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Microsoft shooting itself in the foot

A News.com reader says that although Microsoft is coming up with better, more stable software, its strategy for getting its products to the masses is all wrong.


Microsoft shooting itself in the foot

In response to the May 18 Reuters article, "Group calls .Net, XP monopoly all over again":

The group has a right to be upset. There is nothing wrong with a subscription idea. What is reprehensible is Microsoft's myopic hubris; it is almost insulting.

Under its patronizing guise, Microsoft lessens people's choices, tying the user down to one brand of software for audio, instant messaging, e-mail and Web browsing. This is supposed to be for the consumer's convenience, but it's actually to improve Microsoft's depleting revenue stream. Microsoft is betting the house that consumers will fall into line and go along with the new OS. By making XP stabler and friendlier to use, that's a plus. Tying the audio player, the IM service, the e-mail and the browser to XP is a huge gamble, because people like to have some choices in those areas.

At the moment Microsoft does have the OS monopoly, but it's all mind share. It's steadily losing the server wars, no matter how hard it tries to FUD the open source movement. Linux is creeping up on a lot of consumer desktops, despite the shake-up among many of the business distributors and hardware companies focusing on the open-source OS.

Microsoft will probably pull off another successful three-ring circus and medicine show with its Xbox, Office XP and Windows XP unveilings this year, but that momentum will die down when businesses and households realize what they've got themselves into and eventually move on to other operating systems and office productivity products.

It would be wise of the folks at Apple at this moment to port OS X to Intel boxes now and for Linux developers to come up with a friendly desktop GUI for consumers and a real competitive Office suite if they want to catch Microsoft when it goes down after the euphoria.

The sad truth is, Microsoft really wants to be a monopoly, and it will still try, even if the government breaks the company into two, three or five micro-Microsofts. The company wants you buy all its products and services for all your software and Internet needs. The problem is that monopoly is all public mind share, and once everyone starts drifting over to different software, whether it be from Apple, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat or some start-up down the road, that mind share is going to deplete Microsoft's revenue sources rapidly.

Because Microsoft has these better, improved applications that everybody wants, it believes that bundling the applications with the Windows XP OS is the only way it can keep its consumers from drifting away--that and then converting the applications into subscription services, locking consumers in, and getting a steady revenue stream. Those who can't afford the subscription model will undoubtedly rebel and find other operating systems for their needs. Microsoft is betting that will not happen and is taking desperate steps to ensure it will not by attacking open-source software--with rather specious arguments, I'm afraid.

Microsoft's current strategy may prove to be its biggest blunder--not in the immediate future, but in the long run. And that's too bad, because it's finally coming up with some decent, stable products for once.

Kevin Kunreuther