Battle Royale–Part the Second

When trying to discern the differences between the many computing system choices out there, it becomes clear very quickly that this is no easy task. For one thing, there are questions of what sort of form factor makes sense (i.e., netbook vs. laptop vs. desktop), what sort of power you need, and what it is that you’re going to be doing with your machine. Additionally, it can be maddening trying to distinguish the operating system from the many add-ons available and that come prepackaged with a machine bought at retail.

So I’ve decided that the best way for me to get a grip on everything, I will start with a comparison of what you would get if you obtained only the operating system. In other words, what would you get if you went to a store and purchased, say Windows Vista Home Premium, or OS X, or downloaded a Linux distro. What, in other words, is built in if you had only that installed on your machine and nothing else. It isn’t necessarily the most logical place to start. After all, if you don’t have Apple hardware, you can’t install OSX legally. And it is unclear to me that many people buy Vista at retail. (And to top it all off, Vista is a dead brand, soon to supplanted by Windows 7 and all of its many flavors.)

The reason I’m starting here, however, is because I want to get at the heart of what you get with the operating system, and what the value of the software is from that approach.

I think it’s important to look at what you get from the following categories: internet capability (i.e., built-in browser(s)); general productivity applications (i.e., word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, non-web-based email, et cetera); data backup; entertainment (i.e., media playback and games); photo management (i.e., ability to display, manage, and edit digital photos); and content creation (i.e., ability to create music and/or movies). Additionally, I have looked at miscellaneous goodies that are built-in, that aren’t necessarily things that are deal-breakers, but nonetheless may factor into a decision.

Read more “Battle Royale–Part the Second”

PearC

Awesome.  A German company is following in PsyStar’s footsteps and is selling Mac clones.  (Link.)  According to the Ars Technica article, PearC thinks that Germany’s laws regarding enforceability of EULAs gives them the authority to do it.  It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for them.  Probably not too well, if the litigation against PsyStar is any indication.  But, Germany isn’t the US, and we’ll see.

Too bad the boxes are really, really, really bland.  (PearC’s website.)

Update:  I guess I spoke too fast about PsyStar’s litigation not going so well.  According to this CNET article, PsyStar has been allowed to amend its counterclaim to allege copyright misuse against Apple.  That’s pretty amazing.

Copyright misuse is not found in Title 17, and it’s not fully embraced by all federal circuits.  The theory behind copyright misuse is this:  “courts may appropriately withhold their aid where the plaintiff is using the right asserted contrary to the public interest. Misuse is not cause to invalidate the copyright or patent, but instead precludes its enforcement during the period of misuse.”  Video Pipeline v. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 342 F.3d 191, 204 (3d Cir. 2003).  The defense usually arises when the holder of the IP engages in some sort of anti-competitive behavior.  Id.

What is somewhat odd about Judge Alsup’s decision to allow the amended complaint is that the primary anti-competitive behavior alleged by everyone that looks at Apple, is that Apple requires the OS to be tied to its hardware.  Judge Alsup, however, apparently thinks this is just fine:

PsyStar argues that the alleged misuse is, “at the least, unfair in that Apple has attempted (and continues to attempt) to extend the reach of its copyrights by tying them to computer hardware not otherwise protected by the Copyright Act.” (Reply at 12). It fails to explain, however, how this conduct constitutes harm to competition or a violation of the spirit of the antitrust laws. In the context of single-firm conduct, tying requires monopolization. PsyStar has identified none – other than the limited monopolies inherent in the copyrights themselves.

Well, I guess we’re back to “we’ll see.”

Apple Not A Monopoly (For Now)

Hmmm…  Well, I can’t say I’m that surprised, but U.S. District Judge William Alsup has rejected Psystar’s claim that Apple is a monopolist.  (Psystar markets the OpenMac, which runs OSX on non-Apple hardware, which violates the OSX license, and thus led to them being sued for copyright infringement.) According to CNN Money, Judge “Alsup ruled Apple’s products don’t constitute a market to dominate. As a consequence, Apple then can’t be considered a monopolist.”

The problem, of course, is market definition.  And it’s not as easy as simply telling the court that the relevant market is computers running OSX, because Apple will turn around and try to convince the court that the relevant market is actually all computers, whether they run OSX, Linux, Windows, FreeBSD, or Solaris.  Clearly, then, with Apple’s miniscule (though growing) market-share amongst all computers, well, it can’t exert monopoly power when the market is defined as all computers.  And that, it appears (I haven’t looked at the order), is what has happened.

Anyway, ars technica has a little write-up, and they have thoughtfully provided the case number: 3:08-cv-03251-WHA  (N.D. Cal.)

(Justia, too, has the case number, and an as-yet non-updated reproduction of the PACER docket sheet.)

The Redmond Underdogs?

Well, I guess it’s happened.  The conventional wisdom in the OS world appears to be that Apple has truly won the OS wars.  Not from a distribution standpoint, of course, but from a “who makes the best OS?” standpoint.  (Of course, Apple fans will say that this has been the case since before OSX came about, but I would definitely not agree with that.  In fact, I would say that it was only after Apple decided to use Intel that the true power of OSX was apparent; PowerPC chips were pretty pitiful.  Would I have preferred Apple use AMD?  Yup, but you can’t have everything you want in life.)

Anyway, my point was that Vista has been a marketing failure, and a technological disappointment.  There are things under the hood in Vista that make it more than Windows XP SP4, but they are incremental changes that didn’t really change the way that people interact with the computer, the way that using OSX is such a change.  And the new “features” in Vista, such as always asking if you really want to do that, are just annoying as hell.  (Of course, if you’re running an aggressive firewall on your machine, you essentially get asked that question all the time, too, so….)  So, Vista as a brand is gone:  “Microsoft introduced what it said would be a slimmer and more responsive version of its Windows operating system on Tuesday, while unceremoniously dropping the brand name Vista for the new product.”  So sayeth the New York Times.  And the tone of the article definitely suggests the folks in Redmond have essentially conceded the best-OS argument, and now see themselves as the underdogs:

Mr. Sinofsky took the stage and issued an apology of sorts for the problems and frustrations associated with Windows Vista. He said the company had listened to and was responding to the feedback.

“We got feedback from reviews, from the press, a few bloggers here and there, oh, and some commercials,” he said, with a nod to a lengthy Apple advertising campaign that has mercilessly poked fun at Microsoft’s woes.

I don’t know if Windows 7 is going to be any good.  I happen to not mind Vista all that much, where I’ve worked with it, but it isn’t very interesting.  By the same token, I’m not that big a fan of OSX–it’s pretty and all, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t satisfy me, though if the OS were sold on its own, without being tied to the hardware, I might be tempted because of BootCamp and/or Parallels.  I’d be really interested in Linux distros–and since I don’t really do much gaming on my PC, that’s an option that could work for me–but there’s one thing that would be much more difficult if I went that route: having to use OpenOffice, which is a really good program in so many respects, but there’s one crucial flaw.  Do you know how difficult it is to make a Table of Authorities in OpenOffice, and how easy it is in Word?  From what I’ve seen, there may be a way to do it using the bibliographic function, but I don’t think it’s the same thing.  The best thing would be a triple-boot system where I could play with all three whenever I wanted.

Update:  I figured out how to do a Table of Authorities in OpenOffice. The How-To is here.