Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Weaning off Windows Vista

In the past couple of months we have seen a steady stream of announcements and rumors about the restrictions surrounding licensing and use of Vista. These announcements leave the impression that Microsoft is testing the patience of legitimate Windows users. Trying to see how far they can push their user base. The limits on use of a license raise concern for more advanced users. It is not unusual for PCs to be rebuilt after adding larger hard drives, new graphics cards, motherboards etc. If a legitimate license will not reinstall in the same chassis then Microsoft is simply encouraging piracy. Advanced users also often run Virtual machines with different operating systems in separate partitions. The more Microsoft raises road blocks in this area the more people will be encouraged to find work arounds that avoid using Vista.

Alternatives to Vista

Use an older operating system. I stull use Windows 2000 in Virtual PC on my PowerBook. It runs all the applications I need that aren't available on the native Mac OS X platform. Primarily Microsoft Project and Visio. Windows 2000 runs a lot faster than Windows XP under Virtual PC.

File formats are the key

I have worked in large enterprises for many years. It is these environments that require file format compatibility. Take the Mac platform. Microsoft Office has been available for years. This provides Word, Excel and PowerPoint file compatibility for Apple users. The push for adoption of Open Document Formats reduces the dependence on Microsoft products. This is what is behind the lobbying for these formats by Google. It is the second tier of Microsoft applications that provide the Microsoft enterprise leverage namely Project and Visio. To the best of my knowledge there are NO applications that provide native file format support for Microsoft Project and Visio applications. It is true that OS X applications like SharedPlan and OmniGraffle Pro provide support for Project and Visio XML files but there is no support for the native, default format for saving Project and Visio documents on a PC. This approach is lacking because it requires PC users to consciously save files in an alternative format. This is destined to fail. I have used a PowerBook for some time in an enterprise environment. I find myself using Virtual PC less and less frequently. At one point I realized I had gone over three months without loading Windows.

Action Plan to Reduce Vista Dependency

As Vista imposes more onerous restrictions the challenge is set for developers in the Linux and OS X world. 1. Provide the ability to read and write the proprietary file formats used in the typical Enterprise environment. 2. Generate Plug-ins for Quicktime that will enable all the popular Windows video formats to be viewable under OS X and Linux. 3. Improve the emulation of Internet Explorer in Firefox, Camino and Safari. An alternative approach may well turn out to be the Wine application that enables the running of Windows applications without Windows. The biggest challenge here may turn out to be Microsoft applications since these typically push the envelop in their use of documented and undocumented operating systems features. What are your thoughts? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

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