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Open source failures: Who is to blame?

Jan Stafford of Searchopensource has written an interesting article (opens in new tab)in which he describes two issues that are helping Microsoft to sabotage Linux desktop adoption.

I was expecting to read through article and find horror stories about Microsoft salespeople harassing IT administrators and managers whilst brandishing the weapon of mass obfuscation known as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). I was sorely disappointed that the article instead highlighted the shortcomings of open source software itself, rather than any active Microsoft propaganda.

The first scenario was a classic example of trying to break user’s habits. People had been using Microsoft Office for so long that getting them to explore something else is very difficult, probably even more difficult than getting them to switch operating system or browser.

The critical point is that, even if there are only minute problems with migrations (from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice, for example), you will always get a minority of users who will get upset and push for a return to the status quo.

Microsoft is certainly not to blame if they have succeeded in convincing educational departments to offer Microsoft Word as their only word processor packages or Excel as their only spreadsheet application. Decade old habits are very hard to break.

The second example highlights Linux hardware incompatibilities, which cause inconvenience to the users. Linux users will tell you that you can make your own drivers, for example, but for the overwhelming majority of users, the path of least resistance is the preferred course for obvious reasons.

For the manufacturers, it is a "chicken and egg" scenario. If there are not enough Linux users, they will not push ahead with Linux drivers.

The long terms advantages of moving to open source software can't be ignored, but the problems highlighted here need to be addressed as even the seemingly minute details can make or break a migration scheme.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.