America’s Schools: Held Hostage by Microsoft
Schools in America are held hostage by Microsoft and are being choked one school at a time. We have allowed Microsoft and our State and Federal governments to force us into financing cycles that schools cannot afford.
I have lived in Montana most of my life and worked with schools to get technology funding for 14 years now. The districts I work with use Linux on 75% of the Desktops and all of the servers. I have pushed Open Source applications and operating systems in schools for a long time and there is some progress. However, Microsoft has a serious choke hold on schools. Here is how the choke works.
1. Unlicensed Software Installs
One way schools get in trouble is when they feel they do not have enough money so instead of purchasing licenses they install more products without the proper license. To Microsoft, this is piracy and theft. I agree with Microsoft here, if they have a product and a price you either pay or do something else. I am amazed when I hear schools that steal software from Microsoft but then tell kids there are rules and ethics that they must follow. Schools that cheat on licenses are placing themselves at the mercy of Microsoft.
2. Software Updates
Software purchases must always be made with the recognition and the funding that the software must be updated both in terms of license and hardware. Here is how this works. A school gets a grant for technology and purchases Library software in year one. Not only must the school continue to purchase Library software updates each year, they must also purchase the Microsoft license that allows you to run the software. Oh…and also you must purchase the hardware that runs the software for Microsoft. This is called the Domino effect…one purchase forces the next purchase and schools are locked into these scenarios where they cannot get out. Microsoft controls the software, the cycle and the cost of schools teaching students.
3. State and Federal Requirements
One of the most damaging trends for schools in America is the demand that they purchase Microsoft products in order to report to Federal and State authorities. The State of Montana requires that you provide information from the school to an online sources for the state. The Office of Public Instruction says that they are creating an online interface for schools that is easy to use and will facilitate all operating systems. Well,only if your operating system is Windows (at least Windows 2000) and Internet Explorer 6-7. If you use Linux you cannot report to the state.
Schools and Libraries is a site used by the Federal government to provides funding so schools can get Internet access and help with technology. However, you cannot apply for this Federal funding, provided especially for poor schools, unless you have Internet Explorer 6-7.
What is worse is that each year the requirements for school reporting are tied to State and Federal funding outside of technology and the technical requirements to make those reports is tied to the updated versions of Windows and Word or Excel. I talk with people involved in schools in Europe on a weekly basis and they always talk about the freedom that the government allows in terms of which operating system and applications are used in schools.
What’s up with the U.S.? Why are schools locked into these strangle holds?
Long live Open Source!