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What's So Bad About Microsoft?

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From a Software User's Perspective

From a Technical Perspective

From the Perspective of Everybody Else


Common Defenses of Microsoft Debunked

  

From a Software User's Perspective

Bloat

Why is it that Microsoft's products keep mushrooming in size with each new release always requiring significantly more disk space and more processing power than the last time? They might claim it's because of all the new features they add each time, but that's only half the story. The new features and the increased processing requirements are designed to fuel the process of perpetual upgrades. This is Microsoft's way of rubbing Intel's back so that Intel will give Microsoft preferential treatment when it comes out with new chip specs. It's also Microsoft's way of convincing consumers that their newer product versions are better because they are so much bigger. Their new features are often superfluous but users must still deal with the overhead required by the features even though most will never use the features.

Backward Incompatibility

Also contributing to Microsoft's goal of putting everybody on a perpetual upgrade cycle is the backward incompatibility in Microsoft's products. Once a small number of users adopt a new version of a Microsoft product all other users are pressured to upgrade lest they are unable to interact with files produced by the newer program.

Perpetual Upgrading

It's pretty obvious why the concept of perpetually upgrading is a bad idea for consumers. Perpetual upgrading encourages Microsoft to ship bug ridden products because they can always charge for the upgrade after the bugs are fixed. Case in point, Windows 98 was essentially a bug fix for Windows 95 but those who paid for Windows 95 still had to pay for what should have worked right the first time they bought it. Upgrading also takes valuable time, especially if something goes wrong and troubleshooting is required. Upgrades from Microsoft are typically installed not because the customer wants to do something with the new version of the product that wasn't possible with the previous version, but rather because Microsoft has abandoned the older version of the product or has designed the new version such that it is incompatible with the old version (unnecessarily in many cases) and therefore requires upgrading in order to interoperate with copies installed by friends or colleagues and with new computers.

Vaporware

Whenever Microsoft spies yet another potential market which it thinks is ripe for taking over it generally announces its intention to move aggressively into that market. Microsoft frequently announces new products for these markets that they will ship soon regardless of whether or not they have any genuine interest in actually shipping said products. What this frequently leads to is that people stop buying software in this market because they want to wait for the Microsoft version. Unfortunately if Microsoft sees the market drying up they usually just walk away and never deliver their promised products. The end result is that the small software companies in these markets take a very big hit and frequently go under while consumers end up without their promised product.

Hostile treatment of customers

In the past, Microsoft has fueled its amazing growth by leveraging its way into new markets in order to acquire new customers. The problem that Microsoft has been facing recently is that they have come to dominate so many different markets that there are not enough markets left (where they can leverage their monopoly power) that can be captured for the purpose of sustaining the growth that their shareholders require. Consequently, Microsoft has turned its sights back on its existing customers. Microsoft is finding creative ways to wring more money out of its existing customers, often times with hostile results. Now is the time to switch to Microsoft alternatives so that you can escape the Microsoft auditors who can make more stringent demands on you than the IRS (because you agreed to these demands by accepting Microsoft's EULA, or End User License Agreement).

Predatory Practices

Microsoft tends to kill off competition by drawing on resources supplied by its OS monopoly to completely out-spend its competitors, by using its customers' dependence upon existing products to force new products upon them, or by buying its competitors outright. Probably the most publicized (but definitely not the first) example of Microsoft's leveraging of their monopoly power to take over new markets is their dealing with Netscape. Microsoft spent millions of dollars creating a competitor to Netscape's web browser and then gave away the browser for free in an attempt to drive Netscape out of business. Not only did Microsoft give its browser away for free but it also spent money on promotions so that people who switched to their browser would get other things for free - Microsoft was essentially paying people to use their web browser. Microsoft would not have been able to do this if it did not have a monopoly on the OS market and Netscape had no possible business defense on this because you can't make money when you have to pay people to use your products.

To make matters worse for Netscape, Microsoft used their influence with full force to prevent OEMs (an OEM is a computer maker such as Gateway or Dell) from putting Netscape on any of the computers they shipped. Microsoft told OEMs that they could not uninstall Internet Explorer and install Netscape's Navigator even when customers asked specifically for Netscape or they would lose their Windows licenses. For OEMs, losing their Windows licenses would essentially put them out of business, so they had no alternative but to submit to Microsoft's demands. So, Microsoft used their absolute control over something that OEMs couldn't do without (Windows) to push a totally unrelated product (Internet Explorer) into more places than customers wanted and keep other products (Netscape Navigator) out even when that's what customers wanted and what OEMs wanted to give them.

Finally, Microsoft has a habit of killing off competitors by either buying them or their technologies. Once again, a good example of this is shown with Microsoft's foray into the web browser market. Microsoft was late to catch on to the fact that the web was going to revolutionize the way people used computers and once they finally woke up they were dangerously close to having their Windows monopoly destroyed by the greatly reduced importance of operating systems that a web based paradigm would produce. They needed to do something fast. They allegedly tried to carve up the market with Netscape by getting Netscape to agree to stop making Windows web browsers while Microsoft would only make Windows web browsers. Fortunately for consumers, Netscape did not agree to the deal and the web was saved from becoming a Microsoft only technology as surely would have happened. But this made it even more urgent for Microsoft that they reign in this new market right away while it was still time. Lacking any decent technology of their own, Microsoft licensed the Mosaic web browser from Spyglass which they turned into Internet Explorer. So the weapon that Microsoft fashioned in their attempt to defeat Netscape wasn't even their own, but technology they bought from someone else. This was not a one time thing, but a recurring habit of reaping the rewards for other peoples' work which started way back in the beginning when Bill Gates bought DOS (no, Microsoft didn't even create the product that was the seed for their entire monopoly).

Bundling of inferior products

In a desperate attempt to try and kill Netscape, Microsoft "integrated" its browser into its OS (well, not really, but that's what they claim in order to get the US DOJ off their back). What this meant for Microsoft was that they got to keep their monopoly for a little bit longer, but it had much more dire consequences for consumers. It meant that consumers were now stuck with a very buggy browser and file system viewer because Internet Explorer was such a rush job.

The buggy browser wouldn't have been too terrible since most people were still smart enough to use Netscape anyway, but Microsoft replaced the standard Explorer (the file system viewer) with IE which left users nowhere to hide from the bugs. If you use Internet Explorer today, be aware that for a significant period after it was introduced it was very unstable and clearly inferior to the competition, but if you wanted to use Windows you had to use IE anyway because it was made a core part of the system (i.e., the file viewer). The lesson to be learned is that by using Microsoft products you are putting yourself at the mercy of having pieces of your system which work relatively reliably (by Microsoft standards) ripped out from under you and replaced by something broken and inferior every time they find a new competitor they want to kill.

Bugs, bugs, and more bugs

Did I mention that Microsoft's products tend to be full of bugs? I'm sure you know this if you've used any Microsoft products to any great extent. It's pretty sad that people have accepted things like rebooting daily because the OS crashed as a part of computing, but that's probably because they haven't seen the alternatives.

Insecurity

Microsoft's products are notorious for their security holes. Security holes in Internet Explorer and Windows NT have been widely publicized and are now accepted as a common occurrence when announced. The public has become largely desensitized to new security holes which is unfortunate because it means that a widespread attack on users' systems is not only possible but quite easy. If it's not such a big deal for you that security isn't a top priority for Microsoft because you don't keep sensitive information on your computer, think again - if your computer is taken over it could easily be used for such devious tasks as trafficking child pornography, trafficking pirated software, or emailing death threats to the president. What's worse is that any such activity would point to your computer and you would have no way of proving that somebody else did it because Windows does not keep logs.

With its .NET strategy, Microsoft is essentially attempting to transform itself from a consumer software company into a bank. They want to hold all of your personal information and charge you every time it is used (you will be charged indirectly through the merchant you purchase goods from in a way similar to how merchants must pay the credit card companies each time you make a credit card transaction). This is going to make a bad situation even worse if Microsoft maintains its track record for insecurity. While the consequences of using insecure consumer software are bad, the consequences of using insecure software that manages your financial and personal information are much, much worse. This reason alone should be more than enough to avoid Microsoft's products as their intention is to have .NET permeate everything they release which means that a security problem in an obscure part of .NET could leave all of your software vulnerable even if you are careful about avoiding .NET features.

From a Technical Perspective

Closed "standards"

It is commonly known that Microsoft's applications are given an unnatural performance advantage on Windows because they take advantage of secret APIs which give them the extra speed they need. It's rather disturbing that Microsoft can't compete on a level playing field and feels the need to tip the field because they own it. What's even more disturbing is that they are willing to sacrifice stability and good design principles by "integrating" applications with their OS just to make their applications run faster.

Mutilation of existing standards

Unfortunately, it's not enough for Microsoft to make up its own standards which it keeps unpublished. It also feels the need to hijack existing standards and break them especially if it will help them keep their OS monopoly. For example, Microsoft felt threatened by the Java standard because it was OS independent so it attempted to twist the standard into something Windows specific, all in the name of giving customers what they want.

Lack of innovation

It's disgusting how Microsoft portrays itself as the supreme innovator when just about all the technology that it has was copied off of others' previous work. Think about all the major innovations in CS technology and then count how many of them were developed by Microsoft. I count zero. This is because Microsoft admittedly does not enter a market until the potential amount of money to be made in it is fairly large.

From the Perspective of Everybody Else

Attempts at taking over appliance markets

When computer chips started popping up in more and more appliances Microsoft couldn't bear to see a potential market for software that it didn't control so it threw together something called Windows CE. What they don't understand is that people are used to reliable appliances and they won't put up with the level of unreliability that accompanies most Microsoft products in their appliances. I for one absolutely do not want Windows driving my car. I encourage you to never buy any product which uses Windows CE so that this threat doesn't spread.

Attempts at buying the public's trust

Microsoft's fierce competitive nature has alienated everybody in the industry to the point where voluntary supporters are virtually nonexistent. For quite some time Microsoft has resorted to buying public endorsements and there have been documented incidents of Microsoft employees posing as normal software users in public settings without revealing their true identities. And these are just the incidents that the public has found out about - who knows how many cases have never been exposed for the false endorsements that they actually are? So when you see that rare instance of Microsoft support you need to seriously question whether it is genuine.

Outright Deception

The examples of Microsoft's outright deception are numerous and well documented. Everybody should be very concerned about this regardless of whether or not you think it directly affects you because it does affect you. Allowing Microsoft to get away with fudging its way to the top only encourages every other company in existence to do the same while discouraging companies from giving you the whole truth that you need in order to make informed decisions as a consumer and that you have a right to as a member of a civilized society.

This is not even close to an exhaustive list of examples and there will be many more examples added here as we get the time to sift through our news archives.


Common Defenses of Microsoft Debunked

Microsoft is ahead because their products are superior

Microsoft's products are generally not superior. As an example, Windows is more bloated, much less stable, less secure, much more expensive, and lacking much of the capabilities of Linux, one of its competing operating systems. The real reason that Microsoft is ahead is that their marketing is superior and because they leverage their existing market share to keep consumers locked into Microsoft specific solutions.

Microsoft should not be punished for its success

Of course it shouldn't be punished for its success, but it should be punished for using predatory practices to out muscle competition in a way that would not be possible if they did not have their monopoly. The best way to punish Microsoft is to use the alternatives to their products. A fringe benefit of using alternatives is that you will generally end up with much better software.


Contributors

KMFMS welcomes thoughtful contributions for addition to this page and the KMFMS website in general. The people listed below have made significant contributions to this page. If you would like to contribute to this page or to the KMFMS site in general please send your additions to us using our comment form. We are particularly looking for well documented examples that illustrate the points on this page as well as clear explanations of other points we may have missed.





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