Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why I hate Microsoft.

Firstly let me say that I do not hate Microsoft at all. Hate goes against my personal beliefs and tenents.

It's also worth noting that having hatred for a monolithic non-person entity that doesn't even know you exist is possibly one the silliest things a human could do.

Microsoft's monopoly however does make me very unhappy.

Can you imagine a world where every action you take via an electronic interface is performed by software written by one single entity.

Now I consider myself somewhat of a capitalist. Not in the Ayn Rand mould. But in the fact that I value the ability to achieve success through my own labour - Floreat felicitas laborem coronat and all that jazz. I also recognise that one of the most important freedoms we can possibly have is economic freedom since it provides a balance against the feudalistic tendency of goverments.

Ok so how does that relate back to Microsoft: If you consider how important computing is to the economic freedoms of an individual, is it not then true that the monopolistic power of Microsoft in many way parallels that feudalism that is dangerous for our own economic freedom.

As a business user you have no choice but to go along with this. The decades long monopoly of Microsoft on the desktop has ensured that is extremely difficult to exist as a business entity without Microsoft.

In this situation Microsoft is the ultimate lord in control of the land (your computer desktop), M$ grants fief to OEM partners such as Dell and HP who must swear fealty to Microsoft and support the lord of the land. These vassals have no choice but to swear fealty since not doing so would undermine their power.

Finally there are us the serfs who must work the land and in order to be protected you have no choice but to pay tax to your lord: Microsoft.

This means that Microsoft automatically gains from just about any modern economic activity. You as a consumer has no choice but to pay for Microsoft products in order to earn money. Microsoft therefore has a certain amount of control over one of our most important freedoms.

So, how do we free ourselves from this economic tyranny?

Some people pirate Microsoft software in the belief that somehow this undermines Microsoft. Besides the rather poor ethics of this approach, piracy actually helps the monopoly simply by enlarging the Windows ecosystem.

The reality is that in order to beat Microsoft we will have wrest the market away from them via the market.

For me, the shining example of a successful competitor to Microsoft is Mozilla.

If you consider that Firefox has grown for no other reason than because it's a better product than Internet Explorer. It's faster, lighter, has better features and very importantly is easier to use than I.E.

Mozilla has also become profitable in signing search deals with Google. This allows it to fund it's development and is working on some very innovative projects such as Prism.

While the fact that Firefox is free, certainly has something to do with it's popularity, I certainly think that no one outside of geeks actually care much about the fact that it's open source.

The Mozilla/Firefox approach however is sadly lacking in much open source software. Open Office for example is simply a clone of MS Office 2000.

Furthermore it often seems to me that Open source tries to advocate it's usage on the underlying ideology, most businesses unfortunately don't have the resources to engage in ideologies.

Still Mozilla proves that you can indeed break a stranglehold and represents a model worth emulating if we are to retain our economic freedoms.

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