Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Microsoft and nonprofits

I've always had a dim view of Microsoft. While I think their software is pretty good (for desktops not servers), I don't like their politics. They have a long history of "ethically challenged" business decisions. They seem to have far more aptitude for dealing with competition by leveraging their monopoly on the PC or suing or buying out their competitors than by actually creating better products. This kind of business leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

They finally, with Windows XP SP 2, created an operating system that's stable and reasonably secure (if you take a lot of precautions) but it's taken a lot of pressure from Linux and Mac OS to get them to do anything. They are finally taking the web seriously but that's only because Firefox is eating their lunch. Even with all that, they are slow to respond, slow to innovate, and they seem more interested in locking in their customers than actually meeting their needs. On top of that, their software is expensive!

Well, my wife is starting up a nonprofit company. She and her partners (which includes me since I do the technical stuff) have been going around giving presentations to raise interest and money. My wife and I have been using Openoffice.org for our word processing and presentations but one of our partners is using MS Office and has been lamenting that PowerPoint has more/better features than Openoffice Impress. OK, I try to keep an open mind and I do feel that one should use the best tool for the job. MS products have been easy to ignore because they're expensive and bloated (meaning they have more features that anybody could ever use, they take up huge amounts of space on your computer, and they run significantly slower than they could). Openoffice.org has always been plenty for me but now I'm hearing that it's not up to the task for what our business needs. Then I find out that MS only charges nonprofits $20 for MS Office Pro. That's right, $20 instead of the $499 they charge businesses. Um, that's almost free. Turns out, if you're a nonprofit, MS will practically give their software to you (Windows XP Pro is $8 by the way).

So now I'm kind of in a quandry. On the one hand, I want to stay away from MS products. I don't want to be locked in to using only MS Office for documents and only Windows for an OS. I personally prefer Linux and Mac OS due to their increased security and reliability. However, for $20 to get my wife the tools she needs; how do I say no to that?

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