By Kato Mivule
Much is being talked about Microsoft’s new OS, Windows 7 and how it is supposed to be the ‘Dream OS’ for all those who chose to stick with Windows XP and rebuffed Microsoft’s overrated Windows Vista.
While some blogs are giving half-hearted praise for the Windows 7, much of sub-Saharan Africa will not benefit, and might stick around with Windows XP or even totally migrate to Ubuntu as is the case in Nairobi, Kenya, where most Internet Cafés have moved to Ubuntu after government crack down on pirated software.
Microsoft’s new OS will not do much to help ‘Bridge the Digital Divide’ but actually will only widen it. Windows 7 is largely provides a smooth transition from Vista to Windows 7. However, much of Africa still utilizes Windows 2000 largely because of it downgraded license requirements, and many entities still use Windows XP.
Windows Vista in this part of the world has only remained an item for the ‘elites’ due to its costs and also need for connectivity for license verification. Only a few corporate entities and well to do multinational corporations could afford the price and ‘strings attached’ that came with Windows Vista.
Secondly, hardware costs also count, apart from the few Corporate entities, the costs of a simple computer with the latest hardware configurations to run Windows Vista well is just beyond the reach of ordinary ‘middle class’ folks who rather will buy a cheap imitated brand name computer from China and run a pirated version of Windows XP.
There has not been any monumental transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista for much of poor Africa. A pirated version of Windows XP is what remains as the standard OS on most of Poor Africa’s Desktops. Therefore, most of Africa might not take the leap from XP to Windows 7.
Even Government Departments with Pre-installed versions of Windows XP could not afford the Price Tag involved in upgrading systems to Windows Vista. Therefore Windows 7 is most likely to mark the beginning of an end of Microsoft’s domination of Africa’s Tech World.
Recent developments and user-friendliness of Ubuntu make it the most likely place that Africa’s Techs will migrate to as one can witness when they visit Internet cafés in Nairobi, Kenya.
However, for most African Techs, Connectivity still remains an impediment in falling in love with Ubuntu, as one cannot get the constant upgrades that come with it. However, with the robust growth of the Telecom sector in Africa, Connectivity is becoming just an issue of price. African Techs will find it far much cheaper to install Ubuntu and pay the Telecom guys a few bucks for connectivity than paying Microsoft a hefty price plus ‘strings attached’ for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Windows 7 is coming out at a very bad time when the world is experiencing an economic downturn. Given that sub-Saharan African countries have half of their budgets sponsored by mostly European Donors, I foresee cost cuts when it comes to Information Technology spending.
Most European Donors, whose countries are not that very friendly to Microsoft, will demand Open Source Initiatives when it comes to Information Technology Spending in Africa and Ubuntu will be a favorable OS, given that the originators of the Software are based in the UK.
Therefore, Windows 7 might be the last of what we see as Microsoft’s dominance in Africa even if Microsoft gives it out for free.