Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

W3Schools: Firefox marches on in 2008!

February 9, 2008

I note that posted their browser info for January, so I updated the graph. Firefox appears to continue its rise at the expense of IE6. Removing the WGA in October didn’t seem to have any effect. Is the out of place look-and-feel in XP a bigger issue? The rendering engine changes? Has basically everyone who was going to switch to IE7 on XP already done so? One wonders if the very slow (but steady) rise in IE7 usage over the last 10 months or so is due primarily to Vista adoption. There’s a scary thought for Microsoft. Let’s compare with the OS stats:

May 2007: 2.8% Vista, 19.2% IE7
January 2008: 7.3% Vista, 21.2% IE7

Change: +4.5% Vista, +2.0% IE7

So yes, it is entirely possible that all the IE7 growth is due to Vista… and yet if we are generous and attribute all of IE7’s growth to Vista (rather than XP+Vista), that implies that 5 of every 9 new Vista users visiting that site dumped IE7. Ouch. That does not bode well for IE’s future.


Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo (teehee)

February 1, 2008

Back in May there were rumors circulating that Microsoft was going to buy Yahoo. At that point I thought about my old, basically unused Yahoo account and decided that it was time to cancel it. Good thing I got that out of the way, since today I woke up to find that Microsoft has apparently been in negotiations on-and-off for a year and a half and finally made an offer: $44.6 Billion US

And oh boy I am smiling :)

Now you might find that curious, since I am clearly in the ‘death-to-Microsoft’ crowd, but all you have to do is think about this for a little bit. First, Yahoo is something Microsoft wants really badly to fight off their nemesis Google, so they’re willing to pay a huge premium for it: 62% more than its stock value. So right there, some $17 Billion of Microsoft’s giant cash hoard goes poof. But Yahoo may demand (and get) even more. That Microsoft has a huge reserve of available funds has concerned me, but if they’re going to spend money like this, bad things are going to happen there if the revenue stream begins to dry up a bit down the road.

When MS lost the bid for Doubleclick to Google and promptly bought aQuantive for $6 Billion, Mini-MSFT said:

Holy crap. In my opinion, this is a huge demonstration of fear, desperation, and dim-dog market tail-light chasing greed on our part. Every acquisition represents our failure to use our 70,000+ employee base to solve a solution or create a new market. Rather than buying back stock or pushing out a dividend, shareholder money got mis-invested in a hugely overpriced acquisition. And you’re a shareholder why?

Next, I totally see MS screwing up the merged Yahoo (and in case you were wondering what the merged company will be called, its “Microsoft”. Yahoo will be merged into the MS online ad fiefdom, er, division. There’s a reason MS is nicknamed the “borg“). It should be remembered that the only thing profitable at MS is Windows and Office; their online ads will likely become just the latest money pit in an attempt to keep up with Google. I love John Dvorak’s seething incredulity at the proposed merger:

“It would be an impossible pill to swallow, a corporate culture marriage-nightmare, and an admission by both companies to ultimate defeat at the hands of Google. I was convinced that these two companies cannot be so stupid as to not know this deal is a bad idea. I was wrong.”

Newsweek echoes this:

“the biggest threats to a Microsoft-Yahoo deal are Microsoft and Yahoo. […] combining these two legendary bureaucracies, no matter what the synergy looks like in a press release, will be a nightmare in the already confused corridors of Santa Monica, Seattle and Sunnyvale. As we pointed out earlier this year, Microsoft’s culture is slow and cautious—and that’s the last thing Yahoo needs an injection of right now. […] Of course, Microsoft often moves slowly for a very good reason: It doesn’t want to cannibalize its cash cows. While Google can launch online spreadsheet and word processing applications, Microsoft can’t respond without damaging its powerful Office software business. Elsewhere, it’s more of the same: Everywhere Microsoft makes money, the Web poses almost intractable dilemmas.”

Mini-MSFT sees the potential for good things (and possible layoffs of redundant staff at MS; oh my!) but with a caveat…

If the buy goes through, it will be one huge turning point for Microsoft: I think we’ll either turn it around brilliantly and our mega-investment will be worth it, or we’ll be turn asunder and revert back to our core cash cows.

Of course, that assumes that MS will always be able to coast along on Windows and Office profits. The future of MS without those is perhaps too terrible to contemplate (see above, “down the road”).

The only ones I feel sorry for are the Zimbra users who are getting all freaked out right now. But anti-trust concerns might get them to spin that off before the merger is complete. [Update: Oh and also flickr users, but there’s not much hope for you, sorry ]:

Update on media coverage:

Mary Jo Foley thinks its a bad idea:

“Until today, I felt like Microsoft had done an admirable job keeping focused on its core Windows/Office/enterprise software business, in spite of pressure by many Wall Streeters, market researchers and venture capitalists to chase Google.”

But Joe Nocera at the NY Times goes beyond that and rips into MS in a way that I’ve rarely seen from the mainstream press!

“if its proposed acquisition of Yahoo signals anything, it serves as a confirmation that Microsoft’s glory days are in the past. Having failed to challenge Google where it matters most — in online advertising — it has been reduced to bulking up by buying Google’s nearest but still distant competitor. In many ways, the company has become exactly what Bill Gates used to fear the most — sluggish, bureaucratic, slow to respond to new forms of competition — just as I.B.M. was when Microsoft convinced that era’s tech behemoth to use Microsoft’s operating system in its new personal computer. […] the old strategies that once worked so well for Microsoft — strategies that worked when the world still revolved around Windows — have no place in this new world. […] Today, Microsoft lacks both the weaponry and the nimbleness to compete with Google. Its operating system monopoly gives it no advantages in this battle. People can use Microsoft’s operating system and browser to get to the Internet — and to Google — or they can use Apple’s. It truly doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, with every new Internet fad, like the current frenzy over social networking, Microsoft is invariably caught flat-footed and has to race to just get a foot in the game. But that’s always the way it is when companies get big — and it is why real innovation always comes from small companies that don’t have a predetermined mind-set, or monopoly profits to protect.

Media Update 2: Microsoft & Yahoo – Yep, We Can Say Goodbye to Both

after 9 months, there won’t be a Yahoo – MS will chase away all the non bureacrats at Yahoo and merge all the sites into MSN/Live. 50-75% of the regular users at Yahoo will pick up and leave and while MS might hold 30% of the online “potential capacity” of internet search, they’ll have spent $45 billion to buy maybe 5% more users and more ad dollars … at what cost? MS will have tapped all their reserves and go into long-term debt for perhaps the first time since their early days – not a smart way to spend $45 billion. But try telling Steve Ballmer he’s not smart about technology is like trying to convince a 3-year old he should eat the lollipop later.

And Mini posted an update with this foreboding section:

And then: Ballmer. This will certainly serve as a transition out of the Gates era. Is Ballmer an Ahab figure, chasing the white whale of Google once and for all by roping two whaling ships together? If I write a book on my years at Microsoft one day, will it start out as “Call me Mini,” as I reflect on the Microsoft flotsam and jetsam swirling around the world? I hope not. This will serve to define Ballmer, however. All online decisions and strategies have led to this point. And the scale of leadership required to pull success out of this bold move is, to tell you the truth, beyond any accomplishments I’ve seen so far. I have hope, but not much to back it up.

Update Feb. 9: Yahoo plans to reject the offer, saying that they won’t accept anything less than $40/share, or a total value of >$55 Billion.  Will Ballmer go nuts and agree or go on a chair-flinging rampage and try a hostile takeover?  Time will tell! 8-)

Update May 6: Wow.  Ballmer blinked.

Is Office for Mac worth the cost to you?

January 28, 2008

A letter I sent to the editors of The StarPhoenix here in Saskatoon:

Regarding Murray Hill’s “Office for Mac worth every penny” I think that there are a few things that readers should note:

First, even if we put aside all other arguments about Microsoft Office for Mac, the pricing is simply unfair to Canadians; if you search for ‘office mac 2008’ on and and compare the “list price” for the five editions, the equivalent exchange rate ranges from about 1.25 to 1.35. The Canadian dollar has not been that weak since 2004. Consider that the standard edition that lists (rounded to the nearest dollar) for $540 CN here is $400 US in the US. Is the Canadian version really worth $140 more than the almost identical US version? It looks as if Microsoft is intentionally pricing the 2008 edition the same as the 2004 edition; do they think that Canadians won’t notice that they’re being gouged? Further, it is curious that Amazon discounts the Canadian versions so little (it sells the standard edition for the full $540 CN here, but discounts it to $353 US in the states; an equivalent exchange of about 1.53!)

Second, how many people (businesses included) really even need Office for Mac? Would a given person’s usage needs be met by Apple’s iWork software? (with a parity price of $79 in CN or US) Would a given person’s needs be met by which is FREE? It may be somewhat philosophical to mention this, but what software is “worth” and what is “costs” are two very different things.

Third, the article glosses over the serious vendor lock-in issue that Office 2008 presents, regardless of platform. The new “docx/xlsx/pptx” formats are really only properly read in Microsoft’s software. If everyone is forced to buy into their Office format monopoly then yes, there will be file format compatibility until Microsoft changes the file again in a few years and you (again) have to spend a large chunk of money to upgrade to the latest version. is attempting to help break this cycle by supporting the Open Document Format (ODF) in addition to the old DOC/XLS/PPT ones. ODF is free for anyone to implement, even Microsoft, and is an ISO standard. But Microsoft doesn’t support it in Office as they consider it a threat to their file format lock-in. If you must use Office 2008, avoid saving in the new format.

For Mr. Hill, the price is worth it. Others should consider the alternatives first.

XiTiMonitor Browser Data: Microsoft has effectively lost control of Australia and half of Europe

January 26, 2008

XiTi Monitor has numbers up for Nov. and Dec. 2007: in french; google’s translation (official translation due soon here)

Following up from my last post about XiTiMonitor, the previous drop in FF usage was indeed just temporary; Firefox usage is up again to record levels Europe-wide (and by by accounting, December’s numbers set records in half of the countries surveyed)

XiTiMonitor confirms the problem Microsoft has with getting its user base moved to the most recent version of IE; about 19/20 FF users are on FF2 while only about 9/20 IE users are on IE7. They also show (in Europe) how IE/FF forms the vast majority of browsers, backing up the W3Schools data: IE (66.1%) +FF (28.0%) =94.1% of market share. Add Opera’s 3.3% and that’s 97.4% Add Safari (2.0%) and you have 99.4% Netscape rounds out the top five with 0.5%; these represent ~99.9% of the market. Doing the math based on these previous two points and assuming that, like the W3Schools data, about 1/40 IE users use IE5:

IE6: IE 6 and below (66% * 54% = ~36.5%) – est. ~1.5% IE5 = ~35%
IE7: 66% * 46% = ~30%
FF2: 28% * 93% = ~26%
Opera: 3~3.5%
Older FF: ~2%
Safari: ~2%
IE 5: 66% / 40 = ~1.5%
Netscape: ~0.5% (that won’t go up BTW)

What’s interesting, from a developer’s POV, is that the top three browsers (IE6 and 7 being different enough that they can be considered separate) are pretty close to one another in terms of market share; because IE6 will only shrink and FF2 is growing faster than IE7, European developers MUST make their sites work for Firefox. In fact, devs who want to get a site up quickly need only test it in IE6, IE7 and FF2 to ensure proper rendering to at least 90% of Europeans. Adding Opera and Safari/Konqueror will bring that up to around 99%.

Effectively, Microsoft has lost control of any nation with FF usage of ~30% or greater (where it ties or beats IE7). These are prime candidates for big Linux pushes :) Contrast with a nation like the UK where only 17.2% use FF; nearly 4-in-5 still use IE and so not all devs there will test against FF. A note to OEMs thinking about preloading Linux in Europe; start here:
FF% Country

31.9 Austria
31.5 Croatia
37.2 Czech Rep.
37.3 Estonia
45.4 Finland
34.2 Germany
35.2 Greece
40.3 Hungary
29.6 Ireland
32.9 Latvia
42.4 Poland
32.9 Romania
41.2 Slovakia
44.6 Slovenia

There is a noticeable break (nearly 4%) in the XiTi Monitor list between these high FF% European nations (with Ireland at the low end just shy of 30%) and the low FF% European nations (with Sweden at the high end at 26%).

Globally, XiTi indicates that Australia at 31.1% has slipped out of Microsoft’s stranglehold. The rest of the world will take some time still.

“if (when?) Microsoft eventually implodes” … The Top 5 List of “What Went Wrong”

December 23, 2007

The MSFTextrememakeover blog has a new post up; here’s the part I found the most interesting:

Effectively, [Microsoft] has ceded its position as the clear leader in personal computer operating systems (btw, I’m obviously talking technology not marketshare – at least for now). That’s the core of what this company does and is meant to be good at. In fact, if (when?) Microsoft eventually implodes and the definitive book is written to answer the question “What went wrong?”, the Vista/Longhorn drama will no doubt make the top 5 list

Here’s the full list:

5. the Vista/Longhorn drama
4. a seemingly endless series of ill-conceived, poorly-executed, big bet “investments” that have collectively been a dismal failure
3. the stupid decision to try and hold back the web vs embrace and lead it, which also led to…
2. the anti-trust loss and resulting fallout which continues to this day – itself caused by the arrogance from…
1. the sense of entitlement that permeated the company in the late 90’s and caused them to think they were owed a market and could basically sit back and coast

And based on the rest of the post and what I know of Microsoft, I can suggest an entry for a ‘top 6’ list:

So what does the future hold? Can this dog learn to hunt again? That’s likely the minimum requirement for this stock to ever provide outsized returns. It may even be required for the company just to survive. Or will MSFT continue its march into irrelevance, struggling to even be an “IBM” ten years from now? IMO, unsurprisingly, that’s going to come down to leadership. Can Ballmer pull it off? I’m doubtful – he’s had eight years so far and we’ve seen the results. Who does that leave? […] One of the former CEO’s from companies MSFT has acquired like AQNT? That strikes me as the best choice – or of course an outsider. The problem? I don’t seen any signs that Ballmer is planning on giving up his chair.

(An aside: There might be some unintentional humor in that last sentence ;)

As we get closer to 2010, what’s becoming apparent is that if Microsoft is to avoid implosion, they need to make ‘Windows 7’ a real crowd pleaser (not just lauded in their press releases) and ready on time

Web Browsers in the Internet Age

December 22, 2007

I was trying to post a comment to Stan Beer’s article Microsoft promises IE 8 Beta 1 with a smiley face in 2008, but I ran into the dreaded “There is a problem with your post – Try removing some punctuation, sorry” error so I’ll just post it here; its big enough to be a full blog post anyway ;)

“It really should be an embarrassment to Microsoft that in the Internet Age, the company is taking almost as long to develop new Web browsers as it takes to develop new operating systems.”

Eheh… Actually that’s not an accident; I’ll explain.

Recently, a Microsoft employee released a report saying Internet Explorer was more secure than Firefox – his claims were quickly discredited (e.g. see links on Asa’s blog post) but I had a look at the original and the thing that jumped out at me right away was this:

Microsoft generally releases a browser in conjunction with a new operating system release and commits to supporting that version for the lifecycle of the product – now 10 years for business products. […] Internet Explorer 5.01 SP4 is also still supported for those Windows 2000 users that have made the decision never to upgrade their browser to a different release.

Yes, seriously it says that; Microsoft still supports IE5!

I almost didn’t believe it, but I had the opportunity to test Windows 2000 recently and after installing Service Pack 4 and doing the updates, sure enough, there’s IE5. They WANT you to upgrade to IE6, calling it an important security update and doesn’t render well at all in it, but they still support it. Why?

corporate enterprises […] sometimes have custom web applications and are hesitant to upgrade between major releases very often, and even then may have a relatively long transition plan.

“custom web applications”… is that a euphamism for ActiveX? (Update March 5: Ah, I get what “custom web applications” are now; basically forms and such that only render properly in Microsoft’s proprietary rendering engines because they either are buggy or because MS intentionally added proprietary ‘extensions’ to the web standards. Welcome to vendor lock-in.)

Another critical thing to note is the ‘look and feel’ of IE 5, 6 and 7. I blogged about this a while back; basically:

IE7 has Vista’s look and feel, regardless of if its on XP or Vista.
IE6 has XP’s look and feel, regardless of if its on 9X/2K or XP.
IE5 has the native 9X/2K look and feel.

Amazing that 3rd party browsers like Firefox and Opera can look like native apps regardless of their OS. As I noted: “So not only is IE7 an upgrade, its also a sales tool for Windows Vista, just as IE6 was an upgrade and also a sales tool for Windows XP!” (And it seems that Safari for Windows is a similar sales tool).

Between these two items (and anecdotes like this), we can see that Microsoft has historically not cared about the web any more than it was a good vector for its products. Of course, they will not admit this, making comments like:

Mozilla released Firefox 1.0 in November 2004, Firefox 1.5 in November 2005, and Firefox 2.0 in October 2006. Only Firefox 2.0 is currently supported with security fixes from Mozilla, as it is has been Mozilla’s policy to support a previous version for six months after a new (major) version is released. So, according to its original schedule, Firefox 3.0 was scheduled to ship in November 2007, which meant Firefox 2.0 support would end in May 2008 . To put this in perspective, if Microsoft had this same policy, then support of Internet Explorer 6 would have ended in May 2007, or similarly Internet Explorer 5.01 support would have ended in 2001. […] shorter lifecycles mean more people may still be running an unsupported version and be exposed. To explain this comment, let’s look at an example using Microsoft IE6 SP2. Imagine that after IE7 was released last October that one month later support for IE6 would end. How likely is that everyone will have upgraded by the end of that month? What if it was six months? Is it likely some consumers or companies might not have upgraded by the end of the six month grace period?

The funny thing is that Firefox, which does not seek to hook itself deeply into an OS, has never had DRM (WGA) interfering with upgrades, tries to fit in rather than garishly proclaiming that its time to spend more money and (most of all) just wants to be a web browser, does not have the massive problem with people lingering on old versions that IE does!

I direct your attention to a stats page that shows a breakdown of FF versions in use, like for While it unfortunately doesn’t seem to cache old numbers, I have watched rapid (less than a week) transitions to the latest version of FF. Here’s a sample of the stats from Dec. 21:

FF ALL 30.18%

FF 24.66%
(ALL other individual versions <1% each)

I did the sums on a spreadsheet and (after removing a couple possibly spoofed versions for a total FF share of 30.02% on that site) here’s what I got:

FF 0.x 0.03%
FF 1.0.x 0.31%
FF 1.5.0.x 0.82%
FF 2.0.0.x 28.46% (less 24.66% = 3.8%)
FF 3 0.4%

Excluding development version FF3 for a total of 29.62%, the fully up-to-date Firefox ratio is 24.66%/29.62% or almost exactly 5/6 and as per the FF point release was made on November 30, 2007 so only three weeks prior to these stats!


IE ALL 38.16%

IE 7 17.24%
IE 6 18.62%
IE 5 2.11%
IE 4 0.17%

I think only in Microsoft’s wildest dreams do they hope for 5/6 of IE users to be on version 7 any time soon.

And because Microsoft wants to do its ten-year-plans and support the “custom web applications” I can’t see IE 8 breaking the mold. The latest batch of web standards compliance, very late indeed and only limited to an internal development version (with Microsoft, and I have but to point at Vista for the latest example of this, never believe its anything other than vaporware until they’ve actually released! ;), is a good thing for the web, but not really for Microsoft; in hoping to stop the exodus from IE to FF by adopting real standards to make it more developer friendly like Firefox, they have now lowered the bar for people to migrate from Windows to Mac OS and Linux where IE doesn’t exist. Oops :)

Bonus Link: Microsoft has an insanely large (almost 600 MB; its over half an hour long @ 640×480) video in WMV format here where the IE team is interviewed about IE8. The first little bit is a neat time-lapse where the Acid test face slowly forms as the rendering engine gets better over time until it actually works.

Update March 4, 2008: It looks like IE8 will have three ‘standard‘ rendering modes, equivalent to the standard modes in IE6 and IE7 and a third even better (as in more standards compliant) one new for IE8. [Update March 10, 2008: Though its still FAR from perfect… including the addition of “quite a few evil things”] Now Microsoft had said that they wanted to make the IE7-type the default which drew howls of outrage and isn’t making them any friends in Europe where they hand out stiff fines for monopolists that don’t play nicely with others. So they backed down. To quote this page though:

I’m glad that they’re going to make “standards” mode standard.
I just wish they were doing so for the right reasons.

It really seems to me that M$ is out of touch with the web (or worse, thinks they are in charge of everything because they are the great and mighty Microsoft!) and goes along doing its own thing without thinking aboout how it affects others (or worse, intentionally thinking about how it will hurt others) until someone hits them in the back of the head with a cluebat. Its sad to think of a giant company as a spoiled child who won’t behave unless rules are imposed on them, but that’s Microsoft (and its glorious leader Steve Ballmer) for you.

Update March 5: There’s an interesting article here that suggests the “real reason” IE8 will render in a more-proper standards mode is that “the mobile web is coming” and that if MS doesn’t start using real web standards now, they’ll get left behind when a tsunami of people using cell phones, etc. to browse the web can’t view IE7-targeted sites properly. I rather suspect the aversion to punishment I outlined above rather than foresight in Microsoft’s decision, but its an interesting notion. Oh and BTW, I mentioned Ballmer yesterday; looks like he wants to stay on as head of MS until 2017! I suspect that shareholders will boot him before that! ;)

Update April 17: Regarding “Imagine that after IE7 was released last October that one month later support for IE6 would end. How likely is that everyone will have upgraded by the end of that month? What if it was six months? Is it likely some consumers or companies might not have upgraded by the end of the six month grace period?”

Let me give another example of how extremely large software populations can upgrade rapidly, even if they are proprietary: Adobe’s Flash.  According to Adobe, “over 98.8% of Internet-enabled desktops” have Flash on their computers.  There is a graph here that shows, as of September 2006:

“Before Flash Player 8, adoption typically took 12 months to hit 80%. Flash Player 8 hit 86% in 9 months – with so many sites using Flash and the new auto-update feature. Flash Player 9 is already to 50% adoption in 3 months”

So yes, it can be done…  maybe it’s just that Microsoft can’t.

Update July 2: Firefox 3 was released on June 17; Asa Dotzler informs us that there were:

8 Million downloads in the first 24 hrs
12 Million downloads in the first 48 hrs
20 Million downloads in the first week

and Mozilla did NOT turn on the auto-update feature for FF2 users yet!

Firefox 3:2 ratios are quite good; on the website, there were seven FF3 users for every five FF2 users only TEN DAYS after FF3 was released.  An insightful quote:

“So Microsoft still has three out of ten people running an old version of its browser more than 18 months after Internet Explorer 7 launched, while Firefox has converted more than half of its users to the latest version in just over a week.  That should set a few alarm bells ringing in Redmond…”

Another site, shows almost 1:1 usage after two weeks (for “Tue Jul 1 23:50:07 EDT 2008” there were 14.93% of visitors using FF and 14.37% using FF 3.0).  XiTiMonitor has an article up (Google translation; update: official translation) showing the immediate spike in European FF3 usage following its release.

Christmas Computers

December 16, 2007

Looking for a system with XP on it for Christmas? Well… good luck if you go to a retail chain :)

I dropped in at my local Future Shop store today and had a look around at the computers for sale; mostly major OEM PCs, but a few Macs too. All the PCs carried Vista. The salesman was quite adamant that OEMs weren’t allowed to sell XP anymore (this is demonstrably not true; it can still be preloaded until June 30, 2008) but admitted when I asked him if he’s had people inquiring about XP machines that he’s been asked that a LOT. So the demand is there, its just not being filled (in the big chains, anyway).

We got chatting though and I told him a little bit about Ubuntu (and when he seemed interested I gave him a disk ;). I always point out the white text area on the back when handing out Ubuntu disks; its always a WOW moment for someone who’s pretty much only had experience with Windows and other proprietary software:

I find that people who sell computers generally are interested in Ubuntu; they know the hardware and they certainly know the not so nice points about Windows ;) but they don’t know that there are free alternatives out there since they’re not being asked to sell them. A good thing to do when discussing computers is to bring up Dell’s Ubuntu systems, the Eee PC, OLPC and the gPC (as I did when I was at London Drugs) to show that not only are Linux systems being offered for sale, but they’re really not that expensive (especially the $200 gPC! ;). Its kind of a shock to the salespeople when you can show them a retail Linux system for less than half of their lowest end Vista model.

A couple weeks ago I was in a Source by Circuit City store and asked them if they might ever carry a Linux-based computer. He replied in the negative, at which point I mentioned the Linux systems on the market which suddenly surprised him since they actually DO SELL the Eee PC, he just didn’t know that its OS was Linux-based! =D (in fact right now its listed as “the hottest computer for the holiday season” on the main page of their website!)

I weep a little bit that the Eee PC runs a version of Xandros (which it will be remembered, signed a patent deal with M$) as that means I won’t be buying one. Maybe I should contact Asus and see if I can get one sans-OS…

Oh and BTW, I should share my best Ubuntu disk story so far! The other day I took my daughter to visit Santa at the mall to have some holiday photos taken for the grandparents; Santa gave her a little stuffed bear. She gave Santa an Ubuntu disk :-) Merry Christmas Santa!

Four months closer to 2010…

December 14, 2007

Four months ago I blogged “2010 will be the year of the Linux Desktop if things continue on the course they seem to be on now” and they certainly have been. Low-cost Linux computers, like the gPC and Eee PC are hits. Apple sales are doing very well. Meanwhile, Microsoft will miss another Christmas deadline; last year they didn’t release Vista for consumers for Christmas (it wasn’t until the end of January) and this year they won’t release Service Pack 1 in time for Christmas (it won’t be until “the first quarter of 2008”). Not that it would really help that much; SP1 won’t make Vista faster and “Applications that have compatibility issues with Windows Vista today will most likely continue to have the same issues with Windows Vista with SP1″. So maybe Vista will be ready for Christmas 2008. Meanwhile, XP had a temporary stay of execution; it can still be sold preloaded until June 30, 2008. Which to me seems very odd since that will be right around when its SP3 is expected to be released (“in the first half of 2008″) which WILL apparently make XP faster. Had Microsoft pushed XP SP3 for this year they could have still somewhat salvaged this Christmas for Windows PC sales and then worked on Vista SP1 for next Christmas. But whatever; far be it from me to stop them from digging their own grave! O:-)

And oh how history repeats itself!

Just as all but the unlucky or foolish skipped Windows ME which fell between two better Windows releases (2000 and XP), it seems that Vista really is Windows ME 2007. I read today that:

For the vast majority of enterprise IT shops, Vista is NOT – and likely NEVER will be – the right choice for their immediate desktop computing needs.

So what a lot of people who cling to Windows are now hoping for is that the next version of Windows, “7” will be a good one. But its not due out until around 2010.

[Update May 29, 2008: “Microsoft squashed hopes that the next version of Windows will come with a completely new kernel – a new kernel that had been discussed and presented as “micro kernel”. The foundation new operating system, apparently due for launch in early 2010, will be an evolutionary step over the Windows Server 2008 kernel, which is based on the Windows Vista kernel, an executive said in an interview.“]

For Windows XP SP2 users, they have lots of options over the next year which is a good thing for consumers.

* wait for SP3: You may rely on it
* ‘upgrade’ to Vista SP0: Very doubtful
* buy a new PC with Vista SP0: Don’t count on it
* ‘upgrade’ to Vista SP1: Outlook not so good
* buy a new PC with Vista SP1: Reply hazy, try again
* wait for ‘Windows 7’: Better not tell you now
* buy a Mac with OS X: Signs point to yes
* dual-boot with to Linux: Most likely
* switch to Linux: Outlook good
* buy a PC with Linux: Concentrate and ask again

[Update April 13: As per this article, a “relevancy shift from desktop PCs to the Web” is occurring; “Silver and MacDonald mark 2011 as the tipping point where the percentage of OS-agnostic applications meet and exceed OS-specific applications.”  By 2010 the writing should be on the wall…]

[Update April 17: an excerpt from this article: “Something’s happening here and it is very clear. Windows is losing its grip on the desktop. It won’t happen overnight. There is, after all, an enormous installed base of Windows PCs out there. Next year, though, if things continue in the way they have been, I’ll be ready to say Windows is collapsing. I think Microsoft has one more shot to get it right with Windows 7. If by April 2009, Windows 7 isn’t in beta, though, I’ll be ready to start writing Windows’ obituary.”]

Microsoft vs Standards: reacting “with jealousy and defensiveness”

November 30, 2007

I read an article with a good insight into Microsoft’s behavior:

Microsoft itself is an essentially developer culture, not an Apple consumer culture or an IBM enterprise culture. When it sees developers flocking to a new standard, it reacts with jealousy and defensiveness. I’m not thinking of Linux this time, but the reaction to Sun Microsystems’ Java. As the Internet grew in importance, Java seemed to be the right language at the right time. Microsoft reacted by changing Java on Windows to make it run better there, and, incidentally, to divide Java developers into those in the Windows camp and those outside it. Sun sued, because its Java license says if you adopt part of Java, you adopt all of it. That kept it a common standard on all platforms. Microsoft e-mail disclosed during the discovery phase of the trial that it had wanted to drive a wedge into the unified world of Java and gain ownership over part of it. Microsoft settled with Sun out of court for about $200 million. Later, Sun sued Microsoft for anticompetitive behavior in 2002 and as Sun fell on lean times, the two again settled out of court, this time for $1.9 billion. The lesson I drew from this experience was that Microsoft was on shaky legal ground when it did what it did with Java, but it couldn’t help itself. If there was something that developers wanted, then Microsoft needed to own it, or at least “own” the Windows developers devoted to it.

This is totally in line with what Microsoft did when it became clear that an XML-based office document format was going to be a new standard. Adobe controls PDF and Flash; Microsoft wants to replace them with their XPS and Silverlight.

Its further backed up by what Ballmer said back in October: “I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows”.

The big historical example of this of course is Internet Explorer, which failed to comply with web standards; even today, Sitepoint explicitly states: “In All Fairness … Internet Explorer Still Stinks”

with IE7 Microsoft made great strides in correcting the most glaring and painful issues that plagued developers in IE6. But the unavoidable truth revealed by this reference is that Internet Explorer is still miles behind the competition.

Now, unless you want the same future Microsoft does: where you are locked into their formats, you can do just a few simple things to avoid the traps Microsoft has laid:

If you’re stuck using Windows, try to avoid Vista; XP, while not great, is a better alternative.

If you’re stuck using Microsoft Office, use Sun’s ODF plugin to save your files in an open format.

Ditch IE for Firefox; there are literally (at least) an eighth of a billion people using it.

Use a media player like VLC.

If you can’t use Linux, can you use a Mac?

If you can dual-boot or use Linux use a non-Microsoft-approved distro.

Windows ME 2007 watching and BSA Baddies

November 27, 2007

Another installment of Windows ME 2007 watching; while Vista SP1 apparently won’t make much difference in its speed, XP SP3 will: faster by ~10% in a test case. That on top of its far-better-than-Vista metrics already. Just… ouch. And with ‘Windows 7’ promised ~2010 and XP still for sale until mid-2008, Vista is looking more and more like a version to avoid as badly as ME was. If you must still use Windows, hang onto XP!

And if you didn’t need another reason to jump ship from Windows, consider that the BSA (often regarded primarily as a front for Microsoft’s anti-piracy initiative) is targeting small businesses to the tune of 90% of their settlements. Some quotes:

“the industry has saddled its customers with complex licensing agreements that are hard to master. In that view, the BSA amasses most of its bounties from small businesses because they have fewer technological, organizational and legal resources to avoid a run-in.”

The BSA considers software pirated if a company can’t produce a receipt for it, no matter how long ago it was purchased. Software boxes or certificates of authenticity are no help, because the BSA argues the software could have been obtained from an illegitimate source.”

“BSA targets commonly say they wish they didn’t have to buy anything again from the companies that unleashed the alliance on them. […] For many businesses, open-source has seemed technically daunting or unable to match the proprietary programs seen as essential in some industries. These days, however, the march of technology might be changing that. That’s one hope of Michael Gaertner, the architect who worried his BSA encounter would crush his business. Now he wants to rid himself of the Autodesk, Microsoft and Adobe software involved in the case. “It’s not like they have really good software. It’s just that it’s widespread and it’s commonly used,” Gaertner said. “It’s going to be a while, but eventually, we plan to get completely disengaged from those software vendors that participate in the BSA.“”

See also the tale of Ernie Ball. “one day I got a call that there were armed marshals at my door talking about software license compliance” The lack of BSA thugs is yet another reason why Linux is better.

Update: Here’s another article to read as a ‘case study’ as M$ likes to call these things…

“Because they don’t need many applications, essentially we’re able to use fairly low-end and affordable hardware for our booking system,” he says. The use of more affordable machines promotes hardware longevity and that is the key, he says. “You’re talking significant savings here because you have to replace or buy new hardware then licence new versions of Windows if you follow that upgrade path,” he says. If it upgraded to Microsoft Vista, Allen says: “We’d then be upgrading our desktop and laptop fleet left right and centre. “We were actually trying to go the other way as much as possible to contain costs.” The result has been savings to the tune of 60 per cent to 70 per cent, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, Allen says, without revealing specifics. “There has been no functional impact on our business as a result of dropping Windows,” he says.

And your company is still primarily using Windows why?

Here’s a good rule to follow: Treat all proprietary software as legacy software, regardless of its age. Going forward you can find ways to phase it out and switch to libre solutions.

Update Jan,. 13, 2009: An article describing how “Organisations are being put under increasing pressure from software licence audits, with some vendors exploiting technicalities and loopholes in order to meet revenue targets” which links to this one which says “Microsoft puts “gotchas” in the fine print of its licences to get money out of users – and there are no plans to make those licences any simpler, Steve Ballmer told customers in London today. […] Users wanting simplification are actually asking for price cuts, while Microsoft  shareholders would prefer that any simplification kept prices higher, he said (especially as Microsoft revenues have declined of late).”