No, it’s no one famous. It’s not even someone that has ever appeared in the media, in a meme, or participated in a hashtag or flashmob. Microsoft lost one of the fanboys I happen to work with. This person is one of those guys that gets it on many levels. Not only is he incredibly intelligent, he’s also a brilliant bench technician.

But when Microsoft started announcing their licensing terms for Office 2013 — he started asking me questions. The questions all began with “So Jack, talk to me about Linux.” And so I did. It didn’t take long after that before he had installed Ubuntu 12.10 over his Windows 7 installation and was happily working, sans Microsoft, without missing a beat.

You may be asking yourself, what exactly in the new licensing terms of Office 2013 could turn a long-time Microsoft fan away? Let me list some of the bigger points:

  • Each license is tied to a Microsoft Live account
  • Only five licenses can be attached to a single account (we have clients that blow through ten MS Offices a week — this could cause problems).
  • Each license will forever be tied to a single machine.

Those are just the nastier points of the license, points that will cause multiple levels of grief for end users. These licensing terms assume that machines don’t break — and when they do, users don’t mind coughing up another roll of cash for another license.

Wrong and wrong.

Machines break. Sometimes, machines arrive faulty — such that the fault won’t show itself until a few days (or weeks) after the fact. What are those users going to do? Purchase Office 2013 twice within a few short weeks?

To that, Microsoft will say, “You can subscribe to Office 365”. To that, I will say, use Google Docs for free and not have any problems.

Over the last year, Microsoft has done more to turn people to alternatives than they have in a long time. First it was releasing one of the most un-intuitive user interfaces to ever grace the computer screen. Now it’s the MS Office license change. In short, Microsoft is losing fans and users. Where are they turning? Linux. More and more people are finally seeing there is an alternative and that alternative is actually BETTER!

“All those wasted years.”  I say, shaking my head, trying to hide the smile on my face.

Companies and consumers have handed over a great deal of money to Microsoft. How are they repaid for their loyalty? A slap in the face and a tug on the wallet. This mess will not end well for Microsoft. It will, on the other hand, end well for the likes of Ubuntu and LibreOffice.

Many of us have been saying this moment was inevitable. At some point we saw the binary on the wall — Microsoft was going to burn the one bridge it couldn’t afford to burn — the one between Redmond and the legion of fanboys. It may not happen overnight, but the fans of one of the largest companies to have ever graced the bits and bytes will turn their backs and look toward more open pastures. When that happens, Linux will finally get the due it’s owed. This cascade effect will have Microsoft scrambling to re-tune their business practices.

Of course, we’ve heard that tune before. Microsoft will probably attempt to win this in a courtroom and not where it should — in the hearts and minds of consumers.