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Thread: Open Source Software

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Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2008 22:54:02 +1000

Recently I conducted a straw poll amongst acquaintances at work and at our local school. I found that 93% of this sample had Windows computer systems, and 7% had Macs. The breakdown was as follows:
	Windows 98     6.7%
	Windows XP    73.3%
	Windows Vista 13.3%
	Mac OS X       6.7%

I did not include myself in the straw poll, so Linux is not represented in the above table (our household is unique in this respect). The Windows 98 users were planning to upgrade and the Windows Vista users will soon be replacing Vista with XP. Everyone I spoke to thought that Vista was a dog (some of them had already replaced Vista). None of them liked Office 2007. Everyone I spoke to had heard of Apple, and many had the impression that Apple made high quality systems, that were easy to use, but were expensive.

Only one person had heard of Ubuntu.

Personally I find it puzzling that Ubuntu still has such a low profile amongst computer users. Linux still has the reputation of being an operating system made by and for geeks. Although this may have been well deserved for some previous Linux distributions, it is not true of Ubuntu, which is far easier to install and use then Microsoft Vista.

As far as I can tell most users do not have the confidence to install an operating system. This is true even for Ubuntu, even though it is arguably the easiest operating system in the world to install. It seems that the reason for the lack of acceptance is the lack of penetration in the technical group. These are people, who although they are not programmers, offer support and maintenance for hardware. Most of this group have learned how to install and maintain Microsoftware and are unwilling to learn new skills.

Nevertheless, the failure of Microsoft Vista seems to represent an opportunity for Apple.

Apple's decision to use BSD has freed the corporation to pursue high level integration of applications which is where the main game is today.

On the other hand Microsoft's last ditch defence of their proprietary operating system is costing them dearly. Even for a corporation which has pockets as deep as Microsoft obviously has, it now seems that this will ultimately drain their substantial piggy bank. And while they spend all their blood and treasure on defending their proprietary operating system, they continue to lose ground in the important main game, which is of course the integration of applications (especially online applications).

In sheer desperation, yesterday Microsoft announced a new deal with HP. From January 2009, all Consumer PCs shipped in the USA and Canada will have the Microsoft Live Search toolbar installed. As part of the deal, the default search engine setting for all browsers on HP machines will be set to Microsoft Live Search.

Of course, Microsoft has not disclosed the terms of the agreement. But we can only speculate that a large number of dollars were involved in the deal.

However spending money on deals with hardware manufacturers will not improve Microsoft's search technology, which lags a long, long way behind Google, the undisputed market leader.

In contrast to Microsoft, Google has used open source software to leverage their efforts at integration. It is Google's search technology which gives them the edge in the struggle with Microsoft. The open source model delivers a superior product, and it delivers it quicker. Like Apple, Google does not have to spend time on developing the basic nuts and bolts of the operating system or the basic tools to build applications.

By opting for open source tools, Google can concentrate on adding value. And while they increase the performance and value of their product, Microsoft is still trying to re-invent the wheel.

Recently I received the following testimony from an interested reader:

My pal in Mittagong has just gotten satellite Internet, thinks it's good, etc, He hears in his area and around the traps that people are taking Vista off machines and putting XP back on, 'cept that Microsoft is gonna stop supporting XP soon, so he wonders. This confirms from the ground what you've been finding. If this particular area of NSW south of Sydney as lately surveyed by a serious non-expert is so affected, I'd imagine the disquiet is world wide. The market is now too shrewd to be further conned by Microsoft, so Microsoft has much of slowly bleeding to death to do.

And the news is much the same in Victoria (Australia), and I suspect throughout the world.

It seems that Vista's messy and rather smelly decomposition will be good news for Apple and for Google.

Hopefully it might come to represent an opportunity for Ubuntu to get noticed by the general public.


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