Sunday, July 7, 2013


Computers and Operating System Bundling

In reviewing the history of computer sales in the 'modern era' we can see an interesting pattern. Early on we saw home computers which booted directly into ROM BASIC and booting into another operating system isn't even possible. Later on we see many examples of the CP/M operating system being bundled with z80 based computers. CP/M was usually bundled as one needs a unique BIOS for each type of computer. In a rare exception Radio Shack sold CP/M separately for their Model 4 machine for $150 in 1985.

Upon the release of the IBM PC we find that IBM offered three different operating systems for their machine: PC DOS, CP/M-86 and UCSD Pascal. Of these 3 operating systems PC DOS becomes the operating system of choice for most users. Even in this early era we can see that computer users had some different choices of OS.

By 1985 we see the rise of the IBM compatible computer and the near ubiquity of the x86 cpu architecture. Of course soon after this we see various Motorola 68000 based systems, including the ones offered by Commodore, Atari and Sharp. One constant we continue to see is that most operating systems are closed source although we see in academia that Universities have some access to the Unix v6 and v7 source code. The idea of bundling an open source operating system with a computer doesn't occur until much later. In 1987 we see the release of the open source MINIX OS.

In the 1990's we see the appearance of BeOS which is offered for free to various OEMs. has an excellent blog post to explain how Microsoft suppresses the use of BeOS by OEMs. BeOS lives on in an open source implementation called Haiku.

With the increased use and speed improvements of the internet we see a new phenomenon: open source operating systems are distributed via downloading. This includes operating systems such as GNU/Linux, the BSDs, Haiku, Plan 9, Inferno, AROS and many others. By 2008 the Jiangsu Lemote Tech Co releases the Lemote computer with Linux and PMON, a completely open source system.


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