The Microsoft persecution continues. Our legal system has systematically misjudged the nature of these transgressions, and consequently continues to lose credibility in the technology community. At one point Microsoft was purportedly guilty of giving away a web browser (the virtual equivalent of dumping on an open market), and has since graduated to total disobedience by including some software with the operating system.
It’s unfortunate that Microsoft rendered the browser market insolvent, and in fact it has been unfortunate for them as much as it has been for Netscape, Spyglass, Opera, and a litany of competitor software. If they had not been so quick to give away IE, browser applications could have emerged as a lucrative marketplace for everyone.
Is it illegal that Microsoft gave away Internet Explorer? Then one would have to assume it was illegal for NCSA to give away Mosaic or for Apache to provide a free web server. Perhaps a more corporately sensitive answer would be that we would have to assume it’s illegal for IBM to provide a wealth of a downloadable software from IBM Research.
The other facet of Microsoft’s wrongdoing is the inclusion of new software in the release of Windows XP. Obviously, it’s impossible to imagine the new release of any operating systems software without at least some new programmatic capability. In fact, it’s hardly conceivable that consumers would even consider purchasing Windows XP if it failed to deliver any new capability.
There are legal issues with Microsoft, but they are not related to any of the aforementioned politically contrived indiscretions. It’s almost as if Congressional America is mendaciously seeking to appease Bill Gates rather than confront the fundamental problem.
Imagine if every box of cereal came bundled with a quart of ACME Milk. Although the cereals are all very similar, the milk that ships with each brand is exactly the same.
This model fails to accommodate a variety of consumer scenarios. A shopper might already have milk at home, in which case this extra quart will likely go to waste. Maybe they are lactose intolerant, in which case they would prefer a soy milk product. Some people even like to eat cereal without milk, which would definitely make the ACME product somewhat irrelevant. Then there are some customers buying an oatmeal cereal that can be mixed with water in a microwave to produce a satisfactory result, which means the bundled milk product doesn’t work very well for these cereals.
There are quite a few other examples, but the premise is the same. While it’s commendable that ACME Milk will always be included with your cereal purchase, not every consumer requires that milk.
The analogy is the same with Microsoft Windows products. Virtually every PC purchase includes a copy of Microsoft Windows, but not every customer requires that product.
It should be required to buy a computer without an operating system. If you choose to purchase an operating system, the covenant of OEM should not be an option.
This will help in many regards. Consumers are currently unaware of the licensing significance of software products. When a windfall of applications are included in a PC purchase, users conclude that these products are just things that you run on your computer and soon after they begin circulating CDROM’s with their friends. It will also establish a direct relationship with the software vendor and the user, which is significant considering the longevity of computer technology in terms of both hardware and software.
Unfortunately, the American legal system has cried wolf too many times. It is unlikely that the real problems with OEM software solutions is going to be solved and it seems more likely that Microsoft will continue to sell product in bundled configurations. This perpetuates the true Microsoft monopoly, and for that our legal system should be ashamed.