What does the recent run on Wal-mart's $200 mean, to Microsoft, and to the PC universe in general?
Simply selling out of a product quickly doesn't testify to the product's quality or goodness. Wal-mart's recent sale of PCs loaded with a customized Linux for $200 each was probably a price for many households too good to not try. The litmus test comes after the purchase, and based on Wal-mart customer reviews on the Wal-mart web site this machine gets a solid thumbs up.
This is good news for Linux. Each interation for the Linux desktop delivers a more seamless platform, now apparently, good enough for the masses. It comes with tools necessary for what people need: word processing; spreadsheets; internet; and e-mail. To get a similarly loaded Microsoft (Vista) machine (beefed up to handle the processor hungry Microsoft versions of its applications) would require a minimum of $1000.
You would think this is bad news for Microsoft. It isn't. Microsoft is too big, and too far ahead to care. They should care. Instead, they continue to put out their notion of what users want, increasingly complex and resource heavy applications, expensive and unwieldy. They claim their software is simple and intuitive. Anecdotal experience and reviews say no.
Now, Wal-mart has seeded the market with a computer that "just works", much like Macs, but at a fraction of the price. With its price advantage over Apple, and Microsoft's new Vista foundering, this is an opportunity, maybe the beginning of a tipping point for Linux. It's a modest but encouraging start. Linux users, take heart! Microsoft, take note!