06.13.09

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End of Microsoft Money Shows Why Free Software is Better and Standards Are Important

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 2:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Many coins

Summary: A lesson in lock-in, courtesy of Microsoft

A few days ago we wrote about Microsoft Money coming to an end (there are many punchlines which properly fit this rare item of news). Other interesting perspectives continue to appear after all that Microsoft PR (and damage control, mostly to do with migration of existing clients). TechDirt writes:

A great example of this is the failure of Microsoft Money. The company has now announced that it’s going to discontinue the product despite years of effort and millions of dollars spent to try to defeat Intuit’s Quicken product.

One particularly good article on the subject comes from Sam Varghese, who explains how this whole situation serves as a reminder that Free software can be one’s savior.

Open source takes no hostages

Have you ever had the experience of creating and storing data in a certain application, only to find that your dependency on a proprietary format means that you have lost all your data?

[...]

With a package like Money, new versions take into account the changing laws that govern small business and personal finances and the headache of managing money disappears.

But what about your data? Is Microsoft going to offer a package that can translate that data into something that could, perhaps, be used by a package like that put out by Intuit?

Unlikely, given that Microsoft once tried to buy Intuit and was only stopped by the US department of justice which “felt strongly that the proposed merger would lead to higher prices and less innovation in the personal finance software market.”

The article as a whole is recommended and so are the comments. Classic arguments about curation, portability, and long-term preservation neatly apply here. Just take OOXML for example. If Microsoft Office is discontinued a few years from now (let’s say due to unsuccessful migration to the Web), how will data encoded in OOXML be accessed 10 years from now? Or 50 years from now? OOXML is proprietary, it is poorly documented, and it contains binary blobs; no application other than Microsoft Office can handle Microsoft’s de facto implementation of something which is only close to ECMA OOXML but drifts further away from it as time goes by (not to mention the crime associated with OOXML). It is designed this way to tighten lock-in.

Free software has been around for ages. It can never be “discontinued” as long as determined users or developers are willing to hack on it. Free software does not depend on any one company for its existence and maintenance. Mozilla/Firefox, for example, outlived the demise of Netscape, using Gecko.

“People sometimes ask me if it is a sin in the Church of Emacs to use vi. Using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance. So happy hacking.”

Richard Stallman

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8 Comments

  1. aeshna23 said,

    June 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Gravatar

    So many pages in the tech pages are addressed to issues about as substantial as Britney Spears’ mental health. Very few pages are addressed to issues as important as this one. What is it about the human soul that makes us rabid about what we all know is the wrong question?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Absolutely.

    Well, this helps keep people distracted and isolated from the public arena where they should not belong. Let the lobbyists run society peacefully.

  2. twitter said,

    June 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Gravatar

    Here’s how to move to GNU Cash from Microsoft Money. GNU Cash’s double entry accounting is better anyway.

  3. The Mad Hatter said,

    June 14, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Gravatar

    That’s the plan. Post Page 3 pictures between the articles!

    As a reminder – Microsoft tried to by Intuit at one point. The purchase was blocked by the Anti-Trust folks. And of course Google is your friend:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/01/05/why_microsoft_wanted_to_buy/
    http://www.lectlaw.com/files/ant08.htm
    http://www.netaction.org/msoft/finance/
    http://cse.stanford.edu/class/cs201/Projects/corporate-monopolies/dangers_quicken.html
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,982905,00.html

    Stanford has some great stuff:
    http://cse.stanford.edu/class/cs201/Projects/corporate-monopolies/dangers.html
    Of course the alarm clock mentioned would probably show a Blue Screen of Death on alternate mornings.

  4. Ado said,

    June 14, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Gravatar

    Have you tried SSuite Office software?. They only support open formats like rtf, txt, and xls.

    Their software also does’nt need to run on Java or .NET.

    http://www.ssuitesoft.com/index.htm

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’ve not come across it before, so thanks.

  5. Marcus Koze said,

    June 14, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Gravatar

    xls being open formats ? wow … didn’t know that :)

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    ods would be nice. Some accounting/charting software already supports it.

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