Microsoft operates differently from other enterprise vendors, said Mary Welch, an analyst at Gartner in Stamford, Conn.

For example, while other software vendors change contract terms occasionally, Microsoft does so an average of two to four times per year, Welch said.

Another example: There used to be no limit on the number of users who could connect to a single copy of Windows NT Workstation, prompting many midsize IT shops to use the product as an Internet server operating system. But Microsoft now limits the number of users to 10, forcing many companies to upgrade to the pricier NT Server. That's a price difference of at least $200 per server, Welch said.

"Microsoft comes in with a very low [package] price to gain market share. Then as share increases, they figure out ways to increase revenue without changing list prices," she added.


Bill Gates It isn't against the law to be a monopoly. It is against the law to compete unfairly.

The federal government, a large number of states, and quite a few companies went to court claiming that Microsoft acted illegally and that this is bad for the computer industry and the consumer. Just the number of them alone indicated that something was wrong somewhere. They won their case and it was decided that Microsoft should be split up and made to obey the law. Then George W. Bush decided that wasn't necessary and it never happened. Now Microsoft is being taken to court in Europe.

Microsoft is spending a lot of money on publicity to convince us they are just trying to do a good job and they are being persecuted unreasonably. The media simply tells us what's happening and who's saying what with no attempt to relate it to reality regardless of how ridiculous it is. Since Microsoft is spending a lot more than the other side to get their message to the public, their side is what we hear most. Most folks get their opinions by looking to see what they hear most. I hear people around me repeating what they heard, admittedly not knowing, just repeating.

I witnessed and remember a lot of what this is about and would like to be one of the people whose opinion you heard and maybe even repeat.

Some History

When the PC first came out in 1982, IBM made technical information about it freely available. Books that came with it had circuit diagrams of the motherboard. Specifications and diagrams of device controllers were included. Listings of the BIOS went out with every PC. There was enough information to build one yourself. Other companies were soon selling "PC clones" and "PC compatibles". Now we can buy PC compatible computers from hundreds of companies. Surely we all agree that competition has been good for the product and for the consumers.

In the 1980s when Intel brought out the 8088, 8086, and 80x86 processors, they made technical information about them freely available. Soon there were other companies making compatible processors. Now there are companies competing seriously against Intel. These competing processors are winning awards, and being used by major manufacturers in their computers. Read any computer industry journal for a while and you'll see how this competition has kept Intel on their toes, releasing better processors and lowering prices sooner than they might have otherwise. It has certainly been good for the consumer.

In 1982 IBM released the PC with two operating systems available. One was PC-DOS or MS-DOS (by Microsoft) and the other was CP/M-86 (by Digital Research). Neither operating system was included with a new PC. The consumer had a choice of which to buy. Internal details of these operating systems were concealed and copyrighted. Still, there were soon others competing for our attention. But, as other companies produced compatible computers, we began to see MS-DOS included with the computer. Microsoft made quantity discounts available to PC manufacturers only if they bought a copy for every computer they made. The effect of this was to discourage making multiple operating systems available. Now there is no significant competition in PC operating systems. Some say this is a good thing. I disagree.

Turnkey Systems

There's a phrase you don't here anymore. Just turn the key and off you go! I suppose that's the idea. Microsoft says they have made it possible for ordinary folks to use computers. We can go to the store and buy a machine, ready to go with all the software pre-installed. This is why they should be allowed to produce both operating systems and applications. It is this "seamless" integration of operating system and application by one manufacturer that makes it all possible. Well, let's take a look.

Microsoft didn't invent making things work together. Before Microsoft had enough products to assemble a turnkey system, computer manufacturers and resellers were putting excellent products together. Twenty-five years ago Gateway, Dell, Compaq, and others could sell you a machine with an operating system, word processor, personal finance package, communication program, and utilities already installed. If you look carefully, you'll see it's still that way. It's the computer company, not the software company that puts it all together in one package for us. The computer we buy has software from many companies, not just one.


We are told that any limits put on Microsoft will stifle innovation. You don't have to look far to see through that one. Think for a moment - limits are what cause innovation. How many of these programs, which Microsoft did not pioneer, did they even produce, and how many did they buy and rework? The company is notorious for its attempts to buy out and squash competition. The result of all this is that there is not serious motivation to innovate and compete anymore. If you have a good idea and develop a good product, the best you can hope for is to get bought by Microsoft.

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