Squeezing blood out of closed source software customers

I just saw the new on Microsoft’s new “pricing plan” for its “free” online version of office. While working my way through grad school doing consulting for a medium sized business, I see once again the “incompatibility creep” being introduced in the new version of office. Since the company uses Open Office – I wonder where they got an idea like that – the online converter for the new “.x” doc format isn’t available for non-Microsoft products so we would have to switch to something like Oxygen Office (Open Office Ninja).

Unfortunately, the general public will take the path of least resistance -i.e. give in and buy the products, so they can collaborate with friends and colleagues using the new version coming conveniently pre-loaded on their new computers. We see this happening with documents from our clients who have recently purchased new computers with their trial version of Office installed. The thought of this type of marketing/pricing tactic is truly frightening when you think of it being applied in the world of electronic healthcare records (EHRS). All the proprietary vendors are vigorously attempting to market and lobby their way into healthcare don’t have an interest in removing the information silos that currently exist where EHR systems have gotten a toehold in the market. We can only hope that interoperability will truly become a mandated standard. I shudder to think what the above style of revenue model would do for healthcare costs.

For more thoughts on the proprietary threat to healthcare, I recommend Philip Longman’s latest article: Code Red – How Software Companies Could Totally Screw Up Obama’s Health Care Reform. Longman is best known in health IT circles for the book The Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care is Better Than Yours. An excerpt can be read for free here.

Meanwhile, on a brighter note, RedHat Linux has just joined the S&P 500. Perhaps they may gain the increased visibility that will show consumers that there are indeed alternatives to submitting to business practice as usual.

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