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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK

Talking Point

Does Microsoft abuse its power? Your reaction

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Yes, MS abuses its monopoly (or what ever you call it when 90% of all PCs uses an MS OS). Actually, I don't blame them and would do the same in their position. I don't say that is good, I say I would have done the same.
Right now if you want to sell a programme, it has to be Win95/Win98 compatible or NT compatible, otherwise people won't buy it. Why is the OS important? If a document is readable on several platforms (like Linux, MacOS etc) the user is not anymore dependent on the OS. I know that MS have/had Office for Mac, yes, but what if we could see a multi-platform document standard that is simple, size effective and free to develop (Like the Linux idea) that programmes could use independently of OS. Then maybe MS wouldn't be dominating anymore. They may still be big, but not dominating.
Niclas Lundborg, Sweden

Microsoft continues to incorporate more functions into its operating system, thereby negating the need for users to look elsewhere to find software that they might otherwise have gone out and bought. It should just make the OS, and allow users to buy software packages from other companies, OR itself, to fill their needs. That way, the user has a choice.
Morgan, South Africa

The problem with Microsoft was they were not contributing to the US government. Now I hear they are. Why is it when we have a successful company the government has to intervene? We are supposed to be a free country, but if someone does too well then it upsets the little guy who cannot make it under his own steam. So sue somebody or better yet get the government involved to dismantle and or destroy the guy who has the smarts to do so well. If I were Gates I would utilise NAFTA and move my base of operations. How much money does his company pay in US taxes? A lot I bet. Move to Mexico or somewhere else and make more money. I am really tired of our hard won freedoms being eroded by the government. Where does it end? At lease, so far, we still have free speech. Thank you veterans. Go Microsoft.
JL Boyd, USA

Microsoft is not abusing its power, but simply acting in the way any competitive company would. I think the 'anti-Microsoft' reaction is due to the simple fact that any new industry, such as the Information Technology industry, needs competition and choice to survive. Microsoft, by dominating almost the entire market, thereby giving us no choice in what operating systems or packages we wish to use, are creating a legion of IT professionals who are quite astounded (and terrified) that their once enjoyable job with a bright future, now entails perhaps spending the rest of their lives trawling through millions of lines of ineptly programmed Microsoft code.
Philip Mcmahon, Northern Ireland

Microsoft is acting the way any competitive company would given the freedom it has.
Even if Microsoft is broken up, the only way to stop another Microsoft filling the vacuum is to create a standard API or application programmer interface for operating systems. This would allow any programme to work on any OP. The situation we have today is roughly analogous to the situation engineering was in before standards were introduced (sizes:- nuts, bolts, methods). This reduced customer choice and allowed monopolies to flourish.
Jan Antonis, N Ireland

Microsoft isn't abusing its power; it's just making life easier for the end user. Do you really not find it useful to have the Internet fully integrated into your OS, or having your e-mail, word processor and everything else meshed together?
It's also not true that other people cannot create products with the industry how it is - it's just that the products they create must be able to run side-by-side with MS, which is a good thing.
Tony, England

Microsoft obviously has a monopoly with its platforms, especially in business and industry. I would not object to these becoming "standards", if it were not for some of the badly written MS software that exists. Also MS runs the risk of stunting innovation by effectively driving competitors out of business with their own implementation of an idea. That is the crunch. Imitators rarely share the same vision as the innovators.
Paul Ripley, UK

If MS had any confidence that its engineers were somehow magically better than everyone else's it wouldn't be so desperate to avoid competition. It should decide whether it wants to be an impartial, non-profit, standards-setting body or a competitor in a free market. It's difficult to create a free market when a corporation like MS controls the operating system and MS should be bending over backwards to try to create a free market, not doing what it has been doing, ie threatening partners and competitors alike and doing everything it can to make its software INCOMPATIBLE with other software and even with its own. MS is innocent until proven guilty, but all indications are that it has no scruples or concern for its customers (that's all of us) whatsoever.
Cassady, US

The best possible thing I think Bill could do is to give Windows away (as per Netscape Navigator) and continue to make money on the ancilliary products. He'd still make a fortune as Microsoft is familiar with ALL the code. He'd avoid a huge amount of issues and might even been seen as a good guy in the end for doing it!?
Michael Morris, UK

Microsoft's situation is an example of the Tragedy of the Common. If everyone does what makes the most sense for that individual, then the end result is not what would be best for the public as a whole. Any individual, acting rationally, will buy the software that will allow him to do the same things at home as he does at work or at anyone else's computer. Because Windows is so ubiquitous, it is clearly the best choice for any individual to make. If everyone makes that decision, there will be only one operating system.
But if there were several viable operating systems in competition, those systems would be forced to improve and would be forced to operate with each other and the situation would be better for everyone. But the action of the market, like natural selection, possesses no foresight and will drive toward a local maximum.
That's why the situation is so frustrating for people. We can see that there is a better way for systems to be, but the change has a cost and will only work if enough people make it.
Since individuals DO have foresight, they should be able to see that by making the decision not to support Microsoft they may make things better for the computing public in the long term. Individuals should also see that they must organise and make alternative decisions in enough numbers to matter.
That is what Microsoft does not want to happen. That's why they try to convince the public that Windows is the pinnacle of technical achievement when in fact it is humdrum technology at best. The only real advantage Windows has over any other operating system is that everyone uses it. And that is our fault. If enough of us used alternate operating systems, Microsoft would be forced to compete and really innovate and we could get out of this local maximum.
Brad Bartley, US

Anyone who says that people are crying foul only because they are not as successful as MS, well...just do not get it. Nobody can compete against a company that uses its market dominance in one area, to take over another. And this, for those who do not have the sense to understand, limits choice, price, and innovation. And "real" innovation, not the MS-version of buying/destroying.
Dan W, USA

My greatest concern is the damage that Microsoft has done to open standards. By supplying poor implementations and proprietary extensions, Microsoft has made interoperability difficult at best. Unfortunately, the size of the installed base protects Microsoft from having to fix its own products and instead forces others to adapt to Microsoft's errors.
Chris, USA

Yes, Microsoft definitely tries to abuse the enormous influence it has in the market. But, I have got total respect for Mr Gates. His aim is making money for his company. Any company which is set up tries to make money. Nothing runs for charity. If, in the process of making money, he is instrumental in some other companies not being able to come up, then it is the problem with the CEO/CIO/CFO/COO's of those companies that are at fault. Given a chance to rule the world, any company/individual would definitely want to do the same.
Personally, I am against the concept of a complete monopoly, but looking at the American industry scene, I have got complete respect for Mr Gates in his pursuit to see to it that Microsoft is the number 1 company in the world.
Congratulations, Microsoft and all the best for the competing companies to overthrow that power. This battle of the control of the software markets is going to be one of the best.
Srimal, USA

Microsoft is a very successful company. Its phenomenal success has led to it also becoming a very powerful company.
Microsoft chooses what markets that it wishes to compete in, decides on what features the market requires, establishes the future direction of the market, and produces the finished product. The finished product is what we buy. It is usually not very innovative, sometimes late, and sometimes not to the best quality - but it is there - and it is what we deserve. It does this only because it can. We have given Microsoft this power, through our purchase of its products. The reason that it dominates the markets that it chooses to compete in is that it listens to the consumer, and produces what the consumer wants, it adapts to the changing needs of the market and does all this very well.
Microsoft simply has the resources and ability to out-compete anything in the market. But before we bemoan Microsoft's power and its perceived abuse of that power, let us not forget who gave them this power.
James Watson, UK

I don't believe it does abuse its power. People trash companies that are successful. It is due to envy/jealousy and if they put half the amount of energy that they spend complaining into starting a business themselves, then there would be a stream of very successful competitors around.
Neil Davies, UK

Microsoft is a menace to innovation and new technology that must be stopped. I am fed up with its monopolistic tying and manipulation of the consumer to bend to its way because of the consumer's dependence on their OS.
Ted Halmrast, USA

If anything, the third world is hit hardest by Microsoft. Instead of using an open system like Linux, where the OS and most main application are free, they are forced into an upgrade cycle to stay even with the rest of the world.
As long as Microsoft owns the standards and defines the technology, they will implement in a way most favourable to themselves.
This is a natural course for any corporation, which is why open source systems are the only truly safe way to go. If everyone has the source code, no one can impose a monopoly.
Matthew Dockrey, USA

MS probably would not have so much power if corporate IT people had more knowledge and less power. There are operating systems that are clearly superior but which find low corporate use because of fabled (not actual) compatibility, cost, or software availability issues - the primary alternative platform is the Macintosh. If corporate buyers did not have such a herd mentality Microsoft could never do as well. Then again, neither could IT/MIS people or computer consultants, in terms of salaries and job openings!
Dr David Zatz, USA

The simple fact that Microsoft makes an operating system that is installed on 90% of computers, and also makes applications that run on that OS, is clearly a conflict of interest, and flies in the face of "free enterprise," as so many Americans like to put it. Microsoft uses its dominance to shut out competitors in the software industry, making unknowledgeable users believe that their OS is "integrated" with MS software. The statement that MS has the best to offer, and has risen to the top as a result is extremely short-sighted.
Chad, USA

Microsoft has the money and weight to influence and control just about any sector of the software industry (and, in reality, the hardware industry also) that they want. This is not a good thing as no one person (or company) should have that much say over the success or failure of others.
Scott Chandler, USA

Using their operating systems to push their applications, and their applications to push their operating systems, they're shutting other companies out. For instance, developing Microsoft Office for any PC OS other that Windows 98/NT would hurt their OS market shares. So they won't. That's not what I'd call innovation.
Peter Modin, Sweden

Yes, Microsoft most definitely abuses its power. The reason why Microsoft's sales are so high-aside from their powerful marketing and lobbying force-and Apple's are not, has absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft's products being superior. In fact what is happening is that Mac users are actually able to use their computers for many years without constantly having to upgrade their system, so they're not purchasing tons of products for it. It is a stable system that is much more than I can say for Windows 95. Nothing for Microsoft is backwards compatible at this point either. So you must purchase the latest software in order to perform simple tasks. Just try opening a Word 97 document in Word 95. Won't work! I guess that means we'll have to purchase Office 97 then. So of course their sales are topping everyone else's. There's no choice!
Kristine Gurling, USA

A lot more people own PC's without any real idea of how to use them, and because Microsoft's OS's are so "user-friendly" people will keep coming back to them for that reason. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that their OS is so bloated with friendly "wizards" and helpers that it slows down all but the fastest PC's. There is better and faster software out there, but because of Microsoft's position in the market, a lot of them don't have a chance.
Gareth Thomas, UK

Win98 is another proof of abusing. There was no need whatsoever for Microsoft to turn it into giant browser. This was done at the consumers' expense and serves no other purpose but to drive Netscape browser away from the market.
Seva Gusakov, USA

Bill Gates and company extend their monopolistic power into nearly every aspect of information technology. They do so at the peril of small software developers and hardware resellers.
George Parisot, USA

Bill Gates won't be satisfied until I start listing my country as "MS-USA". Why is this man so driven to control every aspect of every market? How rich does one man, one company, need to be? It amazes me how a country founded on the power of the individual could have created an environment where people actually think it's not only okay, but a good thing, that we have "Uncle Bill" to look out for us, and determine the future direction of our technologies. Thank God for the Mac.
K Gerhard, USA

I don't think this can really be questioned. Microsoft is not merely producing products, but it is trying to grow into other markets, pushing competitors out of the way. Either Windows needs to become an open OS like Linux, or there needs to be multiple OS in the market to give consumers and developers options.
David Schaub, Canada

It's unfortunate that so many of your readers associate proprietary standardisation as an exemplar of progress and civilisation.
Stephen Barnecut, Canada

All they are doing is helping their customers by giving them the best service in the world.
Because other companies can't give the service they then become bitter and blame Microsoft for their lack of service to the customers. Is not the most important thing that the customers get what they want?
Darren Hicks, England

Microsoft has proven that superior marketing and advertising and shrewd business practices can put a technologically inferior and problem-ridden product in a dominating position. Before you say: "That just proves how important marketing is" think about the effect on users (consumers) - they are 'forced' into using an inferior product. The world would be better off if this weren't the case. It's true, there are alternatives, and I myself use an alternative (my Microsoft-free computer runs MacOS). But many users are blinded into using what they think is the only choice - and it costs them (support costs, maintenance costs, etc) in the long run.
Noah Daniels, USA

I fail to understand how an industry has sprung up around an unstable Operating System with a HIGH cost of ownership and low return on investment.
Todd Daniel Woodward, USA

In something as far-reaching as the use of computers, choice is essential in allowing growth and innovation, both on the part of manufacturers and consumers. Microsoft's domination of the market essentially limits choice and imposes a large amount of restrictions on development of computer systems. This is an issue much greater than business ethics as it directly affects the progression of society at large.
G Van Vliet, Canada

The saddest thing is the idea that Microsoft has the best products. Microsoft's biggest abuse (and the distribution/retail industry is complicit) is that they overwhelm the market making it impossible for any small developer to market their innovations.
Patrick Taylor, Canada

It's a strange situation for Microsoft as in a way, they are only making their operating systems easier to use by integrating various features that interrelate without the user needing yet another product - particularly with all the Internet formats knocking around - RealPlayer, Shockwave and MP3 being examples of that.
I think that also, the issue of compatibility is a major problem for the computing world in general. Microsoft have established themselves as the leaders in this field. They should be given monopoly control for the sake of compatibility - but it MUST be very carefully controlled and heavily taxed, with the money being put back into IT infrastructures such as the Internet.
At present, they are systematically wiping out competition - with products, I might add, that quite often aren't fully functional. They should either provide alternatives for each product, or at least point the user in the direction of them.
Martin Pointon, United Kingdom

MS has dominated the industry and is, in effect, using monopolistic practices to try and take over the computing industry. Apple does have the hardware, the software, and also has the "vision". However, they do not have the resources that MS does. Money talks and MS worships at the temple of the almighty dollar (or pound, or whatever). They steal ideas from Netscape, Apple, etc, but they have the PR and marketing skills to make people ignore this fact.
John Campbell, USA

Monopoly is not a good thing. If there is no competition in the market, who will invent new technology? If there is only one company providing products we will have no choice to choose the thing we really want. I still don't understand why the US government still hasn't seriously acted for Microsoft's case. The government should down power this giant and get other companies to work on new technologies and make our lives a lot easier.
Pollux Chung, Canada

In an ideal world, decisions on which products to purchase should be based on the merits of those products. Of course, we live in "The Real World_" in which some decisions are greatly influenced by the control a company has over the marketplace.
Many MS products are purchased not because of their own merits or even because people trust MS, but because people feel it's the only solution. And some of them suffer because of this. I call this a monopoly. If it's something else, then we should, as computer users, try to understand what it is because it certainly is not what people think about when they think about a free market.
It's probably how the real game is played, but it should be open to scrutiny.
Alexandre Enkerli, Canada

Microsoft grossly exploits their monopoly and should be stopped. Any intelligent person knows they do not innovate. Their management has even been quoted as saying that start-up competitors will be bought up or forced out of the market. What more proof do people want? They already confessed! In the end though, it's the consumers' fault. I strongly believe the vast majority of consumers are ignorant, uninformed, short-sighted lemmings. They choose poor quality products for higher prices with inferior support. I introduce you to Microsoft. If you want fast hardware with a stable and productive operating system, look at Apple!
Adam Pratt, US

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