06 February 2009

End of an Era

I've had Sarah indulge in a love of aviation and other male-oriented activities. One of them was flying an airplane using her personal computer; I've described Sarah as a fan of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series.

Looks like Sarah will need to find some other way to fly. Microsoft has laid off the entire Flight Simulator team.


Flight Simulator was Microsoft's longest running title, and one of the few Microsoft products that people actually loved to buy. I myself logged some hours on the program, and learned quite a bit about what pilots go through.

But Microsoft, as of late, has been making very questionable decisions, trading long-term goodwill for a short-term profit boost; that strategy is now backfiring, as Microsoft's "monopoly" product lines, such as Windows and Office, don't look like monopolies anymore, and people actually have choices. I'm now far happier using Mac OS (which costs less) and OpenOffice (which is free), both of which are superior to their Microsoft counterparts. I think shutting down Flight Simulator and other game products may save Microsoft a bit of money right away, but will taint its reputation further down the road.

(Of course, trading long-term goodwill for short-term profits is a plague that's infected many other once-great American corporations, including Sarah's employer, United Airlines.)

Flight Simulator also appears to be one of those "monopoly" products that are no longer monopoly. A number of other flight simulators for the home computer have come out over the years, and all failed - except for one, X-Plane from Laminar Research. X-Plane is so realistic that it can be used as an engineering tool to design a real airplane, and/or a training tool for a pilot to get some of those FAA-approved flight hours. It's too serious/realistic to be a game, but can be had for as little as $40 - and unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator, it can run on Mac and Linux too. I'm currently evaluating a trial version right now, and so far I'm very impressed. (I also now have one less reason to run Windows.)

Microsoft's short-sighted decision may actually turn out to be good for both Sarah and me, after all.

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