11.15.07

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Choose OpenDocument Format to Avoid Becoming Enslaved to a Single Program

Posted in Africa, Bill Gates, Formats, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Office Suites, OLPC, Open XML, OpenDocument, Windows at 7:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The children are our future, but what will be the impact of tying them to a company’s agenda? Many schools and colleges already do this by outsourcing their E-mail services to Hotmail (Microsoft) and forcing everybody to use and learn Microsoft Office. There should be a better way.

If you wish to help children in the developing world, you can still purchase an OLPC unit, which will in turn give another one to a child. The OLPC also boasts ODF support.

Although the applications currently can communicate only with the same applications running on other OPLC laptops, they are based on open source and open standards (such as ODF for documents) and therefore could work with other standard-compliant applications on other systems in the future.

No child deserves to have his/her own data locked in and become accessible from just a single pricey application.

The Renting Model

Recall this video which was mentioned a few days ago. It is a new commercial that illustrates the effects of one paying as one goes, essentially burning money on software that it not needed.

As a timely example of the dangers ahead consider yesterday’s update from Mary Jo Foley.

Via the pay-as-you-go program, users can choose three- or six-month subscriptions to Office Professional 2007 and pay a monthly fee to use the product.

An innocent observer might think that Microsoft has been generous when it offered cheap software (never mind the renting business model), but remind yourself of Microsoft’s long-term goals:

“Microsoft’s strategy of getting developing nations hooked on its software was clearly outlined by Bill Gates almost a decade ago,” said Con Zymaris, CEO of long-standing open source firm Cybersource.

Specifically, Bill Gates, citing China as an example, said:

“Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software,” he said. “Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”[1]

”There is potential to extract a lot of more money, which no longer depends on the “forced upgrades” concept (related to planned obsolescence).“Remind yourself of the fact that by battling competition through “dumping” techniques [1, 2], Microsoft is able to monopolise. But there’s more than just ensuring the everyone uses the same software. There is potential to extract a lot of more money, which no longer depends on the “forced upgrades” concept (related to planned obsolescence).

It’s the wet dream of the proprietary software industry. It also applies to music, video, written publications. The industry wants you to pay for the same thing over and over again. The fashion industry is pretty much the same, but it can’t force these issues. It’s just a social force (peer pressure).

With a subscription only (no purchase), the seller gets the equivalent of installments and the seller is temping more people to become ‘hooked’. To quote a friend, “they are ensuring that everyone who uses their “IP” pays over and over and over again, for the “privilege” of accessing the same “IP”, in perpetuity.”

To quote another person, “So, just when I thought their software couldn’t get any more expensive, they come up with this. From their point of view, this might scream huge profits, but I bet users will just get fed up eventually and go open source, for the most part.”

The whole situation is rather intriguing in general. Microsoft software has always been rented (see the EULA), but it was never quite so time-limited in terms of use.

OOXML is about money

Forget about the renting model for a moment and consider the fact that Microsoft has also begun giving trial versions of Office. It is making that part of contracts with OEMs. It’s a case of prebundling with a twist and some innocent buyers will ‘type away’ and be imprisoned by the proprietary format that is OOXML. Yes, it’s the only format supported in the trial version, without fallback to old Microsoft Office formats. Jeremy Allison wrote about this a long time ago.

Related articles:

Microsoft has already bothered to patent the idea of renting software.

A Microsoft patent application from June 2005, published only today, titled “System and method for delivery of a modular operating system” may signal a fundamental change for what an operating systems stands for and how it is sold.

Intel, unsurprisingly, is part of this. Intel is also part of the “dumping” schemes against AMD and against Linux in Russian schools.

The pay-as-you-go model enabled by FlexGo makes PCs more accessible by reducing the initial cost and enabling customers to pay for computers through subscriptions or as they use them, through the purchase of prepaid activation cards or tokens.

Read the following good piece.

Want to write a Word document? Pay a few pennies. Want to download some digital photos? Pay a few more.

Under the idea, which Microsoft is introducing this week, people would be able to get a PC for their home with a mechanism that charges them depending on how much computing they use. Consumers would pay for about half of the PC upfront and then, say, 50 cents or 75 cents per hour of use. After several hundred hours of paid use, they would then own the PC outright.

Here is an older article from South Africa: Microsoft selling hobbled software to poor countries

Surprisingly, no-one seems to have told Microsoft that it is not good marketing strategy to treat your customers as if they are stupid. Which is exactly what the company is doing with the release in Africa of the stripped-down operating system it calls Windows XP Starter Edition.

Microsoft South Africa launched Windows XP Starter Edition (XPSE) into the African market last week with very little fanfare and market hype.

Which is not surprising considering how the product was received by other media on its intial launch in 2004. Known for its straight talking, The Register labelled XPSE “crippleware”. Analysts Gartner said the product had “good intent, poor execution”.

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