Friday, August 15, 2008

Ubuntu bundles software too!

I was wondering why people accuse Microsoft of bundling their proprietary software along with their OS. Doesn't Linux Ubuntu do that too? All right, let's make a few things clear beforehand. I understand that the software that Microsoft bundles is closed source. That's the answer to my question, isn't it? Well, not really. My question means something else. But before I pose the real question, let's have a heads up on what is bundled along with what. Please remember that the list is, obviously, incomplete and can be expanded by several degrees for both OSs.

Microsoft Windows Vista:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer: This is probably the easiest to spot villian. The issue arises from the United States vs. Microsoft antitrust case, where the United States Department of Justice and twenty U.S. states filed a a set of consolidated civil actions against Microsoft Corporation. People claim that by bundling IE with its OS, Microsoft killed competition in the browser market.
  • Windows Media Player 11: Microsoft's default media player. Doesn't come along with .avi codecs by default, making many people switch to VLC.
  • Windows Movie Maker: Microsoft's default software for editing videos.
  • Windows Live Messenger: Microsoft's official messenger. Supports Windows Live IDs.
Linux Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron):
  • Mozilla Firefox 3 BETA 5: A very popular browser, which at times crashes whenever you try to play flash content (Remember, this happens on Ubuntu only. Not on Windows).
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger: A multi-protocol chat client, which supports Yahoo, MSN, Gtalk, ICQ, AIM, etc. It currently doesn't support otherwise commonly supported features like Voice chat, video conferencing and internet telephony.
  • Totem Player: A basic media player.
  • Open A fairly decent office suite consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet application, a database management tool and a presentation manager.
That was a roundup of the applications that both the OSs come bundled with. So let's come to the real question.

Windows, doesn't allow you to uninstall its bundled software, giving rise to the Linux supporters' argument of
constriction of freedom. However, what most Linux defenders claim is that Microsoft kills competition by doing this. My question is: how? Windows doesn't prohibit you from installing Firefox or Opera. It doesn't lock your machine when you install VLC media player, and it doesn't threaten to throw you off a cliff when you chat with a friend on Yahoo messenger. You can set all of these as default applications. Windows doesn't restrict you in any way to using a particular application by default. You can override all settings and set your favorite application as the default. Doesn't Ubuntu stand on the same ground in terms of killing competition? Most of these applications are available for free download now days. So where is the question of browser vendors suffering? In fact, Ubuntu kills Microsoft Office's competition by bundling a free office suite. Windows doesn't come with Microsoft Office Installed. You have to purchase it separately. Isn't this analogous to the USA vs Microsoft antitrust case? Back then, vendors were selling their browsers, and Microsoft was not playing fair by giving its users IE for free. So should we also file civil actions against Canonical? It basically amounts to hypocrisy and paradox when free software enthusiasts call bundling free software a constricition of choices when it comes to Windows, and an increase in usability and productivity when it comes to Ubuntu. It is not a fair comparison; done just to defame Microsoft and its products. People complain about the lack of an office suite in Windows and jokingly call it a barebones distro. They complain that once they install the OS, they cannot do anything productive. The same people are quick to point out that Windows forces IE and Windows Media Player upon its users. This is plain hypocrisy.
How does the following sound to Linux enthusiasts?

"Windows gives you freedom of choice by not bundling an Office Suite along with its operating system. You can choose from hundreds of office suites, which include proprietary ones like Microsoft Office, and non-proprietary and free ones like, which can be downloaded from the internet. Linux Ubuntu however, comes installed with Open It kills competition by not allowing people to become aware of other office suites. So please support Windows, and support freedom of choice."

So the question I ask, in clear terms is, "How does Microsoft kill competition? It does not prohibit you from installing free software on your computer, and why is the same argument called giving you the most when it comes to Ubuntu? Following that logic, Ubuntu also restricts competition."

So please, Ubuntu lovers. Answer this question convincingly to clear this apparent paradox of both limiting and giving choices to the user.


Shubham_CITM_TCS said...

wonderfully put

H!P, $mart author said...


Bogus said...

Actually it's quite simple. The problem was that Microsoft was including IE, which it produced itself. Ubuntu includes OpenOffice, which Canonical DOES NOT MAKE.

Additionally, unlike Windows, Ubuntu is only one of literally over a hundred possible distributions of linux, many of which include very little more than the bare essentials to function. At the time, there were no Windows "distributions" without IE. You either got it, or you didn't get windows. That has NEVER been the case with linux.

To be fair, even among the linux community there are many who feel that Ubuntu is bloated with extra packages. I agree myself. The purpose of Ubuntu is to include as broad a range of software as possible, so non-technical users or new linux converts can have the OS "just work". That's really the goal of that particular distro. It might not be there yet, but as compared to Windows, it's still in its infancy.

Furthermore, I have no issues with Flash crashing in my Ubuntu. If you'd like assistance troubleshooting the problem I'd be glad to help.