I’ve been reading the book World War 3.0 by Ken Auletta recently. It’s the story of the Microsoft vs. United States legal battle concerning whether Microsoft was a monopoly or not. If you don’t understand the case, I highly recommend you read this book. Ken does an awesome job of wording it so you can understand the case without having to understand massive legal or technical jargon. (No, they didn’t pay me to say that, but if one of “they” is reading this and wants to pay me, I gladly accept it! Preferably 50’s and 100’s please!).
Anyway, there was one thing that caught my eye and inspired this blog. One of the primary pillars of the case was that Microsoft had acted in a monopolistic fashion by packaging Internet Explorer along with it’s operating system for no charge. This damaged Netscape Navigator in two ways: first, Netscape charged for their browser, because the browser was their sole product and the only source of income for the company. Secondly, since computers came with Internet Explorer on them, and no Netscape, users were exposed to IE first, and did not have the option of using Netscape right off the bat, resulting in an increase in the IE browser with entry-level computer users and a major hit to Netscape.
Anyway, the part of this that hit me as ironic is that Microsoft killed a charge-for product (Netscape) by releasing a freeware alternative (Internet Explorer)!! Now that Linux seems to be maturing and approaching a more new-user and converted-user friendly state they may yet have the chance to over take Microsoft and do to them what they did to Netscape.
This is true not only Linux, but for the entire FOSS (Free Open Source Software) movement. In the ongoing browser wars, Mozilla Firefox, a freeware web browser, has been gaining ground against Microsoft’s IE because it is free and because it is viewed by some as a better product. I have run into a large number of fairly ordinary computer users (your average non-techy type) who are running Firefox just for this fact!! If the average consumer is capable of moving away from Microsoft’s (percieved?) monopoly and toward alternative products simply for the QOS and because the price is right (hey, what’s better than free?!), then there is yet hope for the FOSS movement and the downfall of the corporate giant
(Some of you may note that I am declining calling Microsoft the “evil empire” or any other such phrase. This is intentional. I enjoy Linux and FOSS movement, but I don’t view Microsoft as any evil entitity. It is my personal belief that Bill Gates is a very shrewd business man who ended up having a product that lead the standardization of computers and obtained a market position that is difficult to beat. His use of his power is his own business, I believe in true Laissez-faire and the idea that the better product for the better deal will win out. Microsoft had it, and might still, but eventually something else will come along that can and will replace it, as technology marches on. In the words of Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems: he supports the governments case, but he hopes that one day he’ll be so successful that the government might be all over Sun. That’s how he’d know he was successful.
On that note, peace out and happy hacking. Don’t let your brains get stale!