Adrift in a Lifeboat

Ever seen/read one of those plots where the survivors of some disaster struggle to survive and turn on each other as push comes to shove over the last food/water/plan for survival? Wintel has come to that.

In the early days of Wintel, M$ put itself forward as the saviour of mankind dictating the rules to loyal or somewhat disloyal followers. They largely got their way. At the height of its power M$ could tell Intel to lay off on development of software or set OEMs a long list of conditions. Now, however, everyone knows the music has stopped and M$ does not get to call the tune.

The world of IT is scrambling to fill the vacuum left in the place where M$’s power once was immovable. Every OEM and retailer has options to get the last milk from the cash cow and to plan moves to diversify IT. The last flotsam that the survivors of SS Wintel cling to is the retail monopoly. Large parts of the world have had nothing but Wintel on acres of shelving for a decade. There was plenty of cash-flow so that even if margins were small it was worthwhile for OEMs to pump the supply chain full of Wintel PCs.

Now, the retail shelf space is not growing. Instead ARMed smart thingies are intruding, smart phones, tablets, all-in-ones, even TVs and music players and GPS navigators are all able to satisfy consumers’ needs to be connected and to communicate and to be entertained. Most of these new devices run Linux underneath a GNU system, or Android. People are making cash from selling other products with good margins and good growth while the Wintel flotsam is shrinking. Survivors are planning their escapes or finding ways to steal share from fellow survivors.

The breakup of the Wintel monopoly has been going on for about a decade. First, some early adopters and former partners jumped ship to GNU/Linux on servers and desktops. They were mostly self-contained and not selling into the market so the shrinkage was tiny. Then a few OEMs boldly started selling just a few desktops running GNU/Linux, mostly to businesses and techno-geeks. Now OEMs are publicly selling GNU/Linux and Android/Linux on the web and in stores and many millions of units are shipping and many $billions of revenue are being made outside of Wintel while Wintel is stuck and FLOSSed products are growing in double digits.

Now, the leader of the survivors in the lifeboat has decided two survivors must be thrown overboard, GOME and Buy Now, two huge retail chains in China whom M$ accuses of selling illegal copies of that other OS on PCs. Whoa! Is there anyone left in the lifeboat who sees long-term survival with M$? How long will it be before the survivors see it is better to throw M$ overboard than to wait to see whether or not M$ will come after them? How long will it be before retailers see life would be safer for them not selling that other OS? How long can M$ stay in business suing its partners?

M$ needs retail in the BRIC countries to be partners or M$ will never have any more growth. Most of the growth in sales of PCs is in those countries and the market is global. Lenovo operates in China and in Brazil. Dell is in China already selling GNU/Linux in stores. Are they not tempted to approach GOME and propose an escape? That’s what I would do if I were a salesman in China.

M$’s most stalwart partners are the OEMs who have offered little to OEMs but that other OS for decades. They would turn on M$ in a heartbeat if the retailers begin demanding GNU/Linux and there’s nothing like the clarity of being sued by a supplier to make that happen. The retailers are in the business of selling stuff and they don’t care whether M$ benefits from it or not. Being threatened by M$ can cause a few retail chains to ban M$ from the shelves and the monopoly disintegrates and sinks forcing the last survivors to swim for it.

“Gome declined to comment on the lawsuit. Buynow said in a statement that the company is committed to protecting intellectual property rights, and already takes steps to ensure its vendors do not violate them. In this case, Microsoft failed to understand Buynow’s procedures, and rashly filed a lawsuit, the company said.”

Rashly“. That says it all. It’s the term a father might use to straighten out a foolish son before taking him to the woodshed or grounding him for a month. Retailers have a huge lever to use to correct M$, acres of retail shelf-space. Chinese suppliers can fill those shelves with GNU/Linux within a few weeks.

From BuyNow’s website, “We do not sell counterfeit products. Our partners emphasize integrity, seek truth from facts, to create the most standard, the highest quality, most cost-effective IT sales platform.” BuyNow is part of a conglomerate including Clevo, and Chicony who make notebooks and peripherals in Taiwan. BuyNow was the most popular computer store in China in 2011.

see Microsoft sues Chinese electronics firms for software piracy

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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22 Responses to Adrift in a Lifeboat

  1. oldman says:

    “Are you going to explain the thorn to oiaohm, or should I?”

    Since he apparently knows some Old english, I thought that he should be able to explain it to me.

    “Oh, and isn’t that the original for the Jabberwocky pastiche?”

    Not sure. But what I am sure is that I could kick myself for giving away my copy if the 6 volume Krapp and Dobbie set that it came from. There was a lot of good poetry in it and working on the translations myself to get familiar with the content of the poem was way cool.

  2. Dr Loser says:

    Oh, and isn’t that the original for the Jabberwocky pastiche?

  3. Dr Loser says:


    Are you going to explain the thorn to oiaohm, or should I?

    That knowledge might possibly help him with his confusion over the current erratic state of PHP support for Unicode…

  4. oldman says:

    “But I digress…”

    I like your digression mr deal doctor. Personally I like old english my favorite being this famous gem that I set up music many years ago

    “Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;
    burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.
    Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
    hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
    scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
    ældo undereotone…”

    Perhaps Mr. oiaohm is familiar with it?

  5. Dr Loser says:

    Genesis 1:3?

    Now I know you’re going loopy, oiaohm.

    In any case, a better reference would be John 1:1.

    Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

    One of the more amusing activities you can pursue on a wet Wednesday afternoon is to argue about precisely what John meant by ὁ λόγος, and why for some reason he chose πρὸς rather than some other preposition.

    But I digress.

  6. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon really I have not got complex yet.

    Some of my best anecdotes are in old english.

    Funny enough never heard of Dos Equis. Even that Fosters is a very common drink in Australia.

    Clarence Moon in fact I don’t get around outside Australia that often. Most often its me knowing people going places and them owning me favors.

    China is area I am always doing business with.

    Loongson processor is something you don’t explain Clarence Moon its not built for embedded stuff. Its reason for existence is laptops and desktops.

    So its one of the rare desktop items we can count for machines that are truly sold with Linux on without question.

    China due to Loongson is one of the simplest places to have some idea what is going on.

    Also china is one of the places where FOSS guys are starting to ramp up FOSS designed hardware.

    Sorry FOSS guys took the statement “If you want access to hardware you should make it yourself” serous-ally.

    Yes its a historic change that FOSS has started setting up production of hardware for the desktop and education. This is exactly how the PC of old started.

    FOSS race to bottom is on. Then fight from there up from FOSS only hardware. Its not like low cost hardware worries FOSS.

    Genesis 1:3 is always a interesting statement it always takes humans a while to notice light.

  7. Clarence Moon says:

    Wow, Mr. Oiaohm! You have an anecdote for every occasion. You get around so much that you must even eschew Fosters for Dos Equis!

    On the other hand, perhaps the Chinese, Indians, Russians, and Brazilians do not actually like hotcakes and so the sales rates are rather low to begin with and the whole thing was just a misleading bluff.

  8. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon I do have another problem.

    Loongson processor we know quite a few million units of desktops and laptops using this processor have been sold in china.

    Yonah basically find where the Loongson stuff is being sold and you will find a store barely filled with x86 and loongson stuff if lucky. Its more than possible by the time you get there that the days shipments are already gone. Basically be there at shipment delivery time if you want to see a machine. Its a Linux only store in Beijing. Basically as fast as they order in stock its gone.

    I know about it because I asked a guy to pick me up a loongson item while he was over there. He came back completely shocked. He was a MS was dominate person to before he went over there as well. Linux store had trouble keeping up with demand. Lot of the request was for the Loongson stuff.

    There is a catch. Windows don’t run on Loongson at all unless its inside qemu. There has to be a Linux running on that hardware.

    His serous question was how many copies of windows in china were running on loongson machine running Linux and was there a way to find out. There is a big important difference. Loongson are very power effective. So a UPS will run them longer if you are in an area that does lose power.

    MIPS 64 bit at 1.5 Ghz. 8 core version is quite nice.

    The laptop has a insanely long battery life.

    So we do know Linux is selling on the desktop of china. Because there is Linux exclusive hardware there. Problem is how to find it. Those machines can be running windows in qemu as well.

  9. Clarence Moon says:

    So what is the source of table Sheet1, Mr. Pogson, and how does 0.4% of the count imply “selling like hotcakes”?

  10. Yonah wrote, “Please show me data indicating Chinese consumers are buying PCs with GNU/Linux in significant numbers.”

    mysql> select sum(b) as count from Sheet1 where a like ‘%cn%’ ; 3890

    mysql> select sum(b) as count from Sheet1 where a like ‘%cn%’ and a like ‘%linux%’ ; 16

    mysql> select sum(b) as count from Sheet1 where a like ‘%cn%’ and a like ‘%windows%’ ; 2250

    mysql> select sum(b) as count from Sheet1 where a like ‘%cn%’ and a like ‘%mac%’ ; 1615

    select sum(b) as count from Sheet1 where a like ‘%cn%’ and a like ‘%android%’ ; 5

    So, for 1/1000 of all hits on wikimedia from zh-cn I get 0.4% Linux including 0.3% GNU/Linux and 0.1% Android/Linux.

    Now, show me your figures showing people don’t buy GNU/Linux in China and explain to me why Chinese visit Wikipedia in English… From Brazil, I get 3.4% Android/Linux and 5.5% GNU/Linux in portuguese.

  11. Yonah says:

    “Chinese suppliers can fill those shelves with GNU/Linux within a few weeks.”

    They wouldn’t do such a stupid thing because that would lead to a significant loss in profits. A majority of Chinese consumers wishing to buy a Windows PC would simply walk out the door and take their money elsewhere. The rest would have Windows installed at a computer service shop so they can use the software that they, not you, Robert, actually want to use. Things that don’t require crossed fingers and a WINE installation to get working. Only a very tiny margin of people might actually try to use the machines as is and be happy with them.

    I think you have this foolish idea that you can simply throw PCs running Linux up for sale and EVERYONE will buy them. Not so, and certainly not so in China.

    Still….. STILL, Robert, still NOT seeing PCs with GNU/Linux being sold anywhere! So, man up right now! Tell me where to go. I have a 10 day holiday coming up. Please tell me where in Beijing I can go to find GNU/Linux PCs and Laptops selling like hotcakes. Hell, I’d be happy just to get some decent hotcakes aside from the rubber circles they sell at McDonald’s. I’m even willing to chat with the manager (not a simple feat for cultural reasons) and ask him myself just how well they sell.

    “GNU/Linux and Android/Linux are selling like hotcakes in retail shops all over China.”

    Android/Linux? OK, that seems plausible. GNU/Linux on PCs and laptops? Bu shi! (Isn’t) Please show me data indicating Chinese consumers are buying PCs with GNU/Linux in significant numbers.

  12. Andrew says:

    I’d expect condescension from many folks. Marion Webster has served me fine. As to when this “metonymy” occurred; where is its origin?

  13. Dr Loser says:


    An elementary logical error called metonymy, Andrew. Your dictionary might have a more accurate entry for that word, since you appear to have bought an edition that came out before the automobile replaced the horse and buggy.

  14. Andrew says:

    “Your dictionary is defective, Andrew”.

    It comes from the usa. Would it be accurate to guess most things from usa is defective?

  15. Clarence Moon says:

    Your dictionary is defective, Andrew. Most will tell you that one definition of piracy is:

    “the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book, recording, television program, patented invention, trademarked product, etc.: The record industry is beset with piracy. ”

    Then there is unauthorized reproduction of software programs as well. The term is hardly a Microsoft invention.

    “GNU/Linux and Android/Linux are selling like hotcakes in retail shops all over China”

    There are no indications of that at all, Mr. Pogson. If you access Chinese sources of on-line or retail products, you will find some Linux PCs being offered, but you will find far more examples of Windows PCs being offered in the same channels. Usage statistics gleaned from internet statistics show Chinese use of Linux to be about the same as in the United States, namely an insignificant percentage less than the statistical margin of error.

    Your own assertion that Microsoft’s efforts to halt sale of illegal copies of Windows or devices containing such is likely to drive suppliers to Linux is evidence that you yourself see that Linux is not very popular and has to become a last resort if it is to gain any use in China or elsewhere. Mr. Koz has stated as much himself.

  16. Clarence Moon wrote, “Obviously just about everyone in China wants Windows”.

    Facts not in evidence. GNU/Linux and Android/Linux are selling like hotcakes in retail shops all over China. Dell has hundreds of stores advertising GNU/Linux (Ubuntu). M$ has aggressively fought copyright violation in China from time to time and actually locked in the copiers to XP by putting a huge chain of copyright violators out of business. That monopoly in illegal copies will survive until modern hardware no longer works with XP and the old machines that did run it die… The only thing obvious is that Chinese like to get their money’s worth from hardware. GNU/Linux works for them.

  17. Yep, M$ reinvented “piracy” to make copyright violation seem more heinous. It’s market-speak, nothing more. Real piracy victimizes innocent travellers and carriers. Copyright violation hurts monopolists. That gets less sympathy from the public.

  18. Andrew says:

    I thought “piracy” was a violent crime. I guess my Brasilian interpretation via Webster’s dictionary is no longer the case.

  19. Clarence Moon says:

    I suspect that it is, indeed, in the best interests of the FLOSS advocates for Microsoft and other commercial software to make it difficult to pirate their wares. Obviously just about everyone in China wants Windows, pirated or legitimate, and only if their way is blocked to access a pirated version, their only recourse is to use Linux.

  20. Kozmcrae says:

    “I think that you are misreading the tea leaves in this cup, however.”

    Of course you do Clarence. You are incapable of thinking otherwise. You are not commenting on Mr. Pogson’s reading of the “tea leaves” but your own intransigence.

    It is in the best interest of those who support FLOSS for Microsoft to rashly strike out against “pirates” of their goods. It’s a policy of last resort. Microsoft could have vigorously pursued pirates long ago but they held off because it made no sense to upset the balance of goodwill and huge profits. Now, anyone who does business with Microsoft is fair game. The best way to avoid BSA unpleasantness is to avoid Microsoft products altogether.

    Microsoft appears to be betting future growth on license enforcement and litigation at the expense of new and innovative products. Different UIs layered over the same old crap isn’t innovation. Anyone who has a problem with that statement can go read a Microsoft EULA. It will make you feel better in the end.

  21. Phenom says:

    MS is no exception. Just like it happened already in Eastern Europe, other big software vendors (AutoDesk, Adobe, ESRI, etc.) followed suit to legalize their products. Attractive campaigns of discounts, followed by strict checks for pirated software made all medium-sized and large companies legalize their software.

    If such a thing happens in China only, USA will tip a lot of its trade balance with China in their favor. 🙂

  22. Clarence Moon says:

    Wow! Quite a story to tell, based on such evidence, Mr. Pogson. I think that you are misreading the tea leaves in this cup, however.

    It is very true that Microsoft and others need solid retail distribution partners in the BRIC countries and Microsoft has long tolerated a high level of piracy in these regions in order to keep what legitimate business that they had in process.

    Microsoft has added to its list of partners over the past decade and these governments have come to a new level of support for copyrights and patents with other parts of the world. The time, I think, is now ripe for Microsoft and others to assert their IP rights to protect their other partners who are the ones who suffer from loss of business due to price undercutting from pirated products.

    With government backing, evidenced by the ability to even file a copyright lawsuit in such countries, the blatant pirates will be removed and legal commerce improved.

    BRIC countries are no different from the US and other Western nations in preferring Windows more than 10 to one over any alternative. Now they will simply have to pay the legitimate license fees to continue and I think they will do that.

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