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The CEO Challenge

We recently had the CEO of a large enterprise visit our offices here in San Diego to look at LindowsOS.  This company has over $1 Billion in annual revenues.  The CEO told us that they've had enough of Microsoft's expensive, cumbersome and restrictive licensing, as well as the costs they have incurred dealing with viruses, bugs, crashes, and security patches.  The interesting thing, however, was that this CEO didn't have any experience or knowledge of Linux whatsoever. The only thing he knew was that Linux was "supposed to be" much more stable, secure and affordable than Microsoft's products.  Armed with only these scant (although very important) data points, he traveled several states to meet with us, wanting to see for himself if Linux really was a viable option for his company.

I also found it interesting that this CEO came to meet with us personally, rather than just dispatching someone from his IT department.  "I have found that IT departments often don't like change," he said.  "That's why I'm here.  I have had enough with the status quo treatment we get from Microsoft, and I want to see first hand if it's time for a change.  Our company prides itself on early adoption of any innovation which can give us an edge over our competition--we're known for that.  I'm starting to hear more and more that Linux could very well be such an innovation, so I want to see for myself if it is." 

Thrilled at the opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of Linux to one so open-minded, we sat down in our conference room and proceeded to demonstrate LindowsOS.

He was "blown away" (his words, not mine).

I let him perform the installation, and he was completely amazed when he was able to do it in under 10 minutes with absolutely no help or assistance from us.  This wasn't an exceptionally technical CEO, but he knew enough to realize that this was much simpler and easier than Microsoft XP.

LindowsOS editing popular document file types in StarOffice 7

After he had installed and started LindowsOS, he was next pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it was to check his email, instant message with his employees, and surf the web.  He was particularly impressed with how beautiful the rendered fonts appeared, and with the myriad of files types and audio/video streams that LindowsOS handled.  He had no idea at the level of compatibility we have achieved with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as Flash, Java, MP3, QuickTime, AVI, and other popular content. 

He had his notebook computer with him, running XP.  From that machine, he emailed himself two documents, a business plan written in Word for Windows and a forecast in Excel.  I had him retrieve these documents from his email on the LindowsOS machine.  One click and they loaded.  He made changes, saved them, then emailed them back to himself.  He then returned to his XP machine, only to find that both documents opened without problem and contained the changes he had made to both.

CNR Aisles

I demonstrated how CNR (click and run) "Aisles" can be used by enterprises to deploy and manage all the applications throughout even the largest companies.  It was obvious to the CEO that our CNR technology far outpaced what they were currently doing with XP and all of its CDs, activation codes, and restrictive licensing.

After the demonstration, he told me that migrating away from Microsoft not only appeared to be a real possibility, but something they should do right away.  He then went on to ask me if it would be as easy to migrate as it appeared, based on what he had just witnessed.  I told him, "Not entirely."  I honestly explained that there would be some challenges ahead, and outlined for him what he could expect:

  • I told him to expect possible resistance from his IT department, for just as he had pointed out when we first met, change isn't always welcome there.  I did, however, explain that there was also a good chance that there would be many in this department who will dance with glee when they hear of his desire to change to Linux.

  • I told him that resistance will not only come from his IT department, but from all those who were used to using Microsoft products.  As easy-to-use as these new products are, and as comfortable as they will feel to those who are used to Microsoft's products, even the slightest change can be a hurdle for some people.  I said to him that he'd need to take the lead in convincing his employees to be open-minded to the change.

  • I explained to him that his company may have had some applications that were developed exclusively for them, that may or may not run on LindowsOS, and that some work could be involved with migrating such software or finding adequate replacements.
However, along with these challenges that I shared with him, I made him a promise.  I promised him that if their company would "bite the bullet" and go through a few weeks of "transitional pain," they would never regret it.  I promised him that they would come to love their new system, and would never want to go back.  I promised him that he would save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance, down-time from viruses and patches, and software costs as well.  The reason I could give him such assurances, is that MY company has been through the transition.  I know other companies who have done it, and all say it was well worth the journey.

I challenged this CEO to return to his company with a mandate for his IT department to commit to having their company Microsoft free by this time next year. 

I would encourage ALL CEOs to accept the same challenge: if you want your company to start enjoying all the competitive advantages that Desktop Linux can bring, it will take a challenge from you, the CEO, to your company to become Microsoft-free by the end of next year.  Such a challenge would not have been possible a year or two ago, but today, and throughout 2004, this is VERY real and doable.

My challenge to CEOs everywhere is to become Microsoft-free by this time next year.  You won't regret it.  I promise.

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