One of the things that Micro$oft has “brought” the computing biz is the ability for everyone to exchange things like document files. A Microsoft Word document is pretty much interchangeable with everyone in the rest of the world because MS Word is so ubiquitous. Sometimes when I look at Word or the other Microsoft applications I think to myself: “My God! The competition must have really sucked for these guys to have won out!”
Wandering back through the rat’s maze that is my memory, I have to say that this is so. The only real competition to Microsoft “back in the day” was Unix. But sadly, Unix was run by 5 or 6 companies whose only agreement was to disagree. These were companies like IBM or Sun, who have seen their lunches increasingly eaten by Bill and the boys.
The problem with hardware companies is that they inevitably see software as a means to sell hardware. Each company wanted to own the entire computing world, so there was little incentive to cooperate. Thus you had multiple versions of Unix did not live together very happily and only ran on some vendor-specific hardware. Each company would rather have 100% of nothing than 10% of a large market.
The software vendors of the time: Lotus, Ashton-Tate, Wordstar (don’t remember if that was a company in and of itself), produced fine products. They were crushed by Microsoft’s ability to take a temporary loss in one market so that they could dominate another market. For example, MS could sell word processing software at no or minimal profit, while still making money in another such as operating systems. Once their competition in the other market had been obliterated, they could then charge sky-high prices for essentially the same thing. Witness Microsoft Word – has it really changed all that much since 1997?
These software companies could have banded together to defeat Microsoft, but, like the hardware vendors, they were so intent upon their own little slice of the world, that they could not be bothered to ensure that someone else survived today so that they could all survive tomorrow.
And so here we find ourselves. The only time it seems that Microsoft does anything is when there is some competition – like from FireFox, but such endeavors are doomed to failure. Free software is fine, but ultimately, someone has to pay the bills, and there is no method that I know of that can accomplish that using an open source approach.
So yes, Microsoft really does suck, but yes, the competition was worse.technorati: Microsoft, competition, monopoly, business