Back in 2007, Lenovo was trying to come up with a policy for GNU/Linux. They set up a vote for preferred distro. That vote is still running and after 69K votes, Ubuntu (25K), Debian (6K) and Suse (2K) are all quite popular. “Anyone that refuses to carry binary-only drivers, so that all others will also benefit, as it will require documented hardware” has 3.4K votes.
In the ensuing years, all distros have changed a lot so the numbers may say nothing about current popularity but they do show that Debian and Ubuntu have a lot going for them.
The blog post does highlight the dilemma faced by OEMs. How does an OEM choose a distro? Clearly, it is to the advantage of the OEM to choose a distro which already has scale and mirrors/repositories that can handle updates but the quality of releases is vital as they don’t want to hold the hands of users with a problem. I think Debian GNU/Linux should be a good choice for ordinary users and RedHat or Suse might be better for businesses.
I don’t think that making the choice is that difficult for OEMs. The real difficulty is economic. If they steal sales from M$’s channel and put it in some distro, will the OEM be better off? The margins for FLOSS should be higher but it is complicated by “partnerships” which involve exclusivity, kickbacks (promotions) and adware. They are making money M$’s way. The question is can they find a way to make money using GNU/Linux? The OEMs pushing Android/Linux are making a ton of money, so much they can afford to pay M$’s extortion. Is M$’s extortion racket the key barrier to GNU/Linux production by OEMs? The OEMs producing PCs running that other OS are locked in. The OEMs producing Android/Linux smart thingies are not locked in, yet.
Let’s hope Barnes and Noble’s spirited counter-attack on M$’s extortion racket prevails. Then more OEMs will be free to work for their customers and not for M$.
B&N contends that M$ is not just in the extortion racket to make money but also for anti-competitive reasons, to push OEMs to ship M$’s products only:
- “In addition to the oppressive restrictions and prohibitions in Microsoft’s proposed licensing agreement, Microsoft is also demanding exorbitant licensing fees for the use of Android. Indeed, shortly after Microsoft sent Barnes & Noble a proposed licensing agreement on or about January 6, 2011, Microsoft confirmed to Barnes & Noble that it was demanding licensing fees [redacted] for each NookTM and [redacted] for each Nook ColorTM. It is Barnes & Noble’s understanding that these licensing fees that Microsoft demands for the use of the Android are the same, or higher, than the licensing fees that Microsoft charges for its own Windows Phone 7 — despite the fact that Microsoft only claims ownership of only trivial and non-essential design elements in Android-based devices, as opposed to an entire operating system.”
The extortion racket is intended to distort the market and not to profit from M$’s own work. That is why we need OEMs like Lenovo to stand up and assert their independence from M$ by choosing a GNU/Linux OS, any distro, and pushing it. In the long run everyone will be better off, except M$.