Colin Charles Agenda

Sub-RM1000 open-source PCs

Well, the one home, one PC campaign (PC Gemilang) has been launched. 100,000 PCs are available, for RM998. Celeron 1.7GHz, 128MB RAM, 40GB disk, and Gigabyte motherboards. Including monitor, and full multimedia set; Microsoft XP Home and Microsoft Works Suite costs an additional RM149 (also known as Package B). Upgrade to a P4 2.4GHz with an additional 128MB stick is RM400.

This package is “cheap” (I wish there was more RAM though). There’s a support network out there (55 support centres as well as 200 retailers nationwide), and we’re going to be building it more than anything. March 15th, orders “open”, and once they reach the expected 100,000 mark, they will stop. I reckon TMNet will be providing Internet access as well.

Pleased to note that the Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Multimedia spoke English most of the time. The MoU was signed, and the open source PC’s will have Fedora Core, and GNOME. This is a big win for all the projects dear to me – 100,000 possible Fedora, and GNOME desktops. Rock on!

What did I do? Prepared a presentation (with lots of screenshots) to run on the naked Fedora Core 1 machine. When the Minister (Leo Moggie) unveiled everything, Microsoft had some chit-chat, and I presented what Linux could do (tried very hard not to bag Microsoft, and only mentioned virus outbreaks rather than other nasties). Microsoft had so much lead time to set up their box and they even had a bloody TV card in it. I had no Internet connection, a complete Personal workstation of Fedora, I couldn’t even get a VCD playing. Good thing I had my OOo presentation :)

The Ministry has greater aims than PIKOM – they want 500,000 cheap PCs by the end of the year. Leo Moggie has mentioned that consumers now have a “choice”; Will the average Malaysian pay RM149 for XP Home/Works, when they can get it for RM20 at the pirates? More Fedora machines ought to go out I hope… They’ve admitted that they have learnt a lot from Thailand and their Linux roll-out.

Windows is going to be a Bahasa Melayu version only, but there will be an upgrade to an English version if users want it; so this means that you’ll pay. Consumers, beware. About RM400, off-the-cuff, from Butt Wai Choon, Microsoft’s marketing man (pricing is not finalised). And there’s no option to upgrade to Office… Vendor lock-in is prevalent here, and I’m surprised Pikom didn’t push harder to not allow this – Thailand after all told Microsoft to go fool other countries (in not so many words, when they turned down the USD$35 versions).

There will be two mobile unit that will go around the country, to promote awareness. Cost of owning the PC, via a per capita income basis, used to be about 13%; it’s going to be reduced to about 7-8% now. It should also be clear that this is a private sector initiative, and the government is only facilitating this (so there’s less chance this will become another failed EPF OdaSaja scheme).

Update: Thailand has gotten this “Package B” idea thing happening too. Well, I guess competition is good; keeps us FLOSS folk on our toes. Again, the Pikom guys deserve a pat on their backs, and Xavier, and all rock!

On other notes, Novell is trying out Linux in Malaysia too it seems. For one company. Hmm, makes me wonder… Got to contact some birds there.