Microsoft Corporation is a large corporation, a major name in software. Based on my experience as an informational technology consultant, having worked closely with many Microsoft products, I came to consider Microsoft to be a monopoly or near-monopoly that engages in anti-competetive practices in order to shut out competitors who often have superior products.
I recognize that Microsoft has contributed valuable time and money into research and development of new products, and in some cases, Microsoft's products are far superior to their competitors (i.e. with Microsoft Access, one product I absolutely love), but in many cases, other companies have developed equal or superior products and have ended up with a disproportionately small chunk of profits due to Microsoft's way of doing business. In spite of what courts have decided, I believe that Microsoft's behaviour is often unethical and sometimes illegal.
How does Microsoft abuse its monopoly position?
- Microsoft integrates software into its operating system. For example, Internet Explorer was designed to function both as web browser and file manager. Thus, Microsoft's web browser cannot be removed from the computer, giving it a competitive advantage against competing browsers such as Firefox. Because many of the components of Microsoft's software are built into the operating system, this enables them to seem to load faster, because the loading time is included in the boot time of the operating system. For example, clicking on the icon of a competing web browser may result in a longer delay before the window opens, because Microsoft's browser relies on components built into the operating system and loaded no matter what.
- Microsoft secures contracts from major computer manufacturers that guarantee exclusivity, so that when shoppers want to buy a computer from a mainstream brand of computer, they only have the option of buying a computer that ships with a Microsoft Operating System (I.e. Microsoft Windows). In the rare cases where shoppers are able to purchase a computer without an O.S. pre-installed, or with a free O.S. like Linux, the savings are negligible or even non-existent; the contracts Microsoft negotiates ensures that this is the case, effectively making anyone pay for the cost of the O.S. whether or not they actually want it. Some smaller manufacturers may choose not to make deals with Microsoft, but because they enjoy less economy of scale and have higher prices for similar products, shoppers thus receive no financial benefit to buying computers that do not ship with Microsoft operating systems.
- Although it is not always clear whether or not Microsoft deliberately sabotages competing software products, Microsoft gives selective preference to fixing bugs in its operating system which cause problems with its own software, and is slower to respond to bugs which cause competing software to malfunction. The result is that competitors' products seem buggier than Microsoft's, but the bugs lie with Microsoft's operating system, and the companies marketing the software are powerless to fix them.
What can one do about this?
- Buy software from one of Microsoft's competitors. Sun Microsystems and Corel market office suites that compete with Microsoft's office software. Apple Computer markets computers which run OS X, an operating system that is highly superior to Microsoft Windows.
- Refrain from buying computers with Microsoft Windows or other Microsoft Software preinstalled. When you buy a computer with Windows, part of the price of the computer is going to microsoft. Buy a computer with no OS or with an alternative OS.
- The most effective way to combat Microsoft is to learn to use and participate in the community of Open-Source software. Linux is a free open-source operating system. Even if you still run Microsoft Windows, you can use LibreOffice, my preferred fork of the older OpenOffice project. Both are a highly-developed office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office. A comprehensive list of open source software that runs on Windows can be found at the OSSwin Project.
- Write letters to appropriate persons concerning Microsoft's practices. Good target recipients would include legislators, and people who control software purchasing decisions within businesses and other organizations.
- Visit the Microsoft Boycott Website.
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