If I could eliminate Windows from the face of the earth, I wouldn’t do it.
You heard me right – me, diehard Mac fan from back in the 80s, Windows-basher from waaay back – I wouldn’t wipe Windows off the face of the earth, even if I could.
That’s because of the nature of competition. Competition makes us stronger, not weaker. One cellphone service introduces free weekend minutes; so the others do, too. If there were only one cellphone company, everyone would be carrying three-pound behemoths and paying more for each call than a pay-per-view movie.
Competition exists in a capitalistic society to drive down costs, increase features, and increase efficiency. Without competition, a monopoly forms, which tends to stifle innovation, increase costs, and generally suppress anything that leads to change.
Microsoft understands this – unfortunately, they understand it only to the degree that the Justice Department makes them understand it. However, as a corporation, they still have a corporate philosophy geared toward exploiting their monopoly on operating systems and everything else they make, including email software and office suites.
Remember when you used to play Monopoly™, the board game, and you’d beat your younger sister or brother to the point where you owned everything except one or two properties, and you’d make loans to your sibling so you could keep playing, stringing them along on the false hope that they actually had a prayer of coming back to win? Stretching out the victory, so to speak?
That’s Microsoft’s game. They are a monopoly, and more importantly, they like being a monopoly.
Therein lies the difference between a capitalist and a monopolist: If Microsoft could eliminate the Mac OS (not to mention Linux) from the universe without being challenged, it would. (What about the profitable Mac Business Unit? A write-off.) But the Justice Department is Mom, telling you to let the little kid win every now and then to keep the peace. So you obey Mom, but secretly in your heart you like holding the other kid hostage to your powerful monopoly.
I wonder if Bill Gates played Monopoly as a kid. If I’m ever in the same room with him, I’ll ask.
Case in point is Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Outlook Exchange has been web-accessible for some time. Exchange is the corporate-level server version of Microsoft Outlook. (This is not the same program that has been infiltrating its way into Macintosh systems for some time now. Exchange is made to be hosted from a company server and provides public posting and calendaring functions as well.)
If you implement the latest security update for Exchange from Microsoft, then users of Netscape (any version) can no longer access their email, because the security requirements are only met (naturally) by Internet Explorer. This is monopolistic behavior, pure and simple. And it’s kicking a competitor when you’ve already beaten him, which is just bullying. It may also be a preemptive strike against a Netscape revival by AOL. And, of course, the problem is portrayed by IT as a deficiency in Netscape, not a monopoly-building strategy by Redmond. We’re talking about your gol-darned security here, Hogarth.
Another way Microsoft secretly maintains its monopolistic pressure is through the training it authorizes for Microsoft Certification. I have heard from participants in the training that trainers spend weeks repeatedly pointing out the things the Mac cannot do on a Microsoft Windows network, and participants are clearly made to feel that admitting to Mac ownership will result in ridicule or worse. This is something that is not in the public eye as much as the browser wars, but it is more insidious and damaging to the Mac overall, because it puts people in a position of power over individual users, who are essentially defenseless against such arguments.
The solution is the Holy Grail of Mac Advocacy: market share. We used to get a lot more respect when Mac market share hovered around 10-15% instead of the paltry 2.5% it has now. Apple would once again hover in the top five computer manufacturers at such a market share.
Will the new Mac retail effort by Apple be enough to return Apple to the public eye? I hope so. Will Microsoft suffer any long-term economic impact from the Justice Department’s case against them? Probably not, other than lawyerin’ fees.
It’s better for the world of computing if the Mac is successful. Let’s hope that Mr. Jobs’ endeavors are successful and Mr. Gates starts behaving as if he really believes that Microsoft should not be a monopoly, instead of just pretending for Mom.
The future of the computing eXPerience depends on it.
Keywords: #monopoly #microsoftmonopoly
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