Microsoft Lockdown

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2003-12-12 Print this article Print

Worse still, if you take a close look at Microsofts current generation of software, youll quickly see that its all designed to lock you into Microsoft products, from your desktop to your server.

Take, for example, Office 2003. Unless you use its groupware and presence functionality, its really little more than a cosmetic improvement over Office XP. To use those new tools, though, you need to upgrade your server to W2K or Server 2003 so you can run Exchange 2003, SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Live Communications Server 2003. Oh, and if you havent moved from domains to Active Directory, youll need to do that, too.

Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot of infrastructure work and money just to get some real value out of an office-suite upgrade?

Of course, you dont have to upgrade. Is there really anything vital in Office XP that you didnt get in Office 97? For many companies, the answer is no.

There is one pressing reason, though: Microsoft software has become a byword for insecure software. If youre going to be running Windows 98SE after mid-January, youd better be darn sure that your firewall is bulletproof and that your computers are all running the latest and greatest anti-virus programs. If youre not, what security you have will rot away as crackers continue to find new and better holes in Microsofts operating systems and applications.

From where I sit, Microsoft is not only bullying customers into upgrading, its making it so pricey to do so that even people who love Microsoft must start thinking about alternatives.

On the client side, Suns Java Desktop System (JDS) and other Linux-based platforms like Xandros and the combination of Novell and SuSE deserves a look. Heck, even Macs (although you pay a premium for them) are beginning to look attractive for corporate desktops. I mean with a Mac, at least you only pay one big upfront price for a Mac, rather then locking yourself into Licensing 6s two- or three-year Software Assurance maintenance contracts.

As for servers, I have one word for you: Linux. With every day that passes, SCO appears more unlikely to win against IBM. With IBM, HP, Oracle and Novell all behind it, only fools now say that Linux wont amount to much. And unlike Windows, when a company decides it wont support a Linux distribution anymore, that doesnt mean support ends. (Just consider the trail Progeny is blazing with its Red Hat Linux support.) In light of whats about to happen to Windows 98 and Office 2000 users, that kind of never-ending corporate support is looking mighty fine. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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