[MUD-Dev] Apple WWDC?

John A. Bertoglio jb at co-laboratory.com
Tue May 21 10:41:29 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

"Matt Mihaly" <the_logos at achaea.com>
> On Fri, 17 May 2002, John A. Bertoglio wrote:

<cut stuff not relating to Linux>

>> Linux: This is a wild card. There is a lot brewing under the
>> surface in the Linux world. Linux is moving from a holy crusade
>> to becoming a boring, stable and attractive platform for standard
>> computing. The recent commiment of Sun to continue development on
>> an Office alternative (Star Office) is just one of many things
>> that could bring this platform very quietly into the
>> mainstream. Of course, with Linux you buy some of the same
>> problems as in the Windows world due to the large number of
>> platforms. The killer app for Linux will be the $200-$400
>> complete computer system. A machine like this CANNOT have a $100
>> OS (read Microsoft). Every so often, I notice a Linux OS in a low
>> end box in Fry's ads (my other retail benchmark).  The activation
>> code in Win XP will serve to further accelerate this trend.

> Not to start any sort of tired Linux war, but I don't see linux
> ever being a serious gaming machine. It remains almost entirely
> unuseable by the average non-techie user, and I, at least, find it
> to be a serious pain-in-the-butt even for a semi-techie like
> myself. The user interface is akin to something designed by a
> drooling moron with input from a sadist. (I can't even get my
> floppy drive to work on one of my linux boxes, despite it working
> fine in Windows.)  Fantastic as a server, hopelessly crap as a
> desktop machine for the average user, who presumably drives much
> of the games market.

The use of Linux I anticipate above is as an embedded OS used in a
true appliance PC (which, I guess, by definition would NOT be a
PC). The key here is cost. The OS in a true consumer can't cost very
much. The cost multiplier varies according to product category but
in consumer electronics it rarely less then 5 to 1 (that is, if you
pay $10 for a part it increases the price by about $50 unless you
are Steve Jobs and then you charge $100). I don't know what Windows
sells for in mega quanities but even at $40, the multiplier above
would require an additional $200 at retail. The machine I envision
is probably a wireless device that looks like a keyboard and uses a
TV as a monitor. It has a built in pointing device and sells for
$100 or a little less. It might have a clip-on LCD screen option
(assuming higher LCD yields with much lower costs), joystick/mouse
ports and other options.

Because the manufacturer has total control over the components, the
Linux build is very custom (small) and tailored to the internals. My
guess is that it works perfectly but is totally inacessable to the
users (which means they also can't screw it up). Such an OS could be
built into flash ROM providing instant on capability, an essential
feature for a consumer device. What would make this machine fly is
the ability of a company to give it away with an annual
subscription. Or include it in the purchase of a HDTV product.

($100 is about the floor for consumer electronic devices. VCR's, DVD
players, CD components all hit about $100 and bounce up a little,
adding new features for the same price. The price will slip below
$100 briefly but not stay for long. Ultimately, the plastic, steel
and cardboard necessary to build any product of that size force the
price back up. )

My general point is not that Linux will become a major game market
in desktop PC's. Matt is correct there. It is still a hackers
playground/nightmare. But it is the only real alternative to Windows
and eventually the price of Windows will eliminate it as a contender
in the absolute low end where the true mass market is.

John Bertoglio
(503) 781-3563
jb at co-laboratory.com
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