Microsoft’s Business Model

My dissertation’s had a rest these past two years while I worked on my Norse conjugation project and a couple of articles alongside my teaching and job applications. In another month’s time, I’ll be able to prioritize research and finally turn the thesis into a monograph.

My freelance copy-editing work has convinced me that I will have to write the book on Microsoft Word. LaTeX is not accepted in the humanities, and though many authors have worked exclusively in LibreOffice or OpenOffice, styles in those editors simply don’t work, nor is there interoperability when using the track changes function.

Given these considerations, I was interested to hear the February 2013 rumour that Microsoft was considering a Linux port of their Office package for 2014. The new Office 365 licensing system seems a fair arrangement to me; I particularly hope that their Word Web App is capable of editing files whose complexity exceeds its rather modest function set. Sadly, there has been no news since on a Linux release, and I can’t sit around waiting for tech to catch up with me any longer than I already have (if I were to wait until someone becomes willing to publish my XeLaTeX typescript, that would be the end of my career). My 2006 and 2007 vintage ThinkPads don’t run VirtualBox instances of any twenty-first century version of Windows at an acceptable speed. So I’m going to have to do an actual Windows install.

Imagine my surprise returning to the world of Windows to find that Microsoft does not sell “full version” editions of Windows anymore–not of 8.1, not of 8.0. Instead, they seem to be in the business of selling hardware that contains their product: their button “Get Windows 8.1” leads to an ad for “recommended PCs”, with the software store less prominently linked below the hardware link. When you click the software link, it becomes clear that Windows 8.1 is only available to Windows 8 users; Windows 8 is only available to Windows 7 users. Thus to purchase directly from Microsoft, I would have to purchase Windows 7, then upgrade twice. Sounds stable.

Third-party retailers are apparently permitted to sell an OEM or “System Builder” version of Windows 8; Amazon.de has a 32-bit version for a little under €100. But “System Builder”, and not through Microsoft. Worse, the product is licensed to your motherboard, so when I eventually replace my laptop, now seven years old, I lose my purchase. Clearly, this company is discouraging people from installing software; instead, we are told to support the company indirectly by upgrading our hardware and silently acquire new software licences with every hardware purchase.

At this point, I’m sufficiently discouraged that I’d rather keep looking for a binary-compatible OS so I don’t pay Microsoft for more than just the Office product, which is all I want anyway. Unfortunately, ReactOS is about 15 years behind. OS X would be a better solution (and now free as in beer!), but again I’d have to invest in hardware in order to get to the software. Very disappointing. I marvel at Microsoft’s business model if they can’t manage to convince a tech-conscious academic to purchase their product. I’m now beginning to lean towards writing the book in LibreOffice instead, which would have the added benefit that I can keep booting into Linux exclusively.

posted by paul on 6 jan mmxiv at 14:11 EST
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