Arm Wrestling

Saturday, June 20, 2009
So let's say you had an open-source operating system that was being systematically destroyed at every opportunity by a monopolistic commercial competitor. Your OS is terrific, not just for you and your users, but potentially for a lot of other people who don't know it exists. (No OS is "better" than any other for everyone, so it's important to remember that the commercial competitor is a choice like any other)

With programs like the infamous "Better on Windows" (link withheld) initiative at Asus, coupled with the genuine desire of the manufacturers of small, low-power netbooks to prove an alternative TO Windows, as they're almost entirely focused on providing cheap but good products, what are you to do with the 500-lb Gorilla on your back? If you're Dell, then you have enough clout and power to offer some - SOME - machines that run Linux, but what about Acer, MSI, and Pixel?

Well... how about getting those manufacturers to install CPUs in their machines on which Windows won't run?

The only defense Microsoft has to something like this is to make Windows run on an ARM processor, rather than an x86 processor. This isn't very likely, since Windows doesn't do a great job of supporting even the variances in computer hardware WITH x86 standardization, not to mention the fact that even if Windows itself ran on ARM processors, it wouldn't be much good to anyone using, say, Office or Photoshop. Any software that runs on an ARM Windows would need to be ported to ARM code. Not impossible, but expensive and as companies like Adobe have shown, not fruitful enough to bother.

The other defense is the typical Microsoft offense, which is to lean on these companies financially until they relent and offer Windows, ideally exclusively, which'd mean a return to more expensive x86 CPUs. These companies might not have anything at all to lose from an angry Microsoft so it'd be interesting to see how that shakes out.

With Linux (and specifically Android), you already have an OS that'll run on ARM hardware, and the vast majority of software that people use (though it may suck compared to its commercial counterparts, yes) is open-source and so therefore much more likely to be recompiled to run on a new processor.

I think this is brilliant, and I for one will buy a netbook with a sunlight-viewable screen, ARM processor and Android as soon as my Acer Aspire One goes the way of my DS.


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