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Sun Microsystems Hardware

Sun Says Hardware Will Be Free 895

Posted by michael
from the sun-hardware-overpriced-anyway dept.
ron_ivi writes "Reuters reports that Sun's President and COO thinks hardware will be free and that people will pay for software subscriptions instead. Reuters quotes Schwartz: 'In our world, you will subscribe to the software and the hardware is free.' 'Directionally, our expectation is that in fiscal 2005 you're going to see a rapid departure from selling hardware, software and services apart.' 'Bill Gates and I agree that within four to five years hardware will be free.' We've recently read here on /. how Gates thinks hardware will be free."
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Sun Says Hardware Will Be Free

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  • by tepples (727027) * <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:30PM (#9305127) Homepage Journal

    First off, notice the apparent lack of any mention of the free software community in the article. Also, remember the difference between gratis hardware (subsidized by publishers of proprietary software as part of the license fees) and Free hardware (the more general purpose, the more Free).

    It appears that like video game console hardware subsidized by licensed game sales, the gratis hardware will probably be locked to the particular applications, turning them into the equivalent of appliances. As publishers of proprietary software shift their business model from running on customer-owned hardware to running on hardware rented from the publisher, does this coming "appliance era" spell the end of affordable general-purpose PC hardware for residential use?

    • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:32PM (#9305181)
      And more importantly, how will consumers of such a system be treated? Is it going to be like the console system you describe, or is it going to be something akin to the cell phone market, where you're locked in to multi-year contracts, and locked to specific vendors through the life of the product?
      • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno AT cheapcomplexdevices DOT com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:54PM (#9305541)
        "akin to the cell phone market"

        I seem to recall a time where you didn't own the telephone in your house either, but the phone company gave you one with your subscription. Anyone know how&why that model changed?

        • by sydb (176695) * <michael@wd21.[ ]uk ['co.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:01PM (#9305674)
          In the UK phone rental used to be around five pounds a quarter.

          Seeing as basic phones cost about 10 pounds, the new model is definitely in the customer's favour.

          Actually sounds like a money spinner for the phone companies! Surprising this doesn't happen any more... perhaps people just wanted better phones and weren't taking up the rental option.
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:04PM (#9305710)
          I was very young at that time, but I think consumers got fed up with the situation where they could only have one phone in the entire house, or had to pay hefty monthly fees for additional phones. I believe this spurred the government to change the law so that property owners owned the lines inside their houses (previously, Ma Bell owned the actual wiring, even though it was inside your walls!), and could purchase their own phones if they wanted.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:05PM (#9305726)
          The government mandated it with the breakup of the "Ma Bell" single phone company. Part of their monopoly was with service, so they split into the "Baby Bells" regionally, then had to allow competition later within those markets. The other part of the monopoly was in physical equipment. You weren't allowed to connect a non-Bell phone to your line. They had a proprietary connector, which they had to replace with the RJ45 jacks everyone has now. That standard jack allowed citizens (aka consumers - I hate that term!) to connect phones made by anyone.

          • " The government mandated it"

            Interesting... In a way this sounds like "dumping" [wto.org] of a product to keep a monopoly, doesn't it?

          • by EisPick (29965) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:31PM (#9306077)
            The monopoly mentality in hardware lived long past Western Electric's demise. I remember working at a convention in NYC in 1992. The convention contracted with NYNEX to supply telephones. The NYNEX/CWA phone techs broke the ends off the release tabs on the RJ-45 wiring after plugging them in, under the misconception that this would keep "civicians" from moving "their" telephones. Oh, and there really weren't proprietary connetors. While there was a big, clunky 4-prong plug for some phones, most were hard wired into the wall in those days. And those rental phones were built to last. Made of heavy Bakelite plastic (or something similar), they probably could survive a 30-foot drop. And if anything ever went bad, you just called for a free replacement.
          • Hard wired (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zogger (617870) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:57PM (#9307294) Homepage Journal
            --the earliest phones I remember as a kid where hard wired, no jack at all, and they didn't have a dial. Heavy suckers. One of my grandmas had one of the old crank phones, where the mouth piece was on the phone on the wall, you grabbed the single earphone and held it up to your ear, and you cranked it to get the operators attention. We had a normal looking phone though, just no dial. You just picked up the phone, if someone was yakking on it (no one had a dedicated phone, they were all party lines with like 6 houses on each circuit) you asked when they would be done. You picked up a few minutes later, and the operator came on, you gave her-and it always was a her- a number, or just told her a name if it was local. Payphones had dials and cost a nickle. Hardly anyone had a TV yet(we were the first in the neighborhood to get one), but everyone had a big ole tube job radio in the living room and some sort of record player. Those radios threw more heat then the next 10 AMD boxes put together. Smokin! They'd pull the stations though, almost all of them had built in shortwave and commercial AM, there wasn't any FM yet. Not that I remember anyway. I LOVED them things. Had a big ole grundig was my gateway to the world at night, had wires all over my ceiling in my room.

            And movies were 25 cents and the only place that had air conditioning. Cokes were a nickle. A new .22 rifle was around 12$. A one speed old heavy bike was about 25$, had enough steel in it to build two harleys I think. Not sure on new car prices back then other than below one grand for a decent one. I know the first house we lived in cost my dad 100$ downpayment, and it was brand spanking new, 3 bedroom ranch with a nice yard in a nice neighborhood. He had a ten year mortgage (I asked him later to find out), which was very common then.
        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:35PM (#9306112)

          I seem to recall a time where you didn't own the telephone in your house either, but the phone company gave you one with your subscription. Anyone know how&why that model changed?

          Antitrust action against AT&T

      • by sterno (16320) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:03PM (#9306495) Homepage
        The answer to your question is that Microsoft will set that for the industry. Going from their history, based on the Office licensing model, it sounds like you'll not be locked in per se, but you'll be penalized for not sticking with them. Not precisely a lock in, but just a strong incentive to stick with them.

        As far as Sun goes, they won't be around to see it. Name me one software product that Sun has that you'd be willing to subscribe to get access to. Go on... I'm waiting...

        This is all just Sun's line for the investors, buying time til their inevitable demise. Their hardware is being outpaced by IBM, they can't come close to IBM in professional services, and Microsoft dominates in the software arena.

        Expect Intel/AMD boxes running Linux to continue to dissolve Sun's hardware margins, and Microsoft will prevent them from getting any kind of foot hold in software. Unless they completely re-invent themselves, they aren't going to be around for much longer.
    • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:34PM (#9305207)
      I believe it does mean that very thing. "Free" is not going to be a good thing in this particular instance. Free is just going to be a euphamism for "trapped".

      I want no part of this.
      • by ahfoo (223186) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:58PM (#9305625) Journal
        The very big problem with these theories is that they overlook the source of the hardware. They're operating on the illusion that it is possible to control the products coming predominantly out of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Mainland China. That belief is not well grounded and it is a huge oversight.
        First of all, these nations of origin are themselves not even close to being a homogenous entity. It's not as though East Asia even has a single currency or is even moving in that direction. This is a fiercely independent part of the world that is wrapped up in political details that most westerners don't even care to know the details about. Taiwan and China are the best example, but the troubled relationship between Japan and the rest of Asia is no less prominent for people in the region. We could go on and on.
        Even within Taiwan, it would be absurd to pretend that there is cohesion among the players in just the motherboard market. Give that reality, these specualtions are little more than wishful thinking on the part of washed up software companies.
        Sure, hardware will be so cheap it will be as-if it were free. But it will be running free software as well. I'm sure of that.
        • by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:37PM (#9306142) Journal
          Sure, hardware will be so cheap it will be as-if it were free. But it will be running free software as well. I'm sure of that.

          It will be. I'll fight tooth and nail to make sure of that with everyone I know.

          BUT, I don't think the solution is as simple as you make out. The fact that, as you point out, there is no monopoly in hardware manufacturering means that hardware will be available independantly of the software. This I agree with. I also agree that open source software will be much cheaper (because it is free). However, you may find that 'untainted' hardware costs rise because the hardware you get "free" with the proprietary software is subsidised by the software company.

          Think of it like buying a locked in cell phone that costs very little. I'm not sure if this happens in the US. I'm based in the UK at present. These phones are cheap because the network provider (e.g. T-Mobile, Vodaphone, etc) knows that you will be locked into their service for evermore with that phone. Conversely, a non-subsidized phone will cost you much more.

          With so many special offers, with the OS merging with the hardware in the mind of the purchaser, you are dependent on the foresight of the customer.

          "Sure," the buyer will say, "I could buy a more expensive computer so I could put Linux on it, but I can get this nifty 10GHz machine for half the price."

          It's not whether there is a monopoly amongst the hardware manufacturers that will stop this, but how much in bed the big hardware sellers such as Dell are with the big software manufacturers.

          Ooops. Looks like Linux has to get as big a market share as possible before this takes off because the hill is about to get steeper.
      • by D-Cypell (446534) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:02PM (#9305684)
        Exactly!

        When you can contact Microsoft or Sun sales and tell them that you want to take advantage of their free hardware offer but would prefer to leave the 'paid for' software without having the salesperson either immediately hang up or laugh uncontrollably, THEN they can call it 'free'.

        Until then its just the 2 for 1 pizza offer that, strangely, is twice the price of a single pizza in the place two doors down.
    • I'm personally reminded of those WebTV boxes of a while back.

      IIRC, the software was never in sync with even the commonly used W3C standards. Even in the days when HTML 4.0 was new, WebTV was considered lackluster.
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:38PM (#9305299) Homepage Journal
      Don't fret too much. By shunting the price of the hardware into the software, Sun is pulling a quick marketing trick to make you think that the hardware is becoming cheap. The reality is that you're still paying the same costs for the hardware and software combo, you're just "feeling good" about it.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:18PM (#9305894) Journal
        Don't fret too much

        But in order to make this 'marketing trick' viable, the software provider must ensure that it is not possible to replace their software with an alternative. To do this requires Trusted (as in supervised) Computing - a DRM'd BIOS that is out of the user's control for example.

        Excuse me, I have to go and fret now...
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:44PM (#9305400)
      Of course the hardware will NOT be free. You will be renting it by paying for the software. Hardware that is indistinguishable will probably be free. Hardware that is nice, like say an ipod or an imac, you will pay for. everyone else will buy a dell.

      The difference will be the difference between taking the Bus or trolley, and driving your car. The bus is convenient if you like it, but it does not have cup holders or corrinthian leather seats. For that you need to go to apple and buy the ibus.

      this suggests that in the end only sony and apple will be the niche luxury hardare vendors.

      It's sort of ironic that some people think that music will be nearly free and you will buy the players and some people think the players will be free and you will subscribe to the music. Which is it slashdotters? make up your minds.

      Even if this comes to pass, that software is what you subscribe too, I suspect apple will make the transition. NeXT had a go at this and had a limited success. But they were starting with a death spiraling product that had no established base. Apple has people who want apples software. So they will have the subscribers even if they have to give away the hardware.

      of course they will have to charge you more than $100 per OS upgrade.

      thus what it comes down to is economies of scale, standards compliance, and the willingness of your niche subscribers to pay a premium. On the one hand one has MS which has the economy of scale and flouts standards as a competative tactic. and ont he other one has Apple which knows how to create products and create standards that people really want. In the middle SUN has none of these attributes except in a very niche area of sun fanatics.

    • by Arker (91948) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:46PM (#9305424) Homepage
      They're completely twisting the language here, which is nothing new. They don't mean free as in speech, or free as in beer (gratis) what they mean is the price will be hidden in the software price. You'll be paying as much or more, they just won't itemise it or offer the hardware for honest sale.

      So you'll get a software 'subscription' and the hardware to run it on in a single package, totally locked in.

      No one in their right mind would sign up for this without huge, unsustainable bribes and/or being taken in by confusing double-talk and deception. I expect they'll be trying to use both in spades to get a stranglehold on the market, then make it back in rent once they have that. But it seems unlikely they'll succeed, thankfully. One more desperate attempt to try and lock competition out of the market.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:50PM (#9305486)
        Mod parent up!

        The hardware will be "free" in the same way as the "free" cell phone you get with a three-year lock-in service contract obliging you to pay hundreds of dollars to "get out" early.

        In other words, not free at all.

      • I wonder if anyone has notified hardware vendors/manufacturers that their products will no longer be for sale directly to the consumer.
        (some sarcasm is implied in my post)
      • by johkir (716957) <(jokirby) (at) (vmth.ucdavis.edu)> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:23PM (#9305982)
        I work in a hospital where much of our lab equipment comes as part of a package deal. The Heomdialysis Unit, for instance, has multiple types of machines, from various vendors. For about $20k a piece, we get a machine, and the software to run it. We get software upgrades and hardware upgrades *FREE* with our service contract. The nice thing about it is, no one at the hospital has to know how to program them, and when one breaks, a service rep comes out to fix it, with time, travel, and parts included. We even get new machines as models are upgraded. You could easliy market this as state of the art software, with free hardware to run it. The hardware is so specialized though, that we can't do much else with it, so it may as well be free.

        These are some of the things molecules will do....given a few billion years - Carl Sagen

    • by tambo (310170) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:18PM (#9305898)
      A return to appliances?

      An excellent point, tepples. Yes, this does appear to be a sea change toward the Apple model - or, even worse, the Commodore 64 - where the hardware is locked to an OS. Even worse: it may be locked to a particular OS version or class of versions - e.g., Pentium IV for Win2k/WinXP. No better way to push a hardware upgrade than to make it compulsory!

      I consider this the "consolization" of the PC.

      Interestingly, this happens at a time when game consoles are becoming more diverse. The PS2 was the first console to be natively compatible with another console (the PS1.) More importantly, most software is released on multiple platforms (Soul Calibur II was simultaneously released for all three major platforms!)

      But even more insidious than the OS lock-in is the software rental model. Goddamnit, if I pay $200 for Office 2000, I expect the right to use that shit whenever I want. I will not tolerate a $10-a-month utility plan on my software applications.

      America faces this creeping threat of having an increasing share of its goods offered only on a rental plan. The concept of consumer ownership is eroding. So you'll pay less now... but much more in the long run. And at the end of your lifetime, you will still own nothing.

      This is corporate greed combined with corporate laziness - yet another tactic to extract more value out of the market for providing the same basic services. Excellent for the Great White Males who are shareholders/CEOs; bad for the rest of us. America looks more like a caste system every day. The only check on it is the hope of government regulation to say, these things are "goods" and these things are "services"... but sadly, our current federal government is a shameful example of "regulatory capture." - David Stein

      • by John Miles (108215) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:33PM (#9306907) Homepage Journal
        And at the end of your lifetime, you will still own nothing.

        Which is not necessarily a deal-breaker, seeing as how I'll be dead and all.
      • Apple model? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SuperKendall (25149) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:52PM (#9307231)
        You use the term "Apple model" seemingly without understanding what the "Apple model" really is.

        Let me describe it to you - the "Apple model" is a somewhat expensive but pleasant merry-go-round ride - if at any point you get tired of the opulance, you are free to return to the litter-strewn streets of reality.

        Example. The hardware is all standard. It has a PCI bus, uses pretty standard memory, uses standard USB/Firewire periphrials. If I tire of OS X for some reason, I can in fact leave anytime I like and run Linux on it. The box is not locked down that way at all - and I am not force to buy Apple hardware for expansion in any way. In a "Console model' which is what you were suggesting, everything is custom - like the non-standard USB ports on an XBox (interestingly the standard USB ports on the PS2 are one reason I chose that platform originally, so I could use a normal keyboard/mouse with it, so there can be exceptions).

        Second Example. Apple software. If you use iTunes, you can at any time burn any protected songs to CD (or in reality juust use HYMN to deprotect them) and step off the merry-go-round. If you use iPhoto it keeps all of your photos in real files in a subdirectory, not some custom database - super easy to stop using and move all the files elsewhere, even files from a user-defined category. If you use iMovie all of your clips are bog standard video files that anything else can use. In all cases if you tire of the convience offered or outgrow the system (as many serious photographers do with iPhoto), you are free to move on.

        We should all pray that the industry adopts the "Apple standard" as you put it, instead of ridiculing this very consumer-friendly approach. I think you were right about attempts to "consolize" the PC market though, it's just that you started out with an unnessicary and incorrect dig at Apple, who is trying to help you. When they do "consoleize" all other PC's with trusted BIOSes, you know where you can turn to...

        I also worry about the attempt to make everything you do work by rental. But I don't think customers will stand for it, so I think they can only take the thing so far before customers use non-rental alternatives instead. Look at how popular pay-as-you go cell phone plans are becoming, I know a number of people who have gone that way.
    • by king-manic (409855) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:02PM (#9306483)
      does this coming "appliance era" spell the end of affordable general-purpose PC hardware for residential use?

      No. Just the end to warez and code your own adventures. For the vast majority of people their vision for computer use would be more comforting. The human mind ussually isn't goot at more then 5 or 6 choices. When you have literally dozens of choices to be made, most people will not sign on no matte rhwo attractive you make all the choices. thus OSS and Free and in beer software won't be for consumers and never was. Right now, Windows XP pro costs more then the computer I install it on 60% of the time. Not a huge leap to make XP subscription and to giev away the computer.
  • Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karamchand (607798) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:30PM (#9305129)
    I don't think the free market, specially normal consumers, will like subscription based goods. They want to pay once and then own the thing they paid for, not pay all the time they use it. Even if you have to "buy it once again" every few years.
    • Re:Free Market (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wawannem (591061) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:35PM (#9305228) Homepage
      yeah, you're right dude, I mean, ever since I bought my cable converter outright I refuse to pay any monthly fee.... wait... uhmm... nevermind
    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by general_re (8883) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:35PM (#9305238) Homepage
      I don't think the free market, specially normal consumers, will like subscription based goods. They want to pay once and then own the thing they paid for, not pay all the time they use it.

      I'm constantly amazed by how popular auto leasing is in this country, and how many people are thereby effectively carrying car payments in perpetuity. With that in mind, I think your prognosis is iffy at best.

      • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wankledot (712148) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:42PM (#9305354)
        But see the difference between cars and computers is that cars lose their value very fast... oh... wait.
      • Re:Free Market (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:43PM (#9305365) Homepage Journal
        I'm sure people who are interested in "new" computers wouldn't mind leasing them. And people who like to hack their hardware wouldn't mind buying them.

        Without Microsoft interfering, I'd wager that people would lease hardware and software as a unit. However, I suspect Microsoft is going to want to charge their own subcription fees.

        If you think about it, we have subcription fees already. You periodically pay for the upgrade to the next version of Windows, OSX or some distributions of Linux. The difference is we're currently free to continue using any of those products without being forced into upgrading using contract clauses.
      • "I'm constantly amazed by how popular auto leasing is in this country, and how many people are thereby effectively carrying car payments in perpetuity."

        More evidence of how self-absorbed American's are...it's only for the vanity, look-at-me factor and "keeping up with the Jone's".

        What most of them don't realize is that the Mr. Jones is a retard and has triple mortaged his nice little suburban home, expensive car (leased, not owned) and other trappings.

        Most American's would do well to take Family Finance
      • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:01PM (#9305670)
        I don't know which country that is, but here in the UK, leasing is popular, because the tax structure is massively rigged in its favour. If you have a car on a company lease, you effectively avoid taxes of 30%, and possibly considerably more.
      • Re:Free Market (Score:3, Interesting)

        Your analogy fails.

        How popular would car leasing be if the leaser
        would be locked by long-term contract into filling up at let's say Shell-stations only -- no matter what the competition's price would be.

        This is just a ploy to render a knock-out to the FOSS community and FOSS consumers. If they succeed the consumer will be left without
        any options and choice -- plus prob. some hardware that will be like a big brother and policeman to you.

        Thanks for your time.

        BJ
    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:39PM (#9305305)
      Really? Tell that to the people who live in their rented apartments and drive to work in their leased cars while talking on their cell phones that they got for free with a 2-year contract.
      • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:03PM (#9305696) Journal
        THey do so because they can not aford to pay for a house or car in cash.

        People and businesses can pay for a newer computer or server in cash.

        Those that dont pay monthly plans anyway.

        Its outrageous that MS office and Windows costs more then A WHOLE COMPUTER!

        I remember when software cost only $60 and the pc was $1500. What the hell is happening?

        If leasing were cheaper businesses would be opting for it and SUN would be opposed to it.

        Why does SUN and MS want subscriptions? Because they can take more money.

        I will stick with owning my own hardware with Linux/FreeBSD and Openoffice thank you.

    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:51PM (#9305498)
      I don't think the free market, specially normal consumers, will like subscription based goods.

      What you have to bear in mind is that most people are bad at math.

      Most people, when they see "$30 a month" don't think "$360 a year" as you and I might, they just see $30 and think - hey that's not much.

      It's like those adverts you see that say "all this for just 50 cents a day!" - this is much more appealing to most people than saying $180 for the year, because most people aren't that good with numbers (otherwise nobody would ever play the lottery).
    • Re:Free Market (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khomar (529552)

      This is exactly the problem I see with most of the big companies right now. They have forgotten to listen to their customers. Instead of asking what their customers want, they are telling customers that they, not the customers, really know what the customers want. They are basically trying to force their product down their customers' throats.

      You see this in technology (Microsoft, SUN) and even in the music industry. It is far easier for them to try to force their product on customers than spend the tim

    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JamesKPolk (13313) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:04PM (#9305704) Homepage
      That's why Microsoft, Sun, and others support laws that make ownership impossible. They want their customers to be licensees, not owners.
  • by tritone (189506) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:31PM (#9305134) Homepage
    Software will be free and you'll pay for hardware.
    • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:38PM (#9305300) Homepage
      Pipedream at best. It will continue on the way it is currently. Some people will pay for their hardware and choose to run free software. The rest of the world will run under Billy's rules and regulations and be happy when they can all interact easily with their DRM'd software formats.
    • by nizo (81281) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:49PM (#9305466) Homepage Journal
      Actually it is probably part of Sun's new exit strategy (err I mean market plan):
      1. Release free hardware with software subscription.
      2. People put Linux on it.
      3. File bankruptcy!
    • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:55PM (#9305561) Homepage Journal
      The article claims that Schwartz thinks, - the hardware, software, storage and its interlinks - is fast becoming a commodity.

      He's very confused, evil or misquoted. Hardware already is a commodity but commodities still cost money, just like corn, wheat and other honest stuff. It's shocking that someone at such a high level of a firm that excels in hardware design would have failed to notice that. Once can only conclude that Schwartz has decided to collude with Microsoft in their mad attempt to eliminate free software.

      Sun is doomed. The traditional commercial software development process ran out of steam twenty years ago. Proprietary software can not compete with free software and those who cling to it will be swept away. Schwartz is going to run Sun into the ground. I really hope Schwartz was misquoted, but that does not seem to be the case.

  • Yeah, well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:31PM (#9305151)
    As long as they're giving hardware away, I'll take a Cisco CRS-1 router and a Beowulf cluster of GeForce 6800s.

    I'll expect to take delivery of this equipment right after my Triphibian Atomicar rolls off the transporter from Swift Enterprises.

    Seriously... a couple of years ago, Sun was telling us we'd all be running on glorified VT100 terminals. At what point do these clowns lose all credibility?
    • by deacon (40533) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:45PM (#9305402) Journal
      I *am* posting this from a VT100 terminal, connected to the serial port on my PC, you insensitive clod!

      I use the VT52 as a footstool.

    • Re:Yeah, well (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MoneyT (548795) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:06PM (#9305738) Journal
      Well it isn't like companies aren't pushing for the glorified terminal setup. You buy games now that you can't play unless you pay your monthly subscription to the server. Microsoft has been pushing for the license not purchase system for a while. Sun may be off by a few years, but they may not be wrong.
    • Re:Yeah, well (Score:3, Interesting)

      If by 'glorified VT100 terminals' you mean SunRays, then I would guess you have never tried SunRays. That is one of the few areas in recent years where Sun has done things _right_. SunRays are a wonderful setup, but very misunderstood. Overall, they are fantastic. You wouldn't want an engineer doing 3D CAD on it, but for basic office use, mail, web, calendar, etc. it is a fantastic thing.

      I was using a SunRay for years. The silence is beautiful, and the speed is generally fine. Of course I had to switch to
  • sdrawkcab (Score:3, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:31PM (#9305152)


    He's welcome to send me all the free hardware he pleases.

  • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:31PM (#9305153) Homepage
    Of course they want it to be free. Then they have full justification for a complete and utter lockdown of the hardware via DRM'd BIOS and OS with threats under the DMCA if we try to break it. No true ownership of the hardware by the user is exactly what they want.

    Are general computer users going to buy a computer that isn't DRM'd just to use free software? I don't think so. They are going to use what's given to them as part of their OS license fee.

    "Run our OS and never have to worry again! Just sign your name right here. The fine print doesn't say anything about selling your soul. Nope, not at all. Right there... That's riiiight."
    • by Clinoti (696723) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:41PM (#9305343)
      Indeed and the idea isn't even that well veiled for our crowd but for the plug and play consumer this is exactly what they are going to want, a computer that they can purchase or pick up at Best Buy that they can then take home, open the box, plug it into the wall via way of the large color coded wires and it comes with a tech in the box.

      Best idea ever to impose and bring DRM into the mainstream market while simultaneously silencing the hardware modders, overclockers and OSS'ers under the threat of the law.

      The only downsides for this with both MS and SUN are that they need to have the boxes run perfect software. The market would react horribly to a product that fails in this regard especially with MS's history of instability (old school) and Suns refusal to adopt or offer up (Java debacle). We could wind up with a legion of blue screened remote managed zombies or a legion of boxes that don't work with anything else. Interesting indeed.

      • We could wind up with a legion of blue screened remote managed zombies or a legion of boxes that don't work with anything else.

        And the beauty of MS' plan is seen. Don't you remember how people just accepted reboots with Win9x? "Oh yeah, I have to restart my machine 7 or 8 times a day."

        Do you think that they are going to complain when they are seriously under the belief that they didn't have to pay for the hardware?
    • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:19PM (#9305909)
      This is so insightful it diserves to be on billboards across the country (and i'm talking about the ones on the highways) and not bbs's :)

      Frankly the DRM fight is already lost, and by lost i mean we've lost. The public is just too dumb when it comes to the subtle aspects of computers. That includes proper pc security, installing software, even knowing what a directory is. Hell half of the folks out there think they're called "folders" ;)

      And those folks dont know what to put in those folders.

      They have such a poor grasp of technology. The masses that is. They're not the geeks that we are. They didnt grow up with vic20s, apple 2es, c64s, atari computers, 12mhz 286s, or 486's running teleguard bbs's housing pirated warez. They never had to learn what an IRQ is, or what autoexec.bat does...

      They never had to learn HAYES modem commands to reset their models, or init them.

      These are the same folks that use PC's like toasters, and how many Americans do you know that can explain how their toaster works?

      Point made i think.

      We've lost the fight because the industry will do as it pleases, and the public will accept whatever marketing they throw at them. And the marketing will not mention a dam thing. If SUN has its way... it would go somethign like this....

      "Pick up your FREE COMPUTER at BESTBUY when you buy a copy of our OS"

      It wont mention a dam thing about the DRM restrictions. People will flock to the new marketing idea. "WOW A FREE FUCKING PC?!... I'm so there dude"

      Its a lost cause... DRM is going to succeed because we dont have an educated civilization that understands the finer points of technology, or even the basics of the constitution.

      If in the near future, you can buy longhorn and get a free top of the line pc... forget it. War over. The masses will flock to it faster than flies to shit.

      Its still worth fighting for though. I'm glad folks are still up for the task... because its a mountain bigger than any other.

      We're already in the hole because of this very fact. Look at the EULA situation You agree that you're liscensing, and not OWNING your copy of windows. Frankly this is just bullshit, and the public simply doesnt understand, or care about it at all. They dont even read the EULA, and yet they're forced to agree to it.

      Consumers arent that smart, and that is why capitalism has become pretty perverse from the top down.

      Its the publics responsibility to insure that they are not taken advantage of. The problem is the public simply does not have the education to recognize every specific detail reguarding every unique buying situation, no matter what the product or item.

      How many here are car experts? Computer experts, Biologists, etc.. How many know the finer points of HDTV, or a washing machine?... How about law, or how your plumbing works?... How many of us... KNOW IT ALL?

      None of us know enough to protect ourselves as consumers in every situation especially those outside the fields of geek like interest (and that could be cars, computers whatever you're geeky about)

      The public barely understands computers. They teach flash in highschool these days... and 1 out of 30+ kids in the class can actually do anything with flash.

      Its amazing that they teach flash, when they should be teaching programming, or computer manufacturing... how to configure your pc for security, what irq's are... etc I mean theres so much more that needs to be taught before people jump into Flash, or AOL :)

      Its just too dam risky for folks to be that ignorant.

      And its that fact that DRM will be implemented whenever the software/hardware makers want. Because we're not big enough, loud enough to make a difference, and some of you even work for the suits that push DRM in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:31PM (#9305159)
    I think cars will be free too.

    We will just pay for gas and service.

    I think Sun stock will be "free" too, if you know what I mean.
  • Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:32PM (#9305164) Journal
    I don't think that they really mean hardware will be free - only that it will be a loss leader.

    It's funny that the same people who decry free software as killing the economic incentive for software development don't feel the same thing applies to hardware.

    • Re:Free? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iabervon (1971) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:39PM (#9306980) Homepage Journal
      Everybody wants to kill the economic incentive for doing the thing they don't want to try to sell, because it transfers business to the next thing over, which they do want to sell.

      Or, at least, the smart ones do. The dumb ones don't understand the economics. This is why Oracle is so clever: they now use x86 commodity hardware (and subcontract it to Dell), Linux for the OS to kill that market, subcontract out support to Red Hat, and then get a huge margin on database servers. Of course, this plan depends on having a clear long-term strategy and sticking with it (sell the database, make everything else cheap).

      Sun is going to have a really hard time because they keep changing their mind on what the strategy is. The right strategy would have been to open source Java from the beginning and write apps. Instead, they've tried to keep control of the Java VM, which doesn't actually help them. They've been vague on whether the market for hardware and OSes should stay profittable. They seem to be trying to get into the desktop market where they don't have any particular experience or market share.
  • Sounds familiar... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spikev (698637) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:32PM (#9305173)
    Didn't we hear this from Sun about 10 years back when they were pushing client-server computing. Look where that got them. Now that serious client-server computing could become a reality, they're going pushing free hardware with another spin on it.
  • No thanks Sun! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:32PM (#9305183) Homepage

    I know that while I have a dollar (well pound really) I'll pay for my own flaming hardware. Because you know that once they've eased this on us your machine will end up being their machine. And once that happens you can be sure as hell that machine is going to make it difficult to run linux or any other operating system.

    No thank you Bill & SUN. I want to pay for my hardware thanks because I actually want to own it. This isn't about choice, it's about fattening the pockets of Sir Bill.

    Simon

  • Great! (Score:4, Funny)

    by phraktyl (92649) * <`wyatt' `at' `draggoo.com'> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:33PM (#9305189) Homepage Journal
    Back it up. Just a little more... A little more... Perfect!

    Now, Honey, don't you think that E15K makes a great replacement for that china cabinet we used to have? And all I had to do was purchase a software license for StarOffice!
  • Free, for a fee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1010011010 (53039) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:33PM (#9305197) Homepage
    I'm sure Microsoft and Sun won't give me a new Netra or XBox if I call them up.

    What Schwartz ("Use the schwartz!") and Gates really mean is, "your software fee will include the hardware fee, and you won't really have a choice about that. Plus, we will add restrictions to the hardware, such as DRM. Thank you, come again!"
  • But I'm a hobbyist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kneecarrot (646291) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:34PM (#9305206)
    As a hobbyist who enjoys tinkering inside my machine, I'm really starting to feel like my days are numbered.

    With DRM in the bios and computers becoming essentially free appliances will I still be able to tinker in the future?

  • Counter-Intuitive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philovivero (321158) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:35PM (#9305231) Homepage Journal
    Those guys are geniuses. Hardware will be free. Software will cost money.

    Because making hardware is as simple as typing "cp SunE450 SunE450.2" and making new software requires factories, tooling up, shipping, and maintenance.

    I disagree. I think both Microsoft and Sun will become obsolete and useless as they continue to try to trap people into their DRM and obsolete-by-design software while manufacturers of good hardware will continue to make some money, and software will become more and more Libre ("free").

    I think that the only money that will come in from software will be from developers and coders that maintain existing Open Source software, and create novel new Open Source software for contract (hourly wages).

    But I'm just a lowly DBA, not a forward-thinking visionary overpaid stuffed-shirt like these guys, so by all means, bank your future on their brilliance.
  • Free hardware eh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xpilot (117961) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:35PM (#9305239) Homepage
    'In our world, you will subscribe to the software and the hardware is free.'

    I have a better proposal. You give me the free hardware, and I don't subscribe to your software and write my own. Eh, does that violate some law somewhere?

  • by Darth RadaR (221648) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:36PM (#9305255) Journal
    I wonder... If I stop paying my "subscription", will a van will stop by and repo my hardware?
    • I wonder... If I stop paying my "subscription", will a van will stop by and repo my hardware?

      That's an interesting question.

      The answer seems easy, no, they won't bother. Someone else mentioned cell phones and that's a good example of how this will work. Why bother to go get those? Your subscription fee will already have paid for the device many times over. No one else will want your used equipment and it will cost money to collect. Because the software is not free (libre), they can turn a remote kill

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:36PM (#9305260) Homepage
    This makes no economic sense for anyone except for the people selling software.

    Software is the cheapest thing to produce in terms of what needs to go into it physically besides R&D. People have to pay whatever (artificially set) price the company sets, as without software, hardware is just a large paper weight.

    Hardware, on the other hand, is the more expensive side of the equation: there's only so much profit margin available, as people are only willing to pay a certian amount.

    I can see people like him and BG saying "hardware will be free" because that's what they want to see - then there will be more money available for software licenses. This is completely impractical until the massive investment required simply to fabricate hardware is negligible - in other words, it's unlikely to happen anytime within the next 10 years.

    If anything, market trends are going the other way entirely. I'm not sure why Sun would be that concerned - they've traditionally had some incredible hardware - but MS has everything to lose in a commodity market.

    Sun best stick to their recently-stated purpose of having an Apple-like setup, where they sell the hardware and the OS sales. The OS in use is insignificant, really, IMO - they just need something that works well on their hardware. That might be their OS, and it might be Linux.
  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bertie (87778) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:37PM (#9305263)
    For one simple reason. Hardware's tangible, software isn't. No matter what these guys do, people will always struggle to get their heads round the idea of paying for software, because it doesn't take up space in their room and can be reproduced ad infinitum. Same goes for music, films, etc., and I'd say it always will. If the Suns and Microsofts of the world don't start accepting this and going with the flow, they're sunk.

    I mean, here I am working on my PC (which I bought and put together myself) running Gentoo (which I downloaded and didn't pay a brass farthing for). Microsoft sell as many copies of Windows as they do because they bundle them with new hardware. Who do you know who's ever bought a copy of Windows off the shelf? If the PC came out of the factory with no OS and I wanted to put Windows on it, I'd ask around till I found a friend with a pirate copy - there's just no way I'd haul myself to a shop to buy one. Yeah, yeah, I know it's not right, but that's the way it is, and these guys should embrace it instead of fighting it.
  • by Cheeze (12756) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:38PM (#9305296) Homepage
    Sun doesn't make any money off of hardware, their cash crop is selling software services.

    Those guys need to stand up and smell the roses. hardware will NOT be free because it will take resources to produce it. If you expend resources, you are going to want to recoup those costs by charging the end user for spending time to develop and produce the hardware product.

    Software is the part that is easily reproduced, and can easily be made free.

    Sun and Microsoft are software vendors (Yeah, Sun makes hardware, but they shouldn't if you ask me). They both make money in the software, so it is in their best interest to spin their technology the way that makes them the most money, even if that is pulling the wool over the eyes of their customers.
  • by Sxooter (29722) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:39PM (#9305304)
    The hardware will NOT be free. The cost will simply be rolled into the price of the software. This is simply a marketing ploy to try and lock people into non-open hardware with cheap up front costs that just keep repeating over and over.

    It's not gonna work, but I'm sure Sun and Microsoft are gonna try anyway.
  • Perfect! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cyberllama (113628) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:39PM (#9305316)
    I'll take their free hardware and run my free software on it.
  • Let battle commence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Space cowboy (13680) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:41PM (#9305338) Journal

    Looking at it logically: if hardware is 'free' (or nearly so) the only way to make money is on the software, either by subscription, by initial purchase, on services layered on top of the software/hardware, or some combination. This is all fine and dandy in the 'normal' world where people wander down to a store and buy a Windows PC or a Mac.

    Look at it from the Open Source point of view - on the scale of these corporations, there's little money to be made on subscriptions without them being expensive (read: unpopular) subscriptions (eg: the redhat network has just become a lot more expensive...) so all that's left is services. It seems to me that IBM have pretty much everything going for them in that market: worldwide cover, experience, brand name, and expertise. So that's a no-no too.

    Whoops, "we"'ve run out of ways to make money - so large subscription-based companies are going to look upon the OS world as nasty competition (can't be bought, can't easily be bribed - some sod will fork the code if you do, and it's at least as good as the proprietary offerings, not to mention free). Cue drum rolls, thunder and lightning, cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war!

    It's going to be interesting. Patents will play out their part of course, Linux/just-about-anything will infringe on loads of patents, but we may still have IBM in our corner over that one - they've several thousand employees who work on linux for IBM, which is a significant investment... If a 400lb gorilla decides to screw you, the thing to do is befriend a decidedly asexual 800lb gorilla... Thanks IBM.

    Simon
  • by jdreed1024 (443938) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:44PM (#9305393)
    This isn't a completely new idea. Look at cell phones. You can get the phone for free (a crap phone, but it works) and then you pay monthly for the service. Or the budding music/audiobook industry where you get a player (again, a crap player, but it works) for free if you subscribe for a year. (Examples are Napster and Audible, obviously Apple doesn't give a free player if you buy an iTMS account)

    I could easily see a future where if you subscribe to Microsoft products for a year, you get a free PC. PCs are dirt cheap anyway.

    The question is not whether or not it's possible or feasible. The question is whether Joe Consumer will go for it? There are already a fair number of things that a consumer licenses instead of owning (DRM music, etc). And it works largely because Joe Consumer is ignorant of the details and relies on the companies to tell him why what they're doing is a good idea.

    But once it starts leaving the high-tech market and hitting closer to home, there's more pushback. I'll cite everyone's favorite example of DivX (the players, not the codec). Buy a movie but you only get to watch it a set number of times? Yeah, that worked real well. I'm not convinced giving away the players would have fixed that. Disposable self-destructing DVDs crapped out for the same reason, and for environmental reasons. Why? Because people were used to buying DVDs (and, before that, VHS tapes) and owning them, and playing them as many times as they wanted until they broke or the dog ate them, or whatever. And when someone comes along and says "Sorry, you now need to pay to watch this", they say "Um, no."

    Consumers have been used to purchasing and owning computers and owning software (yeah, yeah, it's licensed, we know, but so are videotapes technically - 'Licensed for Private Home Viewing' - and we still talking about 'owning' them). So there might be a fair bit of pushback. However, consumers are equally pissed off at their hardware and software becoming obsolete so frequently. So they might just pull this off if it's plugged as the solution to constant upgrading. Time will tell.

  • Rented life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:46PM (#9305427) Homepage
    We went through this once before with Ma Bell. You didn't own your phone, you rented it from the phone company, who could futz with it whenever and however they wanted. They also had no incentive to ever upgrade it. My parents still have an ancient phone in their kitchen that is owned by the phone company, even though legally they are required to let you connect your own phone.

    Now, these companies want to do the same with computers. You don't own anything, you merely rent it as part of a service contract. Car companies want you to lease a car, rent an apartment...

    HELL NO! When possible, you always want to own your stuff instead of leasing it. For one thing, its financially more advantageous. (Take good care of it, and the cost over its lifetime is lower.) For another, it gives you equity for loans and other transactions. For another, it frees you of the control of the leasing party.

    Me: You know, I want to try some different software that MS doesn't offer in their archive.
    MS: OK, fine, give us your computer back.
    Me: What? No way, dude, all of my personal files are on here.
    MS: Gee, sucks to be you. Guess you're stuck giving us money just to read your own data. Neener neener!

    And that's just one example. The only compromise point I could see would be the way mobile phone companies subsidize the cost of a mobile phone with a service agreement, but that's a "lease to buy" arrangement at best. When it's over, that is YOUR phone by law, and even before that it's still your phone, you just have to pay an early termination fee and the phone is still yours. MSN used to do that with low-end PCs before they realized that no one wanted it.

    Live Free. Own your life. Own yourself.
    • Re:Rented life (Score:3, Insightful)

      by andy55 (743992) *
      Me: You know, I want to try some different software that MS doesn't offer in their archive.
      MS: OK, fine, give us your computer back.
      Me: What? No way, dude, all of my personal files are on here.
      MS: Gee, sucks to be you. Guess you're stuck giving us money just to read your own data. Neener neener!


      Hrm, you could add the following step and all your problems are solved:

      Me: Ok, I'll burn all my personal files to a DVD and I'll have the computer back to you in an hour.

      No need to thank me.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:46PM (#9305432) Homepage Journal
    Step 1: Sun gives out hardware for free with Microsoft and Sun proprietary software

    Step 2: Large numbers of businesses, who would pay for software anyway, get new free great DRM hardware.

    Step 3: These same large businesses now throw out all of their old, non-DRM, non-Compatible hardware.

    Step 4: Geeks like us go dumpster diving in a sea of free hardware.

    Step 5: Install OSS on free hardware.

    Step 6: ?

    Step 7: Profit!!!!!

  • Two competing models (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:47PM (#9305441) Homepage Journal
    There are two competing models here.
    1. Hardware is "free", software costs money. Analogy would be the cable TV box. You get the box for free, but you pay for the software (programming).
    2. Hardware costs money, software is "free". Example would be broadcast media (broadcast TV, radio).

    Guess which one the conglomerates like? (hint: 1).

    Only time will tell which model succeeds.

    Unlike the TV/Radio industry, the content in the computer world can be created by anyone (hence the FLOSS movement). This would seem to tip the balance in favor of #2.

    Unless, of course, suitable laws can be passed... and seeing how apathetic the voters are ("look! over there!! shiny things!!!"), it is only a matter of time before writing software becomes encumbered with patents, licensing (i.e. software professionals will have to be "certified"), etc., thereby tipping the balance in favor of #1 above.

  • by wls (95790) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:57PM (#9305613) Homepage
    There's a big problem with software-services, and that is that the consumer doesn't feel like they're getting the same "value" (whatever that is) that they get when they have something they can hold in their hands. With hardware, you can usually repurpose it, but with software, you feel like you're held hostage [microsoft.com] and we know that companies sometimes stop support (DOS, QuickBASIC, J#) if not disappear altogether. Even though alternate guide services [antiflux.org] exist, I like TiVo's, but feel secure by TiVo's policies toward [friendly] hackers.

    Witness TiVo [tivo.com], by far the best piece of consumer electronic to come along in a long while. To get the full value, you need to buy a TiVo box -and- get a lifetime subscription. Now, pretend you're standing in BestBuy in the TiVo section and you're looking at price tags.

    Alternate Universe #1: Buy a TiVo box for $50 and purchase the lifetime service for $450. How do you feel? (Personally, I wonder why the box is so cheap and how long they'll stay in business.)

    Alternate Universe #2: Buy a TiVo box for $450 and purchase a lifetime service for $50. How do you feel? (Now, I feel like getting several boxes.) ...what changed? The fact that I'm walking out of the store holding something I *perceive* to put value in. I can see the TiVo box. I can't see the service.

    Incidently, this is why a $250 box with $250 service causes so many consumers to sit there and ponder about making the plunge. (You should. -ed.)

    The point being that free hardware is perceived as cheap hardware, even if it isn't. We also know, free hardware gets repurposed. (Witness the Cue:CAT barcode readers [air-soldier.com].)

    No, if I'm going to have to pay for software, I want it to be like Apple [apple.com]'s model for OS X [apple.com] -- everytime an update comes out, I *want* to shell out cash to get the new, _stable_, features that breath new life into my system.

    I do NOT want to have to deal with the hassle of license codes [wherry.com].

    As for me, sell me the hardware -- give me the software.
  • by jmv (93421) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:59PM (#9305637) Homepage
    Intel announces software, not hardware will be free.
  • by the MaD HuNGaRIaN (311517) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:04PM (#9305707)
    Check it out:

    http://developers.sun.com/offers/jedevpromo/

    You buy a 3 years subscription at 1500 per year, and they "give" you a "$7000" server.

    Excuse me, but for that same $4500, I would rather buy an XSERVE.
  • Well, gee whiz! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveJay (133437) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:06PM (#9305737)
    If Microsoft and Sun think that hardware will be free, shouldn't every single hardware manufacturer (from the smallest peripherals on up) be writing drivers for Linux, commoditizing the software before the software makers commoditize the hardware?

    More than it already is, I mean. ;)
  • by midifarm (666278) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:07PM (#9305754)
    There's an inherent danger in the proposal to free hardware.

    First and foremost condition would be that all computers would be the same configurations. While the idea of "appliancizing" computer hardware would be wonderful for the consumer in the long run it's counterproductive. Software is more complex than say a television broadcast. While the thematic content may vary amongst shows, the medium conforms to all TV sets nationwide. NTSC or PAL is the format and there's no straying. Enhancements are only allowed for audio, and now HD is becoming more commonplace; however, new hardware must be purchased to take advantage of the new innovations.

    Which brings me to my second point, the lack of true innovation. Software writes will become more or less problem solvers than true code writers where the sky's the limit. By problem solvers I'm referring to the need to find work arounds all the limitations of the hardware to perform whatever the desired task is. Computer configurations change and improve like the wind, but without innovations and improvements, not only in speed, but connectivity etc., we are forced to stagnate. By all theoretical laws we should've maxxed the computing potential power of silicon, yet we still see improvements.

    We need forward thinking companies to push the envelope. The elements of design and function are integral to progress of computing. Without invention, originality and breakthroughs we the consumers are doomed to stagnation and a one dimensional world. In turn, software creators are forced to live and operate in that one dimension, struggling to squeeze as much out of a box that they can.

    As we've seen many times, underfunded projects are destined to die off. If hardware becomes free and available to all there's no profit. And where there's no profit there's no innovation; therefore, we will create our own stone age.

    Peace

  • by plazman30 (531348) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:13PM (#9305831) Homepage
    If you're given the hardware for free and be forced to buy a software subscription to Windows in order to GET the hardware, where does that leave Linux. Basically you will be forced to buy an OS you never plan to use. So we should say Gates and McNealy HOPE that hardware will be free, but I doubt we will ever get there.

    Software subscriptions also insure constant revenues for software companies. Under the EULA, Office 2003 could just stop to work one day, because you only have a 2 year subscription.

    The software subscription world sucks...

    Andy
  • Scarcity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilmet (601408) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:14PM (#9305839) Homepage
    I'm not an economist, but, I always thought economics was about solving the problem of distributing scarce "goods". Hardware seems inherently scarce - limited by our production capacity and the scarcity of whatever physical components go into the hardware. Services, such as setting up a network or developing software are scarce - limited by the scarcity of the number of qualified people/things to deliver this service. But scarcity of software (and any kind of information: books, videos, music) AFTER it's been written is limited only by the communication channels through which the information is disseminated. Thanks to the internet, cost of dissemination is rapidly approaching zero.

    So what's MY prediction? I predict you won't have to pay for software. I predict you will have to pay for hardware, although the cost of the hardware might be bundled into a service. I predict you will pay for the service of having software developed. So I'll subscribe to Joe's development studio, paying X bucks a month. And for that $X a month, I might get free hardware (or I'll buy my own), the latest version of every project Joe's studio is working on... oh, and 24/7 support. And if I ever decide to stop the service, I still get access to any build of any project that existed before my subscription ended. Yeah... that's how it will be.
  • by Zapdos (70654) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:16PM (#9305865)
    Pay me $30,000 U.S. dollars a year for 4 tires, and I will throw in a free Dodge Neon every year.

    Some restrictions apply.

  • This is backwards. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:17PM (#9305877)
    What kind of a retard thinks this kind of business model will work? Software is easy to copy. Punch in one command and it's done. But hardware is somewhat more difficult to copy. There ain't no command you can punch into DOS that will make a copy of your monitor.

    I think there is an agenda behind this to wipe free software off the face of the Earth. They'll argue to Congress that free software allows people to pirate free hardware to the detriment of these companies, as if they have some God-given right to eternal perpetually increasing profits, and as if the government has some duty to protect that.

    No. I have a very strong feeling that software will be free, NOT hardware, because software is information, which by its nature will spread, while hardware is made of physical tangible materials, which by their nature do not multiply. (I think there is some law of physics that prevents that from happening.) Gill Bates has it all back-ass-wards. (And his billions of dollars are a testament to that, by the way.)

  • by LPetrazickis (557952) * <leo.petr+slashdot@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:17PM (#9305890) Homepage Journal
    (Reuters)

    A leading bicycle manufacturer announced today that, in the future, bicycles will be free but people will have to pay for the oxygen they'd breathe while biking.

    Advertisement:
    [Kids, steal money from your parents and buy Nike brand oxygen. Only Nike oxygen delivers the charge you need to push the limit.]

    This announcement follows a call by several right-wing thinktanks for a transition from a manufacture-based to a service-based economy.

    A number of South American and African nations, who have finally developed a manufacturing sector of their own in spite of IMF loans going primarily to resource extraction are not expected to follow the advice in the near future.
  • by Linus Sixpack (709619) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:21PM (#9305949) Journal
    I think the argument (long term) has two basic tenants.

    1) all the hardware sold will eventually break or lose its appeal.

    2) at some stage central forces, controlled by the software corps, will be able to remove any competition on whatever is the dominant hardware.

    So when your Pentium 7 is still running free software but you can't connect to anything and all your friends have gone over to the controlled Pentium 10 its not cool to be free. Cool beats freedom.

    I'm hoping that international Standards keep enough teeth to insure interoperability. Lets hope companies like IBM & markets like China can stop too much centralization of power.

    I think someone should quote Gandalf to Sun if it now thinks Microsoft is its ally:

    "There is only one master of the ring, and he does not share power!"
  • by mactari (220786) <[rufwork] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:35PM (#9306114) Homepage
    From the article, emphasis mine, of course...

    Already, Sun offers a mid-range server for free to software developers provided they subscribe to bundled software and services offerings.

    Schwartz isn't alone in saying that hardware will someday be "free," so long as customers sign up for multiyear software subscriptions and services contracts.


    If I'm selling you two things, call them A and B, and it cost me 50 units of resources to build them, guess what? The price of A+B > 50 units every time -- or I go out of business.

    A or B could be hardware, it could be subscription services, it could be maintenance, it could be anything. We could already say that Apple hardware is free, providing you're willing to pay a couple of thousand for the initial OS X install. It's all semantic gynastics. For heaven's sake folk, the hardware they speak of isn't free. Everyone knows that. No more free than the lenses I got with my glasses frames or the DVD of the Patriots I got with Sports Illustrated.

    And *of course* OS makers would prefer you ignored hardware -- and more importantly prefer hardware mfgs become even more beholden to OS makers for their dime. If you think HP/Dell/etc was in MS's pocket a few years ago... sheesh.

    So just remember, the price of A+B will always be greater than their combined cost to create. As long as someone bundles, what difference does it make? The profit the hardware makers used to derive directly from you would now come from MS or Sun for each unit sold. Wow. How inventive and out of the box. Let's sound like we're moving the company at light speed, helped by the fact that we're travelling in MS's wake now, and hope it helps people ignore that, "Since the dot-com and telecommunications bubbles burst, Sun has posted a string of quarterly losses and declining revenue as its core customer industries - telecommunications and financial services - suffered."

    And, of course, it's almost too obvious to bother pointing out that your "free hardware" will [typically] be bottom of the line jive. Upgrade to Office 2015? Well, it doesn't even pretend to run on your Office 2012 hardware. Want to play DOOM 5? Well, you're still shelling out -- that'll never run on the hardware you get bundled with Office today -- unless you sign up for a pretty danged shackling agreement. The more I learn about corporations' planned tomorrow, the safer I feel it to assume I'll be using Linux when I get there.
  • by SlideGuitar (445691) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:37PM (#9306146)
    Microsoft/Sun is betting that the future of ownership lies in the realm of "ideas on paper", and not in the realm of "ideas expressed in metal and silicon", much less in the realm of plain old physical stuff, which is the only area that ownership should be meaningful.

    It's an interesting claim.... building the structure of ownership from "stuff" out into the abstract realm of ideas.

    If they can get away with it, they are golden and you and I are so, so screwed.

    It's no exageration to say that the future of humanity and human freedom is at stake. If ideas can be owned in perpetuity, given the viral nature of ideas, ultimately we have a condition of complete ownership of your brain by large corporations.

    If ideas are owned, someday every idea you have learned will have been learned from a textbook or cultural source that someone had an intellectual property interest in. You literally will not own the thoughts in your own head.

    It is an amazing fascistic vision that these folks are promoting. It is hard to see where it will end, given that the issue is difficult for ordinary law makers and citizens to grasp, and given the fact that MS already has its foot in the door with billions to spend to promote this idea.

  • by tmoertel (38456) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:58PM (#9306394) Homepage Journal
    There are two fundamental problems with the notion that what customers really want are solutions in which hardware is a commoditized good.

    First, hardware does cost money. It isn't free, and Sun is not particularly efficient at making it. Put simply, Sun isn't ever going to be able to compete with Dell, which will crank out perfectly good boxes at prices that Sun can't touch. Even if Sun hides these extra costs in "solution fees," those costs are real and must be passed on to customers. Therefore, other vendors can undercut Sun's pricing by offering equivalent solutions in which Sun hardware has been replaced by Dell hardware.

    Second, the price that the market is willing to pay for software is rapidly decreasing, courtesy of Free software. Ultimately, the price that Microsoft and Sun can charge for their software, however well hidden, is not equivalent to the net benefit that their software provides. Rather, they can charge only for the net additional benefit that their software provides beyond what is already available as Free software. In other words, if the market can have functionality J for free, and Microsoft and Sun offer functionality J+K in their solutions, the market will only be willing to pay for K. As Free software incorporates more functionality, J gets larger and K gets smaller, and hence Microsoft and Sun's pricing power diminishes. Thus, as free software improves other vendors will be able to undercut Microsoft and Sun by offering equivalent solutions in which the proprietary software has been replaced by Free software.

    The bottom line is that a solution is hardware plus software plus services. Take any solution which involves Sun, and you can undercut it by replacing Sun with Dell. Take any solution which involves Microsoft, and you can undercut it by replacing Microsoft software with Free software.

    I'm going to enjoy watching this play out in the market.

  • by properler (774983) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:02PM (#9306475)
    So Scott and Bill got in bed together to lock computers with DRM. Kiss of death for Sun. News at eleven.

    But this schems works if everyone follows. Microsoft can try. XBox are not servers. MS easily can lock them, locked servers are next to useless.

    Problem with that DRM game is that China and India won't follow. China is starting boiling its own standards to avoid American patents. Smart ass analysts say "fragmenting the market is dangerous". Well, a potential market of 1.2 billions people with two main languages is not that fragmented. Someone should tell this guys from Big Apple that there is something south of the Statue of Liberty!

    Oh, and most of manufacturing is in Asia. America is working hard so that support and engineering will soon be there too. Europe will probably do the same. :(

    Now about content.
    Bill and Scott think the real value is software and content (music, movies). Problem is that Asia and easter Europe is starting to be good there to. Interesting that Tarentino movie blinks at asiatic movies. At least he is aware, that the strength of america is to be a melting pot. America can lock itself in DRM and get its culture even more inbred than it has recently become. Choice: Oprah or Jerry Springer?

    Now about software and service. IBM is using Open Source, Oracle is training ist workforce to Linux. Who needs Sun which tries to force on us its own stuff? Who want slowlaris anyway?

    Remember the Boston Tea Party. The asians can start their Asian Tea Party. any day know.

    Short of nuking them, America will have to rebuild know how, industries... Who knows? America becoming a poor country, some day some morons from Asia will think smart to oursource in America. And leadership will change again.

    A few years back, I was asking myself "will this end up with an asian Tea party". Now, I just ask myself when. I even hope that Europe will evneutally get smart. But we have just voted stupid patent laws for software. :( Empires come and goes. Europe should be smart not to stay the vassal of the states.

  • by beakburke (550627) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:32PM (#9310453) Homepage
    Hardware has a marginal cost to make that is far from zero, and software doesn't. Thus even if hardware becomes commoditized, which it pretty much is in the PC world, It still isn't ever free (not for real). Software, OTOH, essentially has a marginal cost of zero. Thus it makes more sense for a company to sell hardware and give away software that adds value to the product than to do it the other way around. They want to spread the fixed software costs over a lot of hardware units. Thus one makes (or utilizes open source) software to make their hardware more valuable to the end user.

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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