In April 2014 Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, and although the end of an operating system era is not much of a great deal it is remarkable that after 13 years since launch it still managed to keep a market share of 25%. Although some of the users will upgrade to newer versions of the windows OS, the vast majority that remains do not meet the system requirements to do so. And we’re not talking only about home users but also business and government users where the upgrade to a newer OS comes at a high cost for both software and hardware. This is where open source software comes into play to give a new life to what could be considered obsolete hardware by today’s standards.
Open source software is around for quite some time but what it really lacked for mass adoption were the success stories that would boost the confidence around it. One of the most mediatized stories in the last years was the city of Munich in Germany which migrated 13,000 computers to Linux and OpenOffice. The move started in 2004 and was completed in 2013 with savings of over 11 million euro compared to proprietary alternatives. Another confidence boost came from the European Commission in 2007 with a report about the economic impact of open source software. The report also encouraged organizations to consider using Open Office (Open Office has all the functionalities that public offices need to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations” and “Open Office is free and extremely stable”).
One of the countries directly affected by Windows XP’s end of life was China where the OS had a market share of 72%. In preparation for the event that would leave its computers unprotected the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China reached an agreement with Canonical in 2013 for the creation of Ubuntu-based OS targeted at the Chinese market followed by the release of Ubuntu Kylin the same year. The project was a success with millions of downloads to date and OEM manufacturers like Dell and HP offering laptops and desktop computers with Ubuntu Kylin preinstalled. To further increase its adoption rate the Chinese government issued in May 2014 an order to put a stop to further upgrades to Windows OS followed by one in June encouraging a move from Microsoft Office to open source alternatives. Therefore we can expect China to lead the open source in the years to come.
Since the beginning of 2000 there has been a trend of calling each year the “Year of the Linux desktop” (even though it conquered servers and mobile devices the desktop still seems to struggle). Although Linux is a small fish in the open source ocean its adoption also raises the awareness level for the rest of the projects available, especially when looking for alternatives to software once used on Windows. Following the latest developments in filling he hole left on the market by XP 2014 has actually a decent earning the name of “Year of the Linux desktop”.
The so called Windows XP apocalypse that we witnessed also teaches us why we should avoid a vendor lock-in. When a software company decides to no longer support certain applications or operating systems or worse, the company disappears, the end users are left in the dark. Finding a new alternative costs both money and time and affects their productivity with the possibility that the same scenario could repeat itself. Going the “open source way” provides us with direct control over the evolution for the software we use lowering the impact of the vendor’s decisions. This is also the main reasons why we promote FinTP, the open source financial transactions processing software, ensuring that financial institutions can literally write their own future either with or without FINkers United’s help.