Aspire One: Victorian Education Discriminating Against Linux?

Strike me pink!  Less than a week after OSIA sent its submission to a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into how Victoria can better engage with open source, Cafuego reports some very concerning goings on to do with the Acer Aspire One, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and apparently discriminatory treatment by the Department of machines loaded with XP compared with those loaded with Linux (when being sold to eligible purchasers).

Somehow it seems that the Acer Aspire One loaded with Linux, a freely available operating system for which no licence fee is payable is $156* (ex GST) more expensive than exactly the same machine** loaded with Windows XP, a closed operating system for which a not-insubstantial licence fee is payable and for which additional inventory costs must be incurred (eg acquiring, tracking and managing those stupid authentication stickers).  Scotty might not be able to change the laws of physics, but someone has managed to change the laws of economics.  [Update 14/9: I have received second hand reports that the low price is a tender price to Victorian education.  That seems unlikely, given how recently the Aspire One has been released (and how long a tender process takes).  Rather, there is probably a standing purchasing arrangement that this has been brought under?]

Online prices from LWT tell a similar story.  The Acer Aspire One loaded with Linux, is $72 (ex GST) more expensive than exactly the same machine loaded with Windows XP.  Well, actually, that’s not entirely true.   The Windows XP version is not “exactly the same machine”.  That was a lie.  It’s actually a higher spec machine with a better warranty service.  (The differences for the LWT machines are:  Linux/XP: 3 Cell – up to 3 hours vs 6 cell – up to 6 to 7 hours battery life; no HDD/120GB (this may be a typo??); 3 year courier pick up vs 3 year on site warranty; case blue only vs blue or white).

Details of exactly how such steep discounts can be given are unclear at the moment.  There are suggestions that this too-good-to-be-true deal is brought to you by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, which is apparently paying a subsidy on the XP loaded versions (and, of course, by the gormless taxpayers of Victoria on whose behalf the Department is spending the money – cheers!).

Maybe we’ll find tomorrow this has all been a big mistake, that there’s a simple explanation to it all.  Maybe SSDs are outrageously expensive?  Tonight it looks very worrisome.  If the Department really is engaging in gobsmacking discrimination against Linux then:

(a) it shows that the value for money fit for purpose metric used by the Government is fatally flawed;

(b) it’s an excellent example of how whole of government purchasing helps create and perpetuate monopolies; and

(c) whoever within the Department thought this was a good idea should be sent to the Reflection Room with a copy of Baxter Healthcare.

In addition, it would be nice if netbook sellers dropped the pretence of trying to hide the cost of the OEM licence for XP.  Artificially offering different specs simply to hide the OEM licence price undermines effective price competition.  Rather than encouraging this practice, the government should be outlawing it, given that the industry has failed to self-regulate this disclosure.


* This figure is based on Cafuego’s photo of the catalog posted on his blog.

** Actually, not exactly, the XP machine has more memory (1GB v 512MB) and a 120GB hard drive v 8GB flash drive on the Linux version.


27 Responses to “Aspire One: Victorian Education Discriminating Against Linux?”

  1. 1 Richard Chapman 10 September 2008 at 11:28 pm

    What’s that the Windows fanboys are fond of saying… Oh yeah, “you get what you pay for”.

    It looks like the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development need to be sued. I think they were under the impression that no one pays attention to stogy old IT affairs. I suspect when the dust settles on this one there will be a lone Microsoft Partner left standing where a Board once stood.

  2. 2 Xanadu 11 September 2008 at 6:19 am

    “I can’t believe it ain’t antitrust”

    Subsidies on software must be banned specially if it is for such closed stuff.

  3. 3 ram 11 September 2008 at 9:26 am

    Trouble with Linux it has no one to distribute bribes to the government officials who do the purchasing. Really, when was the last time you sold anything to any Australian government department without the purchasing officials openly solicitating for a backhander?

  4. 4 MGF 11 September 2008 at 9:36 am

    Solid state drives are still screaming-awful expensive. I haven’t looked at this in detail yet, but if there are significant hardware differences, such as a solid state vs spinning drive, that could easily account for the difference in cost. At OEM volumes, the Windows license fee would be small by comparison. For same-hardware comparison, I agree that the no-license-fee OS version should be a smidge cheaper, or at least the same price.

  5. 5 Lee Welburn 11 September 2008 at 9:55 am

    My current wholesale list price for a 120gb 2.5inch drive is $62 ex I don’t have a list price for a 8gb SSD the smallest on my list is 32gb which is $150 so based on that pricing I find it very had to believe that the the 8gb ssd is more expensive than a 120gb hard drive add to that the RAM and Battery difference and something is very fishy with that pricing.

  6. 6 brendanscott 11 September 2008 at 9:59 am

    Wow! Thanks for the info Lee. That’s really valuable.

  7. 7 Cafuego 11 September 2008 at 11:18 am

    When I checked after seeing the ad, 8GB of flash was listed (retail) at about $45. I’d expect it to be a lot cheaper than that wholesale.

  8. 9 Adam Williamson 12 September 2008 at 1:11 am

    As the comments imply, the Linux version of the Aspire One comes with an 8GB SSD. It’s a very *slow* SSD (this is notorious, Google it) so you’re not paying for speed.

    In the U.S. and Canada, the Linux Aspire One lists $50 cheaper than the Windows one.

  9. 10 Bilbo 12 September 2008 at 2:45 am

    Put it clear.

    Corruption is the First Name.

    Hypocresy the Second one.

  10. 11 Jean-Sebastien 12 September 2008 at 3:10 am

    Finally someone has noticed and said something. I wish it was in some mainstream news edition but Ill take what I can get. A moth or so ago, I was looking into buying a netbook and the Acer was looking good. I went to to buy-it but when I wanted the 6 cell battery. I saw the that the Windows version had it for only 70-80$ more. I was furious when I asked for the 6 cell on the Linux version they told me that I had to pay 130$ more for it. I ended up buying the eeePC instead. It may have been a bit more expensive, but they don’t push an agenda, or force me to pay the M$ tax.

    I did ask for a clarification from Acer and NCIX over this but never got any answer from them.

  11. 12 tripleii 12 September 2008 at 6:40 am

    It’s free market corruption at it’s finest. To avoid the perceived (or real) threats from MS, they have to different spec the machines (look at Dell, the Linux version, no $3 webcam, XP version, yes) to just that, obfuscate the cost of Windows. Microsoft’s greatest marketing victory and also their current biggest achilies heel is simply that “Windows is FREE”. The cost must remain hidden, no direct comparisons allowed, etc.

    Couple that with the ma$$ive influence they yield with politicians and also by the entrenched, and fully dependent on Windows at the top of the pyramid ecosystem, it is amazing Linux is even offered at all.

    Mail a link to this blog entry to every newspaper and TV outlet you can find. The only way the stench of corruption is ever alleviated occurs when the backroom deals come out and the light of day reaches the shadows where all this happens.


  12. 13 ingiltere dil okulu 15 September 2008 at 1:33 am

    I am not surprısıng to anything. But thanks..

  13. 14 Robert 16 September 2008 at 1:39 pm

    They partly get away with it through marketing money from software vendors. For example, 30 days of free virus and anti-spy software. The vendor pays Acer to provide the trial in hopes of selling a future license to the customer. Since, the customer is a school they probably subsidize the cost of the computer because with Linux the school wouldn’t need virus or anti-spy software. In the end it benefits the software vendor and Acer makes a buck either way. The school thinks they are getting a deal until the licensing and maintenance nightmare begins to haunt them.

  14. 15 brendanscott 16 September 2008 at 2:02 pm


    I’d be surprised if that covered $156 or even $72. Maybe it does?


  15. 16 Eruaran 16 September 2008 at 10:32 pm

    This is disgusting Brendan. Do you think it will do any good if we complain to the ACCC ?

  16. 17 Danny 17 September 2008 at 10:36 am

    The Aspire One was high on my list of netbook candidates, but not if Acer is going to pull this kind of crap. Looks like I’ll be waiting for the Dell.

  17. 18 Daniel Jitnah 17 September 2008 at 12:47 pm

    This matter was brought to my attention before. I went home and thought about it. There is no doubt that it appears to be discriminating against Linux at first sight. These costs distortion can have a serious effect on a products’ appeal to a market segment that may notbe very in tune with the products’ merits.

    However, the fact is probably that it would not have made a lot of difference on Linux penetration into the education sector, unless the Acer Linux product was **substantially** cheaper than the Acer XP product. And I am not sure that the price difference on the actual retail price (from other commercial vendors) is large enough for that to happen.

    The education sector is well and truely locked in with MS at this stage (and at is own peril, and that of our kids also!!) They have too much investment in IT infrastructure to want to move to Linux unless there was a srong incentive, and the price advantage on a Linux Acer aspire is hardly justification enough (even if they bought a few dozens)

    HOWEVER if the motivation was strong enough for a school to move to Linux, would there be anything stopping them from buying a XP Acer Aspire 1 and dumping XP and installing Linux on it???? Could the deal explicitly forbid that? – Them there would be a serious problem, because it would then put s very strong obstacle on a school to manage its curriculum offerings.

    In fact the school would have a higher spec hardware at a cheaper price, and even have a useless XP license for them to list on the asset register! In fact it will amount to MS in effect subsidising Linux in a School!

    This would be possible if there was already an acceptance of the merits and enough competance to manage Linux in Schools, which I believe is a more crucial issue than price distortions here.

    And in the above situation it is hard to argue that the Vic Gov is not making a good deal, given that there really is not an alternative deal coming from the Open Source community. I mean here a concrete deal on paper in a proper format that can be taken to a meeting with Vic edu officials at a meeting and negotiated. Has there been such a offering in the past? Could a consortium of Open-Source vendors prepare such a offering/deal in the future?

    We still have a bit of gap to bridge here!!

    It is matter that has to be debated more and more if only to raise a larger public consciousness on the matter.

    Open Source is here to stay.


  18. 19 John Nox 10 December 2008 at 8:21 am

    a lot of time looking for online information about discounts on software, I am very interested to read this blog, because you want to learn about all software updates! thanks

  19. 20 Martin 14 July 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Great little computer. I have a Mac and I didn’t want to carry it around the house and possible damage it. So this little number is great. Small fits in any bag and great for travel. Great buy for the price. And I love the color.

  20. 21 alan 27 July 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Acer Aspire One AOA150-1672
    Great for pre-teens,
    This mini- laptop is great for pre-teens before they ask for a bigger more powerful one. It has all the needed features of a laptop. The only set back I would say it has is ths small keyboard, for those who are used to bigger lap tops or desk tops it is a little uncomfortable until you get used to it.

  21. 22 Pink 10 November 2009 at 1:23 am

    Acer Aspire One AOD250-1962
    I love this netbook. Its small enough that i can take it anywhere but not so

    small that i cant see the screen. I adapted very well to the keys that are

    smaller and closer together.. and dont have any problems with it. Everything

    loads up quickly and the colors are great. The battery does die out rather

    quickly but that is why it is good to bring the charger with you when you go

    places.. the webcam works nicely too. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is

    under a budget and needs a laptop.

  22. 23 boot 19 November 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Acer Aspire One AOD250-1165
    This model is fairly new. So it has the usual features, i.e. built in wi-fi, camera, 160 GB drive, etc, etc. This is the 3 hr battery model. I have no idea where Amazon gets their tech specs. We just bought this and the manual states that it comes with 1 GB of RAM, and is upgradeable to 2 GB. It recognized 4 wireless connections in my area the instant it was powered on. So far it’s great for what it was bought for, the internet, small low demand games, music, simple word processing…

  1. 1 Boycott Novell » Acer in Australia: Dirty Microsoft Tricks Against GNU/Linux Trackback on 11 September 2008 at 6:35 am
  2. 2 Aspire One: Victorian Education Discriminating Against Linux? - Brendan Scott’s Weblog « Technoprimitive Too Trackback on 12 September 2008 at 2:39 am
  3. 3 Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: September 11th, 2008 Trackback on 12 September 2008 at 7:43 pm
  4. 4 Articles You May Want To Read IV | ~~~!!!~~~ Trackback on 1 December 2012 at 2:26 am

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