Watching Walmart September 2012

I love to shop. I don’t do it very often but I enjoy looking at stuff. It’s amazing what’s for sale when you are looking for things.

Today, Walmart.com sent me the usual spam (which I enjoy too), and I poked around on their site:

  • It’s back to school season and there are great buys on notebook PCs. Unfortunately all of them have that other OS but the prices are rock-bottom. I think this means Wintel is having to give them away.. e.g. “Compaq 15.6″ Presario CQ57 Laptop PC with Windows 7 Home Premium bundled w/ case and USB Drive with Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Option” @$264. The Wintel ecosystem must be feeling the pain. M$ seems to be giving that other OS away with low prices until next year. What if sales drop off when they raise prices? 😉
  • Tablets are getting even more interesting. Walmart seems to make it difficult to get into “best-selling” mode until you poke around a bit. Until you do, you have to pick a price-range. When you do get to see all 122 tablets in “best-selling” mode you find lots of Android/Linux 4.0 and 4.1 tablets ranging as low as $50 and the best seller is Pandigital R7T40WWHF1 Novel with WiFi 7.0″ Touchscreen Tablet PC Featuring Android Operating System, White @$49.98. Nexus 7 with Android/Linux 4.1 Jelly Bean @$249.99 has sold out online. iPad 2 is in 10th spot in spite of the hype about global iPad sales being 60% of units… ?
  • The one real GNU/Linux PC they seem to sell is a tiny box from Acer with Linpus Linux. “Acer Veriton N VN281G-UA4253L Small Form Factor Desktop PC with Intel Atom D425 Processor, 2GB Memory, 500GB Hard Drive and Linpus Linux (Monitor Not Included)” At $238 it’s a pretty good deal if you don’t need/want mobility.

    I was puzzled by this Linpus thing, though. Why ship such an odd-ball distro? It turns out that Linpus is the Canonical/Ubuntu of China. They actually have 200 employees and they are tight with many big-name OEMs in China. “Strategic Advantage
    Linpus is the only Linux vendor with research and development facilities in both Taipei and Shanghai, strategically positioned next to the main hardware manufacturers. As part of our service we promise to be on site to solve problems within two hours, 24/7, 365 days a year.
    Employees
    Linpus has more than 200 employees split between its headquarters in Nangang Software Park, Taipei, and its branch office in Shanghai. Of these more than eighty are employed in research and development.”
    That sounds like a pretty serious committment to OEMs. Distrowatch has very little on the distro but there is a $0 download so I tried it out…

    There is actually an EULA. It contains this:
    Subject to the following terms, Linpus grants to the user (“User”) a license to this collective work pursuant to the GNU General Public License version 2. By downloading, installing or using the Software, User agrees to the terms of this agreement.

    THE SOFTWARE. Linpus Linux Lite (the “Software”) is a modular Linux operating system consisting of hundreds of software components. The end user license agreement for each component is located in the component’s source code. With the exception of certain image files containing the Linpus trademark, the license terms for the components permit User to copy and redistribute the component. With the potential exception of certain firmware files (denoted in the License field of the RPM packaging), the license terms for the components permit User to copy, modify and redistribute the component, in both source code and binary code forms. This agreement
    does not limit User’s rights under, or grant User rights that supersede, the license terms of any particular component.”
    So, it looks like the usual GPL stuff with some BSD-like licensed stuff. It’s pretty weird granting a GPL and then claiming the user agrees to terms by merely downloading… I don’t think that’s right. They can claim that about their own software but not GPLed software, IMHO. They should get people to agree to their terms before the download which then passes on the software licences. Subsequent users should be able to use th GPL stuff as usual. Puzzling. Do OEMs actually read this stuff?

    Features:

    • There’s an installer for that other OS! Yes! Linpus is ambitious and wants to pave over that other OS. I have no way to test that as I have none of that other OS left. I suppose I could try it on “8” pre-release…
    • It has pretty good hardware support except it only supports “popular” video chips:Intel, ATI, Nvidia but not Sis, Via, etc. Also, I could not install to a SCSI disk in KVM. I had to use SATA. Default 4gB storage was inadequate. Need 6gB says the guide, but 6gB is too small says the installer….
    • The installer is very simple and gives choice of stats displayed in the process and full disk/partition/free space options. My elderly aunt could probably click through it if she could read the screen. The installer is also the recovery disc. Installation is a re-imaging process, so very fast, just a few minutes. First boot does the passwords and allows user to choose authentication or not, timezone, and sending Linpus an installation report or not.
    • Right away, the installer calls the product, Linpus Linux, so not as obscure as Ubuntu…
    • It actually runs although it did complain about KVM’s video card (just VGA). Online update was smooth and I can install LibreOffice in a couple of clicks. I like it. Perhaps the little woman would too.

      So, it’s not Debian GNU/Linux. It is very usable. One can add the Fedora repository and get 10K more packages… That’s almost necessary because Linpus has just ~1400. Things like Google Chrome Browser cannot be installed without Fedora’s repository because of missing dependencies. Even the current Fedora repository doesn’t work…

So, we live in interesting times. Wintel is getting squeezed and choices are opening up.

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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9 Responses to Watching Walmart September 2012

  1. Clarence Moon says:

    Really computers should be like cars. You can skip the optional extras on cars. OS is an optional extra.

    When it comes to saying silly things, Mr. O, you never disappoint! The OS is not at all an “optional extra”. I guess your ignorance of things extends to buying cars in addition to civil and criminal laws, military organizations, political strategies, business decisions, and most other things. You can’t code either, but you do excel at using Google to find things that you seem to not understand!

    But back to the analogy and your misrepresentations. The OS could be a choice, and often is, wherein a buyer can select Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate editions with the former usually being the base choice and the latter two options that may be selected at a higher price. Of course in the brick and mortar store world, units are preset with one or the other, usually the Home Premium version, and the choice is not made at the point of sale.

    Periodically some OEM start-up or major OEM such as Dell will offer a Linux based package, usually as their low price leader and a minimal configuration. This is an effort to gather up the very bottom of the market where price-buying is about the only motivation. Mr. Pogson goes for this niche, I sense. But over the history of PCs, those lines have never been a success and all have been eventually abandoned. The few OEMs who have gone into business to serve the Linux fans have generally faltered and gone by the wayside. VALinux is the classic example.

    But whether they are Linux or, much more commonly Windows 7, all the machines produced for the general market are powered with an OS. It may be a choice, as I said, but it is never an option.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon
    –Nonsense. Rather than that, do the marketing. What is being sold? A laptop? No. Rather a “Windows Laptop”. You can’t do that without Windows.–

    Really we don’t know Clarence Moon. Might not be able todo it without Windows is more correct.

    Now with Windows 8 change that home users can buy OEM licenses every where. There is now the possibility of at store imaging.

    So the question is going forwards do we need Windows default installed. The answer is most likely not.

    Lot of key market things have changed Clarence Moon.

    Really computers should be like cars. You can skip the optional extras on cars. OS is an optional extra.

  3. Clarence Moon says:

    Do the maths.

    Nonsense. Rather than that, do the marketing. What is being sold? A laptop? No. Rather a “Windows Laptop”. You can’t do that without Windows.

  4. oiaohm says:

    ch reality here is intel could be cutting margins.

    Arm for basically the same level you would be looking at a 40 dollar spend in chips.

    So 150 to 300 dollar notebooks should be possible in volume.

    ch
    –Ok, so let’s call it “bottom-end stuff”.–
    You missed the clue. Intel is not bottom-end stuff.

    Arm is bottom end stuff on price. If arm notebooks can take off things are going to get interesting.

    If you don’t care about possible illegal copy of windows and viruses . Those $264.00 dollars laptops in china are $209-229 USD for same spec.

    Walmart has down right cheep shipping since they own the ship. 264.00 with case there is room for 10 to 20 percent mark-up.

    At some point entry level laptops are going to fall under 200 USD. 200 USD is not a nice place for Microsoft. When 300 USD was broken MS started doing starter editions. Then applying screen and memory limits to access them.

  5. ch says:

    Ok, so let’s call it “bottom-end stuff”.

  6. ch wrote, “It comes with a Celeron CPU, for crying out loud! While that $500 notebook surely has an Intel Core whatever. In other words, it’s just a matter of selling off old stuff at a price.”

    Intel is still producing Celerons so, no, it’s not about selling off old stuff.

  7. ch says:

    Mr Pogson,

    have you looked at the specs of that notebook? It comes with a Celeron CPU, for crying out loud! While that $500 notebook surely has an Intel Core whatever. In other words, it’s just a matter of selling off old stuff at a price.

    “Either OEMs or M$ are getting squeezed.”

    Walmart’s business model is to squeeze almost everyone (primarily suppliers and staff) so they can sell cheap.

  8. ch wrote, “Meanwhile MS makes another $bn.”

    How much do you think it takes to make a big notebook? They cost ~$200 or more. That leaves M$ and the OEM dividing up ~$50. Do the maths. Either OEMs or M$ are getting squeezed. It could be both. I think after this quarter all OEMs will be looking for greener fields. Compare these prices for a year ago when $300 was the bottom of the barrel for desktops and $500 was common for notebooks. Even netbooks were selling for $250 recently. Selling a full-sized notebook for a similar price means someone earns less.

  9. ch says:

    Another fascinating lection in PogsonLogic:
    – A PC with Windows is expensive: “Nobody wil buy it at that price! M$ is doomed!”
    – A PC with Windows is cheap: “They must be loosing money with those! M$ is doomed!”

    Meanwhile MS makes another $bn.

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