Five years on
Posted Oct 2, 2010 23:40 UTC (Sat) by pboddie
In reply to: Five years on
Parent article: Red Hat Responds to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Request for Guidance on Bilski
You can buy Linux computers from major vendors like Dell and HP.
If you can find them without playing "beware of the leopard". Likewise with machines without any operating system whatsoever.
Someone who wants Linux can get machines without Windows.
Yes, that's true: I'm using exactly such a machine. However, ignoring most of the machines built from components, virtually all of the machines sold on the Web site where I bought mine are bundled with Windows, including the "build your own" machines where you don't even get to do that without a copy of Windows magically appearing together with that mainboard, CPU, RAM, and so on. Now observe the same phenomenon throughout the breadth of the retail channel directed at "the consumer".
The reason they're less aggressively promoted is that there's less demand on the desktop for Linux than for Windows, but antitrust law is meant to ensure that demand and supply can drive a market as opposed to abuse distorting it.
Which brings us to the interesting case of the Web browser, does it not? After all, can't people who want Firefox or Opera install it themselves?
In the PC market, there's no need to force anyone because you can buy Windows separately, and you can buy every hardware component separately.
It's not just about being able to buy Windows separately; it's about being able to buy the hardware separately as well. (Besides, the only people needing to buy Windows separately are those who want to upgrade the version thrust upon them when they bought their existing hardware.)
You say that the two situations (mainframe and PCs shipped with Windows) are the same. They are not the same because a case of illegal tying is characterized by customers being forced to take something they don't want in order to buy something they need from a dominant vendor. No single PC vendor is dominant
Yes, but the operating system vendor is dominant. And doesn't competition regulation have anything to say about a bunch of companies getting together and stifling competition? If it were all about a single company doing something, all the cases involving collusion between, say, oil companies would fall apart when someone points out that it's not one single gigantic oil vendor involved.
Anyway, my point was that there's a genuinely open market for personal computers and operating systems that gets undermined by the vast majority of computers somehow needing to have a particular vendor's product installed on them. (Talk about supply and demand all you like, and I don't entirely disagree that such things are an influence, but why it appears almost impossible to drop a supposedly separate product from a purchase remains a mystery.) You assert that there's a genuinely open market for solutions that can run a particular proprietary mainframe operating system.
Since I'm a believer in interoperability, I support the idea that you should be able to run whatever you want on anything you can - that you shouldn't have to take the hardware if you just want the software - but not only do I not think that it has to be a completely extreme situation before the regulators need to get involved, I also think that such an extreme situation risks being perceived as something other than a market needing regulation. And then, if that judgement doesn't go your way, by your own criteria you've just put the regulators out of work.
So I hope the regulators feel that they have a role to play, even though history suggests that in the EU, at least, they would rather mess around with things like media players and Web browsers than get to grips with the underlying causes.
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