"Ditching" Microsoft Apps

Via cyberdash, I came across this article in InformationWeek online, “FAA May Ditch Microsoft’s Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo.” Here are the opening two paragraphs:

March is coming in like a lion for Microsoft’s public sector business. Days after InformationWeek reported that the Department of Transportation has placed a moratorium on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7, the top technology official at the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that he is considering a permanent ban on the Microsoft software in favor of a combination of Google’s new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware.

In an interview, FAA chief information officer David Bowen said he’s taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency’s Windows XP-based desktop computers and laptops. Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. “It’s a different sort of computing strategy,” he said. “It takes the desktop out of the way so you’re running a very thin client. From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages.”

A bit of a poke into Google shows me that the same stuff is available to educational enterprises like this one for free, and the “premier” package is $50 a year.

I’m not familiar enough with these apps at this point to say if Google truly is ready to start charging $50 a year for what you get now, but I’ve been pretty pleased with gmail. I’ve started making the grand switch over, forwarding both of my personal and my school account to gmail, and the advantages of the interface outweigh the disadvantages so far.

The three things I like most about gmail at this point? First, the spam filter is dramatically more effective than what I had through my ISP, through EMU, and through Apple’s mail software. Second, the way that gmail sorts mail into “conversations” has turned out to be pretty handy. It’s taken some getting used to for me because you do have to dig into it a little bit to see what’s going on in a particular conversation, but the advantage is it keeps my inbox more compressed. And third, archiving everything with the ability to search through it easily means I don’t feel as compelled to sort every last email I get into a mailbox. I do label stuff that’s important still and I use that (basically) as a mailbox scheme, but just last night I found some message that I thought was long LONG gone just by sifting through a search. So that’s all been pretty cool.

So who knows? Maybe I’ll ditch MS Word next. I’ve already been playing around with iWork….

Of course, as far as Internet-based word processor or spreadsheet apps go, the disadvantage of having to be online to work with them are pretty obvious– perhaps not a big deal if you are working for the FAA and sitting at a desk all the time, but a bigger deal if you are a student or a teacher with a laptop who may or may not have decent wireless access at different points of the work day.

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