If you're a fan of cheap PCs running open-source software, then you'll be dismayed to hear that giant retail chain Wal-Mart's experiment with the penguin side of computing has ended in the most successful failure I've ever seen.
The supermarket behemoth started stocking Everex's Green PCs in October. Although the specifications weren't anything to write home about, the PCs were supplied running Linux and OpenOffice.org for a bargain-basement $198. Despite selling the entire original run of PCs, Wal-Mart has opted out of the deal and will not be giving shelf space to the cheap desktops any longer.
A spokesman for the company told the Associated Press that the cheap open-source based computers weren't “what our customers were looking for.
” The cynic in me says that might have something to do with the shelf-space each Wal-Mart store dedicates to relatively high-margin commercial software which is available almost exclusively for Microsoft Windows. The Linux-based PCs could well be seen as cutting in to that valuable revenue source.
The news isn't all bad, with the chain pledging to continue selling the Green PC via their website alongside Everex's ultraportable Cloudbook sub-notebook.
The main selling point for the Green PC – aside from its low cost – is the all-in-one open-source design that means it's ready to do most common tasks right out of the box. This stands in stark contrast to an average PC running Microsoft Windows, which requires the purchase of the Microsoft Office suite to make it complete. While I see an advantage – I can't count the number of times I've had to tell friends and family that no, Word is not
part of Windows – it's clear that Wal-Mart sees a liability, and it would much prefer to keep to its current scheme of encouraging purchasers into additional high-margin software products to bolster their bottom line: something which isn't really possible with a Linux-based computer.
Do you see this as further proof that Linux just isn't ready for mainstream use, or an indicator that the happy-go-lucky world of open-source and the cut-and-thrust commercialism of the Borg of the supermarket world will never mesh? Share your thoughts over in the forums