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A tale of two tablets

June 16, 2012 6 comments

On Monday, Microsoft is supposed to make an earth-shattering announcement in Los Angeles in a press conference so secret that not even the press knows where to go yet. Apparently, they’ll find out where they need to go on Monday morning for this ultra-mega-super-secret “announcement.”

My bet is that they’re buying Nokia. After all, they’ve already planted one of their executives as Nokia CEO, who essentially and for all intents and purposes scorched the Nokia earth below his feet and trashed the company, making it ripe for the picking.

Of course, there’s an outside chance, too, that the conventional wisdom may be correct and they’re going to be releasing their own tablet with Windows 8, which is what the New York Times thinks.

Or Microsoft is merging with Canonical to become Canonisoft. OK, so maybe that’s a stretch.

But I digress. Regardless of what happens in Los Angeles on Monday — tablet or Nokia, or both — let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it has to do with one or both of these two topics.

Buying Nokia? Yawn.

Tablet? Oh, good luck with that. Sarcasm alert: Redmond is a hallmark of product quality and customer service. But seriously, if the tablet is as bad as the software Microsoft has put out for the last, oh, generation or so, coupled with their customer service which is the gold standard of awful, arguably releasing a new tablet with Windows 8 could be one of the biggest disasters since the Hindenberg.

Meanwhile, since we’re on the topic of tablets, let’s come up the coast a bit from the shrouded mystery of Los Angeles to sunny Berkeley, California, where ZaReason is busy putting together the final touches on their own tablet. If the activity in the IRC channel is any indication, they’re pretty close to having something ready for prime time fairly soon.

I had a chance to use the Android version of the tablet — rumor has it that the ZaReason tablet is being engineered with Ubuntu OS in mind — since I was entrusted with some of the ZaReason hardware that was shown at the joint ZaReason-CrunchBang table at Linux Fest Northwest.

Truth in advertising: I’m not a tablet guy by anyone’s definition of the phrase. But that said, many folks are drawn to the smaller form factor, and if that works for you, you should give the ZaReason tablet serious consideration once it’s released. It’s a solid machine, and the Android version we got to display at LFNW was met with a lot of enthusiasm by those attendees who are tablet and Android aficionadoes.

Also, when the ZaReason tablet is released, chances are it won’t be in some sort of secret press conference. And it won’t have Windows 8.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

A very quick look at Windows 8

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

OK, so with most of the rest of the curious digirati, I tried Windows 8 beta developer yadda yadda whatever version that was available yesterday from our, ahem, friends in Redmond.

I never thought I’d see a desktop that would make me appreciate Unity.

Windows 8 is the desktop equivalent of the old guy wearing a striped shirt with his plaid Bermuda shorts and white socks with his sandals.

To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Microsoft’s 800-pound gorilla

August 26, 2011 11 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

You might think from the title that this is a blog item about Steve Ballmer. Well, this blog item is about an 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of Microsoft’s living room, but it’s not that gorilla.

Microsoft fanboys and fangirls have been in a pants-wetting frenzy over the recent Microsoft 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Microsoft removed Linux as a threat in the document. The implication here to the uninitiated is that Microsoft is no longer worried about Linux or, even more misguided, that Microsoft has “won” its battle with the “cancer” they call Linux.

But as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story.

A corporation files a 10-K every year and, in it, outlines some of the pitfalls that the corporation may encounter during the course of the year. Not only is it law, but it’s also clearly a cover-your-buttocks mechanism by which corporations can say to stockholders, “See? We told you there were risks, now that our stock tanked” (if that’s indeed what happens).

In 2008, this was in Microsoft’s 10-K report filed with the SEC:

“Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software that we developed and distributed . . . . In recent years, certain ‘open source’ software business models have evolved into a growing challenge to our license-based software model. Open source commonly refers to software whose source code is subject to a license allowing it to be modified, combined with other software and redistributed, subject to restrictions set forth in the license . . . . A prominent example of open source software is the Linux operating system. Although we believe our products provide customers with significant advantages in security, productivity and total cost of ownership, [blogger's note: OK, try not to laugh too hard here] the popularization of the open source software model continues to pose a significant challenge to our business model including continuing efforts by proponents of open source software to convince governments worldwide to mandate the use of open source software in their purchase and deployment of software products.”

[As an aside, I wrote a blog item about this in 2008 and I have received multiple hits on that item every day ever since. Every day.]

For 2011, it seems the 10-K adds other factors that would hinder Microsoft. It removes the language that considers Linux a threat and replaces Linux and FOSS with Apple and Google, according to Brian Proffitt’s article on the same issue, “Microsoft disregards Linux as threat. Big mistake.” Brian’s article has a red-lined version of this text, if you want to take a look.

Is it me, or is this a textbook frying-pan-into-the-fire situation? I mean, having to fight Linux and FOSS for market share is one thing — and Windows, um, advocates like to parade around the fact that Linux only has 1 percent of the desktop market, if that.

But now, with Microsoft having to face off with Apple (which is in far better financial straits than Microsoft) and Google (which is in the same excellent financial straits as Apple and far better financial straits than Microsoft), I have to ask: Are the happy-dancing Windows fanboys/fangirls who are so happy about Linux being “vanquished” really that stupid? Would you rather face two stronger adversaries than one smaller one?

With their most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, Microsoft has done the regulatory equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and shouting, “La, la, la — I can’t hear you.”

As Brian points out in his article, Linux is not really out of the picture when it comes to affecting Microsoft’s bottom line. Google’s ChromeOS is Linux and . . . um, there something I’m forgetting about how Linux is trouncing Microsoft in an area where Microsoft can’t get a foothold. Wait, it’ll come to me.

Oh yeah: Android. Based on Linux, Android is cleaning everyone’s clock in the mobile realm, including Apple, and is light years ahead of Microsoft in a category where Microsoft has yet to leave the proverbial runway. Need I say more?

So Microsoft can put a red line through Linux and FOSS and tell the SEC that Linux no longer matters, while Windows partisans pop their corks and chalk up another one for their side. Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, the reality is much different.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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