I’ve long believed that Microsoft’s monopoly of desktop computing is doomed. Sadly, it won’t go away tomorrow or the day after but sometime in the future the majority will live in a desktop computing world not dominated by the rapacious lot in Redmond. And you can bet that Microsoft won’t go away without a fight but the writing is on the wall.

It all boils down to one simple fact: Microsoft has had the power to make and break hardware manufacturers for far too long and they’re tired of it. Even Intel has now admitted this. And while it’s only a small step from there to hardware manufacturers realising that they can get out from under the Microsoft yoke and actually make a decent margin on the operating system while also offering lower prices to the channel, the reality is they’re still too locked in to Microsoft’s sliding scale rebate system.

Despite the success of the Linux-based ASUS Eee PC, other vendors are still only dabbling in Linux and have been for some time. For example, HP here in South Africa conducted a little experiment a while back: it released a single laptop model with a choice of three operating systems: Free DOS, Linspire (one of the more expensive versions of Linux) and Windows, at three different price points: R4199, R4499 and R4999.

The down side was the HP N1000 was a crappy low-end model, hardly comparable to my T-series ThinkPad. But the beauty of that offer was that I could I have bought a notebook without having to pay Microsoft for crappy software I would never use – which is exactly what I had to do.

I wrote about the HP experiment and others here back in July 2006. Sadly, my conclusion then still applies today: “PC manufacturers say they cannot fund the marketing efforts so if Linux is going to grow, the investment will have to come from the likes of Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Linspire, Xandros and possibly even IBM as an agnostic Linux supporter. Is it going to happen? Only time will tell.”

I have a dream (apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr)  that one day we won’t be forced to pay the Microsoft tax.

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