Software

Why aren't schools adopting open source?

Around the world, governments and institutions are reaping the cost and other benefits of open source software. With most U.S. schools suffering a budget crunch, Jack Wallen wants to know why they aren't more enthusiastic about migrating to open source software too?

Recently, I had a bit of a run-in with my daughter's high school. She was undergoing an eSchool class over the summer called "Computer Applications," and it turns out the class only actually "covered" Office Suites, namely Microsoft Office. Now in our household we do not own a copy of Microsoft Office. Instead, we use OpenOffice and have never had an issue - that is, until now.

The setup

Before my daughter started in on her eSchool, I set up OpenOffice to save in all Microsoft Office defaults. I knew this way she wouldn't have any problem submitting her work. My presumption was correct...at first. But there was a wrench inadvertently thrown in the works. This wrench came when my daughter was discovered stretching the truth about her assignments. She said she had completed them but they weren't accepted. She said she HAD to have Microsoft Office. Knowing what the assignments were, I decided to call the instructor of the class. It turns out there were a number of interesting issues going on. First and foremost the instructor was only able to teach Microsoft Office because (1) that is what she had and (2) that is what she knew. This, of course, led me to a question that I had to share.

Why are schools in the States not adopting open source software? It's happening all around the globe. Schools, universities, businesses, corporations, governments are all adopting open source software. So why can't the U.S.?

Adoption = savings, freedom, updates

Here in Kentucky the public schools are seriously strapped for cash - to the point that arts, humanities, and teachers (a precious commodity) are being dropped to save money. I have a suggestion for the public school systems around the country - adopt open source software and you will save a lot of money. Not only will you save a lot of money, you will also be able to keep all of your software up to date.

While I was looking into this eSchool class for my daughter, I discovered that the class supported Microsoft Office 97-2003. However, all the instruction for the class (including screen shots) used Office '97. So any student using the latest version of Office was going to have trouble figuring out what they were doing. Imagine someone unfamiliar with the various interface metaphors having to figure out how to do something from an outdated manual! Or what about a student practicing for an exam using Office 2010 only to go to take the final exam on Office 97?

This would not be the case if the schools adopted open source software. No longer would schools be using out of date and unsupported operating systems (I know schools and institutions still using Window 98 because they can't afford to upgrade). Every school would have the latest-and-greatest software and the students would be somewhat closer to the cutting edge.

No longer a given truth

I've had many a discussion with people about this in various sectors of the professional world. Nearly every person I spoke with agrees with what I assumed to be a truth: At one point teaching school-age kids Microsoft, and only Microsoft, software was a safe bet. But things have changed. No longer is it safe to assume that every business uses MS software. Although most businesses are still sticking with one form of Windows or another, many of those same businesses are adopting OpenOffice, Firefox, and more as their software of choice. And thankfully for the students (and users of all ages and sorts), OpenOffice has done a great job of creating an interface that anyone used to MS Office will be comfortable with. So the preconceived notion that schools HAVE to teach Microsoft Office is no longer a given.

What about the private schools?

I say "public" because the private schools aren't having such an issue. Here in Louisville, KY there are a number of outstanding private schools. I have spoken with various IT department representatives and was shocked to find out that some of these rather costly private schools (one private school has a yearly tuition of $17,500 - that's a HIGH SCHOOL, people) have already adopted open source software. And these wealthier schools aren't just adopting OpenOffice. No, some of them are even encouraging the use of Linux!

What about other software?

I recently did a "10 Things..." article, "10 Linux (open source) applications that are perfect for educational environments." While writing this article I discovered a vast amount of open source software for education, ranging from tools to help students in the classroom all the way to tools for managing an entire school. I was amazed at what I found. And all of it open source. A school can effectively be run seamlessly and not pay a single penny for software.

Where is the downside to that?

If adopting open source software would allow schools to save thousands upon thousands of dollars per year (per school) I have to ask, again:

Why are schools across the country not migrating to open source software so they can focus the dollars spent on software in such a way to further the education of our children?

Educational institutions are supposed to be a pillar of learning and intellegent decisions. But it seems, as far as software is concerned, our educational system is consistently making some farily unintelligent choices.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

119 comments
Jeff7181
Jeff7181

While Open Source software is often free, the up front cost of the software is only a small part of the total cost to use it. You have to consider training and support. This is where Open Source software fails to provide an advantage - most people already know how to use Windows and Office. To switch them over to Ubuntu and Open Office you have to retrain them. Don't forget... the majority of users are not tech savvy - they cannot draw parallels between Open Office and MS Office. They learn by repetition, not because they understand the program. This isn't about the students, it's about the instructors and administrative staff. When it comes down to spending the time and money to do it, the question "why fix it if it isn't broken" comes up.

jlwallen
jlwallen

because Linux has done such a great job of catching up - the learning curve is next to nil. and when you're talking about OpenOffice there is no learning curve. so i would argue that training/support costs will even out the overall cost is no longer true.

john3347
john3347

"because Linux has done such a great job of catching up - the learning curve is next to nil. and when you're talking about OpenOffice there is no learning curve." As one who has spent MANY, MANY hours attempting to learn Linux, in general, and Open Office, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, and other Linux OSs and applications specifically, and who has been "stuck" with Microsoft and Microsoft compatibles since DOS days; I can attest to the fact that there IS a very stiff learning curve to an OS migration and even stiffer learning curve to most open source applications. This doesn't even take into account the applications that are unique to a Microsoft and/or Apple OSs that have no equivalent Linux application. I have felt for the last few years that when Linux developers understand that the non-professional home computer user doesn't want or need to hear the word "configure", and they develop a distribution that adheres to that criteria, Microsoft will, almost overnight, become "just another software company". Until then, Microsoft operating systems and applications will be the dominant systems in the home AND office and therefore SHOULD be what is taught in schools. If one recalls the early days of Apple and Microsoft, schools primarily adopted Apple and when Apple refused to license their OS to the budding computer manufacturers, Microsoft became the dominant operating system and schools, even the ones that had earlier adopted Apple (and still felt that Apple was the preferred system) migrated to Microsoft because it had become the "industry standard". Microsoft is still the industry standard and will continue to be so until some developer, or development team, comes up with a better system. When open source becomes the "industry standard", schools should migrate to open source, not until then. Painful (and costly) as it may be to me, personally, That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

marie.truman
marie.truman

Any time there is a new product there becomes a learning curve. OpenOffice is different enough from Microsoft Office that training would need to happen. I our school system alone that would mean training around 10,000 people and 90,000 students. Teachers and administrators go through hours of general training on process changes and new data entry requirements already every year. These are usually mandates from the federal and state governments. Then you run in to the problem with the money that Microsoft provides to school districts, especially urban and poor districts. There is a lot of grant money that goes towards purchasing computers, which then come bundled with Microsoft products. Another problem is compatibility of vendor products. Our student information system requires Oracle DB, Windows XP, and IE7. Switching would be a nightmare, years of custimizations to handle state reporting and the ability to handle a high student mobility would need to be rewritten. Then would come the data conversion nightmare. Saying its easy to switch is not always the case.

Jeff7181
Jeff7181

Wouldn't it be great if the world were that logical? :) If you've ever worked in a corporate setting, you'll understand how resistant to change and lazy users are. The fact is, when it effects a users ability to do their job, they resist change. As an example, a group of users were given the ability to reset the passwords of users that work under them... this eliminated the need to call the IT Help Desk for a password reset and possibly wait on hold for 5 minutes - it could all be done there on-site. You would think that would make people happy, right? It didn't. The only reason the users adopted the new method is because the Help Desk refused all password reset requests from this group, forcing them to speak to their direct report for the password reset.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

When I moved from from MS Office to OOo, the hardest thing I faced was learning that in OOo, the page formatting commands were, for some inexplicable reason, [u]actually under the Format menu[/u] and not mixed in with the File commands. For the vast majority of users, that will be the major difference.

Ole Man
Ole Man

I purchased books and studied manuals to learn Microsoft software. All of which I found completely unnecessary with Linux and Open Office, when I started using it. I found more than enough help with the online documentation furnished with each distribution I realize this is strictly acecdotal, but so is your nefarious claim. Anyone who applies practical computer skills (what they have already learned from Windows and Office) and has ordinary reading skills is able to use Linux and practicall any open source applications without a problem. Unless you can furnish factual information, please refrain from bashing Open Source henceforth. Thank you.

Ole Man
Ole Man

"the legal department doesn't have any one to sue"? This after reading a Microsoft EULA? I seriously doubt it. Read the EULA man!

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

A nice flip response. I suppose it means that the Evil Empire laid good plans and wins once again? MS simply more or less started following a practice that Apple had been engaging in for many, many years. Apple has been offering deep, deep discounts to schools for many years. Back to the Apple II days, that I'm aware of. In fact, at one point IF a school or school district (High School or below) offered any computer training at all, you almost never saw anything other than Apples. (Speaking about in the U.S.) But this presented a couple of problems for schools. Even with the deep discounts from Apple, the fact was that their hardware was still more expensive than "generic" PC's. Add, that the cost of maintenance and repair was more expensive. Next, Apple hardware and software was NOT the defacto standard used in the commercial/business world. Which meant that some of us (I'm a land owning taxpayer in a school district, who had children in that school district) questioned school district officials as to why the heck were they paying more for hardware up front, and then spending more money to teach students a platform and software that they'd most likely never use again once they graduated school. I know. I personally attended some of those discussions. As our local school district held meetings where they were asking us taxpayers to vote FOR extra funding (to vote for increasing our own taxes) to support them and their choices. We asked them to justify their selections, and they could not do so adequately. Not adequately enough to suit those of us who'd be paying the bill. I know this as in my local school district, and several others I know about, the tax payers revolted on a number of occasions and voted against school district funding increases, citing several examples of wasteful spending. (with the Apple vs PC business being just one of the complaints) Finally, more and more schools started switching over to standard PC systems, and offering training on the very same software a student was most likely to see and use once the student entered the business world. Nowadays, things are changing. Somewhat. Open Office MIGHT be a viable alternative to MS Office. I don't see anything specifically wrong with OO. BUT ... two points. (1) Curriculum development and support for OO. I won't go into it in detail but trust me developing an APPROVED and certified course for ANY subject ... is not an easy or cheap proposition. (2) Employers are still not using OO in significant numbers, as a percentage of total number of businesses out there. And one doesn't see advertisements from employers looking for new employees that state, "Familiarity with Open Office" as a pre-requisite. Not in any significant numbers. OTOH, one DOES often see "Familiarity with MS Office" listed. One can not teach students everything. There is just so much time and money available. So one must make choices. As of this moment, spending limited resources on teaching MS Office is the better pick as to it being more likely to be useful to the student. In the U.S. That could change, likely will. Everything changes with time. And making some comment like: "We are training the next generation of people locked in to Microsoft" would seem to suggest that you must think the average student or other person is dumber and less capable than yourself. Myself, I figure most people have the ability once they've learned the basic principles and ideas to figure out other systems and software if they want to and/or have the need to do so. Teaching the average person MS Office does NOT lock them into MS. They're not brainless idiots.

Red_One
Red_One

Do schools get a break on Office? You bet. We are training the next generation of people locked in to Microsoft, heck they should pay us!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

And it was mostly supported by one or two students along side the computer teacher. Somehow, the teacher had time to learn to admin Netware as did the students. Actually, it was more often a student who maintained and fixed it. In a big town you have a high student density and less time for teachers to maintain the system yet you have access to companies that can provide service contracts and likely have special offers for education. In a small town you have lower student density and a slower pace of life so you also have more time to learn how you help yourself. That knowledge will also build on itself rather than changing radically with each new major version of the OS. If you had a Debian 3 based network, your two major changes through 4 and 5 where more of a true upgrade rather than a wipe and reinstall. The knowledge related to maintaining 3 didn't suddenly become outdated when 5 came along. These days, it's also likely you now have students in your smaller schools who are familiar with other OS platforms. Let the savvy kid help and learn rather than stonewalling them into learning through questionable means. One of my best computer teachers was the opposite of the stonewalling norm. In one case, a student spent a few days writing a password cracker for the Novell login. He asked questions, the teacher answered, he showed the teacher how it worked once finished. It wasn't used to break into other students accounts and the kid already helped admin the network so no reason to break the admin account either; just a harmless programming project more interesting than the assigned "hello world" and if statement question.

kevaburg
kevaburg

don't forget about bulk-licensing agreements for example. I for one agree with and support any company or organisation that helps in the education process especially financially. Our own governments don't seem to want to..........

roy.evison
roy.evison

Dear Sirs/Madams, if state schools are anything like they are in the UK then many have a say in what goes on and getting them all to agree is fraught. Cost and currency is still an over whelming consideration. Why pay per workstation and per piece of software? Roy.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of people insisting on the use of MS software not capable of doing the task wanted. And the classic failure of MS software being up to task was Hotmail. It was originally set up to work on Linux servers. When MS bought Hotmail they tried to transfer to MS based servers but found their software wasn't up to the task. They had to rewrite and rebuild their server software to be able to move Hotmail across, then public congratulated themselves on their great advance in server capability when all they did was finally bring their server up to where Linux was a few years earlier. As to the legal side, what can go horribly wrong with an office package? If they have concerns re the OS, they can stay with MS and still use open source applications.

chippsetter
chippsetter

But look at it from the flip side, just about every small town has a computer store with Microsoft if the school district is just that town that they can turn to. Red Hat and Novell are not every place, mostly in the bigger cities. While I support the idea of open source we all need to concider all aspects before we say one is always bad and another is not. I feel a Computer Science class should be more progamming, O/S (various different ones)< and hardware related. If the class is a a Microsoft Office class than the student should be using it. The student edition is not $300 and the school should be able to offer the same academic license as colleges for a fee just like your shop classes.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The real goal is not to have something go horribly wrong in the first place. When you do need to seek legal action in response to an issue, your legal team is SOL anyhow. Microsoft, like any other software vendor, explicitly state that they accept no responsibility for damages caused by there software. In terms of responsability, there is no difference between the two product development aproaches. In terms of support, Microsoft is not the only company offering support contracts. They can choose from a number of companies offering support contracts. Red Hat and Novell give the school too big names to choose from and there are consulting companies that will support other distributions happily. While no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft, popularity does not equate to product quality or applicability to the given task. Especially in a school. A school full of kids pounding against the network is the type of place that needs a platform designed for and seasoned by multi-user network environments. I think you have the biggest point in your comment though. 37$ per copy of Office and tones of money and training easily expensed under the marketing budget. Early branding of consumers is not unique to MS either.

randy_scadden
randy_scadden

I can speak directly to this question. I was the purchasing agent for the current largest school district in the state of Utah. For a copy of Office it cost us $37 that also included software assurance which would give us the ability to send our tech's to training on not only Office but any other Microsoft product. Microsoft probably in all reality pumped more money back into our district than it spend annually on software but that is smart from a business perspective. I've heard a couple of wise statements said about why companies don't use Open Source more widely. Number one is well if something goes horribly wrong with an Open Source product the legal department doesn't have any one to sue. The second thing is I've never heard of anyone getting fired for buying Microsoft. That's just my two cents.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The last place I worked was so crippled by interdependent legacy software that needed changes where almost impossible and small changes crushed by politics. I remember Blackboard from University, not the best program from the student side. I'm glad to hear it has some strong competition these days.

marie.truman
marie.truman

Yes our system does all that but we are stuck on a specific platform. There is some hope the vendor is slowly working towards moving the system towards additional system compatibility. Their prototypes actually use Firefox. But even internally they are struggling with the database redesign to keep data conversions to a minimum. I'll probably retire before I see a completed system. Our district does use some opensource a couple years ago we moved from Blackboard to Moodle which the teachers who use it really like. We have an opensource shared calendar and we are beginning a district wide wiki as a help system. There is hope, but things are so interrelated a change in one system requires many changes in the other systems.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It was a few years back that I was working with a school and can't remember there specific application. Great setup though. In the back end the had real time data on students to the point that a report card could be issued daily with all details a teacher could want. Parents got reports by phone and email regarding missing students or report card type information. Students, being in a self directed learning school, had there project work queue to go through at there own pace along with applicable student side functions. The real power was in the overall reporting that could identify students having trouble very early on; what "no student left behind" should have been. Really interesting software; and that's the opinion of someone pretty cynical about the education system. I think it also suffers from the same mono-platform support that dictates everything else used with it though. That would be my only complaint about it at that time.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

That we don't value education sufficiently as a culture, to give it the necessary resources to be pro-active and forward-thinking. Huge change: that is one of the benefits I see in many open source projects (Ubuntu in particular, I have observed it). Rather than throwing a whole mess of changes at you once every three or four years, you get a small handful of subtle changes every few months. Much easier to digest that way. Small changes don't look as good on a resume though, I guess. Too bad (But I digress).

marie.truman
marie.truman

The system decision to go with was made in 2000 when upgrading from a mainframe application. Considering their are only three viable vendors for student information systems of our size, our options are limited.

marie.truman
marie.truman

Actually the move to Office 2007 has not happened either because of the training issue. I almost believe that they will wait until the majority of people have learned it on their own and begin demanding it. Luckily I'm not the one to make those decisions. I can understand them being hesitant. We have 186 schools and a few administrative buildings. Tech Services at each site would need to be able to handle all the support issues including the people handling the help desk. Remember you are talking about end users when asked what building their in respond with "the red brick one." Personally I wouldn't want to be the one manning the phones after implementing any huge change.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of my clients have had me walk them through Open Office. A couple of older people (in the 80s) actually downloaded and tried while waiting for me to turn up and rang to say they can do all they want, I didn't need to visit.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

I am curious, do you think the learning curve from Office 97 to Office 2007 more significant than the learning curve from Office 97 to Open Office? If they were teaching Office 2007, I think I could understand their demand to require it. It is quite a different beast, with some pretty nifty bells and whistles. But 97 and open office seem quite comparable to me. Certainly it would seem (tome) quite trivial to implement Open office in an environment still running Office 97.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Much of that is administrative and like any organization, you can't just up and change the information management systems. None of this prevents one from teaching the students though. Teachers should be the pinnacle example of open minded interest in learning. There is also nothing stopping student labs from adding more than one office suite to each workstation or setting up some alternative OS systems so that students can at least realize that Windows is not the only platform available. I'd suggest any computer lab meant to introduce computers and computer concepts that didn't have at least one of each major OS platform negligent. No osX, no Linux.. only Windows, it's not setup for the task it's claimed to be doing. Also, a database back end that forces the front end platform and a specific browser for the interface seems like someone made a poor purchasing decision. It doesn't leave much room for future expansion or flexibility.

marie.truman
marie.truman

Not sure what the exact cost is but you are correct we don't pay even close to the academic version. Plus many of the schools qualify for free software. On of our largest expenses is our Oracle licensing. Those costs are huge.

Jeff7181
Jeff7181

I have to wonder just how much schools are actually paying for Microsoft software once you factor in these "kick backs." I highly doubt they're even paying close to what it would cost a student to go buy the Academic version of MS Office at a store.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"This sub-thread has a bit of thread drift and stopped being directly about what the schools use several posts back when it moved to discuss the relationship between what people use in business and training of staff as how that related to the school teaching." My take on it was that I mentioned reasons as to why larger organizations who've been engaging in their work for years now using MS Office (and I used the company for whom I work as an example) haven't just up and leaped into using OO. What I mentioned as problems and issues for the company for which I work, applies equally to many schools and school districts. This is not a guess nor supposition. Probably 60% of my business customers are schools and school districts. From kindergarten up through colleges. I am more than a little familiar with how they operate, and the why's behind that. With the problems they face, and the restrictions they must operate under. Add, that besides doing the business with them that I do now, I became a certified teacher some years ago, and have in the past been involved in formal curriculum development and am familiar with that process and what it takes to develop a new curriculum and what it takes in time and effort to get that curriculum approved and certified. i.e. Right now I have been assisting in the curriculum development of a new course of instruction for a post secondary school. I'm not the prime developer. I'm just assisting as a subject matter expert. Thus far I and the others involved (and there are several of us) have about 18 months invested in the project, and have yet to achieve final approval. To dot all the i's; cross all the t's; get approval on all the course outline and the endless pages of formally listed goals and objectives with their listed and referenced justifications, proof of data and accuracy, listing of references used to prove validity of most every word used in the course; so on and so forth. We've got to do that to the satisfaction of the school, the school's larger governing organization, the state, and the Feds. In order for the course to be approved, certified, and implemented. In short, for the funding to be approved to actually teach the darned course and for the students to receive actual credits for it. We have, so far, thousands of man hours invested in the project. File cabinets full of docs, references, etc. Are on the 4th revision of the preliminary text book, having had to have the previous versions reviewed, commented upon, etc by several groups. Whose approval we MUST have. FWIW, no I am not a full time teacher or curriculum developer. It's just something I do part-time in addition to my regular job. In any event, a school district faces many of the same problems I mentioned to be true for the company for whom I work. They have a LOT of time and effort invested in the things they have set up as they are. And resources (time, labor, and funding) are NOT unlimited. In order for them to make the leap and change ... they need a pressing and justifiable REASON. BY the numbers, fully justified, logically analyzed, and laid out in detail such that the bottom line clearly justifies the action. So far for most of them, the move OO has yet to be suitably justified so as to be worth the time, labor costs, and other expenses. Whether or not OO itself is free. There are many other considerations besides the simple facts that it is free and Open Source. "I then pointed out how even switching between versions of MS Office often meant a retraining and issues with some documents." Most of which is more of a matter of getting used to a changing UI. Problems with the docs themselves have thus far been minimal for MOST OF US. Granting that we, the company for whom I work and many others I am familiar with, have not waited to try to convert docs created with mid 1990's software with the latest software. The docs we actually use, day to day in our business, have been updated and changed periodically as a normal course of business. Times do change, needs and requirements do change. For instance, in my specific work, we are just finalizing and formalizing a change to one particular form. An extensive spreadsheet used to document a particular kind of project development and execution. The basic form was developed in the later 1990's. But has been updated and changed from time to time as our requirements have changed, as the type of equipment and software we use in these projects have changed, and as we've learned from experience that this or that works or doesn't work, is useful or is mostly a waste of time, etc. From the later 1990's til now, that form which contains a lot of macros, custom functions, and VBA code has been revised some 11 times. Along the way, the versions of MS Office have gone from Office 97 to 2000 to 2003 to 2007. All other versions being skipped. Conversion along the way, as we shifted from one version to another, has NOT been an issue. A few minor annoyances, nothing more than that. "The discussion moved along that line for a bit and you mentioned having to carry over macros and using VBA (which is where Visual Basic came into the thread and the cost of VSP as it's the most commonly available VBA program around here)." Hmmm. We don't, nobody I know does, use Visual Studio, for developing the the VBA code (that's Visual Basic for Applications) that's within the documents we use. In fact, in my work and specialty I don't use Visual Studio at all. VBA code I write I do by simple line coding, using my favorite text editor. For what I do, I use a plain text editor for most coding work. The only developers environment I use is when doing some Java work. And that's a professional set of tools, NOT free nor inexpensive. "I used the prices available from a couple of the more commonly used on line stores as that's what the majority of small to medium businesses" Correct. Which is not the situation faced by most schools. And this discussion was about schools. "Now going back to the school side of things, the schools often require students to do homework and they want it done in the same software as they use at school - pity the students whose families can't afford a computer or the specific software the school uses." I am in schools probably 3 out of every 5 work days. Know the staffs, teachers and administrators. And many students. Other than at a college level, I know of NO schools that give a child homework that REQUIRES that the student have a personally owned copy of MS Office. EXCEPT .. for a few, very few, elective classes that specifically teach Business courses aimed at preparing a student for going directly to work in a private business that is using MS Office. These are only in some High Schools, and are strictly elective courses. All the other courses that are aimed at instructing a student in using a computer and its software are teaching just basics. Finding one's way around a keyboard, using a typical GUI, using a web browser and how to effectively utilize a search engine, etc. Any homework assigned for these students can essentially be done on most any system or OS. The homework being specifically designed so that this is so. College level is a different issue. SOME college courses do require specific types of machines, OS, and other software. But, of course, the student knows that ahead of time. Can choose to not take that particular course. Add, that in most cases, all that I'm aware of, if the college student wishes to take such courses major forms of aid in the form of loans, deeply discounted hardware and software, etc are available. "This issue is not clear cut either way." We do agree on this.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

directly about what the schools use several posts back when it moved to discuss the relationship between what people use in business and training of staff as how that related to the school teaching. I then pointed out how even switching between versions of MS Office often meant a retraining and issues with some documents. The discussion moved along that line for a bit and you mentioned having to carry over macros and using VBA (which is where Visual Basic came into the thread and the cost of VSP as it's the most commonly available VBA program around here). We then moved on to the cost to a business to set up new staff or update them. I used the prices available from a couple of the more commonly used on line stores as that's what the majority of small to medium businesses will be paying - schools and big business deal direct and get all sorts of discounts, but the majority of business users won't have access to those discounts due to lack of volume. Yes you can get low end system very cheap with lots of software preloaded, including malware and spyware that can't be gotten rid of without spending a few hundred as the reimage process puts them all back and you don't get actual software discs any more, just an image stored on the hard drive. These are totally useless for any power user or a work situation. By the time you look at a decent machine and the associated software you are looking at hefty prices involved. Now going back to the school side of things, the schools often require students to do homework and they want it done in the same software as they use at school - pity the students whose families can't afford a computer or the specific software the school uses. I know of a school where they had no students enrolled in doing IT studies despite every survey showing a great interest - a bit more investigation and gee, the whole student population come from the local suburbs which are mostly government housing estates and other housing for the poor. The one in twenty houses that had a computer had a ten year old system, or older, running Win 3.11 or Win 98. No one had a modern computer or could afford one or the software needed. With no ability to do the homework, because there were only two machines available for student use at the library, they saw no point in enrolling for a course they would only fail due to not putting in assignments on time. Now using Open Office wouldn't solve all of this problem, but it would go a long way to making it easier for the students. Others in the community are donating computers for use by the students in a study center, but these are all older machines and loaded with old software or open source software as there is no money for new software and the school licences are solely to the school owned computers. This issue is not clear cut either way. edit = o

amoeba
amoeba

But what about when something NEW from MS comes out? Do you spend the money and hope they don't remove compatibility like they did in an update to Office2003 (and then to add back in due to the out-cry) and need to relearn where everything is (as in 2007...)? Sure, use what you have for now, but know there is an alternative to spending money every couple of years for the latest/greatest (sic) from MS.

kevaburg
kevaburg

If I have already invested the money AND am using the software AND am happy that it achieves that which it is required to and no additional functionality is required, then why would I change to OO? The software might be free but the money has still been spent!

bmullan
bmullan

if this thread is still about open source for schools. MS Office costs $$, OpenOffice does not That's a significant difference for school systems with thousands or states with millions of students!

amoeba
amoeba

What you need to determine. If it makes more sense for your customers or you to spend the money for upgrades to the latest MS product and hope that it will still support the older formats, then do it. If you and your clients can use that money elsewhere (upgrades to hardware, bonus', raises to retain the best employees) then you should go with OO. Simple really...do you want the money or do you give it to another company?

tbmay
tbmay

I was speaking hypothetically.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

You make some interesting points. But a couple of comments ... (1) The pricing you list for your area. I'm not in Australia, haven't been for close to 20 years. But some quick lookups on Google, looking specifically for current sales being offered in Australia by Australian firms; indicates to me that the prices you list are on the high end. And probably reflective of buying individual retail copies of each of the software packages you mention off the shelf in a retail store. This thread started out by talking about schools. And I mentioned some reasons businesses also opt to stick with MS Office. Typically neither schools nor businesses (except perhaps very small businesses) buy individual copies at retail prices off the shelf. Typically they make a deal for volume licensing of the software, or make a deal with a favored vendor to buy whole systems (hardware and software) with the OS and required apps (such as MS Office) pre-installed. Usually asking for, and getting, some sort of volume discount for making multiple purchases. Looking at several Australian businesses that're selling systems retail, I see offers for new laptops and desktops, with OS and MS Office (business version) pre-installed who're advertising prices that are not greatly dissimilar to the prices I might expect to see in a U.S. store. And that's for someone just wanting to buy a single unit. Typically a larger organization buying in volume can negotiate a further discount. Numerous of the customers I do business with are schools districts. NONE of them buy laptops or desktops one at a time by walking into the neighborhood computer shop. Nor do they get their software that way. Unless it is a one time purchase of some sort of specialized software. Rare. This is not even mentioning that schools can easily negotiate a "educational use only" discount deal with MS. I know that at least some, most likely most of them, buy volume licensing for several packages. For instance, when my own daughter went to college, the college itself offered to sell her a student version of MS Office for what was a VERY reasonable price. Much lower than any of the prices you mention. As concerns Visual Studio Premium. Yes, it can be expensive if you're buying it as a single, individual user and paying out of pocket. OTOH, except perhaps at a college level, schools aren't going to be buying buying that package or trying to force their students to purchase it. Whatever for? And I suspect that colleges that teach a course that requires Visual Studio, either are not requiring the more expensive versions, or they've arranged for some sort of deep discounting of the price. In the business world, if you're working for someone that in their developmental environment requires the use of Visual Studio Premium, that IS their choice. There are alternative development systems. In any business, the purchase of suitable tools for engaging in the business you elect to pursue is just one of those costs of doing business. Egads, I have a friend who is a blue collar tradesman engaged in the business of home repair/remodeling. It's the business of his choice, and the way he makes his living. By choice he buys PROFESSIONAL level tools. Would probably be silly if he choose otherwise. Want to do professional level work? Yah buy professional level tools, and charge your customers accordingly. In any event, the total price of the tools he has in his work truck would easily match, or exceed, the price you quote for Visual Studio Premium. Most likely exceed. A home owner might get by with a $100 portable, battery powered drill. A professional does not. That's one of the tools of his trade, something he uses to make a living. A pro is going to opt for the more powerful version, with better bearings, heftier and longer lasting parts, etc. Such is going to cost more like $350. And, if he's smart he's gonna buy two. Plus extra battery chargers and batteries. Add an offset, angle drill version (NOT cheap). Add a good battery powered hammer drill. COMMERCIAL version (as versus consumer version) of a battery powered saws-all, circular saw, chop saw, so on and so forth. And one can easily find oneself with $1500 of just battery powered tools. And if you need em for your work, you don't buy the cheap set combo wrenches for $20. Yah buy the good, professional set for from $100 to $150. Better, yah buy two sets, for those tasks that require the use of two of the same size wrenches at the same time. Then you add the specialized sets of combo wrenches. Extra short, extra long, angle shaft, ratcheting box end, etc. Get my point? Visual Studio Premium is not a purchase yah make if you're doing incidental lightweight programming. It's something a PRO purchases, and its a whole tool set, not just an individual tool. Complete with certain guarantees, customer support, etc and so forth. I have trouble picturing a serious professional who'd balk at the price tag. In most trades real professionals want the best they can lay their hands on. And they want guarantees, top of the line customer support, etc. Tossing Visual Studio Premium and its price into this discussion is comparing apples to oranges. As concerns the changing menus, etc in the different versions of MS Office, I find it aggravating. However, that's a different argument than the one I was making. To date, and we started the switchover to Office 2007 from 2003 about 2 years ago. We haven't had any serious problems with file compatibility when trying to use forms, spreadsheets, etc created with earlier versions of Office. As yet, we have NOT converted over those documents. In fact I have my MS Office 2007 set up to default to 2003 compatibility mode. Yes, there were some minor issues, but they're of the nature of taking only moments to correct. The biggest hassle has been adjusting to the new interface. But that's just a minor aggravation, not a deal killer. And most of us have made the transition, learned the new user interface, adequately well with minimum fuss ... once we accepted the fact that it is what it is. But being aggravated by those changes is NOT the equivalent to the aggravation and lost time we'd have had to go through if we'd had to re-create all those automated forms and other documents. We haven't had to do that, so far.

kevaburg
kevaburg

.....when it does the same thing only differently? OpenOffice does have some great features and my personal favourite is the ability to save to PDF directly. But if all I am going to do with OpenOffice is exactly that which I am doing with MS Office, then where is the benefit for me or my users?

tbmay
tbmay

...but...playing Devil's advocate for a moment...in business...sunk costs are sunk. In other words, if you are in a situation where you've spent lots of money on MS Office and OpenOffice would work just as well or better...and you had no compatibility issues...no learning curve...etc....you've already wasted the money. Compatibility and a learning curve are the primary reasons to use it. "We've payed for MS Office" is really not one if the other actually serves your needs better. (Of course the one purchasing the software would possibly have to explain why he made the purchase....which is definitely a factor in finding other reasons/excuses.) Most businesses I deal with still need MS Office. Mind you I now do all my own Office work on OpenOffice but for me, not having the license fee was worth the differences. If I needed some of the Excel macros I've had to put together for employers and clients in the past though, I would have to have MS Office. Once again, compatibility is the driving factor.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

for the various operating systems and the inter-compatibility area for the OS and applications - this why you have troubles with versions not working with their 'matched' OS. Having said that, their are times when MS have changed how the internal format of their DOC and XLS files are written, which is why the 'upgrade' need between some versions. The standard industry rule is you change the file type name when you do that, and everyone else does that. That's why you have jpg and jpeg, mpg and mp3, etc. But that's not how MS do it. If they had doc and do2 or doc2 it would make sense, but they don't. When I speak of prices I speak of the prices of software I see here, which are (on average) about double what people usually pay in the US. At the moment Windows, depending on being XP or Vista or OEM or package type, can vary between $200 to $900 - the low one being a Home OEM and the top being the full retail Business Ultimate. MS Office can vary from $150 for the cut down Student academic pack (no Access or Publisher) to the full Office retail pack for $1,400. Visual Studio Premium is $3,972 if you want it. For what most people end up with at Home (is the cut back versions) they pay around $400 for basic Vista and Office or XP and Office - for a business wanting business standard the cost is around $1,500 to $2,000, depending upon the exact versions they get. Most businesses get either the $900 or $1,000 version of Office, based on what they want in the package. Although I have seen some small businesses save money by not buying office but just the $200 stand alone Word package as that was all they needed; some even swore at me when I showed them OO as it did what they wanted and was cheaper again - but they didn't know it existed. It'll be interesting to see how your people go with the switch to Office 2007. When I started with OO the only problem I had was finding where some of the menu items were as OO has them in more logical places than MS. As long as you test and check you can move the templates and macros up without any hassles BEFORE you move, then it's worth moving on. But when they stop working and you have to redo them, then you may wish to stop to re-evaluate the move.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"There's a hell of a difference between adding new stuff and changing existing stuff just for the fun of it." I can't say that I disagree with this. However, a couple points. (1) I'm not sure that MS does this in any literal way. Every time I've inquired, they have always expressed pretty detailed and extensive reasons for each change made. That is not to say that I always agree with them. But then, my voice and opinion is just one amongst the millions of feedbacks they get from their customers. (2) MS is far from alone in doing this sort of activity. There are a number of other apps I've used over many years, whose makers regularly release new versions with supposedly "new and important" features and revisions ... which turn out to be just a big PIA. Adds nothing I actually want to use, causes me to have to do some relearning, and is sometimes not so very compatible in using files made with earlier versions. In general, this is one of the reasons I don't jump into obtaining and using every new version of whatever that comes down the pike. In general, it needs to have substantial improvements, added features, or whatever ... that -I- actually want and will use for me to make the jump. The same goes with the company for whom I work. They do not jump into every new release or version of whatever. As concerns your comments about Open Office being able to read very old DOC and XLS files. Thanks, duly noted in my old memory banks. A fact that might come in handy to know some day. Both the company for whom I work, and I myself personally, have old archived files and records, dating back to the old DOS days. But this is not an immediate concern. So far, both at work and at home, the old files I've actually wanted to look at, use, or whatever ... I've not had any trouble with. Over the course of years, the way we do things has changed. In some cases because we've simply refined our techniques in order to do whatever more efficiently, or more accurately, or more effectively. And in other cases because new rules or requirements have dictated revisions. In any event the result has been that on a routine and regular basis those forms, docs, special spreadsheets, etc we commonly use have morphed gradually. i.e. A certain spreadsheet that uses numerous macros, custom VBA code, etc. As we underwent the eventual switchover to a newer version of Excel, sooner or later someone with that loaded tried to use a copy of that spreadsheet and any issues were noted. Often, the new version of Excel itself would ask if one wanted to convert the sheet to be compatible with this newer version, and all one had to do was click on "Yes", and it was done. (After all, at work we don't usually wait to jump from Office 97 to Office 2007. We made the progression to Office 2000, to 2003, and now just started the switch to 2007.) In the FEW cases where manual edits and changes needed to be done, so far they've been very minor and easily accomplished. A matter of minutes as versus hours. Understand, I am not anti-Open Office. I started out simply by suggesting the fact that for some individuals and organizations the switchover can be problematical and time consuming. We do not, BTW, pay THOUSANDS per employee with a laptop or desktop for the OS and basic apps they'll be using. Not to MS, anyway. We don't pay retail prices for the OS or for MS Office. Our biggest software expenses are for items MS does not make. On my work laptop I've currently got loaded somewhere around $10,000 of OTHER, non-MS applications that I have to have in order to do my job. The XP OS and MS Office are two of the cheapest items on the laptop. Not counting a few free and open apps I use, plus some apps I created myself. For us, at work, the cost of the OS and any commonly used commercial apps is one of our lowest expenses. Our first concern, always, is the efficient and effective use of payroll manhours. 85% of our employees cost us $65 or more per person per hour worked. When you consider actual pay; cost of benefits; payments into workers comp fund; incidental costs such as floor space, utility bills, etc. Figuring 2080 work hours per person per year (paid vacation and holidays included); that's $135,200 per person per year ... or more. The average laptop or desktop is going to last em 3 years or more. The last laptop they bought me, with XP Pro and MS Office 2007 on it, plus some extra hardware features we required, came in at $1200. (Would've been more, but as I said, we don't pay regular retail prices.) If it lasts only 3 years, that a cost of $400 per year. That cost, counted against what I cost the company per year ... is one of the least of our worries. Having me spend manhours on tasks that can be avoided can easily cost a LOT more than what the company spends on that copy of MS Office on my laptop. Multiply that by the hundreds of employees we have who use MS Office, and you may be able to see why they're hesitant to take a leap into switching over to OO. Cost of ordinary software, such as an office suite, is one of our smallest expenses.

kevaburg
kevaburg

The bottom line is that people want minimum TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) while enjnoying the benefits of a high RoI (Return on Investment). The problem is that TCO will always be high when something new is implemented because no matter how good you are, a learning curve is invariably always involved. So when the time taken to learn, administrative support, the migration (conversion) from one to the other and lost productivity while all this is going on, is taken into account, TCO will remain high. RoI to a point of +-0 will take time to achieve first of all because TCO needs to be reduced and secondly, if you are switching from MS Office to OpenOffice then you are effectively throwing your Office investment away, a situation most companies/schools etc will resist. Noone likes throwing money away. Although open-source software has come a long way in a relatively short ammount of time, I cannot say that I believe it offers the be-all and end-all that end-users require if the amount of time taken to adapt to it proves to be time- or cost-prohibitive.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

existing stuff just for the fun of it. VBA and MS Office macros are all written in proprietary MS code, which isn't always available to people; thus it's one area where I would expect OO and other programs to have an issue with MS stuff as they are NOT really part of the basic application itself. If it's cheaper for you to keep spending thousands of dollars per seat every few years for a new MS OS and Office package to retain those VBA and Macros, go right ahead. But don't be surprised when they stop working due to arbitrary changes in the code by MS. Files created in a particular format should be properly readable by any piece of software capable of reading that format, be the file one year old or ten years old. GIF files created in the mid to early 1990s can be properly read by the latest software intended to view them, as can JPG files, AVI files. DOC and XLS files created from that long ago will run in OO but not the latest versions of MS Office simply because MS have made changes to how Office works, not to add any extra capabilities of earth shattering skills, but just to make them not work with early versions of Windows and earlier versions of Office not work with the latest versions of Windows - try loading Excel 4 to run in Vista and see what happens, try it with Word 2a. I have a lot of older DOC and XLS files around for legal reasons. Many businesses do. Anything that relates to your taxes has to be kept for seven years beyond the last financial year of the last payment under the contract. So a five year contract means a twelve or thirteen year retention period on the contract negotiations. The documents were created in MS Word and Excel before they bundled them together as Office, but Office 97 is the last version that I know opens them cleanly and that doesn't run properly on the latest MS OSs; OO opens them cleanly and it runs on the latest versions of Linux and MS OSs - so take a guess which I use. It also saves a few thousand dollars to put a good set of applications on each system in my household.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"I also tried a bunch of VBA scripts and macros made in various MS Office products during the mid to late 1990s - not one worked properly in Office 2003." Hmmm ... mid to late 1990's? That a decade or more ago, guy. A long, long, time in the computer world. Or in many business worlds. I've looked at a great number of the forms, apps and so forth the company I now work for used in the mid to late 1990's. They're still available on our master network drive. Pretty primitive and simplistic stuff. What's the old saying? "We've come a long way, Baby." Many of those old files contain some pretty p*ss poor examples of macro and VBA code. The very same people responsible for those early examples, are producing MUCH better end products now. I know, they're still working for us. They've just learned more now. The NEWER stuff, after 2000, I've seen VERY few problems with them running well, achieving the desired results, being easily converted automatically by newer versions of MS Office. I can not speak about MS Office XP, or some others. Where I work we went from MS Office 97, to MS Office 2000, to MS Office 2003, to MS Office 2007. Any and all other versions were skipped. Just as we'll undoubtedly skip Windows Vista. And move on to Windows 7 after, and ONLY after, the majority of the bugs are worked out of that OS. As a company, we have NO desire to be cutting edge or on the forefront of technology or the latest fads. 95% (a fabricated number, by me) of which will be a total bust and not even remembered 5 years from now by anyone under 25 years of age. I've seen it time after time. While I'm probably not of your age yet (you do admit you're retired), I am 60 years old. And I've seen a lot of BS in my time, which has never come to anything. As a company, we base our reputation and business on being reliable, and on our customers understanding that what we say is what yah get. PERIOD. If we say such and such will work, as advertised, it WILL work that way 100% of the time. In short, we deliver what we promise. No waffling around about it or making excuses. NO excuses allowed. Of course, sometimes things go bad. We're wrong, or we spoke like an alligator while having a mosquito a**. But when that happens, we make it good, regardless of cost to ourselves. PERIOD. This has worked for us. Over the long term. Our customers trust us, trust our work, and trust our opinion. We DO NOT promise the world, and deliver only Australia ... for instance. In any event, in relatively recent MS Office products we produce, "conversion" over to newer versions of MS Office has not been a problem. For us. And ... I'm not guessing. Nor expressing just an opinion. It is simply a fact. Tested and tried by experts more knowledgeable than myself. Guys with a minimum of 20 years experience and learning, several with over 30 years. That OO is NOT as compatible as some would tout it to be. Not in the areas of macros and VBA code work alike. ALMOST ... isn't close enough. Unless one is using hand grenades. :-) Said by someone who has used a few hand grenades. However, I do not dismiss the value of OO. For a new start up company, or one which has few older "automated" documents already in existence ... OO is a VERY valid option. For larger organizations, which have been around for a lot of years ... the decision to switch is much more difficult.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

macros built up in their existing MS Office products. But a lot depends upon what version they have that investment in as not all are upgradable to the current version. I switched to Open Office back in 2003, while I was still using Win XP as my main system. I purchased a copy of MS Office 2003 and installed it on the system. Soon after that I had to open some older files I made years before. All I can say about that is - thank heavens for back up copies. Office 2003 totally trashed over forty-three files on me. They included MS Word files from Word for Windows 2a, Word 6, Excel 4, Access 2, Project, and Powerpoint - most were created between 1991 an 1998. A bit of research on the MS website and I found there was an incompatibility problem with any MS Office package files created prior to Office 97 and Office 2003. NB: Some months later some sort of add-on patches were released by MS that you could download and run to overcome some of these issues; by then I'd moved to Open Office as it opened the files natively. I also tried a bunch of VBA scripts and macros made in various MS Office products during the mid to late 1990s - not one worked properly in Office 2003. In a business environment, if you are faced with having to convert all that to work in Office XP or Office 2007 - it becomes just as easy to convert to work in Open Office as the adjustment workload is just as bad. With OO you have the advantage of knowing they'll work harder at maintaining full compatibility than MS do. edit - A large number of small to medium enterprises do not use any but the most basic of word processing and spreadsheet capabilities in either set of applications and switching over is a lot simpler than one with a lot of carry over overhead.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You saved me the trouble. I dislike it when someone in IT tosses around the 'lazy' word. It usually indicates the poster has no idea that to users, computers are a tool and not an end in themselves.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

We're not just talking about look and feel and screen layouts of menus. I personally detest Office 2007, although by necessity I am becoming more familiar with it. On my work laptop, that is what the company provided and it IS THEIR computer, after all. At home on my personal machines, at this time I have frozen the machines on Office 2003 and Office 2000. i.e. My wife's newest machine came with 2007. I removed it and replaced it with a previous version as she hated the new menus. In her case, she didn't HAVE to learn the new version, and as the older versions do all that she requires there is no reason for her to not use one of them. However, in this discussion thread, we're not really talking about personal choices of what to use on personal systems. At the company where I work, there are hundreds of machines, desktops and laptops. And all are expected to be supported by our IT staff generally. AND ... there is also the issue that we have hundreds (if not a couple thousand) of formal forms, specialized spreadsheets, Power Point presentations, Visio drawings, and so on and so forth used by a variety of departments and the personnel within them. MANY of which employ the use of macros, VBA, etc. I can tell you that some of the VBA code contained and used in some of those is quite extensive and took MANY man hours to develop and debug. Likewise, we use a LOT of specialized Excel sheets that incorporate a lot of specialized formatting, specialized formulas and macros, etc. Re-doing those could easily cost thousands of work hours. Now, I know that I've read posts by others speaking about the great compatibility of Open Office with MS Office. That's a subject about which I have little personal experience. As my experience with Open Office is limited. I have used it slightly and lightly. Only to test it to determine its suitability for use by family, friends, and acquaintances on their personal machines; for the types of usage an average home user might need. Open Office seems perfectly fine for that. But in our work environment, where I work, I know of two individuals who have experimented with Open Office. Both are quite able and knowledgeable individuals, both with IT backgrounds. They undertook the effort to use Open Office with the express purpose of seeing if it was suitable to our needs. Both were very enthusiastic about the endeavor, at first. Both like Open Office. BUT ... both ran into a lot of forms, spreadsheets, etc and so forth originally set up using MS Office, where to work with them they'd either have to do some labor intensive editing ... or shift over to MS Office while working with those documents. Both kept shifting over to MS Office. Because neither had the time to do all the extra work necessary to do that editing. They started to, with a few of the forms and spreadsheets. Then realized just how much work they would be getting into, and gave it up. That's one of the problems. We simply have no extra bodies sitting around with spare time on their hands. Our workload is such that it'd be an extra labor expense, a large one, to do those document conversions adequately. With all their embedded specialized macros, VBA code, etc. And that doesn't even touch on the costs of re-training/re-learning. Maybe someday we'll make the leap. But it won't be soon. Perhaps if our needs were simpler, or if we did not already have such huge amounts of time invested in the development of the existing documents we rely upon to work efficiently, well, and professionally. Going with Open Office would be easier for a new start up company which had much the same needs as we do. It isn't as if Open Office can not do most, if not all, of what we require. Although I'm not sure if Open Office has an adequate replacement for Visio, which we use extensively (for numerous purposes) employing advanced macros and VBA. Anyway, just learning new menus isn't the issue for us. That's a PIA, but workable. It's a far cry from my having to go back and rework a particular specialized spreadsheet I'm thinking of, with all its macros, special functions, and VBA code. I have literally hundreds of hours invested in that thing. And it works fine right now. Automates a lot of what would otherwise be manual mode entry, complete with a bunch of error checking and automated correction. And a couple key presses/mouse clicks then extracts and reformats data into a form we need it for incorporating into a specialized database, and for inclusion into some specialized forms and reports. It literally does several tasks which used to take hours to perform, and cuts the process down to a matter of a couple seconds.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Office 2007 in a lot of ways, more ways than Open Office is different to Office 2003.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

How much does Office 2007 training cost. If we are talking the bulk of user training, we are talking select text click on the big blue B. Power users of course is different. The best replacement argument against going open office, is if you have a large investment in macros, ole and other MS interoperability tools.

InAwe
InAwe

Look, it takes time and money to train users in the proper operation of any software app. If you've got the time and patience to implement a whole new way of doing business for thousands of users. Please feel free. What this is about though, is education. Microsoft products are offered to schools at a dramatically reduced rate. Microsoft has invested millions of dollars in making sure there are adequate training manuals for their products. Open source products cannot compete. By providing this service Microsoft is ensuring a customer base for many years. It's brilliant marketing. I don't recall there being these kinds of 'up in arms' discussions when Mac's were being donated to schools by the thousands before Steve Jobs took his first powder.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

I've been in IT for over a dozen years. In the beginning, I was stupid enough to believe the line about users being stupid and lazy and resistant to change. Just because they are interested in different subjects doesn't make them stupid. IT is one gear in the machine it ain't the machine. Lazy? In the sense that we all are, yes, nobody wants to do more work for less result. Resistant to change? Lot's of gurus throw this one around inaccurately. People aren't resistant to change, in my experience. They are resistant to stupid change, to uninformed change. If you properly prepare users for the change by demonstrating clear benefits, and then make the change in a manner such that those benefits are actually realized, people are quite cooperative -even supportive- of change. Your password example is a good example of that, if you see if form their perspective. Of course they were resistant to having your responsibility dumped on them, for no extra compensation. Why would they want to accept a new task, unrelated to their core responsibility? It isn't a positive change for them. It is an interruption to their productivity.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Your assigning administrator and computer security functions to a manager who specializes in getting work out of subordinates. Something more accurate would be switching from IE to Firefox. Both are browsers that happen to have different brand names. The total training and cost of this switch in our organization was "oh, and to look at websites, please click this icon here on your desktop. Unless a page absolutely won't work with Firefox, please use that as your browser".. end of transition, users now hapily use the new browser. MS Office to OpenOffice would also be a pretty clean switch where companies are not tied to a specific document format. It's a pointy-clicky GUI interface and users will learn the tools of the job just like every user had to learn how to use the company's custom apps and database interfaces. And, resistance to change in the user base is good. It means the new change will stick once they accept it. The problem is IT and upper management resistance to change which cripples a company by limiting it by inflexible response to a competitive market; be that budgets, strategy or consumer demand.

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