Christopher Lentz | May 12, 2009 12:39 PM
The idea has been placed on every CIO's plate at one point or another and it's usually put there by the CFO or someone in the accounting department. While the idea is very nice, some believe that the learning curve is just too much for most users to bear. While the cost savings of switching to a Windows alternative operating system are substantial the learning curve as well as the conversion of everything in the business to the new platform may create more hassle than it's worth. In this struggling economy, now may very well be the time to make the switch to the other operating system.Windows & Office
Founded in November of 1978 as "ASCII Microsoft" started with software to run the Altair 8800. Now Microsoft's headlining product is it's Windows operating system which is available in 32-bit and 64-bit editions under a plethora of configuration and price options. According to March 2009 statistics from the w3schools site, Microsoft holds 69.9% of the market with Windows XP alone. Then on top of that they have another 17.3% on Vista, Microsoft's newest bread of operating system. That could easily be considered a strangle-hold to many. The fact is that Microsoft has done its homework, bought the right companies, and given the public something to lean on. Most businesses rely on products in Microsoft's Office lineup to do everything from documents to spreadsheets and publishing.
One of the largest problems I see with Microsoft's software is that out of the box it is not really ready for consumer use. For one, each time a Windows operating system is released there is inevitably a software update the very next week that covers some critical security issue. I'm not alone in believing that Microsoft is a little too trigger happy when it comes to putting out their software. In fact in the article "Fewer Patches Means More Testing For Microsoft", Andy Patrizio, says that Microsoft still has a long way to go on resurrecting their quality assurance. However, they are beefing up their pre-release testing to lighten the update load.Linux & Open Office
Linux has been in the shadows of Microsoft's super-power-like business for a long time with only a 4% market share. In recent months however it has received a bit more attention through the surfacing of the new netbooks as well as the amazing efforts of the One Laptop Per Child organization. The organization essentially provides laptops for third-world children through the mediums of donation and purchases by individuals. The laptops themselves run on a trimmed-down version of one of the Linux flavors.
Perhaps the best office suite available for the Linux family of operating systems is Open Office, which you can download absolutely FREE at the openoffice.org website. This software is also available for Windows for those of you who want to avoid the Microsoft "Monster". Open Office has programs for word processing(Writer), spreadsheets(Calc), databases(Base), multimedia presentations(Impress), and even a graphics and diagramming program called Draw. I have personally used their suite many many times and I find it to be almost the same as the Microsoft Office suite but with one advantage, ease of use. Open Office doesn't have a complicated interface that confuses its users. Essentially, they have the basic interface that all of use are used to; rows with commonly used tools. The best part about Open Office is its ability to save into the Microsoft Office file formats(.xls, .doc, .ppt, etc.) including the new xml formatted file types(.xlsx, .docx, etc.) On top of that you don't have to pay even one little cent! That's what I call a software solution that makes the CFO happy!Apple & iWork
The Apple Mac is one of the fastest growing trends in computer purchases over the past couple of years. A boom of designers, musicians, and students have swarmed retailers to own a piece of this company's merchandise. While it only holds a 5.9% market share in the industry, it is fast moving in the positive direction. The major concerns that most people have with Apple machines is that they are either unfamiliar with the interface, which requires a bit of a learning curve, or the price has them digging deep into their wallets and purses. Despite the high price though, Apple does boast that it's operating system is the least affected by malware and viruses making it a pretty secure purchase if you want your data and personal information to be safe.
As far as an office suite for Mac you have several options but the best two are iWork and Microsoft Office for Mac. iWork is an Apple manufactured piece of software that has all the necessary programs that you would need in business including Pages, their word processor; Numbers, the spreadsheet program, and KeyNote which is their media presentation software. All of which function equally as nice as any other office suite. iWork, like the Open Office suite for Linux/Windows, is also compatible with the new Microsoft Office file types. The second choice is Microsoft Office for Mac which has all the same features as the Windows version.Open Source Software Alternatives
I think a lot of companies are timid in trying out new software or operating systems. The truth though is that finding the right system or systems can have a major influence on your productivity and your results. I personally try to use open source software whenever I can, and I also encourage my clients to do the same. It not only saves them money, it improves the quality and/or speed of their work and that is an invaluable resource to have!
If you are interesting in learning more about Open Source software and where you can get it check out www.osalt.com. Their site has an open source piece of software for almost every proprietary software there is. So check it out and try a few, see if they don't help your budget and your time clock!