OEM/Microsoft Tax Survey Established

Stepping up the community's efforts to get OEMs to offer real options when it comes to the software we get with our computers.

Inspired by the ideas and work of Hans Kwint, I have decided to try and breathe new life into the OEM/Microsoft Tax Survey I started several months ago. In addition to collaborating with Hans, I am looking for assistance from our community.

Some of us know that Microsoft does not actually have a monopoly. Instead, the OEMs have established a distribution channel that initially defines and then attempts to control what software the majority of consumers run on their computers.

For us to correct this problem, we need to stop wondering about Microsoft's backroom deals and such and start focusing on the OEMs themselves. We need to show the FTC and other parties of interest that the average consumer is not presented with a choice when purchasing a personal computer. We need to stop settling for the occasional bone thrown at us when an HP or Dell preinstalls GNU/Linux on a fraction of its products and then buries the option 50 links deep on the product's site. This is not the "choice" I am speaking of and that I envision in order to establish a level playing field.

OEMs should stop bundling software entirely and move to a service model in which the software is installed because the consumer has asked for it specifically. This is not happening today. Instead, consumers are expected to pay for (sometimes multiple) copies of Microsoft's products, regardless of whether they have any intention of using the products.

Currently, the OEM/Microsoft Survey has roughly 400 products listed from popular companies, such as HP, Dell, Toshiba. This information is about three months old at the moment, but I see no reason why it can't serve as a foundation for an ongoing effort to study this issue. Rather than trying to keep all of the information up to date myself, I would like to see some of you come forward and take ownership of a particular company. You then would be responsible for keeping that page up to date and would have full control over that section of the survey.

So please take a look at the survey, and if you are interested, send me an e-mail and we'll discuss your involvement.



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Replies like this explain why nothing has been done

AKosmin's picture

Everyone wants to add their comments but no one lifts a finger to actually DO anything.

Thank you for telling me that desktop/server machines can be built piece by piece. That has NOTHING to do with the very real and common problem of preloads in the consumer market. It also is completely pointless when discussing laptops.

We don't need more bloggers and posters on the issue. We've been doing that for years and have gotten nowhere. We need people who are able to do some real work.


Adam Kosmin


craig's picture

I have found that outpost.com sells some decent little desktops for about $200.00. Sometimes they are on sell for less than $150.00, you just have to catch them at the right time. They are loaded w/Linspire. Also, you will most likely want to upgrade the video card since the one on the MB only has 8MB. They do "limit one per household", but if you wait 30 days they will let you order another one. So if you are buying one here and there it is a good deal. I have two and I am looking to add a third one to my collection soon.

You don't need to go to so-called "Tier 1" firms

Anonymous's picture


I have a lot of computers in my house (well over 20). I have built each one of them myself from standard off-the-shelf parts. The older ones serve as LTSP terminals, and the newer ones as some kind of server (app server, LTSP server, file/print server, LDAP server, etc.). When any of them have ever had problems, which has been rare, they're pitifully easy to fix. Why? It's standard off-the-shelf hardware! :-)

There are firms who will gladly assemble such computers for you. *You* get to specify every last piece of hardware, *you* get to specify the OS (or image, if you're a big org) that goes on them, *you* get to control pretty much everything about the computer. Just go to your local computer shop, and they will hook you up. Back when Dell was charging $750 for 2.4GHz Pentium 4 boxes with 256MB DRAM, I was building Athlon XP 2400+ boxes with double that DRAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and better video boards for considerably less. Oh yeah, and either Slackware, SuSE, or Red Hat (with OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, etc.) was getting installed onto them, courtesy of me. :-)

The same applies today. One tech guy in a school in my district was doing just that for top quality PC's with no pre-installed OS and saving our district a ton of money. It was great; that school got very good PC's, which practically never broke and were pitifully easy to support, on the cheap, and our Enterprise Windows license covered them all...


...our CIO found out and directly ordered the tech guy to stop it and go through the County contract...which cost 2.5 times more per PC than his deal. Gotta love institutionalized thinking, eh?

Computers without Windows

Anonymous's picture

In Finland we have to pay almost 300€ more to get a HP laptop with FreeDOS preinstalled. Otherwise the only option is to buy these Win computers or to buy barebone laptops from another manufacturer.

MS-only vendors

Anonymous's picture

It goes deeper than that. Also in Finland, the official vendor for the City of Turku initially refused to sell a machine without MS Windows to the city for its Linux evaluation project some years ago.

Choose the right vendor

The Badger's picture

People really have to learn not to reward bad vendor behaviour. Installing Linux over the top of some preinstalled copy of Windows doesn't teach anyone any lessons, unless the person doing the installation wants to learn the hard way about dodgy proprietary hardware and the OEM's "black box" attitude to devices and chipsets whilst paying for something they're never going to use.

When I upgraded, I took a little inspiration from LJ's "Ultimate Linux Box" articles (albeit without the silly cutting edge hardware, but then I did let my subscription lapse a while ago) and built my own barebones machine. Not only did I not pay for Windows (which I obviously don't run), but I got hardware that all works pretty well with Linux.

So reward vendors like Soltek and all those who don't force you to run Windows, and punish the big name laggards who claim that the "consumer" doesn't care what they buy.

get to know your local shops

anonymous's picture

You might be surprised at the Linux/Unix background some local or smaller vendors have. Checking with your local Linux User's Group can often help you discover those who really know Linux on PCs.

For example in Brockville, ON (a little town of 20000 people) our plant's IT guy went off on his own and does mostly consulting work, but also opened his own computer shop. Needless to say, he knows a ton about Unix and Linux including on PC's and buying locally keeps money in your local economy and shipping can be quite expensive when you start dealing with computer cases.

Similarly, I found out about Mooney's Bay Computers in Ottawa, ON via the OCLUG and they even have a little "try it with 64bit Linux" logo on their website and I think sell mail order too.