The Globalisation Institute, a European think-tank run by free market advocates, today went on the offensive against Microsoft, calling on the EU to require all PCs to be sold without operating systems. It says this will not make consumers' lives more difficult, as they would simply be asked to insert an OS DVD when they first …
Instead of making life twice as expensive (and ten times more complicated) for the vast majority of purchasers of desktops and laptops, all that needs to happen is to prevent Microsoft selling an OEM licence that is only available to manufacturers that agree to installing it on *every* PC they produce. Volume discounts are absolutely fine, but manufacturers should be allowed to supply bare PCs without losing the ability to produce (cost-competitive) PCs with Windows preinstalled.
Then if there's a commercial (albeit minority) demand for unbundled systems, the market can meet it without introducing significant penalties for the majority.
Perhaps this proposal is intended as a negotiating position, rather than a suggested policy. I certainly hope so.
Already law in Germany
Germany already has something similar, any PC can be bought unbundled. It works quite well, but I'd like to see the price of Windows broken out into a separate price since I don't believe I get the full refund when I buy a stripped PC in Germany.
What is wrong with offering people the choice of buying the PC without Windows on it?
batteries not included
This seems like a good excuse to charge a markup for the install dvd in addition to the PC not that I have anything against profit it seems a natural evolution. Have to buy the usb and other cables a seperate monitor it's making money by slightly raising the component pieces.
FM probably wont work either
"Laissez-faire, unlike the free market, is an ideology that doesn't work"
No-ones ever tried the free market. Because it wont work either - everything would eventually belong to one entity.
Monopolies commissions sometimes manage to stop its worst excesses.
The most successful economic policy so far is the one that pretends theres a free market and equality of opportunity so the proles will work hard for someone elses profit.
But dont tell everyone otherwise it wont work...
Even windows benefits from unbundling - from a purely technical perspective
The report claim that unbundling will have little effect on users as they easily can install the OS of choice from a supplied external media.
It is in fact increasingly common that computers are delivered not with a pre-installed OS, but with an installation image on a dedicated harddrive partition that is customised for the particular computer. To have this customised OS version supplied on an external media like a DVD for those who choose Windows as their OS makes little difference to users. One might argue that it even is better as no space on the harddrive is wasted for the install-image, and that it makes the hardware more flexible as it becomes possible to replace the harddrive separately without loosing the install-image.
Yes, please unbundle
This is probably the first time ever I find myself agreeing 100% with something a free-market think tank says! There is no level playing field in competition for desktop operating systems, as long as the market leader is forcibly bundled with each new PC (unbundled PC:s do exist but are harder to find, and are no-name brands which puts off some buyers. Unbundled laptops are even rarer).
Not thought through
For this to work the "OS DVD" would have to be specific to the hardware anyway. If it wasn't then the average consumer would be screwed - most can barely deal with being talked through a recovery disk scenario (insert CD/DVD, reboot and select boot from CD, then sit back) now so installing a new OS? Dream on.
That being the case then it would have to be the OEMs that produced the "OS DVD" - much as they do now. They aren't about to do that for niche OSs (Linux, much as I like it is a niche OS) for every hardware configuration, so the consumer would get a limited choice of hardware if he chose a non-MS OS. Either that or the consumer would get no OS at all.
Now maybe its just me but doesn't this sound like the current market situation? You CAN get pre-built hardware without an OS. You CAN get hardware with Linux on it - not all hardware configs though. You can of course get Windows on everything.
I agree its not a satisfactory situation having Windows as default (and often the only choice) OS. However consumers in general won't buy a "bare" PC and it will cost the OEMs money (LOTS) to provide "OS DVD" disks for all their pre-built configurations. So who is going to pay the OEMs for this? Consumers? Government?
Pie in the sky nonsense I'm afraid.
Anyone who buys a PC without a copy of windows must be reported to the police and the Microsoft Intelligence Services (MIS). It is anti-american ( by declaring someone or something to be anti american it is now impossible to argue with this point )
Of course anyone who buys a PC without Windows is aiding pirates, whom fund terrorist. Worse still somebody who belives in the constitution. "You are either with us or against us" . . . . in this global war for domination . . . the 3rd reich will rise again zieg bush, zieg microsoft, kill those liberal hippie communist linux types.... They are the scum who point out that all the science points towards 911 being an inside job.
So if you see anyone running that hippie scum operating system that just happens to be secure, stable, and works, call the anti terrorist hotline on 666 I LOVE SATAN VOTE 4 BUSH.
This is a brilliant move. Clearly separating the price of Windows from the price of "a PC" will make it much easier for everybody.
- The people who don't want Windows won't be paying the Microsoft tax or wasting months trying to get a refund.
- The people who do want Window will clearly be able to see how much it's costing them.
It could be even simpler than "Insert DVD" - the computer could pop up a choice on first boot.
a) Enter a registration code for Windows
b) Format disk
The Windows registration code could be sold separately on a little holographic plastic card or something.
The important point is that Microsoft isn't automatically included in the sales process, buying Windows should be a conscious decision, not a default state of affairs.
A natural monopoly
I love the argument that the diversity of Linux (market share, -15%) when compared with the monoculture of Windows (market share, 115%) somehow proves that operating systems aren't a natural monopoly.
But I agree that paying for a copy of "Home Edition" every time I buy a PC is a little annoying. (Even if I wanted Windows, it wouldn't be *that* Windows.)
If there was a market...
If there was a market for PCs running Linux, and costing £480 rather than £520, PC World would sell them. There isn't. So they don't.
Lets go one further ...
... and insist that every PC manufacturer be required to create and supply an auto-install CD that gives the user a choice of linux and any other operating system that the owner cares to distribute as open source software.
People who want to install commercial operating systems can then BUY it -- and insist that there are no special deals other than bulk pricing. A company buying 10 or 1000 or 10000 or 100000 copies must pay exactly the same price as every other company buying the same quantity, regardless of what country they are from and whether they plan on using them themselves or selling them on.
Much of microsoft's monopoly has been achieved by abusing the distribution mechanism by giving preferential pricing to some countries and some types of business. It's THAT which has to stop. Not the irrelevance of whether you get browsers and music players given free with the product.
I agree, but not on their methods
I totally agree that consumers should be free not to pay the Microsoft tax, not to mention that this would better educate users on the alternatives. However, if I were running the store, I think it would be better to say "What operating system do you want?" rather than "What operating system do you want to install yourself?" That's just going to confuse the hell out of Mr Average.
Allowing users to choose their OS - yes.
Making users install it themselves - no.
Ok Mr average goes into PC Planet.
Here is your pc.
You can have....
Windows for £x
Unbuntu for £x
RedHat for £x
Unix for £x
etc etc for £x
Customer: What's Unbuntu?
PC Planet It's Linux.
Cust: What's Linux?
PC Planet It a bit like Windows..
Cust: Will all Windows software and printer etc work.
PC Planet: Maybe, Maybe not
PC Planet: Well you can download xyz to get abc program working. But you may have to get widget code to get onto the web in the firstplace. Oh and the camera you have doesn't have any Linux Drivers yet, but hopefully in few months time there maybe someone will write some.
Cust: I'll take Windows.
Sledgehammers for brain surgery
Right, so does that mean that Apple can't bundle their OS anymore either? Do the mums and dads of the world get free phone support when they are trying to install the Linux distribution they bought on the cheap? Are customers ready to pay the increased price for an unbundled Windows, and increased hardware prices due to the lack of 3rd party bundled "software"?
Don't get me wrong... I'm all for free markets & choice but as Chris said above, this solution sounds like a dumb and spiteful sledgehammer where some creative thinking would have been much more appropriate.
I'm a linux fan, I run 3 Ubuntu computers (Quiet you "Ubuntu isn't proper linux" lot :P ). I'm pretty well versed in computers, yet it still took me a good hour to get my video card working with 2 monitors and my soundcard working with mixing (so you can listen to 2 audio sources at once, eg XMMS and Firefox).
Anyway, my point is that Linux is great for the low down computer users who just want to check their emails and maybe type a few documents, great for the geeks who want to do everything else and have some control, but it's terrible for the medium power users.
You know, the guys who want to listen to music, play games, etc, who don't particularly care about how their computer really works. Which I suspect is the majority of people, or at least, the loudest group of people.
Point is: What needs to happen is manufacturers need to release decent drivers for their hardware that run on linux (you listening ATI?), but that isn't going to happen until something like this happens. But it's a bit of a catch 22, because until this decent support is available in linux, the group I discussed above aren't going to buy into (or not buy into, as it's free) Linux.
So, hey ho, I hope it goes ahead for the "free market" etc. But on the other hand, if I get millions of phone calls from my parents demanding tech support, i'll be pissed.
WIndows *would* benefit.
I'd have thought that the perceived reliability of Windows would improve dramatically, even if sales fell a tad. This would be because all those who are too dumb to follow basic instructions in the OS install process wouldn't be able to use it. These are almost certainly the same people who are too dumb to follow basic instructions like "you should install an Antivirus package", "you should install these critical security updates", "you shouldn't type all your personal information into this strange looking Russian website form" and "you shouldn't click on 'Yes' when asked 'the application rogermymachinesideways.exe appears unsafe, are you sure you wish to run it?'".
They're also the same people who would always log in to their Linux installation as "root" to make life easier. Do you want them in *your* support forum rather than on the phone to MS?......:-O
everyone that pays for Microsoft Licensing for XP professional say, then when they buy a new machine it has XP home on it. Or even worse, vista!
You end up paying MS twice for something you should only be paying once.
Unbundling the machines also fixes the issue of returning a machine to its factory default configuration easily. Having install images on hard drives means I can't repartition my disc, which in itself is an OEM lockin method, by destroying the "hidden" partition I end up voiding any warranty I may have had.
Its time to do away with stealth taxes in computing, especially those taxes that go to MS.
Dreamworld again ...
There were some obvious typos and below I submit the corrected last paragraph:
PC Planet: ... Oh and the camera you have doesn't have any Vista Drivers yet, but hopefully in few months time there maybe someone will write some.
Cust: I'll take Linux.
Nice idea but not feasible.
I've been running Linux for over 12 year now - so yes I know how to install an OS.
The average PC owner struggles to even get the preinstalled Windows images to work correctly - how they get that wrong is beyond me but they do.
Install your OS of choice from a DVD image - yeah, dream on.
For the box shifters the margins are too low to force them to carry more cost so it ain't going to happen.
I think Stu Reeves hit the nail on the head. The problems are with the consumers, thats how we got in this mess in the first place. Its worth pointing out that in any democratic system, you get what you deserve.
Here in alternative dreamworld reality
Ok Mr average goes into PC Planet.
You can have....
- Windows for £x
- Linux for FREE
Customer : Which do you recommend, Windows or Linux ?
PC Planet : Well it depends, do you want to play games or use the computer as a tool ?
Customer : Well I want to do work at home. Erm which is more secure ?
PC Planet : Linux, Windows and Security is an oxymoron
Customer : Whats an oxymoron
PC Planet : Oh.., right..., sorry..., you know ... like Military and Intelligence
Customer : Ha,ha, I get it
PC Planet : Anything else you would like ask ?
Customer : Which is more reliable ?
PC Planet : Linux can run for years.
Customer : What about Windows, what is the real difference ?
PC Planet : Well Windows works to start off with, then slowly falls apart.
Customer : Is there anything else I should know about ?
PC Planet : Well, Linux comes with free Wordprocessor, Firewall, Programming Tools, and pretty much anything else you can think of, even Astronomy.
Customer : What does everybody else use ?
PC Planet : Well most people use Windows.
Customer : Why ?
PC Planet : Because it can run Direct-X Games,
Customer : I'll take Windows
PC Planet : But you said you wanted a biz computer
Customer : Look you lied to me, all that stuff you told me can not be true, other wise why would everyone else have Windows ?
CDs are not so bad
I am sure that the last Apple laptop I bought ( in fact, the only apple laptop i bought ), came in the form of brick + install CD. It was only when you mated the two ( at first boot ) that you got a laptop.
If the Mac fanbois can install their operating system at first boot, and still hark on about how wonderfully easy to use their systems are, I don't suppose it should be an issue for everyone else.
Just offer no OS or Windows pre-installed...it's that simple
Taking Dell as an example, they already do this on their PowerEdge server line - you can choose no OS, Windows Server 2003, RHEL or SuSE Enterprise when you buy the server - all just a simple radio button OS choice (one model of machine - not separately "hidden" like their Ubuntu desktops/laptops).
And yet we *still* don't see the same OS choice on the desktops Dell sells, not even a simple "no OS" vs" Windows Vista" radio button. I don't agree with the "insert a DVD and install Windows" idea - I think that if you are going to sell a desktop with Windows, too many people are clueless to install an OS without help (unless MS and the OEMs can literally provide a "foolproof" install DVD, which the current Vista install DVD certainly isn't - in oher words - insert DVD, click on EULA, then click on *nothing else*...watch the OS install and the machine reboot and you're ready).
It's a real shame that the major OEMs still refuse to let you buy one of their desktops or laptops with no OS. If it can be done by whitebox shifters (many have a config tool on their website where you can get no OS pre-installed with the desktop) and Dell can do it for servers, then why can't major OEMs supply no OS options for desktops too?
And yes he may well take windows - but he will realise the cost of it. At the moment that "cost" is hidden - which is the whole thing about the OEM bundling.
So if the cost is : Windows £130, Ubuntu £5 (or less) then some people may well take both.
Unbundling means "any OS" not "no OS"
What is important is not how unbundling is done technically, but to make sure that consumers:
1. are made aware of the actual cost of the software.
2. can rest assured that not a cent of what they pay for the hardware goes to a software manufacturer.
It doesn't prevent selling an OS with each PC. It just can no longer appear as if it's thrown in for "free".
I have not been a windows user since the days of win 3.1, but have purchased a number of computers in the past 15 years, each with some form of dos/windows OEM license. To buy a machine without the SW has been either impossible or more expensive, and it has in reality been impossible to get a refund. For how much longer will I have to pay for something that is of no use whatsoever?
What a laughable idea
I can't imagine a non- technical minded person being able to buy a computer and install windows let alone linux without any help :-)
It just isn't practical...
Anyways having a generic OS is a good thing i think, if everyone used different a different OS i.e. 20% buisness used osx, 20 windows, 20 linux, etc etc what a headache that would be for software devalopers.. they can't even get windows working properly let alone moving onto new OS's... what a joke..
@ Jon Lawrence
"Install your OS of choice from a DVD image - yeah, dream on."
The funny thing is, the last few times I have installed Linux it has been pretty much like that: Just works. Possibly because I take care to buy only HW that is known to be Linux compatible.
If mainstream box vendors knew that the OS is unbundled and the customer might well choose Linux, the reaction might well be that they, too, start avoiding Linux-incompatible solutions and hopefully even actively start providing support for Linux developers, in the form of specs. Just to lessen their own support burden. So another beneficial side-effect if OS unbundling could be that hardware becomes more open, because vendors could no longer get away by providing only closed Windows drivers.
Good recommendation but...
It's too late.
Nonetheless, pré-installed OS should be a service (for free or not, it's up to the vendor) and the bundling practice should be banned.
Note: Mac user used to install from a CD - as well as for recovery and upgrade. That seems very odd for a Windows user, nonetheless, the Mac hardware isn't a surprise, so the installation is easy.
This is not the case with a PC, even Windows can't be installed so easily.
What would that mean
for Apple? Would Apple Macs be sold with no OS? Would Apple shops be forced to stock Linux (I think that is the only alternative that runs on a Mac) and would Microsoft write a version of Windows for Mac? The mind boggles (slightly).
Or, lets go TWO steps further
The preinstall image compulsorily supplied with the machine should have as one of its options the choice to install, in ONE pass:
b) Any or all of:
i) Open Office
iii) A suite of well chosen open source applications covering email, graphic design, photo editing etc which the manufacturer chooses, recommends and pre-configures to work with the hardware
OR, by paying an extra fee
Windows OR OS-X or others, together with a package of applications equivalent to the above (whether part of windows or otherwise).
Normal people don't install OS's
When will geeks get it into their heads, normal people do not install operating systems, they don't install windows they don't install Linux.
Any operating system that needs to be installed is a waste of space for the mass market
Windows will cost more?
PC World is selling Vista Home Premium online for £180 (or £220 instore).
So when you buy a PC from them without Vista on it, will it be £180 cheaper? Obviously no because PC World, must get an OEM version much cheaper than that.
So the average PC user, who will still want Vista will get screwed by this (while windows owns the monopoly) as they'll have to pay the full retail price for Windows.
Re Bob Bobson
There is a market for the £480 pc - but they cost me less £400 and I have to build them myself.
Takes less than an hour.
@Matthew - RE:What a laughable idea
You wrote: "I can't imagine a non- technical minded person being able to buy a computer and install windows let alone linux without any help :-)"
My most recent PC purchase, a best-in-test home-user-oriented Acer laptop bundled with Vista, came with install/recover software on a dedicated harddrive partition. At first boot it would perform a vista-install including some Acer-specific drivers and tools onto the rest of the disk.
How is that not a software installation procedure?
How would that be significantly worse if the same software was loaded from a DVD?
This won't be as simple as it seems
I'm all for unbundling Windows and creating some better competition in the OS market. However, some serious thinking would need to be done from the point of view of the PC stores (which for places like PC World, would be a first!).
They (PC highstores and manufacturers) will have to come up with some suitable alternative packages. They already know their market, so they'd need to spec something up around what the needs are. For example, You can get a Windows Media PC, which has the media centre verison of Windows on and all the necessary stuff like WMP, TV tuner and preinstalled drivers and software. The same thing should be done of Linux distributions. You can't just leave it up to the user, as 99% of people that use PC world are computer iliterate.
So if someone walks in and says "I want a media PC", the salesperson can offer a Windows solution which would cost more, or a cheaper (and likely less annoying/more stable) Linux option.
And don't get me wrong here, I dont even use Linux. If all my PC Games worked on it without a detremental effect on PC performace, I'd switch at the drop of a hat though. I hate Windows.
I like the idea of unbundling Windows, its high time the MS monopoly ends - they've had their chance and have proven time and time again that they only come up with bloatware, crapware, crashware and simply-doesn't-work-ware.
However, there should be CLEAR INDICATION on the box of each PC that states that the vast majority, if not all, mainstream PC Games you may think of picking up in Game, HMV, Virgin, or wherever, will NOT work on a system that has Linux installed.
And what about the likes of the big players Adobe, Discreet, Avid etc.
And herein lies the problem, The successes of MS have resulted in multiple massive industries that are far too far down the path to change over to a completely different base OS and development environment.
As time goes on with this scheme in place, Games development, along with apps software development will have to account for multiple OS bases, this is NOT a good thing and will result in a price explosion worse than what we have here in rip-off-britain.
Regardless, knowing from the get go that the vast majority of commercial software packages only support Windows (this wont change the instant this scheme is in place of course) then the choice will be made by the average consumer - a prediction from me - stick with crap Windows - it is well known, well supported, and has a large software base.
I'm sorry but The Gimp doesnt cut it in the Photoshop world.
I'm no MS fanboy but...
Have they considered just how many people will copy Windows and use a crack?
When I built my new PC I bought Windows Vista, and my other box runs Ubuntu. If I didn't want to pay for Windows, I wouldn't have bought it and just used Linux. However, most (also geek) friends were surprised to find that someone had actually PAID for Windows, as they just download it! That means I'm subsidising the tight-a**es who have the "I won't buy it because I think it should be free/cheaper" mentality. MS has a product, I want it, I'll buy it. However, most other people also want it, but would rather steal it.
I'll just don my asbestos overcoat before saying... Windows and MS software in general is good, and it's actually a lot more stable and configurable than most of the crap software in use in industry. There, I said it.
Re: If there was a market...
"If there was a market for PCs running Linux, and costing £480 rather than £520, PC World would sell them. There isn't. So they don't."
Last time I looked, I couldn't buy Vista for £40. (Well, not a legit version anyway.) Mind you, I probably *would* be able to if it didn't come pre-installed, because then MS would have to charge a realistic market price for the CD-ROM-in-a-box version.
Are the same crowd
Do I hear the voices of decent coming from those who value practicality above doing what is right? Yes it will hurt, yes the market will need to change. But the fact is doing the right thing isn't a buffet where you can pick and choose based on what suites you at that moment.
Now I hope Windows becomes unbundled, because having the market suffer now will lead to long term growth and stability.
I think this is a great idea.
Giving the consumer more choice is a great idea.Companies shouldn't be able to say Joe Blogs is too stupid to use Linux. It also makes sense to get rid of a monopoly that allows one company to control a majority of the worlds computers. The more people who use Linux the more likely the hardware vendors will start supporting Linux by releasing drivers. That would also bring more developers to Linux and heopfully improve the various applicatiosn available. Big companies like Google, Mozilla and Dell are already starting to support Linux and that's really good for the future of computing. So yes, any support for a more competitive operating systems market is good for Linux and good for people who want to customise their computers.
@What a laughable idea
> I can't imagine a non- technical minded person being able to buy a computer and install windows let alone linux without any help :-)
Which is why such a non-technical person would likely buy a machine with Windows pre-installed. Of course they'll *still* need technical help when, inevitably, the wheels fall off.
But the point is - some of us don't want or need Windows and it would be rather nice if we didn't have to pay anyway for a pre-installed copy. That's just a PC stealth tax, and further serves to inflate Microsoft's unfounded "users choose Windows" guff.
Choice doesn't enter into it, but it should.
15 years too late!
These were all good, workable concepts back in 1992 when there was actually some competition for MS...
Not necessarily Linux
Who said the alternative had to be Linux?
Vista is still too new for me to be happy to use it - it needs another year or so in the wild for all the bugs to be fixed. If I was getting a new PC I think XP would be a better option at the moment - but how easy is it to buy a PC with XP nowadays?
Whilst I Support the idea of having a No OS option, it will cause a noticable rise in piracy. After all, this is why China banned selling PCs with no OS.
As for those uninformed mac comments. My mac was running OSX straight out of the box. In Addition, it can bootcamp into windows. Pay attention!!
ATI/AMD is listening they have relesaed 2d drivers code and specs for 3d hardware(check some linux news sites) which means that there will soon be improved stuff on ati drivers under linux...
Level the playing field /americanism
I think the Stu Reeves lot are missing the point. Stu's example conversation would be accurate 90% of the time. Initially. And that's absolutely fine. However, it should make it a little easier to introduce other OSs (including XP [9% of the time]) and also be a little fairer on those of us who don't want to have send of for a refund whenever we try to buy an off-the-shelf box (1% of the time).
It would be interesting to see how well Windows did at producing a proper install CD. I often get asked to reinstall my friends' virus laden machines and it's always driver hell. At least you used to be able to revert to a disk drive.
LINUX DOESN'T WORK
I agree with some of the people here that choice might be a good thing but to those others who are arguing for it to become law - you are crazy...linux simply doesn't work...
THERE IS NO VERSION OF LINUX AVAILABLE that will install on a brand new piece of hardware and have ALL of it's device drivers working straight out of the box...
Customising a version for each machine would cost money and therefore take the customers existing choice of a free operating system and destroying that - it will mean the death of the open-source o/s....
I work in support and trust me, your average customer can not install linux - indeed even experienced users have trouble tweaking linux to work properly and for all of you experts...you should be building your own pc's and not buying them off the shelf ANYWAY!!!!
OK - Rant over - Microsoft is here to stay - deal with it
RE: I'm no MS fanboy but...
..."Windows and MS software in general is good, and it's actually a lot more stable and configurable than most of the crap software in use in industry."...
I couldn't agree more. I work for a £2.5billion-worth multi-national outsourcing company and the 3 major pieces of software I personally use are in-house/custom and they are RUBBISH!
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned OS/2 so far. What's needed is for Windows to be opened up, or at least for MS to publish its APIs so other Windows-compatible OSes could be written. What I'd like to see is a situation where Windows is available in various distributions like Linux is.
Many of the posts here seem to be from smoke and mirrors types that consider all non techies completely useless where computers are involved and that they should be allowed within 100 feet of a keyboard.
Maybe its simply the fact that M$ have treated the entire domestic market as incompetant lusers that need the computer to manage their 'experience' for them
My 68 year old grandmother is perfectly at home with her computer and although it was purchased from tesco its functional and arrived with a set of recovery and driver CD's. She has been able to follow spoken instructions (i live 230 miles away) on how to rebuild the computer using said discs and install the drivers and software she requires.
I used linux years ago and I've recently tried out several of the linux distros (live dvd versions) inc Suse and Ubuntu - the install on a custom PC built with a random selection of parts i had lying around was painless.
Only opening up the market will persuade the majority of hardware vendors to develop and release drivers for the mainstream distro's and Mono and Moonlight will enable strictly M$ developers to develop app's that work with Linux.
I for one would look forward the day that i could walk into any distributor and purchase a PC that had been certified compatible with both windows and the major distro's and a choice of M$, linux or no media.
Bring on the revolution!
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