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Doug's Mailbag: A World Without Word, Content Debate, More

Last week, Kurt (blogging in Doug's stead) wrote about Dell and HP jumping to Microsoft's defense in the Word patent case, claiming that as partners, the ruling would hurt their sales, too. Would PC sales really plunge without Word? Here are some of your thoughts:

You asked if people would buy a new PC without Word on it. My one-word answer is "Yes." Word processing is just one small part of what I would use a computer for. As you said, OpenOffice is a great option; the price is right and there would be virtually no learning curve. And if we are going that way, might as well go with its spreadsheet and presentation tool, as well. I think most people would be able to absorb any hiccups caused if MS is forced to stop selling Word (though I am sure Microsoft would feel the hit). People don't really care HOW their document gets created, as long as they can create it without a lot of effort, and as long as the person they send it to can open and read it.

As for the second part of your question about whether manufacturers are really facing hardships, probably not -- but they will they figure out a way to stick it to the customers! I am old enough to remember when ATMs were free. At first, banks thought they were great because they didn't have to hire another employee to work the drive-up window. But then they said, "Wait a minute. This is a convenience to the customer, and although it is saving us money, I'll bet we could get them to pay us for this convenience." And sure enough, we do. So I am sure that PC manufactures will figure out a way to get us to pay them for not giving us something (such as MS Office).

I heard a rumour that OpenOffice contains the same infractions that Word contain with regards to .XML. Loading OpenOffice might not be a solution. This also brings up the question of who you take on if an open source package contains someone else's IP.

I've got to agree with MS, Dell and HP on this one. Since, for better or worse, I use MS Office at home for a myriad of tasks (not to mention being compatible with work), I can't imagine buying a computer if I couldn't get Word on it (either by OEM or by buying off-the-shelf). Only those who just do e-mail and/or browse the Web with their computers wouldn't be affected by this decision. But some of us actually use our computers to get things done!

Should the AP and other news outlets charge online news aggregators for content they use? Here's what some of you had to say about the great content debate:

I think the portals (Google, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) have the "Wal-Mart effect" on many newspapers. In much the same way that many people believe that a Wal Mart or other large retailer will eventually eliminate smaller stores, I feel that the news aggregators will eliminate a lot of the specialty newspapers in an area because of cost and convenience factors. I recently cut back my subscription to my local paper from a daily delivery to weekends only. I found that during the week I was too busy to sit down with the newspaper, but I could quickly scan the homepage of a news portal and see the most relevant information. I still enjoy reading the newspaper but the convenience of one-stop shopping for news -- where I can scan the headlines and then drill down into the important pieces as opposed to having to scan the front page of several sections of the newspaper -- made me decide that I should save trees, save my money, and not take a daily paper.

I believe that large newspapers that generate their own content and have a lot more feature and in-depth articles will fare better, but I am not sure that their time is not coming to an end, as well. The only real question for me around the AP is what the news portals will do without them. I can understand Google wanting their news for free, but if nobody is paid to write the articles, then the only thing that Google will be able to aggregate will be blogs and opinion pieces. Of course, there will be that problem with determining if the person doing the writing has checked their facts and if there is any bias, but the information will be free (if not correct).

When all the traditional media go away, from where will Google and all the "free content" providers aggregate?

What about content quality? What about the costs the AP and newspapers incur to get the stories in the first place? If we don't protect both, then what good are Google and other aggregators for news? Eventually, there will be so few to aggregate that aggregation will be a moot point.

Google and other aggregators should pay up, in my opinion. They are profiting from having access to content for which they paid little to nothing. The "free system" is a flawed one. Just because we can have such a system, does not automatically mean we should.

Newspapers better wake up. The real reason that people aren't buying newspapers, myself included, is that they are sick of the biased liberal coverage including what comes from the AP.

And after Microsoft announced that some Hotmail accounts have been "hijacked" by hackers, Doug asked readers for their worst hacker stories. Here's a doozy:

Someone stole my contact list and my password. Then they changed my password so I could not acess my own e-mail. Then they sent an e-mail to ALL my contacts with a story that I was in England at a seminar and that I had lost my wallet. They asked my contacts to send $2,500 to an address there.

Result: I dropped Hotmail and picked up Yahoo with a new password.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/02/2009 at 1:17 PM


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