Microsoft Is A Monopoly
By: Christopher Hicks
Microsoft may be a Monopoly, but being a commercial software vendor is far worse. Do you hate Microsoft? Do you love Linux? Do you hate AOL? Do you love Apple? Do you hate Apple? And why should any computer company make this much emotional difference to anyone?
Because this technology matters. It can make your day to day life vastly better. It can make tedious tasks interesting. It can make hard task easy. It can turn sinking companies into rising ones. It can eliminate distance in personal communications. It can free the blind and deaf from their isolation.
But people don't talk about how technology has enriched their lives. They ask "Why does my computer crash every day?" They ask "Why can't I get on AOL?" They are frustrated in a very personal and real way.
There is a lot of software and hardware out there that is just poorly built. The prevalent attitude is that it works "for most of the people most of the time." It doesn't work for the consultant who is stuck away from home and family for six months because of a stupid bug in Windows. (That's me by the way.) It doesn't work for the your entrepreneur who can't get his nightly faxes out to his clients because his fax software hangs. It doesn't work for the mother who can't type letter without her computer crashing.
This technology is becoming part of everyone's life. In the industrialized world, it is thoroughly entrenched in most people's life. These real people and businesses matter. It is worth building computers and software not just good enough, but well.
I hope that all that can help you see why U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's Findings of Fact from Friday matters to me. Someone that is not a geek has finally looked beyond their own stock portfolio. There is some hope that the world will begin to see beyond Bill's spin. Within a few years I won't have clients say "I went with the Microsoft solution so I don't have to worry about getting fired." Microsoft will cease to be seen as a nice purveyor of software and will be recognized as the biggest, clearest example of what we can't let happen to technology.
That's not news to me. It's not news to the legions of Linux and Mac geeks out there. But it is news to many, many normal people. More people will now see how it is. Hopefully those real people out there will sell some of their Microsoft stock. Hopefully real people like yourself will consider Microsoft's history of shoddy software when purchasing computers and applications.
It would be nice if this were only Microsoft's fault. It isn't. Sadly their standard pervades the technology industry. I've seen software companies ax half of their Quality Assurance departments based on the absurd logic of "we're making software that's too good".
What!?!? Too good? I know I'd be willing to pay an extra $5 for a game that was compatible with more stuff. I'd be willing to pay an extra $10 for software that I didn't have to install for my kids and mother.
Of course people are even happier to be able to save money while getting software that actually works. And that is happening. Linux and open source technology are spreading. Not a moment too soon. I've managed to persevere through the dark Microsoft-dominated years of this business. But many haven't. They've gone insane, become alcoholics, or turned into writers.
Linux is the beacon of what is to come. It won't be a utopia. And it isn't a silver bullet. All of us have to work and make our own contribution to writing code or documentation - or at least learning about it. But we can now see how technology done well can make a strongly positive difference in the lives of real people. It is a lot less buggy so it causes a lot fewer sleepless nights. It is a lot more efficient so you don't have to buy a new machine as often. It is secure so it allows you to be effective in your personal vigilence to privacy. In all, it represents the hope of the good that technology can be.
Given the increasing popularity and respect for Linux I don't know whether Friday's Findings of Fact and the likelihood of a ruling strongly against Microsoft will do anything more than bring about the inevitable faster. But for those of us who have been victims of shoddy software for years, moving beyond Microsoft can't happen fast enough.