PC World is running a story about a French court ordering PC vendors to list software prices separately, but short of ordering vendors to sell computers without operating system. UFC-Que Choisir, the French open source group is not happy with it and will appeal to ask a higher court to order the latter.
As a lot of commentators will acknowledge, listing software prices separately is an important step. The most important achievement here is education of the joe consumer, since it makes them more aware of how much they are paying for the individual parts of the computers. To a lesser extents, for those who wants to take advantage of vendor’s pledge to refund money for unwanted software, this makes it easier. This will put an end the practice of PC manufacturers understating the actual cost of software to discourage claims, since doing so will make them fall foul of trade description act. However, the best deterant for this is probably it getting into hot water with the software suppliers since other manufacturers will start to demand the same price.
This is more controversial, but I do think the court is correct in not requiring PC vendors to offer naked PC (PC without OS). I agree with the court that there is value in pre-installed software. As long as the right for refund of unwanted software is protected and enforced by the courts, requiring the sales of naked PC can be argued to be intrusive to business. There is nothing to say that selling naked PC actually benefits people who wants it better. It is possible that the cost of creating a separate line of “naked PC” more than outweight the cost of handling refunds for unwanted operating system and in this case, the consumer loses. Therefore, it is better to leave that to the business to decide. After all, if the cost of handling refunds far exceed the cost of a separate product line, guess what will happens next?