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Amazon Abandons Linux for Windows

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(khess)
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A few hours ago, I posted "Is Microsoft the New SCO?" but now I realize, after a little research, that Amazon and Microsoft are in this patent agreement for one reason: so that Amazon can abandon Linux on its Kindle in favor of Windows 7. Crazy? Nope. It makes perfect sense. Why would the world's largest software company and the world's largest online retailer team up? To Window-ize the Kindle. I'm afraid it's true. Amazon wants the Kindle to run apps, like the iPad and this is the best way for them to accomplish that. They didn't give any details in their agreement but I'll fill-in the missing bits for you.

Amazon uses Linux for its Kindle now. Amazon uses a lot of Linux for its EC2 service. Just one day after their patent agreement deal, Amazon announced that they now offer Windows reserved instances just like their Linux ones.

Are you getting the picture yet? If not, let me help some more.

If you think about it, Amazon can't or won't team up with Google because Google wants to give away books. Amazon wants to charge for those books.

Apple and Amazon wouldn't make a good gadget-based business pair since Apple already has the iPad and the Kindle would compete directly with that device.

Linux has some distinct advantages for embedded devices but which Linux company would Amazon pair with to bring you a richer Linux-based device experience? Red Hat? Novell? Canonical? Nope. There are several reasons for this but the most significant one playing against such a pairing is that Amazon would alienate too many potential customers by choosing one supporting Linux company over another. The second biggest issue playing against Amazon's choice of Linux is that to develop an application-ready system would require a huge investment in development. They weren't ready for that nor did they want to make the investment.

On to the only choice left: Microsoft.

It must have been a hard decision for Amazon to do this. They must have pondered it at length. They weighed the options of sticking with Linux versus going with a Windows-based solution. In the end, for the Kindle to remain on the leading edge and to move ahead of all the Linux-based competitors that are entering the marketplace at half the Kindle's cost, they had to do something drastic.

They chose Windows. Wisely.

Microsoft and Amazon will marry nicely in this move.

I just wonder why they didn't make it more public and come clean about the agreement. I expect that, if this post doesn't do it, they'll wait until summer for the real announcement concerning their hookup.

Pretty clever Amazon and Microsoft. I applaud your little smokescreen. And it almost worked. It took me a few days to decide to post on this issue, since all the other open source pundits and anti-Microsoft radicals had already reacted to this news. They (and I) did exactly what you wanted (reacted negatively to your detail-lacking news release) and it was a good try at a diversion. Well played.

I'd like to know one thing, though. Which company approached the other about this potential liaison? Did Amazon decide that their Kindle was going nowhere since, as it stands, the Kindle is an overpriced one trick pony? Did Microsoft realize that they couldn't effectively compete against the iPad and decided that they needed to convince Amazon to make the switch to Windows 7?

It's an interesting thought and it will be well worth seeing the outcome. There's one thing I've noticed about these kinds of deals: when they don't make obvious sense, there's more to the story. The glaring lack of details in this deal was also a head-scratcher. And now we know why.

What do you think about this agreement? Do you think I've seen through the smokescreen or do you think I was right the first time around?

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zingzang
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This makes no sense. First, dumping Linux for windows would cost them a fortune. Far more than it cost them in protection money for Microsoft's anti-Linux patent blackmail campaign. The problem is that Microsoft does not provide nearly as complete and rich of an ecosystem of embedded technologies that Linux provides. They do not support as many CPU's, form factors, etc. The simple fact is that Linux is the Windows of the embedded systems world. This means Amazon would have to develop, from scratch, an entirely new platform layer for application developers to target. In addition, the use of a niche embedded platform such as Windows would limit the skill base Amazon could draw from for app development. And finally, switching to Windows would forever make Amazon dependent on Microsoft for all future features and bug fixes. With Linux, Amazon can define the direction they take their own products, and this point alone makes it worth all the protection racket money Microsoft can squeeze out of them.

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CarlF
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This article is simply wrong.

Amazon seems to have cut a deal similar to the one Novell cut with Microsoft. MSFT has tenuous claims on patents that allegedly cover things in Linux (though they'll never state publicly what they are) and Amazon decided paying the extortion money was worth it to get access to something MSFT has.

Your other article was more accurate. Microsoft IS the next SCO - they were probably behind SCO in the first place, and that didn't work so well. Hence the Novell deal (and Linspire, IIRC.)

Amazon would be silly to put Windows into the Kindle - with margins that thin, they can't afford to be paying MSFT license fees on every copy.

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khess
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Then what the heck is Amazon paying Microsoft for? And, why were the details of their deal not released? It would cost Amazon a bigger fortune to pursue a Linux-based gadget that aspires to do more than read books.

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linuxglobe
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Debian would be a wise choice for Amazon's Linux solution, Ubuntu is based on it. As far as a e-reader, I recommend Linux Mint, a more refined Ubuntu... :D

Markus McLaughlin
linuxglobe on twitter
linuxglobemag.net
Hudson, MA

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khess
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I like Linux Mint. I did an article on Ubuntu offspring over at linux-mag.com a couple of years ago. http://www.linux-mag.com/id/6200

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Schmick
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Notion Ink Adam. I think Amazon are shitting bricks about having some serious competition...

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Bobber47
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I agree, the deal sounds illogical on it's face, so there must be something else going on. But your idea doesn't seem to fit.

One problem with your scenario is that Win7 won't run on the ARM processors that are standard in ebook readers like the Kindle. So, if they were switching to a Windows flavor, it would be Win CE. There were rumours of a Win7 port, but it would likely run horribly on such a low power processor.

Another problem is that the app market for Android (Linux) is expanding quickly, so a ready-made library of add-ons exists already for this ARM-fitting OS. The notion that one needs to adopt Win7 for access to apps is pretty backward (a '90s perspective).

The nice thing about Linux is that Amazon wouldn't need to team up with a specific OS provider to create a customized OS for their next Kindle. Did they for the first version?: No. Are there easily accessible, open-source tools for them to use as they wish: Yes. Sure, asking for help would alleviate some development cost, so they could opt for it, but only for convenience, not necessity.

Why increase the Kindle cost further with another licensing fee and the restrictions that come with it?

Perhaps a simpler answer to this conundrum is related to your comment about Windows on EC2, or the initial FUD theory.

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khess
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Windows 7 does run on the ARM processor. It's called the Windows 7 Started Edition. Here's the link: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/compare/starter.aspx

Don't believe for a second that they aren't going to upgrade the processor to compete and accelerate past the iPad because they will.

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DJMorrisInc
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I'm not completely sold on Windows 7 yet myself, but maybe things would run smoother if it was the original operating system that came with my PC....I think everything Microsoft is over-rated myself.

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rubberman
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A wise decision? I think not. Microsoft has a wonderful track record, of sticking the knife in their partners' backs. This is one deal that Amazon will come to regret. That's just my humble opinion.

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Bobber47
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Khess-
Actually, everything I can find on the MS web site you referenced, as well as in long-standing discussion on other web sites, states that Win7 (including starter) does not support ARM processors, and it's unlikely it will be ported (a specific and non-trivial effort). Win7 only runs on x86 or x64 CPUs. In contrast, Apple's iPhone OS, Android, and many other options all exist for ARM CPUs. MS does have versions of Windows that would run: CE and Mobile, and their upcoming revamp for cell phones.

Amazon could upgrade the CPU to an Atom (or other x86), but that would come with significant power/battery issues. At that point, if they also add a color screen, they'd have a slate PC rather than an e-reader, which is quite different than the intent of the Kindle. There's a market for that, but it's not a replacement for a good e-reader - it's an alternative with different pro/con issues. With so much other competition coming in the tablet market, I don't see that as an attractive combo. Even HP went with Linux for it's upcoming detachable tablet laptop, where the base runs Win7. Why would they do that?: Because Linux is much better on ARM than Windows.

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rubberman
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@ Bobber47
Actually, I think that WinCE does run on ARM processors, but I would agree that Win7 is another kettle of fish. Sounds like the FUD spinners are hard at work! :-)

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Go99an
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I think that Ken is correct here. Everyone who is wondering why Amazon would be paying M$ doesn't know how much they are paying? What if M$ is only charging them a token cost for this - buying the business because it was already lost to linux? What evil M$ wants is to add more credibility to the assertion that Linux contains M$ patent protected code that they will one day sue you for it!!! Another instance of M$ spreading the FUD!
At least I now know to add Amazon to my Blacklist of companies that will never get any business from me (Current Blacklist includes M$, Sony and now Amazon too, with eBay's greed rapidly moving them into contention.)
The bottom line.
Benefit to M$; lost to Linux verses a token payment from Kindles sold? .... we'll take the tokens please, plus the cunning FUD factor!!!
Benefit to Amazon; Breathe new life into an old dog. Windows applications are the most significant legacy that M$'s dominance still offers and against Apple's iPad, it's a card they will need to play if Kindle is to remain relevant.
I predict a colour Windows Kindle within 3-6 months.

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khess
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Windows 7 does run on ARM processors. Did you not see the link I gave? It runs on the EEE PC and many others, including my ARM-based Acer One Netbook.
If you don't believe this post and want to chalk it up as FUD, that's up to you but I think you'll see that this post holds a lot more water than anyone is willing to admit at the moment.

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jrarkema
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I recall back in 1999, AOL decided not to embark on a joint venture with Microsoft, and publicly stated this was because the only company that ever survived a joint venture with Microsoft was IBM. If Amazon is getting in bed with Microsoft, it is asking for trouble.

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Schmick
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Ken, can you give an exact model of a device running Windows 7 which has an ARM processor in it? The AAO and Eee all have Intel processors to the best of my knowledge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_netbooks

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khess
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You're not really going to use wikipedia as a reference are you? In any case, I'll check on my Acer One tonight and let you know.

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Schmick
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You're not really going to use wikipedia as an excuse to not have to substantiate your claims are you? In any case, I know for a fact that my Eee has an Intel Atom, as did the AAO's I was considering at the time of purchase.

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khess
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LOL. I must have slipped a cog or something. You're right. Sorry. My Acer One is Intel Atom too, not ARM. <sigh> There's nothing like defending your position to the death and then you find out you were wrong all along. If it's any excuse, I was doing some research using QEMU with ARM processor emulation for another project. I must have had ARM on the brain.

In any case, there's a new Kindle brewing and either they'll use Windows CE on it or they'll use Windows 7 with a compatible processor. The Atom would be a good choice.

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