04 September 2009

Microsoft Teaches Pupils About Lock-in

I'm amazed Microsoft hasn't done this before:

Microsoft's Education Labs launched a new project this afternoon and it's better on trees and the environment. The group just announced a new Math Worksheet Generator where teachers can generate math problems and email them in paperless Word format to their students. In addition to Math Worksheet Generator, the group also announced plans for two additional projects to be released in the Fall.

Hard-pressed teachers will love this - and won't even notice that they are being turned into a vector for lock-in to Word (not that they aren't already). I predict we'll be seeing much more of this content-driven approach, whereby Microsoft makes people offers they can't refuse...provide they take King Billy's shilling.

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Anonymous said...

Hmm, given that the tool also creates HTML, I'm not sure how that is 'lock-in'. Maybe you should update your blog to reflect this.

Glyn Moody said...

My point is that it this tool is to "convert Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents into html files" - so the lock-in is to Word, Excel and PowerPoint - you can' use OpenOffice.org, for example. The open HTML is just put of the honeypot.

Anonymous said...

Uhhh...you are probably confusing two separate announcements that Microsoft made. One is the math worksheet application, which is a Windows application that can generate word --or-- HTML documents. Have you tried it? It seems to work well for me and generates HTML files.

A separate thing they announced was that they would be creating some other tools in the future, and one of those was a tool to create web sites from Office documents. That was just an announcement -- it is not available yet. If it is, let me know so I can try it. Anyway, I think this second thing is what you are referring to in the critical aspect of your blog post.

However, from reading your opening paragraph, your blog post seems to be about reporting on the first item. So I'm really quite confused as to what you're trying to say in this post. In other words, your critical tone is about the second item for which we have no details yet, but the 'news' you open with is really the first item which is neither about lock-in nor does it target 'pupils'.

I'm still confused why your blog post talks about something that Microsoft didn't go into detail about, and created a negative tone about something that is neither about Pupils nor about Lock-in.

Is it possible you are not a fan of Microsoft? Would it be more transparent and clear to just preface your posts with that? That will help us separate accurate and reflective blog posts from those that are not making sense or trying to stir up the honeypot, as you say.

Generally I like to read accurate blogs that the provide critique or commentary. Yours seems to mix the two, at least this time.

Have fun.

Glyn Moody said...

You're right, there were two announcements, and I was talking about a common thread: they tighten Microsoft's already fearsome grip on schools.

From the article:

"teachers can generate math problems and email them in paperless Word format to their students" - clearly that mandates that students have Word.

and about the second scheme:

"teachers will be able to convert Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents into html files." Again, schools can only use this if they have Microsoft Office.

In other words - my point - Microsoft is "giving" these tools to encourage schools to stick with Office, and not try anything like OpenOffice.org. It teaches about lock-in subtly, by enforcing it at both teacher and pupil level.

As to my feelings about Microsoft, I don't have any: I judge their actions. In fact, for about 15 years I wrote mostly about Microsoft, and even published a couple of books about Windows.

What I think is insidious is the way the company is fighting the tendency of schools to explore other options like OpenOffice.org using monopolistic techniques like insisting that schools licence Windows and Office even for PCs running GNU/Linux (as happened here in the UK for years - it's finally ending only now).

You're right that I mix critique and commentary, but I believe my readers will be able to decide which is which - not least because they have a sample size of several thousand blog posts on which to test their hypotheses.