No Vista tax today, no Microsoft tomorrow?

My posts about the Asus EeePC in recent weeks have sparked off a number of conversations with educators and parents who are fascinated by the potential of such Ultra Low Cost PCs (ULPCs). Gaelscoil Newcastlewest ordered 15 units last week[1], it took the arrival of Patrick Collison at Limerick OpenCoffee on Wednesday to steal the limelight from Johns Jennings’ EeePC (John lectures at Tipperary Institute) and I was speaking with a school board member from Sligo yesterday.

Two rivals vie for the attention of onlookers [photo: Liam Noonan]

It’s clear from these conversations that Asus have hit a real sweetspot in form factor and price. But not just in the retail price, as importantly in the ongoing cost of ownership. As I noted after my two week trial the EeePC had finally freed me from the shackles of Microsoft. I was able to complete a fortnight of work without recourse to a single item of software from Redmond.

Which is why I found Robin Harris article on ZDNet yesterday to be hugely significant –

"My 1978 Apple II cost over $3,000 in today’s dollars – with no disk or display – and a primitive command line OS. Today a vastly more powerful machine like the Eee[PC] is less than $400 – with a display and an incredibly capacious 4 GB flash drive… Microsoft has lived in a monopoly pricing bubble, selling Windows to OEMs for $50 a copy, while hardware – driven by Moore’s Law – has plummeted in price. That couldn’t last forever. It’s crunch time for Redmond….  The reasons vendors and customers balk at Microsoft’s $50 Vista tax today won’t change. Consumers will pay $50 on a $600 machine. But $50 on a $200 machine? No way.

People are realizing that for much of what they do – web surfing, email, online video – can be handled by much smaller and cheaper systems. As Linux continue to refine the GUI and simplify its distros, the Windows advantage continues to fade. First time users who learn Linux will have no reason to ever pay for Windows."

[1] Despite ordering 15 units there is such a demand for the Asus EeePC at the moment that the school can only get 6 to begin with. Apparently waiting lists are up to six months!


3 Responses to “No Vista tax today, no Microsoft tomorrow?”

  1. Liam Noonan Says:

    Hi James,
    The rabid Mac Air users will never agree with this analysis but you are right about the form factor and the net approach to apps.

  2. Robin Blandford Says:

    Any interest?

  3. James Corbett Says:

    Ya, I saw a great video review of the Mini on JKOnTheRun last week and while the overall design and hardware look better than the EeePC the problem is they’re missing the sweetspot IMHO – once the price starts slipping above €300 it becomes more of a ‘why not get a real laptop instead’ choice. Also, the fact they include a HDD instead of an SSD is a minus as far as I’m concerned. Being able to literally toss the Asus about the place without worrying is a major plus. I’m much prefer use SD cards and online storage that have a HDD on a Netbook. YMMV.

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