Microsoft's smoke screen

Submitted by dag on Fri, 2007/12/28 - 20:04

Sometimes it is hard to explain to non-technical people what the problem is with Microsoft software and why it is in Microsoft's best interest to omit certain features that benefits the majority of the people.

One such question is: Why is Microsoft not in favor of a single vendor-independent open document standard ?

Microsoft is in its right (for whatever reason) to do the things it is doing, but often in these discussions people prefer corporate liberty over the public interest and often state that companies should have a right to be (or become) a monopoly like people have the right to decide what software to use. Monopolies, like Microsoft, influence people's buying decisions by locking them in. Self interest wins, they don't have to convince the market, they are the market.

That is why monopolies are evil. They are bad for society. They are bad for progress and inovation. Without antitrust regulations we would only have a single (global) telecom provider, software company, car manufacturer, etc... Besides monopolies can also endanger the independence of justice and independence of governments.

Today I stumbled upon a nice article called The Deprecated “Smoke Screen” of MS Office Open XML (OOXML) that includes evidence from another Microsoft trial where Bill Gates was quoted from an email to various managers (Exchange, Office):

One thing we have got to change in our strategy - allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.

We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.

Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destroy Windows.

I would be glad to explain at greater length.

Likewise this love of DAV in Office/Exchange is a huge problem. I would also like to make sure people understand this as well.

The problem here is not that Microsoft has "good" business reasons to omit features, the real problem is that because Microsoft is a monopoly it can force people into less freedom. They use their monopoly power to keep people locked into their own software and as a result makes my life (and countless others) much more complex to support. People's ignorance in this case is Microsoft's bliss.

We have to fight the monopoly and not the business decisions and we can only do that by making these examples clear. Microsoft is not a nice loving company that wants to help you do your work. Neither is Apple or any of the other companies, but Microsoft is a monopoly and the others are not (yet).

This is not a personal attack towards Microsoft per se, but rather a plea for more awareness of the dangers (and hidden powers) of monopolies.