In another sign that Microsoft can no longer simply dictate the future of the personal computer desktop, it appears as if maybe, just maybe, at least some customers wont have to wait until Longhorn shows up in 2006 … or 2007 … or …
You see, as Mary Jo Foley reports in Microsoft Watch, in Thailand, financial pressure from Linux desktops forced Microsoft to first cut its prices, and then, and this is the interesting bit, start releasing what the Bangkok Post, Thailands leading newspaper, calls "Windows XP Lite." This is a stripped-down version of Windows Home for the Thai market.
Microsofts corporate spokesman Mark Martin denies that this is the start of some kind of interim version of Windows, but at the same time, Microsoft is keeping a close eye on how well "XP Lite" does.
Microsoft would be wise to do so. The Linux desktop is starting to look a lot better to both home and business users.
First, its cheap. American corporate IT buyers have more cash than their Thai counterparts, but XP Pro—since Home with its inability to use NT Domain or Windows 2000/2003 Active Directory networking renders itself essentially useless for most business desktops—is expensive. After a price search, the lowest reseller price I could find for XP Pro was $128. The highest price I could find for SuSE Linux 9 was $74, with an average price of $64. You do the math.
You can also run desktop Linux on 100MHz Pentiums with 128MB of RAM and have a perfectly decent user experience. An XP user on a similar old PC might put out his eyes waiting for XP to boot. If Microsoft really wants its 98SE and ME users to switch to another Microsoft operating system, it should take a page from Linux, and its own Thai experience, and deliver a stripped-down Windows XP that can run on legacy hardware.
Most Linux distributions also come with a variety of office productivity tools such as OpenOffice, an office desktop suite and GIMP, the open-source answer to Adobe PhotoShop. When you buy a business Linux desktop, you get a business platform, not just an operating system. I cant see Microsoft making this move. Microsoft still makes a ton of money from Office suite sales.