A while ago Roy Russo had made a comment to the effect: “OSS needs to stop competing on price”. Regardless what you read about him on the Interweb, I say, he’s a smart guy! ;-)

I’ve never really looked at the price of Windows vs. RHEL or Ubuntu. The simple answer is that CentOS/Fedora (near RHEL replacements) and Ubuntu are free without commercial support, so end of discussion.

But, if you want commercial support and consider a typical Windows replacement cycle (~5 years), it seems that Windows is actually cheaper than purchasing RHEL+support or support for Ubuntu.

I’m quite happy to see this. Price isn’t a long term differentiator. Easier to use, faster, more secure, more reliable, etc. can be long term differentiators….price, not so much.

Take a look:

Here’s what I did:

The current Vista Ultimate price is $399, the upgrade price is $199. I used $399 in year 1 and $199 in year 6. This assumes you buy Vista today, run it for 5 years and then upgrade to the next version of Windows in year 6. You can pay $59/incident for commercial support from Microsoft. I assumed one would need no more than 2 support calls a year (I haven’t ever called MSFT in 20+ years for support). BTW, apparently you get 2 installation related support incidents for free with a Windows license. {Update} Mr. Russo pointed out that I missed the cost of an Advanced Support Incident. If you assume that a customer has 2 of these in a 6 year term, and when they do, the incremental cost is only $200, then Windows is still cheaper by ~$30 (ignoring discounts, hardware costs, other software costs, etc).

The current Ubuntu support price from Canonical for 9×5 phone support is $250. I could have used $900 for the 24×7 support, but that seemed excessive.

The current RHEL “Workstation with Standard Subscription” price for 12×5 phone support is $299.

Note that Canonical and Red Hat offer unlimited incidents, while I only assumed 2 incidents per year with Microsoft. This may be a bad assumption. But seriously, I can’t remember anyone I know actually calling Microsoft for OS support.

This ‘analysis’ is not a statement about total cost of ownership. It’s just simple math, and I thought you may find it interesting. OSS doesn’t have to compete on price…let’s move past that myth.