Having rebuilt two machines this weekend and not having the restore CDs that shipped with the boxes, I have dropped $300 getting certified versions of XP installed via the Net and Microsoft’s Genuine Authentication thingy.
$150 for a XP license after I’ve paid for it in the past — but was too stupid to create recovery discs — is a) a lesson to myself and b) a warning to Microsoft that free beats the pants off of paid any day and that in this day and age, with Ubuntu getting better with every rev, the Giant of Redmond might want to go sit on the mountain and think real hard about a Windows 7 model that includes a free-kernel. The Win7 beta is free — and early adopters are reporting positive things. But come September, when it ships. The free ride ends.
Most vendors, like Lenovo, no longer ship physical XP discs with their systems, but instead ask their customers to create their own backup CDs during the system set up. I, of course, do not create these damn discs, and like most other aggrieved users, only rue that day when the hard drive fails (as all hard drives inevitably fail).
Combine a few things and Microsoft is in a perfect storm. 1. It’s the Economy Stupid: No one wants to pay for anything if there is a free alternative. 2. Track record. Vista is being written off. All eyes are on Win 7. Consumers are looking at OS alternatives and coming to the conclusion that an operating system should be as irrelevant to them on a PC as it is on a phone. E.G. — give me a device that doesn’t need to boot, have patches, get viruses, or otherwise require a full time nerd to babysit.
Consumer Linux is becoming more and more attractive. If Linux can get some solid driver support rolling for consumers’ peripherals, hide the heck out of the kernel (a consumer user should never be aware of stuff like GRUB and Wine) with a friendly GUI skin …. I could have rebuilt both of these two ThinkPads with Ubuntu but didn’t, and paid $150 per machine to build them back up on XP for one simple reason: the people who will be using these machine expect to see XP on them. Me? I’m more than happy to mess with Ubuntu. My wife is not.
Microsoft can buy a lot of time and hearts and mind with one simple solution — go free at one level and make it up in volume on upselling. Seriously. Whack a consumer for a credit card in this market and free starts to rule. Give me a free OS to enable a device, and when I decide I want some added benefit … then hit me with the credit card. If Microsoft can get on the free-bandwagon and get free into the corporate mindset, they buy another decade of success without any problem.