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Kogan’s Linux-powered netbook: Aus owned or made up?

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Yesterday I reported on Kogan’s Linux netbook which is set to begin selling to local buyers next month.

This isn’t Earth shattering (no pun intended Victorians) news, but it does make for an interesting case of how a small, independent company can bring to market products typically associated with big box computer vendors.

Sure the “whitebox” computer market has been doing this for years, and to a lesser extent the generic notebooks have also, but the whole “netbook” phenomenon is relatively new.

Kogan’s rhetoric is simple: why should Australians buy a computer from a foreign-owned retailer, supplied by a foreign-owned computer company, made by a foreign manufacturer when they can deal directly with a local company that cuts out two of those steps?

Kogan is a local marketing and sales company that feeds off the rising tide of globalisation, or globalization if you live in the US. It is becoming increasingly easy to slap a brand on a high-technology product made offshore and call it you own, but is this the right direction for Australian companies to head in?

Sure, Kogan cuts out the “middle-men” in the supply chain, but will that mean more money will stay in the local economy rather than be spent elsewhere? Is there “greater good” in Kogan’s global agenda?

The answer is probably yes. Studies in US has shown the detrimental affects of big box retailers can have on small towns. A big box retailer like Wal-Mart will drop a massive store in or near a small town, attract all the shoppers to itself, suck all the money out of the town, kill all the specialty shops and then spend it after it has been routed through head office. This means less dollars are likely to be spent on other suppliers in that local economy and the consequences can be disastrous.

Extrapolate this concept to international trade and you get the idea what I’m on about. If left unchecked, globalisation has the potential to rob local economies of their livelihood and cause a massive imbalance between money spent and money returned to any area.

Like most Linux and open source users I think it’s great that a small Australian company has stepped up to the plate and released a product in a way the world’s largest computer manufacturers are still coming to grips with (Kogan’s decision to go with gOS was based on customer feedback, apparently), but by supporting globalisation am I being a hypocrite by not supporting the actions of a company like, say, Microsoft?

And with Kogan selling online it has the potential to reach customers in all continents, just like the US IT vendors do, albeit with token sales posts dotted around the world.

I once heard someone in the open source community describe Microsoft as a vacuum cleaner, sucking the world’s money into its coffers. When Kogan is doing something similar am I right to support it?

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