Long Live Free Software!

Originally published in The Clarion | December 19, 2012

The technology landscape is an ever-changing one, and it can be interesting to observe which new devices or technologies eventually become nothing more than fads and which ones survive the long-haul. I have written several articles over the years related to major changes or shifts in the realm of technology, some that were quite surprising and others that were simply inevitable. In recent months, I touched on two items that have once again come to my attention. The first was the decline of Internet Explorer as the most-used web browser, the second was all of the racket in the industry centered around the death of the personal computer. You may recall that the former was absolutely no surprise to me while the latter had me questioning its validity.

Some recent news stories and surveys have shed additional light on these two items. For starters, Internet Explorer is still struggling in popularity and I honestly expect this to be the case forevermore. What has really caught my attention recently is that the Windows operating system is no longer the leader of the pack – in fact, Microsoft Windows now ranks third in operating system utilization, actually a distant third behind Google’s Android and iOS from Apple, Inc. This fact may come as a surprise to many of you, but understanding a drastic shift in the computing marketplace helps in revealing the truths of the market. For starters, the personal computer is not dead, nor do I see it dying anytime soon. With that, the simple fact that more and more people are purchasing mobile computing devices – primarily smartphones and tablets – and the secondary fact that Microsoft has all but failed in capturing a consumer base in the mobile market have resulted in the demise of Windows. To say this brings me great joy is quite the understatement.

Being a free software advocate, it brings me great joy to see Windows alternatives – especially the Android operating system – at the top. While iOS is closed-source and strictly tied to products only manufactured by Apple, Inc., Android along with the plethora of free open source software are hardware independent. Office productivity software – primary Libre and Open Office – are suitable replacements for the Microsoft Office suite of applications. These software packages are not only free to both download and use, but are supported on all hardware platforms regardless of your operating system. Web browsers (except Internet Explorer and Safari of course) are in this same boat – Chrome and Firefox, just to name a couple, can be used at absolutely no cost to the consumer. Add to this the fact that these products are seemingly better than those from the closed-source providers and you get a nice warm fuzzy feeling about the future of Web technology. I absolutely love free software, if for no other reason it’s easy on the checkbook. Long live free software!