Living Without Microsoft XPloring the alternatives 2006-09-25T11:22:56Z Copyright 2006 WordPress John <![CDATA[City of Munich begins transition to Linux]]> ../../2006/09/25/city-of-munich-begins-transition-to-linux/ 2006-09-25T11:22:56Z 2006-09-25T11:22:56Z Open Source Linux

THE STORY of the city of Munich’s transition to Linux is longer than a festival of Fassbinder films but, just like a movie by the arthouse-meister, after an interminable prologue we’re finally getting to the action.
According to IDG’s Jon Blau, the first 100 of 14,000 PCs have lost Windows and gained Debian Linux and OpenOffice 2. The plan is to get four out of every five PCs switched by the end of 2008…


John <![CDATA[Microsoft vs. open source]]> ../../2006/09/12/microsoft-vs-open-source/ 2006-09-12T08:44:51Z 2006-09-12T08:44:51Z Open Source Operating Systems Linux Two Harvard economists have built a model to elucidate the battle between Windows and Linux. There’s an interesting interview with the authors in which they discuss their findings.

Their conclusion?

Our main result is that in the absence of cost asymmetries and as long as Windows has a first-mover advantage (a larger installed base at time zero), Linux never displaces Windows of its leadership position. This result holds true regardless of the strength of Linux’s demand-side learning. Furthermore, the result persists regardless of the intrinsically better design and potential differential value of Linux. In other words, harnessing demand-side learning more efficiently is not sufficient for Linux to win the competitive battle against Windows.

Having obtained this basic result, we investigate the conditions that will warrant that Linux ends up forcing Windows out. We do this by modifying the model in two ways. First of all, we look at the effect of having buyers such as governments and some large corporations committed to deployment of Linux in their organizations. We call such buyers strategic. In addition to cost-related reasons, governments back Linux because having access to the source code allows them to verify that sensitive data is treated securely. Binary code makes it hard to figure out who has access to information flowing in a network. Companies such as IBM, in contrast, back Linux because they see in OSS one way to diminish Microsoft’s dominance. We find that the presence of strategic buyers together with Linux’s sufficiently strong demand-side learning results in Windows being driven out of the market. This may be one main reason why Microsoft has been providing chunks of Windows’ source code to governments.

Second, we look at the role of cost asymmetries. In the base model we assume that the cost structures of Windows and Linux for the development, distribution, and support of software coincide. A natural question is then whether the central result that Windows survives in the long-run equilibrium regardless of the speed of Linux’s demand-side learning persists if there are cost asymmetries. We find that because OSS implies lower profits for Microsoft, the larger the cost differences are between Linux and Windows, the less able Microsoft is to guarantee the survival of Windows.

We also show that it is not all bad news to Microsoft. We analyze the effect of having forward-looking buyers and the presence of piracy, and conclude that both benefit Microsoft.

They also come to the counter-intuitive conclusion that piracy actually helps Microsoft!

In addition to this main result, we were also surprised to find that piracy may end up increasing Microsoft’s profits. To understand why, notice that there are two types of pirates: those who would not have bought Windows in the first place because it is too expensive, and those who would have bought Windows but now decide to pirate it. The first category increases Windows’ installed base without affecting sales. As a consequence, this group increases the value of Windows. And thanks to these pirates, Microsoft is able to set higher prices in the future (because the value of the system goes up). In addition, having these pirates means that Linux’s installed base does not grow as much as it would have if piracy weren’t there. The second type of pirates (those who in the absence of piracy would have bought Windows) reduces Windows’ sales and profit. Thus, if the proportion of first-type pirates is sufficiently large, Microsoft’s profits will increase with piracy…

Like all mathematical models, this one may turn out to be flawed, partly because it ignores variables that cannot easily be quantified. It’s also likely to prove irrelevant because it assumes that computing will continue to be platform- rather than network-based. But it’s interesting to see how economists approach the subject.

John <![CDATA[Microsoft Vista prices]]> ../../2006/09/05/microsoft-vista-prices/ 2006-09-05T20:16:22Z 2006-09-05T20:16:22Z Operating Systems Microsoft has announced the US pricing regime for the latest incarnation of Windows:

  • Windows Vista Home Basic: $199
  • Windows Vista Home Premium: $239
  • Windows Vista Business: $299
  • Windows Vista Ultimate: $399

    Security vulnerabilities thrown in at no extra charge.

  • ]]>
    Quentin <![CDATA[It’s a matter of National Security]]> ../../2006/08/11/its-a-matter-of-national-security/ 2006-08-11T13:43:16Z 2006-08-11T13:43:16Z Uncategorized Make sure you apply all of those patches to deal with Windows security flaws, says the US department of Homeland Security. Seven ‘critical’ ones this month, apparently.

    Dave <![CDATA[PDF in MS Office]]> ../../2006/06/04/pdf-in-ms-office/ 2006-06-04T07:41:36Z 2006-06-04T07:41:36Z File Formats From Microsoft Monitor (an excellent blog covering the Redmond giant’s activities):

    There is going to be quite a bit to blog about today, with respect to Microsoft. First up, Wall Street Journal reports that closed-door discussions have broken down between Adobe and Microsoft over PDF. Microsoft had planned to incorporate PDF in Office 2007. I haven’t confirmed anything with Microsoft, but the story suggests that Microsoft would remove the PDF feature–at least in Europe and quite possibly everywhere.

    Quick recap: Microsoft alleges that after four months of discussions to use PDF in Office 2007, Adobe has demanded its technology’s removal. Microsoft claims that Adobe wanted Microsoft to separately offer PDF and charge for it.

    A good time to point out to all that offers PDF export right now.

    Dave <![CDATA[Scribus: Open Source Desktop Publishing]]> ../../2006/06/04/scribus-open-source-desktop-publishing/ 2006-06-04T07:27:42Z 2006-06-04T07:27:42Z DTP Desktop publishing packages are a big help when you want to produce a document that is a little too complicated for a word processing package. A newsletter, or school newspaper, for example. Maybe a poster. Anything which mixes your text with a large amount of graphical content is bound to be better handled in a dedicated DTP package than a word processor.
    A number of Windows PCs are supplied with Microsoft’s effort in this field, Publisher, and while there are some superior entry level DTP apps out there (Serif’s PagePlus springs to mind), most people would baulk at shelling out cash on something they already have for free.

    Linux users at this point will be jumping up and down, screaming “Scribus!”, and quite rightly so. It’s an excellent, fully-featured DTP package, and what’s more it’s free.

    Well, Scribus is also available for Windows (and for Mac, for that matter). It’s in beta, but is perfectly stable for home use. All you need is to download a couple of files, install them, and give it a go!

    Dave <![CDATA[ThinkFree Office]]> ../../2006/05/04/thinkfree-office/ 2006-05-04T20:12:32Z 2006-05-04T20:12:32Z Uncategorized Office software Over on the Office Evolution blog, Marc Orchant writes about a very interesting office package, ThinkFree Office. Orchant points out what makes ThinkFree different:

    ThinkFree’s strategy differs from pure-play online offerings. They offer three different local versions of their software that work in concert with the online version of their suite which provides word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications that look and work very much like their counterparts in Microsoft’s suite. Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux platforms are supported. A desktop version (the Download Edition) of the suite is available for $49.95. More interesting is the Portable Edition ($49.95) for U3 flash devices which allows you to carry the suite with you for use on any computer. This mobile version, combined with the online service present one of the more compelling alternatives, in the truest sense of the word, to Microsoft Office and it’s current PC-centric work model. An iPod version specifically for creating, viewing, and displaying presentations, ThinkFree Show ($29.95) is also available.

    Providing both an online and desktop based solution is certainly an innovative approach - offering the speed and reliability of the desktop with the accessibility and opportunities for collaboration that online applications provide.

    John <![CDATA[Some light relief]]> ../../2006/05/03/some-light-relief/ 2006-05-03T22:24:40Z 2006-05-03T22:24:40Z Operating Systems Witty series of short movies explaining various reasons for buying an Apple Mac. Not recommended for Windows users unless they’ve been retrofitted with a sense of humour. The movies are clearly inspired by Umberto Eco’s celebrated essay arguing that the PC was a Protestant machine whereas the Mac was undoubtedly a Catholic one.

    Dave <![CDATA[Queries, questions and help]]> ../../2006/05/03/more-living-without-microsoft/ 2006-05-03T21:29:41Z 2006-05-03T21:29:41Z Site Manual We’ve been putting in some work behind the scenes to make the site more useful for visitors.

    One of the issues that has come to light is that people would like a place to put forward queries, questions and cries for help; as well as an area to share best practice and other tips.

    So, we have created a set of forums. Please feel free to post on any topics on which you have a view, or about which you have a question. If you have previously registered with the blog then we’re afraid you will still have to register on the forum.

    There has also been a change of look as well as an uprade to the latest release of WordPress. Hopefully these changes will make Living Without Microsoft a better experience for its users.

    Dave <![CDATA[Browser Comparison]]> ../../archives/2006/05/02/29 2006-05-02T20:12:55Z 2006-05-02T20:12:55Z Browsers If you want to see what the various web browsers have to offer, why not check out the list on Wikipedia?

    There is masses of information on there, giving you a chance to make a really informed choice.