[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: Re: Supply and Demand
>>I accept most of what you say, but allow me to pose the devil's advocate
>>question: Were there not several browsers on the market when Navigator
>>arrived on the scene, and didn't Netscape essentially drive them out?
>Ah, but the difference is that Netscape drove them out on a level playing
>field. Microsoft has a monopoly in the OS market, so they are not on level
Shortly after Netscape came out there was lots of kvetching about how
Netscape was commercializing the web, promulgating pseudo-standard
features that undermined other browsers and forced the hand of the
standards groups in directions that were not necessarily in the public
interest. When Netscape climbed up to the 80% market share that
marked them as a bona fide monopoly, the prices started rising, the
big money deals roled in, and soon we were reading about how Jim
Clark had joined you-know-who among the ranks of American billionaires.
Then some wiseacre columnist opined that Microsoft's ignorance and
indifference to the Internet was their doom and that Netscape would
soon supplant Microsoft as the dominant force in the software industry.
Then, with hardly a moment to savor the warm feeling of meeting the
new boss (remembering how The Who sang "same as the old boss"),
Microsoft bounced back and showed us their true mettle (not to mention
their true colors).
Now, we are calmly reassured, Netscape are the good guys. Sure,
they had a monopoly, but they got theirs legally, on a level playing
field. They didn't get their market by illegally leveraging some other
monopoly. Yeah, they invented their own standards, but they made
them public and non-proprietary, and besides they were features
that the market demanded (particularly to spew out advertising).
Yeah, they made deals, but none of them involved illegal tie-ins and
bundling. Yeah. One thing I was struck by in the various market share
surveys that I've seen is that, while Microsoft has been eating into
Netscape's market share, the two of them combined have knocked
about 50% of the "others" category off the chart. It's a bipolar world,
and now we have to defend it because it could get even worse.
Just speaking as a user, I don't like any of this. I started using something
called Cello way back when, but it choked on piddling files, so I switched
to Mosaic, which was a little better. I got Netscape so I could see whatever
it was that I was missing out there, but it had bugs that prevented me from
using it to develop my own web pages, so I switched to IE, where the
bugs were (at the time) less troublesome. I downloaded IE 4.0 to try to
catch up with the times, and now it turns out that what Netscape couldn't
do right, IE 4.0 cannot do at all, so I download Netscape 4.4. Now I got
two gargantuan browsers chewing up all my disk space; bitching with
each other over which is the default for .html files; spying on each other
and stealing information (usually wrong stuff about inactive accounts)
that they hide in unfathomable places (actually, IE does more of this
than Netscape). I'd like to send them both to bed without supper. True,
I haven't paid a dime for all this aggravation, but nothing here is free
software: it's just dirt cheap and crass.
There must be people in Redmond who are struck by the irony of getting
called on the carpet for challenging someone else's monopoly market.
That's hardly ever heard of in the software industry, and truth-be-told I
doubt that anyone other than Microsoft could have carried it off. Part of
the problem is, they just don't have any experience in competing in ways
that aren't aimed at destroying their competition (e.g., building a better
piece of software). And part of the problem is that they have ulterior
motives: in fact they have to have ulterior motives, since there is no
way they can justify their pricing and bundling strategies. (Of course,
I'm only guessing that there's no documented evidence that their OEM
customers have been saying, "Hey, Bill, if you can't bundle IE into the
next release of Windows, I'll have to drop you and only sell OS/2 and
Microsoft may indeed have gotten their OS monopoly legally. They out-
hustled Digital Research to get in good with IBM, and they worked with
Compaq and others to transform the fruits of that into the PC clone
industry. They may even have had the better product. It's harder to say
that the early iterations of Windows were better than Desq and the others,
but they stuck with it, and the combination made them unassailable. But
honesty gained or not, we've watched them flaunt their lead and kill off
competitors (as well as innocent bystanders) left and right. They'd take
out Netscape if they could, whereas Netscape can at most take a little
wind out of their sails. So, since the sides are drawn, you know which
way you have to go. I just wish I could pick my "good guys" by standards
a little loftier than "not as bad as Microsoft."
Tom Hull / email@example.com / http://www.contex.com/ftwalk