Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A stupid Question: Where Are The Microsoft Fanboys

"Why doesn't Microsoft have a cult religion?" The answer is simple: cults don't form in the mainstream. Should Microsoft be concerned, though?

This is such a treasury of poorly misunderstood ideas (the article, the headline, and the article that spawned the discussion). First, there's the premise: That there aren't people that are outside of employment at Microsoft that are "fanboys". Tons of them exist. I run into them from time to time in my work and hobby life.

They're not all that organized, from what I see, but they're there. The lack of organization isn't "simple", though. I think a multitude of vectors contribute to the situation. Microsoft software itself is typically copied, joined and sometimes (upon rare occasion) created. Since it's often last to the game, the enthusiasm is often found in people that are last to the party (and don't mind being in that space). In other words, while the "coolness" factor of the technology is at its peak, the fan-base forms there -- then Microsoft gets into the game, and the stuff becomes more or less an appliance. About as exciting as a refrigerator.

In a business setting, for some people, a refrigerator is very exciting, however. These people don't necessarily get their jollies blogging about it, though. They're probably not going to form a user group to gain knowledge and network. In short, by the time Microsoft gets into the game, the technology is often boring as paint.

Then there is the open factor; Think of a typical car club -- imagine the "stock Ford 500 fan club". These people drive their (completely stock, maybe some racing stripes added for flair) Ford 500s to some nearby event to talk about how nicely the air condition and all-wheel drive features work. Yeah, even the visual is boring, sorry. I'm sure it will fade with time.

Already faded? Yes, I'm sure it is -- the fact is that, though the Ford 500 may be a decent piece of equipment, it's a late arriver to a rather saturated game of family sedans -- and the mostly stock part? Well, most people that buy a 500 don't buy it to mod it in any way shape or form. That might void the warranty, after all. It might cost more (it's an appliance, more or less, to them).

This is another reason why no one cares about Microsoft enough to get passionate about it -- they won't open their main product-base up to the enthusiast crowd. With the hood solidly welded shut, no one cares.

Face it, their latest operating system (or is an innovative program to help memory companies sell chips? You decide) is a veritable pig in a land of pure-bred stallions -- most of the people I see talking about it treat it with all of the enthusiasm of a root-canal at the dentist. "Oh yeah, I might switch to it later this year after I get more memory for my home computer."

Sure, some of it is the underdog effect, but these factors greatly outweigh that issue -- I look to my Ford Mustang for inspiration here. I have two of the beasts. One of them, a Mach 1, is very stock. It won't be forever. The other, a GT, has barely any stock parts left on it. I take it to shows -- I'm thinking of joining a local club for the hell of it (and because I love the things -- they're a blast). Part of the reason I love em' is that you never know what someone is going to do to trick theirs out. Mustangs are definitely not the underdog.

The reason so is not because there are so many of them (there are) -- the reason is more related to the dimensions of open source. In 1996, Ford stuffed a new motor in the Mustang GT that was very proprietary, for example -- you couldn't change the heads without changing the computer, and they weren't very helpful with the companies that wanted to sell after market parts.

It took em' a while, but they learned from it. They're back to helping these companies so that there will be a healthy after-market. They realized that not playing this game wasn't going to bring them the after-market -- it was going to kill the fan base.

Microsoft might possibly learn from Linux (and Sun) -- to get that needed enthusiasm in the community they need to open the hood of their products. They need a bit more than that (and maybe I'll talk about that later). For now, the fans are going to rally around things that give them a reason (and the freedom) to be passionate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's happening in my own back-yard...

Einstein once said "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

In my own back-yard, you have an overworked, under appreciated school network admin, getting ousted from his job for switching his school district to Linux. Besides the inevitable security bonus, lowering of costs and so on, obvious to anyone that's used Linux, the fact that Linux and education simply makes sense is being tossed out.

They aren't just tossing out the idea -- they're tossing out a human being who was attempting to take them to a higher level. I'd suspect (haven't seen everything behind the scenes here -- just been following from the news headlines, which can be tricky) -- I'd suspect that this administrators choice to switch to Linux made people (teachers) in the school district second-guess a decision.

Faced with ditching the warm, comfortable world of windows, someone commissioned a "survey" by an "outside technology firm" to get results to make a new decision -- hire someone who will do what I can only imagine is this school superintendents (and probably a lot of powerful teaching staff's) "no-brainer" choice; Switch to Mac or Windows Vista (I have no idea, but I've seen a lot of stupidity in my day about what Linux can do -- this is my speculation, I'll freely admit).

Why is Linux in education so valuable, important, and likely frightening the piss out of Microsoft and Apple? Because unlike proprietary offerings by these companies -- this operating system comes with the source code (the instructions behind how to make *everything* about it happen). With the source code, some industrious students -- 12-18 years of age, could possibly do more than run the stuff given them -- they might get involved with learning about how the computer operating system works, and not only improve Linux -- they would improve their own aptitude and lives.

What I'm saying is that this guy was making more than an obvious choice for saving the district money -- he was potentially opening up a whole new world of choices to some children that would never get exposed first-hand to Linux any other way.

And that, my friends, is a crying shame. Someone who's superintendent Michael Johnson's boss needs to commission a study into *his* aptitude -- it looks to me like possibly he's micro-managing a network admin -- one who was about to change the world in a town in Ohio. Maybe with some good results, a descision about the superintendents' job shed some light on the situation. In the mean time, I'd go along with Mr Einsteins' evaluation of the universe and stupidity.

I'm not totally sure about the universe either, but I do know that Linux is changing the world -- the only thing holding it back right now is stupidity.