over Netscape).

    Web standards. No functionality should be different. They should need to know whether they are using Netscape or IE.

    Rebooting wrong screws everything up (I GUARENTEE(sp) that 3/4 of the new Linux users will reboot by just pressing the reboot button when X crashes, and screw up their file systems.)

    I doubt if these boxes will have "reboot" buttons. Must likely the button will only turn "on" the device, not shut it down. Also, it was mentioned that the file system could be set up in a more safe way.

    Windows was designed/marketed to be a consumer OS. Linux was designed/marketed to be a server OS. And it's easy to tell it when you compare them together.

    I agree here. But OEM's are finding that Linux works great in the embedded market, and so how's to stop them?

  • BeOS is a nice platform, but unfortunately there really isn't a great web browser out for it yet.

    This is true, but the earliest we'll even see these machines announced is early next year, according to the article. That's not too far away, but it's enough time to get something together. Net+ isn't bad, Opera's coming along, Mozilla's a bit behind, but AOL could probably get Netscape ported over if they wanted to.

    I know Slashdot is mainly a Linux crowd, but I think BeOS would be a great choice for this application. If I had to sell a newbie on the concept of non-MS operating systems, I'd probably use Be to do it. It's easy to use and very quick. Makes a great first impression, and that's obviously a very important issue in this case.
  • GEOS is not dead, it simply moved into the embedded market [].
  • If Dell decides to ship some of these machines with Windows, and some without, the ones using Linux/BSD/BeOS or whatever they use will undoubtably be cheaper. If I were a clue-free end user, that would imply to me that they were inferior OS's, since the hardware was identical.

    Most probably won't know what OS the cheaper box runs on at all. (Ask someone with WebTV what OS it runs. I bet most would give you a blank stare.)


  • by Anonymous Coward
    > Though I must say I don't think I want Dell or > > Gateway installing LINUX on my PC either. I
    > guess I'll have to re-install anyway.

    Just bought a Dell server pre-installed with
    Linux. Not bad, actually; if I had had a
    DHCP server up it would have come right up.
    X was installed with 640x480, a bit conservative
    in my view, but other than that it was immediately

    And they made a good try at disk partitioning, I think, the hardest part of any pre-install.
    About 300M for / and /var, and about 1.4G
    for /usr. The rest was left as unallocated on
    an extended partition; when Linux gets a journalling file system it would be about
  • There are ways around this as well. You can mount most of the partitions as read only (with the exception of /home /var /tmp), and you can mount those partitions so that they fsync automatically.

    Or you could simply use the Linux FAT32 filesystem drivers and put these partitions on a FAT32 drive. After all, it's good enough for consumers _now_.

    Caching the filesystem in memory is a _feature_ for what I use it for, but you _can_ turn it off, and you certainly can protect the parts of the hard drive that contain your kernel and boot loader.

    Most of the people that are of the opinion that Linux isn't ready for the consumer simply do not have the Linux experience necessary to really know what can be done with Linux. They assume that Dell will do as crappy a job of installing Linux as they have, and therefore conclude that Linux is unusable for the unwashed masses.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 1999 @09:39AM (#1580685)
    You thought getting those little AOL disks in mail was annoying!

    Just imagine when AOL started UPSing whole computers to everybody, with 20 free hours of AOL-OS!
    the simplest answer

  • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @09:42AM (#1580686)
    If you compare MSFT's proxy statements from two
    years ago to the Sept 1999 one, you find that the
    directors of the company as a group have reduced
    their ownership stake from 35.8% to 25.7%.

    The breakdown by person is:

    Gates 22.3% -> 15.3%
    Allen 7.6% -> 5.0%
    Ballmer 4.9% -> 4.7%
    Others 1.0% -> 0.6%

    Are they getting out while the getting's good?

  • While this interesting (but not surprising) move by the major OEMs does spell some trouble for Microsoft (which sounds like some good news to me... maybe they'll fix some bugs now to gain market share), it's still not what I would really like: to be able to buy a Gateway or Dell (I really don't like Compaqs) with NO OS installed. I like some of the systems that said companies produce, I like the warranties and support that they have on their hardware (much easier than having to deal with 8 different vendors when things break... you can just call Gateway and say, "it's broken," and they send you new one). I just hate having to pay for software that I'm not going to use.

    I understand why they don't support other OSes. Most people who are calling with problems are completely clueless, so their support techs have to walk them through troubleshooting. (They have to do this so that they're not replacing hardware when it's just software configuration problems). Now imagine if you're (well, not you... you wouldn't be this dumb) running the latest version of, say, OpenBSD on your new Dell, and you can't get sound to work. You call them up, the tech says, "Uh... click on start." And you say, "Uh... no." You actually don't know if the card is broken (unless you've confirmed this in an OS that is officially supported by the hardware vendor). Gateway doesn't know if you're right, lying, or stupid. Are they going to ship you a $110 piece of hardware because you think it's broken? Heh, no.

    So as much as it would be nice, I don't see the OEMs spending money to support other OSes that represent microscopic market share.


  • Yes, I ran into this recently when purchasing a laptop. I was able to find a dealer (Hitron in Silicon Valley) that was willing to sell me a nice Chembook laptop without an operating system. They had to laod windows on it for burn in, but then just wiped the hard disk after burn in.

    All in all things worked out very well. I got myself a *very* nice laptop without having to pay for an OS that I didn't want.

    Maybe this trend will result in being able to purchase laptops from Dell etc. without Windows.
  • Without a doubt this is a move towards an AOLOS (maybe that's what they'll call it). That's why this story didn't excite me too much. So it looks like more and more people will believe that AOL IS not only the Internet, but is in fact synonymous with computer.

    NC's aren't going to work in the home, they can't make the price point (which seems to hover around $200), and what sane individual wants to rent applications. NC's are the PC equivelent to DIVX, at least for the home market.
  • by ProfessorMyers ( 91506 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:02PM (#1580709)
    Microsoft uses unearned revenue to smooth income. Basicly the reported revenue (sales) on Microsoft's income statement is a weighted average of the sales over the past 18 months. Each year Microsoft recognizes most of the money they get for selling office etc. but puts the rest on the balance sheet as a liability (unearned revenue). Then over the next 18 months, they take the liability off the balance sheet and recognize the revenue. The reason the number on the balance sheet is smaller now (this unearned revenue) is that Microsoft reduced the % of revenue that was postponed. I think this change is a respones to the the SEC investingating Microsoft for "cookie jar reserve accounting." At the end of the year the reserves were $6 billion and I doubt that this indicates that Microsofts sales are falling.
  • ROFL. I wouldn't mind. I put Linux on them and start my own Beowulf cluster. :)

  • 1) I thought OEMs typically pay a large up-front cost for unlimited license to redistribute MS's Shipping PCs that don't run Windows actually costs them because they don't save any money in and have to retool their factories.

    M$ used to have a "per processor" licensing arrangement where OEMs would pay per CPU that they shipped. The DOJ told them no, no, shame-on-you and so they stopped doing that. The result was that OEMs now have to pay double and sometimes even triple for each copy of Windows that they used to pay. The fee is much higher than that $100 you pay at the computer store for a retail copy. (And its negotiated per OEM so the price is different for each OEM)

    2) Norton Ghost can back up an entire system installation in a hidden partition. Some OEMs use this when a user really screws up their system: run this magic utility and your system will be just like it when you bought it.

    Crap like this is why I custom build all my own machines. :)

  • Everybody seems to be all gung-ho linux. Linux is nice and all, but your average user will have problems with having to wait to push the power button. Linux is a server, and it is good at it, but some other OSs do things like this better.

    why BeOS?
    1. BeOS is one of those who does some things better. With it's journaled file system (read database data integrity) you can punch the power button once every 60sec for a month and not destroy your files.

    2. It boots very very quickly. Having linux and BeOS on the same machine I sometimes like to boot into BeOS simply because linux is too darn slow to boot.

    3. BeOS while not free is darn cheap.

    4. It is fast on slow hardware because of it's OO API, and extreme multithreadedness, because of it's real-time (ok quasi-real time) layer, and because of it's highly configurable microkernal architecture.

    5. It's stable (as is linux) due to pre-emptive multitasking, paged memory, yadda yadda, yadda.

    6. Pretty, consistant UserInterface

    Having said BeOS would be good I also admit that Linux would work too, you would just need a better file system.
  • i've never tried this, but how about
    linux ro init=/usr/bin/emacs

    (you'd have to be insane imo :)
  • At the University of Wisconsin, like many other institutions, we already pay Microsoft millions of dollars a year for a site license for Windows (and Office, and some other MS crap) So when we buy a machine with already pre-installed, we're paying for Windows twice.

    Additionally, most of the larger departments already have a customized install of Windows that they use - we take them out of the box, drop in our CD, and blow away whatever crap the vendor put on the drives.

    So, while this might be useful for the people who want to buy a Linux/BSD/whatever box from Dell, it's also wonderfully nice for people who do actually want a Windows box.
  • Hey you guys-

    OK, let's think about Gateway, or Packard Bell. I work for an ISP, they all ship out with Lucent or rockwell Piece-of-junk WinModems, onboard SiS chipsets and the like... and other things that have yet to be supported by Linux... how are they going to do this? Are they going to get some better hardware, or write drivers themselves? Just a thought,


  • I think the most important part is not the cost or hassle, but that the manafacturers are starting to recognise that something other than M$ exists, and that it is a viable and popular alternative. Maybe perhaps motivated by their realisation that they can make money out of this, rather than any community spirit, but still, it's a step the right way...
  • I have one of them all-in-one-no-name cheap mobo's and it has SiS chipset and and SiS vid chip. work fine with Linux and the newest X. Winmodems? Who needs them when there are cablemodems DSL :)

    If you're lucky enough to have them. I live in a major metropolitan area, and cable modems are only available in certain suburbs. (And I can't afford a move right now).

    DSL is available but its still like $200 a month. People who are going to buy low-end machines that these companies intend to offer certainly cannot afford $200 a month for DSL, let alone even know what DSL is or have ever even heard of it.

  • Linux (or any Unix variant) is not suitable for the consumer market. Probably never will be.

    What of Mac OS X then?

    the most elegant C++ API

    Personally I think C++ is a load of bull. One of these days people will wake up to the fact that C++ is a pile of cruft grafted onto something that should have been left alone because it was nearly perfect.

  • ... there was a major computer manufacturer. The manufacturer had historically produced high-powered machinery with full-blown operating systems, but in recent years had seen some erosion of its sales at the low end from less-capable but much less expensive brands. The Big Company decided to get in on the new trend and introduced its own line of low-end computers.

    Since its customers needed more than hardware, the Big Company offered their machines with a choice of operating software: users could have the industry standard or a new product made specifically for the new machines. The standard software naturally commanded a premium price: $40 extra.

    Now according to your theory, users would have overwhelmingly preferred the standard, premium operating software over the freebie included with the machine. That's not what happened, though. Anyone recognize the story?

    Hint: Monterey, California
  • Gasse promised to provide free copies to any PC manufacter willing to pre-install Be.

    But it would be to risky to presume that that policy will continue indefinitely. With Linux, you need not have any such fear.

    This announcement is simply the inevitable result of economic forces, and is a continuation of what we've seen for many months on the ultra-low end of the PC market (check []) PC makers are starting to preload Linux, in order to guarantee themselves $0 cost for OS licensing.

    The big guys will probably make the install a bit more idiot-proof (KDM/KDE, predefined user account, no services enabled, StarOffice, icons on the desktop for all important stuff), but I'm pretty sure that this is where they are headed. They see the writing on the wall. You just can't make money selling low-end boxes with a $50-80 Windows license attached.

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page []

  • If Dell decides to ship some of these machines with Windows, and some without, the ones using Linux/BSD/BeOS or whatever they use will undoubtably be cheaper. If I were a clue-free end user, that would imply to me that they were inferior OS's, since the hardware was identical.

    Have no fear - in the end Adam Smith and the law of supply and demand will always win. IOW, cheaper==++sales. If the the "more expensive is better" crowd needs to be taken care of, offer an option that includes a full boxed set of your favorite Linux distribution - that should get the price up high enough, as well as provide plenty of late-night reading material. (Or early morning "thinking material", depends on your personal preference:)
  • In a separate article, the newspaper said a move toward Web-based computing, together with expectations for a negative ruling in the federal antitrust case against Microsoft and a close reading of its revenue numbers, are leading some money-managers to cut back their holdings in the software giant

    This close reading of its revenue numbers refers to Microsoft's future unearned revenue, which consists of revenues set aside from the sales of W'98, WNT and Office to pay for future improvements. Essentially, it reflects previous sales that have not been recorded in the income statement. Microsoft pioneered this practice for software companies starting with W'95... it is more common in other areas (magazines for instance).

    The concern is that this quarter marks the first ever drop in this slightly arcane (and not too accurate) indicator.

    I would not be too optimistic that this company is in any sort of trouble. When you are sitting on $20 billion in cash, and absolutely no debt... you tend to have some staying power :)
  • for most people.

    And if that shell is a decent browser, that takes them right past "oh, God - what the hell is this?"

    They never see anything but a boot-squence and the browser. No OS at all, as far as the user is concerned.

    Now, Linux could do that very handily. Some guy at Dell sets up a Linux box just so, with exactly this harware, one user account, disables security so that account opens on boot, makes the browser the default shell, cuts a CD of all the config files, and that's it.

    Down sides:
    1) The big one - at the moment, there is no browser. Netscape will not do. It crashes too much. On a real setup, you just delete the lock file and fire Netscrape back up. I have a batch file to do that in four keystrokes and an annoyingly long wait. But when the browser is the shell, that looks like a sort of warm reboot to the naive user. Quite uncool. You need a rock-solid browser.

    2) The licensing. This box doesn't provide real easy access to the source code. But maybe throwing in a CD that the user will probably never see is good enough, as long as there is also a CD with the standard config on it to recover from what the occasional curious user does to the system.

    Sanity For Today
    Farley Flavors (of Fabulous Fast Food fame)
  • by Mr_Plow ( 30965 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:46AM (#1580775)
    Most average people aren't really going to be interested in installing a different OS. In fact, most people fear installing an OS period, even Windows. They want it already there, already set up so they can start frantically double-clicking all the icons.

    Alternatively, though, perhaps an OS in the traditional way we think of an OS is not what they're looking at. The article describes a PC that would mainly just be able to surf the web. The article mentions the fact that AOL invested $800M in Gateway, but does not mention the Netscape-AOL-Sun deal. Likewise, an article on /. early in the summer describes a plot by AOL-Sun-Netscape to render Windows obsolete. There is also talk of "AOL Everywhere", as if the AOL interface (God forbid) would become the operating system. Ellison and McNeely's vision of ditching all your locally installed software for web apps is likely what they are talking about.
    ------------------------------------------ ----------------
  • I seriously doubt they'll ship any flavor of Linux. The article said the machines "will be designed mainly to surf the Internet" which indicates to me that they'll be targeting people who don't want a computer -- they just want something to browse that "web" that they hear everyone buzzing about. For that market segment, Linux would be about the worst possible choice; contrary to what some people around here might believe, Linux is *not* ready for the average computer newbie.

    No, they'll probably ship it with some proprietary system (perhaps even based on Linux) that boots right into a web browser (probably Netscape, particularly since the article mentioned that AOL might be involved in one of the ventures) and does literally nothing else.
  • I don't know if companies like Dell and gateway "mark-up" the windows OS at all, but given the low margins on computers, I doubt it matters anyway.

    Anecdotal evidence: the fellow from whom we buy some of our boxen (for company purchasing -- our own boxen we put together ourselves) gets copies of Win98SE for $11 -- for resale to customers [i.e., with all the bullshit packaging] I'm sure of it because he gives them to us at cost for various reasons, and he wouldn't undercut himself on cost (he's nice to us but he ain't stupid). He's hardly a Dell or a GW2k.

    I'd say they mark it up just a bit.

  • Bizarre that it wound up anonymous, but I suppose that's life.


  • Like most Be users, I love BeOS.

    However, I fear it won't be ready for prime time as a mainstream system until it at least has a working version of Netscape Navigator or equivalent.

    NetPositive is actually a fantastic browser, and I often use BeOS because I love the speed and smoothness with which it works. But it won't work at all on all too many web sites. Until they can get something that's feature-equivalent to Navigator, I don't think they will be able to do a good webtop box-style system.

    But maybe I'm too pessimistic - after all, WebTV seems to be doing OK nowadays, and their support for pretty much everything is rather minimalistic. It must be a wretched experience, though, to browse on some of those "frames only" sites.


  • Vital signs for Be aren't half bad, if you know where to look. Revenues are growing, and last time I looked, the stock price was holding up to about level with the offer price. That indicates to me that investor confidence is decent. Granted, not excellent, but hardly in "dead" mode either.

    In terms of usability, we have things like e-picture, which is a very nice web graphics application, GoBe Productive, which is a fine office-style application, and of course NetPositive the web browser.

    Linux users with a reasonably open mind would probably like GoBe Productive - it's not hideously bloated like StarOffice, and the functions it supports are smooth and cleanly designed. That's an unusual way of describing a contemporary office suite, isn't it?

    If it weren't for the lack of JavaScript support in NetPositive, I'd say BeOS would do superbly as a Windows substitute. I would certainly not write it off by any means. When Mozilla is released, most of the problems associated with BeOS should disappear.

    The main problems with Linux in my mind are cosmetic. I'm typing this message on an old SGI workstation which has far less computing power than my Linux boxes, but I like it better anyway, simply because it's pretty. I can read most of the fonts without wincing. BeOS is like that; they've put all the detail work into the user interface so it looks nice and will be immediately appealing to the consumer.

    What I wonder is which is more cost-effective: Giving Linux a better look, or giving Be a better web browser. Considering how fun NetPositive is to use on web sites which support it, I wouldn't bet against the latter.


  • Oh, come now, NetPositive can handle images just fine :-).

    I agree, though, sometimes I really hate client-side scripting. Nothing wrong with the concept, I suppose, but what it's really best for is slowing down and crashing browsers - no matter what platform you're using :-(.


  • 1) I thought OEMs typically pay a large up-front cost for unlimited license to redistribute MS's software.
    This was outlawed by the consent decree that MS signed in 1994 (or thereabouts). The "large up-front fee" was dependent on the number of machines shipped, with the result that you describe.
    Shipping PCs that don't run Windows actually costs them because they don't save any money in licensing, and have to retool their factories.
    Exactly. There was a disincentive for PC OEMs to ship other OSs. The US courts felt that MS was illegally taking advantage of its market share. PC OEMs now pay license fees based on the total number of boxes shipped within each of the OEM's product lines, rather than the overall total number of boxes shipped by the OEM. When a product line is first created, a lot of decisions are made regarding the hardware and software involved in that product line. Apparently it has now become profitable to consider NOT using Windows. The consent decree seems to have worked.

    2) Norton Ghost can back up an entire system installation in a hidden partition. Some OEMs use this feature when a user really screws up their system: run this magic utility and your system will be just like it was when you bought it.
    True. But it doesn't restore your system to the state it was in before the crash - all the customizations and tweaks and extra software you installed is GONE. OEMs would also have to pay a license fee to Norton to use the Ghost software.

    My thought was to simply use some sort of auto-install software on a bootable CD that would reload the system partition. You limit the configuration changes the user can make to those that can be stored in the config partition. You don't let the user install any additional software. You sell the machine as what it is, an internet appliance, since most people don't want the infinite configurability and customization of current PCs. (Note - don't confuse "most people" with "most people who now own PCs").
  • How are we going to play minesweeper on the instore machines!?
  • by ravenskana ( 30506 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:50AM (#1580805) Homepage
    I'm worried.

    Note that the article states low cost, Internet machines. I'm thinking a strange AOl OS, so you have machines that are all-AOL, all the time.

    Is it possible for this to happen?

    Frankly, I have no idea, but Gateway will certainly include AOL. Is AOL avaliable for Linux or BE or any of the non-Windows, non-Mac OSes?

  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @08:51AM (#1580806) Homepage
    This is incredible and I wonder why I didn't see it coming sooner. It makes perfect sense for PC OEMs, in this era of shrinking profit margins, to do all they can to eliminate costs. If the consumer wants a only a simple word processor and web access with email, why do you need a huge OS? Why incur a hundred-dollar cost*? Why not use a $$$-free OS? And while you're at it, why not make it easy to restore the system to the original configuration without destroying user data?

    From the article, it appears that MS is trying to develop a similar solution, but here's where the backlash kicks in. (I am so tickled I am laughing as I write this). Microsoft is known for their predatory pricing practices and their bullying behavior. If you've been burned by them before (and EVERY PC OEM has), and if you don't have to deal with them, why bother? I suppose Microsoft could, say something like "If you ship those Browser PCs without an MS OS, we will increase your MS license fees." That would be corporate suicide, given MS's current legal situation.

    I have no idea how this will be implemented, but here's how I would do it. Create a "system" partition to contain the OS and software, a swap partition, a config partition, and a data partition. Only give the user access to the data partition. Store application configuration information on the config partition. If the OS dies for any reason, boot to the special CD that ships with the PC, and the "system" partition will be wiped and reloaded. On the software side, it would be virtually maintenance free, and user data would not be wiped out if you had to delete the system partition.

    *Those familiar with MS licensing practices surely realize that PC OEMs are not charged the retail price of ~$100 for each copy of Windows they load. However, when considering the cost of Windows, you'd be a moron to leave support costs out of the equation.

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"