Roy Schestowitz espoused:
> Linux computing appliance impresses Forbes reviewer
> ,----[ Quote ]
>| A recent Forbes review gushed over Zonbu's Linux-based Zonbox network PC.
>| Joining the chorus of other positive reviews, in "Hassle-Free PC" Daniel
>| Lyons writes that he was "blown away" by the performance, stability and ease
>| of use of the eco-friendly, power-thrifty mini-PC.
> `----
> Coming from him, this shouldn't be overlooked.

It would seem that the last bastions of "it hasn't been invented until
Microsoft have done it" are crumbling before the unstoppable wave which
is floss.

If you think through Microsoft's position very carefully, the "vista
moment" was sure to come, sooner or later. The only way Microsoft
could compete with a free operating system was to claim some special
advantage over the free stuff. With far more limited resources, far
fewer developers, and a desperate need to show the stock markets margin
and sales growth, Microsoft were working in a far more constrained world
than their foss competitors.

In order to show something on the desktop which lived up to the Microsoft
claim that their software was special in some way that the free stuff
could not be, the *only* thing they could do was to be even more Microsoft
than they've ever been before. Why? It's the only thing they know *how*
to do.

So they did what they've always done. Write another release of their NT5
series, but one which takes advantage of all the CPU speed and memory
advances which have taken place since 2002/3, about when XP (NT5.1)
was released. Since most of those advances had occured on the GPU space,
then it made sense to try to take advantage of that, whilst grabbing as
much CPU time as possible in order to integrate everything which can
be integrated into the OS. They did try to integrate their database
into the OS as a filesystem, but were knocked-out by the lack of proper
modularisation, and were not able to make it work, so they dropped it.
This also meant that they had to drop the other features which would
have been built on it, like searching semantics around metadata and so on.

Microsoft Vista was deliberately written to take every advantage of
top-end GPUs, as well as late generation X86. They weren't interested
in the 64-bit computing side, since there is no *operating system"
advantage to be had there, as they had dropped their database filesystem
and metadata filesearching and so on, so they could do everything they
needed to in 32 bit, so that's where they stick. But they still had
the 3D window manager, so they tied in a new DirectX spec to force a
re-purchase of games (with the hope of getting the support of the games
manufacturers), and played around with the Office interface a bit to
make it look "new".

Unfortunately for Microsoft, though, they had taken so long to develop
this new release that the market really had moved on, and furthermore,
had gained several new market drivers:

1. Low power consumption essential (ARM)
2. Ultra-mobile devices (N810, Eee, OLPC)
3., Firefox & Thunderbird
4. Latest generation games consoles (PS3, Wii)
5. Appliances (mythtv, bubba)
6. Toys (Chumby, Penguin, GP2X)

Considering how much the marketplace has developed and changed since
Windows XP was released, it's hardly surprising that Microsoft found
themselves with a product which nobody really wanted. It doesn't push
any of the buttons which businesses are looking for, it uses more power
than ever, costs more than ever, and is clearly "eye candy" offering no
functional advantage over XP, or, for that matter, Linux.

Things got even worse, though, with Compiz. This time, the open-source
world was able to show that even with heavyweight graphics in a GUI, it
could still outperform the proprietary development model, producing and
developing something at a breathtaking speed, and yet enabling it to
work on very low-powered 3D systems such as Intel's own, and even with a
complete foss stack, including device driver.

The nails are now being struck into the coffin, Dell now offer Linux
PCs, achieving an astonishing > 30% conversion of leads into sales, and
are expecting growth. The Asus Eee is selling out everywhere, the PS3
is starting to develop into both the gaming and the high-power computing
worlds, although it would still benefit Sony to release details of the
GPU access to the linux community - this would assure massive sales.
Further, the foss philosophy is being accepted in previously very
locked-down environments - ATI have released specs for their 3D
chipsets, so expect the performance of ATI-based machines to rise
rapidly in the linux world.

Yet perhaps most dangerously of all, the latest of the Debian spin-offs
also made its name during the XP to Vista interregnum period, that being
Ubuntu. Debian has always been the "flag carrier" distribution for the
most idealogically driven portion of the free software world, and has
been probably the most popular start-point for creating a new
distribution, since its 'bo' release. But now, Ubuntu is probably far
more widely known than the Debian project, although there remains a very
close dependency between them.

Our reviewers of things technical have been watching all of this play
out for the last 4 years. Most of them knew very well that XP was
little more than a minor update to NT5/2k, so in reality, it is now more
than 7 years since anything really interesting came from Redmond, and it
looks less and less likely that anything else ever will, so, our
reviewers have to start the long, painful process of gently re-aligning
themselves with the market disruptors.

This is probably quite scary for these analysts, since they haven't
actually needed to analyse anything for at least 15 years - after all,
nobody ever got the sack for giving a Microsoft product a good review,
right? Well, maybe it's not so clear-cut any more. When N810s and Eees
are flying off the shelves, and Vista-installed laptops are gathering
dust, it's time to consider where the next advertising revenue is going
to come from.

I think the outlook for 2008 is very good with respect to honest
reviews, though, certainly better than it has been for many a year...

| Mark Kent -- mark at ellandroad dot demon dot co dot uk |
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