Wal-Mart Ships PCs with Lindows
June 21, 2002 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Wal-Mart Ships PCs with Lindows Wal-Mart has stood up to MicroSoft's monopoly with its latest computer offerings, being sold sans Windows. The retailer is selling its super cheap boxes either without an OS or with the upstart LindowsOS. I guess I'll have to start shopping at WalMart to show my support!
posted by misangela (23 comments total)
Thats so weird! I had a 60 yr old guy who I convinced to buy Mandrake (I work at Borders). About 2 weeks later he came in asking if I had any books on Lindows. He was complaining that the "biggest retailer in the US" (walmart) didn't carry any machines with Lindows installed, and that he was going to complain.

I'm sure its a weird coicidence, but it would be funny if those Grandpa Simpson complaint letters really worked! =)
posted by Satapher at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2002

I'm definately considering one of these for my next PC. But I'll probably just ditch the LindowsOS and install a pirated copy of Windows on there.
posted by bobo123 at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2002

Which hurts Microsoft more: piracy of their product or use of their competitor's product?
posted by luriete at 1:15 PM on June 21, 2002

luriete: use of their competitor's product. even pirated windows users need to run software developed for it.
posted by o2b at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2002

This exciting new OS delivers the stability of UNIX with the ease of Windows and the ability to run most Microsoft programs.

why they picked lindows i don't know. probably because of the name. aside from the fact that there are much better distros out there, this quote is whats going to kill them. most microsoft programs won't work and that is what is going to give lindows, and thus linux in the public eye, a bad rap. when joe schmoe buys one of these and wants to run adobe, office, or any other program or game, and they can't or it only partially works the complaints are going to start pouring in. it's great to get linux out to the masses, but not under false pretenses.
posted by chrisroberts at 1:20 PM on June 21, 2002

Newsforge says Wal-Mart will also sell MicroTel PCs loaded with Mandrake. Still, I doubt this means Grandma's gonna be buying it -- more likely Grandma is going to be bringing it back to the store asking "Where's the Start menu?"

It might just prove a thrifty alternative for some people. But I think most of the sales will be to teenagers getting just what they need to, say, run a Counterstrike server, rather than broad consumer acceptance of Linux. Not to mention the people who'll put a pirated or "obsolete" copy of Windows on instead.
posted by dhartung at 1:22 PM on June 21, 2002

chrisroberts, on the Walmart.com site they don't make that claim about running most MS software. In fact they aren't making any promises about MS software anymore. It looks like their emulation promises were just vapor.

This is going to be good for the webtv demographic. People who want internet and some apps without dropping a thousand dollars or so. A $300 PC with Mozilla/Open Office and other good GUI open source software preinstalled is quite a deal.

There's a good chance that walmart's sudden interest in doing things in a non-Microsoft approved manner may be a ploy to get bigger breaks on software and PC prices.
posted by skallas at 1:41 PM on June 21, 2002

More conversation about Linux/Beos/Windows installations on these machines here.
posted by Mack Twain at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2002

Gee, wouldn't it be great if you could buy a cheap computer with an OS based on the stability of UNIX, with an intuitive GUI, yet still be able to run all the usual office, graphics and internet programs?

I really wish I could get me something like that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2002

why they picked lindows i don't know

Same reason that there's a couple chicken stands in NY called "Kennedy Fried Chicken."

Plus it'll be kinda neat to see Linux take hold among the Wal-Mart demographic, could make for a whole new generation of ninja hackers, maybe.
posted by jonmc at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2002

Some interesting background on Wal-Mart: it's a cooler company than its rep would have it. I've been doing temp work lately for a guy who's working on getting a city council to approve a new Wal-Mart. He's working with guys from Wal-Mart and a citizens' group (people in the town want the store, too, and no, it's not here in Boston). The store will be enormous, but it's one part of a much bigger plan: the first thing Wal-Mart will do, at its own expense, is clean up a nearby toxic waste site. The rest of the plan (parks, retail space, traffic improvements) is beneficial to the community and only the store itself has the Wal-Mart logo on it.

I keep saying things like "sweatshop" to myself, but this is a really sweet deal Wal-Mart is offering in exchange for building permits. I'm somehow not surprised that Wal-Mart would do something like this (sell PCs with Lindows). I like it.
posted by swerve at 2:45 PM on June 21, 2002

Yonderboy: iMacs are cheap?
posted by rcade at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2002

since when is anything made by apple cheap?
posted by Satapher at 3:03 PM on June 21, 2002

Yonderboy: cheap?
posted by neilkod at 3:31 PM on June 21, 2002

WalMart deserves a lot of credit. Unlike the stock market/industrial hypesters, they've advanced by being better. & They are better because they try harder & do more. There's plenty of reasons not to like them but they are always out there, inthe public eye.

Also, this post is more or less June 14th's slashdot
so I'm a wee bit disapointed to see it here now.
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:36 PM on June 21, 2002

Also, this post is more or less June 14th's slashdot
so I'm a wee bit disapointed to see it here now.

Metafilter is not Slashdot. Just because you read both doesn't mean everyone does. Walmart and Lindows is all over the net, and many sites were talking about it way before slashdot, so was it disappointing to see slashdot post it too?
posted by skallas at 4:15 PM on June 21, 2002

The problem here isn't the slashdot (or other source) primacy, it's the week's delay from major one major media (or at least .net media) to another. So while Mefi's are discussing this post, home (USA) consumers are dusting the packing peanuts off their WalMart Lindows PC based on info they got a week ago 'cause of info they got from /.. Which is now old.

So who's got a WalMart Lindows PC?
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:28 PM on June 21, 2002

Is Wal-Mart really as good as you think? There's a book called How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America that discusses their shady buying practices (how they illegally screw over smaller distributors and factories, who can't afford to take them to court), low wages and lack of benefits for employees, and how they force their way into communities who do everything they can legally to keep them out. Plus let's not forget their refusal to stock the morning-after pill, even though they are often the biggest (and only) pharmacy in some communities. Just because one near-monopolistic corporation is refusing to cater to another doesn't make them saints.
posted by fotzepolitic at 5:58 PM on June 21, 2002

Um. Well, fotz, far be it from me to criticize those who believe money (making) is the root of all evil, but some believe Wal-Mart is America at its best. And regardless, many others believe it is emblematic of the future. Is it possible that being a large company, doing millions of different things as an aggregate entity, that some of those things are good (and deserve praise) and others are bad (and deserve criticism)?
posted by dhartung at 6:24 PM on June 21, 2002

I somehow doubt that the future of American business will be defined by corporations like Walmart who are not only in the business of retail but also santizing and censoring products their directors don't approve of. Its a little know fact that magazines and CD publishers usually ask Walmart if their covers and in case of CDs - their lyrics are okay with Walmarts middle-american ethics.

I'm kind of curious as to why companies like Blockbuster and Walmart don't advertise their censorship as a selling point. If they're not proud of their actions and they don't think they have something to hide then why isn't there a sticker on that last DVD you rented saying, "We edited this for YOU!"
posted by skallas at 7:12 PM on June 21, 2002

Huh. This is the first I've heard that the LindowsOS was shippable. From winter and spring postings on Slashdot, I knew it was under development, but I hadn't read anything else in a while.
posted by alumshubby at 7:29 PM on June 21, 2002

Blockbuster lost me about 10 years ago when they wouldn't wait on me (at the time - early 20's longhair rock slob) and my girlfriend (early 20's longhair nicely dressed student). The whole while we stared in disbelief at a big sign propped up in a Lucite stand announcing that Blockbuster was proud to drug-test all employees.

Like, the guy renting me a video is stoned - won't someone think of the children? So we walked out and got a membership at the indie place.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, is not that easy to resist. Right now cheap plastic fans from Wal-Mart are keeping me from going mad from the heat. The $300 OS-less PC broke the spirit of many a geek Wal-Mart boycotter. Everyone has her price.

skallas's speculation that this is a ploy to get a better contract with Microsoft is very interesting. I suppose the basic idea is that a better reseller license for Windows can be negotiated because Wal-Mart now has something MS wants: MS can make a condition of the deal that Wal-Mart will stop selling blank boxes. I wish I had the economics chops to really analyze that speculation - it looks complicated. It would involve the whole (macro?)-economic picture with the companies providing PCs to Wal-Mart and their deal with Microsoft.

One of the typical anti-WalMart scenarios goes like this: imagine that this blank-PC anti-Windows manuver takes 2 or 3 years. Wal-Mart, trying to undercut MS, drives Joe's Computer Shop out of business as a side effect. Then the big guys make the deal, and Joe's former customers, the ones Wal-Mart took, are now left without any source for low cost hardware. Of course this example is absurd because people can easily get computer parts online. But that is the kind of thing that happened to dry-goods, hardware, garden supplies, auto parts etc, in towns where Wal-Mart took over and then closed their store.
posted by crunchburger at 8:40 PM on June 21, 2002

I'm not sure that Walmart actually has any marketing leverage with Microsoft. Here's my application of introductory econ:

The computer retail industry, seems (to me) to be one of the industries that closest resembles the economic ideal of "perfect competition." A perfectly competitive industry is defined has having a very large (infinite) number of both sellers that all offer identical products (there are many many permutations of computer hardware, of course, but these are all essentially quantitative differences, not qualitiative, for which each individual company adjusts its price accordingly... the only real difference between companies is warranties, tech support quality, documentation, and whatever idiotic in-house software they create). Perfect competition also, of course, requires a very large number of buyers that have perfect information on what each company is selling.

Perfect competition drives everyone to sell their products for the same price, a price that produces zero economic profit (not the same as zero actual profit, but close enough... and the computer hardware business has notoriously low margins). After all, if anyone charged higher than anyone else, and they're all offering the same product, why would anyone buy from them?

Walmart is not a big player in the computer business (in perfect competition, the overwhelming number of sellers guarantees that any individual seller's decisions cannot affect the whole market). They may be able to successfully and profitably tap the market of ultra-cheap Windows-less computers. But that means that they are no longer offering a product identical to the rest of the market, and perfect competition no longer applies. If they then attempt to switch to the regular computer industry, they will still have no leverage, and Microsoft will have no incentive to offer them a discount.

In other words, if perfect competition does indeed apply, the people that buy Lindows PCs from Walmart will not be customers that would otherwise buy Windows-ed PCs. They are 2 separate markets. If a consumer wants a Windows PC for as cheap as possible, there is no shortage of vendors. If he buys a Lindows box from Walmart instead, its because he thought, for his needs, a Windows-less PC was a better value to begin with.

Ultimately, there's many reasons perfect competition might not apply, particularly on the "perfect information" front. Oh well.
posted by gsteff at 7:25 PM on June 23, 2002

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