Time: Mon Dec 15 08:12:55 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Questions are growing about Microsoft's power and arrogance
Bcc: sls

>Some of my favorite comments come from this man.
>Questions are growing about Microsoft's power and
>        arrogance - and the quality of its products 
>               by William Rees Moog
>                  London Times 
>     Is Bill Gates really selling us all Ladas?
>  Microsoft has developed the most powerful monopoly in
>  human history, even more powerful than the monopoly
>  John D. Rockefeller built in Standard Oil. This is proving
>  to be the year in which the public attitude to Microsoft has
>  changed. Last January Bill Gates was still generally seen
>  as a benefactor of mankind, who had developed new and
>  efficient software to spread the advance of electronic
>  communications. Now, this December, Mr Gates is
>  widely seen as a systematic monopolist of communication
>  software who is exploiting the information age. Microsoft
>  is viewed as greedy, not over-competent, manipulative
>  and arrogant. It is thought to be charging too much for
>  software which is still far from being user-friendly. His
>  critics attack Bill Gates, as their critics attacked the old
>  monopolists, as a "malefactor of great wealth". 
>  The degree of monopoly is not in doubt. Microsoft
>  provides the software for more than 90 per cent of
>  personal computers and for 80 per cent of
>  word-processing. Some 80 per cent of computers use
>  Windows 95. Next year Microsoft planned to launch
>  Windows 98, which was intended to include an "Internet
>  Explorer" facility. If that does go ahead, the Microsoft
>  monopoly could well be extended to the Internet. A world
>  monopoly in communication software would give
>  awesome power and be extremely profitable. 
>  Microsoft competitors, and the American Government,
>  allege that Microsoft uses its power to lock out
>  competitors. Last week there was a crucial judgment in
>  the American courts which went against Microsoft. The
>  issue arose out of Microsoft's consent agreement with the
>  US Government in 1995 that it would not seek to extend
>  its monopoly by putting Internet browsing software in a
>  single package with Windows 95. This could have
>  resulted in the 80 per cent of users who have Windows
>  95 also automatically having a Microsoft connection for
>  browsing on the Internet. The main loser would have been
>  Netscape Communications, Microsoft's main competitor
>  in this part of the market. 
>  Microsoft did not directly break the consent decree; it
>  thought it had found a way around it. The company made
>  the purchase of Windows 95 conditional on taking
>  Microsoft's Internet browsing software as well. The US
>  Government objected, and last week, in a preliminary
>  hearing, the judge upheld the Government's position. 
>  The United States has a long history of hostility to
>  business monopolies; a series of big monopolies have
>  been reduced or broken up. The Supreme Court in 1911
>  dissolved the original Standard Oil Company into a
>  number of big but separate companies. After the Second
>  World War, American Telephone and Telegraph was
>  similarly broken up into regional companies and IBM,
>  which had a monopoly position in computer hardware,
>  had to sign a consent decree after litigation in the 1980s.
>  The precedents under American law are that Microsoft
>  will not be allowed to expand, or even retain, its present
>  degree of monopoly. 
>  Public opinion has historically been the decisive factor in
>  forcing the break-up of American monopolies. It was
>  President Theodore Roosevelt who called the anti-trust
>  journalists "muckrakers", but they did their job. In his later
>  years, John D. Rockefeller, the greatest individual
>  monopolist before Bill Gates, went for advice to a public
>  relations firm, and took to giving out dimes to children in
>  the street in order to soften his image as a hard-hearted
>  businessman. He also became a philanthropist on a large
>  scale. He may have become personally more popular, but
>  the idea of monopoly did not. 
>  There is already a lively anti-Microsoft campaign, though
>  so far it has largely been expressed in the independent
>  rather than the American establishment press. On the
>  Internet itself there are Websites devoted to criticising
>  Microsoft; there are also samizdat anti-Microsoft sheets,
>  which are photocopied and passed from hand to hand.
>  Now something new is happening. Businessmen, both in
>  the United States and Britain, are reviewing the results of
>  their own investment in information technology, and many
>  of them are not liking what they see. 
>  In the early 1990s many UK businesses developed an
>  innocent faith in investment in information technology. The
>  board decided what the needs were, consultants came in
>  and made recommendations, the board approved them as
>  an item of capital expenditure, the hardware and software
>  were installed. Big improvements in efficiency and savings
>  of staff were expected, as was a large increase in profits
>  as a return on the IT investment. Unfortunately, things did
>  not work out like that for most businesses, at any stage of
>  the process. 
>  Most senior managers now at board level have only a
>  superficial understanding of information technology;
>  boards are bad at deciding what they need; consultants
>  are expensive, hard to monitor, and of variable quality;
>  their recommendations are often inappropriate to the real
>  needs of the business; the technology and software
>  seldom deliver what the consultants have promised, and
>  always cost more than the boards have budgeted for; the
>  IT systems need to be updated continuously; the
>  once-for-all capital expenditure turns out to be an annual
>  commitment, tending to rise year after year; the
>  improvement in efficiency is less than has been forecast,
>  and staff savings are much less - indeed, sometimes staff
>  numbers actually rise; profit gains are much smaller and
>  the IT investment is much bigger than the board hoped
>  for; instead of being a profitable investment, IT turns out
>  to be a running cost. 
>  Boards blame everybody, including particularly the
>  consultants, and sometimes even themselves. But most of
>  all they blame Microsoft, which is a monopoly for much of
>  the software and seems to be getting rich while failing to
>  deliver the goods. The boards want a normal suppliers'
>  choice of simple and reliable software, which does all that
>  is asked of it, allows real savings to be made, does not
>  cost too much, and does not have to be changed too
>  often. No doubt that is what Microsoft or its successors
>  will be providing in a generation's time, but it is certainly
>  not what businesses have been getting in the 1990s.
>  Microsoft, in monopolising a world of profit, has also
>  monopolised a world of blame. It is rather as though an
>  automobile company were the sole world supplier of cars,
>  priced them at the Mercedes level, built in obsolescence
>  so that every owner had to buy a new one every year, and
>  actually sold Ladas. 
>  The next litigation is going to be equally important. It
>  concerns Microsoft's use of the computer language Java,
>  which can provide comparability between Windows 95
>  and other computer software. Java would undermine
>  Microsoft's Windows monopoly and Microsoft has been
>  trying to avoid that. Sun Microsystems, which developed
>  Java, is trying to force Microsoft to operate according to
>  what it believes to be the contract. Of course, Microsoft
>  has the reply, and is even counter-suing. My belief is that
>  the American hatred of monopoly, which dates at least
>  from the 1880s, will prevail. The best advice one can offer
>  Bill Gates is to start handing out money to children; I
>  know he will need to offer them dollar bills rather than
>  dimes. 
>Nick Ashton
>The American Agenda
>Web Site.  http://www.americanagenda.com

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