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Software Wars

Entry 355, on 2006-06-23 at 19:06:45 (Rating 3, Computers)

I found an interesting web site today, which claims to represent the software wars between Microsoft and the "rest of the world" in a single diagram. Battlefronts are shown between units, such as Apache and IIS, or Firefox and MSIE 6. I don't want to say this has any real scientific validity, because it was clearly created by a supporter of free, open source software (OSS) and seems to always represent Microsoft as the aggressor, but it is an interesting summary of the current state of the IT industry.

On the side of good we have Linux, Apache, PHP, Mozilla, IBM, Apple, HP, Novell, SGI, and others. On the side of evil we have Microsoft. In reality, some of these companies and organisations fight on both sides. HP sells computers with Windows pre-installed, for example, so that decreases the accuracy for a start. Also, there are other battles going on between Microsoft's opponents. For example SGI, HP, and IBM compete when selling servers and workstations. In the simpler sense though, the diagram is a useful approximation to what's really happening.

Looking at the big successes for the forces of good we see Firefox starting to beat back Internet Explorer (it still has a long way to go to completely defeat it, though). Probably the most successful contender on the OSS side is Apache. As a fan of Apache, PHP, and MySQL myself, I am a bit biased, but it seems to be the greatest example of how well designed, free software can beat off the attack of a huge monopoly intent on using every dirty trick in the book, like Microsoft.

The major area where Microsoft still has real power is in its office software. No one has really created an alternative which is reliable, fast, and user-friendly enough to challenge Microsoft Office. Because the vast majority of "average users" use a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program and exchange files without converting them to a standard format first, its almost essential to have Office installed to survive in the "real world".

I use Office to open files I can't open with other programs, but I use alternatives wherever I can. Basically this is because I refuse to use Microsoft products as a political action, and I think Microsoft software is just horrible to use. I really believe Word is one of the worst mainstream programs I have ever seen. Excel is useful, but has a poor user interface. PowerPoint does the basics OK, but is terribly designed. This stuff is just junk. I think that as the battlefield changes Microsoft will continue to be pushed back. Hopefully other alternative (both OSS and commercial) programs will eventually enjoy the same success as Apache.

Link at: http://mshiltonj.com/software_wars/current/


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