Relay #70, Panel F

don't just know technology, understand it

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

While following the underlined blue text I kept finding while doing some reading on netbooks, I eventually came across this blog post written by Brandon LeBlanc a few days ago. The whole thing is the usual Microsoft self stroking about how great they are, but there were a couple gems which stood out to me, and one in particular which actually brought me to the post:

"Windows now account for a whopping 98% of all small notebook PCs sales at retail in the US." [Emphasis his]

Lets assume for the sake of argument that the number stated above is properly researched and correct. This might lead you to think that the netbook industry, which is still in wrapping plastic, has been a slam dunk for Microsoft. The truth however, is always hidden in the detail.

I'm a proud owner of an ASUS 1000HE. It's everything they advertised and then some. I got it on Amazon a few weeks ago and while doing my research I realised than Amazon and other e-tailers, gave me a myriad of options to customize my machine: I could get it in black, or in blue.
I didn't have a choice about the system specs or, and here's the kicker, the Operating System. If I wanted this machine I had to fork over the Windows Tax whether I was planning on using Windows or not.

Now I've read stories about how persons have taken the conservative approach to the Windows Tax, and have gone to great lengths to actually get their money back (Something about the EULA entitling you to return the product if you don't agree. I'm not sure, I haven't read it myself). It seems that whenever someone has been able to actually redeem their funds, it was a big enough deal for them to write about it and in some cases break out the camera and post a few snaps. Now being in Jamaica that was not really an option for me. Maybe it was, but the required time and effort certainly wouldn't have made it viable and I wasn't trying to take a principled stand. I simply downloaded my oh so sexy copy of Kubuntu 9.04, loaded it up, and went on my way.

Now imagine my chagrin when I come across the statistic quoted above and the realisation dawned on me that I, and many, MANY others that chose to use Linux instead of Windows on our netbooks, have been included in that number.

Linux has very steady footing in the netbook world. Microsoft would rather people not know that. They have, as they have always done, gone to great lengths to court OEMs and retailers into giving Windows as the only option on their netbooks, or at the very least, make it a 4 minute mile if you want to actually find a model that does not bare the Windows branding. They've even been successful in wooing ASUS; the company that broke ground in the netbook revolution. In fact at a recent news conference shared with a Microsoft exec., the chairman of ASUS apologised, though no one is sure why or to whom, because a company was displaying an ASUS netbook running Android at this year's Computex. An apology? How toady can one person be?

This whole thing bothers me a great deal, not only because I was unwittingly and now unwillingly included in Pro-Microsoft statistics, but because of the general misrepresentation achieved by using these numbers. I'm inclined to think LeBlanc is aware of this, chooses to be play ignorant, and write accordingly. It falls in line with how Microsoft has operated for many years. However if he truly isn't aware, I think that's an even bigger problem. Either way, the whole thing is inexcusable.

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Honor Among Thieves

For those that eat up tech gossip the way Hollywood sycophants eat up Perez Hilton, yesterday (June 6) you may have borne witness to, or gotten some after the fact transcription about, the very unexpected meltdown of one Leo Laporte on his program TWiT Live while hosting Michael Arrignton and The Gillmor Gang. The whole thing stems from a question Michael asked, followed by a couple of statements that many, including Leo, would interpret as an insinuation that Leo's integrity was for sale.

Now, while it seems that they have kissed and made up, for a few hours afterwards even Arrington was worried that his professional relationship with Leo was down the crap shoot.

My take on this whole thing is that Leo had every reason to react the way he did. I'm not here touting his years of experience and whether or not that puts him above scrutiny, because frankly no one should ever be raised to that level. However, it's one thing when Jon Newbie walks up and asks such a question or makes that insinuation. It's a completely different thing when Michael, a respected personality, does it.

There needs to be mutual respect in the industry, or at the very least amongst the (self crowned) industry and thought leaders. Michael should have known better than to, in essence, call Leo out in such a manner. It's not that Leo is above quesiton, it's that he should be above Arrington's question, and that's needed to avoid these kinds of uncomfortable situations where both parties are now feeling a little slighted and being forced to mend fences in public.

So I'm glad the whole thing is coming to an amicable end, but notwithstanding, the whole thing should never have come up, and Arrington should have known better.

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