A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW
I find myself agreeing completely with Richard Little (Letters, PC Week, 6 July), when he notes that Microsoft is offering Office 2000 at prices to make you laugh.
My concern is not only with the price of the software, which is rapidly approaching the cost of the entire PC it is running on, but with the cost of the necessary hardware upgrades to make the software viable as a business tool.
I have always specified and used Microsoft Office and have always been happy with it. I have recently purchased a single copy of Office 2000 premium to evaluate for possible upgrade. My only impression after two weeks of use is simply: "Not a chance, Microsoft!"
The software has consumed vast quantities of hard disk space and makes the PII 400 with 64Mb of RAM on which it is running appear to crawl. Everything about it is at least 100% slower than the previous version. The performance of Access 2000 is pathetic. The whole feeling reminds me of pushing an old 286 to the limits to run Windows in its most basic mode.
Is Microsoft really expecting us all to upgrade every PC in our organisations to Pentium III 550MHz machines with 128Mb or more of RAM and 10Gb hard drives just so that we can do what we did before with a few bells and whistles on? Many of the new "features" such as the install on first use and the change from the MDI window structure to having multiple instances of the program running only serve to confuse the user, increasing the training time and reducing confidence in the package.
We should be approaching the ultimate user-friendly software that any user can be comfortable with in a minimum amount of time. Instead we are served up massive packages which require a month of training and another unneccesary upgrade cycle on our hardware.
I fear that Office 2000's appearance in our company will be a brief one, just long enough to leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Never mind - maybe I could try one of the alternative products, which are so numerous I can't even remember what they're called!
WINDOWS OR BUST?
In your story on Phoenix's new marketing plans (PC Week, 29 June), you wrote: "When the customer turns the PC on it boots into Windows and the customer is prompted to agree to Microsoft's EULA.
Upon that agreement Phoenix's patented software would prompt again asking whether the user would like to install extra icons on the desktop."
Sounds very clever, but I wonder what this new BIOS chip will do if Windows is not installed on the machine? How will it deal with a case where Windows was once installed, and the extra icons agreed to, but subsequently a different OS is installed?
We already have hardware such as modems and printers that only work if Windows is installed, a fact not always appreciated by end users. I trust that it will be possible to disable this additional code and expect it to stay off, otherwise many of us will need to take even greater care before purchasing. A worse possibility might be that users of non-Microsoft operating systems are forced out of the lower end of the PC market.
FREE NET WILL CAUSE SQUARE EYES ...
Anthony Butler (Letters, PC Week, 13 July) advocates free Web access for all. However appealing this may seem to most surfers, paddlers and watchers-by, I doubt whether such a move would be as advantageous as suggested.
Imagine the number of people that would go online each day if call charges were dropped, thereby slowing down the Internet even further. I have experienced the addictive effects of surfing myself and know how easy it can be to spend hours gazing into a monitor screen and learning next to nothing after having done so. All things are best in moderation.
I'm all for investing in an electronic future, as Mr Butler suggests, but the majority of small firms do not require to be online all day in order to receive online orders. Many small firms still operate by batch processing and would probably retain this mode of working even if they could stay online all day, which, incidentally, would require the installation and rental of another phone line.
Craig McNeil's letter (PC Week, 13 July) comes down hard on BT regarding e-commerce provision. I agree that telecom companies are not helping, but what about issues such as high Web hosting costs, customer's credit-card-transaction fears and the general mistrust generated by government proposals to intercept e-mail? Once these issues are resolved, telecom companies will be falling over themselves in competing to provide cheaper services and technologies such as ADSL.
- ... AND WILL BE BAD NEWS FOR TELCOS
In his letter, Anthony Butler asks for free phone calls to add to free Internet access. He makes the common assertion that "the US gets free local calls".
There are many phone service providers in the US and they do not all offer the same package. It is true that some do give free local calls, but "local" usually means to a number on the same exchange. Some offer an unlimited number of local calls for a fixed monthly fee.
Others offer unlimited time on a local call for a fixed price. And some people pay for all calls just as in the UK. The US telcos that do offer unlimited local calls are now suffering, as customers call their ISP when they get home from work and stay logged on all evening even though their use of the Internet is intermittent. This causes the telcos big problems as it ties up equipment in the exchange all evening and deprives other customers of service. This problem must be solved, so expect changes to the service agreements in the near future.
SUN GOES DOWN AT SILVERSTONE
I read in PC Week, 13 July, about Sun's Java technology being used to record key data in the British Grand Prix - is this the reason why, when David Coulthard crossed the line on about the third lap, his time was not recorded? This meant he did not appear on the results for that lap!
Is this what they mean by Java drop-let?
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Also, what's a USB stick?
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