I wish I could declare a bullshit-free zone

by Volker Weber

Ed declares his home a Microsoft-free zone:

In short, I live a Microsoft-free life. I'm successful in both business and personal life without any influence from Redmond.

Or more specifically, he lives in an Apple household. That works for a lot of people. Just a few conditions that don't work for many of his customers:

Ed also uses a couple of IBM products, where Apple has the superior alternative. I am pretty sure, an Apple product manager could declare an IBM-free zone and a Microsoft-free zone, where a Microsoft product manager could declare a Microsoft-only zone.

Nothing of this nonsense for me. I use whatever works best. I have no reason to exclude Microsoft products from that mix.

PS: For the german audience: Bei c't arbeiten in jedem großen Ressort Leute auf Windows, Mac und Linux. Das öffnet den Horizont. Aus dem gleichen Grund nutze ich Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian, WebOS und Windows Phone 7.


Kann nur funktionieren, wenn man das beruflich macht. Welcher "normale " Mensch ist in der Lage und Willens mit drei oder vier verschiedenen Mobilgerätessoftwaresysteme zu operieren. Schon das aktualisieren aller Geräte stiehlt einem sehr viel Zeit.

Wenn ich eine „...“-freie Zone für mich definiere, muss ich ja nicht blind und taub in den anderen Richtungen sein. Es kann mich zwingen, wenn ich an de Quelle sitze, mich da zu verbessern, wo andere noch einen Vorsprung haben.

Wolfram Votteler, 2011-04-18

Klar, nur beruflich.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

@Wolfram: Man nennt diese normalen Menschen i.d.R. Väter. Oder Mütter. Die sind meist nicht in der Lage ihrer geliebten Brut die durch die peer group aufdoktrinierten absurdesten Hard- und Software wie Netzbetreiber-Kombinationen zu unterstützen.

Ich mache denen auch keinen Vorwurf, meine eigenen Kinder sind glücklicherweise noch zu klein...aber so mancher Freund muss sich um iPhone/BlackBerry/Android, BlackBerryMessenger/WhatsApp/ICQ/KIK, AldiMobil/T-Mobile/Vodafone/O2 und was weiß ich nicht noch alles kümmern.

Das sich das mit Twitter als kostenlose auf allen Endgeräten der Welt funktionierende Alternative zu dem ganzen anderen Chat-Gedöns bei den jungen Menschen noch nicht herumgesprochen hat...?

Sven Richert, 2011-04-18

Just to play devil's advocate, and while I haven't even read Ed's post, I think you missed his point. The question is not whether Microsoft or Apple or Google or IBM has better solutions. It is about the sense that some companies have that Microsoft is a monopoly in areas of the desktop, and that you can't afford to cross them. It may seem hard to believe for those who have used other technology for years, but I certainly come across that attitude in companies.

With that in mind, Ed is saying that it is possible to break free from long-standing, expensive contracts with Microsoft and make choices. While that may be more or less plausible in different areas, I think you would have to agree that competition and people making choices leads the consumer to have better options. Of course you should choose the best option, but there will only be best options if there are no implicit or explicit monopolies.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2011-04-18

If that was his statement, I do not believe he'd live in an "Apple-Zone".

Or is Apple (for enterprises) that much cheaper?

Johannes Matzke, 2011-04-18

I agree with Ben , you missed the point all together. There is more then MS Solutions out there that can do the job, even better even Project can be beat.

Palmi Lord, 2011-04-18

Sometimes I don't get it. Name a better product than Excel.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

If nobody tries anything else, will there ever be a better product than Excel? Will Excel ever get any better?

Ben Langhinrichs, 2011-04-18

here are several free excel/spreadsheets alternatives you can download and use on the desktop, here are the best picks, that do their job well and don’t cost you a dime.

Open Office Calc – Open Office Calc is a desktop based application that is similar to Microsoft Excel. This program also has some advanced features like Advanced DataPilot technology, which makes it easy to pull in raw data from corporate databases; cross-tabulate, summarize, and convert it into meaningful information.

IBM Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets – IBM Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets lets you create, edit, share, and save a variety of spreadsheets. You can create new documents, import existing documents, or choose from a set of document templates. Contextual toolbars configured to the appropriate spreadsheet editing task display as you navigate the various parts of your work.

Abykus – Abykus 2.0 is an easy to use spreadsheet program designed for both business and scientific applications. The program includes a statistics wizard, as well as over 190 built-in math, trig, matrix, financial, date, time, string, coordinate geometry, and 3D graphic display functions. Up to 32 separate, 65534 row by 255 column, worksheets can be loaded and accessed at one time.

Gnumeric – Gnumeric or the Gnome Office Spreadsheet is a part of the GNOME desktop environment. Gnumeric can read files saved with other spreadsheets and offer a customizable feel that attempts to minimize the transition from other spreadsheet programs.

CleanSheets – CleanSheets is the first spreadsheet application that is both extensible and platform-independent. It features a formula language that closely resembles that of Microsoft Excel, and extensions for aiding end-user programmers develop correct spreadsheets. This application is created using Java, so you will have to install Java Runtime Environment (JRE), before you can use the application.

Spread32 – Spread32 is a tiny spreadsheet program that supports 256 columns x 65536 rows x 255 sheets, formulas with over 300 functions, sorting with multiple keys, freeze panes etc. It may not have all the bells and whistles of its beefier cousins, but it is an excellent choice if you just want to fire up something instantly for some quick-and-dirty calculations.

Palmi Lord, 2011-04-18

@Volker: "Name a better product than Excel."

Well, if you're using Excel as a de facto shared database (coupled with email and/or fileshare), Lotus Notes (as a RAD platform for custom apps) is a better product. And if you must deliver a "final product" as a spreadsheet, dumping Notes data to Excel is a pretty easy trick.

Kevin Pettitt, 2011-04-18

Palmi, You forgot Apple Numbers.

If you believe that OpenOffice Calc and IBM Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets are serious Excel competitors, then you should try Excel again.

Yes, it's good to have alternatives. As you may know, I am also an Apple user. And I have no problems using Microsoft and non-Microsoft software. I try to use the best, without ruling anything out.

Kevin, I find Excel Sharepoint Services pretty interesting. And it's quite "RAD". ;-)

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

I'm with you, Volker. I use the best product. Sometimes good enough, isn't.

Charles Robinson, 2011-04-18

What a way to start off the week!! I like using the best product for the job, and a lot of times that's a Microsoft product. My customers are predominantly Microsoft shops, so I tend to use what they use with some exceptions. You'd have to pull my iPhone 4 out of my cold dead hand before I give it up!!

I say good for Ed or anyone that wants to live Microsoft free, it's just not for me and it doesn't seem to be for my customers either.

Bill Dorge, 2011-04-18

Volker, 80 % of Excel users can use any of the products I mention ,rest will use MS Excel. I did forget Numbers for Mac. Shame on me. I use it extensively and enjoy it. I Also have MS Excel installed but only because my customers are sending me MS Excel spreadsheets to work with.

Palmi Lord, 2011-04-18

Palmi, I hear that Pareto number a lot. Since everybody uses a different subset, a "good enough" product rarely is. The file format issue is what makes people gravitate towards a common solution.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

Look at it another way. If you have 50,000 employees, and the average employee doesn't use Excel more than a half dozen times per year, it might be of considerable benefit to your company to realize that there are competitors who support the same format and general features. Ed's point is not really that there are equal or better alternatives to every Microsoft product, just that there are alternatives to every Microsoft product. That may be far less obvious to a number of business owners than it is to you. If you want people to look at alternatives to anything in the Office suite, you have to first reassure them that it is possible to live without Microsoft. After that, they might make a choice based on a number of factors. Best in class may be one factor, but there is a reason that everybody does not drive a Mercedes (or name the luxury car of your choice), even if they are best in class. Factors such as cost, priorities, frequency of use are all legitimate in making business decisions, but only if you believe there is any choice in the first place.

Monopoly, even self-imposed, is no better than DRM for the customer.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2011-04-18

Apple Keynote is $20. It's the superior product. I don't consider it a luxury. You could not pay me to use Symphony instead.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

I'll agree with the comment about Symphony. Calc has actually worked well for me (I am a very low demand spreadsheet user), but the presentation stuff has been awful. I don't particularly like either Word 2007/2010 or the Symphony document editor, but will use whichever is there. I could easily switch to the Symphony version for word processing, and already have for spreadsheets, but I'd hate it if I had to write any more presentations with Symphony.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2011-04-18

This discussion is not just about Excel vs. Symphony spreadsheets. Ben is 100% right about the big picture.

Ed Brill, 2011-04-18

I may have to repeat myself: I see no value in living in a Microsoft-free zone. Microsoft has plenty of excellent products that I want to use.

If a company thinks they can live with cheaper tools, so be it. They may also be able to save a lot of money on executive bonuses.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

Ben, I have often tried to use Symphony. It was never good enough. Not even the text component, which I consider the best part of it. For longer manuscripts I use Word, only for its excellent proofing tools. Whenever I need something pretty, I use Pages. If I had to ditch Word, I would probably stay with Pages.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

Are you really a "competitor" if you give away your (inferior) software for free (as in beer) and try to live from decreasing Microsoft license revenues?

Henning Heinz, 2011-04-18

That's another interesting aspect. So far I was only thinking why you would want the fourth best dentist instead of the best.

Maybe somebody can explain how the business model works. IBM would not even give away LotusLive to every business partner who could sell it. Here we have a product without its own revenue stream, developed with relatively cheap labor in China. There are no "open source" brownie points attached, and Oracle just ran their numbers through a spreadsheet and figured it does not pay to develop OpenOffice.

Do we have any numbers how well that works for IBM? I would imagine the bean counters who let you fly in coach would have a few questions about that business.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-18

Like Notes 8.x, Symphony seemed like another attempt to salvage something from the Workplace Managed Client / Lotus Expeditor abortion. Theoretically it would participate in rich client SOA composite applications that users and developers would create. Nice theory.

Jeff Gilfelt, 2011-04-19

Part of the strategy for every major vendor is reducing the competitive advantage enjoyed by its competitors. Why would Facebook release its super-cool, super-efficient data center design for free? They may describe themselves as happy hackers, but they want to erode Google's competitive advantage, since they are increasingly in the advertising market. Google released GMail/GoogleMail for free to reduce the competitive advantages IBM and Microsoft shared when it came to email.

It is depressing to think of it as a strategy, but it makes sense if you see it as a defense against a competitor who may use their advantages against you. Capitalism isn't either altruistic or peaceful, even if it is fairly effective.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2011-04-19

Quick, quick. Run from the proprietary boogie man Microsoft!

I'm so glad to see you safe with the more proprietary, but way cooler, Apple.

Craig Wiseman, 2011-04-19

At the very least, IBM was able to move hundreds of thousands of users off of Office. I would imagine the savings in license fees alone is large enough to warrant developing Symphony, and that's before you factor in loss of revenue to MS, value-add to the rest of the IBM software portfolio, transitive brand exposure, etc.

I see your point, Volker. And I would agree that Excel is "best in class," and it's what I use for the bulk of my business. But I do know many people running OO/Symphony by choice (myself included on a computer or two) and it works well and is free.

Now, all of this is assuming OO 2.x+ and Symphony 3.x+. Version 1.x of both were "aw, how cute."

Erik Brooks, 2011-04-19

The important point is that you can live without Microsoft, even if some think it is a less fun life. I think it is great to be able to choose, and then of course you are free to choose the best for your needs.

Whatever solution you choose you will stand more or less dependent on the provider.

Microsoft is often claiming that it is urgent to migrate to their products before your current competitive gets outdated/dies and you are left behind everybody else. This oftens makes me smile because that is not a real problem. 10 years ago Novell Netware was kind of declared dead. Today I would agree that you can get problems in some cases if you still are running Novell Netware. But the need to change was not that urgent. It is a lot more urgent to get the latest patches or upgrades from Microsoft.

Fredrik Malmborg, 2011-04-19

I like Windows 7. It's actually quite nice. What I can't figure out for the life of me is a reason (aside from file compatibility) to upgrade from Excel 2003 to 2007 or 2010. Admittedly I don't use Excel to massage my sales figures like some experts probably do ;)

I use the tool put in front of me. If I used the best tool for the job nothing would ever get finished as I'd be on continuous search for better tools.

Pragmatism is lost art these days.

Darren Duke, 2011-04-19

Volker - you say "Nothing of this nonsense for me. I use whatever works best".

It would be great to see a blog item describing what you use & why. Maybe this can include an update on your entry a year ago on How to Get Started with your new iPad.

Peter Ellenby, 2011-04-20

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