There are (completely unsubstantiated and unfounded) rumors (and frankly, I wouldn’t believe it) that Microsoft is considering giving away Windows Vista Home Basic in Britain. The reason: Value Added Taxes and the exchange rate have made Vista so expensive that almost no one can afford it.
Microsoft would lose more money than it would gain selling Vista at such a high price, by losing customers entirely to rivals, so it would give away Home Basic (and keep being able to sell Office and other software to Brits), and Basic is so “basic” that most people will pay to upgrade it to Home Premium anyway. I can’t believe it, but it is a bold move, and could work better than stiffing customers with the current, awful prices.
Perhaps, in the future, Microsoft could release a free version of every Windows operating system, one that only ran basic software, Microsoft Office, developer tools, and Internet Explorer, and charged money for the regular operating system we all know and use? It would make it a hell of a lot harder for Linux to compete, by basically ceding the basic operating system market to Windows, and making competition only on advanced users (and making it harder for OpenOffice and Firefox to reach cheapskate users).