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Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?

Roblimo posted more than 8 years ago | from the the-times-they-are-a-changing dept.

Editorial 436

Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop. But in many other areas, including Web servers and supercomputing, Microsoft is just one player among many, and often a weak player at that. On the gaming side, despite the latest xBox getting all kinds of media buzz as "the" console to buy, Sony's Playstation outsells the xBox at least two to one, and many analysts expect Sony to widen that gap even more when Playstation 3 comes out in the Spring of 2006. On the Internet, MSN and MSN Search are so far behind AOL and Google that it isn't funny. And even on the desktop, Linux keeps getting stronger, while Mac OS X is commonly accepted as more reliable, secure, and user-oriented than Windows. So why do we keep saying Microsoft is a monopoly?Microsoft (Slowly) Moves Away from Monopolistic Behavior

If a major IT user tells a Microsoft salesperson that he or she is thinking about switching to Linux, Microsoft will usually come back with a cut-price offer, something the company never used to do. Microsoft also now sells something called Windows Starter Edition in some parts of the world -- supposedly for as low as $37 or $38 (US) in Thailand, including a basic version of Microsoft Office. In other words, Microsoft is starting to compete on price, which is not monopoly-style behavior.

This does not mean Microsoft has suddenly adopted a "let's all love one another" attitude.I believe Microsoft is getting more concerned about interoperability not out of goodness, but because of market pressure. But in the long run, as long as Microsoft stops treating every other operating system and file format as some sort of devilspawn, life is a little easier for those of us who would rather not use their products, and that's what really matters.

Microsoft Explorer No Longer Rules the Online World

A majority of desktop computer users may still run Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, but it no longer has 95% market share. In a 2002 book, and again last year in an online article, I warned Web designers not to make IE-only sites, just as in the (distant) past I'd warned them not to make Netscape-only sites. Some listened. Some didn't.

Firefox adoption may have slowed in 2005, but it certainly hasn't stopped. Opera has become enough of a force that we hear rumors about first Google, then Microsoft, buying it. In any case, whether MSIE is currently running on 90% of all desktops or on only 70% (as a few surveys indicate), it is becoming less popular every month. Now Microsoft has decided that Explorer is no longer fit for Mac users, so its market share will drop even more. Sure, there's a new version of Explorer coming out, but it isn't going to help the millions of "legacy" Windows users who don't want to buy XP. If they want modern browser functionality, they must switch to Firefox, Opera or another non-Microsoft browser.

'The Network is the Computer'

I don't think this is quite true today, if by "the network" we're talking about applications delivered over the Internet instead of over well-maintained LANs. Back in October I explained why I don't think Internet-delivered applications are quite "there" yet. More recently, Salesforce.com had an outage that angered many of its (claimed) 350,000 subscribers. Worse, ZDNet blogger Phil Wainewright pointed out that Salesforce.com compounded the problem, and possibly made users leery of all Internet-delivered applications' claims of "99.9% reliability," by poor communication with its users.

Most of the Web 2.0 (and even Web 3.0) stuff that's getting so much hype these days is not OS-dependent. You can run things like Google Maps on Linux, Mac OS, Unix, and even Windows, using any standards-compliant browser you choose.

Even Microsoft is trying to get into the Web 2.0 game. I got a press release from their PR people that included this sentence:"And if you enjoy taking a drive to check out your neighborhood’s Christmas lights visit this great Windows Live Local developer application at http://msnsearch101.com/searchmap."

I found this online utility's behavior strange and primitive, not nearly up to the standards of Google Maps and some of the mashups based on it. "Ah," I thought, "that's probably because I'm trying to use it with Linux and Mozilla." So I turned to my one Windows (XP) computer and checked the site with both Firefox and Explorer. For some reason the map background didn't load at all in Firefox, on Windows, and its behavior in Explorer, on Windows, was just as clunky as it was in Mozilla, on Linux.

If this is supposed to be a sample of what Windows Live Local can do, I don't think Microsoft is headed for any kind of monopoly -- or even much market share -- in the online map business. Not only that, it makes me wonder how good their promised Microsoft® Office Live is going to be. If even a quarter of the rumors we've heard about Google and Sun joining up to produce a Webified version of OpenOffice.org are true, I suspect Microsoft is going to be a distant also-ran in the (inevitable) Internet-delivered office software business, too.

Hundreds of Thousands of Competitors

It's fun to play the "Google is cooler than Microsoft" game and talk about how Google, not Microsoft, has become the hot place for top-end programmers to work if they want to make their mark on the world, but even Google can only hire a tiny fraction of the world's software development talent. There are over 100,000 Open Source projects on SourceForge.net (which is owned by the same company that owns Slashdot), and SourceForge.net is but one of many Open Source and Free Software hosting services out there. There are literally millions of programmers working on Free and Open Source Software, plus countless others working on personal proprietary projects.

We've all heard -- probably too many times -- the old saw, "If you have enough monkeys banging randomly on typewriters, they will eventually type the works of William Shakespeare." This may or may not be true. But it is certain that if you put millions of programmers in front of millions of computers and let them do whatever they want, some of them will turn out brilliant, world-changing work. Even if 999 out of 1000 of our putative programmers work on established projects or never finish what they start, that still gives us thousands of potential world-changing software projects, most of which won't be developed by Google (or Microsoft) employees.

I've been to India, and the smartest programmers I met there weren't working for outsourcing mills but worked for themselves. I'm sure there are plenty of self-employed programmers in China, Brazil, Kenya, and almost everywhere else on this planet, too, and there are certainly plenty of them here in the United States. And, all over the world, millions of programmers have day jobs doing routine work for corporate employers to put food on the table, and do their "real work" at home, at night.

Neither you nor I nor Google's management nor Microsoft's management know what might be going on right now in the mind of a brilliant Saudi woman with a computer science degree who can't work outside her home because her country's laws keep her from mixing with men who aren't related to her. There may be a poorly-dressed young man coding furiously in a Beijing Internet cafe, while you read this article, whose new operating system will make all current ones obsolete -- and you may not learn about his work until it shows up in a Chinese-made $100 laptop computer.

When Bill Gates and his friends started Microsoft, it was one of very few companies that sold nothing but personal computer software, and the others were so small that Microsoft managed to buy most of its competitors -- or at least license their best work or hire away their best programmers. Back then, programmers were scarce and expensive, as were the computers they programmed on. Now there are both programmers and computers all over the world, linked together by the Internet. The Internet not only helps programmers collaborate with each other across geographic boundaries, but allows them to distribute their work without shipping physical products.

The only reason to have a software company's employees work in an office these days is control, both of employees' schedules and of what they work on. Self-motivated geniuses have no need of offices and may even resent being asked to show up at one on a regular schedule, which means that many of the world's best programmers will never work for Google, Microsoft or any other company. Instead, they'll start their own software companies or, in many cases, Open Source-based consultancies.

So Microsoft doesn't face a few dozen competitors, as it did in the 1980s, but hundreds of thousands. And these competitors are spread all over the world. This kind of competition is a lot harder to co-opt, buy out or fend off than competition from a single company, a la Netscape, or even from a group of companies as substantial as IBM, Sun, Oracle, and their computing industry peers.

Competition has Forced Microsoft to Improve its Products

Microsoft may no longer be able to hire all the top programmers it wants, but there is already plenty of talent among its 60,000-plus employees, and they have done some excellent work in recent years. Windows XP is immeasurably better and more stable than Windows ME or Windows 98. The next generation of Explorer will have many of the modern browser features that those of us who use Firefox or Opera have gotten accustomed to. Microsoft Office may not have some of the features OpenOffice.org users take for granted, like a built-in graphics utility, the ability to act as a front end for industrial-strength free databases like MySQL, and the ability to save your work in 30+ different Open and proprietary formats, including PDF. But Microsoft Office today is a lot better than it was 10 years ago, and the next version may even use a sort-of free XML file format that may not be as open and standardized as the OASIS Open Document Format used by OpenOffice.org, but is less closed and less proprietary than previous Microsoft file formats.

A true monopoly would not need to make these improvements in its products. It would give you whatever it wanted, at whatever price it wanted to charge. It would not be selling cut-down versions of its products at cut-rate prices in developing countries -- many of which, you may note, are rapidly turning into "software developing" countries.

Without Linux, combined with Apple's move to BSD-based Mac OS X, I doubt that Microsoft would have put much development effort into Windows. They sure didn't do much with Explorer between the time they crushed Netscape and the time when Firefox started making a big splash, did they?

The U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft wasn't about the company being a monopoly (which courts agreed that it was at the time), but about illegal misuse of that monopoly. That case was settled in a way that left Microsoft essentially unharmed, but with a judge overseeing its actions for five years, a time period that is going to end before long.

The Age of the Software Monopoly is Over

IBM tried to create a monopoly in the business desktop computer business, but failed to hold onto its market-leading position as dozens, then hundreds, and later thousands of competitors made better/faster/cheaper PCs. Even today, while Dell is the world's largest personal computer vendor, if you add up all the market share reports from major computer vendors in this C|Net article, you'll see that they account for around 60% -- not 100% -- of total sales, with smaller companies getting the rest. (And some of those companies are *really* small, like the one-man Bradenton, Florida, shop where my sailing buddy Gene just bought his latest home computer.)

The personal computer hardware business has become totally demonopolized, decentralized, democratized, and internationalized. If you have enough mechanical ability to assemble components neatly (and enough sales ability to get people to buy what you make), you can get into it yourself with a very small investment, just as Michael Dell started out reselling computer components and assembling systems in his college dorm room.

Starting a software business takes even less investment. If you're a competent programmer -- or you have a friend who is a competent programmer and you are a whiz-bang marketing person -- you have everything you need to get going. You can either produce and sell proprietary software or customize (and probably install and maintain) Free or Open Source Software for corporate clients. If the Internet is your primary sales and distribution channel, you don't need to live and work in expensive IT business hotbeds like Silicon Valley or Boston, either: JBoss, for example, is based in Atlanta, Georgia; and Digium, the company behind Asterisk, is in Huntsville, Alabama.

There are software businesses springing up all over the place. Most of them are tiny, and few of them will ever get big enough that analyst firms like Gartner or IDC will track their market share (or even notice them). But there are so many of them being started that, in aggregate, they are becoming a more significant market force than any single big software company, even Microsoft.

This doesn't mean Microsoft will be replaced next year by 100,000 startups. The company will still be around, it will still get lots of press, and -- assuming it embraces (but does not keep trying to extend and extinguish) Open Standards -- it will still be a powerful force in the software world.

But no matter what Microsoft does, it will never have a software monopoly again. Nor will any other company. The barriers to entry in the software business have become too low for that to happen, and too many skilled software developers are learning that they can earn at least as much working for themselves as they would by working for big software companies.

Small is Beautiful was a fine book title in 1973. Today, it's a fine description of the software industry's future.

-----

Have something important to say to the Slashdot community? Email roblimo at slashdot period org the complete article (or an article proposal).

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436 comments

who the fuck wrote this feces? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340101)

This is the most obivious troll bullfuckingshit ever posted on this site.

since when you do fucking linux nerds care about market share and money? you have neither
lololol

A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (5, Insightful)

gee_unix (941232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340102)

Microsoft was declared a monopoly [cnn.com] by a court in 1999, but I'm not sure if they ever fit the dictionary definition of monopoly [reference.com] as the submitter seems to now be holding them to:

Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service

Did Microsoft ever have exclusive control of the desktop? Sure, they had a vast majority, but exclusive control? To my knowledge, nothing ever stopped anyone from buying a Mac or running IBM's OS/2 or Linux or any other number of alternatives. I think we can all agree that Microsoft engaged in cut-throat tactics and was legally declared a monopolist but I don't think they exactly fit the dictionary definition.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (5, Insightful)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340152)

Name a tier 1 Computer assembler/maker that doesn't pay a microsoft tax.

Last I heard, you still can't get a Dell desktop without windows and NOT pay the microsoft tax that is built into the price.

In addition to that, what software company (Like Great Plains, People Soft, SAS) is going to distribute programming resources writing for other OS's that didn't have the 'exclusive' manufacturer tax.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (5, Funny)

kb (43460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340307)

Name a tier 1 Computer assembler/maker that doesn't pay a microsoft tax.

Apple? ;)

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340312)

Last I heard, you still can't get a Dell desktop without windows and NOT pay the microsoft tax that is built into the price.

Sure you can.

In addition to that, what software company (Like Great Plains, People Soft, SAS)

Well...MS now owns [microsoft.com] Great Plains.
SAS? Install Center: SAS for Linux®. [sas.com]
PeopleSoft? Owned [oracle.com] by Oracle, who does support Linux.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (2, Insightful)

tshak (173364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340358)

Name a tier 1 Computer assembler/maker that doesn't pay a microsoft tax.

Apple. It's silly to argue that Apple isn't one just because they aren't x86. A computer is a computer regardless of the parts, and plenty of people buy Apple computers. Of course as most of us know even the x86 argument - invalid as it is - goes out the window once Apple starts selling x86 computers.

The operating system is not a tax. If Dell ships all of their machines with Maxtor hard drives, you are not paying a "Maxtor tax", you're paying for the part inside. Windows is a critical part of a computer. If you don't want that part, go build your own computer.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (5, Insightful)

danielk1982 (868580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340162)

And even if Microsoft was a monopoly in 1999. Is it still in 2006? It is so easy to move away from Windows right now. About the only reason for staying is gaming which matters to some but has no impact on others (me for example). In the last few years, Linux has made strides in usability. Pretty much every major distribution is easy to install and comes with 90% of the functionality most people need out of a computer (Internet, Email, Word Processing).

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340190)

I don't know anybody who accused Microsoft of monopolistic practices of having XBoxes in mind. Microsoft's monopoly is the desktop, and while Internet Explorer has eroded to some degree, and while Macs and Linux (with distros like Ubuntu) is fast becoming alternatives, Microsoft is still the 800 lb gorilla. So yes, Microsoft is still a monopoly, though one that, due more to Google and OpenOffice more than anything else, seems somewhat more vulnerable.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (1)

danielk1982 (868580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340301)

This might go against a standard definition of monopoly, but when there are so many alternatives to Windows, to the browser, and to the Office Suite its actually hard to think of Microsoft as having a monopoly. I moved to Linux about 2 years ago and that same day I was as productive under it as I was under Windows. I bought my laptop with no Windows pre-installed and built my desktop, again with no Windows. I can't see this monopoly. My girlfriend loves Excel (and Word) and makes crazy spreadsheets for her work, she thought OpenOffice was ugly. So I have a feeling that a lot of people are staying with MS because its either good enough, or they consider the alternatives better. I know from professional experience that a lot of businesses don't care about spending money on software as long as it does what its supposed to. Hell, I've seen dev houses blow $25k on tools (non-MS) that they ended up not using at all. MS stuff is relatively inexpensive.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (1)

psu_whammy (940612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340405)

Suppose that the only software available in my hobbyist pursuits is on Windows. Now what?

Sure, most people want those basics, but how about the 10% of the functionality that isn't the basics? That can very easily be a dealbreaker.

I haven't said ANYTHING about business-related software, either. What open-source/free alternatives are there to, say, AutoCAD?

Applications barrier to entry (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340197)

To my knowledge, nothing ever stopped anyone from buying a Mac or running IBM's OS/2 or Linux or any other number of alternatives.

Other than that there are hardly any apps for it? The findings of fact in United States v. Microsoft based its case largely on an "applications barrier to entry".

The dictionary def is real-world meaningless (4, Insightful)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340210)

A real-world monopolist does not have or need 100% of the market. He needs enough market share to be able to distort the free market in a way that adversely affects competitors. The reason, of course, is that society is not homogeneous and so a high market share plus other technological factors creates local monopolies in one market or section of a market. Even I know this, and I'm not an economist. But then, dictionary editors seem to be even less aware or knowledgeable.

Microsoft is a de facto monopolist in certain markets, including the consumer desktop and many corporates. The monopoly has been handed them on a plate and they have, of course, taken it. In 1988 when I bought my first Mac, there was a bewildering array of word processors. Now there is only one, and Open Office has to copy or die. The browser share of IE is effectively 100% among non-technical users - a de facto monopoly. The market share of Windows among non-technical/specialist consumers is as near 100% as makes no odds.

At the root of this is the simple fact that computers are too difficult for Joe Public and are likely always to be so. Enough people kind of understand how Windows and its apps works that Joe Public can kind of keep things working most of the time. There is simply not the expertise out there to support multiple platforms all with significant market shares. And so long as Microsoft can keep technically competent people busy with release updates, virus checking, feature bloat resulting in user support calls for things they do not really need to do at all...it will continue.

So the answer to your post is that yes, lots of things - lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown, lack of support, existential doubt - stopped many people from buying alternatives and those things are not going away any time soon.

Re:The dictionary def is real-world meaningless (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340253)

Dictionary editors do not record the precise definition of a piece of legal jargon in the dictionary. They record common usage. The fact that the piece of legal jargon and common usage are closely related to eachother isn't relevant.

Re:The dictionary def is real-world meaningless (4, Interesting)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340382)

Well stated. That's pretty much the point of most replies and what renders this entire article pointless. The person has laid out a very reasonable argument not to call Microsoft a monopoly while completely ignoring the carefully defined legal definition -- which is what most educated people generally are referring to when speaking of Microsoft as a monoply. The Wall Street Journal isn't using the street definition of monopoly when they discuss Microsoft, they are using the definition that the courts used when deciding that the term can be applied to Microsoft with all the ramifications inherent in that act.

As for street usage of the term, I have no doubt that there are 15 year old kids ranting about Micro$oft being an Evil Monopoly in the same way they glamorize Che Guevara on a tee shirt. There are idiots and children discussing all sorts of things they don't really understand. At least the children have a chance to grow up and understand the actual definition of the term 'monopoly' as it was applied to Microsoft -- a specific legal definition that limits their actions in a managed capitalist economy.

--
Evan

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (1)

shish (588640) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340234)

You emphasise "exclusive", but leave out "control"... I think the point isn't that they were the only IT company, but the only one who could control things -- if linux or mac go and do anything stupid, people leave them; if windows does something stupid the businesses have to stick with it as it's the only thing that works alongside their other systems.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340243)

A monopoly is not defined legally as being exclusive. It's a vast preponderance of the market share. More than 80% or 90% or something like that. In this respect, Microsoft is still a monopoly in several different markets.

Being a monopoly is not wrong. Abusing your monopoly position to shut competitors out of a market (even one in which you don't have a monopoly) is. Microsoft was convicted on several counts of this, and then for some strange reason was let off with a light slap on the wrist, despite having previously agreed to a consent decree regarding some of those behaviors.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (4, Interesting)

SeventyBang (858415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340296)



I think think to a certain extent, they still are, but fill feel the warm breath.

Microsoft owned the deskstop and has [undeniably] and it's now the 3rd most (and most profitable) element in their portfolio.

Microsoft's long-term strategy, however, is going to be their downfall.

Microsoft has grown from the desktops and are attempting to achieve the next level (www|Internet). Their long-term plan(s) seem to be rather nebulous. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Balmer et al make references to Google in oe way and one way only: as a search engine That's all they want the rest of the world
If you look at something like Google, they didn't grow up, they started online and are growing|spreading about it. It's like an oil slick. They're spreading wider and widers, and helping to organize information. Not just my information, your information, or the information of someone else. They just want to accumulate information and let you figure out how it's best for you to make the best use of it. In the meantime, Microsoft is feeling someone's breath on their necks but are afraid to turn & look because that's when your forward sensors aren't available and you hit a tree.

There's one thing Microsoft is afraid of: not being #1 - no longer the trail setter, but the trend follower.

And one of my favoriate quotes:

"Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can't lose." William Henry Gates 3rd

p.s.

A better question about money is what Ballmer does with his life. We know what Gates & Allen have done, and their actions are news worthy, but what about the guy who looks ready to pop a vein when the cameras are on him?

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340316)

Microsoft was declared a monopoly by a court in 1999, but I'm not sure if they ever fit the dictionary definition of monopoly as the submitter seems to now be holding them to:
You cite a court case, but then you argue against the ruling using a dictionary of common usage.

Does anyone else see the irony in this?

Thing is, there is a difference between the common usage of the term 'monopoly' and the legal definition of the term monopoloy. The following is the definition [law.com]from the law.com [law.com] legal dictionary.

a business or inter-related group of businesses which controls so much of the production or sale of a product or kind of product as to control the market, including prices and distribution. Business practices, combinations and/or acquisitions which tend to create a monopoly may violate various federal statutes which regulate or prohibit business trusts and monopolies or prohibit restraint of trade. (emphasis mine)
It's not important whether what Microsoft is or was fits a dictionary of common usage, but whether or not what Microsoft is or was fits the legal definition of what constitutes a monopoloy. General Motors was convicted of being a monopoly with just 60% of the market in 1949.

Re:A monopoly by the dictionary definition? (2, Insightful)

edunbar93 (141167) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340375)

In the operating system arena, if you have a near monopoly, you may as well have a monopoly. Most people don't have any choice about which operating system they buy because the software they *need* only works on one. And the people that program for other operating systems (professionally anyway) typically do it dual-platform so that they can *also* support windows. Heck, even Apache does that.

When consumers don't have any choice but to buy something, then you effectively have a monopoly. And if you use that "monopoly" to screw people over, then you *definitely* have a monopoly in the eyes of the government, as they've already demonstrated.

FIRST? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340103)

post... and I read the article, too

Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340111)

.. yes!

Watch out! (-1, Troll)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340113)

You're likely to be putting a severe dent into some people's belief systems and world views by asserting that Microsoft is not a monopoly anymore! They'll be forced to see that there's a world out there beyond technology companies, involving...gasp...people!!! Oh the horrors!

Re:Watch out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340264)

Was this moderated 'flamebait' for lack of an 'incoherent' tag?

How about... (5, Insightful)

seanvaandering (604658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340116)

How about getting rid of the Microsoft Tax on new computers as well? They may not be a monopoly anymore but why should I pay more for a computer that I don't want Windows installed on?

Re:How about... (1, Insightful)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340147)

"Microsoft Tax" ...?

Try buying from a mom and pop store where the OS isn't required... or online... it's not like you don't have a WIDE variety of choices without paying what you call a "tax".

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

seanvaandering (604658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340178)

Your telling me that said "mom and pop" store can get me volume pricing like Dell can? My point is why can't I just get a stripped down computer from Dell for a little cheaper, instead of having to go to a Mom and Pop store and pay more for the parts and labour? I don't think they would be willing to offer me $500 bucks for a full system with no O/S installed. Is there no easy solution to this problem that Microsoft has created?

You seem to be missing the point... severely... (1, Flamebait)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340225)

Why the hell would you want volume licensing if you are looking for open source software, seriously?

You have MANY, MANY options that don't involve paying for an OS (or any software)...

Now, to respond to this:
"Is there no easy solution to this problem that Microsoft has created?"

There is a VERY easy solution. Don't buy from people who make you buy Microsoft products. It's not a problem, you have had this option all the time. In fact, it is CHEAPER.

===

Want to avoid paying labor? Build the PC yourself. It's really easy. You buy the parts, screw them together, the manual tells you where things go... you load whatever OS you want, you generally save money on hardware...

If you can't figure out how to build a PC, I don't know why you are complaining about buying Microsoft products from Dell. Might as well consider it 'idiot tax' at that point.

Re:You seem to be missing the point... severely... (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340324)

How about volume hardware discounts? The only kind of volume pricing isn't licensing, and I do not believe the original poster was so stupid as to be referring to licensing.

And your proposed solution to labor costs is going to go over really well with grandma, let me tell you. And yes, grandma can use Linux. Mine does. I bought her (at a more expensive price than a even a Dell box with Windows) a no-OS machine built by one of these mom-and-pop places.

<sarcasm>BTW, way to go with your wonderful windows-only project.</sarcasm>

Re:You seem to be missing the point... severely... (3, Insightful)

yog (19073) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340331)

He asked for volume product availability that a company like Dell can provide but mom and pop stores and DIY solutions can't begin to address.

Your answer is typical of solo techies who post on Slashdot, college students or working programmers or technosavvy others who extrapolate their personal, home computing experience to the entire world.

Someone who needs to get 50, or 500, or 5000 standardized desktops and be able to image the hard disks as they require is going to have to negotiate a sales deal with a reasonably large and stable company like Dell. It's not reasonable to expect them to try to save $50/machine on the Windows "tax" by going to the corner computer store or even a slightly larger local systems integrator who may or may not be around in a couple of years when the desktops need servicing or replacement.

It's also not reasonable to expect non-technical end users out there in the mass consumer market to go to the corner store, have a machine put together to their specifications, and then run the Fedora or Ubuntu setup DVD. That's simply not going to happen, much less ask them to "buy the parts, screw them together", etc.

In reality, Microsoft has a lock on both the mass market and the business market, leaving only the fringe technosavvy customers and Mac lovers to use the alternatives. MS is using their power as any other business would, locking the manufacturers into a Windows-only offering that ignorant customers go along with.

But just wait. As Linux continues to improve, it will become a bargaining chip for manufacturers to force down the Windows tax if not eliminate it entirely. It's not quite yet time for Dell and Gateway and HP to tell Microsoft they're switching to 50% Linux, but that day may not be far in the future.

Consumers are to blame, not large corporations (2, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340274)

Your telling me that said "mom and pop" store can get me volume pricing like Dell can? My point is why can't I just get a stripped down computer from Dell for a little cheaper, instead of having to go to a Mom and Pop store and pay more for the parts and labour? I don't think they would be willing to offer me $500 bucks for a full system with no O/S installed. Is there no easy solution to this problem that Microsoft has created?

Microsoft has not created the problem, *consumers* have created the problem. Consumers chose DOS over Mac and OS/2 1.x. Consumers chose Windows over OS/2 2.x. Consumers have voted with their wallet for computer vendors that provide the lowest prices. As you indicate these low prices are brought about by volume discounts. The per CPU charge is part of the deal that vendors *chose*. Why did they choose this, because 99.x% of customers *want* MS products and this gives them the lower prices that consumers demand.

You can be religious or cheap. If you want to be a purist then buy from Mom and Pop. Not only will your conscience be clean but you will be supporting *local* business. If you do not like the large corporation's bottom line decision making and their ignoring of minority market segments do not do business with them! Do business with the small local shops that are more responsive to your personal situation and minority market segments. To continue with the "consumers are doing it to themselves theme": Customer focused Mom and Pop shops are not being killed off by WalMart, they are being killed off by *consumers* that choose to shop at WalMart. It's the same in many markets/industries.

Re:How about... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340193)

Simple. Don't buy a computer with Windows on it. Monarch will sell you a Linux box. Lots of places will sell you the parts to build a box yourself.
If you want Dell, Gateway, or HP to offer you a system with a different OS then you need to vote buy not buying from them.
The sad truth is even people that use Linux often have a Linux partition on the system. Very few games are available for windows.

Microsoft tax is proof of monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340344)

I bought an early AMD64 laptop that came preinstalled with an unwanted windows, if I could have bought the machine elsewhere without the OS I would have. Microsoft apologists say things like "buy it from somewhere else", ignoring the fact that in many cases similar specified hardware is just not availiable anywhere else. The second shill claim is that this is all "dictated by market forces", an interesting euphemism for MS threats to withdraw volume licensing deals from any OEM shipping naked PC's.

If Microsoft weren't a monopoly, I wouldn't own any Windows licenses and yet I own several. Death to the Microsoft tax.

they never was (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340123)

Microsoft was never a monopoly, saying they are because they bundled IE with Windows is a joke.

Don't kid yourselves... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340127)

Microsoft is first and foremost a PC company, and in that area, where Windows still has 90% marketshare and Microsoft dictates which technologies will make it, Microsoft is still a monopoly. Just because they don't have the same kind of influence in other markets doesn't mean that times are changing...it just means Microsoft hasn't had the time to create monopolies there yet.

Wait.... (1)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340260)

Microsoft is first and foremost a PC company

Microsoft is not a PC company, it's a software company. Just like Apple is not a hardware company, it's a software company. No wait, Apple is a hardware company. Errr....

The Age of Aquarius (2, Funny)

sexyrexy (793497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340128)

I believe Microsoft is getting more concerned about interoperability not out of goodness, but because of market pressure.
 
If you believe any company is concerned about interoperability because their hearts are filled with goodness, I've got a great business venture for you to invest in... click my PayPal link to get started.

Hmm, I might be interested... (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340183)

Is this business venture being made for the good of the people, or just to succeed and make money?

Re:Hmm, I might be interested... (1)

sexyrexy (793497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340199)

Shh. Questions are not the mark of a trusting person. You clearly have no place in our company of, uh, goodwill.

Re:The Age of Aquarius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340187)

Can you respond with a link? I can't find your PayPal link ANYWHERE, not in your profile, none of your previous posts, etc. I want to make money fast!

Microsoft is a monopoly (1, Insightful)

sisukapalli1 (471175) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340129)

The company has over 90% market share in several segments, and has been tried and convicted of using the monopolistic powers *illegally*. The summary "why do we keep calling Microsoft a monopoly?" is silly. The article could easily have been written by a Microsoft lawyer. The headline looks to be fit for Fox News.

S

The summary makes sense (5, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340212)

The summary "why do we keep calling Microsoft a monopoly?" is silly.

Not really. If you read the article, Rob's points are pretty clear. The point isn't whether Microsoft is filled with goodness and light, but whether they actually exert monopoly power now, in December, 2005. I'm no Microsoft fan, but I have to agree with Rob. There is increasing competition in operating systems, Microsoft has been forced to change its pricing in response to the rise of Linux, and Office is facing new threats that are small right now but could be huge in a year or two.

Microsoft has had a difficult time leveraging its dominance in operating systems and office software. Look at the long uphill battle they've had with the XBox. Their record with media ventures is mixed at best. They're locked in a heated struggle with Google, and in the mean time Yahoo! is stealing a march on MSN.

Rob's piece goes against the conventional Slashdot wisdom, but it makes sense. Many Slashdotters have been arguing for some time that Microsoft reached its peak and is on a downhill slide. MS can't exert monopoly power and simultaneously be losing its grip on the industry. The times are changing. Now the question is, if Microsoft really no longer calls the shots in the industry, what does that mean for the other players like Red Hat, IBM, Apple, and Dell?

p.s. - Would any piece stating Microsoft is no longer a monopoly incur a "that was written by a Microsoft attorney" slur?

p.p.s. - What does Fox News have to do with any of this?

Re:The summary makes sense (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340250)

I still think they have monopoly power in the OS market, or very close to it. Order a machine from Dell without OS, and you pay the same as with Windows - that shows that Microsoft still has tremendous power over Dell, to be able to force Dell to do that. The same is true for Office - OOo just doesn't have a significant market share.

The other points, that Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly in web browsers, internet search, game consoles, etc are all things they didn't have a monopoly over either in the period that they were convicted over - after all, the problem was that MS used thier OS monopoly to get a foothold in the web browser market, the Xbox came much later, and MSN has never been the top dog in Internet search. It was probably Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo or some such back then.

So, in my view they're almost as much of a monopoly as they used to be, and besides that they've branched into a lot of new markets on which they aren't yet monopolies, but just one of the players.

It is not about market share!!! (4, Insightful)

stonebeat.org (562495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340131)

Monopoly is NOT about market share. If a product has a large market share it doesn't mean it is monopolizing the market. Monopolizing refers to the manner of conducting business which hurts other competitors.

Re:It is not about market share!!! (3, Insightful)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340171)

Where is the price war over the cost of their OS. Every one sells them at the same prices. And that price keeps getting higher.

Where is ALT OS for sale preinstalled that do NOT cost more then MS. Even if the OS is Linux that can be gotten for free?

Where is the price war over the cost of Office products. Again with free versions out there has been no cost improviments.

To me, MS is MONOPLOY, with the price fixing that a monoploy can bring to the market.

Re:It is not about market share!!! (1, Informative)

jenkin sear (28765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340201)

Umm, no. Not really.

From Dictionary.com [reference.com]:
Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service


It is true that having a monopoly is not illegal; it is the abuse of that monopoly which is illegal. But a monopoly is the fact of exclusive control, not the abuse of that control.

Monopoly != monopolization (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340365)

Grandparent referred to "monopolizing". Technically, monopoly refers to a state of the market where one seller has power over the market in a good or service. Monopolization[1], on the other hand, refers to a process comprising anticompetitive actions taken by a seller in the market in order to build a monopoly. You don't have to have a monopoly to monopolize, although having a monopoly opens up several techniques that a seller in an ordinary condition of monopolistic competition does not have.

[1] Called "monopolisation" in the British Commonwealth.

Re:It is not about market share!!! (1)

CokeBear (16811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340262)

Monopolizing refers to the manner of conducting business which hurts other competitors.

Not exactly. It refers to hurting competition, not competitors. Hurting competitors is what every business does when they sell their product instead of someone else's. Hurting competition is what Microsoft does, and it damages the marketplace.

Re:It is not about market share!!! (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340339)

That's not correct. What you described is illegally leveraging a monopoly to hurt potential competitors, not the state of being a monopoly. There's nothing inherently wrong with a monopoly. If a company makes the best product then it's reasonable to assume a vast majority of people would use it, at which point they may have a monopoly. This is only a problem if they use their monopoly status to destroy competitors, which Microsoft has a long history of doing.

Ha! Wrong target for this post, really... (0, Offtopic)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340132)

If this were a comment, it'd be modded down as flamebait, troll, or overrated.

Still a monopoly of the OS and the Office Suite (2, Interesting)

cyberformer (257332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340137)

The first sentence of the question says it all: Microsoft dominates the desktop. It has a monopoly of the PC OS and the Office suite. Those are very significant, costing users hundreds of dollars per machine and accounting for more than 100% of MS's profits. (More, because MS takes what it hopes will be a temporary loss on just about everything else.)

MS has moved into other areas like gaming, but that doesn't end its existing monopolies. And (not a coincidence), MS's products in those new areas are actually quite good, because it has to compete.

The one area of progres is the Web browser. Firefox (and Safari, and now Opera) really has eaten into IE's dominance, and that's good for everyone (including IE users, as it's forcing MS to start work on the browser again).

Over 100%? (1)

DoubleRing (908390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340289)

accounting for more than 100% of MS's profits

Over 100%? If Microsoft has somehow managed to have it's software generate over 100% of its profit, it deserves it! It's finally pioneering into new territory! Huzzah! It has done what no other company has done before!

Look it really all boils down to just this! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340138)

Google: A Patriot's Letter

It's not over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340141)

Microsoft have a well stocked warchest, over 95% of the consumer desktop market and over 90% of the business productivity market. It ain't over until the beast is dead and the way Microsoft is trying to align itself with government we may still have a huge fight on our hands.

Roblimo needs to lay of the juice over the festive season.

Same can be said of just about every company (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340153)

But in many other areas, including Web servers and supercomputing, Microsoft is just one player among many, and often a weak player at that.

Or areas like donuts, fire hydrants, day care, and garbage trucks.

xBox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340158)

It's Xbox. Today isn't Choose Your Own Capitalization Day. That's next week.

Just Try (4, Insightful)

christurkel (520220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340163)

To get a non MS operating system from any major computer vendor and see a monopoly in action.

Re:Just Try (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340227)

To get a non MS operating system from any major computer vendor and see a monopoly in action.

For a home user, that can be problematic, but that could be as much a result of vendors who want their bloatware installed as Microsoft throwing their weight around. Apparently supposedly, PCs from major vendors have dropped in price due in part to companies paying to have their software preinstalled.

The "No OS" option is now the default for Dell Servers and this change is relatively recent. I remember not too long ago all servers came with Windows preinstalled (and included in the price of course) and even if you were going to just erase the OS and install Linux, you'd still pay for it. You didn't have a choice.

Microsoft doesn't seem as big and bad as they used to be. Maybe they've matured somewhat ... though I'm sure the DOJ had something to do with that.

why? (-1, Troll)

justins (80659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340175)

Because it's a convenient excuse for Microsoft's competitors not being successful in the marketplace. Given any failure of a product one likes, one can just point at Microsoft and say "OMG EVIL MONOPOLY!"

Never mind the fact that life is more complicated than that.

I would love to agree... (3, Interesting)

Daneurysm (732825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340180)

While Microsoft isn't quite as untouchable as they used to be, especially with the given examples, I still consider them a monopoly.

Monopoly on what? Home desktops? Certainly. Company desktops? Yes again, but losing their grip slowly. Servers? Not so much, and losing their grip quickly. Video game consoles? Not at all. Supercomputing? Nowhere close.

As a whole they may seem to paint Microsoft as becoming more diverse and, inevitably not in monopoly-position in all its new markets.

But, was it ever Microsoft having monopoly status in the first place that was the problem? No.

Has Microsoft ever successfully Monopolized any market besides its desktop market? No.

.... this monopoly status that is used to label microsoft at every turn has been pointless.

Microsoft being a monopoly isn't even the bad thing.

So what's the evil? It's Microsoft leveraging it's monopoly status, repeatedly. Almost exclusively in the desktop realm. It was tried on the server-side with major initial success, but, that momentum started waning immediately.

Sorry, but so far as I am concerned...Microsoft is still a monopoly. A monopoly that has to try new things (staying competetive, attempting to innovate, etc) to maintain their monopoly status. That may be the signs of a monopoly slipping out of their grip, but it is still a monopoly.

...not to mention the fact that I could care less about a monopoly on the back-end, and I dare them to monopolize the video game console market...that's laughable at best..

...But the ~90% (number pulled out of ass) of all desktop computers (especially home desktops) running Windows (as if there was any other way to run a computer, ask Joe Sixpack) certainly, to me, constitutes a monopoly.

...it's just the leveraging of that monopoly that burns me up.

~Dan

Try running a business without Microsoft (5, Insightful)

Gerald (9696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340184)

It's damn hard to run a 50-person business without Microsoft software. It's next to impossible to do so when you scale up to 100, 1000, or 10,000 people. This alone makes them a de facto monopoly as far as I'm concerned.

Of course (2, Interesting)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340185)

Microsoft never had an 'absolute monopoly' on 'computers'; I mean, mainframes, servers, and workstations were MS free for a long time. OTOH, the legal view of antitrust has to do with activities designed to create a barrier of entry and manipulation of the marketplace via control of a key market share; ie, I could be in violation of antitrust laws if I own a steel company and the only railroad into a given area, and refuse to transport steel for other companies. The legal antitrust laws have never been pointed only at textbook, dictionary 'monopolies'.

Even though I am not a Microsoft fanboy, I don't want to see them *destroyed*; I would be extremely happy to see them knocked down to the 65% desktop market share. As much as I like OSX, I don't want to see Apple in sole possession of the desktop market, and as much as I like Linux, I wouldn't want to see it become a monoculture either.

Either way, the answer is not to treat the market leader differently; if we feel that the antitrust laws perform a valuable function (which *I* do) then the laws should be designed so that it's impossible to achieve that market share, rather than change the laws for those who do achieve the neccessary market share.

Why are they declared as a monopoly still? (2, Insightful)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340188)

Maybe because by the time the justice department did anything about it, it was too little, too late.

Maybe people still call them a monopoly to make Microsoft aware that they have alot of work to do yet in order to work with the industry instead of against it.

Maybe because people know that if left unchecked and unwatched, they would lobby against open standards and fair use.

Maybe because people still think of them as evil and Microsoft does little but to reinforce this belief.

Desktops !!! (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340192)

I skimmed your text and youve missed out an important point. Microsoft runs on more computers than everything else combined. Thats called having monopoly of the market share.

Think of the Windows starter edition. Most OS makers wont deliberately cripple their OS to this extent... Lindows, BeOS etc sold their OS for cheap too but never crippled it since they didnt have a chance their customers would later fork out $150 for the full version. Now THESE guys were competing.

OSX is considered secure and stable. I'd like to have one. But in all the computers at home I dont have a single OSX machine. None of my games or special apps run on apple machines, nor do they run on Linux without emulation. Here we are succumbing to the monopoly you dont think exists. Almost all machines at work are Windows too. We have a few critical apps which keep us on Windows, not our zeal for an OS that requires frequent patches and uncalled-for reboots.

Microsoft never had a real monopoly over the server market, nor on the console market. They just entered the console market, and before unix and linux servers, there was netware and as400. But the desktops out there heavily outnumber servers and consoles. Therefore Microsoft is a monopoly.

Try this. Think of having a non-Linux setup at home and at work. See how well things run for you. Next think of a completely non-Microsoft setup everywhere, home and work. Think of all the obstacles.

Yes you dolt, they are still a Monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340200)

Good heavens, Microsoft still owns 90% of the consumer PC market. The _only_ competition there is freeware. You know a market is a monopoly when your competition has to give their product away for free to compete. Just because the scope of the competition has become larger (search, internet advertising, etc) doesn't mean they're not a Monopoly in their core market.

Because they enjoy the power of a monopoly (1)

MrSoundAndVision (836415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340202)

Take our schools and universities, for example. While some of the more academic colleges and universities around the country have the foresight to educate their students on Linux, Unix, and Mac, most pay outlandish license fees for Microsoft Windows and it's Office Suite because they feel that students will need these skills most when entering the working community. This amounts to a tax being paid by the students to Microsoft. Hence MS is publicly subsidized, and is a monopoly. It's competitors do not enjoy this.

.NET is the only proof you need (1, Troll)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340209)

.NET is the only proof required to show that Microsoft is still acting as a monopoly. They tell all Windows developers that they must now use .NET for all development (whether or not that's true, that's what they tell developers). And they tell people that the way to go about doing .NET development is to buy Visual Studio, usually at the cost of a few hundred dollars. Selling a platform and then selling the only means to develop on that platform is monopolistic. If it weren't thinking it's a monopoly Microsoft would know they couldn't get away with such a thing.

Any commercial platform that wishes to gain more developers gives away the basic tools with the platform (e.g. OS X, Solaris). Only a platform which believes it has a stranglehold on developers would charge for the basic tools.

Re:.NET is the only proof you need (1)

yogikoudou (806237) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340294)

True, but not exactly. Microsoft has submitted C# for ECMA standardization (ECMA-334, IIRC).
The Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), has also been submitted for standardization.
From http://msdn.microsoft.com/netframework/ecma/ [microsoft.com]: ECMA submitted the standards and TR to ISO/IEC JTC 1 via the latter's Fast-Track process. In April, 2003, ISO ratified the standards as ISO/IEC 23270 (C#), ISO/IEC 23271 (CLI) and ISO/IEC 23272 (CLI TR). Equivalent specifications have also been adopted as 2nd edition standards and TR by ECMA.

This allows free software developers to create free (as in freedom) .NET implementations, such as Mono [go-mono.com] and DotGNU [dotgnu.org]. I consider this open-minded, and appreciate developping free software in C#.
On a related subject, they also opened their RSS extensions, protected by a Creative Commons License.

Even if it is true that using C# indirectly contributes to Microsoft's success, that's also a gift to FS developers.

Patents (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340335)

Patents affectively render any alternatives irrelevant. Not every .NET library can be rewritten without patent licensing from Microsoft. And so far it appears not every library can even be called without patent licensing. A Visual Studio license is required to have access to every .NET library written by Microsoft. So good luck using anything else as a complete alternative. You may get the language but you can't get all of the libraries.

Check ECMA's requirements on patents. The license only needs to be available, not free. Also note there are patented communications protocols and document formats, so you can never have complete access to the platform without permission from Microsoft.

competing on price? (2, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340223)

"Microsoft also now sells something called Windows Starter Edition in some parts of the world -- supposedly for as low as $37 or $38 (US) in Thailand, including a basic version of Microsoft Office. In other words, Microsoft is starting to compete on price "

Competing with whom?

They are not competing with any market competitor. They are competing with the low income of less wealthy parts of the world, compared to their relatively wealthy home base of the United States.

Re:competing on price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340345)

That's not competing. Windows Third World Edition[TM] is serious crippleware, not a "price competition".

They only did it to compete against Free Software. Except that the free systems aren't crippled.

What a load of bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340224)

So you question Microsoft's monopoly status based on
  1. Their failure to take the web server market-- a market they did not hold four years ago
  2. Their failure to take the video game market-- a market they did not hold four years ago
  3. Their failure to take the web search market yet-- a market they did not hold four years ago
  4. Massive discounts to people considering switching to alternatives.
What a load of nonsense. On points 1-3, nothing has changed since the day Microsoft was declared guilty in the netscape case. Microsoft has taken no new markets, but their monopoly power in the markets they do hold has not lessened one bit. Moreover they have used the control they hold over the markets they do have, such as the operating system and web browser markets, to stand as gatekeeper to many new web technologies, letting some die and some live based on whether adequate support was given in Microsoft Intenet Explorer.

On point four, it is extremely humorous you attempt to use incidents such as Windows Starter Edition to try to claim Microsoft lacks a monopoly-- as such machinations are exactly the mechanism by which Microsoft's monopoly power is exerted! Microsoft's monopoly allows them to take actions to maintain that monopoly which would not be so easy to a commercial software company who lacked the monopoly to leverage. One of those actions has been Windows Starter Edition in thailand.

Submitter needs to go back to school.. (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340237)

and learn what Monopoly means.

They don't have to dominate every field to be a monopoly in an area. AT&T was broken up for being a monopoly. By the submitter's logic, AT&T was never a monopoly because is was possible to do your banking with other companies...and buy a car that wasn't made by AT&T.

Microsoft not a monopoly? (2, Insightful)

cunamara (937584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340238)

It's been a while since I read an apologia for Microsoft and the assertion that it is not a monopoly. Despite the author's claims, Microsoft still engages in monopolistic practices- including one that is erroneously described as a non-monopolistic practice, which is undercutting the competition whenever possible. The original article uses a too-narrow definition of "monopoly" and then mischaracterizes classic monopolistic practices as non-monopolistic practices. The only reason to do this is to distort reality into a shape mroe to Bill Gates's liking.

low price != not a monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340245)


The low prices offered in Asian countries is an attempt to undercut Linux growth there, as well as stem piracy.

The overall question of this article is stupid anyway, as MS never had monopolies in anything other than the desktop. That was the whole point of all the antitrust lawsuits against them, they were leveraging that into other markets.

Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340247)

The answer is the first sentence. Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop. Whether their gaming console is successful, or if their ISP business sucks is *irrelevant*. All these extra factoids are at best a smoke screen so you can pretend you have a reason to ask a question any sane person knows the answer to.

The day (3, Insightful)

markdavis (642305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340248)

OK, I will declare Microsoft "not a monopoly", in my opinion, the day that I can:

1) Walk in to any major retail chain and purchase an X86 computer
2) Without MS-Windows
3) At a significantly lower price than the same/similar model without MS-Windows

It doesn't really matter what the most "proper" definition of a monopoly is, Microsoft fits it, regardless. How would you feel if you went to buy a car and found that every car on every lot had a Sony casette radio in it? Not only did you have no other choices, you are charged the same or MORE if you try to get a car without a Sony casette radio! Sure, you could rip it out and install something else, but Sony gets your money no matter what... money that you could have used on something else. And the whole radio market suffers because of being stomped on by Sony.

MS doesnt monopolize every industry:still monopoly (1)

icecow (764255) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340275)

Arguing MS doesn't dominatate each and every major IT industry is a weak argument. The notion only suggests how bad things are. Not too insightful, i know, rather a blunt, dull reality.

100,000 open source projects. 99,000+ suck. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340280)

There are over 100,000 Open Source projects on SourceForge.net

This is boasting about how many free hosting accounts you have. There aren't anywhere near that many real projects. Most of those 100,000 "projects" are empty, or junk. Even many of those listed as "production-stable" have no content whatsoever behind them. Among the real projects, there are lots like this:

  • 6393. source code line counter - The line counter takes files and directories from the command line, and counts the total number of lines, lines of code, lines of comment and blank lines in the files.

SourceForge ought to purge all the projects that have nothing behind them and have been idle for a year, but that would reduce the number that the CEO of VA Linux/Systems/Software/Burgers likes to boast about.

There's good stuff on SourceForge, but the number of real projects is probably about 10% of the claimed number.

Microsoft ... Will always be a monopoly. (2, Informative)

PastAustin (941464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340282)

In this post the author said, "Microsoft will usually come back with a cut-price offer, something the company never used to do".

In some form that is true. Originally Microsoft gave away the OS with the computer just so they could get their foot in the door. They got people so locked into it that they knew if they had a unique interface then people couldn't leave.

When people start to get a handle on a small application [winzip.com], Microsoft builds that functionality into the operating system. When someone tries to generate the same "look and feel" [linspire.com] or just has a name somewhat like their's. They sue until they get their way.

Microsoft Always Will Be A Monopoly. They use the tactics of a monopoly and the only way to fix it is to not use or purchase their software and hardware. There are plenty of other solutions and if you have the capacity to be using another. You should be.

Perhaps a little premature (1)

Drasil (580067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340286)

While I agree with the gist I think it's a little early for a declaration of victory, whether it's inevitable or not. The 'axis of evil' that pushes lock-in, erosion of rights and invasion of privacy are still very strong. Before we can claim the day of the proprietary software monopoly is over IMHO the following things have to happen...

  • A serious rethink of IP on a global scale needs to take place, at least in relation to computer software.
  • Hardware manufacturers open the information required to make high quality drivers.
  • The propritary software companies open their systems as they require inter-operability to claim to be functional.
  • Non computer literate people have heard of, have used and know someone who uses an different brand of OS from their own. This is not really an issue because both the OSs work with each other well.
  • Application software is almost always released for multiple platforms, or in some platform-agnostic form.

So many things wrong with this article... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340288)

Let's list some of them.

  • Confusing "monopoly behaviour" with "anti-trust behaviour".
  • Thinking that "monopoly" is a property of a company, not the relationship of a company to a market (so WTFUCK does supercomputing have to do with Microsoft's monopoly of desktop OSes?)
  • Thinking that $37 is competitive with $0.
  • Thinking that region-specific pricing is competitive.
  • Not checking to see if the rumours of $37 prices are true (WTFUCK is up with "supposedly"?
  • Confusing "Microsoft Explorer" with "Microsoft Internet Explorer". Totally different as far as end-users are concerned.
  • Assuming that falling market share of Internet Explorer means less popular - that depends on the growth of the market.
  • Assuming that discontinuing Mac Internet Explorer means that people must switch away from Microsoft web browsers - ever hear of MSN for Mac? It even implements some CSS 3.
  • Some random complaint about a broken website being generalised to the point of declaring that Microsoft won't have a monopoly - as if a single data point is of any value whatsoever!
  • Thinking that "hundreds of thousands of competitors" as any relevance to whether or not Microsoft has a monopoly on DESKTOP OSes - they don't have hundreds of thousands of competitors in that market, which is the one they've been ruled to have a monopoly in.
  • Completely out of place reference to India, Saudi Arabia, etc. Microsoft can't predict what will happen in the mind of a random USA programmer any more than Saudi programmers.
  • Thinking that the threat from competitors can be scaled up from the 80s - Microsoft also has a lot more control over the market and a lot more money since then.
  • Saying that Microsoft can't hire anybody they want, as if this was ever true.
  • We don't give a shit about your sailing buddies.

This article reads as if somebody drafted it while drunk and didn't bother reading through it afterwards or refine it in any way. I feel sad that people are getting paid for this drivel. Slashdot, it's good that you are attempting to be more than the linkathon you've been in recent years, what with Zonks articles and this, but that doesn't mean you can publish any old drivel and expect people to lap it up. Some thought has to go into it.

OUCH! Stop it (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340291)

"And even on the desktop, Linux keeps getting stronger, while Mac OS X is commonly accepted as more reliable, secure, and user-oriented than Windows. So why do we keep saying Microsoft is a monopoly?"

I'm very old and when you pull my leg that hard, there's a good chance you'll dislocate my hip.

You had me there for a second though...

Yes ! The government didn't do anything. (2, Interesting)

zymano (581466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340293)

The gov's only answer to monopolies is to break them apart. Which might have worked.

The answer was to 'force' OEM's to accept a couple of other OSs' installed their computers. Maybe an easy to use Linux and a BSD distr. And also 'force' software makers to make their programs compatible with the other OSs'.

...if CURLING is an OLYMPIC SPORT.... (4, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340304)

Then YES. Microsoft is a fucking monopoly.

Microsoft owns the Desktop computing market.

They've never had a monopoly anywhere else. If you were an enterprise user, you DID have alternatives to NT and IIS. It wasn't always Linux, but there were alternatives.

However, at any point between Windows 95 and XP did you EVER have the option of buying a PC that was dual boot linux/beOS/AtheOS/*BSD/INsert OS of choice AND Windows? No? Guess what then? That's a monopoly.

mostly desktop (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340309)

The MS monopoly is about the desktop, and about using the desktop monopoly to expand into other areas.

Just because they have not been able to expand the monopoly into servers and search does not mean that the monopoly goes not exist. MS Windows is still the de facto OS and development platform for the micro computer. MS is still pushing IE as the primary browser, but decreasing the platforms on which it was inevitable.

Really, nothing can be inferred until we see what happens in Vista. Will MS continue to abuse the desktop monopoly? Will we see the old tricks applied to Google? We will see true interoperability with Linux, or merely tools to allow the Unix people to continue transitioning to MS.

All the positing in the article only applies to the current situation in which MS is weak and have not been able to use thier money to destroy the compition. And even if this context, the supposition makes no sense. The MS-AOL attempted merger could only benifit MS in the sense that it could be used to destroy Google. We can only assume that AOL realized that MS uses it parnters to gain expertise, then throws them out when they are done.

Ride it up and ride it down (1)

warmcat (3545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340317)

"Is Microsoft a monopoly" lol

Tabloids already discovered the 'ride it up' and 'ride it down' two bites at the cherry formula. When something is in the news you boost it (with >100 stories on Slashdot for the Xbox 360 recently), and then when that isn't working any more you 'ride it down' with exposes of it taking drugs, naked longlens shots and navel gazing 'why did we love it anyway' stories.

Let's hope the tabloid format increases sales!

which Anus did that come out of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14340338)

Microsoft is most definitely still an Monopoly. It's a versy specific sector, but it's a monopoly. the idea of saying MS isn't a monopoly because it doesn't rule the world is retarded.

It still exists... (2, Insightful)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340348)

It still exists as if I go to Best Buy, Dell, Circuit City and others I MUST buy Microsoft on the products presented and their is not an option to exclude it. Dell is showing a crack in the M$ armor though, I believe you can get a very high ended desktop with Linux. But I think most Linux users want something less than $1000.

This means it is a monopolistic practice called "bundling". Even though it is against the law in the US, it is not enforced.

Monopoly engaged in dumping... (2, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340351)


Not only is Microsoft still a monopoly (you don't have to be a monopoly in everything to be a monopoly, Standard Oil and Bell only dominated one defined area) and WORSE than this they are a monopoly who uses that position to effectively engage in "dumping" on other segments by using monopoly revenues to subsidise new businesses. This is also against most trading rules but oddly MS get away with it.

XBox is the perfect case in point, they continue to push a non-profitable model using subsidies from the parent company in order to get to a market dominant position where they will make a profit.

God knows how this is WTO compliant let alone compliant with US and European business rules.

I just realized (1)

Mahler (171064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340355)

why I like Google so much ... not just because it is good for searching or has lots of 'innovative' products. But because they are starting to become a monopoly on the internet-ad market. And got there in a way that ads have become invisble for me.

Of course they are! (1)

KayElle (914547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340359)

I don't really feel like I have an option to consider alternatives for the desktop other than windows and office. At home yes, but professionally? No. It's just not viable. Until we reach a point where it is, then yes, they have a monopoly.

As long as... (1)

rknop (240417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340392)

As long as I continue to get Microsoft Word files in the E-mail when text would have sufficied, or (when not) instead of something generically supported like PDF, *and* when people look at me funny when I try to explain that Microsoft Word isn't a general format (doesn't everybody have Word? it comes with all computers now!), Microsoft will effectively be a monopoly.

When I can request that that particular proprietary format not be used as the only or default format for broadcast E-mails without being seen as a zealot, then Microsoft may no longer be (effectively) a monopoly.

The same goes to some extent for PowerPoint files. It bugs me to no end that at scientific conferences, we're told we must use PowerPoint.

-Rob

A Monopoly can only be created by Gov't (1)

Isquaredare (869282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14340408)

See http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=866 [capmag.com]

A Monopoly can only be created by Gov't. You might not like MSC products, and that's fine. There is no law that commands that you use ANYTHING made by MSC. So, there is NO monoply.

1. Microsoft has market share by virtue of hard work. A true monopoly can only exist with the use of force to quell competition. Gov't is the only entity we allow to use such force.

2. For decades, by law - there was only one phone company. And you could go to jail if you started your own phone company. That is a monopoly in the real world. Some of you socialists are too quick to use a term you can't comprehend. You've confused hard-work and marketing excellence with a monopoly.

3. To get the effect you desire, you have to use the force of law to limit the marketing of MSC products. Sounds good if your trying to catch up with MSC, huh? But what happens if you actually succeed, and YOU are suddenly forced to limit what YOU can earn?

Losers always hate winners.

See http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=866 [capmag.com]

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