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MS Windows to become relicware

13 August 2019

I recall that being a computer user and software developer used to be an expensive proposition.

It still hurts when I remember how much I paid for my first copy of the Pascal MT+ compiler, linker and libraries.

My Watcom C/C++ compiler also dug a huge hole in my wallet.

And let's not forget about all those super-spendy applications such as Word Perfect, dBase II and such.

If these product names mean nothing to you then you're clearly a noob to the world of personal computers and will likely be amazed to learn that there used to be very few free lunches in the computer world. Almost everything was "cash only".

But boy, have things changed?

The computer I'm typing this on only has free software on it.

The OS is Linux Mint. The editor is Kate. My FTP client is gFTP. My browser is Firefox. My image editor is GIMP. My word processor and spreadsheet are part of the Libre Office package. My video editor is Davinci Resolve (which can be had as freeware).

Hell, it's all freeware!

Microsoft aren't getting one red cent out of me on this box -- and yet it works so much better than the Windows 10 system sitting alongside it (which still has the sad-face every now and then just before it reboots).

If I want to cut some code then there are plenty of *free* IDEs, compilers, linkers and libraries for me to choose from, encompassing a huge array of different languages.

Even if I decide to set up my own webserver, "free" is the name of the game.

How does this all work?

What keeps the "freeware" economy going?

Why have companies like Digital Research (the creators of CP/M and Pascal MT+) effectively given up on spinning coin from OSes and compilers?

Why did Watcom (creators of the excellent Watcom C/C++ toolset) effectively disappear, assimilated by Powersoft which then merged with Sybase?

I think the answer is obvious... It's pretty hard to sell an expensive sandwich when someone is giving away a three-course meal at the restaurant next door.

Okay, so companies such as Microsoft still mint a small fortune every day by flogging OSes and applications for which there *are* freeware equivalents but one has to wonder just how long this will continue.

It has been claimed that Linux will take over the desktop "real soon now" -- but just like nuclear fusion and flying cars, this is not something that's going to happen in the next year or two. However, I'm picking that eventually, we will see the pendulum swing against Microsoft and it will become to the 21st century, what Digital Research was to the 20th...

A company whose products were no longer relevant or sought-after.

I mean, it is just so easy to download something like Linux Mint and install it on almost any piece of hardware these days. What's more, the latest desktop environments under Linux are so intuitive and "Windows-like" that the learning curve is shallow enough that even your mother can become confident and productive within a very short time.

Right now I'm looking at converting my Windows 10 video editing box to Linux as well, since Davinci Resolve runs very nicely on Windows, Mac or Linux. Once that happens, I can't think of a single reason to keep Windows around -- it will officially have become relicware!

I'd love to hear from readers as to what OSes and applications they're running and how much of that stuff is freeware/OpenSource. If you're still using Windows, why? What is the one thing that's stopping you from also relegating your Microsoft OS to relicware status?

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