Retail Shelf-space For GNU/Linux PCs

I was reading a decent article about buying PCs with GNU/Linux installed. It all comes down to retail shelf-space and even in a country like Brazil where millions of GNU/Linux PCs are manufactured each year, it is difficult to find them on retail shelves. According to one commentator, the supply chain has to pay retailers for shelf-space. That would explain a lot…
“Living in Brazil, I have been able to purchase PCs and notebooks with pre-installed Linux. Inevitably, certainly due to manufacturing constraints, such Linux versions are somewhat outdated — e.g. purchasing a two-year old version with your brand new notebook.
Thus, it’s specially important to pay attention to what Linux is installed, because some updating will be needed. Formerly, Mandriva was a good option, now Mageia is of the same quality — but upgrading must be done more frequently (usually once a year).
And one can always replace the OS with another distribution, for those a little more fearless, and it may take a little experimenting with the most popular alternatives (Ubuntu, Mint etc. — always remember to backup important data first). Live CD linux versions make compatibility testing quite easy.
Since store shelf space is paid (and expensive) it became impossible to find anything but Windows 8 products shown; online price searching services offer a better view of Linux alternatives, though. We have a bunch of options here in Brazil, but even stores which cannot showroom Linux machines do so at their online homepages. My preference, though, is finding a physical store on which I can better perceive the looks and apparent quality of the products. That means I must be permanently attentive about offers with Linux, even if I’m not immediately interested in purchasing.”

see How to buy a laptop pre-installed with Linux.

Obviously, most countries do not produce many PCs since China does so well, so it’s not surprising that it’s harder to find GNU/Linux on PCs in many regions. If M$ sifts money down to retailers for shelf-space there’s less incentive for retailers to order PCs with competing OS. In Canada this would be an illegal anti-competitive behaviour yet the government does not attack this illegal monopoly of retail shelf-space.

In Canada, section 78 of the Competition Act defines the following offences for monopolists:

  • (e) pre-emption of scarce facilities or resources required by a competitor for the operation of a business, with the object of withholding the facilities or resources from a market;
  • (g) adoption of product specifications that are incompatible with products produced by any other person and are designed to prevent his entry into, or to eliminate him from, a market;

Retail shelves are scarce resources… M$ has long exploited its monopoly by specifying weird file-formats and networking protocols…

So, why doesn’t the Competition Bureau get off its butt and prosecute M$ and “partners”?

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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19 Responses to Retail Shelf-space For GNU/Linux PCs

  1. oiaohm wrote, “Linux Desktop has suffered why bw. Simple number of commercial developers interested very limited.”

    That’s an effect, not a cause. Lack of retail shelf-space for GNU/Linux desktop/notebook PCs is not due to commercial development because the consumer’s use of a PC is largely about entertainment and communication, all well covered by many GNU/Linux distros that have been available in the last decade. Gaming might be an issue but that’s only a small part of PC-usage, perhaps 15-20%. The vast majority of consumers are content with silly web-games after all and they mostly do e-mail and FaceBook stuff besides playing music and video. We do all of that here with GNU/Linux quite smoothly. If retailers and OEMs had not been constrained by M$ the world would be awash with “commercial developers” for GNU/Linux. BTW, Google, Samsung, RedHat and others are commercial developers and they contribute a lot to GNU/Linux desktops.

  2. oiaohm says:

    “Sure. There are thousands of PC devices that are commonly found on a cell phone or a tablet. It makes perfect sense.”
    Your stupidity knows no bounds right. Yes there are thousands of devices you connect to PC that also connect to Mobile phone. But the correct statement is millions not thousands. You have just understated the overlap by a massive ammount.

    You are aware the 3g and 4g modem module used inside phones are identical to what is hidden inside usb modems you stick in pc’s or are enbeded in some pc’s.

    Webcams and video capture devices in tablets/phones. Big pack of overlap. The overlap is in millions of devices parts in common between the PC world and Mobile world. Not thousands its millions of device level overlap.

    bw sorry samsung does run a different model to MS and Apple. Samsung is interested in selling the hardware. Feed back from users and outside developers is welcome at Samsung. Reason why historically they have been the most open with their source code.

    Yes if Samsung uses it developers the way they have for the past 30 years its great for FOSS. Samsung was one of the large parties keeping BSD stuff floating before jumping ship to Linux based stuff. bw Samsung is not a new Open Source player.

    It is past of the Linux world to take something modify it and make profit bw. Samsung interest in FOSS techs and support of their development goes deeper than just Linux support bw.

    bw in fact your are stupid as normal SUSE and Redhat only make up 50 percent max in most projects. But the average commercial is around 80 percent.

    Where is the other 30 percent majority employed. Working on super computer and other high end huge systems. Also what has SUSE and Redhat dominate focus been.

    Linux Desktop has suffered why bw. Simple number of commercial developers interested very limited.

    Android like or not has giving a pack of Commercial developers interested in Linux having a working graphic stack. Not seeing the graphic stack as just a hindrance to performance to be shut down.

    The other major change is the start of GPU being used to accelerate huge server processing.

    bw the way resources are being deployed in Linux has changes massively. In the last 4 years the number of developers working on Linux graphic stack parts has been almost doubling every year. So with this fact why is Linux going to stay what it is today.

  3. bw says:

    BW agrees that Android IS Linux

    You must be as dyslexic as that other clown claims to be. I said quite the opposite. How on earth can you misconstrue my words to mean that?

    I can take Android and build whatever I want with it

    I doubt that you could do that, even if it were correctly phrased. What is it that you even think that you can do using Android that you cannot do using Windows?

  4. bw says:

    the long-standing Linuxian method of producing generic drivers for devices with common chips/hardware makes a lot of sense

    Sure. There are thousands of PC devices that are commonly found on a cell phone or a tablet. It makes perfect sense.

    It is absurd to think of Linux as a great common work of man. It is not the UN at all, it is just a collective work of bigger software houses who use it as a basis for their software system business, Red Hat and SUSE (nee Novell).

    There is a small cult surrounding it as a sort of computer hobbyist/experimenter environment led by the FSF and a few start-up businesses that tried and mostly failed to popularize it in the PC world, with Canonical picking up the banner once carried by Linspire.

    Google has made a much better showing with Android, but that is a far cry from the hands on kind of product that Linux morphed into. It is not the sort of all-skate you envision it to be ala’ “GNU/Linux” certainly. If Samsung has 20K programmers working on it just to run a phone the same way phones have run for years, it must be a nightmare to use in practice. Even then Samsung is not looking for outsider suggestions as to how to change it for the better. Samsung takes what Google provides and uses it to Samsung’s advantage, not yours.

    That is no different than Apple or even Microsoft in terms of how they run their businesses.

  5. bw wrote, in reply to this question, “What is Android? (hint: Linux)”

    “Only if you are real lamer who is desperate for something to cling to in order to justify a cult-like belief in Linux and a fanatical hate for Microsoft. I guess that qualifies you as a true believer then, but not the mainstream.”

    Huh? bw’s argument seems to be that if he doesn’t understand the question, he should attack the messenger. That’s very weak.

    Technically, Google could have kept making its own kernel for this that and the other devices but there are just too many so the long-standing Linuxian method of producing generic drivers for devices with common chips/hardware makes a lot of sense. It allows Android/Linux to run on x86 or ARM and every maker’s chips and every device makers special hardware. That’s useful in Google’s campaign to provide an OS that reaches the next few billion people. Google is not out to rule OS-space but to increase the volume of its business by putting more people on line. Samsung, the world hottest maker of smartphones has undertaken to hire 20K programmers and you can bet some of them are tweaking that kernel and customizing other */Linux varieties. It’s all good, unless you are sucking up to M$.

  6. oiaohm says:

    bw core developers of Microsoft Windows, OS i….. Are not the most friendly people.

    Really bw have you ever really read the reasons why Linux desktop is crap. Being stuck with stone age solutions like X11 is a major factor. Android does not use X11. Chrome OS does bw.

    Google is divided internally. Chrome OS at some point will move to a wayland like solution and so will Android.

    If you like it or not there with be unified nature at kernel level between Android, Chrome OS and the other existing distributions.

    bw google does not name there own tune at kernel level. Google added a stack of kernel features when Android started. Android has altered how it gets those features over time so in future it can use a standard non modified kernel.

    bw Ham Radio operates were that place the foundation for the modern radio communications.

    The simple issue here is bw does not want to admit that Google is not in 100 percent control of the kernel Android uses. Admitting this means bw has to give that there are long term effects.

    Why is google not in 100 percent control of the Android kernel. Maintaining out of mainline patches to the Linux kernel is costly.

    bw the simple reality for cost effectiveness Android, Chrome OS and everything else Linux will share the same kernel sources and drivers. Google cannot afford to keep on forever maintaining a forked off kernel.

    bw we have equal say to what goes into next release Ubuntu as next release Android. Basically bugger all. A company having full control over what is in a Linux Distribution is not in fact strange.

    Sorry your so call magical difference is not a difference bw. Its your normal moron incompetence again. Did you not think to look at existing distributions. Only some Linux distributions do we have feed back power on to control what is in it.

    Basically by your logic bw Ubuntu, Thinstation…. Are not LInux. Yet they are public-ally regarded as GNU/Linux. Your logic is so far flawed you are a laughing stock bw.

  7. dougman says:

    BW, off his meds, either that or he lost a round of golf.

    So BW agrees that Android IS Linux and regarding MY say, at least I can take Android and build whatever I want with it, try that with Mickeysoft.

    Nuf’ said. 🙂

  8. bw says:

    What is Android? (hint: Linux)

    Only if you are real lamer who is desperate for something to cling to in order to justify a cult-like belief in Linux and a fanatical hate for Microsoft. I guess that qualifies you as a true believer then, but not the mainstream.

    Anyone who knows what Linux is knows that it is what Linus Torvalds says it is and those who use it are the people who would have been ham radio operators if they had been born a couple of decades sooner.

    Android, on the other hand, is what Google says it is and that is a far cry from the nerdy crapola that Torvalds espouses. Certainly a twit like you has no say in what Android is now or may become next release. Google names its own tune and pays its own group of pipers.

  9. bw wrote, ” Linux PCs will never become retail shelf items. Never. Microsoft PCs may die out eventually, but they will not be replaced by Linux PCs.”


    Google Translation:“The 77,000 desktops with Seal Program, sold from December 2005 to April, contained the complete package and integrated Linux solutions. For the director of Positivo Informática, the federal program has been instrumental in driving sales of Linux. He says that by October 2005, 3% of production was from Linux machines, and in December of last year, thanks to the Computer for All, this figure jumped to 20%. Currently, 18% of the production of computer Positive for retail is equipment with free software.”

    That was in 2006. Positivo has not slowed down. They are selling millions of PCs in South America and many have GNU/Linux. They have 30% of the retail PC market share in Brazil. While they have the absurd “recommends that other OS”, they do advertise GNU/Linux models. Two models of four desktops come with GNU/Linux and one is only available with GNU/Linux. You bet they are on retail shelves.

    Positivo is the largest but SpaceBr also sells a ton of GNU/Linux PCs. Look at the models at Walmart… The best-sellers are GNU/Linux.

  10. dougman says:

    Re: Absurd ideas….Linux PCs will never become retail shelf items. Never. Microsoft PCs may die out eventually, but they will not be replaced by Linux PCs.

    How many times do I need to beat this into your head? LOL….BW, a blind, narrow-minded sow, that cannot comprehend what’s already before him.

    NOPE!! NO LINUX!!…I refuse to look!

    What is ChromeOS? (hint: Linux)

    What is Android? (hint: Linux)

    So as BW publicly acknowledges, he refuses to observe that Linux is already ON the desktop space, he is just too narrow-minded to see it.

    Also, the Android OS has been already ported to the x86 system, so its only a matter of time till someone heads for the door, then the rest will follow. A manufacturer is going to bite the bullet and commit to Desktop Android, and give it corporate weight.

  11. oiaohm says:

    bw portable cd player left mp3 player came in.

    mp3 player is built from cheaper tech. The threat is not that Linux takes over the x86 desktop pc market. Its when the high power effectiveness arm64 desktops start appearing that Windows fails. There is a hardware change in the future.

    bw Linux PC’s don’t have to contain a x86 chip. Linux works effectively on many cpu types already. Of course for Linux to properly go head to head with Windows X11 has to be dead.

    The death of X11 also brings the 3d accelerated program to thin client provide stable. So yes bw Linux might not replace the existing windows pc in business because we might return to the central server model.
    Yes we are seeing changes. This is an existing product with a insane yearly charge. Yes Linux vs Unix all over again. render nodes.

    So the tech from Nvidia removes requirement for Windows to be installed on PC’s in major businesses. The alterations to Linux also will see the same thing. Windows reduced to virtual machine image with possibility of remote provide.

    Yes desktop pc in business no longer require Windows installed to use All Windows applications.

    Then there is zram and other items coming to Linux. Not only is Linux ahead by supporting KSM that windows cannot by patents it will now support in 3.12 as a stable feature compressing swap into ram. So expanding the amount of data that can be stored in ram. Yes another patent encumbered thing Microsoft cannot take on board. To get access to it Microsoft has to join the patent pool and agree not to attack Linux.

    Ok can end user get access to these two techs if Microsoft does not include them. Yes they can but its run Windows in virtual machine inside Linux.

    The future might not see Linux on the desktop but unless MS accepts the reality Linux will be under the desktop because it going to be the only way that MS Windows can be made effective.

    Patents are a document sided sword. Most of MS patents are annoyances not how to get more performance out of the same hardware. Most of the good open source patents are in fact how to get more performance.

    Simple reality bw the computer world is about to be ripped into pieces.

    The return of the Mainframe solutions is here. The cheapest desktop CPU type is no longer Intel.

    Only reason pit from hell has not opened up yet is Linux was not ready for this change.

    Device nodes replaces a old tech. virtualgl on Linux. Virtualgl was unstable due to having to share control.

    So for the future of Windows Terminal Services MS has to start providing 3D applications by Terminal services. Welcome to hell. To implement 3D applications by Terminal services Microsoft required video card makers todo what they what.

    Vista and DX 10 says that video card makers playing ball with Microsoft is highly unlikely. Linux to make video card makers to play ball and start implementing tech to allow accelerated remote desktop has taken 10+ years. Why don’t video card makers want todo it less profit as businesses will require less highly powerful cards.

    Nvidia is seeing the writing on the wall and is attempting todo a Unix with there tech. High price with a on going yearly charge.

    The size shockwaves we are going to see in the PC world as everything starts happening can change everything.

    bw Microsoft cannot afford to keep their patent war with open source. Microsoft is going to be harmed by ATI and Nvidia and Arm.

  12. bw says:

    Whether it is to replace the area with GNU/Linux units, Android/Linux units or chocolate is on their radar.

    Absurd ideas. If PC decline in popularity and cease to be profitable for the retailer, he will drop PCs just as he dropped portable CD players years ago when the Walkman cease to be a profitable item. He is not going to just look for a different brand. Linux PCs will never become retail shelf items. Never. Microsoft PCs may die out eventually, but they will not be replaced by Linux PCs.

  13. dougman says:

    Robert, brought up a great point. The OEM’s are free to sell smartphones and and tablets with Android, but not on a desktop.

    Why is that??? Hmmmm……..

    Digging up some old notes, “Microsoft’s monopoly on desktop operating systems is essential for implementing technologies like “Digital Rights Management” (copy prevention) and centralized authentication. So far, all competitors against Windows, have failed, in spite of technical superiority. Is the reason really simply bad marketing? Some of you may have read the article “He Who Controls the Bootloader” by Scot Hacker.

    In this article, Hacker alleges that the reason for Microsoft’s monopoly are coercive contracts with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). OEMs get much lower prices on Windows, but are required to play by Microsoft’s rules. One of these rules: Don’t install any OS besides Windows on your machines.

    Microsoft Corporation forces contracted Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), who receive significantly lower prices on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, not to install any operating system besides Microsoft Windows. This is the main reason that Microsoft’s operating system is installed on more than 90% of client computers, whereas competitors’ operating systems have either failed or are only installed in certain market niches.

    It is technically possible for a manufacturer to install any number of operating systems on a computer. The user then has to choose which operating system to use during the boot process (after switching on the machine). However, Microsoft OEMs are only allowed to install Windows. No machines with both Windows and, for example, the free (!) operating system Linux, can legally be sold by OEMs.

    The respective contracts are treated as trade secrets, which explains the silence about the situation. It is not possible for a large PC manufacturer not to enter an OEM contract with Microsoft because of the extremely small profit margins in the market, and the substantial difference between OEM pricing and normal pricing (OEM pricing is kept secret, too).”

    This is from 13 years ago, and fit the modus of M$ as to all the dirty tricks they play, but karma always comes back to haunt those that do harm.

  14. bw wrote, “the PCs come with Windows and the retailer is not going to do anything to change that”.

    That is an assumption. With the decline in unit sales, retailers are looking at making better use of shelf-space. Whether it is to replace the area with GNU/Linux units, Android/Linux units or chocolate is on their radar. Canonical has shown that just a little promotion goes a long way.

  15. oiaohm says:

    bw chromeos is a based on GNU/Linux Distrobutions. Highly customised. Foundation distrobutions Ubuntu or gentoo.

    Ubuntu early versions of Chrome OS. Current version of Chrome_OS are gentoo.

    Yes GNU Libc and GNU parts are inside Chrome OS. Same with a stock standard X11 server is inside Chrome OS.

    Reality Chrome OS alterations are skin deep. Very much the Linux equal to Windows Starter.

    This is the problem GNU/LInux crippled is now on shelf. Due to chrome os in fact being a standard Linux under it all is why you can covert them so well.

    ChromeOS and thinstation are about the same level GNU/LInux OS’s.

    Yes major retail stores do get advertising deals direct from Microsoft when new OS’s are released historically some of those deals did require Microsoft only OS in the store.

    So yes bw Microsoft does need some over-site due to historic miss dealing with retail. This was covered in the DOJ case.

    2009 Microsoft was caught sending out invalid training material about Linux.

    Microsoft has also been doing the same things about Apple.

    Yes there is such things as advertise your product. Defaming your competition with invalid fact is illegal.

    Yes there are many reason why Microsoft requires over-site. If we had gone 10+ years and Microsoft had not committed anything wrong they would not require over-site any more. Their company struct would have evolved past this stupidity.

  16. bw says:

    The fact that they stock Android/Linux but not GNU/Linux shows that “freedom” is not involved in that decision

    Nothing at all like that. It shows that people are known to buy Android based phones and that they can be profitably stocked and offered. No such proof of merchantability exists, at least in their minds, for conventional Linux, what you term “GNU/Linux” which most people have never heard of, even the ones using Linux. Especially Android.

    Chrome is the same way, is it not? Isn’t ChromeOS like Android? I really do not know for sure and am too lazy to look it up.

    Probably they are paid in some way to promote M$

    OEMs are offered co-marketing deals, I know, with Microsoft, but I doubt that retailers are compensated in any way by Microsoft. There is no need to do that since the PCs come with Windows and the retailer is not going to do anything to change that. There may be some incentives offered, say, by HP to favor their models over some other lines from Acer or others, but nothing likely from Microsoft itself. No need, as I say.

  17. oiaohm says:

    There is work to bring Android on top of KMS. So some point in future All graphical Linux will be using the same interface.
    Linux graphic stack is evolving.

    There is still questions for Competition bodies around the world. Australia now if something is over $100 000 acquirement price open source solutions have be reviewed if suitable.

    Lot of the competition things that MS need to be watched for happen well before retail. Like altering standards in incompatible ways.

  18. bw wrote, “Retailers are free to stock whatever merchandise they think their customers are likely to buy. If they want Linux computers, there are enough sources for them.”

    That’s what the Competition Bureau said, as if they used M$’s talking-points. The fact that they stock Android/Linux but not GNU/Linux shows that “freedom” is not involved in that decision. M$ is bullying them somehow. I am not privy to the mechanism but clearly simple retail choice is not the deciding factor. Wal-mart sells tons of stuff from China without hesitation but not GNU/Linux PCs except for Chromebooks. Probably they are paid in some way to promote M$. That amounts to tied selling or exclusive dealing but the Competition Bureau only accepts complaints from participants in the conspiracy, so it doesn’t happen.

  19. bw says:

    So, why doesn’t the Competition Bureau get off its butt and prosecute M$ and “partners”?

    Most likely because your theory doesn’t fit with reality. They have to live in the real world and cannot act on such fantasies.

    Retailers are free to stock whatever merchandise they think their customers are likely to buy. If they want Linux computers, there are enough sources for them. You have linked to such sources more than once here. Merchants are every bit as competent as yourself in finding sources for their goods.

    If they do not stock them, it is because their judgment is that they will not sell as well as whatever they choose instead.

    No law against that.

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