It's always fun to watch reactions to acquisitions. We like to get into those spirited debates about Microsoft employees using competitive products, in public. Give me a break. If I need to use a competing product because it's better, most likely I will.
So what products do I use?
Camtasia Studio v 4.01 comes to mind immediately. If you look at the screen capturing market, it was the best tool for my needs the last time I evaluated tools. The Windows Media Encoding tools work, but when I did my testing they consumed too many CPU cycles. That's super important when you are trying to capture something like Windows Vista and the Media Center Shell playing a high definition recording of a TV episode. CPU cycles count.
Ghost. Anyone heard of Ghost? Of course you have. It's the industry leading imaging tool and has been for years. After Symantec bought the PQI DeployCenter line, they pretty much owned the market. We have world class competing technologies now in ImageX, WinPE, etc. In fact, the latest version of Symantec Backup Exec uses WinPE v2.0. I'm currently using Backup Exec because it does a great job of backing up and restoring my machines. Better than Windows Vista Complete PC. Complete PC is great, but it doesn't do as good a job of restoring hard drive signatures so it seems to trip out-of-tolerance activation more frequently.
In the area of portable media players, the use of the iPod by Microsoft employees has been under public scrutiny since the Zune shipped. Before the Zune there were products made by a wide range of partners. I have the Microsoft Zune, Apple 80gb iPod Video and the Creative Zen Vision W. The Vision W gets the most use because I like to watch video and with the 4.3" screen, the Vision gives me better vision.
Regarding high definition TV recording, look at the product I'm using called HDHomeRun. I have three or four blog posts on it. Is it competitive? You bet. I can buy a Windows Vista machine from an OEM that records high definition premium channels. I probably will. But right now, HDHomeRun gave me more time to let those machines come down in price.
When we talk about the server space, if the Exchange team had refused to produce a 32bit version of Exchange Server 2007, there would be no doubt I'd be using VMWare Virtual Server to run x64 virtual machines. I need to be able to test our x64 platform and demonstrate it. In fact, we are getting ready to refresh the machines my team uses for that very reason. The x64 wave has started and the wave is coming fast and furious. Fortunately, the Windows development team has a hypervisor in development called Windows Server virtualization (WSv). We'll start using it when we get closer to the public beta stages.
Let's see, what else? I've been testing and using Adobe Dreamweaver 8. Microsoft Expression is a great tool, but I just wanted to live in the Dreamweaver world for a while to see why so many people are using it. It's a great product although my wife is not happy with the way it handles image thumbnails. I'm guessing we'll be back on Expression before long.
Let's see, what else? I use Adobe Premiere Elements v3.02. I started with version 2 based on a recommendation from a fellow employee (Rory). I upgraded to v3 for the Windows Vista compatibility. I know, Movie Maker in Windows Vista rocks, but again, I wanted to use something outside the Microsoft world for a while. My next little project is to learn how to do green or blue screen capturing of myself to insert me into your screencast views. Don't worry, I have no plans to become the weatherman.
Let's see, what else? I've been using Roxio for CD and DVD burning for years. I stopped buying upgrades because v7.5 is still good enough for my needs. It still burns stuff. I don't need the DVD and video tools anymore although the sound editor is very nice.
And of course there's Linux. I started running Linux before many of you were born. Ok, that's a gross exaggeration but 1993 is a long time ago. I still tinker with the products on the market simply because I'd be foolish to jettison those skills and ignore our competition. I regularly look at the new versions of the leading distros and SUSE is still my favorite. It's clean and professional. I thought that long before we signed any agreements with Novell.
So I use competing products for two reasons. To discover what the non-Microsoft view looks like, and to use a superior tool when needed. The latter is getting pretty rare thankfully because it saves me money when I can buy a Microsoft product at a deep employee discount. The Xbox360 is an exception. I bought mine at Costco and I usually buy games before they are available at the company store.
So I wondered how hard core Google is. Do their employees use Windows, OS X or Linux? If Microsoft had acquired Feedburner, would Google employees move their feeds? I imagine a percentage of them would over time. Does the Google internal IT department ban Microsoft products? I doubt it.
Competition is good.