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My somewhat regular Microsoft rant…

November 4, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, the boys from Redmond made a trip to speak with the folks at Adobe.  And all I could think was, “No!!!!!!!!”

Let me explain.  I’ve been working with computers, either professionally as I do now or as a hobbyist in my teen age years, for parts of 4 decades.  I remember the early days of home and small business computing that was pulled every which way by names like Commodore, Texas Instruments, Coleco, Apple, Tandy, Atari, and IBM.  It was a modern version of the Tower of Babel.  What eventually shook out was a dominant platform supported by Intel and Microsoft (the so-called Wintel folks) and the smaller, yet more technically robust, Apple platforms.

Microsoft grew from a provider of operating systems and programming languages to an overlord of the computer arena with their hands in nearly all facets of the computing experience.  They would take standards and extend those standards, thus making the old standard obsolete and their version incompatible with the original standard (see also the early days of Internet Explorer and their introduction of C#).  When they couldn’t beat the competition, they’d buy the competition.  Once in a while the federal government or the EU would get involved and their plans would be foiled (see their attempted purchase of Intuit and the Quicken family of products).   And today Microsoft is the behemoth that they are, though still under the watchful eye of the DoJ and a federal court.

Don’t get me wrong.  They make a reasonably usable product that works most of the time.  They helped create a common platform and computing jumped by leaps and bounds.  They are a target for viruses, but it is because they are the big dogs on the block.  If Linux or Mac were bigger, you’d see more problems with them, too.  But they don’t play nice with others, and if given a chance would do more harm and/or try to extract more money out of our pockets every day.  To quote Robin Williams in one of his specials, when asked in congress about monopolies Bill Gates replied, “Monopoly is just a game, Senator.  I want to take over the world.”  If not for Linux, I could not imagine what they would do to take advantage of their position in the computing world, with special emphasis on servers.

When the word came down that Microsoft was at Adobe’s campus, it put a cold chill down my spine.  Adobe is the acknowledged big dog in digital darkroom world.  Their Photoshop and Lightroom products are hands-down the most used and most powerful image editing platforms available.  Flash is an outstanding multimedia tool for the web.  Microsoft has failed miserably in both of these venues (Expression Media was a lousy product and has since been sold to Phase One, Silverlight is not the Flash killer that many had predicted).

I use Microsoft operating systems basically because I have to.  If Adobe were ever to write Linux compatible versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, I would rid my computers of the last vestiges of Redmond debris.  As I am not ready to fork over the money to go Mac (Adobe has Mac versions of both Photoshop and Lightroom) and replace multiple machines, I am stuck with Microsoft (for now).

For literally everything else in my photography business I use non-Microsoft products.  I used Quickbooks and will do so again once I am more active in sales than I am right now.  I use Libre Office (the Open Office fork) for my administrative tasks.  I use Firefox for my browsing and blogging, and I use Thunderbird and Lightning for e-mail, contact management, and calendar scheduling.

Why?  Ernie Ball’s experience with Microsoft. Ernie Ball manufactures guitar strings and accessories.  In 2000 they got turned in by a disgruntled employee for some licensing issues with their business computers.  About three or four machines had problems out of about 70.  Cost them 100K between licensing fees and attorney costs.  I’m a much smaller fish and I kept very good records of my software, but it is just not worth the hassle of giving them an open invitation to waste my time looking for more money.

Other than a load of cash, there is nothing beneficial for Adobe in teaming up with Microsoft.  And for photographers, professional and amateur, the thought of Microsoft getting their hands on the crown jewels of image processing is nothing short of scary.

Please Adobe.  Forget that the Redmond boys even showed up.

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