Fight the monopoly

Settlement, schmettlement. Microsoft is on a roll these days. If users don't take some action, the convicted monopolist is going to roll right over them. Once, no one ever got fired for buying Big (Proprietary) Blue. Times changed, but IBM didn't.

Settlement, schmettlement. Microsoft is on a roll these days. If users don't take some action, the convicted monopolist is going to roll right over them. Once, no one ever got fired for buying Big (Proprietary) Blue. Times changed, but IBM didn't.

Today, a chastened and much wiser IBM, having escaped antitrust and listened to its users, has kicked the "we are the center of the world" habit and supports standards and even open-source systems. By contrast, Microsoft, now the industry's top gun, remains obsessed with tying everything back to Windows. It's now working to extend its iron grip on the desktop to the enterprise and all the way out to the Internet antitrust conviction be damned.

Whether it's because of changes in certification programmes; expensive, forced upgrades; new licensing terms that let Microsoft shut off your operating system during a dispute; or the required collection of customer data in order to turn software on, users are seething about "bloatware" and Big Brother. Yet Microsoft has made few concessions. Indeed, everywhere you look, the company is snubbing users when it's not shaking them down.

It's no surprise that the past eight months of headlines is a blur of anger and concern. A recent study conducted by Giga Information Group and Windows integrator Sunbelt Software revealed that 36% of the 4550 technology professionals polled are so disturbed by Microsoft's new licensing plans that they are considering switching to alternative products. But will you?

If you are really angry, fed up and unwilling to be held hostage, consider your options: 1. Work to dilute Microsoft's presence and control in your company. 2. If you can, don't just threaten to toss Microsoft out of your operations, do it. 3. Finally, help start a vocal and effective user group for Microsoft users. All the big enterprise vendors, from IBM to Hewlett-Packard to Oracle, have had one. Where is the united user voice representing Microsoft customers?

It's going to take exactly this sort of extreme pressure to rein Microsoft in you certainly won't be able to count on the feds to do it for you. And it will take more than complaining. It requires action by the enterprise users that Microsoft should take seriously. If that doesn't get Redmond's attention, nothing will.

Keefe is Computerworld US' editorial director. Send email to Patricia Keefe. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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