Microsoft worried over Linux ULPCs

May 12, 2008 // 2:02 p.m.

Tags: #asus #cloudbook #eee #eee-pc #everex #hp #linux #open-source #ulpc #vista #windows #xp

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.

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