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The Cost of Switching Operating Systems

I got an interesting email in from Michael, a reader of the site. He says:

First let me say that this website is a wonderful resource for everyone not just novices. Your clear explanations on topics and your wonderful videos arejust great. A suggestion for your next video should be the cost some companies would have to go through in order to make a realistic change to an alternative platform, Linux or mac. I work in a large enterprise with all end user machines
are PC’s with a few mac’s. The servers are a mixed breed but majority are Windows. The cost associated to switching platforms is too high and I believeits the zealous nature of Linux fanboys or mac fanboys that makes their points invalid. The cost to re-train your staff, re-write some applications that were developed within the company…that’s alot of money and time. So before everyone
starts plotting the end of Microsoft and make valid arguments for Linux on the desktop or mac, lets first start being realistic. Cost is too high and it will take too much time.

His point is a very good one – one often forgotten by those of us who are end users who personally control our own computers. While Windows is, no doubt, the most popular operating system in the world when it comes to home users, it is also, by far, the most popular operating system in the corporate world.

As any person who works for a company can probably attest to, corporations are like huge cruise ships when it comes to IT – they do not turn on a dime. They choose Windows because it is tried and true, everybody uses it, and they get official support from Microsoft. Companies LOVE to have somebody to blame when things go wrong.

When I was working in IT for a brief stint at Citibank, one of the things that I was surprised at was the slowness at which a decision gets made. It takes forever to make a decision. Sometimes there can be multiple meetings on one topic and still nothing happens. And, yes, they loved big name software. Even if PHP might be the server language of choice, they would buy a big expensive license to Cold Fusion. Why? Because they think if it has a big corporation behind it and it is expensive, it must be good.

Apple is a corporation and their stuff is expensive, but Apple is probably never going to enjoy wide adoption in the business world. Windows is entrenched, and as Mike says, so much gets invested into it that they would never completely jump ship and move to OS X. Companies are slow enough to even adopt Windows Vista for fear of the differences from XP.

Linux is good for some server-level environments, but it is not going to ever find wide adoption for corporate desktops either. I don’t care what any Linux user says, Linux is a difficult operating system. Ubuntu has gotten pretty good, but Linux, for the most part, is far from user friendly. Linux is also so anti-commercialism that it shoots itself in the foot. By not adopting and working with anything commercial, they guarantee that they will not be used in a commercial environment. That is, except for perhaps web servers where they have IT people on staff who know how to administrate Linux.

So, Mike brings to mind a reality check to those people who argue over one OS or another. The OS is the operating system, and no large company is going to switch as long as it means they have to cease operating the way they are used to. Takes loads of time, loads of training, loads of money, and loads of frustration.