Microsoft Strategies for Lovers of Freedom and Justice

~ by David Cartwright

There have been some who have expressed dismay that after Microsoft was found guilty in the U.S. antitrust trial, not enough happened to make it change its ways. However there are choices that consumers can make, if they wish to have an antitrust impact.There are, actually, a variety of reasons why you may wish to decrease or avoid the use of Microsoft products. Perhaps it’s the snowballing license fees, or the constant feeling of insecurity amidst a sea of viruses and worms, or disenchantment with Microsoft’s constant attempts to create proprietary lock-ins, or even a desire not to support a monopoly. Whatever your reasons, when it’s a corporation that Judge Jackson noted has “prodigious market power and immense profits,” one individual’s actions may seem inconsequential.

However, that would be to underestimate the power of one, and the power of a million ones. A single snowflake is a delicate thing, but a million snowflakes together can stop traffic.

So for those who wish to take steps to reduce their dependency on one vendor, here are some practical steps. The steps outlined apply, first, to anyone (particularly if you fall into the 90%+ segment of PC users who use a PC running Microsoft Windows) and then are particularized for specific roles or organizations, such as hardware companies, software developers, Microsoft employees, universities, schools, and Microsoft competitors. The list is not exhaustive, so feel free to use it as a starting point.

Easy Steps for everyone

Don’t use Hotmail email (currently the major free [as in beer] alternative is Yahoo). Just create a new email account and gradually migrate all your friends to use your new account.

There are lots of quality alternatives to a Microsoft mouse and keyboard including Logitech and Belkin.

Search using non-Microsoft sites such as Google and Yahoo.

Need Instant Messaging? There are plenty of alternatives to MSN Messenger for you and your friends including Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Gaim or a Jabber client.

If you’re getting a smartphone, choose a model from a manufacturer such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, or Palm.

Download and use an alternative Internet browser such as Mozilla or Opera. They also have lots of great features that Microsoft Internet Explorer does not have.

When you need a second PC, get a Mac, or a low-cost Linux system.

If you’re purchasing music tracks, choose an Apple iPod. HP’s digital music player based on the Apple iPod will also be available within the next few months.

Looking for a games machine? The Sony PlayStation and Nintendo GameCube are excellent alternatives to the Microsoft Xbox.
There are plenty of other great stocks to choose.

Steps for the adventurous

Download and install OpenOffice (it’s free), or migrate to Sun StarOffice. Begin the transition from Microsoft Office to true cross-platform solutions.

Partition your hard drive and begin experimenting with Linux.

Small and Medium Businesses

Seek out system integrators in your area that can provide open source/non-Microsoft solutions. In addition to Linux for servers and desktops, you may be surprised at the cost savings you can also realize in other technologies such as databases and groupware.

Try out OpenOffice or StarOffice for your word processing, spreadsheet and presentation requirements. You’ll be surprised at the level of compatibility with Microsoft Office, and be delighted at the money you can save.

Cross-platform alternatives to Microsoft Exchange include Samsung Contact, IBM Lotus Notes or OpenGroupware.org
Enterprise and Government users

Seek genuine solutions to migrate from Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. High quality desktop Linux offerings are already available from Red Hat, Novell’s SUSE LINUX, Mandrake, and Sun.

Trials of non-Microsoft solutions for the desktop environment should not just be about forcing down the price of Microsoft software. Although that is good for competition, it is only a first step. A genuine market reform will require a long-term change in the status-quo.

If you are currently using Microsoft Exchange, examine the cross-platform alternatives that can also handle Outlook clients during any desktop transition. Alternative enterprise solutions to Exchange include Samsung Contact and IBM Lotus Notes.

If you haven’t already examined opportunities to migrate Windows servers to Linux, arrange to meet with at least one out of IBM, Sun, Novell or Red Hat to discuss how Linux can assist your business.

Insist on open document standards that are fully supported across all the major platforms: Unix, Linux, and Windows.

Universities and other Teaching Institutions

Insist on cross-platform document standards within the institution. For example, all teaching and assignment materials should be able to run on Linux, Apple and Windows machines.

For Information Technology courses, keep the teaching focus on Java and non-Microsoft solutions. You are training the technology decision makers of tomorrow.

Make Linux and other Free Open Source Software (FOSS) readily available to all students and staff.

PC Manufacturers

Offer some PCs with Linux pre-installed. On all other PCs supply dual-boot systems with both Microsoft Windows and Linux pre-installed.

Bundle OpenOffice on ALL systems. If supplying dual-boot systems, include both the Windows and Linux versions of OpenOffice.
Supply PCs with peripherals from alternative sources.

Arrange to pre-install the latest Sun Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on all PCs.
Software Developers

Choose Java solutions (e.g. J2ME, J2SE, or J2EE) in lieu of .NET. There are lots of vendors that can help you including IBM, BEA, Sun, JBoss and Oracle. Java will also facilitate cross-platform solutions.

Join vendor programs from organizations such as IBM, Novell, Sun, BEA, Red Hat, Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel.

Begin migrating your development environment to Linux. Require Linux versions of all development tools.

If you are developing web applications, make sure they fully support non-Microsoft browsers such Mozilla and Opera.

Consider ways in which you can use Eclipse or Mozilla as the core building blocks for your custom applications.

IT Evangelists

Relentlessly pursue open or community standards. Open and community standards help everyone, not just a few.

Give away (or loan) live CDs such as Knoppix to contacts who use Microsoft Windows. It will allow them to test Linux without having to install it on their hard disk.

Give away (or loan) OpenOffice CDs, or even better the OpenCD, to contacts who use Microsoft Windows. In addition to OpenOffice and Mozilla, the OpenCD will introduce them to the benefits of FOSS for other tasks including an off-line browser, audio editing tools, image manipulation, privacy tools, screen savers, games, and more.
If you find an Internet site that doesn’t fully support non-Microsoft browsers such as Mozilla, Opera or Konqueror, follow-up with the webmaster to request he/she fix the problem.

Let’s eliminate proprietary terminology for what should be open standards. For example: Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Let’s search for an appropriate vendor neutral terminology …

Tell (and show) your friends the benefits of Linux and FOSS.
Embedded systems developers

Use embedded Linux, Palm OS or Symbian OS instead of Windows CE or Windows Mobile.

Move your development environment to Linux.

Microsoft competitors

Bottom-up marketing is almost always a better strategy than top-down marketing.
Pursue open and community standards.

Microsoft Employees

Read Judge Jackson’s Findings of Fact. Ask yourself, “Has my company made a genuine change from its anti-competitive ways?” Reflect, and act accordingly.

Revision: 25 March 2004

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