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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@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> 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?

  • 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.
  • 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 @01:31PM (#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."
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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

  • Not so. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:33PM (#9305184)

    Actually, BG said that hardware can be seen as nearly free, considering it in relation to other costs.

    Quite the difference.

    If hardware were truly gratis then I would order myself a Quad Opteron 150 station and the giving party could expect nothing in return (no, hiding costs in other posts doesn't count. "Buy X, get Y for free!" is actually illegal where I live). Of course, that's absurd.

  • 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!"
  • 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 hattig (47930) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:34PM (#9305217) Journal
    Just subsidised.

    I'll still be paying for hardware and running Linux / FreeBSD on it. I'm not paying MS or Sun to get someone else's idea of "good enough" hardware at a per-month contract payment.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 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.
  • Here comes the DRM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doorbot.com (184378) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:37PM (#9305276) Journal
    Will the hardware really be "free"? Or will it just be the medium upon which the software is provided (and runs of course)?

    If the hardware is actually free, and I own it, then that might not be so bad. I do expect it to be DRM'd to death, and basically only be usable with the software provided.

    But if it's not free, and it's merely rented to you (at no charge), then breaking the DRM on your own box will definitely land you in hot water.

    Is this the Microsoft method to combating free software? That just seems like a losing battle... I can make unlimited copies of my Linux CDs, but it is physically impossible to "copy" a PC. So yes, they can produce PCs for a very low (marginal) cost, but the marginal cost of a PC will still be many times more than the marginal cost of copying a Linux install CD or disk image.

    While support contracts may be one way to make money with free software, and even with proprietary or non-free software, I can't imagine this as anything more than a ploy to force a subscription model and DRM'd hardware down the customers' throats.
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Give me a break. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bludstone (103539) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:39PM (#9305315)
    You mean the thing you can copy perfectly at zero cost an inifite number of times is going to be the thing you pay for, yet the super-complex physical object is the one that will be free?

    I'm sorry, I dont buy it.

    You can _offer_ that, but I dont think it will take off. I believe the potential was there, but right now open source software is on a roll. Firefox being the frontrunner.

    With the upcoming economic crunch (due to raising gas prices) people are going to be cutting corners everywhere. Getting used hardware and running free software on it is a friggin _fantastic_ low cost method of running your server/office client/game machine/whatever.
  • by zeotherm (698238) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:41PM (#9305345)
    I remember back when DVDs were new, they had to compete with Divx discs. The difference, DVDs were expensive, but you paid once and owned it, Divx was cheap, but you had to pay each time you watched it... This seems like a good analog to this debate, and time has already shown how a market responds to subscription based technology goods. How many people ran out to buy the new divx disc of "Return of the King"? - ZT
  • 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.
  • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:44PM (#9305397) Homepage
    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 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 Gigahertz (768208) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:45PM (#9305413)
    I'd like to give these big names some benefit of the doubt, but I'm having an extremely hard time doing so...

    Hardware is a physical tangible item, produced by people and machines, the product of (usually) years of development and testing... Each item has a cost and uses up materials.

    Software is just data, still the product of people, using machines, but theres no per-item production costs for digital distribution, and for normal distribution it's no different than audio cd's/dvd's, one unique master set of data gets duplicated...

    Traditionally software was bundled with hardware, and I can't think of a realistic application that could succeed as a software package with bundled hardware.

    They can't mean that hardware will be no-strings-attached free, handed out on street corners, no value what-so-ever...

    Hardware cost is meaningless to me. I rationalize this by saying "I drive my car 40 minutes a day on average, and I use a computer 10 hours a day on average. My car costs 26k, the computer 3k." I could build an insanely godlike system for less than 3k, well worth it if you ask me.... I can install it using entirely free software, linux, openoffice, firefox, etc.

    What in the hell are these people talking about?!
  • 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.
  • 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:Yeah, well (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:49PM (#9305468)
    They will never lose credibility. Just like the media gets to keep its credibility after y2k didn't happen.
  • Dream on (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:50PM (#9305483)
    The fact that Sun can't sell hardware does not mean it will be free.
  • 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.

  • 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).
  • by xyloplax (607967) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:52PM (#9305518)
    I doubt they will be giving away hardware independent of the software. It's the equivalent of saying "free water" and charging $5 for the cup with a "no cup without water" policy.
  • 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.

  • Re:Free Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khomar (529552) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:56PM (#9305586) Journal

    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 time and effort to determine how to actually make the customer happy. Sometimes, they take it even further by developing a new field that no one really wants. For an example, take Internet appliances. They are trying to say that this will make life so much better, but are there actually a lot of people out there asking for these things? Also, look at a large number of the new "features" of Windows and Microsoft office. Did anyone actually ask for Clippy? Are there millions of customers demanding that there be more animation on their desktop? Most of these features are more annoyances than helps, and they certainly don't help people be more productive in their day-to-day work.

    It really comes down to simple economics: supply and demand. They are trying to create demand for which they already have the supply, but as they continue to ignore the real demand, they are simply alienating their customers. It may not be as profitable in the short term, but if you can show customers that you can truly meet their needs, you will reap the rewards of loyalty and then ultimately... profit.

    It takes work. Do we remember what is?

  • 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 killdashnine (651759) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:58PM (#9305620) Homepage

    For your "Average Joe Computer User" or "Joe Corporate Guy", this might be fine. My Mom would obviously benefit from this, but for power users and hardware enthusiasts, this is doesn't make sense. Big corporations may be ok too as you don't need much to run Microsoft Office really.

    The high-cost of hardware components like top end video cards, for example, is what drives profits for the manufacturers, sells games, and continues to press the envelope of tech forward. It also seems to be the hallmark of the true computer geek. Who's going to go to a LAN with a "free" rig and would it actually play anything decent? ... Sheesh, that'd be like having an "all Playstation" LAN (shudders).

    Computers aren't like cell phones or XBoxes ... if you take what "they" give you for free, it's going to be junk. Furthermore, I can imagine the chaos that would ensue when hackers get their hands on this stuff. Hardware hacks (chipmods and stuff) go deeper underground and the software AND hardware companies lose even more money.

  • 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 _anomaly_ (127254) <anomaly&geekbits,com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:00PM (#9305661) Homepage
    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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. ;)
  • 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:Free Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:10PM (#9305791)
    buying a car is about the worst investment a person can make.

    It's not an investment, it's a purchase. Car companies thoroughly enjoy talking about major purchases as "investments" because it creates an artificial (and wrong) comparison weighted heavily in favor of the salespeople.

    Cars, houses (as a residence) and appliances are not assets and they are not investments.

    leasing doesn't sound too bad...

    A car lease is a giant, maggot-infested, steaming rip-off.

    I mean, the result of years of payments ends up being basically no equity anyways,

    According to the car dealer.
  • 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 blunte (183182) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:15PM (#9305860)
    Once again they're being the doomed contrarian in the face of rational IT/technological wisdom.

    Hardware is already becoming so cheap as to be virtually insignificant for many companies (especially if you use an OS that has much lower requirements than Windows).

    Microsoft and other commercial software companies have demonstrated that high software and licensing costs are the most hated aspect of IT budgeting.

    Sun's just demonstrating once again that they have no clue which direction to turn, and by some sad misfortune they've pointed themselves backwards.
  • 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.

  • FUD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by feloneous cat (564318) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:16PM (#9305871)
    Before everyone begins to panic, remember that we ALL have the ability to create our own processors (through the miracle of VHDL). Lockdown, smockdown, we can create our OWN standards. If they don't like it, tough.

    True, it means that more and more of us will have to depend on GPL'd code, but to be honest, I've gotten more value out of that than I have out of the big dollar code (although I must admit, I still while away a lot of time with GarageBand).

    No, our hardware won't be as pretty, and maybe not as fast or cool, but it will be OUR hardware.

    WE, are NOT dependent on Microsoft, or Sun, or Apple, or Dell, or AMD. It is not 1975 and more people know about the internals of microprocessors than they did in that long bygone era.

    If we want to do a number on the computer industry, we would start using GPL'd hardware. THAT would scare them!

    Feloneous
  • Re:Rented life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by andy55 (743992) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:16PM (#9305873) Homepage
    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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:17PM (#9305878)
    Evidently, in this usage, the word "free" is being repurposed to mean "bundled".
  • 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 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 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 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 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 mactari (220786) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <krowfur>> 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 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 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.

  • Re:Free Market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jroos (205868) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:43PM (#9306199) Homepage
    I personally am sick of recurring expenses. I'm being subscribed to death. It seems like everyone wants a piece of me, monthly.

    I love the idea of Siruis/XM radio but I'm not buying because the last thing I need is another monthly bill. The only reason I have a TiVo is because they offered the lifetime subscription.

    Let me pay up front for my software and hardware and I'll own it until it's doesn't work for me anymore.

    If I have to pay every month, quarter or year just to run Bill's software, you can count me out. Count my family out too because I'll suffer the pain of switching them over to open source/free software.
  • by hearingaid (216439) <redvision@geocities.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:48PM (#9306271) Homepage
    Apple invented the desktop market. The Apple ][ was the first mass-market desktop. There wasn't one before, unless you count some CP/M machines - but I don't. Flip back to 1981, and you're looking at Apple everywhere in the micro world.

    Then, the introduction of the Macintosh. The Mac dominated business for several years after its introduction. It wasn't really until the late 80s, when clones started becoming common, that it lost its edge; remember, Apple was cheaper than IBM way back then.

  • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:51PM (#9306312)
    That's correct. It's not property. Therefore, for its use you will owe me an annuity in perpetuity or erase it from your memory.

    If you can't convince me you have done so I'm prepared to do so physically, assuming that, in your case, such is possible.

    KFG
  • Re:Yeah, well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:52PM (#9306314)
    You buy games now that you can't play unless you pay your monthly subscription to the server.

    Speak for yourself. I don't own any such games, and would never buy one. I don't know anyone that would even care about such a thing. Maybe some teenagers and 20-somethings are willing to buy that crap, but a lot of people aren't: many (most?) console games are not networkable, and many people have just given up on modern games altogether. Of course, it's hard to measure how many people are playing MAME [mame.net] games instead of the latest 1st-person shooter since MAME isn't sold and doesn't have retail sales figures, much like it's nearly impossible to know how many people have abandoned MS and are using Linux that they downloaded or got a free CD of.
  • Marketing Trick (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrianMarshall (704425) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @02:58PM (#9306397) Homepage
    Which statement is likely to be a trick?
    • I have this software - anyone who wants it can have it for free.
    • I can provide hardware - anyone who wants it can have it for free.
    The incremental cost of letting one more person use your software is zero (basically); the incremental cost of building someone some hardware is not zero.
  • 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 A.T. Hun (192737) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:05PM (#9306525)
    Free hardware is Good For America as opposed to free software which is Bad For America. It all makes perfect sense! (at least once you substitute "Sun" or "Microsoft" for "America")
  • by nuggz (69912) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:12PM (#9306624) Homepage
    Sun and MS are software companies, obviously they will tell everyone the future is in software, not hardware.

    MS is obviously a software company.
    Sun wants to be a hardware company, but they are realizing they can't compete with the price performance of commodity x86 boxes.
  • What about Tivo? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DukeyToo (681226) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:13PM (#9306652) Homepage
    There are 2 styles of subscriptions in the world today. The first is the "lease" style - you get a product for a low ongoing cost, and at the end of some period you own the product, or can trade it in for the next product version. During the lease, the product features remain static, and the value of the product decreases.

    The second style is the "rent" style, you pay a fixed price for as long as you want to keep the product. Occasionally, the product may be upgraded (e.g. an apartment complex may install new energy efficient windows). When you no longer want the product, then you stop paying (although usually you have to commit to a period).

    Given that software manufacturers want software subscriptions, which model do you think they prefer? Lets try and find some current examples...

    Why do people lease cars? Because the prices are exhorbitant. Why would people lease a hardware and software combination? Is the price of those 2 combined exhorbitant? Are there any examples out there already?

    What about Tivo? Combined software and hardware, together for a particular purpose, with a monthly subscription and a low initial cost. People are quite happy to pay a monthly subscription, even though the software remains static. This is not the "lease" style, it is the "rent" style. So, given that established corporations are spectacularly non-original entities, there is little likelihood that they will go for the lease style of subscriptions.

    Given that, and using Tivo as a reference, what can we deduce? The hardware need not be upgradeable, and the software need only support a very limited capability to upgrade. In addition, the user will have little or no ability to alter or substitute the software themselves. Finally, the hardware/software unit will perform limited, specific functionality.

    Perhaps it will be an "office" machine, with a word processor and a spreadsheet. Or a travel machine, or even a remote desktop machine, with no functionality of its own.

    I am not entirely clear what Sun seeks to gain. Will corporations rent server appliances? Do they now? I don't know. Microsoft's focus is more obvious, since they have traditionally worked on the "client" side of things.

    With regard to DRM, in the PC appliance world, it is a non-issue. If the appliance has no place for
    an analogue output, and the software is not accessible, then the user has no way to access the content, except through the appliance.
  • by jkabbe (631234) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:14PM (#9306681)
    Clones may not have been commonplace in business until the late 1980's. But as early as 1984 (when we bought ours) they were available and very inexpensive (compared to IBM and Apple). It probably just took a few years for people to come to grips with the idea of 100% compatibility. Rest assured, though, clones were around when Apple launched the Mac.
  • free (Score:2, Insightful)

    by trustedserf (700733) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:15PM (#9306689)
    if i use ( freeBSD | linux ) on the desktop, and am happy with a PII, then my hardware is already ~free. so is my software. in the future i can look forward to free hardware and paid-for software?

    that's not an improvement.

    i suspect (hope) that in time both will be freee, or rather, software free, and usable hardware very cheap. of course, if you want cutting edge so you can have transparency and 3d windows and ..., well, that's fine too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:17PM (#9306713)
    Or how about ink-jet printers where the lock-in, and the manufacturer margins, is in the replacement cartiages...

    -cmh
  • by Eternal Cynic (665062) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:24PM (#9306799)
    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.

    I won't argue the long-term prospects for commercial software, but to state that the process "ran out of steam twenty years ago" is just asinine. A whole lot of companies have made a whole lot of money selling software in that time period. It's only been in the last couple years that non-proprietary software has made any significant inroads into Corporate America.
  • by romanval (556418) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:25PM (#9306809)
    That's an easier analogy to dispute: Is the general public more productive on a current PC rather then a 3 yr old one?

    I mean, I'd understand it's a tool of the trade-- the cluster computing engineer would have enough reason to use the best/fastest, but my work PC is a 1Ghz PIII, win2k, and I only use Office on it. It works so well that I can't find any incentive to upgrade at all. All my relatives have PC's that aren't much faster-- and feel no need to upgrade either.

    whoops, lunch break's over...
  • why sun is stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flacco (324089) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:28PM (#9306842)
    they are not going to turn around the F/free commodity software on cheap(er) hardware trend, period.

    if they had any sense they'd be positioning themselves to provide services and software further up the software stack, above the commodity level. unfortunately, they have no sense.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:50PM (#9307186) Homepage Journal

    You're being ridiculous. You still pay your cell phone provider for service, even if you hack your phone, don't you?

    Maybe; or maybe you cancel your service with them and take your phone somewhere else. Especially if you can show that they are shining you on when it comes to service or something, and get them to cancel your contract. They don't want phones unlocked because it gives you the freedom of choice.

    Similarly, these systems will be DRM'd up the ying-yang to prevent you running something else on them, because Sun is going to make money not only off your initial purchase, but off maintenance. You will have no choice but to pay Sun (or Microsoft) for this maintenance because all patches will have to be signed before you can install them, and the OS will have to be signed before it can be installed.

    This is very little like a cellular phone and much more like a console video game system. If you can hack it you can run linux on it and then Microsoft never recoups the cost of the system through licensing fees, so they don't want you doing that. Xbox version 1.5 is much harder to hack for just this reason, and last I checked no one had successfully done it without a modchip. Having to buy a potentially finicky modchip is a deterrent which prevents some people from hacking their Xbox.

    Finally, in terms of what it makes sense to run on the Sun hardware - the Linux kernel has a boatload of functionality not found in Solaris. The only thing Solaris seems to have that Linux doesn't is drivers for a bunch of Sun stuff which you may not even be using. Now that Linux has support for big ass hardware, if you can get it to run on your systems, there are many compelling reasons to do so, especially if you don't need to buy commercial software, a need which has been much reduced with the successes of the Free Software movement.

  • 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.
  • Re:Yeah, well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoneyT (548795) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:54PM (#9307260) Journal
    See EverQuest / SIMS online etc etc, the number of active users on these things isn't some anomoly. You're an exception. You don't buy these types of games, but you're also of the generation that has a use for MAME, that fully remembers the days of such games. These teenagers and 20 somethings you have such disdain for are the people that will be buying this stuff in the future. They are the consumers. So while you will be sitting happily playing MAME, you and your type of gamer will become more and more rare.
  • by jethro200 (573288) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:56PM (#9307281)
    with cell phones? You pay for the service, get a 2 year contract, and get your phone for hundreds of dollars less than you would pay for it alone.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:10PM (#9307476)
    How's the PS2's backward compatibility a fluke? It certainly didn't just happen, there's a chipset in there to make it happen.
  • AntiTrust Loophole (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:19PM (#9307613)
    Your honor, we aren't locking the PC into windows only with Palladium! We are giving the customers the hardware free with a subscription to Windows!

    And our new best friends SUN are doing the same thing so it's really not antitrust!

  • by dekeji (784080) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @05:43PM (#9308858)
    Reuters quotes Schwartz: 'In our world, you will subscribe to the software and the hardware is free.'

    Note that you subscribe "to the software", not maintenance or documentation or training.

    I think this tells you pretty much what Sun thinks about open source software and how they are using it. As if you needed any other indication after they went back on their promise of ANSI/ISO standardization of Java, hijacked the Gnome desktop with proprietary components, and are generally badmouthing Linux and open source to their customers. And keep in mind that this is the company that started out by turning BSD UNIX into a highly proprietary system.
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @06:44PM (#9309580)
    >something akin to the cell phone market

    Exactly. That's the model that would work best. Why should I let some other company steal my hardware and my customers? How will I get capital to even build out my devices if I can't convince my investors that I can't even protect my own product or have any kind of customer loyalty?

    There's no such thing as "free" hardware, its subsidized hardware. Subsidized hardware means DRM, patents, proprietary tech, etc.

    If we truly shift to an age of free stuff, it will also be an age of contracts and we all know how wonderful it is to be stuck with one carrier, their support, their devices, etc. Think Microsoft times ten. No wonder Bill is all for it.

    In the end, I doubt it going to happen as predicted. MSN did their "take 300 dollars off a PC at best buy if you sign a contract with us" and a lot of people got burned paying broadband rates for dial-up and vendor lock-in. Not to mention the demographic you're going for at first doesn't have credit. On top of it, the cheap thin client or appliance PC has been a market disaster thus far.

  • by Reziac (43301) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:03PM (#9310242) Homepage Journal
    The article says,

    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. Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates has said he believes that, within a few years, hardware will be free and that software will be bought on a subscription basis, rather than as a one-time purchase that must be upgraded routinely.

    This isn't really much different from the already-common practice of giving away a cheap PC (average wholesale value about $300) with the requirement that you sign up for 3 years with MSN, AOL, or whoever.

    And it neglects the fact that software by subscription is susceptible to forced upgrades and price hikes, which may well be built into the contract, and since you don't actually own anything, you have little or no control over.

  • by wtoconnor (221184) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:58PM (#9310986)
    By their thinking TV's should be free but they are not. Why can't I just signup for that Cable Infomercial channel and get my TV for free. Because no one would do it. The content would be crap and I would not have the option to go to different vendor easily. When they say free they mean you signup for a 2 year subscription like the cell phone companies offer and pay for the software. But you are actually paying for both regardless. The software makers want you to think that software is the only thing of value.
  • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:41PM (#9316008)
    The notion of software will become ever less important, and hardware will become an even greater driving force in the computer industry.

    I don't agree. I even think that this statement is at odds with the rest of your predictions. A word processor in your TV? That's software. Dictation in your phone? Software again.

    In both those cases, its just software running on a general-purpose computing platform.

    Consider the statement not to be "Hardware SHOULD be free", but "Hardware WILL be free"- meaning not that software companies will provide complementary hardware alongside a subscription, but that Moore's Law and similar trends will bring down the price so much that replacing your PC is like changing a lightbulb.

    You can see this happening already- the upgrade treadmill is slowing. PCs that were new in 2000 are still useful today (for non-gamers).

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

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