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The Almighty Buck Hardware Technology

How Cheap Can A PC Be? 1152

Posted by timothy
from the digital-watches dept.
geoff lane writes "Ballmer wants a $100 computer. OK, can we build a reasonable PC for just $100 and a copy of Linux? The rules are: It's assumed that a monitor, keyboard and mouse are already available. Ethernet connectivity must be provided. All components must already have Linux support. All components must be new and currently available. The result must be electrically safe for the home. Is it possible?"
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How Cheap Can A PC Be?

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  • by fmorgan (235244) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:19PM (#10626844)
    he wants something windows only and to sell windows-lite for $40 for it.
  • by skoda (211470) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:20PM (#10626849) Homepage
    Why should the hardware profits be sacrificed to support high software prices?

    Perhaps Windows should be cheaper to support high hardware prices. Cheaper software might also reduce piracy since the it would be more affordable.
  • Dump... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PaintyThePirate (682047) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:20PM (#10626858) Homepage
    You can go to the average garbage dump and find at least one computer that will run something like Debian without a GUI. If you're lucky, you might find a Pentium II or faster, and be able to run something like DamnSmallLinux. Chances are, you'll be able to find a monitor, keyboard, and mouse there too. That accomplishes the task for $00.00.
  • Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shoemakc (448730) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:21PM (#10626866) Homepage

    Absolutely; They're sold by a company named "used".

    Seriously though, do we really need a $100 disposible pc when there are so many functional used machines stacking up in corporate closets?

    -Chris

  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:24PM (#10626889) Homepage Journal
    My IBM PC300PL is worth about 100 bucks. It's got 288MB, a 40GB drive, a 40XCDRW, an Intel P3-450 and a free Ethernet card even though it's already built in to the MoBo. The problem is NOT NOT NOT NOT the hardware it's that Steve Balmer wants to sell you a PC that needs at least twice the hardware as that. If MS just gave us a secure efficient version of W2K we could all have 100 dollar PCs.
  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndyChrist (161262) <andy_christ@@@yahoo...com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:28PM (#10626947) Homepage
    Only if you want to run today's bloated software (even open source), which as far as word processing goes doesn't do much now that a well-developed product 10 or 12 years ago didn't.

    A 100 dollar computer, hell a 50 dollar computer doesn't seem out of reach if it doesn't have to run all of today's windows and linux apps, but only has to be capable of running more svelte applications which do the same things.
  • by headbulb (534102) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:31PM (#10626979)
    "PCs are not selling to the lower end of the population in China and India. People buying machines there are relatively affluent. So...should the prices be lower? Not really. Until government and situational factors reduce piracy...those people...don't pay," Ballmer said. (article clipping)

    Now an open letter to Ballmer
    Ballmer

    Shouldn't people in the lower end of the population spend their money on something a little more worthwhile then a computer.
    Maybe just maybe they could spend that money on their family Before purchasing such a luxury item as a computer. Of course I am not going to be naive and say they don't need a computer for some reason. But to say that I want money from the lower end of the China/India population is selfish, Specially when they have better things to spend it on..

    I don't do business with your company on those rash comments. I get by without using your software. Sorry if you feel that I am not being fare.

    Not saying I haven't pirated your software before, instead of attacking me you're attacking someone who couldn't even pay you if they wanted to is just harsh. Oh and by the way I used your software to learn about and then go into computers so in a indirect way your company benefitted from it.. So the very thing that you are against has kept your company afloat, by customer awareness.

    I no longer use any pirated software from your company. I get by with alternate platforms (Mac, Linux)

    Daniel
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:33PM (#10626998) Homepage Journal

    What justifies the requirement for new equipment? In the era of reduce, reuse, recycle, I'd imagine that using used (erm, "re-certified") parts would be worth more than just the price differential, as one wouldn't have to pollute the environment in disposing of an office's previous generation equipment and making new hardware.

  • Re: No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jjh37997 (456473) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:34PM (#10627005) Homepage


    No, it cannot be done at todays day in age, unless you want a really bad computer. I mean, what do you want to do with the computer, just be able to turn it on? Cause thats all you will be able to do with 100 dollars. Even for word processing, you will need a decent size ram, hard drive, motherboard, ethernet port, case. That alone is already at 200 dollars.

    You don't need decent size ram, a super large hard drive or an ethernet port for word processing.... unless by word processing you mean Microsoft Office. I remember a great word processor called MultiScribe from BeagleWorks for the Apple IIc that did everything that 95% of the public use Word for. Sure.... it was on a 5 1/4 disk that you had to flip over whenever you wanted to spell-check but it was fast and didn't have Clippy.

  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:36PM (#10627024) Journal
    And that's a whole hell of a lot harder.
  • by geg81 (816215) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:37PM (#10627036)
    You can get a Linksys wireless router for about $70. It's a machine with 16M of memory, 4M of flash, and a 125 or 200MHz chip. It also comes with a hub, a wired Ethernet, WiFi, and a power supply. So, that shows you can ship a lot of hardware for fairly little money.

    Replace WiFi with a simple VGA controller and give it a couple of USB ports and a little more flash instead of the hub and you would end up, at roughly the same price, with a usable personal computer that could run a light X11 desktop and some useful apps (browser, word processor, etc.). If you add a CF slot, people even have removable storage.

    Another choice is the standalone file server appliance, also for under $100 AFAIK; it already has the USB port and also runs Linux.

    And some of the game consoles also show it can be done, if you get the volume high enough.
  • by Naffer (720686) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:39PM (#10627050) Journal
    Huzzaa~!
    I for one would much rather spend my money on hardware then software. $100-200 for a piece of software is rather pricey. When I'm looking at pieces of software and seeing prices over $60, I get a bit suspicious. A boxed copy of Nero Burning rom cost $100, Intervideo's WinDVR is $80, and ever tried pricing a piece of data recovery software? The prices are so absurd you'd think they were just joking.
    It's really weird. My secondary computer is a gentoo box, and installing software is as simple as "emerge _______." I don't even have to pay anybody.
  • by jpmkm (160526) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:43PM (#10627086) Homepage
    Athalon? I really don't understand where that extra A comes from.
  • by pashc1013 (820838) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:44PM (#10627098)
    Companies don't seem to get that though lower prices means more sales, just look at Walmart
  • Hmm, not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:44PM (#10627099) Homepage
    You'll find special deals to achieve this, but nothing else will come close. And you can bet those special deals have all sorts of terms and conditions that you don't want.

    Just to prove the point, how many MBs do you know that are under $50? How many CPUs? I managed to find a new athlon 2000+ combo for $80, but even there I was having to get special deals (pcboost.com).

    A search on pricewatch returned a duron 950 for under $100, but actually going to the website showed that 'targetpcinc.com' was out of the 950 and had replaced it with a duron 1200, raising the price to $107. Not only that, but the system had no ram and no HDD. Ram starts at $18, a HDD is $40. So I can barely get a machine for $17. And if you've ever tried installing linux with no floppy and no CD, you know how 'desirable' a CD reader is. That would bring the machine to $190. Throw in a keyboard and mouse and you should just avoid breaking $200. Oh, plus shipping and sales tax.

    I accept that a huge OEM would be able to get better prices. But twice as good and I start smelling fish...
  • by moontumbohotmail.com (697100) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:44PM (#10627104)
    Yeah, but you have to keep in mind that most game consoles are sold at a loss.
  • by rewt66 (738525) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:45PM (#10627114)
    Most of the answers are along the lines of, "I can't find the parts at that price in this catalog or that store". I don't think that was the question.

    Some other comments have focused on whether what Balmer said was reasonable. Interesting topic, but that isn't the question either.

    Some other comments have said, "Yes, get a used one." That still isn't the question.

    The question is: Could we spec out a PC that, in volume, could sell for $100 and run Linux?

    An interesting twist on the question: Can we consider it "a PC" (for purposes of this question) if it doesn't have an Intel-compatible processor? Say, a StrongARM CPU? (Note that the criterion was that it run Linux; well, Linux runs on a wide variety of CPUs.)
  • Re:Dump... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trespass (225077) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:46PM (#10627128) Homepage
    That assumes that your time is worth nothing.
  • End of the MS tax? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:48PM (#10627144)
    That's going to be a big pain for MS.

    In the old days of mini-computers, sellers would charge more for the minicomputer version of software than for the PC version, even when less people were using the PC version (ie. there was no volume discount argument). The reason they could get away with this was that people who'd paid for a $10k computer would balk less at paying more for the software.

    Turning this around, while MS charges a fraction of the cost of a new PC, people are prepared to see it as a relatively insignificant expense (eg here in NZ, I'd pay probably NZD1K retain for a computer (inc monitor etc and WinXP)) and WinXP is only say NZD200 of this.

    If however the computer price came down to say NZD400, of which WinXP was half that, then I'd have a much harder time brushing the WinXP cost under the carpet.

    Lower PC costs will force lower software prices.

    Now I have RTFA, but Ballmer probably has it in his head that people will pay NZD1K for a computer and if the hardware costs only NZD200 then he can put NZD800 in his pocket. People are not as dumb as that.

  • by Reziac (43301) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:48PM (#10627146) Homepage Journal
    [laughing] My first PC was a 2-floppy, 2MHz XT, with Herc mono graphics. WordPerfect 5.0 was crisp, even running off a floppy. After a dedicated word blender, it was heaven. And when I replaced that with a 12MHz 286 (also with Herc mono, but it had a HD, and WP5.1 along with various other apps of the day), it was, like, WOW!! Everything ran like the wind. Well, Ventura Publisher 2.0 took a while to load, but it ran fine. I still have the 286, and in a pinch... it still does everything I can't live without.

    Nowadays... we struggle to get decent performance out of machines THOUSANDS of times faster than those relics.

    BTW I'm writing this on a P3-550, somewhat slower than the average of what's now found on the curb. (Methinks I need to look at a better class of curbside. :)

    But I still use WP5.1 every day. :D

  • Tight but possible (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:50PM (#10627162)
    You could do it. The c3/600 starts at $20. You can add chipset for another $20 (with on-board graphics and ethernet). I'm omitting sound -- that usually requires a seperate codec chip. 256mb compactflash is $23 (as hard drive), and is IDE-compatible -- it'd be probably $10 without profit and form factor. 128MB RAM is $15. Motherboard would probably be another $20 (small board with all of these things soldered on -- no sockets). Wall wart for power supply would be $2, probably, and another $1 for a regulator on the board -- we're not sucking a lot of power so this should be fine. We're up to $88. Add a make-shift case for a couple of box (think tupperware with cut-outs for the ports), and we're still under $100, even with a modest profit margin. It can't do much, but it can run GNU/Linux, browse the web, basic word processing, and simple programming. Quite adequate for the third world --- we could get away with a lot less if we could get fuckwit webmasters to lay off the CSS, XML, JavaScript, Java, Flash, and other crap, and go back to nice, standard HTML3.2.
  • Re:Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:52PM (#10627181) Homepage
    Seriously though, do we really need a $100 disposible pc when there are so many functional used machines stacking up in corporate closets?
    1) All PCs are disposable. Even your $4000 server. After all, a 10 year old $4000 server often isn't even worth $100 now.

    2) To answer your question, it's a matter of labor costs. To make those corporate used machines usable, they need to be checked (half probably have at least one part broken), disks erased and a new OS installed. Once you consider the laber involved in doing this, it's not quite so cheap. To make matters worse, even if all the computers came from the same office, odds are good that each one is different from the others. Yes, a company may get the same box for every employee, but over time the favored boxes change, and so the back room is full of all kinds of old boxes. And let's hope these old boxes have enough RAM -- because buying old RAM for old boxes will cost more than an entire new box, including new RAM.

    I've generally upgraded my PCs as time went on, part by part, and the old parts would accumulate in the garage. Occasionally, I'd take the old parts, and put together a PC for the relatives or friends who needed one. This worked, but I spent many many hours on it, often rememebering after many hours of frustration why I replaced that piece of hardware out -- because it was flakey! (yes, I do try to label things, but it does slip through the cracks.) And then once I gave it out, I had to support it. I may not do Windows very often, and maybe I didn't even put Windows on the machine at all, but often they end up with Windows, and so I end up supporting that.

    Ultimately, it turned out to be not worth it. Now I just give stuff to Goodwill -- somebody else can deal with it. If I want my relative to have a computer, I'll give them $200 and let them buy one from Frys, already built. They even come with some tech support :) (Now, maybe if they're my favorite uncle or something, I might set them up with a computer. But I'll probably buy many of the parts news, just because it's easier than dealing with my old stuff.)

  • by mrwonton (456172) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:53PM (#10627184) Homepage
    Jesus, all he's talking about is a stripped down X-Box, and they don't cost much more than $100.


    They don't cost much more than $100 for the consumer, but thats because Microsoft is losing money selling them for that price. They rely on revenue from the games to recoop the cost. What Ballmer was talking about was a heavily government subsidized computer. He isn't interested in selling the hardware, only the stripped down version of XP to go with it.
  • by vicnot (513672) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:54PM (#10627198)
    Look, a sub $101 computer isn't rocket science. There are landfills full of say 500Mhz and below machines...

    A 400Mhz machine, even a 166Mhz machine is suffice to run lots of stuff...

    Face it, we all use to use them...

    A 400 Mhz machine with 128mb RAM is quite a lot of machine for what the average person wants it for:

    1. Word processing
    2. Calculator
    3. Web browser
    4. Lousy paint program

    A majority of cycles are wasted with the user sitting there..

    Here's an old Dell that meets your lofty needs :) $99
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem &cate gory=51110&item=5133297107&rd=1

    For $200 you could get the keyboard, mouse and LCD monitor all in the nice form of a portable computer. Be it 500Mhz or so, Linux will run just fine.

    What the hell does everyone need a 1Ghz or 2Ghz spec'd machine for? It produces tons of heat, typically noise too and eats up tons of electric with that huge power supply you all want...
  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djdavetrouble (442175) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:57PM (#10627229) Homepage
    I saw an apple 2 gs go for 35 bux on ebay last month.. bastard sniped me at the last minute. It came with a monitor, 5.25 and 3.5" disks, a dot matrix printer, and a box of software. That computer can do word processing, spreadsheets, AND play hundreds of classic games! (aztek, threshold, wizardry, wolfenstein, karateka, sigh I love apple ]['s)

    We sell pentium 2 and 3 cpu computers to employees for $75 at my company when they get swapped out. These computers are able to run all modern business software, browsers and email. They just don't have the speed and snappiness that we are all used to. Everyone wants flat panels and small form factor PC's these days, so they just sell of these old computers and do some wacky accounting magic to write it off or depreciate it or god knows what.

    New $100 computer? Only if you are a manufacturer. Used $100 computer? totally do-able.
  • Re:Absolutely (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:58PM (#10627235)
    I've been upgrading my home computers with corporate throw-aways for years now. The three/four year replacement cycle for corporate desktops is really getting pretty silly. I've run into very few employees at any of the many places I've worked or consulted who even scratched the surface of Word 6.0. Now they have 4 GHz processors and a gig of RAM to do ... what? Surf the web and do email. Heck, most people I know can't even write a meaningful email subject line.

    Some people need fast computers. Most people still couldn't harness the power of the computer they had ten years ago. What Ballmer is really wishing for is a faster replacement cycle, because that's where MS's revenue comes from. Any company properly managing their IT budget should be seriously considering just the opposite. In addition, it's quite possible - today - to eliminate the MS tax. Sorry, Steve, but the advantage companies that make this realization will have over their competition will put them ahead, and put the people who keep obsequiously buying Microsoft out of business.

    A computer without Microsoft is like chocolate cake without mustard.
  • flawed question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by barchibald (207846) <ben AT unsaltedbutter DOT com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:00PM (#10627248)
    Hey:

    Its great to ask this question, and I'm all for cheap hardware. But...given that hardware must be manufactured, consume raw materials etc. I would expect that the floor cost for hardware should _never_ go as low as the floor cost of software - especially after you get past some R&D point for both.

    Can you say "monopoly"? It seems much clearer to me that software ought to have some fully commodified components and that the OS ought to be that component. Given that the world of software has (intelligently) landed on layered architectures, we'd expect to be spending money at the higher layers and have ever increasing commodification at the lower layers. Again...can you say monopoly?

    Now...I"m not arguing that hardware should NOT fall under this rule, but....well....some costs associated with hardware are a given, and those costs will forever be higher than the "given" costs of software.

    Just my 2cents.
  • by deathcloset (626704) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:03PM (#10627285) Journal
    Ok right off the bat: does he actually mean, "soon there will be a $100 PC?" what with the trending down of file size due to compression and the deflation of adequate internet-usable pc hadware how could they not become $100?.. I mean....oh god it's all just FUD isn't it!?

    let me acutally RTFriggin'A

    There has to be...a $100 computer to go down-market in some of these countries. We have to engineer (PCs) to be lighter and cheaper,

    sounds like the auto industry's way of stifling inovation to squeeze profits.

    Ballmer said piracy of Microsoft's Windows and Office software in emerging markets has become a major concern for the software giant, especially among business users who can afford to pay for software.

    i've always wondered. why would you want to pay for software over a programmer? Because It's cheaper, it's easier. But is it better?
    Cheaper and Easier isn't always Better. (cheapest and really hard can be very good, I think you'll agree :)

    "PCs are not selling to the lower end of the population in China and India. People buying machines there are relatively affluent. So...should the prices be lower? Not really. Until government and situational factors reduce piracy...those people...don't pay," Ballmer said.

    Oh, they'll pay alright. one day, I'll make THEM PAY!!!! ahahahaha!!

    Balmer didn't say that, I did.

    But lower prices have become part of Microsoft's strategy for gaining market share in developing nations. In recent months, the software maker has announced plans to introduce low-cost "starter editions" of Windows XP into countries including India, Russia and Thailand. These versions will be bundled only with entry-level PCs and will not be available for retail sale.

    are these guys friggin wizards of FUD or what!? Starter editions? What is redmond up to? I'm sure at the end thier intents are purely alrtuistic. But don't be suprised if the new office assitant is the Hypnotoad!

    The Microsoft CEO bristled at the suggestion that Linux is gaining in popularity as a client operating system at the expense of Windows. "There's no appreciable amount of Linux on client systems anywhere in the world," he said.

    how do you refute that? Maybe with that classic example of car companies looking out thier windows and seeing only american cars. Thus they think that there will only be american cars.

    Just out of curiosity, do you think that microsoft actively pokes and prods linux for security holes? It would make sense wouldn't it?

    Ballmer said that some governments have decided against using Linux after studying the costs involved. "You can sit here and read the drama stories and assume they are true. Paris said Linux was dramatically more expensive than Windows. In...Brazil, it's the same thing."

    so france surrendered to microsoft, so what's new?

    P.S. JK! I like the french! Thank you Fermat!

    One exception is the city of Munich, Germany, which is planning a widespread Linux installation, Ballmer admitted. "Yes, we lost the city of Munich. But the fact that the same story gets told 65,000 times, and they are still diddling around to some degree...come on, where's the evidence?" ...ok i'm done reading the article.

  • I call bullstuff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asprin (545477) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (dlonrasg)> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:07PM (#10627316) Homepage Journal

    $100 PCs might be possible, but they won't stop piracy. What you need is $20 copies of MS Office 97 Pro. At that price, everyone would pay for it.

    I think it's silly that Ballmer's argument is basically "The reason everyone in the third world is stealing *our* stuff is that *their* stuff is too expensive."
  • Of course you can. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:13PM (#10627360) Homepage
    You can buy a DVD player for $29.95 at Best Buy. The sub-$100 computer can't be that far out of reach.

    An XBOX is basically an appliance PC. That's what a sub-$100 PC will look like. There have to be millions of identical ones, with no options, so the manufacturing line just runs and runs.

  • Corporate refurb? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gliph (823543) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:14PM (#10627379) Homepage
    I know there are a million of these sites out there, but I've actually purchased stuff from these guys before (besides the fact they are local for me, no shipping!) Here's one for $100, Dell Tower [accurateit.com] that's a P3 550, 128mb, and a 10gig drive. They even have a _6_ month warranty for any issues that may arise. You can also upgrade the memory for another 25 or so. That'll run a lot of flavor's of Linux for CHEAP.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:18PM (#10627395) Homepage Journal
    $100 PC? Sure, we can do it:
    • A store in the UK [specialreserve.co.uk] has a motherboard for £18.99 ($35). It includes sound, video, USB 2.0, and ethernet, plus the usual stuff.
    • Outpost.com offers 128MB of PC2100 RAM [outpost.com] for $20.
    • Ebay has a bunch of 4.3GB IDEs with a "buy it now" price of $7. Let's assume new would be twice that at $14 if we could get it.
    • A case + power will run you at least $22.
    • I found floppy drives [compuvest.us] for $6.50.
      Throw in a network cable for half a buck's worth of parts.

    Total cost BEFORE cd-burner/dvd-player*:
    Motherboard: $35
    128MB RAM: $20
    4.3GB HD: $14
    Case w/ power supply: $22
    Floppy drive: $6.50
    Ethernet cable: $0.50
    Total: $98
    Linux: Free, in both senses of the word
    Look on Steve Ballmer's Face when he reads this on /.: Priceless

    Um, Microsoft, when you get the license cost of Windows down to $1.99, you too can play this game. :)

    *internet cafe's don't need CD players on every machine.
  • by Hawkins (219795) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:21PM (#10627415)
    MS gets away with this because they sell the majority of their Office licenses to business users, and tons of businesses remain firmly convinced that something you pay for is always better than something that's free. A worldview that makes sense, given that a business usually makes money by selling some product and/or service. The more money something costs, the higher quality and/or more useful it must be.

    Flawed but understandable reasoning.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:26PM (#10627451)
    ...a monitor, keyboard and mouse are already available.

    Why? Someone who only wants to/can only pay $100 for a PC likely doesn't have these around. Someone who does have these around, probably doesn't want a $100 PC.
    A computer is more than the box. Input and output devices are kind of required to actually do anything with it.

  • by Tyler Eaves (344284) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:29PM (#10627462)
    Uh, no.

    32MB of RAM? Are you *kidding* me? Even my minimal setup (X.Org + Fluxbox 0.9 + Firefox 1.0 + rxvt) is using 221MB as reported by free, with one instance of each running. (Not counting caches, buffers, etc). I'd consider 256MB the bare mimumum, MAYBE 192 in an emergency, but X alone uses 59MB. 32MB might have been enough to run XFree 3.x and fvwm or windowmaker, but it just doesn't come close for even a semi-modern desktop.

    (I'm running Slackware 10.0 btw)

  • Its a trick... 99% of people only need Word. So the only way you can get word is to buy: Access, Publishier, Power Point, Front Page, Info Path and Excel. Same thing with your cable company: you *WANT* sci fi, but you have to buy a "package" and get it with 10 other channels you don't want.
  • by quarkscat (697644) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:36PM (#10627527)
    No local storage, only MSN.
    Applications (MS Office, et.al.) available
    via web services on a monthly subscription.
    No problems with OS theft, or IP not
    protected by strict DRM (Trusted Computing).
    Lock-in to the Microsoft product family.

    This is either a Microsoft wet dream for new
    revenue streams, or their last hurrah.
  • by Keruo (771880) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:40PM (#10627551)
    Who says computer needs hard drive anymore?
    Just buy 64 or 128Mb usb memory stick and run linux from it, and you save ~$30
    If you need more space, just mount some more over network
  • Re:the Xbox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Covener (32114) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:41PM (#10627555)
    A joystick sends coordinates, while a mouse sends changes in position.

    Even if that were true of joysticks, it's not exactly a chore to translate between the two.
  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:43PM (#10627569) Homepage Journal
    *The question is: Could we spec out a PC that, in volume, could sell for $100 and run Linux?
    *

    yes, probably even with x86 compatible cpu.
    (small card, weak cpu, some cheap small flashdisk big enough for tiny linux distro, entirely doable in _volumes_ for under 100$ right now)

    would it be what anyone considers as a "PC" nowadays, performance/usability-wise? not really.

    but then again, set top boxes have more power than average pc from 20 years back. do they count? no. they're not what ballmer was wanting.

    and the question was pretty much posed as "can you build a sub 100$ computer that counts as a modern desktop pc from store parts right now". to which the answer is no, you can't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:45PM (#10627579)


    I live here in Bangkok. The Thais I work with don't like using pirate software because of the lack of support for it. What's selling like hotcakes is low cost PC's running Turbolinux (recent kernel, fully translated GUI, and terrific support - in Thai). The sellers offer windows, but the price is simply too high, and the average Thai has to struggle with windows interfaces they can't read, if they haven't had any formal training in computer literacy.

    This is why last years government connectivity initiative was distributing low cost machines at cost running Turbolinux.

    When I see windows boxes, they're in internet cafes whose primary focus is gaming, and they're running '98 or 2000. And that's the news from the street here: Mr. Ballmer just doesn't get it.
  • Shenanigans (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:48PM (#10627598)
    If you're method is so good,
    1. Why didn't you just tell us instead of spending 4 paragraphs beating around the bush?, and
    2. Why hasn't the great secret been known on the web for years?

    Yes, you can get a free PC if you rob someone's house, or scrounge through the trash behind failed dot-coms, or set up phony charities which purport to send computers to needy children, but other than that you have to pay at least 20-some bucks on ebay to get a used beater.

    Oh, and this Simpsons quote may be germaine:

    Well, stick around, 'cause I'm gonna tell you the twelve savings secrets Wall Street *won't* tell you. Then, I'll show you the three ways to get back to the highway, [sotto:] including one shortcut those Wall Street fat cats don't want you to know! [audience cheers]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:56PM (#10627643)
    Problem: Microsoft's $300 operating system and $600 office suite are being installed on computers without Microsoft being paid their licensing fees.

    Cause: Computers are too expensive.

    Solution: Hardware manufacturers must lower the costs of their systems, so more money can be spent on Microsoft software.

    Interpretation: Ballmer wants hardware manufacturers to bear the cost of competition. Ballmer either is being deceitful and dishonest, or he simply is delusional and in denial. Regardless, the disconnect in his logic is mind bending. He simply cannot fathom that the solution to his problem is a $30 operating system and a $60 office suite.

    Microsoft's offer of a crippled Windows-Lite (for OEMs only) to a few asian markets at a reduced-price is wholly inadequate. Microsoft ultimately will be forced to sacrifice some, if not most, of their 85% monopoly margins to compete with FOSS world wide. And it's going to hurt...

  • Re:Absolutely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@NOSPam.jasonlefkowitz.net> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:57PM (#10627649) Homepage

    All PCs are disposable. Even your $4000 server. After all, a 10 year old $4000 server often isn't even worth $100 now.

    Except that each of those "disposable" PCs are loaded with toxic materials and poisonous metals, including lead, cadmium, chromium, and mercury. Every time we "throw away" a PC its husk (including all those nasty metals) has to go somewhere. To see what happens where many of them end up, see the BBC's photo-essay "Recycling Poison: Inside China's E-Waste Workshops [bbc.co.uk]":

    [Y]oung teenagers work long hours amid noxious fumes, recycling computers from the US and Europe. The industry has turned four villages in Guiyu, Guangdong province, into toxic waste tips. Drinking water is now brought by lorries from 30 kilometres away.

    So even if we can afford to throw away yesterday's systems and have "somebody else deal with it", it may be wiser in the long run to reduce and re-use than to let those systems pile up all around us.

  • by DarkBlackFox (643814) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:01PM (#10627668)
    Could we break $100? Sure, follow the curve of hardware prices over the past 10 years... Starting at upwards of $7000-8000 for a home PC, which then dropped to $4k-5k a few years later, which then went to $2-3k not long after, to the magic $1k, and now to sub $500. Hardware is getting cheaper and faster, no doubts there. The problem is it will eventually level off. Hardware is getting cheaper because manufacturing processes have improved dramatically, in efficiency and design. Machines can be relatively easily retooled to produce the next increment of CPU, hard drive platers are increasing density (while the rest of the housing and electronics remains essentially the same), memory is still floating in that non-fixed prize zone (but still relatively affordable compared to a few years ago). Yes, costs are going down. Will costs dip below a certain point? No. Despite how much you refine your manufacturing processes, you will always have to pay for power/electricity to run your machines, workers to run the machines, not to mention the designers and architects of the components themselves.

    Yes, software has upfront costs, with the planning, development, marketing, etc. However, once it's developed and in a useable form, the cost of replication and distribution is very small. Couple of dollars for CD pressing and packaging. And of course patching (which in Microsoft's case seems to be a bigger problem than the plague, but whether that cost should be passed on to the consumer after a certain point of excess is another question). Doesn't hardware have the same upfront costs? Doesn't someone have to design the motherboard/cpu/hard drive/whatever? Doesn't someone have to design the machines to manufacture said components? Don't the raw materials and processing/refining cost something? Heck, if I pay $100 for a hard drive, I have something worth $100 in my hand to hold. If I pay $450 for a copy of MS Office, all I have in my hand is a 50 cent disc and some numbers/letters. Yes, I know the software has value when I sit down and type with it, but tangible property will always have more physical value than intellectual property, simply because there's a physical representation of the money spent.

    Anyone who thinks physical computing items will be a suppliment to intellectual property, and not vice-versa (particularly if it's in your interest to wish so, or it's in your line of work to think so), has lost touch with the reality of the industry, despite what financial weight they have to throw around to see it happen.
  • Re:This is easy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by barawn (25691) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:03PM (#10627676) Homepage
    One IDE channel. No floppy, serial, parallel, or PS/2 ports. Kill IrDA support.

    The problem is that virtually none of this saves money.

    Legacy support costs virtually nothing. The only expensive parts are the connectors (the interfaces are all integrated: if you want IDE at *all*, you basically get everything else) and you can just put them on a pin header if you want.

    IrDA, serial, and PS/2 are all the same thing - parallel, floppy, and even IDE are usually supported on one chip. They're so cheap that there's no point not to put them on. For one thing, they're useful enough to the people testing the board that they earn their keep just that way.

    The CPU and RAM chips could be soldered onto the board. Bundle it with a cheap mass-market OEM hard drive, a case with a 40W power brick, and you've got a PC.

    RAM prices fluctuate too much for this to be succesful. CPU integration makes sense, although again, the price drops quickly enough for you to be left with a platform that's far overpriced in just a few months. Keep in mind, that's one of the main reasons you don't integrate the CPU and memory - price concerns.

    For one thing, in the time it takes the system to get to market, the board will be a bit overpriced/underpowered for its price point. Systems that have socketed CPUs/memory are viable on the market for a long enough period for people to sell off their supplies.

    The way you make a cheap motherboard is to only use the integrated peripherals in the southbridge, and then volume, volume, volume.
  • by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:05PM (#10627691)
    yeh... i saw that...

    i'm _certain_ that the production price on that is about $70 for the hardware. plus another 50-or-so for the msft tax. still leaves a nice heatlhy 35% gross margin.

    via is really giving the geode line a run for its money though, and i think that theyve got the better SoC tech right now.

    although, i think that amd's manufacturing advantage could crush via.

    the real shame here is transmeta - they would a perfect fit for this type of a device, but they're:
    1) too expensive.
    2) financially insolvent.

    and as for the pricepoint for the linux... its actually amazing - sometimes, the linux devices are more expensive, for identical hardware, and have a higher GPM.

    really though, these low-end devices are more than enough for 90% of the computing publics needs.
  • by Rich Klein (699591) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:09PM (#10627714) Homepage Journal
    Palm Zire 21s are under $100 straight from the manufacturer. I'm pretty sure you can add a keyboard, the monitor's included, and you don't need a mouse. What requirements am I forgetting?
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:22PM (#10627799)
    Uou entirely miss my point. The user (and, by proxy, Dell, Gateway etc) see that they're selling a $2000 computer of which WinXP is only say 10% of the cost. In the case of the $800 computer, WinXp is only 20% of the cost. It is hardly worth fighting MS (by switching to Linux etc) to reduce the cost by 10%.

    If, however, the cost of the computer came down to say $300 of which $200 was software, the picture changes completely. Now by switching to say Linux you'd be able to get your computer for a third of the cost.

    For a lot of lower income countries (India, China, etc), the difference between a $1800 and $2000 price tag is academic, it is still too expensive. For an IT department buying computers 10% here or there is not a huge deal. However a $100 computer is obviously far more easy for the lower income earner to buy than a $300 computer. Similarly a 60%+ saving will make a huge difference to the IT department.

    Ballmer must be nuts! A low cost computer will kill MS.

  • first off... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:31PM (#10627867)
    it's the Product Service Plan. on the least expensive computers we have, it's $150 (and since we don't have any $225 dollar computers, it doesn't exactly equate to 60%) and 300 on the most expensive, covers both the computer and monitor for three years for all heat, dust, humidity, wear & tear and manufacturers defects, including all internal components (powersurges and lightening strikes are covered too, which was awesome the last time we had a big strom cause about 10 people got brand new towers out of it). in fact, the only thing we DON'T cover is physical damage/water damage or software issues. as long as you don't use your tower in the tub, leave the "technology bat" in the closet and keep your AV/Spyware upto date you're fine.

    i understand that most of the people here would rather swap out their own motherboard if it fails, but think about the fact that the VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO SHOP AT BESTBUY DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO INSTALL A PCI CARD.

    think about that for a second, before you start slamming shit. i work in the CompSales department at BestBuy, i'm a computer science major and have been using computers since i was six. i wouldn't buy a service plan on a tower to save my life, but i'd have a stroke if my mother didn't. i live 1000 miles away from her, i don't have the ability to fix her hardware problems.

    face the facts, even though YOU have no need of it doesn't mean nobody does. so next time you go into bestbuy and the NON-COMMISSIONED SALES PERSON starts throwing the PSP Pitch, understand that IT IS PART OF THEIR JOB TO DO SO and have alittle patience.

    it's ok if somebody says no to me. i don't care, i don't pressure them. what i DO care about is people being impolite to me. There is NO EXCUSE TO BE RUDE, unless they are rude to you first.. and if they are, take 5 seconds when you get home to goto bestbuycares.com and rate them down, their employee number is on the receipt, and it's the only thing the managers pay attention to because corporate headquarters sees those responses.

    JOsh, the incredibly annoyed...

  • Re:Dump... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tooth (111958) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:06PM (#10628056)
    After work, and instead of the hundred other things that need to be done around the house? Sheesh, that's why I work: to be able to afford good-quality tools that will save me time.

    Reminds me of the joke about the mexican and working to buy a bigger boat:

    The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

    The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

    The American then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

    The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."

    The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

    The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

    The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise."

    The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

    To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."

    "But what then?" asked the Mexican. The American laughed and said that's the best part.

    "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions." "Millions?...Then what?" The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

  • computers in India (Score:3, Insightful)

    by humbads (240455) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:07PM (#10628065)
    I was in India over the summer, and I visited one of my cousins who sells PCs from a small shop in Bangalore. Most people over there buy $200-$400 PCs, because that equates to 10,000 to 20,000 rupees. Farmers and laborers (75% of Indian population) make 50 rupees per day, so only the upper class city dwellers can afford PCs. Still, 25% of 1 billion is 250 million people. Would you pay $100-$200 for software on a $200-$400 PC? No. So free or pirated software rules in India, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.

    It's not reasonable for Ballmer to expect Indians (or others in the developing world) to pay $100 for a copy of XP, unless he can magically make the average Indian earn $40,000 per year rather than $3000. Also, keep in mind that in India, electricity costs more and a UPS is mandatory, so funds available to purchase hardware and software are less.

    Even at $200-$400, hardware costs far outweigh labor costs in India. In the US, computers under $200 are not even worth the time to sell them or fix them, given that any qualified PC tech costs $60-$80/hour. So all the sub-$200 class PC components get junked.

    This leads to an interesting business opportunity. If there was an efficient means of accumulating all the junk components, they could be shipped by sea container to India, where PC techs could sort out and re-sell the working parts. It costs about $4000 to ship a 20x10x10 ft. container to India from the US. So, you'd need to collect twenty $200 PCs or the equivalent to cover shipping costs. Since once the parts get to India, labor is almost free, the only other cost is gathering the components together in the US. A large corporation might have the means to do this cheaply, however. Maybe large corps should partner with Indian salvage companies to get rid of their old computers. They might make some money rather than paying to have them disposed, and also, Indians could get their $100 PCs for checking Hotmail.

  • by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:14PM (#10628102)
    i'll disagree.

    there is certain bandwidth point where exported displays (citrix, x, rdp) become a good-enough solution. while this is near-impossible with a dial-up, its a reality with any type of broadband over 768k, so there is a huge difference between dialup and broadband.

    however, there is one number that will change this discssion, that is 4GBPS, or the average speed between your video card and your monitor.

    once we hit that, all bets are off.

  • uh, so would I... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by josepha48 (13953) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:28PM (#10628171) Journal
    ... so why does MS charge $300 USD for XP, if they want a $100 computer? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to cut their price to $50 USD to allow $50 for a computer. Yeah I know all about OEM and how makes don't pay as much. But if an OEM can sell you a $100 computer, why can't MS come down on their proce to the end user?

    Oh, btw, cell phones and pda's are at around $100, and they are 'computers' (CPU, video, etc) so for a $100 computer, you'd need a cheaper OS. I don't think he gets that. Why am I going to pay $100 for a computer, then pay $300 for office and excel and powerpoint?

  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:40PM (#10628211) Homepage Journal
    +1 Ensitefull
  • Re:This is easy. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by barawn (25691) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:45PM (#10628232) Homepage
    Via already puts the CPU package on the mobo; it saves PCB space and power leakage. We're not going for a powerful system; just a cheap one.

    The Via systems with integrated CPU chips are more expensive than socketed counterparts, partially for the reasons I stated. They have to make them more expensive because they make less of them - they make less because their shelf life is shorter.

    Note that there are two sets of Via integrated CPU boards - there's the Eden set, which exist for homebrew PVR and somewhat of the embedded system market. But they have a higher feature set - this justifies the fact that they're underpowered. There was also an older one which sold disastrously (Syntax is the only one I knew that actually sold it - the S8601MP and similars).

    The point is that Via can't expect to sell them very cheap, because if they've got the CPU and memory integrated, then the product depreciates much faster than the board without an integrated CPU. It should also be noted that if you buy the chips in solderable packages, you're buying more specialty parts rather than commodity, though if you're the chip manufacturer, it's not such a big deal.

    And yes, you do save on the connectors.

    For a company which buys connectors in volume, you save nothing on connectors. Even when I've bought in very small volumes, I've been able to pull DB9s down to under $1 per. In the larger volumes, you can get it much cheaper. In fact, if you make things other than the motherboard, then they're virtually free, as it's just a fluid item. Unless you do it for space concerns, the cost of a DB9 is just too cheap to even bother not putting on. Which is, of course, why it still exists on most things.

    One other thing is the fact that the LPC port is very useful for debugging and board testing/prep, as well as hardware monitoring. There's enough of a demand for low-cost motherboards that if you could save money by dropping the legacy ports, you would.

    Even the several legacy-free motherboards have the legacy ports on the board.

    The board could also be small with no legacy stuff -- smaller than ITX form factor.

    You'd be better off, cost wise, sticking with the largest market - micro-ATX. Volume, volume, volume rules all.

    If the volume is high enough, you can design a southbridge that doesn't have the legacy support.

    That's the problem - it's not the volume that's important, it's the volume*margins - that is, the profit. If you're starting off by saying "this is going to be a super-cheap platform", your margins will start off being thin, and as the platform ages, either the demand falls off, or your margins get thinner as you drop the price. Now, half the problem is you still need to pay for the development cost.

    I don't think you're going to see someone come out and design something like this to be cheap. It wouldn't become profitable. We're almost at the point where the commodity items are near that price point as it is.

    Basically, I don't think you're going to shave much cost off from any of the methods you're suggesting. You might be able to get it started on a size argument, but I think the small form factor PCs have shown that that design can command a premium, and so they'll charge it.

    One other concern that you do fail to note is that the smaller the motherboard, usually the more expensive its design, regardless of how simple it is - you simply crowd the design, and the routing becomes very, very complicated. I have no doubt that the nano-ITX boards took a few iterations to get the signal integrity reliable enough.

    I think VIA might do it - but I think you'll see far more of a commodity PC than you would expect. If it's specialty, it's expensive - if it's commodity, you don't have to pay the development, and risk having stock without any demand.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:52PM (#10628272) Homepage
    If we're going to start plugging things, then I'll seize the opportunity and throw in a plug for FreeCycle [freecycle.org]. FreeCycle is a great way to get a good used computer (or anything else) for zero cost, and also an easy way to clear out all your old junk by giving it away to local people who find it useful. No packing or shipping hassle, since the recipient typically will come by to pick it up, and you'll earn more karma that way then you ever will posting to Slashdot. :^)
  • <sarcasm>
    Maybe you should report this to all the peer reviewed econ journals. What you say is controversial, but intriguing....
    </sarcasm>

    Don't confuse econ 101 with real economics.
  • by rho (6063) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:01PM (#10628318) Homepage Journal

    Build a platform like a Palm IIIxe. Add a keyboard and modem. Easily doable under $100. The IIIxe was selling new, at a profit at $200 many years ago. Assuming an economy of scale large enough (China), I can certainly see it coming in under the limit.

    A Palm IIIxe isn't the fastest computer on the block, but it is capable of all of the basic computing tasks. (A friend took his and one of those folding keyboards to an archeological dig in some God-forsaken 3rd world hell-hole as a data input device instead of a laptop. It worked marvelously.) It runs for a long time on batteries, and could likely be re-fitted for solar power.

    Add the power of the Internet through the modem, and you hardly need storage space at all.

    Computers aren't expensive because of the hardware, or the software, really. Our expectations make the machines so costly.

  • by clifyt (11768) <sonikmatter&gmail,com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:22PM (#10628399) Homepage
    "Well, if they only charged $30, ppl would go, it's only $30, so i'm not "stealing" that much from mega-corp. If it's priced at $100, it could cause ppl to rethink and not make copies."

    Well, my company does a lot of 3rd party sound design for different synthesizer companies and all that.

    Several years back, we were doing a lot of Kurzweil support...folks were complaining after spending $5k for a synth, the sounds should be free and were pirating everything they could get -- even though it was clear that most of these sounds were designed by separate companies not related to the original company.

    At the time, normal sound disc for around a cd's worth of samples were $99 for an Akai format disc. Akai is the bare basic format one could get...nothing more than mapping the sounds across the keys. The same disc on a Kurzweil was generally twice that much because of all the programming that went into it. Kurzweil developers took pride in their sounds so that if you were playing a piano sample, not only did you get different velocity levels sampled, but most of the programs were smart enough to filter the samples so that there wasn't a distinct anomaly when you hit another velocity zone. This made the sounds as much a part of the synthesis realm as it did playing back pure samples.

    But people *STILL* couldn't understand why a few dozen bytes of added data to each patch caused the stuff to double the price. The fact was, it took at least twice as long to convert this stuff and the man power cost more than the equipment to record in the first place.

    Ok, where am I going with this?

    We ended up doing a sound disc that got scrapped as the company we were under contract went under. So, we decided to sell it ourselves and share the data with the rest of the companies we had worked with before (lots of competition in the realm, but we are all friends -- except when we release products that compete directly, which rarely happens).

    To make this a true experiment, and at the same time support our community, we decided that instead of selling it at the standard $200 range, or even the $99 range the standard no-frills discs had, we decided to go $30 and included shipping worldwide (which turned out to bite us in the ass for a few overseas shipments as a few cost more that $30 to send out -- but it was important we do this for the community and not go back on our words).

    Sadly -- within a week of this, we found users selling dupes of this on eBay for half the price. We found folks submitting the data to Kazaa and eDonkey. We found FTP sites with all of this. One of the pirates we caught and knew by name claimed that at $30, it probably wasn't worth much and thus he wasn't hurting us. He also said that it wasn't as professional as the other stuff as we burned the discs ourselves (as opposed to getting them printed and stamped) and thus not worth it...its not like the data suffered any from this as we gave them the same exact product we would have given them at 4 times the price.

    In our field, if a sound disc sells 200 copies, we are doing well. Everyone claimed if someone lowered the price, sound companies would make far more than the 200 copies sold. I can tell you, we got just under 200 copies -- and the fact the price was lowered did nothing. The next release we did for the $99 range sold MORE copies as people expected more...and it was actually a crappier disc because it was intended to work at a base level on several platforms, not just the high end (though our buyers almost all claimed they were buying it for these high end synths).

    The fact of the matter is, if you price something lower, you are not going to increase your sales. You might sell less copies because of it. Price something for what its worth in the industry based on what others have already shown they will pay, and you will be in a much better position to sell. So, this isn't just a PHB theory...its the fact in many parts of the industry. No matter what you sell for, it will al
  • by c_spencer100 (714310) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:35PM (#10628436)
    I see people repeadily posting various prices yet everyone seems to forget something: the nick-nacks. The miscelleaous parts quickly add up. For example, no one has yet to mention the cables - yet alone things like copper shims, case fans, or thermal compound for the Athlon XP's that they listed. They tend to run hot you know, and they're defintely going to generate a lot heat with the some of the vigorious task taht have been listed (gaming being a good example). Very few people even bothered to mention a CPU fan and/or heat sink, yet they clearly suggested an OEM processor. I'm guessing they don't understand the difference between oem and retail.
  • by pnatural (59329) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:36PM (#10628440)
    $50 per license is more than fair.

    Is it fair to the guy who pays full retail price because he's honest?

    Is it fair to the teacher in a developing country who gets less than US$50 a month in salary?
  • by mcrbids (148650) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:37PM (#10628444) Journal
    Yes, I know the software has value when I sit down and type with it, but tangible property will always have more physical value than intellectual property, simply because there's a physical representation of the money spent.

    Except that the purpose of the hardware is to run the software. It's not "We have the hardware, now what are we going to run on it?", it's more like "What do I have to buy to get NNN?".

    The intellectual property is not an afterthought - it's the central point. Case in point - at numerous points in the past (including the present) you can/could buy hardware far better designed for day-to-day use than the X86. But, the X86 reigns supreme.

    Intel has twice tried to shift away from X86 towards other hardware with numerous benefits over x86, only to bomb twice, despite massive advertisement, promotion, and spending.

    Why, you might ask?

    Oh, because those other platforms did a sucky job running software developed on x86. That Intellectual Property is what counts! Without it, the hardware is worth next to nothing!
  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:46PM (#10628472) Homepage
    I've bought three of those Great Quality machines (one for home, one for work, and one for my Dad), and I've been perfectly happy running FreeBSD and Fluxbox on them. But if you look at the documentation that comes with them, it's all about how to wipe the Linux distro that comes with them (was ThizLinux, then Lindows/Linspire) and install Windows.

    And that's really the issue: software. The reason my present computer has 1000 times the clock speed of my first computer from 25 years ago is not that I really need 1000 times the processing power today. I mostly used that computer for word processing, and it was plenty quick. I mostly use my present computer for word processing, and it's not noticeably slower or faster. I press a key, and the character appears on the screen without any perceptible delay. The only reason I need 1000 times the CPU today is that, today, programmers write their code under the assumption that I'll have a CPU with this speed, so they code accordingly.

    People chase the CPU performance curve because they want to run what they perceive as the latest and greatest software. And I haven't seen any evidence that the typical Linux user is any less hung up on vroom-vroom than the typical Windows user. Actually, one of the reasons I run Fluxbox rather then GNOME is that the GNOME of year x has always been much too slow for the hardware I was running in year x. But your average person simply isn't going to run Fluxbox, mutt, slrn, etc.

  • Word for XBox. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by emjoi_gently (812227) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @12:22AM (#10628617)
    I dont know why they dont do it. A USB keyboard, mouse, printer attached. Drop in your Office for XBox DVD when you want to write a letter. Or your Explorer DVD when you want the Web. Keep it video game simple... save your letters like you save games. Forget about any OS at all. No Windows or Linux or anything else visible. Forget multitasking.... I've found users quite suprised to discover it's even possible. A super simple productive machine for the home user. No viruses or complicated installations. No obscure problems with the OS. Nothing much to break.
  • Re:Word for XBox. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by emjoi_gently (812227) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @12:34AM (#10628663)
    Well, there was something rather pure and simple about life with DOS. In all seriousness PCs, whatever OS they run, are too complex and too fragile for non-geeks. Too Flexible, if you like. I really beleive they should be heavily trimmed back for many users.
  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:09AM (#10629423)
    Yes, it is an amazing fact that sometimes higher prices make people think they get more for their money. I've noticed this a few years ago when looking for a new job:
    After a few unsuccessful attempts with demanding moderate wages, I followed the advice of a personnel consultant and raised my price by 10%. Soon after, I had a job ;-)
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles DOT jones AT zen DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:10AM (#10629427)
    Ballmer would like a PC which can only run Windows. Make this a cheap PC like a games console where the PC is sold at cost or a loss, charge silly money for software.
  • Yes and no... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Se7enLC (714730) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @08:39AM (#10630212) Homepage Journal
    I'm not so sure it's financially possible for a company to make a new PC designed to be saleable for under $100. People have mentioned the xbox and buying individual parts that are "new", but have been in stock since they were top-of-the-line, but those ways won't work, for reasons I'll get into.

    Reason #1: Look at the pricing curve for parts. a 20 gig hard drive doesn't sell below $30, but a 120 gig harddrive can be had for $39. Why? Because nobody is MAKING 20 gig harddrives anymore. The ones you see are just overstock.

    Reason #2: In addition to the lack of market for those computers, we have the lack of profit. Just because we can FIND a new motherboard for $10 or w/e doesn't mean it will be around for long. It's not being manufactured for that price, it's just being sold off since there's an overstock. $10 won't buy parts, manufacturing cost and developing costs for a board. We'd like to believe that mass producing makes everything cost a penny, but it's just not true. Somebody's salary has to be paid with the profits, and they don't want to make fractions of pennies.

    Reason #3: The reason the XBox is so cheap is because the profit plan for the company involves the sale of games. They figure nobody will use the system without buying games. That's why they are so pissed at people buying them and modding them - they are actually losing money, since those people will potentially never buy a game.
  • by droleary (47999) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @09:19AM (#10630536) Homepage

    A majority of cycles are wasted with the user sitting there..

    What the hell does everyone need a 1Ghz or 2Ghz spec'd machine for? It produces tons of heat, typically noise too and eats up tons of electric with that huge power supply you all want...

    Because nobody is offering up a 500MHz system that can do in 4 idle seconds what I want done in 1 immediate second. You could just as well argue that the majority of a car's time is spent idle or off, and that the user hardly ever redlines it, so why not stick in a smaller engine? The problem being that no amount of hours it spends sitting in the parking lot will turn my hour commute into a 1 second commute. Computers are over-engineered in just the same way to accommodate what is the common "burst" usage.

    A low-end machine alone is not a solution. The promise of a thin client was supposed to allow a basic system to also meet the needs when burst processing, but it never got any commercial traction. The big hurdle was having a network of machines to serve the client requests, the logistics of which usually made standard desktops about as cost effective. There are even things that could be done today to "average out" CPU usage on a single computer, but the economics just don't support them. Could you relieve some CPU burden by pre-decoding an MP3 and just streaming raw audio data? Sure, but how often do you know what will be listened to far in advance, and what kind of trade-off is 10x the disk space for less than 10% of the CPU?

    The same thing applies to all sorts of other non-CPU-bound tasks. At some point, they just all add up and overwhelm a 2GHz CPU, to say nothing of a 500MHz or less CPU. Unless you can devise a system that essentially caches very well, thus providing an illusion of faster processing, you're going to have usability issues. Yes, the CPU is sitting idle 90% of the time, but you need to also realize that what humans remember is the all the time we have to sit and wait and wait and wait for the computer. They wait for all sorts of things, too, and not just the CPU. Just throwing an underpowered CPU at them isn't going to help.

  • by homerules (688184) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @09:35AM (#10630686)
    A good IT professional would have checked one out first to verify operation with equipment before buying thousands of them.
  • by saintlupus (227599) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @09:48AM (#10630810) Homepage
    Funny, I've got a machine that was designed just that way, right down to the blinking email LED. It's called an Audrey, it was made by 3com, and it failed miserably in the market.

    People want a "real" computer for the same reason that they want "upgradable" computers; futureproofing, whether they need it or not.

    --saint
  • why not used? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Robocoastie (777066) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @10:02AM (#10630922) Homepage
    there's tons of perfectly good used pc's and used parts out there. I just bought a dual p2-450 rig for example off ebay for $80 ($100 w/shipping) that is now doing file and print sharing and crunching folding@home.

    This rig flies with Yoper Linux I was flat out amazed. I still ended up putting one of my XP Pro licences on it though because I ran into too many troubles making my hp psc printer work through samba but even with winxp it is fast and reliable.

    So if M$ really thinks there's a market for $100 pc's in so called "developing" countries then people should set up biz's that recycle these used pc's and sell them over "there".

    Why didn't Ballmer suggest this though? - Simple answer, because he won't make money on that. He knows ms makes their money through oem sales and notice he made this stupid "need" revealed on the heels of the announcement of the stripped down winxp they are developing for these "developing" countries? So what's he really getting at? -

    My conspiracy theory answer: When the XBox came out I told people this was ms's first move into making their own computers, people laughed. But with the rumors that xbox 2 could be a full media computer keyboard, windows and all no ones laughing now. I think those who suggested that ms's answer for this so called "$100" need is an embedded version of windows that users "subscribe" to use and is basically an advanced dumb terminal are correct.

    I predict they will either make it themselves or they'll have a licence to select few oem's to put it embedded and the oem's will be the ones that collect the subscription fee.

    The most expensive part of a computer these days is STILL the monitor, but a custom version of windows on a rig like this could automatically blow up the text on the tv when an app that needs more clarity is called on such as email.

    This plan of theirs would be in addition to their other windows products of course not a replacement.
  • by bug (8519) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @10:17AM (#10631074)
    If/when a $100 PC hits the market, customers will see that they can buy a tangible working PC for dirt cheap. Oh, but then they'll need software for it. At that point, they'll really start questioning why their OS and office suite each cost as much or more than the hardware. The software is easily replacable by either illicit copies or legitimate copies of linux and openoffice. It's far easier for a customer to see the value in tangible hardware (that they can resell if they want) than the value of intangible components like software (which according to their EULA they can't resell). I simply do not see how a drastic reduction in PC hardware prices benefits Microsoft. Microsoft software is taking up an increasing percentage of the cost of a PC, and in the end this could kill them. Remember, their OS and office suites are their only consistent profit makers.
  • by burnin1965 (535071) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @10:28AM (#10631191) Homepage
    I perused some of my favorite hardware sites and the best I could come up with is in the $149 to $179 range. And that is for what I would consider a reasonable box that could run popular open source applications.

    So I don't believe it is possible at this point but I also don't want to see everyone in the hardware industry struggling to meet Ballmer's challenge. Why should everyone in the hardware industry work even harder to destroy our miniscule margins so MS can keep their 80% margins?

    The hardware industry is extrememly competitive almost to the point of self destruction. I know first hand from working in the industry and talking to others. i.e. I was at AMD's fab25 in Austin a couple weeks ago looking at some equipment in the fab and they were running full steam. You would think they are making money hand over fist, however, in talking with an engineer it turns out they were just getting by because they were trying to cut prices to the bare minimum to compete.

    If anything I'd say that MS needs to embrace competition in their industry so they can drive their prices down the same way hardware manufacturers have over the years. In my opinion Windows isn't worth crap, but I'm sure people in India and China would be more interested in paying MS $10 for their product instead of $299.

    Sorry, kind of a rant, but Ballmer's statement combined with the stress from working in the hardware industry just burns me up!

    burnin
  • by otisg (92803) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @10:43AM (#10631380) Homepage Journal
    It's amazing that they want to make something for less than $100, yet it's so expensive to recycle computer hardware.

    Compare that to the situation in paper industry - to make 1 ton of paper you need 2 trees, 240,000 liters of water, and 4750 kWh. To make the same amount of paper from recycled material you need 0 trees, 180 liters of water, and half the energy.
  • by ThJ (641955) <thj@thj.no> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @12:52PM (#10632753) Homepage
    You mean like those pesky "KDE" and "GNOME" programs?

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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