Giving up on Microsoft software for work – 18 months on

Its been 18 months or so, since I started on "Giving up on Microsoft software for work". It has been an interesting adventure, one fraught with skepticism from some, but with joy from myself. The big question I faced then was, "Was it possible to work without using Microsoft software?". The answer has been a profound "Yes", from a pure do things to get work done point of view, but "No"
from getting billable work.

I’m still using a nice 17" Mac Book Pro and have been very impressed with it. During the time I’ve had it, a new version of Mac OS X 10.6 – Snow Leopard, has been released and the system is still performing fine with the hardware. I’ve had next to no trouble and everything is working great. Apple have even opened retail stores here in Australia.

This photo is from my recent Sydney trip (the store was extremely busy inside):

 

Our servers run linux of various flavours – SuSE Linux, RedHat and Ubuntu. Some are on-premise and some are off-premise on Amazon EC2. Email, calender, documents use Google Docs and our CRM is Salesforce.com. Its our intent, that unless it is a client end user machine, that as existing hardware reaches end-of-life, new hardware will not be purchased. However, cloud infrastructure will be utilised.

What has surprised me immensely, during this time, is even though we use no Microsoft software, how dominant it is on-premise. Even with the ill fated Microsoft Vista operating system, corporates aren’t moving away from Microsoft in the vast majority of environments that I’m engaged with in my local state of South Australia. Sure there are a few linux servers but they appear to be the exception to the rule. Why?

Lets look at servers quickly. Why isn’t linux deployed more often? The two main reasons appear to be that existing support contracts with the outsourcer doesn’t allow it (well change the contract is my normal response) and secondly that there aren’t enough trained administrators (it doesn’t take long to train them). But its more then what I have just mentioned, its also somewhat religious. Its like a fraternity, an old school boys club to some degree, with the managers choosing the technology based on relationships and maybe not on technical merit to get the job done in an efficient & cost effective means. A large outsourcer here in Adelaide (anybody living here will know that it is HP Enterprise Services, formerly EDS) seem to promote Microsoft at the exclusion of Linux. Is this to keep others such as IBM out? Who knows!

Choosing Microsoft as the operating system on the server, invariable also means that only Microsoft development languages and tools will be used.

Lets look on the client. The desktops are running Windows 2003/XP etc in these corporates environments. There may be a few Macs, but they will be with marcommspeople, if they have these in house. Whats surprising though, is that mobile devices, will be a mixture of different vendors, including Apple’s iPhone. The iPhone is appearing in the hands of many executive managers.

What I have not looked into, in great detail, is besides Microsoft Office, what are the applications that are running on these desktops? Are they installed natively, are they supplied through a Citrix server or are they web based? The later, is how the majority of applications, that I interact with, have been deployed in recent years. They work in most of the popular browsers, independent of anyone type of desktop. Invariably, they will also have a desktop version that works on Mac, Windows or Linux desktops.

So what is going on with the desktop in these corporates? (Oh, I don’t use Microsoft Office either and can write documents, do spreadsheets and prepare/present presentations.)

How old are these applications that only work on Microsoft desktops? Do they still satisfy the business requirements? Has the initial investment been written off? Why aren’t they being modernised and turned into web based applications? Are the users complaining that they are unproductive because of the outdated interface?

Some interesting questions. To me if they aren’t being asked, or when people ask them, they are being squashed. It suggests that the organisation is stuck in support mode, looking to preserve the status quo. Those that can drive the change, to innovate, to progress forward to the next paradigm will get frustrated and leave.

This is what happens with myself, when people say the solution has to be Microsoft based and linux, or other alternatives can’t be considered. To me it is yesterday’s thinking.

So even though, I myself have been very successful in giving up on Microsoft software for work, from an acquiring work perspective from potential prospects in my current geography, it is not presently a positive.

"When will it change?" is the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.

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