Saturday, August 23, 2008

Microsoft doesn't fear motorcycle mechanics. It fears cardiac surgeons

I saw something at a customer site, which felt strange at the time but I couldn't put my finger on it. Their IT folks are running Ubuntu as their main operating system and Windows Vista as one of the virtual machine images inside Linux. What felt strange, was their reason for doing things this way.

"We need to run the GTD extension in Outlook. So we use the Vista image to run the GTD side of things. Otherwise we are completely using Linux."

By the way, GTD is: Getting Things Done. If you haven't read the book, or if you don't know what it is, you are missing out on a great personal productivity paradigm. The GTD extension is an Outlook add-on, which helps people implement this paradigm in their day to day worklife. I haven't looked into it to know any more.

Anyway back to the story.

I can recall many discussions with other friends, customers and vendors who use Vista (or XP) for similar reasons: "We need outlook contacts, all our contacts are in Exchange. We need scheduling. We need our folders..."

They cannot simply abandon their "settings" and "configurations" just to move to open source even though they would like to.

And while I am thinking about it, my own configuration is strange in the same way. I use MacOS as my primary operating system. A vmware Ubuntu image for development. A vmware Vista image to run Quickbooks online version. And if Quickbooks online ran on Safari or Firefox on the Mac, I would not need Vista at all. So even though I am not tied to Exchange, I am in the same boat.

My own needs notwithstanding, there is usually one application or one specific need, which Microsoft fulfills in one way or another and customers are stuck with Windows because of it. There is no getting out alive.

On the other hand, open source projects like Firefox and Thunderbird are producing excellent products, which are business grade, stable, and usually more reliable and more documented. And here's the part I didn't get until earlier this evening: If open source products are better and cheaper (free,) then why is there so little relative buy-in from the business community?

Its the same reason why Microsoft makes Billions of dollars and Open Source Projects usually struggle. And same reason why Microsoft doesn't fear Open Source as of yet.

Let me illustrate the point:

A mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a Harley, when he spotted a world-famous heart surgeon in his shop. The heart surgeon was waiting for the service manager to come take a look at his bike. The mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey Doc can I ask you a question?" The famous surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to the mechanic working on the motorcycle.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, "So Doc, look at this engine. I also can open hearts, take valves out, fix'em, put in new parts and when I finish this will work just like a new one. So how come I get a pittance and you get the really big money, when you and I are doing basically the same work?"

The surgeon paused, smiled and leaned over, and whispered to the mechanic..... "Try doing it with the engine running!

Open Source Developers: Using your favorite Regular Expression, replace "engine" with "business."

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