Keynote comparison: Linux or Windows

Keynoters Shawn Powers and Steve Ballmer made the bold statements about how software relates to the economy in September 2009.

They differ on which kind of software brings the most economic benefit:

Linux or Windows

Powers and Linux

Mr. Powers delivered the opening keynote at the Ohio LinuxFest in Columbus, Ohio entitled “Saving the Economy with Linux” to about 1200 open source enthusiasts on Saturday September 26, 2009.

Mr. Powers advocated using free and open source software like the Linux operating system and OpenOffice. Instead of investing in proprietary software which costs hundreds of dollars per user, Mr. Powers recommended investing in people to support free software. As a professional system administrator and IT director of over 15 years, he is well familiar with the total cost of ownership of large enterprise deployments. At the school district where he works, we has been able to convince the board that savings to the tune of $90K+ of savings that Linux is worth doing, even though this means training adults to use unfamiliar Linux desktop software such Open Office. Children, according to Mr. Powers, do not care what software they use therefore they do not require Linux desktop training. As you are honest about the software’s shortcomings, moving to Linux will be worth it.

Ballmer and Windows

Mr. Ballmer delivered a speech during a customer event in San Fransisco, California touting how Microsoft’s new technologies were going to save businesses money in his speech entitled “The New Efficiency” on Tuesday September 29, 2009.

Mr. Ballmer delivered a sales pitch for Windows 7, Windows 2008 Server R2, and Exchange 2010. The point was to convince current customers that Microsoft’s new products are worth the investment. All three products are currently unreleased but were said to be proven to deliver “cost savings.” While Mr. Ballmer is suggesting that you spend money on software to save money on software, he provides zero details of what software he is comparing these new products against when he comes up with figures with statements like “One of the first businesses to deploy Windows 7 on a company-wide basis, Baker Tilly expects to save about $160 per PC by reducing deployment, management, and energy costs.” How? Is this in comparison to deploying Vista or XP? Mr. Ballmer did not say. With unemployment continuing to be high, it is unclear how trading up software licenses in the name of technology refresh is going to save any company money. Mr. Ballmer also claims that this new software will make people more productive and “do more with less.” This is part of a tag-line that you will see for at least the next 6 months from  Microsoft: “The New Efficiency.”

Let us compare the a few of the points of view from these gentlemen.





Associate Editor
of Linux Journal


Technology Director of Inland Lakes Schools,


Executive Officer at Microsoft

Software and the economy

Advocates investing in people, not software. Advocates the purchase of “productivity software” like Microsoft Exchange 2010 to “do more with less.” Microsoft itself has had to do so by recently cut the salaries of top executives and slashing more headquarters jobs in September.


conscience technology

Recommends greener alternatives
to buying new desktop systems by recycling old ones or deploying low-power thin clients with Linux Terminal Server Project.
Suggests that the Windows 7 operating system can reduce energy costs. No technical details of how that may work are shared.

On the costs of software licensing

“Linux is Free and that’s awesome” causing the community-oriented audience to cheer and applaud. “Customers always find an approach which pays us less money” to an unhappy business-oriented crowd.

Communication of migration  issues

Advises users to be honest about the shortcomings before you introduce the new and unfamiliar software. Uses vague business speak to sell yet to be released Microsoft products, for example, “The new efficiency will not only help companies respond to today’s economic reality, it will lay the foundation for systems and solutions that connect people to information, applications, and to other people in new ways.”


in conferences

Mr. Powers said “ohiolinux dot org is a good investment” while keynoting at the Ohio LinuxFest, an educational 501c(3) non-profit conference. He was invited as a respected member of the open source community. The crowd of 1200 so glad to have him that one
blogger gave his keynote a winky emoticon.
Microsoft bought the stage for Mr. Ballmer as San Fransciso event. This very same keynote is on a world tour in a Microsoft branded TechNet Live event too.  One attendee of the Netherlands event found it underwhelming.

These events are so marketing-packed that not even Infoworld conferences buy into Mr. Ballmer’s keynote.  Infoworld is part of IDG who produces for profit technology conferences which Microsoft sponsors. IDGWire skeptically asks “Is Windows  7 worth the investment?”

Seeing the keynotes online for yourself

Released a creative commons video of the September 26 keynote  in several different  formats on It is also viewable on

This grants the viewer the flexibility of downloading the file for off-line use with a player of their choice or viewing on-line.
Released a video of the September 29 keynote only viewable on-line with DRM-based Microsoft Silverlight. This requires a legal licensed modern fully-updated Windows or MacOSX with Internet
Explorer. Can’t open it? Well neither could Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

Thanks to “Helmer’s Blog” you can see a few photos from the “TechNet Live” version of the same keynote.

The readers of this blog are free to come to their own conclusions if Linux or Windows will improve your personal economy.

Please do leave us  a comment if you bought a Microsoft product in the past 6 months or plan
to buy a Microsoft product in the next 6 months. Likewise, if you have deployed Linux for someone who is new to Linux in the past 6 months or plan to do so, please comment.

Microsoft’s market share will be less than half on June 30, 2011.

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4 Responses to Keynote comparison: Linux or Windows

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  3. krk says:

    After working in a very Linux-oriented environment for four years I finally decided to make a the switch on a personal computer of mine. In May I installed Kubuntu 9.04 on my desktop machine (I recently switched to Ubuntu 9.10). Since then I’ve had two instances in which I’ve convinced users to switch to Linux. One friend downloaded a nasty virus on his XP machine, and after he tried to do a system restore (ill-advised) his machine was all but inoperable. I convinced him to let me install Kubuntu on his computer. He loved it. My father was running a 10+ year old machine with Windows 98 on it. He was having internet connection troubles. Instead of trying to work through the pains of Windows I just installed Ubuntu on his computer. It works great for him, and he’s adapting surprisngly well. I certainly don’t see myself paying for an OS ever again.

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