Monday, June 03, 2013

A quick look at Windows vs Linux hardware pricing

From time to time, I check out pricing for laptops and computers so that I can plan for a replacement of my aging desktop. My computer is more than 4 years old and it runs Ubuntu just fine. However, I'd like to have a rig that does a decent job of running virtual machines so that I can practice Linux server administration.

When I bought my computer, I got 3GB of RAM. That's fine if I'm just running Linux or Windows. But if I want to run virtual machines to practice working on virtual servers, maybe two or three, 8GB of RAM would be desirable. Turns out, on many new offerings, that configuration is standard. I would also like to see an i7 under the hood. In many cases, such a computer can be had for about $600 to $700.

As I shop for computers, I am keen to notice the price disparities between Linux vendors and Windows vendors. The disparity seems to increase as the capacities increase. The disparity is often due to "crapware" installed on Windows machines. For years, I noticed that there was about a 20-30% difference in pricing between Windows computers and Linux vendors. This is because OEMs make money from offering trial software, aka "crapware" on their computers to mitigate costs.

Customers could get a cheaper computer running Windows, but in the long run, they'd pay more in software licensing, particularly with antivirus (the Windows Tax). I've bought Windows PCs and saved money by blowing away the Windows image and replacing it with Linux. I did the same thing for my wife's laptop to avoid renewing the antivirus software. She's doing just fine on Linux.

That disparity seems to have disappeared. Below are two example laptops: one from Dell with Windows and the other from System76. Both have roughly the same capacities except for the hard drive:

Dell Inspiron 15R, Non-touch
CPU: 3rd Gen i7
RAM: 8GB
HD: 1TB
Display: 15.6"
Graphics: Intel HD
OS: Win7
Price: $849

System76 Pangolin Performance
CPU: 3rd Gen i7
RAM: 8GB
HD: 1TB
Display: 15.6"
Graphics: Intel HD
OS: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Price: $843

It's quite remarkable to see such similar pricing. We've come a long way from the days of truly obvious disparities to keep people on Windows. This is just one sample, but I'll keep an eye out for deals that compare well for Linux to see if there is a sea change afoot.

I'm glad to see that the competition is catching up on the Linux side.
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