Charles Stross Wants Microsoft Word to Die
Chances are, you’ve used Microsoft Word at one time or another. Let’s face it, it’s become the defacto program to edit text documents for business and personal use, leaving the corpses of other programs in its wake. This past weekend, Charles Stross posted a well-thought out and convincing “manifesto” on his blog about the hold this software has on the industry, which begins: “I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die.” He continues in a similar vein:
Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imagination, a petty, unimaginative, inconsistent dictator that is ill-suited to any creative writer's use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, dominating the word processing field. Its pervasive near-monopoly status has brainwashed software developers to such an extent that few can imagine a word processing tool that exists as anything other than as a shallow imitation of the Redmond Behemoth. But what exactly is wrong with it?
That’s the burning question. Stross goes on to explain a bit of the history of Word and, like me, he’s been using word processing tools for a good chunk of his life, so he has experience of things other than the Microsoft standard. He also explains about how we got to this point.
Over the late 1980s and early 1990s Microsoft grew into a behemoth with a near-monopoly position in the world of software. One of its tactics became known (and feared) throughout the industry: embrace and extend. If confronted with a successful new type of software, Microsoft would purchase one of the leading companies in the sector and then throw resources at integrating their product into Microsoft's own ecosystem, if necessary dumping it at below cost in order to drive rivals out of business… It is, quite simply, unavoidable. And worse, by its very prominence, we become blind to the possibility that our tools for document creation could be improved. It has held us back for nearly 25 years already; I hope we will find something better to take its place soon.
Extreme? Well, not if you’ve ever used any past competitor — anyone remember WordPerfect? Or WordStar? He is quite right that business, and the publishing industry in this particular case, expect files in a format they can use, namely, Microsoft Word documents. Is it holding us back? It’s certainly not helping, and I would just as soon replace it with something I could work more easily with, wouldn’t you?
You can see the full text of Why Microsoft Word must Die here.
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