The Practical Mac

Microsoft: Just Say No

- 2002.09.10 - Tip Jar

Last week, I reported on my frustrating evening spent trying to scan a document on a Windows NT 4.0 PC. Yes, I said, "evening." What should have taken just a few minutes wound up wasting several hours and was never successfully completed.

That is not completely true. It was completed in about ten minutes when I returned home and scanned the document on a Umax Astra 6400 connected to my Power Mac 7500.

Among Windows users, incidents like this are all too common. Many complain, but few do anything about it. "Microsoft is the standard," they say. "You can't do anything about that."

This is simply not true. Not only can something be done about this, but several companies are already moving in that direction.

Microsoft is a monopoly, and they act the part. While virtually every other technology company has had to tighten their belts, reduce prices, and cut their workforce during the current downturn, Microsoft's prices have not gone down in the last five years.

Microsoft Office XP Standard retails for $479 and includes the following components:

  • Microsoft Word 2002 (word processing)
  • Microsoft Excel 2002 (spreadsheet)
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002 (personal information manager)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002 (presentations)

Microsoft Office XP Professional, which adds Microsoft Access (database), adds $100 to the price for a grand total of a whopping $579.

Now let's look at a few alternatives for the PC.

Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 Standard retails for $389 and includes the following components:

  • Corel WordPerfect 10 (word processing)
  • Corel Quattro Pro 10 (spreadsheet)
  • CorelCENTRAL 10 (personal information manager)
  • Corel Presentations 10 (presentations)

Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional, which adds Paradox 10 (database) and Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech recognition) plus a headset microphone, sells for $489.

Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.7 comes in only one version, retails for $235, and includes the following components:

  • Lotus WordPro (word processing)
  • Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet)
  • Lotus Organizer (personal information manager)
  • Lotus Freelance Graphics (presentations)
  • Lotus Approach (database)
  • IBM ViaVoice Gold
  • Headset Microphone

Sun's StarOffice 6 has a list price of $75.95 and includes:

  • StarOffice Writer (word processing)
  • StarOffice Calc (spreadsheet)
  • StarOffice Impress (presentations)
  • StarOffice Draw (drawing)
  • StarOffice Base (database)

In addition, StarOffice runs on Solaris and Linux as well as Windows. Apple and Sun recently denied a rumor that they were collaborating on a port of StarOffice for Mac OS X "at this time." Look for a Mac version within 6-12 months. And remember you heard it here first.

All three "alternative" office suites readily read and save files in formats compatible with each other as well as their corresponding Microsoft Office application.

It is often written that wanting to escape the clutches of Microsoft is not a good reason to use a Mac. Microsoft Office for the Mac (retail price of v.X for OS X is $499) - which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage (Personal Information Manager) - is the only game in town. Internet Explorer is the only credible Mac browser.

Nonsense.

For $79, you can purchase AppleWorks 6, which includes word processing, page layout, painting, spreadsheet, database, and presentation functions. The $79 price is a bit misleading. If you bought your Mac new, you probably received a free copy pre-installed - it's included with every iBook, iMac, and eMac. AppleWorks can also read and save file in Microsoft Office-compatible format.

Browser? Try Netscape, Mozilla, iCab, Opera, or OmniWeb.

You say you are not a pioneer? You don't want to be the first to buck the trend? Understandable. Don't worry. You will not be alone. In fact, you will have some rather noteworthy company.

"The pricing and licensing problems we have had with Microsoft around Office are the primary reason why I want to move the entire company onto StarOffice," said Eric LeSatz, Vice President of IS Administration for A.B. Watley Inc., a New York stock brokerage. (Peter Galli, More PC Makers Try Alternatives to Microsoft Suites, eWeek, Sept. 2, 2002.)

"A lot of applications are superior to Microsoft products," said Ruthann Stolzman, who runs a desktop publishing business in Saratoga, CA. "Alternatives and personal choices are the American way."

The world's largest computer manufacturer, Hewlett-Packard, is now shipping Corel WordPerfect Office instead of Microsoft Works on its Pavilion line of desktop PCs. Dell, the second largest PC maker, has also replaced Microsoft's products with WordPerfect on some of its models. Sony ships WordPerfect on several of its models, including both budget and high-end PCs.

According to Corel, their deals with HP, Sony, and Dell will garner approximately 5 million WordPerfect sales, increasing WordPerfect's installed base by 25%. That is 5 million sales that Microsoft won't make.

Perhaps the most encouraging news of all can be found at www.walmart.com. Ther you will find a range of PC's for sale, beginning at $199 - yes, a PC for less than $200. How? The hardware is not cutting edge, but it is more than sufficient for the typical consumer. However, the primary reason these PCs cost so little is because the manufacturer pays no Microsoft licensing fees. Zero. The PCs run a new OS called Lindows OS. The menu bar on the home page bears a striking resemblance to that of Apple, but that is probably just a coincidence.

Lindows is a version of Linux that will run certain Windows programs natively. Exactly how it does this is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that some clever programmers work for this company. Predictably, Microsoft has sued Lindows. However, in all motions that have come before the court to date, Microsoft has lost each and every one.

Lindows costs $99 and includes access to what the company calls their "Click-N-Run Warehouse," which is essentially hundreds of software titles that are downloaded and installed with a single click. Among the software choices are StarOffice and OpenOffice, another Microsoft Office alternative. For the $99 purchase price, you can install it on every PC in your household. Volume pricing for businesses has not yet been determined.

I have rambled on quite a bit about events that may appear to have little to do with Apple. This is, after all, a Mac-oriented website.

In reality, the developments chronicled above have everything to do with Apple. The more that non-Microsoft offices suites, browsers, and operating systems permeate the market, the less resistance Apple will find in convincing Windows users to switch. After all, if the standard becomes less of a standard, the only real argument impeding Apple in the enterprise market will cease to hold water.

Thanks to companies like Corel, Sun, and Lindows joining the good fight with Apple, the consumer once again has choice. We may finally see Microsoft's market shares plateau and begin to decline. Less of a Microsoft presence in the market is good for Apple, good for the consumer, and good for the industry. Choice is good. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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