Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Monopoly

I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft Windows, though I'm not one of those people who harbors an irrational hatred of everything produced by Microsoft. That being said, I've never bought into any of these anti-trust rulings that they have faced, including the latest installment, from South Korea. Microsoft has, in my opinion, the least sustainable monopoly in the history of private business monopolies. Microsoft has numerous competitors (various Linux vendors) who offer a complete operating system including applications that can read files created by Microsoft applications and write files that can be read by Microsoft applications. This operating system and its applications can be yours for the low, low price of nothing. I run Linux on my home computer, and I agree that it's not as polished or user-friendly as Windows, but I can still surf the web, check my e-mail, and read and edit word documents and spreadsheets. There are people who need to use Windows because the applications that they have to use are only available on Windows, but the majority of home PC users don't fall into this category.

I don't really understand how stripping Windows Media Player and Messenger out of Windows is going to help Korean consumers and software companies. Furthermore, forcing a company to help consumers access their competitors products sets a bad precedent. Why not try and capitalize on the negative sentiments against Wal-Mart and try to force them to include links to local mom & pop stores on their website?

The success of the Firefox web browser proves that Microsoft's monopoly is not as strong as some people make it out to be. Firefox would not have been successful had it not been open source (see Opera). Anyone who wishes to cut into the market share of any of Microsoft's core applications will have to follow Firefox's example. There are enough computer users today who are tech savvy enough to try a new application if it is free and easy to install and use. If the new application really is an improvement, word will spread and market share will develop. This won't dethrone Windows in and of itself, but if enough "killer apps" are developed to replace Microsoft applications, it will make leaving Windows for Linux or some other OS easier for the average consumer. Since these applications will almost certainly be open source, there will probably already be versions available for Linux, Mac, and other OSes by the time they become widely used on Windows. If not, an army of software developers from around the world can be pressed into service (for free, once again) to port the application over to a different OS.

2 comments:

MDS said...

I'm using Firefox as I type this. It's so superior to Internet Explorer (and Safari, for Mac users) that I assume it's going to explode in popularity. All of the remedies for Microsoft's alleged monopoly seem to involve making Microsoft products less user-friendly. I don't think that's the point of antitrust laws.

dhodge said...

The argument against Microsoft has generally been that they have conspired against their consumers by making it difficult to install their competitor's software on Windows. Perhaps Microsoft has been guilty of this, but if they have, it's only going to hurt them in the long run. Microsoft has no real incentive to make their products difficult to use. History has shown that companies that have used their monopolies to screw their customers usually receive a severe comeuppance as soon as a viable alternative to their product becomes available.