Mac Scope

The Microsoft Monopoly and the Harm It Causes

Stephen Van Esch - 2003.09.03

Simple fact: Microsoft is a monopoly. Simple fact: Monopolies produce inferior products that fail to push the market forward.

Microsoft's recent problems reflect the rot that happens when a single company becomes too powerful. While there have been some minor efforts to curb Microsoft's excesses, they have had little effect on Microsoft's performance.

For example, while dear old Bill likes to use the word "innovation" as much as possible when he speaks of Microsoft, it's clear that the company has become complacent in its monopoly position. If an alternative operating system was considered powerful enough to threaten their dominant position, would Microsoft continue to sell an operating system made of Swiss cheese?

The fact is that there is no compelling reason for Microsoft to improve the performance and security of its OS. Strong competition would force Microsoft to create a better product. A strong public backlash against their product would also compel Microsoft to create a better product.

It seems that people have been conditioned to accept the fact that computers are not supposed to work. Years of dealing with crash prone, poorly designed, and insecure software products have convinced the public that the darn things just don't work and never will.

I was recently chatting with someone about computers. She told me that she has had constant problems with her machine for five years. This is an amazingly long time to put up with a defective product -- and I wouldn't be surprised if she isn't alone.

When I asked her if she would put up with a car that gave her that many problems, she was adamant that she wouldn't.

Back to the point. Microsoft's monopoly is harming consumers in a myriad of ways. From daily computer problems that chip away productive hours at home and in the workplace to major network problems due to the latest Windows worm or virus, Microsoft and its monopoly are a drag on productivity.

So what does this mean for you, the average computer user? It means that the Microsoft monopoly (through its lousy products) is draining precious minutes, hours, and days from your finite supply of time.

We Mac users can hardly look on with smug satisfaction. Because Microsoft is pretty much everywhere, a virus on Windows can means that things will slow down for us as well. Clients may not be able to contact us. Uploads and downloads may be slower than usual. Time may be wasted reading about the latest virus.

It's about time Microsoft stopped stealing time and productivity from ordinary, hard working folks. If it feels if has every right to be a monopoly, then it has an obligation to take care of its customers and everyone its products affect.

I think it's highly unlikely that Microsoft will make any serious attempt to improve its products until they are under serious pressure to do so. Mind you, the pressure is slowly building as Linux and, hopefully, the Mac gain new users.

Mind you, I wouldn't mind if that pace was a tad quicker. LEM

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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