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7: the Eighth Capital Sin?


windowsMicrosoft launched Windows 7. They must be relieved, they got it out a few days ahead of Ubuntu 9.10. Apple comfortably released OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard at the end of the summer. The line up of mainstream desktop operating system for the autumn 2009 is complete (Ubuntu being a representative for the desktop Linux/BSD).

And how is vintage year 2009? Stagnating, mostly. Sure, it’s nice to see Ubuntu making it easier for users to encrypt their valuable data; but all contenders are still stuck with the windowing metaphor, a 1975 legacy of PARC. Boring.

And when the capital P (as in Product) no longer differentiate the competition, marketing kicks in: Product, price, place, promotion, … and public opinion.

Nobody can beat Ubuntu’s price. Not only it is free (as in: zero price tag), it is Free with a capital F (as in: no vendor lock-in).

Apple and Microsoft played opposed pricing strategies, with Apple offering Snow Leopard at a corrupting low price (probably the cheapest Mac OS ever), and Microsoft going the opposite way, making 7 probably the most expensive Windows desktop OS in human memory and attracting a lot of critique from market analysts.

Place? the Internet is ubiquitous.

So we’re left with promotion. And indeed the marketing budgets seem to have swollen. Users drive Ubuntu for themselves, so marketing is just the measure that the users really need.

Apple’s formidable propaganda machine has a history of making its followers believe all sorts of things. Such as “the PowerPC is more powerful than Intel’s CPUs”. And a few weeks later that “Intel powered Macs are twice as fast as the previously PowerPC powered generation”. There are rumors their next campaign will convert cats to vegetarians. If only they used this skill to promote peace on Earth!

Microsoft’s marketing was traditionally more clumsy. It’s performance is a refreshing surprise. Besides the revamped websites, they copied a few tricks from Apple’s storybook (e.g. retail shops). And like Apple, Microsoft is now aggressively pursuing university students. Get them hooked early. During a limited time U.S. students can buy Windows 7 for only 30 USD. In the U.K. it’s 35 GBP. In France it’s 35 EUR. The offer runs in a dozen countries, Canada included (40 CAD).

I had decided that XP was my last Windows. I’d extend its life until Ubuntu was good enough to replace it for every application. With a few exceptions (video editing!) it works well for me and since four months I’m spending most of my computing time in Ubuntu.

But my wife is a student eligible for the discount. Have I committed the eighth capital sin? The download is still running (used wine to run Digital River’s download manager).

Warning. If you use this offer you are downloading from Digital River. Beware. They try to add an extra charge with an extra “service” that bear resemblance with the bad value for money of the extended warranties in electronic shops. Avoid wasting money on that “backup service”. Buy a few empty DVDs for a few cents and make as many backup copies as you want.

And what has public opinion (or politics) to do with all this? Most western countries are running scary budget deficits because of the stimuli introduced to counter the global recession. Money is tight. How about saving some (and creating local jobs) by replacing current systems, most of them based on Microsoft products, with Free systems?

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