Whether we are talking about operating systems or office applications or games, there are a lot of people who “buy Microsoft,” for one reason or another. It is not always the best product, not always the easiest, and sometimes far from either one of those.
Recently, however, the ice has begun to break. I think a lot of the “Microsoft only” attitudes have been changing because of the positive press that the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox web browser has gotten.
Independent security firms such as Secunia (www.secunia.com) have readily available links on their sites where we can see the security status of Internet Explorer versus Firefox versus Opera.
At the same time, we are starting to see breaks in Microsoft’s almost exclusive hold on the lucrative “office applications” suites.
Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Access, Outlook and a few less-known applications) are starting to take much more heat from the free open-source OpenOffice.org office suite. (Yes, that is really the name — “OpenOffice.org” the office suite is from “OpenOffice.org” the foundation at www.openoffice.org).
We have already seen foreign city and country governments declare that they are going to move to open-source software. Microsoft has had mixed results in subsequently preventing those moves.
The Department of Defense was the first U.S. entity to break with the Microsoft Office oligopoly. In 2001, the DOD announced that it would require all procurement documents and all documents from its vendors to be in OpenOffice.org’s format.
The State of Massachusetts is the first U.S. political entity that is officially moving towards Open Source. While it did not declare that they dumping Microsoft Office, it passed a State law that all State public records must be available in either the “OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications” (OpenDocument format) or Adobe System’s Portable Document Format (.pdf format) as of 2007. While the latter is not truly an open format, the readers are widely available and free and the files can be created for free by some free, open-source software (including OpenOffice.org).
Of course, after that, the Microsoft-supporters came out of the woodwork and began to push in the other direction.
Massachusetts back-stepped. The legislature jumped up and decided that maybe Microsoft software wasn’t so bad. After all, Microsoft says they’re going to support XML-formatted documents. It would be nice to see some US political entity actually come out in favor of open source and stay there.
Now, I’m even seeing changes in individuals who were previously staunch Microsoft-only advocates. Whether the issue is security or price, the walls between free, open-source software and the public-at-large are starting to see some cracks. Yea!