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Why did you decide to dump Microsoft?
I was a really good Microsoft customer. And I've said this before -- I believe Bill Gates deserved everything he got. But, they never treated me like a good customer. They never called me and said, "Hey, we've had reports that you've had some issues with [software] compliance." And I don't know if Microsoft is still following up BSA raids with newspaper articles and ads smearing companies like mine. That's not right. They used that raid to single me out for a marketing push. That's why my beef was with Microsoft -- how dare they take my family-owned business and drag us through the mud to sell their software at a discount.
What did you move to once you dumped Microsoft?
First we went with Linux. We also used OpenOffice and a few other open-source programs. Then we moved to OpenSolaris. It's been a long time so it's hard to remember all the other open-source programs we used back then. And there are so many different choices today. It's not like it was 10 or 12 years ago. A lot of people have Mac Minis in the office. We like Apple. And you know what? Everybody likes getting Apple products. I watch Microsoft react to Apple today and it's hilarious. Think about that for a second. Imagine me saying that 10 years ago!
Do you use tablets?
Yeah, we use iPads for certain things. I think the prices have to come down a little before they become a tool people use on the factory floor; right now you can tell how highly compensated someone is by whether or not they have an iPad. And personally, I use iCloud. I love it. I have iPad, I have it on my desktop and I have it on my phone. And, I have two iPhones. We have a lot of Apple stuff. My dad, Ernie Ball, had one of the first Lisas.
Your decision got you quite a bit of publicity back then. What was it like to suddenly become the anti-Microsoft poster boy and open-source champion?
It was hysterical. It was my 15 minutes of fame, I guess. For some reason, World Trade Magazine ran out of people to put on the cover one moth, and they decided to put me on there. And, I started noticing the magazine in airports and stores and everywhere. And then I was on CNet and other places. Some folks at Sun Microsystems saw that I mentioned OpenOffice in one of the articles I was in, and they invited me to speak at Comdex [in 2002]. I spoke at LinuxWorld too. And I had packed houses.
What are your thoughts about software licensing and piracy today?
I don't know what it's like. I don't know if it's easier or harder to be in compliance. It's like asking a guy who's been clean and sober for 10 years what Budweiser tastes like. But that's the greatest thing -- I don't pay anybody anything. I don't have to worry about the licensing. No one is ever going to come into my business and raid me and shut me down and then send out a press release to make me look bad. It's not going to happen.
Would you ever go back to Microsoft?
I'm not going back into that. I don't want to ever get raided again or even think about it. There's only one way I'd do it. If someone at Microsoft said, "You know what? We're sorry." But, Microsoft will say they're sorry to me when pigs fly.