Support Open Standards

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Date: Monday, June 17th, 2002, 01:00
Category: Archive

The message seems clear about Microsoft and it’s behavior. Microsoft has broken the law and there will be no consequences. The courts are not the best means for dealing with a free market that is being manipulated. There are certainly other options for correcting Microsoft’s anti-competitive behavior, but I do not think competitors like Sun, Netscape or Apple Computer have the weight to curb the software giant. It really comes down to the choices made by Microsoft customers. Eventually they must wake up and make a difference.

The most difficult problem facing Microsoft customers and competitors is the company’s steadfast refusal to adhere to open standards. Java, html, MPEG4 have all been co-opted and made Microsoft specific in some way or other. The goal is to make sure that Windows is required to do almost anything on the net and in the office. In the business world people send .doc Word files and just assume everyone has Word. This is not only rude; it reinforces the Microsoft monopoly and adds about US$200 of pure profit to the price of the Office suite. If customers would just send smaller .rtf files, it would be a lot easier for others to opt out of Office and support other options. It is just smart business to support choice and competition.

Apple is doing its part with its latest “Switch” advertising campaign. A trickle of defectors from Windows will send a clear message that choice works. Windows users will benefit from the competition. I think Microsoft’s Macintosh business unit is actually more attentive to customers than the darker side of the company, which still puts its interest ahead of customers.

The key to destroying the Microsoft monopoly is to take away the ability to make a profit, not to try and erode the overwhelming market share. This certainly worked for Microsoft when they went after Netscape. Giving away Explorer destroyed any future Netscape might have had by starving them of revenue. Linux poses this kind of threat to Windows, but on too small a scale. So does Star Office. Windows customers should be clamoring for QuickTime with its support of open standards and no “tax” on those who serve QuickTime content, and of course it’s superior performance.

Microsoft will never support the open source movement, but it’s not too late to support open standards. Why should Microsoft do such a thing? I think it is in their best interest to stop relying on their monopoly status to manipulate the market. Why? Because it is the only way they can get their products to stand on their own merits and not eventually loose ground to other software companies who are not saddled with the overriding self-interest of promoting Windows at all costs. It has galled me to no end to hear Bill Gates talk about how the government remedies will stifle innovation when it is clear to me that Microsoft has been in the business of stifling innovation for years.

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