[Beowulf] who is buying those $200 PCs from wal-mart?

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Nov 15 13:55:10 EST 2007

At 07:35 AM 11/15/2007, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>On Thu, 15 Nov 2007, Mark Hahn wrote:
>>I'm a little surprised by this - personally, I think there's a large,
>>under-developed market for minimal-function PCs.  haven't we all 
>>met people who think that the web browser _is_ not only the 
>>internet, but also the computer?  but I wonder whether there aren't some of you
>>out there buying up these boxes to make clusters.
>Damn, I jumped Universes again.  No wonder I have a headache -- it
>always happens when I pass through one of the wandering
>eight-dimensional singularities and wake up in a different quantum
>timeline.  In my old one we just had a really long discussion on this
>last week, and now it, and the list archives from that manifold -- all
>It is really interesting to see that they've sold out.  I do agree that
>there IS a vast potential linux desktop market out there -- never moreso
>than today, when Vista of Evil is "mandatory" on all new computers, is
>expensive, and truly, truly sucks.  Dissatisfaction with Windows has
>probably never been higher, and I observe cover stories on computing
>magazines that have traditionally loved advertisement-buying Microsoft
>over decades trumpeting the fact that Mac OS's Cat of the Month
>(Leopard?) is banging Vista in the marketplace as a consequence.

That dissatisfaction is among the small subset of consumers who read 
Slashdot or this list or who write for and read those magazines.  For 
them Vista is a pain.

However, among other consumer populations, Vista may not be such a 
pain.  For example, my younger daughter is enamored of a website (and 
corresponding collectable "baseball cards") called Bella Sara... It 
has lots of flash based animations.  On her laptop (with XP SP2, 
etc.) it has periodic "issues" where something hiccups and it wants 
to send an error report to MS.  On my wife's laptop (with Vista), it 
runs seamlessly with no problems.

So, as far as user experience goes.. a consumer who buys an 
inexpensive Vista laptop today will probably have a better experience 
(watching DVDs, loading their iPod, webbing, emailing, etc.) than 
they are having with their 3 year old laptop running XP.  partly it's 
just because of more CPU HP, etc.  But partly, it's because their XP 
installation is now 3 years old and has accumulated 3 years of 
program installs and removals, a couple or three dozen updates from 
Microsoft, etc.  As generally troublefree the Windows Update process 
is (if you have a vanilla install with a few games and MS Office and 
aren't in there hacking around, it works pretty well), it's 
inevitable that there will be some incompatibilities, etc.

>  At
>home I predict that their biggest drawback will be the usual --
>printers, cameras, other consumer peripherals that require device
>specific drivers, and the lack of media codecs.  We're rapidly
>approaching a time when the latter is a show-stopper.  MP3 and DVD may
>be encumbered, Linux may be allergic to encumberance and have excellent
>reasons for being so, but without a pre-installed, fully functional
>music player that can manage the encumbered formats and without a
>perfectly smooth and functional DVD player preinstalled and ready to
>roll, a lot of people will end up unhappy with them.

indeed.. this is a deal-killer for most consumers.  Remember, the PC 
isn't perceived as a general purpose computing device.  It's a DVD 
player, CD to MP3 converter, and email/IM access device.  A fancy 
TV/VCR/Stereo/Game console, or appliance, if you will.

Most consumers do not buy a PC for software development or office 
functionality. They buy it for entertainment.

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