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RE: The Problem with Microsoft

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From:	Mark E. Deardorff [SMTP:MarkD(--nospam--at)DandDEng.com]
Sent:	Friday, October 23, 1998 7:35 PM
To:	seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject:	RE: The Problem with Microsoft

> > This is one of the reasons that I am not a big fan of Microsoft
>  > and Microsoft's products.

> Why? Microsoft's products don't take actions you dislike, Bill Gates does.
> You are, in essence, eschewing widely used products for a free (Linux) OS
> that is not supported by any traditional drafting or design tools. I love MS
> products.

Perhaps I should be more precise.

Although I use MS products constantly, I am not a fan of the fact that MS products often disappoint.  For example, the current version of MS Office is incredibly slow to load.   Excel often "barfs" on a file that I'm using, and I have to recover it.

Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer seem to crash with GUSTO on my NT system.  This indicates a fault with the OS.

I get regular crashes of the Desktop, which resets, but I lose some of the "goodies" in the tray, which is an irritating development.

Anyway, just a lot of quirks, the attitude at MS concerning which is, "well, we'll fix it in the next release, which you will pay to upgrade."

> >Mr. Gates doesn't seek to be
> > competitive in the finest American tradition; he seeks to avoid
> > innovation by buying out his competition.

>  This is simply untrue propaganda distributed by people who wish they were as
>  lucky as Gates or who have suffered. He doesn't seek to avoid innovation.

I'm sorry, but I continue to insist this is true.

The BIGGEST example was with 16-bit Windows.  Gates would have you believe that this was a "stopgap" until a "true 32-bit system" could be developed.  But they already HAD one:  OS/2, which was released a few months before Windows 3.1.  Gates didn't like the ties to IBM, so he abandoned it, then disparaged it (after saying in 1987 that it would be THE system of the future).

The innovation however would have robbed MS of the "cash cow" that was DOS, so they went the 16-bit Windows-on-top-of-DOS route, and saddled users of superior machines with inferior software for five years more.  Further, they (very cunningly) began to insist the computer manufacturers who wanted to install DOS on the machines, also install Windows.  They thus leveraged Windows onto machines even though there was little or no demand for it--Windows 386 and 3.0 had been PR nightmares, and the savvy users didn't WANT the product, claiming they were waiting for OS/2.

Even Windows 95 was hardly 32-bit, but was a dress-up of 16-bit Windows for Workgroups 3.11, with a new interface.

When a new innovation (i.e. OpenDoc, Java) comes to the fore, MS quickly announces that it will be releasing its OWN version of the technology soon, so as to keep the new, non-MS technology from gaining hold (in this case, it was OLE 2.0 and MS' own, propietary version of Java).  However, they take their time getting the vaporware to market, and the technology languishes.

I should point out that this is the very tactic IBM used in the 60s and 70s, to the same effect.  Only the intervention of the Justice Department in 1978 (I believe) stopped the practice.

> MS has been extremely innovative and has sought to purchase other innovative companies.

Wrong.  What they've done is to come out with a competing product to try and stifle competition even in those markets where it had not theretofore been active and then, failing to achieve market dominance, seeks to purchase the more-successful competitor.  More examples:  Financial software, where Quicken has always dominated even over MS Money, and the palm-top devices, in which MS' WinCE machines are outshone by 3COM's Palm Computing Division products or licensees such as the PalmPilot, PalmIII and IBM's WorkPad.

In each case, MS chose to disparage each product, then attempted to buy them.  In each case, they were stymied, either by the competitor or through DoJ interference.

>  It makes sense. MS didn't develop the original version Visual
> Basic in-house. They bought it from Alan Cooper and made it into an even
> greater product. Don't forget that all those companies he so "unethically"
> purchased were willing to sell. And some never did.

[Bill Polhemus]  

Again, I don't fault any company for reading the tea leaves, and then adding to their product line by purchasing promising technology.  But MS simply goes for market dominance even when the product is proven (see the Quicken and PalmPilot examples above).

> My stomach turns every time I see Scott McNeely, CEO of Sun, crying to
> congress and the press about how that big bully MS has cost them so much.
> (So did the railroads when Henry Ford brought the first Model T off the
> production line.) Sun was once a great company developing UNIX workstations.
> But the workstation industry started losing market share when Windows NT
> began to be adopted in large corporations.

[Bill Polhemus]  

I don't agree that the government has any business interfering in what is transpiring.  But you don't necessarily have to agree with government interference to realize that MS' strategies are bad for users.

And I think the problems with Sun are a "hardware" related.  The PC platform has simply caught up with the workstations in performance, and the price of the mass-market machine is unbeatable.

Therefore, people look around see that "Windows NT" is supposedly the answer on the PC platform and go with it.  Of course, Windows NT has disappointed as well--we are simply a small company using it as the NOS, and have had problems galore.

If a reliable version of UNIX were available, it would challenge NT.  No, wait, there IS one: Linux.  And what is the industry buzz?  That Linux makes MS VERY nervous, because it is open in nature, and not liable to be easily hijacked.  Sun has SunOS, but no marketing savvy in the mass-market world outside the workstation crowd.  Linux can be whatever you want it to be.

Unlike SunOS.  EMPHATICALLY unlike Windows NT.

> Not because MS forced them to
> adopt it, but because it offered many advantages over UNIX.

I note that you fail to give examples of such advantages.

There are really only two:  It runs on the PC platform, and it is from MS, the marketing juggernaut of our day.

> > That's why DoJ is after him.

> In the next paragraph you say DoJ is after him for another reason.

Again, I was imprecise.  Let me say that the reason the DoJ SAYS it is after MS is one thing; the reality, I fully believe, is quite another.

> > But that is not to say that they are not "anti-competitive."
> > They emphatically are.

> Tell us why they emphatically are "anti-competitive." It sounds to me that
> they are "hyper-competitive."

They are anti-competitive because it seems to gall them like no other business entity that I've ever seen, that anyone else is successful in even a niche market related to information technology without MS' "by your leave."

Why this should be so is a mystery, but I believe it is bound up in the personality of Bill Gates himself.

>  It is MS's competitors that are
> anti-competitive. They are the ones that are asking the Feds to do what they
> themselves cannot, sell their inferior products. Inferior, that is, in the
> minds of consumers.

I don't disagree with this, but the real difference is this:  Without the intervention of the Feds, Gates' competitors probably stand little chance of getting over on him.

Unchecked, Gates and company will continue to dominate and stifle innovation.  I've shown, above, examples of just how they do this.

Now, I think that rather than a "government check" on their activities, we users who are in the know need to step back and think for a minute, not in the herd-mode, but as individuals, what the implications of NO information technology outside of MS' technology means for us all.

That's why I think we should take a hard look at Linux and other products that are as good as, or superior to, what MS has to offer (or claims they WILL offer in some indeterminate time in the future).  I don't think we need to compromise, but if we as users encourage the competition, MS will eventually have to compete as well.

Now, I do think that the DoJ's refusal to allow MS to buy up "baby" would-be competitors is a good thing (example: Intuit).  And they were also right to enjoin MS from forcing PC vendors to per-unit licensing. But I think beyond that they should be allowed to do their thing unhindered.

> > I think that wise business heads need to
> > recognize that fostering MS in this, is counter to their own
> > interests in keeping competition alive in the very vital
> > information infrastructure area of American (and global) business.

> Why is it in my interest to hold MS back? 

It isn't in your interest to allow them to dictate what you are or are not going to have in the way of information technology.  How you arrived at the conclusion that this "holds MS back" escapes me.  I'm talking about resistance to MS' holding YOU back.

> Many people seem to believe that
> something is wrong with companies achieving the level of market share that
> MS has.

I'm not one of them.  Rather, I believe that we as consumers have an obligation to ourselves to make such companies EARN their market share.

Since IT is still relatively new, we continue to have lowered expectations.  If we'd open our eyes and ears, and see that "where we want to go today" is often NOT where MS can (yet) take us, we might begin to demand more of them, and back it up by taking our business elsewhere.

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