Microsoft is quite unpopular with the online public, for some reason. It is supposed to be the ‘Evil Empire’, and Bill Gates routinely juggles with babies over open pits of fire.
Many a time, people charge that it is a monopoly, and that it uses its clout in the IT-world to bend the market to its will. Sure, Microsoft has deep pockets which enable it to gain a market share in many markets — the console market comes to mind: with every Xbox sold, Microsoft loses a bit of money. Sure, Microsoft bundled their browser with their operating system, thereby cutting into Netscape’s profits.
But think of it this way: if all Microsoft software was such utter crap, why is everyone still using it?
Why are there Xboxes being sold? Because the games on that platform appeal to a certain audience. Sure, the price is right — but if the games do not appeal to you, you wouldn’t buy the console, right? In this market, Microsoft exhibits an above-minimum level of competency and succeeds to get a share of that market.
Why did people stop downloading the Netscape browser when Internet Explorer came bundled with Windows? If it had been such a piece of crap, wouldn’t people have kept using Netscape? But here again, Microsoft produced a product that was ‘good enough’ for most people.
Why do people use Winamp, if they could also use the Windows Media Player? Because Winamp has several unique features that make it an attractive alternative to the bundled media player. Winamp manages to create a market for itself by being innovative.
In contrast, there is the RealPlayer that no-one downloads anymore because everything can be done with the WMP. Why is that? Well, frankly, the RealPlayer doesn’t do anything that the WMP can’t — and it comes bundled with lots of ads to boot!
Often, people harp on the supposed insecurity of Microsoft products. Sure, some parts of the system contain security holes that are large enough to drive a truck through (or several metric tons of spyware), but let’s be frank: that is the case with any sufficiently large and complex piece of software. The absolute number of security flaws is not so interesting — what counts is the way the vendor deals with those flaws that are found.
With WinXPSP2, I think they’ve toughened up their systems pretty well: built-in firewall, automatic updates… What’s not to like?
With everything that gets added to Windows (be it browsers, media players or security software), vendors who operated on the after-sales market by selling such tools to Windows users will find their markets shrinking. If Microsoft manages to create a product that is good enough, why bother buying a bundle from Norton? Basically, it is evolution in progress in the business space: if your competitors come out with a product that is better or more convenient, you’re hosed — better come up with something new!
And yet Real, Adobe and Symantec are complaining to the EU about the Windows Media Player, the PDF rendering features and the security console in Windows Vista. Face it guys: you’ve lost the race. If your products are not innovative or discernable enough, you’re not going to sell many of those anymore once a product comes along that is good enough and more convenient.
Is this Microsoft abusing their monopoly? Really? Somehow I’m not convinced.
When I worked at Semergy, we were building a kick-ass knowledge management application. It would blow all others out of the water — and yet we didn’t make a single sale. Why? Because Verity’s search engine was ‘good enough’ for most outfits — so why should they spend the money on a custom-built solution when something out of the box from the market leader would also suffice?
I can’t recall ever filing a motion with the EU to protect us from the market manipulations of monopolistic vendor Verity.