Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Monday, January 2, 2012

  • Jan 02 / 2012
  • 70

Wintel Fragments in Panic

One of the knocks the non-free software movement makes against GNU/Linux and FLOSS is that the effort is fragmented. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. M$ has umpteen versions of its OS. Intel to announce 40 new server processors in 1H12. Multiply that out and you have a fragmented OS/CPU market if there ever was one. Purchasers will be lusting after GNU/Linux on ARM just to make acquisition easier. With the fragmentation in Wintel it is impossible to calculate price/performance to make rational purchasing decisions. That’s not efficient and it certainly is not what the buyers seek. It’s all about panic, fear that GNU/Linux on ARM or AMD or something will sneak up the middle and take some share in some niche.

Does Wintel really believe the world wants to agonize for years over what choice of OS and CPU and motherboard to acquire? I can remember the effort of choosing AMD v Intel and what clockspeed and how many cores in the days of single/dual core. Then there was 32/64bitness.

No doubt some salesmen will claim this snow-job will confuse buyers into buying more expensive products but it clearly is inefficient to have to create, advertise, sell and buy so many choices just to get the job done. We saw M$ flatten its growth when umpteen licensing models collided with umpteen version of that other OS and now Intel is doing the same. Good luck to them both. I think this will cause more to step off the Wintel treadmill sooner rather than later.

It’s fear that causes a soldier to waste ammunition firing full-auto into the night. Spray and pray is rarely effective except in helping the enemy zero in accurately and to assess the level of anxiety. What is Wintel fearing and where are they vulnerable? It looks like price/performance to me is their big weakness. They want to make it impossible to calculate price/performance ratios. No one can afford to buy all this stuff to try it out. No one wants to do that. It’s far better to use GNU/Linux instead. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux. It will work for you on any hardware giving the best bang for the dollar.

  • Jan 02 / 2012
  • 107

4 Days to Eliminate Lock-in

The ultimate lock-in is having software in ROM on a particular device. MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) is a project to allow many thousands of arcade games embedded in old machines to run on modern PCs. To the extent that porting such an application is a big job, it is noteworthy that Google was able to do that in only 4 days to the Native Client of their Chrome browser.

“The port of MAME was relatively challenging; combined with figuring out how to port SDL-based games and load resources in Native Client, the overall effort took us about 4 days to complete.”

Shades of M$’s fear of Netscape providing a competitive platform… Google not only can do that through their browser but also through Android/Linux and web applications. The locks in the lock-in are being pried open one after another. How many applications, industries, businesses, individuals and PCs will escape M$’s prison in 2012? It could be hundreds of millions of PCs shifted from XP to GNU/Linux and a similar number of new PCs coming with nothing but a browser to access web applications.

In 2011, 12.5% of PCs shifted from XP to something (by death or OS change) but only 14.4% took on “7″ while 24% of the world’s PCs were newly produced. 61% of new PCs got “7″ened. 39% did not. That’s a lot of potential breakage for the monopoly. 5% of new PCs got MacOS. Some replacement PCs got XP, but not many because XP’s share is declining rapidly. The slow decline of that other OS’s installed base hides a rapid decline in share of shipments.

Assuming web share=actual share, let’s do the accounting:

  • opening installed base of PCs = 1231 million
  • new PCs + 361million
  • scrapped PCs – Y
  • MacOS – 16.7million
  • “7″ – 200million
  • GNU/Linux – Z
  • closing installed base of PCs – 1281

Using W3Schools’ numbers, (Open x 31.1% + 200)/close = 0.455 and (Open x 7.8% +16.7)/close = 0.088. We can solve these two independent equations for the opening and closing installed base of PCs. We assume that all 200million licences went to new PCs although some may have gone onto older PCs, the best possible situation for M$… Doing high school maths gives the opening installed base as 1231 millions and the closing installed base as 1281 millions. That leaves scrapped old PCs + new GNU/Linux PCs as 1281 – 1231 -361 +200 +16.7 = 95.3 million. There will also be old PCs converted to GNU/Linux. We can estimate how many PCs die of old age from the fact that even an old PC has some value and recyclers usually get a crack at them before they are scrapped. The recycler of working but old PCs here is Computers for Schools in major part. They distribute 8 year old PCs free of charge. PCs less than 8 years old will be repurposed rather than scrapped. 8 years ago was 2004 when the world produced about 200 million PCs per annum. Clearly, a lot (~100 million) of older PCs are being recycled with GNU/Linux and not destroyed. Any way you count them, a lot of PCs went to GNU/Linux in 2011 and more will go in 2012.

  • Jan 02 / 2012
  • 12

Solar Power at $1/Watt Opens Up the Rest of the World to Cheap IT

Solar power is no longer a dream. China is cranking out solar modules, huge solar panel assemblies and inverters to bring electrification to more of the world. This has important consequences for lighting, communication and IT. Now, even some of the poorest regions on the planet can afford IT. The simple fact that businesses can operate after sundown will raise the GDP of much of the world enough they can afford small cheap computers with FLOSS on ARM.

2011 saw explosive growth of smart phones but they were far too expensive for much of the world. That keeps changing. After the early-adopters have been saturated, OEMs will produce products affordable by all. Several effects come together to bridge the digital divide:

  • solar power is now affordable,
  • ARMed equipment is an order of magnitude less expensive than x86,
  • Moore’s Law works for ARM, too,
  • the move to solar power and wireless communication means emerging markets can skip expensive cabling projects in sparsely populated/poorer regions, and
  • post-colonialism brings stability to many regions.

Wintel with its mantra of “upselling” has no place in this new world order. Wintel cannot compete against FLOSS/Android/GNU/Linux on ARM. Leaner OEMs will supply the needed hardware. Local businesses rather than global monopolies will supply IT both hardware, software, and infrastructure. The consequences for government, education, business, and productivity are immense and possibly a force for good in the world. People in poorer regions of the world need to get organized to take charge of their own destinies. Cheaper IT will help them do that. The next few years will have huge rates of change in IT globally. This will likely be one of the biggest stories of 2012 as M$ attempts to get in on the action but fails miserably to compete on price/performance which is critical in such markets.