Acer to team with Caldera for Linux XCs?
If the boxes start at $199, they're unlikely to run anything out of Redmond
Acer is poised to make the break from Microsoft with its XC machines, and Linux is a strong candidate for the operating system that at least some of the devices will use, say industry sources. The XC concept is to produce several different ranges of low-cost, specialist and single-purpose appliance-type machines based on the x86.
Acer intends the lowest price point to be $199, and says that the most appropriate OS "Dos, Windows CE or a similar lean OS can be integrated or embedded." Microsoft's pricing structures however mean its wares aren't attractive to machines priced this low, so the options at the moment seem to be DR-Dos, Linux, or perhaps VXWorks.
The chances of Linux making a breakthrough with Acer are meanwhile increased by the company's plans to use Caldera as the OS for a server line aimed at the US educational market. Microsoft's pricing also makes NT prohibitively expensive for the education market, and if you're going to use Linux for the server OS, then there seems little sense in going with CE as the client.
Acer currently proposes five XC reference platforms, at prices from $199-$999. The Mobile X100 is envisaged as running an embedded OS, and being basically a lightweight, mobile Internet, email and writing machine. The X200 is a 386SX architecture low-cost box for home, education and entertainment.
The X300 is a set-top variant, the X500 a desktop based on embedded x86 and targeting TV-centric functions, while the X700 is a higher powered implementation using Socket 7 x86 up to 400MHz. Although it's intended to be priced low, the XC range will have state-of-the-art I/O, including USB, PCI, Flash Card, IEEE-1394, DVD, TV-Out and 2D/3D graphics.
The machines can therefore be viewed to some extent as an attempt by Acer to tilt the balance of cost back away from Intel and Microsoft. A clone x86 therefore seems logical (although Intel's policies may be changing rapidly enough for the company to get in on Acer's act), and failing a radical revision of Redmond's pricing, a non-Microsoft OS looks probable. ®