Editor 13-Mar-07
Vista - Arrogance & Stupidity


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Is Linux for Your Business?

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25-Dec-00
Microsoft Invades Accounting

Upgrading to Windows Vista has been banned by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), technology giant Texas Instruments and other corporations and government agencies (V1, V10, V11). These organizations are evaluating their options, but overseas it's turning into a stampede to get out of Microsoft software (V15).

School districts in the U.S. are starting to move entirely to Linux rather suffer the cost of upgrading Windows. Examples are the Windsor Unified School District in Northern California and the Bexley, Ohio high school district. Schools making this move have been surprised how easy it is and how much money is saved. (V6, V8)

Leading computer maker HP is reporting "massive deals for Linux desktops" with corporate clients (V4). Runner-up computer maker and long time faithful Microsoft ally Dell has been overwhelmed by demand and has started developing Linux desktop preloads for their notebook and desktop computers (V9).

Even that great bastion of the status quo, the Wall Street Journal, has published an article under the title Linux Starts to Find Home on Desktops (Business Technology, 13 Mar 2007).

Small business and consumer demand for computers with Windows XP is very high, but Microsoft has moved swiftly to make sure they can't get it. No sane person wants Vista, so Microsoft is making sure they have no choice.

It's becoming clear people are going to be holding on to their XP machines as long as they can. Chip manufacturers in particular face a damaging glut of memory and CPU chips because the anticipated Vista upgrade demand isn't materializing. One gigabyte of RAM memory is the practical minimum for Vista (except Home Basic which will run in 500 megabytes).

What went wrong? Basically, Vista was designed with almost no consideration for the needs of Microsoft's customers. James Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's Platform Products and Services Group wrote an internal memo saying that Microsoft had lost touch with customer needs and if he didn't work there he'd buy an Apple Macintosh (V12). Allchin retired the day Vista shipped.

Vista and its companion programs, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7, offer precious little Windows users want beyond what's in Windows XP, but plenty they don't want.

  • A confusing new user interface. Vista actually reduces user productivity according to a consulting firm's study (V7).
  • Blamed for so many security problems, Microsoft has placed security responsibility right where it doesn't belong, squarely on the shoulders of the average user. Confusing security pop-up dialogs are so common users get used to just hitting "Yes" automatically to everything, including malware.
  • Most existing software is not compatible with Vista. You will have to purchase upgrades to almost all the software you run and many programs will never be upgraded to Vista.
  • It's an exercise in frustration to try to upgrade an XP computer to Vista. Few Vista drivers are available except for new devices designed for Vista, and manufacturers don't plan any.
  • Even many current printers don't have Vista drivers, and many never will. Developing Vista drivers and getting them approved by Microsoft is just too expensive.
  • Vista is effectively a Windows price increase. Vista Home Basic, shipped with lower cost consumer market computers, is rather minimal, This often forces a $79 upgrade to Home Premium (equivalent to Windows XP Media Center) or Ultimate for $139. Vista's built-in Anytime Upgrade handles that - have your credit card ready. Actually all versions are on the machine but must be "activated".
  • Vista Activation is a hassle and failure prone, but Microsoft says they'll be turning the screws down even tighter due to rampant piracy already taking place. This does little harm to the pirates, just to legitimate users (V5).
  • Vista Activation, should it fail or be aborted, phones home to Microsoft with enough details to identify your computer and possibly your location (V3).
  • Vista's much ballyhooed security has already been shattered in various ways, and Microsoft's One Care, intended to protect Vista from malware, has scored at the very bottom in independent tests of anti-malware programs (V2).
  • Microsoft's draconian DRM (Digital Rights Management) features not only interfere with your enjoyment of entertainment media you have purchased, but force you to have a much more powerful and expensive machine just to achieve XP level performance (V14).
  • Windows Update is now mandatory. What's wrong with that? You have no defense against patches that break other stuff. Worse, Microsoft has promised the media moguls they will cripple your computer if any DRM problems are found with your computer's hardware or drivers - this by Windows Update, of course (V14).
  • Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said Vista was so good a service pack would not be needed. Service Pack 1 went into "critical" development even before Vista's public release at the end of January. There are flaws aplenty.

Why did they do this? Most new features originally planned for Vista were dropped in favor of one: a draconian DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme. See my editorial Vista - Broken by Design for the details. All other features were of lower priority and the needs of customers were disregarded if they conflicted with DRM.

Microsoft hopes to parlay secure DRM into a monopoly on distribution of so called "premium content". Once they have lured the studios into the deal and established the monopoly they can dictate terms to the studios the way Apple dictated terms to the record companies based on the iPod success, but on a much larger scale.

Microsoft is depending on the unbounded greed of the media moguls to pull this off, but word is the moguls are starting to wonder if DRM is a good idea after all. It is causing them a lot of trouble, has done nothing to stop piracy, and has caused tremendous ill will and bad publicity.

Clearly ill will is of no concern to Microsoft. A recent patent filing reveals they have a whole lot more pain and expense planned for you in the future (V13).

What should Microsoft do? Their most basic mistake is "one size fits all", holding that an entertainment device is equally suited for business. This is now obviously and painfully false. Microsoft should immediately develop a version of Vista for business with DRM completely stripped out. Perhaps they could disable playing of "premium content" entirely if they could do it cleanly - "premium content" has no place on business computers anyway.

Will Microsoft do this? No. Instead they will "stay the course", increasing PR expenditures, working on ways to kill Windows XP to force Vista adoption, and ramping up their misinformation and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) attacks on Linux to "full rabid" shrillness.

What should you do? Every business should be taking a long hard look at moving to Linux. Yes, there will be costs involved, and employees will gripe initially, but those who have done this find an overall cost savings.

eComStation (formerly IBM's OS/2) is another good alternative for general business, but lacking specialty applications. I find it hard to recommend Apple - applications are limited and it's a closed proprietary environment run by a person of proven greed. It seems like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

I understand that many small businesses are dependent on specialty software the publishers of which support only Windows - even if it'll actually run on Linux. It's time to start pressuring them for Linux versions and/or support. Remember, there's worse to come (V13).

If you happen to be such a software publisher, it's time for you to take a good hard look at producing Linux versions yourself. Microsoft has already killed a huge segment of the commercial software industry and you are on their list. Sooner or later it's your turn.

- Andrew Grygus

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©Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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