Acer loves Linux

Acer, the world's third-largest PC maker, says Linux -- not XP -- is the way to go for ultra low-cost PCs (ULCPCs), reports a story

Windows Linux
from IDG News Service. Statements made today by Acer executives were clearly subtle digs at Microsoft. This is not surprising given that Microsoft wants to call the shots on what PC makers can/cannot do in this market by refusing to sell its special low-cost version of XP unless devices meet Microsoft's list of hardware limitations. While it is understandable that Microsoft doesn't want Windows ULCPCs to cannibalize the market for Vista, it is the kind of strategy that creates hostilities between Microsoft and its OEM customers. Simply put, the operating system vendor shouldn't be calling the shots for the hardware maker. That is, if a hardware maker can create a higher-powered Windows PC and grab market share by selling it for an ULCPC price, that should be a decision that's left to the hardware maker.

The result is that Acer has more reason than ever to look at and invest in Linux as the operating system of choice for their ULCPCs. For instance, Acer developed One Page, a homepage for its laptop that launches before the OS loads. It allows users to get to their favorite content immediately. The page offers quick access to music, messaging software, games, the Internet, and more, and is clearly a push-back to Microsoft's method of letting Windows take its long, sweet time to boot up. This is but the beginning for Acer, the IDG News Service story reports:

"We really need to continue our journey on Linux," said Jim Wong, senior corporate vice president at Acer, in an interview. "We can develop it more and we will try to develop alliances with more partners. Linux is a lonely word. We need to try to create a community," he added. The call to develop a Linux community around low-cost laptops appears to be a swipe at Microsoft.

That swipe indicates the frustration PC makers have had with Microsoft. Microsoft's creation of resource-hungry Vista, along with Microsoft's insistence that it is time to retire XP is more than problematic for PC makers. This is a time when already low margins on PCs are being decimated even further by the ULCPC makers (Asus, Intel -- even, to some extent, One Laptop Per Child). Being handed a resource-hungry operating system doesn't help PC makers compete on this low end. Unless, of course, they ditch Windows.

Microsoft still holds the advantage for the time being. More of the software consumers and enterprises want is available for Windows, not Linux. However, with virtual machines and applications like Wine (which allows Windows apps to run on Linux), that's not much of an advantage these days. As Acer's example shows, ultimately, Microsoft's missteps in this area could be good for consumers and the enterprise alike. It will push PC makers to throw more resources at Linux, improving performance for the platform as well as software options, while keeping that sweet, low, open source price.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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