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.comment: Your Voice - page 3

A Remarkable Response

  • December 26, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

I've received notes from people who say they do not feel qualified to engage in a lengthy and legalistic dissection of the proposed settlement -- that they are simply harmed by Microsoft's business practices. But such accounts by themselves can add tremendous weight to the sense that there is something wrong with the government's having caved in. From Microsoft's own back yard, Seattle, a commentator does consider the specifics of the settlement, but she provides a compelling illustration of how she is personally damaged by the Microsoft monopoly:

"Microsoft has been determined guilty of violating anti-trust laws and the penalty phase just seems to miss the mark. I am hearing comments on the street that the U.S.Government is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. I will admit that I find the 'penalties' somewhat perplexing in that they certainly seem to miss the mark rather completely.

"I personally think that is probably a little radical, but then I see demo copies of Microsoft's XP operating system on all the workbenches of my local post offices and I do wonder what is going on here. I do not see any other vendors product demos available there. This seems to indicate implicit approval of Microsoft products and no other by a government entity?

"The following are the flaws that I see in the 'penalties' that essentially seem to leave Microsoft better off than they were before the trial.

"I do not see that Microsoft is penalized in any way in that there is no separation of integrated software that harms and stifles competition to the Microsoft operating system. Further I see no provisions for computer manufacturers to be able to offer other and more viable operating systems in a fair and price competitive atmosphere - essentially nothing has changed.

"I do not see that the proprietary protocols for the operating system, networking and other elements are to be made public in order that others may have equal opportunity to develop applications in a spirit of healthy competition and to encourage innovation. Microsoft appears to be allowed to maintain the closed, proprietary and monopolistic systems that started this process. Again it appears that nothing has changed and it will be business as usual for Microsoft.

"In Washington State, Microsoft continues with its obnoxious and heavy handed practices only now in a new area. Their handling of their Internet Service Provider (ISP) business seems to be following the same basic marketing strategy that they used with their operating systems. This has even been noted in the Seattle Times newspaper in a city where normally Microsoft can do no wrong: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134378212_qwest14m0.html

"Again, it appears to be business as usual for Microsoft.

"Thus I am perplexed at the current 'penalties' being 'imposed' on Microsoft. They seem to be more of an encouragement for Microsoft to continue in the same ways it has been and those are the very same ones that brought this issue to the DOJ in the first place. If these are implemented as currently stated then fair business practices, innovation and competition are DEAD in the computer field.

"I do use Microsoft products; a very few are reasonably decent but I am forced to use others because the only option I have for them is other Microsoft products. Because of this my time is considerably less efficiently used in repairing and working to keep the systems going rather than accomplishing work that I need to do. If one does not expect much from the computers running Microsoft products then they are not the absolute worst products on the planet. If you expect much from them and / or use them heavily then you are going to rather constantly going to have them fail to the loss of time, effort and money. On days when I am working hard it is common to have to reboot my machine to recover my working ability at least several times. As time goes on from the initial (or subsequent complete re-install of the operating system) the situation grows steadily worse. The overall cost of running Microsoft products is incredibly high and far higher than it ever should be were Microsoft concerned with more than creating a market for the next version of its products. Bluntly, quality is not job one.

"In order that Microsoft be brought into line and with any hope of curbing their horrid business practices, it will take REAL penalties and serious oversight. With the obscene amounts of money that Microsoft has managed to accumulate through its less than fair business practices (to be kind) there is some doubt as to whether that can actually be accomplished. It has become quite obvious to anyone working in the field that there is no honor or integrity in Microsoft, only the search for more money in complete disregard for the good of the industry, the users and at this point in time it becomes rather blatantly obvious that national security is at risk due to the poor quality and serious lack of attention to security that is epidemic in their products. That alternatives are few is a direct result of the issues that DOJ is supposed to be addressing in this matter.

"I've been told that I am wasting my time here in that Microsoft can pay people to submit positive comments for this business enhancing solution that has been proposed as a 'punishment'. They have done the same things in the past; that is pretty much common knowledge. I can only hope that DOJ will prove wise, not be bought out by Microsoft and free the industry for the good of the consumer and the country."

A computer professional who has a long list of certifications -- including some from Microsoft -- makes the point that competition is the only assurance of high quality:

"Microsoft products, by virtue of being a monopoly, have been designed without concern for security or reliability. I can prove that the design of Microsoft products leads to the spread of countless virii in the computer industry. They (Microsoft products) are the perfect products to use to send damaging virus from many groups like the terrorists from Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt.... And do not imagine that these places have not already done damage.

And it is not only because Microsoft products are in such wide use, but the real problem is that the products have been very poorly designed. It seems Microsoft has enough money to do the job right, so the remaining reasons why the products are so poorly written is that there is currently no need to be 'best of breed' when you are the only option.

"It will not be long till they (the terrorists) discover that they can inflict hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. All this because Microsoft has a virtual monopoly, and instead of actually writing well designed programs, they spend all the energy they have to simply maintain that monopoly.

"Often I give speeches to information technology groups that state, 'Without Microsoft in the industry, we would be at least 10 years ahead of where we are today'. But because of the constrictive designs and monopolizing practices of Microsoft, no possible competitive products have been able to get a start.

"As just one example: IBM wrote a fine operating system called OS/2 in 1992. Only today, some 9 years late,r is Windows XP beginning to catch up to the technical capability of OS/2. In fact it still has a long way to go to catch up to OS/2 in security and reliability. What happened? IBM could not get any hardware vendors to carry the software because Microsoft had tied up all manufacturers of computers to include with each and every computer, a copy of Windows. This in spite of the fact that many wanted to use OS/2 instead of Windows. What happened to anyone who decided to use OS/2 was they also paid and received a copy of Windows that they did not desire.

"The only way to get the marketplace back in order is to separate the computer hardware from the operating system. When you go to a store to buy a computer, you should be able to buy any computer available without having to also purchase an operating system. That choice should be made at the time of purchase rather than included in the cost of the computer. . . .

"It is much akin to buying a car, and with that car purchase also comes a coupon for gasoline from the Microsoft gasoline company. We agree that the car uses gasoline, and we all buy gasoline, but what if we prefer to buy gasoline from Shell rather than prepay for gasoline from the Microsoft gasoline company? Should we not have the option of not prepaying for fuel from the Microsoft gas company? . . ."

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