Microsoft’s Fixed Rate Tax approaches 100%

Yesterday, we decided that we needed to get a new laptop for our business.

Nothing particularly staggering about that you might think. And, on the face of it you’d be spot on. However, as you probably know, our company The Open Learning Centre is focused on delivering business solutions and services based on Open Source technology.

Consequently what I definitely DO NOT WANT is to be forced to buy any Operating System with my hardware. I would like to choose for myself. I might want Ubuntu, or SUSE or Mint or something else. Or, god-forbid (and this is purely for example’s sake) I could choose to install one of the many valid, and already paid for, copies of Windows 95, 98, ME or XP that I have lying around.

So after a great deal of Googling yesterday, I found a grand total of TWO companies here in the UK that publicly offered me the opportunity to buy a new laptop on-line without an operating system.

The only other way is to buy individual components and assemble your own computer. This can end up being more expensive and is certainly not a trivial task, especially with a laptop. I do build my own desktops but wouldn’t consider doing the same for a portable PC.

I did look at Dell’s Ubuntu offerings but the spec of the machines wasn’t quite what I needed and – to be honest – all the “Dell Recommends Windows Vista” and notices about “Beware! This Computer Doesn’t Run Windows” made me feel a bit patronised. I understand to a certain degree the problems Dell face and must address; support and an audience of not-so-techy customers so I am not going to denigrate what they are doing. I just hope in a year or two’s time, I will be able to choose NO operating system on any of their computers.

But to get back to the main thread of this. Just two companies here in the UK that could offer me a laptop which I could choose to have supplied without an Operating System. That is bloody scandalous. EVERY other laptop (apart from the 2 Dell machines and some Asus EEe PCs [Update: I was a bit brief here. There are few other vendors who supply Linux pre-installed. But they do not offer the choice of “no operating system”]) would be supplied with a Microsoft Operating System. I had little or no choice; I could always have bought a Mac but that’s a somewhat similar issue.

Irrespective of the fact that I wouldn’t use their crappy and expensive software anyway, I have plenty of old discs with Microsoft’s operating systems on them that I have legitimately paid for and are not installed on any of my other computers. I’m sure there are many millions more like them. So why must I pay for another copy? This is completely unfair and should be (if it isn’t already) illegal.

The Globalisation Institute submitted a report to the EU commission last September saying just that:

Computers in the European Union should be sold without a bundled operating system, according to this submission to the European Commission. It says that the bundling of Microsoft Windows with computers is not in the public interest, and prevents meaningful competition in the operating system market.

The current situation basically means that for almost every single PC sold around the world, I believe we (you) are paying a TAX to Microsoft. We have already seen how they have done this with our schools. And we have seen Becta’s responses here and here.

I suggest that interested readers write to their MP or MEP, explain about this grievance and ask what the EU is doing about the report above.

On a positive note however, the two companies that did enable me to buy OS free computers deserve to be properly applauded, mentioned here, and please pay them a visit when you are looking for new hardware.

The first is a highly customisable offering from ( You can build desktops, towers, cubes and laptops to your own specifications and choose your Operating System or not as you wish. Removing the OS saves you anything from about £60 to £120 depending on your other choices.

The second is a more “mainstream” computer business. And was where we decided to buy from in the end as the price/spec was just a bit better for my particular requirements. That company is Novatech ( Yes, Novatech. It looks as though you can choose your operating system (or not as you wish) for any of their PCs. Be they laptops, servers or desktops. They have a good range and probably the best value we found anywhere. Choosing no OS saves you anything between approx. £50 and £300 depending on your choice of hardware.

Up to £300 quid Microsoft TAX… And it’s a fixed penalty too. Your hardware could cost £250 or £2500 – it doesn’t matter to them. Next time you are equipping your business or home with new computers please think about this first. You can have Ubuntu Linux Desktop Edition and/or Server Edition for free. You can copy, re-use, install on as many machines as you wish and they will provide much better performance with no usage restrictions either…

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  • orlando says:

    in the US are many of companies that sells desktops and laptops with linux

    i totally agree with what you said

    besides that: i see a niche there.. some smart businessman have to realize that !

  • Alan Lord says:

    Thanks for the comment orlando.

    We also have some (but not many) other vendors who will provide computers with Linux pre-installed too. But I was really interested in those who would supply me a computer with NO Operating System. I am happy and able to choose for myself.

  • I find your blog very interesting, as a UK SME migrating to open source, and encoutering similar problems.

    I did a post on this very issue some time ago and found some interesting sources of open source laptops.

    Hope this helps someone: i for one would still buy dell though with ubuntu preinstalled, bcuase at least you know it will work!



  • Alan Lord says:

    Hi Adrian,

    thanks for the feedback! As you probably know I have linked to your commentary on Mercian Label’s migration to OSS on my blogrole. It has been a fascinating read for me and thanks for sharing your experiences with the wider community.

    Thanks for the link there is one supplier on their I had not come across before. But my real bug-bear was the ability to buy a laptop/pc *without* an operating system at all. We, thankfully, have the necessary skills to install our own OS [ although, sticking a CD in the drive and turning on the machine is really all that is necessary these days 😉 ] so I really would like to be able to choose my own OS from the many that are available.

    I agree that for more “usual” computer users, the Dell products provide a great solution for those who do not want Windows and want something that “just works”. That’s why I wasn’t going to criticise them too much. I am probably not their target audience…

    Anyway, good to hear from you and thanks again for your comments. It’s always good to hear from anyone! We get lots of readers but very few people actually comment, apart from the spammers of course!

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