Hating to Love Microsoft

By Phil Trent

Date: March 4, 2002

I probably hate Microsoft more than most.  I’ve even written articles about their sordid practices; foundations built on outright piracy of CP/M, underhandedness, monopoly abuse, and bribing…er…I mean donating.  It is so much different to pay jury members off to rule in your favor than to “donate” to various political entities to see things your way.

Speaking of donations, Enron is not so much on trial for having broken financial laws as it is for going bankrupt and cutting off their protection money to both political parties. I would imagine one or more are going to jail over this to discourage others from the same activities. Individuals have committed crimes, but have shielded with the corporate logo.  Is the collapse of Enron going to change this practice?

Ok, so I don’t like many of Microsoft’s business practices.  Why then do I use an Intellimouse, MS Natural Keyboard Pro, Win98, Hotmail, MSN Messenger, and Internet Explorer?

Am I a hypocrite? Shouldn’t I stay away from Microsoft products on principle? The answer to both is yes - but I just can’t get away from them.

The best analogy is that I proclaim to hate Radio Shack for various reasons, but I’m there every other day.  How is it that I can hate Radio Shack yet continue to go back to them?  Radio Shack has what I need; in my town there really isn’t any choice.  If something like Radio Shack came along and did it better, they would get my business.  In the mean time, despite all that I despise about Radio Shack, they still meet my needs the best. My personal feelings toward them take a backseat because they have items that I can’t find anywhere else.

Everyone I know uses MS’s OSs.  No one I know uses Mac or Linux as a their main OS. It is not like a favorite brand of phone or stereo because you can hook up any brand of phone to your wall it will work, or any brand of stereo to any brand of speakers.  They are interchangeable, leaving my preferences to dominate because interchangeability rules the day. This is not the case with operating systems.  Each one is not compatible with the other, forcing me to make a choice of which will be the primary operating system.

Just as lifestyle is more a function of culture than fiscal resources, so too is the choice of the OS is virtually predetermined.  Just as if you happened to grow up in a Buddhist family you are likely to be and stay Buddhist, so too the choice of OS is more a function of culture than preference.

Ok, the Microsoft OS family is a “have to” in most parts of the world, but what about these other products that I use? Regarding the mouse and keyboard, I just have to hand it to them.  I have used a lot of other brands of keyboards and mice, but Microsoft seems to have the best.  Thanks to MS’s Internet strategy, browsers have become an almost quasi-OS.  Internet Explorer is fast becoming a building block of the Internet.  While there is still a choice, it is painful to use other products.  Hotmail and MSN are really, really good – and I hate them that much more for it.

It concerns me that Microsoft has been so successful outside of their OS monopoly.  Usually, companies that do really well in their area of expertise fall flat on their face when they wander outside of their sandbox. With very few exceptions, Microsoft’s business expansions have been successful.  I must admit, I thought the software giant’s X-Box was going to be a flop because it represented such a stretch from their core business.  Most companies are only good at their core competence, but Microsoft’s core competence – for the time being – seems to be competence itself.

I still hate Microsoft; I’d drop them as quicker than Osama Bin Laden would at a NRA convention.  For now though, Microsoft is my Radio Shack. Whether I want to stay away from them or not, it is my best alternative – for now.


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