January 21, 2010, Updated September 13, 2012

Affordy’s Linux-based operating system has a Windows “look and feel” that will appeal to Windows users who move over to the more affordable netbooks.



“Within a few minutes, users have a ready-to-go computer that they can start working with immediately.” Yoram Nissenboim, CEO of Affordy.

The netbook revolution is here. And while some consumers may decide to buy a netbook with an operating system they’re not familiar with, Israel’s Affordy Computers will try to make life easier for them – with its Linux-based operating system that has a “look and feel” that will be familiar to any Windows user.

It is projected that in barely two years sales of the small, cheap, mini-laptops will increase tenfold and netbook sales may even overtake sales of “full-sized” laptops. The large majority of these netbooks will not be using Microsoft Windows as an operating system, but rather a version of the open source operating system Linux.

In a sense, says Affordy CEO Yoram Nissenboim, his company has managed to bridge a historical disconnect between what consumers think they want, and what’s good for them.

“It’s true that only one percent of desktop computer users rely on Linux as their operating system,” Nissenboim tells ISRAEL21c. And this is the case despite years of effort during which the Linux community pointed out the benefits of Linux over Windows.

Linux is far more secure, Nissenboim contends, has better performance, especially over the Vista and Windows 7 operating systems – and, most important for many users, it’s free, or very low-cost, certainly far cheaper than Windows.

20 million laptops will use Linux in 2013

And cheaper is the order of the day when it comes to netbooks, which manufacturers aim to make as inexpensive as possible. With the cheapest netbooks costing distributors around $150, the $35 or so they have to pay for a Windows license for each machine boosts the cost of machines by more than 20 percent – an unacceptable amount for discounters who are seeking to sell as many machines as they can, as cheaply as possible.

And the stakes are high. Out of the 60 million or so laptops forecast to be sold in 2013, for example, at least one third will use Linux as their operating system.

The problem seems to be that many potential netbook customers are used to Windows. With all its disadvantages, says Nissenboim, consumers prefer ‘the devil they know’ to learning how to do things differently.

“Linux looks and feels differently than Windows and people are used to using applications that only work on Windows. It’s hard to integrate a Linux machine into a Windows network, and the challenges of migrating their e-mail and other files to a Linux environment are just some of the reasons Windows users avoid Linux,” Nissenboim believes.

But if somehow the gap could be bridged – if users could, for example, use their favorite Windows programs in a Linux-based computer, or if their new Linux netbook allowed them to run the familiar Microsoft Internet Explorer or Outlook, the chances that they would go for a Linux-based netbook, or even desktop computer, would increase.

According to Nissenboim, if the only difference for the consumer was price – with all other issues of performance and compatibility being equal – there’s no doubt that the consumer would choose the less-expensive system.

Titan Lev looks and acts like Windows

“Users only need Windows to ensure that their applications work and they can manage their computers in a way they are comfortable with,” says Nissenboim. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done at Affordy.”

The Affordy operating system, called Titan Lev, looks a lot like Windows and acts a lot like Windows, says Nissenboim – but is actually based on the open-source Linux Ubuntu operating system.

The Titan Lev OS has a number of important features that will make Windows users feel right at home, such as a Windows emulator that lets them install almost any Windows program they want, the ability to easily integrate with a Windows network, and a host of built-in applications that can handle almost any task a user could use a computer for, without the need to install any additional software.

“Some of the software we include is open source, but much of it was developed by us, for the benefit of users,” Nissenboim relates, adding that installation is simple: “Within a few minutes, users have a ready-to-go computer that they can start working with immediately.”

Titan OS takes the headache out of switching from Windows with a host of migration and emulation tools, enabling users to practically mirror their work habits and method on Windows systems, Nissenboim says.

Discovering the joys of Linux

Affordy offers its operating system to manufacturers and resellers, and has contracts with a number of large companies, most notably Coby, a well-known producer of electronics in the US. Each Titan Lev installation costs manufacturers and resellers a mere few dollars, far less than it would cost them to equip their low-cost machines with Windows.

Affordy even sells its own brand of computers – desktops and laptops – in Israel, and thousands of Israelis have discovered the joys of using Linux, says Nissenboim.

“We had a special deal for Egged drivers to purchase our computers at a discount, and while almost none had ever heard of Linux, many of them called and wrote us to tell us how satisfied they were – with the quality, and the price.”

The systems sold by Affordy are among the cheapest in Israel, Nissenboim points out, because the company aims to make money not from selling computers or operating systems, but by providing reasonably priced support to companies and individuals.

For years, companies have had very limited success promoting open-source Linux as an alternative operating system for home and office computers. Despite making Linux as user-friendly as possible, Windows remains by far the most popular operating system for PCs – with the Microsoft operating system installed on over 90% of the world’s desktop and laptop computers.

Linux, with all its benefits to end users, still hasn’t caught on – but perhaps this Israeli company is the one that will finally break through the Windows “Blue Barrier” that so many have unsuccessfully attempted to surmount.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director