Microsoft has long been bleating about TCO -- Total Cost Of Ownership -- as a way of downplaying the enormous prices of its products by claiming that, in the long run, Windows and other Microsoft software is actually cheaper than something like Linux. They have entire sections of their site devoted to these comparisions, claiming that things like "staffing" and "downtime" are much more significant costs than the price of Windows.
I am not a financial analyst or accountant. I'm also not a farmer, but I can smell manure a mile away.
The upfront cost of Windows is difficult to determine since Microsoft offers about a billion different versions with as many different licensing schemes, but on the low end, Windows 7 Home Premium is $119 for the "upgrade" version, and $199 for the "full" version. (Source.)
The cost of Ubuntu is zero dollars. Nothing. It's free.
Out of the box, Windows cannot do very much. You don't have any email program, no word processor, no spreadsheet, no presentation software, no graphics editing (no, MS Paint does not count). To do any of this you have a few choices:
- Buy commercial software such as Microsoft Office. The basic, bare-bones student edition is $150. If you're not a student then Microsoft Office Standard is $400. (Source.) Photoshop would be another $700.
- Attempt to find free alternatives -- these will usually be open-source stuff such as Thunderbird for email, Openoffice for the office suite, GIMP for graphics, and so on.
Of course, if you're going to use free, open source applications to do all your work, you might as well stop using Windows entirely. So if we go with the first option, the bare minimum you can get away with is about $970. That's assuming you can get the upgrade version, and the student edition of Windows, and that you want something like Photoshop to do
Ubuntu comes with mail, an office suite, a high-end graphics editor, and plenty more, for free. It's already installed. And as noted in an earlier post there are twentysomething additional programs you can get, for free, at the click of a mouse.
Our running total so far:
Is it really worth 970 dollars just to do your basic day-to-day work? How much more will you have to spend for additional programs for Windows?
As previously mentioned, though, Microsoft claims that it is cheaper in the long run.
"Staffing" is one of their points, as though business owners routinely invest large amounts of time and money teaching new employees how to use Windows. Of course, this simply isn't the case -- it is assumed that new hires have the basic understanding of how to click icons and menus, and that's all they really need to know about the underlying operating system. The same is true with Ubuntu -- office workers can use it the exact same way: Click menus and windows and icons. Staffing and training are not significant costs.
"Downtime" is, hilariously, something else Microsoft tries to claim is in their favor. I think it is clear this is not the case -- even most die-hard Windows fanatics will not tout stability as one of Windows' key features. It crashes frequently, even on well-maintained machines. It is a guarantee that it will slow down over time as the registry gets clogged with stuff, as file fragmentation creeps in*, and other stuff. The only useful fixes for most desktop problems are rebooting or reinstalling -- and this is even cemented in Microsoft's own training courses for MCSEs.
And this assumes you keep the Windows machine clean. In the real world, people install all kinds of drek that further compromises the stability of Windows. Even commercial products like McAffee or Norton are buggy, prone to crashing (and taking Windows down with it), and resource-hungry. But you have to have these things in Windows, because running Windows without virus scanners is foolhardy in the extreme.
Ubuntu does not have these problems. "Reinstalling the operating system" -- a multi-hour process -- is never the solution. Its filesystem does not fragment, so you aren't wasting time with defragging utilities. It doesn't have a bloated, binary registry that eventually collapses under its own weight. It is lightweight and stable.
Maintaining an Ubuntu system is a simple process too. Every so often updates for both the system and for your installed applications are pushed out. A small icon will appear on the corner, you enter your password, and your system and applications are all updated simultaneously. Rarely will it require a reboot afterwards, but if it does, it will simply tell you this -- once -- and let you restart at your leisure.
Maintaining a Windows system requires a constant cycle of reboots after every update is applied. Manual patches must sometimes be applied too, for security reasons. Every single one of your applications must also be updated manually, by hand, one at a time, and they all insist on using their own little updaters (which will frequently get in your face about it). Windows will demand that you reboot after updates are applied, and will not take no for an answer -- you can postpone it but eventually it will reboot, by itself, in the middle of whatever you were doing. The time it takes to update everything by hand, combined with the constant reboots, is just more downtime.
From the initial price of the operating system, to the price of software to actually get anything done, to the headaches and downtime incurred by Windows' constant need for babysitting and scanning and updating and other hand-holding, it seems clear that the $199 pricetag attached to Windows is, indeed, only a small part of the total price. I guess Microsoft was right.. just not in the way they expected.
Get Ubuntu now, and tons of useful applications, absolutely free of charge.