Windows OEMs Start Threatening Microsoft

| 9 Comments

There's an article in the Financial Times (paywall) that quotes JT Wang, the CEO of Acer, admonishing Microsoft to "think twice" and warning that PC brands "may take a negative reaction" if Microsoft continues to push into the hardware space with its Surface convertible laptop-tablet. In another interview, the President of PCs at Acer asks, if Microsoft gets into the hardware business, "what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"

"Take a negative reaction"? "Find other alternatives"? What are you guys talking about?

Acer, here's my question to you all. What are you gonna do? You've got no card to play here? Are you gonna start shipping Android or Linux on your laptops? I doubt it. If you had positive results from your research on those alternatives, you'd have long ago quit paying the Microsoft Windows tax and moved to them. I've seen your margins and they're tiny. If you really thought you could shave $110-$190 from the price of your Windows laptops and desktops by moving to Linux and that consumers would still buy them at anywhere near current rates, you would surely have done it. Now Microsoft has challenged you to up your game and deliver something new and fresh and you're making veiled threats? I don't get it.


Photo by Jeremy Brooks and used under a Creative Commons license.

Now, I'm not a huge Windows fan, but c'mon. What are the alternatives for a Windows OEM? Apple isn't about to start licensing its OSes. Android isn't particularly ready for a mouse and keyboard world. Linux doesn't test or sell well (ask Dell about that one.)

For better or for worse, PC OEMs are wedded to Microsoft and they'll sink or swim right along with Microsoft. There is no way out for them in the desktop and laptop space.

There's a part of me that wonders if there wasn't a way out for these OEMs about 5 years ago -- if they'd have done what Samsung and other phone/tablet OEMs have done with Android, taken Linux in-house and added missing functionality, polished up the stuff that was there, and built app stores, even just with one cheap-o laptop line, would things be different today? Probably not, but they'd at least have a more credible threat than they do now.

What do you think? Do the OEMs have any leverage here? If so, is it Linux? Android? Firefox OS? Chrome OS? Something else?

9 Comments

Apologies for the bluntness, but this is some pure bull byproduct.

Please allow me to elaborate:

"If you had positive results from your research on those alternatives, you'd have long ago quit paying the Microsoft Windows tax and moved to them."

Do you have any of this research you'd like to cite? Or evidence that it exists, even? If you're just pulling a theory from somewhere, I'll propose an alternative: it is possible that no company wanted to be the first to abandon Microsoft, because they all drank the Windows Kool-Aid and feared losing sales to their competitors if the other companies sold Windows and they didn't.

"Linux doesn't test or sell well (ask Dell about that one.)"

Again, where does this come from? Did Dell release a statement saying that they stopped selling desktops pre-configured with Linux because they weren't selling well? When? Was that statement factual, or spin? The going theory at the time was that Microsoft offered an incentive to return to the fold, and that Michael Dell had started selling Ubuntu-configured systems mainly to show Microsoft he wouldn't be bullied on Vista installs vs XP. Also, the version of Ubuntu that Dell shipped was old when they started offering it, and the savings where not passed to the consumer, making it little more advantageous than just buying a Dell with Windows and installing Linux on it, whether dual-boot or complete replacement. In other words, no incentive. Plus the game of hide-the-link Dell played made it almost impossible to navigate to the page that would let you buy the Ubuntu computers in the first place. Also, they've started selling Linux laptops again. So, what are you basing this on?

"For better or for worse, PC OEMs are wedded to Microsoft and they'll sink or swim right along with Microsoft. There is no way out for them in the desktop and laptop space."

Maybe, if they lack the knowledge or vision to see how easy it is to leave Windows behind.

"taken Linux in-house and added missing functionality"

What the FUD are you talking about? Linux desktops are every bit as functional as Windows desktops, if not more so. The only areas I've seen credible analyses showing gaps are either A.> interoperability with Windows, which Microsoft actively opposes and acts to frustrate, or B.> not in areas that have anything to do with Microsoft, and/or are purely subjective. It seems a bit silly, if not ridiculous, to claim Linux is missing something compared to Windows, and then not make any effort to say what that functionality supposedly is, or how a Windows user might come to have it.

Would like to add, to the "Dell tried Linux and couldn't make it work" argument:

Acer themselves tried Linux and couldn't make it work. I know because I bought it. The original Aspire One netbook had Windows and Linux options, with a discount if you chose Linux.

You could argue that the entire netbook segment didn't have a bright future to begin with.

Or that Acer wasn't very good with their (lackluster) Linux distribution. But that's the very point of this post. If they couldn't make Linux work then, they won't now. Hence their current position shackled to Microsoft.

Asa, android == linux. Android offers a refined user interface that surpasses Gnome and KDE and managed to .

The problem isn't linux, Android proved linux is a foundation that can lead to success and large market gains. The problem ATM is that there isn't a desktop layer that is attractive enough to do what the mobile/tablet android layer did, that is taking over a well established iOS smartphone market.

Canonical's Unity is an attempt at creating a more convincing desktop experience.

Just because a convincing-for-the-masses desktop layer based on linux hasn't surfaced yet doesn't mean it'll never happen. That said, we're probably moving away from desktop. Oh well :)

> if they'd [...] taken Linux in-house and added missing functionality, polished up the stuff that was there, and built app stores, even just with one cheap-o laptop line, would things be different today?

That is what Apple did 11 years ago, although with FreeBSD and NeXTSTEP instead of Linux, isn't it? And sold it as the high-end, superior alternative. It seem to have worked out okay for them. Acer could have looked at that and spend those years doing their own in-house thing (even if there was 17 years from NeXT founding in 1985 to first Mac OS X release in 2002 -- some shortcuts could probably be taken with hindsight). But I doubt it.

Are you sure windows is over $100 to the OEMs?

Asa,

You're missing the entire point of Windows 8. It is Microsoft's attempt at trying to leverage themselves via Windows to get tablet market share.

Think of it this way, what if the OEMs didn't bother making Windows 8 based tablets and just made Android ones instead? Windows 8 will not be successful on tablets when the only manufacturer sells something more expensive than an ipad. (surface)

You may think they don't have leverage but they most assuredly do. Think it through.

I think Samsung is actually very sorry for its Android strategy right now. If they understood that it would turn so big so quickly, they would develop OS them selves (or buy Palm e.g), they had capacity to do that. Now they are in just a little bit better position than Microsoft OEMs - if Google enters the hardware game (and you can say that about Nexus 7), they have option to continue to develop their own Android branch, that's the only difference when compared to Microsoft. But Google will be ahead of the curve at start, as it will be at least one development cycle ahead.

It seems like OEMs failed to learn from Apple.

If it was that easy to develop a successful OS, everyone would do it. Many PC OEMs have been involved in Splashtop, in Intel's continuing efforts to make a desktop Linux real people will use, in Tizen. Samsung HAS its own phone OS, Bada; it was doing quite well but lost share year on year in Q2 (and is far from easy to develop for). What proves that the average PC buyer doesn't want Linux on their system? The failure of every Linux-bundled PC to sell in significant numbers for the last - well, forever. Netbooks are the *canonical* case study; they started with custom Linuces and all went to Windows because of user demand and high return rates.

The more I think on this subject, the more I am persuaded that Samsung is building its custom Android branch.

It would be genius. Samsung already sells more smartphones than Apple does. Without Samsung Android system is nearly hopeless. And still Samsung depends so much on Google that it can just enter the hardware game with Motorola and change its fortune. So Samsung should do something first, if it is smart enough, while it has upper hand.

It would be almost funny if Amazon, Samsung and Mozilla took over market with custom derivatives from Android, leaving Google with just pieces. But on the other hand Google's strategy to spend billions on Android and get nothing from it except some hopes that it will have more advertising is... reckless in best case.

"That said, we're probably moving away from desktop. Oh well :)"

Maybe for home users, but not enterprise. The key output of most offices is driven by people using applications running on Windows (and in some cases MacOSX or desktop Linux). The likelihood of these people moving away from a standard desktop environment is near-zero.

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