Mob boss (Microsoft) scared entire computer industry into whacking popular Linux netbooks

The PC industry is no “free market.” A ruthless gangster named “Microsoft” shakes down PC manufacturers like the mob stealing protection money from small businesspeople.

A most blatant example: the sudden disappearance of very popular netbooks. A slew of innovative, inexpensive, cute, portable, cheap netbooks running Linux (usually Ubuntu Linux) were designed and sold by Taiwanese manufacturers like MSI and Asus. They were great. They sold well. People loved them.

So I was recently shocked to discover — while researching potential birthday presents for my wife — that you basically can’t buy a netbook with Linux any more. Their manufacturers have ALL switched to Microgarbage! I wondered, “What’s going on?”

A reporter got the answer in Taiwan, home of most netbooks and laptops: Microsoft leaned on all the Taiwanese manufacturers who had been selling Linux-based machines and threatened them into killing their wonderful machines which were enticing people away from Microsoft’s strangling “embrace” in droves.

30-year business journalist Dana Blankenhorn was so shocked that Linux had disappeared from the Taiwanese computer industry trade show Computex that he asked about it during a Q&A session. He quotes Li Chang, vice president of the Taipei Computer Association, explaining the sudden disappearance of Linux netbooks as follows:

β€œIn our association we operate as a consortium, like the open source consortium. They want to promote open source and Linux. But if you begin from the PC you are afraid of Microsoft. They try to go to the smart phone or PDA to start again.”

“If you begin from the PC you are afraid of Microsoft.” That’s pretty clear.

The next generation netbooks looked even more exciting before “disappearing” faster than a witness about to testify against the mob:

One of the rumors floating around Computex involves a pretty little Asus ‘Smartbook’ based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and its mid-show disappearance…

The smartbook itself is a cute little number, one of the nicer ones at the show…

A cheap, light, and functional machine is what everyone wants, and it is exactly what MS can’t deliver… They don’t have anything people want, so they have to force things onto an unwilling market.

That brings us back to the Asus and what was billed as the best netbook/smartbook of the show. You have a company that kicked off the netbook craze two years ago with the Eee, an OS that is not only MS free, but Linux based as well, and a chipmaker that actually delivers product. The buzz was growing at Computex, and that would create a PR disaster for MS.

So it went away. No really, it went POOF in the middle of the show. No explanation, no excuses, just that it was there one day, and gone the next. PR disaster averted for Redmond, phew.

So what do you do if you are a fading convicted monopolist with a toolbox full of hammers but no product? The story as we heard it is that the ‘nice’ folk at MS called the nice folk at Asus, sans quotes around the second nice, and ‘nicely’ suggested that they really didn’t want to show one of the best devices of Computex at Computex. Asus meekly complied, and the device went poof.

…Given the number of people who told us the same story and what their positions are, we have no doubt that it did happen.

After I complained to a friend about Microsoft’s anti-competitive tactics, he replied:

Well just uninstall windows and reinstall linux.

I replied:

I did exactly that with my laptop. But that’s no solution:

1) I still must pay “the Microsoft tax.”

2) I still end up subsidizing Microsoft

3) I must take the time and effort to install a new OS. How many people would take the time to install Windows over a Linux distribution? Your average computer user wouldn’t even know how to! And it would be ridiculously expensive because you must pay retail for Windows.

4) By wiping the OS that comes with the machine and putting on another, I probably void my warranty

5) By wiping the OS that comes with the machine and putting on another, I probably guarantee that I’ll never get any customer service (for which I effectively paid when I bought the machine)

6) Millions of people who should be getting exposed to Ubuntu/Linux and drawn into the joys of free software remain trapped in the proprietary, non-free world of Microsoft. This is a HUGE factor in Microsoft’s mind. It’s why they let everyone in China steal Windows. It’s why they were scared by the nearly completed One Laptop Per Child project into basically giving away the software. Microsoft doesn’t want hundreds of millions of people using Linux. It’s their biggest nightmare. So they’re blocking consumer choice by threatening computer manufacturers into not offering consumers a Linux option.

7) #6 means greater artificial demand for Microsoft programs and fewer programs get written for Linux. I still can’t do my taxes on Linux, for example. If more manufacturers offered Linux computers, I’d soon be able to get TurboTax on Linux.

8) #6 also means device driver manufacturers can more easily continue ignoring Linux or deliberately hiding their APIs from the Linux community while sharing them with Microsoft (as some do because Microsoft bribes them to do so)

P.S. The Dell laptop (not a netbook) I bought with Windows and wiped out actually is one of the few machines sold with Linux. BUT… I like to buy my electronics through Costco, and Costco sold only Windows machines. I considered buying direct from Dell, but they only sold the machine I bought with crappy configuration options. It had something like a 100GB hard drive, when I wanted to buy the one with 250GB at Costco. I tried to get my operating system cost back from Dell because I never once booted into Windows, but I never got a penny back.

—James

I just realized another problem: If I install the operating system, I’m responsible for figuring out how to configure all the devices (sound, video, camera, USB, etc.). Normally, the laptop manufacturer is responsible for configuring everything.

Posted by James on Sunday, June 21, 2009