Consumer rights advocate Ralph Nadar has published the text of a letter he sent to IBM Corp chief Louis Gerstner on Monday, calling for the company to open up the source code for OS/2, so that it could offer consumers an alternative to Microsoft Corp’s Windows. The letter was written in response to research carried […]
Consumer rights advocate Ralph Nadar has published the text of a letter he sent to IBM Corp chief Louis Gerstner on Monday, calling for the company to open up the source code for OS/2, so that it could offer consumers an alternative to Microsoft Corp’s Windows. The letter was written in response to research carried out by a student intern working at the Consumer Project on Technology. The intern, UCLA student David Chun, called 12 computer manufacturers at the end of May and attempted to buy computers without a Microsoft Windows operating system. He called nine mainstream OEMs – Gateway 2000 Inc, Dell Computer Corp, Micron Electronics Inc, IBM Corp, Packard Bell NEC Inc, Hewlett- Packard Co, Toshiba Corp, NEC Inc and Sony Corp – and three lesser known companies, Unicent Technologies Inc, Umax Data Systems Inc and Quantex Corp. Chun asked each company if they would offer any other operating systems (such as Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS, Apple Rhapsody or IBM’s OS/2), and whether he could buy any model of computer without buying Windows. He also asked if the firms would supply naked PCs without any operating system installed, and whether he could return Windows and get a refund. The answer, of course? No. None would sell systems without Windows, and none would give a discount if the software was returned. IBM Corp owns OS/2, but still requires a user to buy a Microsoft Windows license. Gateway 2000 Inc now owns the Amiga OS, but Chun was told to come back later, perhaps in November 1998, when that might become available. Several OEMs told him that their Microsoft contracts required them to supply Windows, although some, such as Dell Computer Corp, said they would supply PCs without an operating system if the order was big enough. The research prompted Nadar to write to Louis Gerstner to ask him to stop forcing customers who buy IBM personal computers to buy Windows. He pointed out to Gerstner that the only way to get OS/2 now is to buy a PC with Windows 95 installed and then pay an extra $199 for a shrink-wrapped copy for separate installation. While the Microsoft End-User License Agreement says that a consumer who does not agree to the terms of the Microsoft Windows 95 license can return the software to IBM for a refund, IBM tells consumers that the refund is zero he wrote. Nadir suggested that perhaps IBM should consider following the Netscape example, and release the source code for OS/2, and permit users to modify and freely distribute copies. Gerstner’s reply is awaited.