Microsoft hi-jacks eeePC; SA education

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To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Last night Asus launched the new 9- and 10-inch models of its eeePC in Johannesburg. That’s the good news; The bad news is the distributor, Rectron, is only bringing four of the ten models into SA – all of them with Windows.

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

I was gutted. It means that if I want one I will once again have to pay Microsoft for the privilege of using Linux. That sucks. It’s not the money – I was told that the difference in price is only about R80; it’s the principle. Why should I have to pay Redmond for NOT using its crappy software? Of course, I could always contact a friend in Dubai, have him buy me a Linux model and send it over but Asus tells me the warranty would not be honoured locally.

Nice. So the eeePC, which was launched with Linux because Windows was too fat and expensive is now only available is SA with Windows on it. In effect, Microsoft has hi-jacked the eeePC.

And then there’s the deal: Asus, Rectron and Microsoft have signed a R330 million agreement with SADTU, puportedly to avail teachers of Windows-based eeePCs – as IT Web is reporting here. Nice, so now our teachers will only know Windows; They won’t be able to choose the more affordable, more secure and more robust Linux. Sounds like another hi-jack to me.

But the numbers on the deal don’t add up. SADTU represents 240 000 teachers, which works out to R1 375 per unit. The cheapest eeePC model (7-inch screen) currently retails for around R3 000 so would imply either a massive discount, which wasn’t mentioned, or that fewer than half of SADTU’s members are expected to take advantage of the deal to buy a eeePC – the number mentioned was 80%.

SADTU is also understood to be lobbying government to pick up the tab for teachers’ eeePCs. Indeed, acting president (SADTU recently fired its president for political naivity), Thokile Nthola, did make one good point when he questioned the expectation that teachers, 90% of whom are not IT literate, could produce gradutes who are IT literate.

Chinese water torture continues for Microsoft

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Janco Associates‘ latest report on the state of the browser market makes interesting reading. The company’s press release is rather blunt: Microsoft Flops and Loses Another 7% of its Browser Market Share in 12 Months...

What Janco doesn’t show in the press release is the detail (that’s only available in the full report). One table, in particular, is illuminating. In April this year, Janco had Internet Explorer at 65.40%. Now, five months later the company says that market share has dropped to 58.50%. If that decline is sustained it’s entirely possible that Microsoft will drop below 50% in January or February next year.

Also in this report is Janco’s assessment of the Windows Vista failure. The press release headline continues: … Vista Still only used by less than 15% of all users. The full report features another interesting table, one that charts Vista market share against other versions of Windows as well as Microsoft’s total share of the desktop OS market since launch. It shows that not only is Microsoft having trouble converting existing customers but it is also losing some of those customers to the competition: in the time it has taken to get that 15% market share, Microsoft’s overall desktop OS share has dropped by more than 4% – from 96.32% to 92.20%.

And, the data don’t take into account the unwanted licences said to be boosting Vista numbers. This analysis also can’t calculte the possible lack of confidence that will be caused by Vista’s security having been shown to even more useless. If I could afford to be a Microsoft shareholder I’d be thinking about selling round about now.

From the horse’s mouth

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Since the launch of Vista it has come under fire from all quarters. Now, it appears, criticism is coming from the horse’s mouth. Check out Ivo’s post on the subject here.

Don’t let me be misunderstood


The song title above sprang into my head this morning when a friend related events at a Microsoft launch in South Africa yesterday. Rodders kindly allowed me to blog his words on a private mailing list:

Don’t know how many of you attended the big Microsoft launch of their 2008 Server, SQL server and Visual Studio yesterday, but I found it really funny to note that every time a new speaker came up to the podium, they were intro’d by the opening bars of The Parlotones’ recent big hit, “Giant Mistake”!!

It gets even better when one considers that the chorus includes the lines:

“What the hell were we thinking, were we thinking at all? – what the hell did we believe we’d achieve?”

Never thought Microsoft was the type to ensure it had the most apt theme music ever for its new products!!!!

I don’t know about you but I’m speechless, and for me that’s pretty remarkable.

Linux on the desktop is inevitable

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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.

French police take last step to freedom

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El Reg is reporting that the gendarmerie is now ditching Windows XP in favour of Ubuntu, having already switched browsers to Firefox, and dumping MS Office for OpenOffice. Apparently, 70 000 desktop PCs are involved in the migration. Smart.

That’s a similar process to that followed locally by the CSIR – as I reported last year in CIO Africa, which sadly is a print only publication – and also almost exactly what I did almost four years ago: switched email to Thunderbird, browser to Firefox, office suite to OpenOffice and, finally, operating system to Linux. The result: stability the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the advent of Windows. And it seems others have stumbled upon this migration path – if the recent uptake in Firefox use is any guide.

As I can attest, it works, like a charm. Still, the fear factor remains – something that Microsoft exacerbates with all the FUD it spreads around Linux and open source. Luckily, the CSIR’s Open Source Centre is availing its expertise and migration services to South African SMMEs wishing to get off the proprietary software treadmill.

Update: I managed to find an electronic copy of my CSIR story, and posted it here (1.2MB jpeg).

Intel throws toys; leaves OLPC

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It recently emerged that Intel had decided to join the OLPC. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last very long but then I doubt anybody really expected it to. Charlie Demerjian has posted interesting comment on the whole saga. Definitely worth a read. Some selected excerpts:

“I have used both the Classmate and the OLPC, and from just about every way I view it, the OLPC is a clear winner.”


“OLPC is designed from the ground up to suit its purpose. Classmate is a castrated Windows box that barely gets out of its own way in the best of times.”

Making computing affordable

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Much has been written about the need for affordable PCs – particularly among school children in the developing world. Which is why MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte launched his One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project with the goal of producing a $100 computer. Sadly, that price proved unachievable and the machine currently costs just under $200 – which is still remarkably affordable. But just how capable can such a machine be? Could Intel chairman Craig Barrett have had a point when he called the OLPC a $100 gadget? Or were those merely comments designed to promote Intel’s more expensive – and Windows-based – competitor, the Classmate PC?

Ars Technica has an excellent comparative review of the two machines. Even more interesting is the review by nine year-old Rufus Cellan-Jones after his father took one home to the UK from Nigeria. I wouldn’t mind getting my grubby paws on one of these gadgets to see for myself.

Dumping Vista for XP

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There’s a wonderfully satirical look at upgrading to Windows XP from Vista on the Coding Sanity blog. And while Microsoft would likely not be amused, it is significant that part of the Dot Net developer community appears to e rebelling against Vista. This is how it starts out:

I have finally decided to take the plunge. Last night I upgraded my Vista desktop machine to Windows XP, and this afternoon I will be doing the same to my laptop.

It’s worth a read.

Vista is terrible, C-Net UK

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Online tech publication C-Net UK has unveiled its top ten terrible tech products of all time. Many of the products were so bad that they didn’t survive long enough to make it out to South Africa – thankfully. For example, top of the pops in the top ten list is the 1985 Sinclair C5 battery-powered tricycle.

Unfortunately, two most certainly did make it here: Sony’s infamous root kit, which C-Net describes as “the worst product anyone has ever released in the history of the music industry”. Rounding out the top ten is another recent product, Microsoft Windows Vista. Here’s the summary:

“[Vista’s] incompatibility with hardware, its obsessive requirement of human interaction to clear security dialogue box warnings and its abusive use of hated DRM, not to mention its general pointlessness as an upgrade, are just some examples of why this expensive operating system earns the final place in our terrible tech list.”

Read the full entry here.

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