A Free Windows?

Computing can be an expensive past time, one way or another you're going to end up paying quite a bit to have a nice working pc and enough good software to make use of it.

The OS can be a big chunk of your budget if you want to go legit, a quick froogle search shows Windows XP is between £60 and £100.

There are other options tho, Linux for example has many open-source free distros for anyone to download burn and install, unfortunately Linux is not Windows. If you're a big gamer then its a no-go due to most modern PC games using Microsoft's DirectX so its a windows only affair, many other bits of software only work on windows as well, although there are free Linux alternatives.

The main problem is that for the main stream user, they know not of the world outside windows, nor how to get there. As many Mac fans know its not easy getting someone to switch to a whole new operating system, especially if its going to cost them time and money. Linux is not exactly user friendly either.

What we need is a "Free" version of Windows.

Not open-source, MS would never let that cat out, but a cut down simplified, freeware version of windows.

Just the operating system itself with reduced options and reduced included software too. What you would get after the installer is an empty desktop and start menu, no accessory's or fancy options just the bare file system and basic options.

Initially you would think that was crazy, Microsoft would never do that, where would they get their money from. With online content distribution systems like Steam and iTunes making huge sums of money thanks to the relatively low overheads, why doesn't Microsoft set up an "Application Shop" and include that with "Windows Free"?

Lets face it, half the people that know how to find, install and configure open source software probably didn't pay for the windows they are using now, and probably never will! Microsoft arnt making any money from them, they are making their money from OEMs buying thousands of copies to install on new machines to see at PC world. Those machines are sold to families, old people and, for want of a better word, n00bs!

These are the people that need help with their computers and what better way than to get every piece of software they need from an online shop.

There could be packages put together including popular or commonly used programs like notepad, calculator and internet explorer, all downloaded, installed and configured at the click of a button. For MS this would create a possibly bigger revenue than box sales as well as being able to reach out to the customers better, see whats popular and whats not and even open up the store to allow other companies to sell their products such as music and videos to the users via the shop (with a cut going to MS of course) much like Apple have done with their iTunes Music and video stores.

For the people that know where to find good free software they can use microsoft legally and freely allowing them to dual boot with linux and use just for gaming and windows only programs too.

It would improve Microsoft's image in the world of computing as well, many experienced users look down on MS for making bad software and charging too much for it, but if you dont have to pay for it then it instantly becomes less of an issue that there are a few bugs.

MS have been worried about the linux movement for a while now, especially with its low price tag this would be a good way to combat that movement by providing an alternative at a similar price.

So there you have it, a free version of Windows with an Online content distribution system selling Application, music and video to the user as and when they want it. Allowing new or inexperienced users to get the things they want setup or fixed without leaving the house at a reasonable price and giving more experienced users a platform for building their OS how they like it with free software or products bought from the "Shop" and still using MS products too.

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62 thoughts on “A Free Windows?”

  1. What you’re talking about here is a Win32 kernel with GUI, and it’s a fantastic idea. I’m not a lawyer, but this might be possible by someone other than Microsoft, depending on their use of the Win32 architecture. The business model you mentioned could be called micropayments, a concept quickly coming to market, mainly by Google. I like it!

    MS might not be doing this currently because they know you would never bind yourself to Windows Media Player, for example. So that would kill their revenue for that content channel. Currently, many companies try to force you to use a specific distribution channel by bundling the channel with a specific product (read: iTunes). If you give people the option to choose their own channels, you lose the ability to entrap them into your business model.

    Now, this is horrible, of course, and results in people making their own channels (read: piracy). I think this is a great idea, and would force comapnies to come out with great content and useable distribution channels that people actually want to use, instead of locking them into ones they hate, and will work to get around anyway.

  2. This is a pretty good idea, though M$ would never do something like this in my opinion.

    i had a bad experience a few months ago with XP, in that I had a completely new, unopened XP Pro. I come to install, fine, activate, not fine. It wouldn’t let me. I don’t know how or why it did this. I am completely confident that it is authentic. So I had to go and *cough* get a copy elsewhere *cough*, and if there was a free version I wouldn’t have to do something so drastic.

    Also the thing is that inexperienced users wouldn’t need to think about the prices of the OS, would most likely go for a Dell, Vaio, or other prebuild computers with the OS also installed. *Dell… *shudder*

    Overall though, I am not too concerned – Mac user :D

  3. There’s two options that can do similar to what this post is looking for:

    1. Nlite (www.nliteos.com) – Makes a stripped down version leaving only the components you want.

    2. ReactOS (www.reactos.com) – Operating system based on the Win32 API.

  4. Indeed a very interesting point. Now let’s hope MS doesn’t see this and steal the idea without you seeing a penny of it’s profits :P
    I, for one, would surely love a cut-down version of Windows with only the neccesary tools installed on it like the controlpanel and some system tools maybe so that I can configure it exactly the way I would like it, especially when it would be free or very cheap I might consider getting a legit version.

  5. If that NLite works, it looks like what we’re talking about.

    Except that you have to buy the giant, expensive XP first. :-(

    Maybe I’ll make a stripped-down version and send the CD to Gates as a suggestion. I suggest a $20 price tag…

  6. Fantastic idea, Everytime i do a fresh install or setup a new machine, i’ll start off by removing the useless junk I don’t need. Im suprised MS never actually included a ‘bare install’ option with your standard discs anyway. Top idea, digg!

  7. A free OS with an online software installer? It’s called Linspire! I just doesn’t play video games. What we need is a commercialization of WINE. Let a big company develop it (Apple?) and sell it for Linux and Mac. Directx emulation, Windows API support, and works!! If only someone had the balls.

  8. Linspire is not free… Linspire is a commercial distro for Windows and if you want online software downloads and installs through CNR, you have to pay for a subscription and most software you have to buy too. So there is nothing free about it.

    Ubuntu on the other hand… or Fedora Core (version 5 currently) are both free. Ubuntu is very good if you can handle the Gnome desktop. Kubunutu is there if you can’t.

  9. Thanks for the “top of my head” bullshit idea. Yeah, why don’t they invert their business model. oooookay, pipe-dreams.

  10. After reading this article from a digg.com link, I downloaded ReactOS. It looks pretty slick, but I couldn’t get it to boot on any of the machines in my office. I’m looking forward to playing around with it at home.

  11. There is a commercial WINE, its made by transgaming, the product was called Winex, now called Cedega. It does play many older games, and several popular new ones, like WoW and Guild Wars.

    The post’s original idea will never work. MS won’t make enough money. Joe Average only gets winodws with the PC. And Joe Hacker will not buy any more software, he’ll just use all OSS except the kernel and libraries.

    Right now, go with Cedega, or ReactOS as other’s mentioned.

  12. Once you’re out of college and have a real job with a real income–and are more mature, you will probably start to pay for more things you want instead of steal them. You’ll find it’s good for your self-esteem. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. Anyway, as a self-employed individual I pay for legal copies of all the software I use.

    “Those machines are sold to familys, old people and, for want of a better word, n00bs!”

  13. I couldn’t help but notice people mentioning ReactOS, and some seem to think it will run any Windows application. ReactOS uses WINE heavily, and is not based off the Win32 API, so it is not a replacement for Windows in the depth that the article is talking about.

    A stripped down, free version of Windows would be ideal for a lot of people, but the chances of it happening are slim to none.

  14. There is a disk avalible from microsoft called “Windows XP Pre-Installation Enviroment” that is basically just the windows shell on a bootable CD. There is a enhanced version called BartPE that has some more features that make is somewhat usable. I’ve never tried using it to play games, I imagine that you would need to find a way to manually install DirectX.

    http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/screenshots/

    As for easy installers it would be nice to have something like “app-get” or “yum” that diffrent versions of linux use.

    /too lazy to check spelling.

  15. I think you missed something obvious here…if there was a free version of ”
    Windows” out there , computer manufactorers would just sell their machines with it installed. The computer makers don’t sell machines with other OSs because they lose the special pricing for Windows that they get now. Without the pressure of Microsoft they would not use it and PC’s would reduce in price. If a consumer wanted the full version they could buy it…guess what? Microsoft does not want that…they want it on every computer that is made..they want to lock in users…they want them to only know Windows. This is something they have been very successful doing.

  16. Brilliant idea. But everyone is correct. Uncle Bill would never do anything like it. Darned shame too. I know several “nOObs” who would benefit from just this type of program. Would save me tons of time running around hlping friends and family out of silly little problems (i.e. Where’s the “any” key? – which I’ve acctually heard).

    Make it visually cool, cheap, and easy, and M$ would make out like a bandit (oops, they already did).

  17. It seems to me that Windows is already pretty close to the stripped down version that the article speaks of. I’m thinking that if you take Windows XP and remove IE, Media Player and perhaps DirectX, then you’ve come pretty close to Windows Free Edition already. All of the Control Panel apps ought to stay, as basic system admin tools. And MS sees fit to charge £60 – £100 for this already!

  18. And how much time before the FreeWin + GNU packages start being distributed? I see there a big threat for microsoft… they give away their OS, someone grabs it and makes profit on that? how about that?

  19. I’ve been thinking about this since I’ve tried Vista for the first time 1 month ago. With all competition in every fronts, with a stagnated market, with such bad reputation, I think that if Microsoft was to become something dangerous to these New (or renewed) players in Global tech market they would do what many already do: provide main services free of charge and expect niche consumer to pay for aditional, premium and personalized services/content.

    I forsee that Vista will be the last paying OS. In fact, if MS hadn’t anounced the pricing plans for Vista a couple of months ago I would be almost sure now that Vista starter Edition (even though, a ridicule version of vista) would be released free of charge for anyone to upgrade. With recent announcements (expression suit, live services, office live, tiered experience of the OS according to what you pay) I feel that MS is walking this path already.

    What could stop Microsoft to give out free DVDs with Vista inside so you can upgrade to Vista Starter and then pay to upgrade to Ultimate? well, easy craking would stop Microsoft, but if they come up with an anoying way to prevent unpaying users from having the same experience in their products as paying users I think that most people would pay (you don’t have to create an unbreakable verification system, just some up with a new one every month of so and people will beginning to be annoyed by trying to follow the latest hacks)

  20. I think what we need it is really just a DirectX/Gaming shell the runs on OSX and Linux. The only real appeal of the windows operating system seems to be it’s large library of games. The rest of the interface is neither as easy to use or as customizable as OSX and Linux, and definitely not as secure.

    Or even better what about an open source gaming shell that has the support of all the major game developers and 3d card and gaming device manufacturers.

  21. I can buy a PC worth 500 GBP for 350 GBP with Windows XP installed.

    No doubt, you will tell me different but in my eyes, that is already ‘free’.

  22. I think it’s closer than we think.

    I remember reading somewhere… and don’t ask me where… that the “ultimate business plan” for M$ would be to give away the operating system, WITH the applications, all for free, and then charge on each USE.

    So for example, you could download and install MS Word for free, and then pay a small fee every time you want to use the application.

    It’s a little while off yet, though. There are a number of limitations which you don’t need me to point out (connectivity, security, etc).

    If Billy could though, I think Billy would…

  23. y’know, if the open source community had a mind to, they could port apt to windows, and then microsoft’s application shop would be toast.

    not that such a thing should happen. but if microsoft tried to beat linux as the free OS of choice, there would be other options. that would make such a move even more unlikely.

  24. “y’know, if the open source community had a mind to, they could port apt to windows, and then microsoft’s application shop would be toast.”

    I would love to see this! Seriously, even a basic GUI.

  25. @ 17: it’s “apt-cache” not “app” :)

    @ 26: some “third-world” (God I hate that word…) countrys are able to buy normal computer thou ;)

    Atariboy: Linux is not that hard, it’s only that you are so use to Windows that you want Linux to be the same. And for games: there is A LOT of games in Linux and you can play Windows-made games in Linux using Wine or Cedega ;)

  26. “Or even better what about an open source gaming shell that has the support of all the major game developers and 3d card and gaming device manufacturers.”

    OpenGL.

  27. I know linux isn’t hard Alejandro, but until Halflife 2 and DoD play on it i wont be doing any more than dual booting them.

    This is most definatly a post from a pc gamers point of view.

  28. I can imagine Bill reading this article and laughing at its ridiculousness. Two point you mentioned warrant special mention:
    1) Unbundling all software from it’s OS means giving up the ability to leverage other MS softwares by bundling them with OS. Something MS has been doing to wipe out the competition slowly yet so successfully for so long. It is unthinkable to MS will do it unless it is explicitly forced to do so as in the case with EU.
    2) Regarding the point with Linux – till date Linux poses no threat of MS Windows in the desktop arena. It is not a viable option for almost all users (i.e. few exceptions aside).

    That said, yes from user perspective, the idea is definitely a welcome change because it gives so many options and flexibility to the user. The different flavors of MS Windows available today can then be only add-on packages to the basic/core OS. All in all the final OS-software combination will then be more fine tuned to the needs of each individual user.

  29. Well, it’s an idea… I espect that vista won’t be such a succes as ms predicts. Sooner or later they will realise that just shutting win in people’s faces and then charging them for it won’t work forever. One generation or two of pc users will be enough, I think. Now that linux has it’s own eye-candy and ease of use (even if it’s not yet what it should be), I can easly imagine a sticker to a dell pc: windows “whatever” free edition included.

  30. I know how to install and configure open source software. I have several Linux boxes, a Mac, and two Windows machines (one at work and one at home for games). I paid for my licensed copy of Windows and I donate to the open source developers who’s hard work I enjoy daily. FOSS users are not thieves.

    As for a ‘free’ version of Windows – keep dreaming. At greater than 90% market share, MS isn’t exactly quaking in its boots. And that’s what it would take, out and out fear, to get the guys and gals in Redmond to completely alter their method of software distribution and pricing structure.

  31. “hat’s what it would take, out and out fear, to get the guys and gals in Redmond to completely alter their method of software distribution and pricing structure.”

    …or pressure legislatively, as we’ve seen in the EU already.

    Here’s a thought. If someone has a valid copy of Windows XP, what’s to stop them from using an app to install Windows how they want? I use a separate Notepad and Clock program, plus the usual replacements like OpenOffice over Works/Word, etc. I’d like to REALLY strip down XP, and make my own WinXP install CD.

    Would the EULA allow me to verify someone’s legally purchased WinXP, and apply my “hack” to their CD to make “Windows Skinny Edition”? What if the work was done automatically via a freeware app? (basically the app would make you a new install CD from your old one)

    I know it’s a good idea, but legal?

  32. Atariboy: as I said in 38, HL2 and Counter Strike (I only play CS) work very good under Debian using wine or cedega. I don’t boot to windows everytime I want to play ;) and hey! I’m a gamer too!! :twsited:

  33. I m interested to get ur cds by the post if u will send me the cd.
    My address is H.No.22 sachal sarmast colony youth hostel road near javed estate agency city larkana provinvce sindh and country pakistan.
    My ID is prince_pyasa@yahoo.com
    I am very poor to get the cd with money. I request u please send me the cd at my address so I shall ever remain grateful to you

  34. have you seen a custom instalation in windows setup since windows xp ? windows server 2003…. ?

    so your ideea not in a million years…

    they whant to be the center of all software
    from OS to office , from audio to video editors…

    much like Apple but with software

  35. MS has has for a while now a “free” version of some of its software development products, like VB2005, VWD 2005 – so why not a “free” OS? Then again, I’ll believe that when I see a “free” version of Office…

  36. OS should be free, no matter what flavor you prefer… Without the OS, that expensive hardware you just bought is nothing more than a pile of scrap metals. If they must charge, you should at least be able to buy it once and install on as many machines you own as you like. This is why I stopped upgrading after Win2K — I’m not out there to give my copy out to everyone; but I should be able to use that same copy to all my own boxes, and not be required to buy it over and over and over again.

    I don’t have an answer; but it’s nice to see that I’m not alone in the free OS concept.

  37. OS like Windows needs a hand shake but it should be cheap enough so that even ordinary people are able to buy it.This will help microsoft to build up a lot of business.This could also end up pirecy.A good work should be paid but not at the expence of bread and milk.Nothing is free in this world. And a free thing is not even valued. I feel Microsoft should reduce its OS price by 1/4th.

  38. I am wondering, this “stripped down” Windows XP thing, would it have a browser, because if now then how are the users going to connect to the internet in order to download stuff from this “so called” Microsoft shop? its kinda hard without a browser.

    Note: I am asking this in theory, I know this will never catch on, Bill Gates is too greedy to allow such thing to happen, yes I would be happy if it did happen, but only if it had a browser which was not indicated that it would have one in your post, also I would greatly appreciate Bill if he made it a little easier to connect to the web the way linux does, since linux connects to the internet right out of the box, no configuration required, I am running linux due to some nasty maleware that ruined my windows xp, and it wasn’t a genuine copy either, seeing how I got my computer from a place that I believe is called razer, it was a while ago so I don’t remember, I thought it would be fully assembled and have windows installed, but nope, not a cats chance in hell, it was shipped to me un assembled and without an OS, so my sisters fience, who happens to be really good with computers, gave me a hand with assembling it and a copied CD with windows XP on it, and could not get the necessary updates I needed to keep the spyware out of my computer instead of letting them in. so honestly I need to have a way to

  39. please send me free os cds, for the following address
    sagar p,
    S/O:shankar p,
    h no:1-3-36,
    Opp:Weekly Bazar High School,
    Road No:5,
    Krishna nagar,
    Jagitial
    District : karimnagar
    state: andhra pradesh
    country : india
    phone no: +91-9985514629

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