Windows — US$ 12 a year?

December 2nd, 2003 § 4 comments

Via Scoble, comes the news of an incredible statement by Steve Ballmer, the second in command at Microsoft, saying that Windows costs about US$ 12 a year, considering the average life cycle of a computer. As James Robertson commented, it’s simply too amazing a allegation even to begin to make fun of. I feel like crying instead.

Even considering that you get a discount when you buy Windows bundled with the computer — something that, here in Brazil, it’s not true in most cases — Ballmer’s claim is a far cry from the truth. And it’s easy to show why.

Less than two weeks ago, I was in a computer store in a shopping mall near my workplace. My coworkers and I were checking the price of anti-virus software, and, just for curiosity, we asked about the prices of Microsoft software. Windows XP Professional was priced at R$ 1900 (US$ 664), and Office 2003 was even more expensive, being priced at R$ 2500 (US$ 874). Together, they cost R$ 4400 (US$ 1538).

I will admit the prices aforementioned are a little bit above the market’s average. Nonetheless, that’s the price you will find in many computer stores. Even considering the four years of use Ballmer mentions in the article, that’s a long way from US$ 12 a year.

Now, let’s take a look at the economic situation in Brazil. The minimum age is R$ 240 (US$ 84), which means Windows itself costs almost 8 times what a average works gets monthly here. Did I hear somebody say luxury item? Heck, you can buy an excellent computer here for the price of Office 2003 alone. It’s easy to see how absurd Microsoft prices are for the Brazilian reality, and how ridiculous Ballmer’s claims are.

To go further, taking the combined price of Windows and Office you can buy a good used car here. In fact, together they cost about one third of a brand new car. Worse yet, in Belo Horizonte, the city in which I live, that price would buy you one tenth of a nice, albeit small, house.

And I’m not even going into the details of how much the problems Windows gives you cost yearly (virii, trojan horses, etc.)

I don’t know what Ballmer was smoking when he was interviewed, but it was strong. And the most amazing thing about Windows and Office is that for that price you get only the OS and a bloated office package — nothing else. On the other hand, a normal Linux distro ships with more than 2000 different application, including various office packages, games, utilities, connection and sharing tools, Web servers, database servers, and scores of programming packages for a minimal price — in many cases, just the price of the media.

Do I need to say anything else?

§ 4 Responses to Windows — US$ 12 a year?"

  • Peter says:

    I think he meant just the OS itself, not Office and whatever other MS products you might purchase. Your point is good though, and is exactly the reason people should help to develop open source software. Open source operating systems are becoming very good alternatives to Windows now, but the softwares you use on the OS are lagging. There should be softwares to compete with MS Office, Photoshop, and others that run on the open source operating systems, then it will be easier to abandon Windows.

  • Ronaldo says:

    I know he meant just the OS. But I also think that is misleading since Windows without any accessory programs can do almost nothing. And here, in Brazil, the cost is far higher than what he said anyway.

    I agree with your take on open source software, though. Unfortunately, more time is spent on cloning Windows features on those projects than developing new, improved features.

  • Justin French says:

    For starters, you can’t shift a [more than likely] US$ statement into $R, $AU, or anything else. Secondly, the comment was made in regards to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) price that companies like DELL obtain Windows for, not the RRP of the software. Taking it one step further, that was a price mentioned in conversation [in regards to analyst speculation], NOT a definitive price.

    Naturally, if you’re talking full retail off the shelf, then the price will shift. Then don’t forget you’re not in US$.

    And no, I don’t work for Microsoft — infact, I don’t even use a single M$ product (apart from MSN).

    I also wholeheartedly agree with Ronaldo — less time should be spent emulating existing features, instead starting with a clean(er) slate.

  • Ronaldo says:

    I’m aware that you can’t directly translate a US price into a Brazilian price; however, they can be compared in some ways.

    The Brazilian OEM market is almost inexistent. Most people buy computers from sellers who smuggle the parts from the US, China, and Paraguay. Those computers obviously come with ilegal Windows copies. But, try to buy a computer from Dell in Brazil and you’ll see that the OEM price is much higher than in the US. The RRP price is also much higher than in the US.

    Anyway, I care less and less about Windows and Microsoft. Today, they almost only concern me when I’m trying to clean virii from friends and relatives’ computers.

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