Software pioneer Bill Gates always wanted a PC on every desk in the
world, but we aren't quite sure he envisioned it happening like this
In much the same way as the cellphone industry took off in the 1990s
with the advent of the "free-on-contract" phone, a Linux bigwig is
suggesting that PCs are the next to follow in those footsteps.
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin, in a recent
presentation at the O'Reilly OSCON (Open Source Convention), told
onlookers that a trend would emerge in which consumers would be blessed
with free computers in exchange for signing onto a cellular data plan.
The funny thing is, this prophecy isn't much a prophecy at all. In
fact, Sprint is already offering up a netbook for just $0.99
purchased in conjunction with a two-year mobile broadband plan. The
deal works like this: you agree to pay Sprint a set amount per month
for a certain amount of mobile broadband, and you get the netbook (with
a built-in WWAN modem) for under a dollar after rebate.
Other mobile carriers in the world have struck up similar options, but
Linux followers are hoping that this is the big break that the open
source OS needs to grab a foothold in the mobile notebook market.
Zemlin predicts that by offering Linux-based netbooks for less,
carriers can develop their own Linux-compatible app stores and include
them right on the machines. When buyers open them up, they're
automatically encouraged to download apps, and carriers could arrange
for some of that money to be funneled back to them.
So, do you think the subsidized computer is the thing Linux needs to
boost adoption? We aren't so sure. While people are certainly fond of
"free," they aren't so fond of "free with strings attached." We're
still waiting to see if consumers are actually willing to fork out
upwards of $60 per month to get a netbook on the cheap, and given that
only that netbook can take advantage of the data plan, that's just one
more hurdle the industry has to deal with before convincing people of
the value proposition.