How a Microsoft Piracy Threat almost led us to Open Source… Almost! September 5, 2007Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, Linux Mint, News, Open Source, OpenOffice, PCLinuxOS, Piracy, Software, Windows, Working with Linux.
Once upon a time there was a ‘school’ that used predominantly Microsoft software. This ‘school’ used PCs with Windows Servers and Windows XPs. The fact that this was a poor ‘school’ meant that they couldn’t afford MS Office. They wanted to, but they couldn’t. So they installed the academic licenses of StarOffice 7. All was good in the world.
Around that time, a new technology entered the world; the wi-fi. And soon, students began to connect their laptops to the ‘school’ wi-fi connection. All was good in this world too.
Then, one day, there was a warning. The ‘school’ servers received a notice from Microsoft that they were using pirated software; using MS products beyond the slated licenses. The IT department was shocked… because according to their internal audit, they were not. Could, heaven forbid, Microsoft be wrong?
As it turned out, Microsoft was not entirely wrong. Many of the students using the wi-fi connections were using pirated software, either operating systems (Windows XP professional) or Office 2007. Since these pirated systems were connected to the ‘school’ network, evidently it looked like the ‘school’ had over-shot their license.
The ‘school’ freaked out and decided to enforce a no-piracy law on all wi-fi users. Every system would be audited and only if it was entirely piracy free would the system be allowed to connect on the wi-fi network. They even devised an audit form and everything. The students were told that they would have to buy their own copies of OS and Office, or install a “Free” Linux Operating system.
Much frustration/guilt/anger/shame from the students followed. But the ‘school’ stuck to its hardline policy.
Immediately, there was a huge demand for information about Linux systems; “what is it?” “is it as good as Windows?” “Is it too different?” “Will it allow me to load my (windows) programmes?” “is it really free?” etc etc.
But then something happened; some call it grace/providence. And some call it simply bad business. But the ‘school’ decided to be gracious and at its own cost procured licenses of Windows XP Professional (academic edition) and lease them very very cheaply to the students. There would be no hope for the ‘school’ to recover its cost, but the school justified this by arguing that their primary concern was for the students.
Before this decision was made, some students had decided to use Linux as a piracy free partition on their pirated machines. Ie. they would dual boot with Linux when on the ‘school’ network, but when at home they would revert to their pirated systems (Smart? They thought so).
But the ‘school’ felt that because there was no way to ensure that the students would ONLY use Linux on the wi-fi network (because students could/would revert back to Windows behind the ‘schools’ back), they decided that in case of Linux implementation, the user must either do a full install or dual boot with only an ORIGINAL Windows partition.
This final decision was a deathknell to Linux implementation. In conjunction with the almost-free Windows OS, it was not worth the trouble (most students felt) to fully install (or partly install) Linux as well.
Thus most/all students adopted Windows as their first-choice OS.
The score: Open Source zero. Microsoft one.
However, there was a minor twist in the tale. This provision by the ‘school’ was only for the Operating System and NOT the MSOffice 2007 suite, which many students had pirated. The college was not willing to subsidize Office and students had to either use free software or buy their own. Without college support MS Office did look really expensive.
As a result, most students in this ‘school’ decided to install OpenOffice or StarOffice 8 (Academic License) instead of MS Office.
The point tally here: OpenSource (and alternatives) one. And Microsoft zero.
So the long and short of this story is that Microsoft Piracy threat almost led people to Linux, but when the students didn’t have to shell out the HUGE amount of money for it, Linux was just too inaccessible. But when the had to shell out money (as in the case of Office), they opted for the cheaper (free) alternatives.
On a brighter note for Open Source advocates, many more students are now aware of Linux and a few are willing to experiment with it as long term alternatives. The distribution that they’ve been given is PCLinux 2007.
The end. Or only the beginning?