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Microsoft on the Run?
We’re approaching a “tilting point”. Open source applications and operating systems like those of Linux -- still a fraction of the total PC software market -- are nonetheless rapidly gaining share at the expense of... who else? Microsoft.
There’s an air of inevitability to the process: at the same time that Microsoft is squeezing its users with expensive subscription-based pricing based on the promise of increasingly peripheral future enhancements, open source publishers are introducing acceptable free or low-cost alternatives. After all, how many new Word or Excel features do you care about?
Of course, Microsoft is taking all this seriously. A recent New York Times article details a trip to India that Bill Gates is taking to lure the country’s developers into the Microsoft family before they take up open source alternatives. (we've since learned that Microsoft is investing $400 million in Indian marketing and distribution, and the Gates' foundation is granting the country $100 million to fight AIDS.)
But we believe the argument is still uphill -- developing countries like India and China are much more price-sensitive than the US, and their programmers are more than equal to the task of adapting innovative technical approaches. Besides, their attitudes toward proprietary intellectual property are, shall we say, rather casual.
For this welcome open source transition to work, corporate users in particular must see viable technical support services enter the market as well. We eagerly await the emergence of these vendors to offer the sorts of user support that we remember once characterized the early Microsoft before they made their technical assistance services virtually unreachable.
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