Windows may still be the operating system on desktops and laptops, by choice or not, but Microsoft’s biggest profit comes from the wholesale licensing of the OS on enterprise, government, and educational computers. Those, however, are slowly losing ground especially with the latter two categories. That has mostly been because of the increasing costs of Windows licenses. That has caused not only governments but even CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, to move away from Windows and proprietary software at large.
As PCMag so poetically put it, if the world’s largest particle physics lab and home of the Large Hadron Collider can no longer afford Windows licenses, then Microsoft is doing something terribly wrong. That misstep was Microsoft revoking the status of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a.k.a. CERN, as an academic institution because what else could it be. The domino effect meant that Microsoft software licenses will cost it ten times the previous amount.
The bright minds at CERN saw it coming and started MAlt, the Microsoft Alternative project, last year. It aimed to embrace open source software so that CERN could be in control of its own software rather than be at the mercy of vendors. Although no specific software has been named, usually it means migrating to Linux.
This would be a huge change for both CERN as it had been using Microsoft software for almost 20 years. But as it has now confirmed, vendor lock-in is more than just a ideological problem. It can also be a very expensive one.
CERN isn’t alone, though, as more and more governments are considering moving to Linux for the very same reasons, with South Korea being the latest to do so. And if CERN manages to successfully pull it off, Microsoft could lose more academic institutions who will undoubtedly follow suit to avoid suffering the same fate.