Devices like the Eee PC can be supplied with cheap XP Home, but not if they're bigger than 10.2".
Microsoft has launched a programme aimed at stemming the growing Linux tide on ultra low-cost PCs, but has some rather onerous terms if manufacturers want to play.
According to an article written by an IDG writer and published over at PC World
, the software giant is so worried by the rapid growth in commercial Linux distribution caused by the boom in low-cost laptop devices like the Asus Eee PC
that it is willing to offer cut-price copies of Windows XP Home Edition to manufacturers that may otherwise have bundled the open-source OS on their gadgets.
In order to prevent sales of the we'll-be-killing-it-any-day-now-honest last-generation XP operating system cutting in to the Windows Vista cash-cow, Microsoft will only allow ULPC vendors to bundle XP if they agree to a certain limitations on the hardware side of things: the screen has to be 10.2” or smaller, the device is limited to 1GB of RAM and a single-core processor of 1GHz or less, the hard drive – whether mechanical or solid-state – has to store under 80GB, and there's no sneaking a touch-screen on the device either.
It's clear from the restrictions that Microsoft is concerned about sales of low-cost hardware running Window XP slowing uptake of its new Vista operating system, and that the restrictions are in place to prevent a switched-on company from offering full-scale laptops supplied with XP – the OS that wouldn't die – to home users who aren't ready for the move to Vista quite yet.
An un-named Microsoft official quoted in the original article claims that manufacturers currently offering Linux on their low-cost devices “have made some good inroads with open-source, and Microsoft wants to put a stop to it.
At the risk of turning this article into a “woo, desktop Linux is on its way!” piece, it's hard to interpret Microsoft's move as anything other than a panicked attempt to prevent the open-source operating system from stealing any more ground in a market the company barely knew existed. While Linux may have a way to go before it's quite
ready for mainstream use as the primary desktop OS for most, it's clearly at the point where it's more than adequate for a second computer – and that little fact clearly has Microsoft worried.
If given the option, what would you buy: a Windows XP ULPC, knowing that the hardware has been deliberately limited in order to appease the guys in Redmond; or a Linux-based unit, which is only limited by the budgetary constraints of its makers but that might take someone used to Windows a little while to get used to? Share your thoughts over in the forums