Are we slaves of Micro$oft?

37 in the morning at the RSR studioThat is the question I faced this morning during an interview (audio archive here) at the Swiss national radio (RSR) after Microsoft announced is was giving away free software to the students of Lausanne’s engineering school. My answer: Yes and No, and it’s getting better.

YES we are slaves, because inside many organizations you get a PC with windows installed whether you like it or not.

NO we are not slaves, because nobody forbids you to buy a mac or get a Dell with Ubuntu, you can use Open Office instead of Word and Excel, and please get Firefox.

II’S GETTING BETTER because we now have more credible options than ever (thanks in part to Mark Shuttleworth‘s work on Ubuntu – a linux version that your grandmother can use, and to mac OSX), and because we are spending the majority of our time inside a browser, i.e. an operating system independent environment.

This debate – who a few years back used to make people prone to irrationality ^ – seems to be less important now. What are your thoughts?

I am an entrepreneur and researcher passionate about understanding the social implications of digital technologies.
  1. There may be some freedom from MS for the more technically inclined among us. For the more common people it is quite difficult.

    Go to any store and try to buy something without Windows XP or Vista. If you are lucky, you may see some mac (Manor and recently Media Mark being the exception). I Don’t know if Dell Ubuntu is available for Switzerland.

    Then try to buy a digital camera, an mp3 player or a mobile phone. See if they provide you with a software other than for MS. Of course they are some exceptions, but it is not the rule.

    On a business side other than IT, try to send someone a document other than a Word document. PDF is usually the only other choice. Same with spreadsheet, people live and breathe Excel.

    On the Web all the recent RIA platforms (Apollo/Flex/Flash, Silverlight) are well supported on MS Software, sometimes uptodate on a mac and difficult to find somewhere else. Even though they support Linux, they are not always on par featurewise (try to have flash video on a 64bit Linux systems).

    But hey, I wrote this comment on a Linux machine. Some island of freedom is possible…

  2. For the grand public things will take a lot of time. We are prisoners of Microsoft, but with a more knowledge – or in Apple’s case more money! – you can escape this situation. And things are getting better.

    But it’s true that we aren’t there yet, and consumer electronics are pretty much locked into windows.

  3. I’m just in the process to switch over from MS to Mac and I’m absolutely amazed how intuitive and naturally connected everything is.

    Thats how I wanted my Windows to be for the last 10 Years…

    And I’m a, so called, power user … as well as ex- supporter .. so I know how to handle Windows…

    anyway, there are so many people using windows, thats its just naturally that there will be a whole lot more tools available for Windows.. always.. it’s not the quantity that counts ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Welcome to mac. Before Vista I could argue that windows was a decent choice. Now that I saw how slow and complicated windows as become, it’s really hard to argue against OSX

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