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Is this list informational or ideological?
Charles Kelly wrote:
> My perception when I joined the list was that the discussion would
> be technically correct, factually correct, and even (perhaps...)
> devoid of religion and personal vendettas.
Surely a reasonable man would expect a serious self-selection bias in
the membership of a list such as this. Your opinion is perhaps a
counterweight to that, but somewhat shy on the factual side. More on
> Businesses should be free to make decisions about their
> products and consumers should be free to make decisions about
> their purchases. In this simple equation the consumer holds the
> upper, and deciding, hand.
If so, then hardware vendors should *also* be free to select from among
the multifarious software packages which their customers might find
useful and thereby deliver assembled systems specialized to consumer
needs. This is precisely what it seems MS is trying to prevent via
predatory licensing schemes and why it's a government issue. Again,
more on that below.
> Microsoft has faced stiff competition in every niche of the
> computer industry. The list is long -- OS/2 was/is technically
> superior to Windows/Windows NT, WordPerfect was vastly superior
> to Word, Lotus 1-2-3 was vastly superior to Excel, dBase was
> huge before Access was even conceived, and on and on...
Your list is very revealing.
MS has faced stiff *technological* competition, but never *distribution
channel* competition. By controlling the OS, MS has been able to
influence the OEM channel by coercive means to favor MS products and
thereby gain a foothold against competition which you concede has often
been technologically superior.
Neither Lotus nor WordPerfect can do that and consumer choice has
suffered as a result, particularly when coupled with obstructive file
format changes which prevent seamless interoperability and force
unwanted upgrades. Imagine how much competition there would be in the
PBX business if the local phone companies kept changing the interfaces
so that only certain equipment would work seamlessly.
But MS has done even more than that to fetter consumers and OEMs alike.
Their original consent agreement was a direct result of the
per-processor tax they had been levying on computer retailers and they
have even required OEMs to preload upgrades which needlessly broke the
installers of competing operating systems.
This is not serving consumers well, and that, and not any particular
loathing for Microsoft, is why I do not use their products when I can
avoid it--every single one of them is a Faustian bargain in the sense
that customers are held hostage to such capricious marketing practices.
But even leaving aside such practices, if MS were required to sell the
OS at one price to all OEM customers regardless of other bundled
applications, then Compaq, Dell, Gateway and whomever else would be free
to bundle those other technologically superior products you mentioned
without the threat of massive increases in their OS license costs in
what has always been a very price-sensitive market. This is yet another
example of a coercive means which MS uses to cause consumers to "choose"
to buy bundled MS applications whenever they buy a computer.
> In every instance I mentioned above, Microsoft took a huge
> initial monetary hit as the public voted not to purchase their
But that "hit" doesn't seem to show up on the balance sheets. Rather,
it would seem that the "DOS tax" sustained the application development
business until such time as MS could build or acquire competitive
In fact, when one charts the OEM price of the OS, it is an escalating
curve from $5 for DOS in the early 1980s to over $100 for NT today,
which is just as one would expect in a monopoly market. Of course NT
does more than DOS did, but then a Pentium does more than a 286 and has
fallen in price in real terms over the same time period, as has the
price of application software. Other factors seem to be at work here.
> If they made a mistake in applying some facets of that hard business
> practice then I believe that they will pay whatever penalty is
> assessed. That is not grounds for me, personally, to raise up in
> open revolt against them or any other business....I do
> not like the idea of a government agency forcing me to use what
> some committee has decided is "best for me."
But no one is suggesting that we burn Microsoft down, and no one has
suggested that the government determine your OS choice. Those are red
herrings on your part. We have a government to take care of those
marketing "mistakes" (as you put it) and hopefully they will do so
As for a personal stake, some of us are doing what we can to protect our
future choice by buying other products (or *not* buying them as is the
case with us Linux users) and most technically-inclined folks that I
know *prefer* non-Microsoft products, but then I work for people who
are, quite literally, rocket scientists.
Still, it would be nice if it were possible for customers who are unable
to build their own systems from scratch to buy an assembled system in a
retail chain without MS applications if they want one, which is the real
issue at hand.
> Given Mr. Nader's past track record which I think most would
> agree HAS BEEN very effective in speaking on behalf of
> consumers, I really don't understand this current platform upon
> which he is perching....
Again, it's a *channel* issue.
The issue is protecting the distributiuon channel from coercion so that
everyone *including* MS can compete openly for OEM bundled-application
business just as auto parts manufacturers compete to include their stuff
in the cars that we buy.
By contrast, Microsoft's position seems to be the equivalent of saying
"If you buy our spark plugs, you have to take our mufflers too" which is
against the law in the auto industry just as it should be in the
software business. Much of the vitriol against Microsoft is motivated
by frustration with this approach.
In all seriousness, MS purports to be a customer-driven company, but if
one were to poll MS customers and ask them whether they wanted MS to
continue to bully hardware manufacturers, I doubt seriously that many
would say yes. I can recall when AT&T was held in similarly low esteem
by its customers too. What does that tell you?
But more to the point, the vitriol which you accurately cited is itself
revealing in that it mostly comes from Microsoft's own customers (ie.
90% of computer users.) It seems to me that a company which can
engender such acrimony from its customers and can do so *profitably* is
probably a monopoly, since, in an uncoerced market, that outrage would
find a commercial outlet.
Something to think about anyway.