A recent post in Information Week asked a similar question: Why Doesn't Microsoft Have a Cult Religion? It appeared on Digg and Ars with an even catchier tagline: "A good question: Where ARE the Microsoft fanboys?" A whole lot of us use it, many even with a great deal of success. Sure, I'm on a 'buntu kick right now - I'm actually really excited about the technology, usability, and alternative provided by the latest from Canonical. However, Windows gets things done. As the article asks:
"What about this: Is Microsoft in such control over its own products that nobody really cares to innovate around Microsoft software? Do they just go through the motions because that's what they use at work?"
I'm using Windows all over the place and it's working really well. Yet when I post about my good experiences with Windows and other products out of Redmond, the legions of OSS folks raise their flags, fire up their Zippos, and flame away. Worse yet, if I question the rollout of Linux in schools (which I did before the latest release of Ubuntu brought both OEM support and a truly straight-forward, Linux-for-dummies approach to the table, making mainstream use a real possibility), the flames get turned to high.
On the other hand, when I post about my recent successes and admiration for the latest and greatest from the open source community, my feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Am I just flip-flopping to avoid the heat? I don't think so. I still really believe that Windows has a place in Ed Tech. In fact, I believe it has the most prominent place because it (and the software that runs on it) provide a whole host of really useful tools to students and faculty and are vital (if unexciting) parts of the computing landscape outside of academia. However, OSS in general, and the 'buntus in particular, have made such extraordinary leaps recently that in many cases, students are no longer sacrificing for the sake of being anti-Redmond.
If book software and educational tools continue to become more web-based and/or offer more universal Linux ports (and all trends point at least to the use of web-based, platform-independent tools), then the mainstreaming of Linux in the community and the educational environment can really be successful. As the Information Week post points out:
"Now Windows is just part of the PC," Enderle said. "There are still those that admire the company and Gates, but the passion that exists around FreeBSD, Linux, and Apple simply has no analog in Windows. Great products come from passion -- when Windows lost that, it lost its heart."
It's this passion that drives innovation; passion should also be driving education. I have to say that I'm far more excited about my Kubuntu desktop and the Edubuntu setup I showed my students yesterday than I was about Vista, even though Vista represents a really nice product. Where are the Microsoft fanboys? It's hard to get excited about something you use every day, even if it works just fine. It's something else entirely to see something new that works as well or better. As I talked with my computer club about getting their PCs to dual boot or virtualize Windows under Linux, I got a glimpse of why there aren't many Microsoft fanboys, as well as what computing education is shaping up to be in the next few years.