Nice response, but I'm afraid I have to disagree on some of your points.
Thus, through being the best, they
will be rewarded with a large share of the
Absolutely. In fact, I don't begrudge Microsoft their market domination
at all. They've shown that they excel at a certain combination of business
strategy and technical prowess, which is an evolutionary trait that no other
company could beat. Clearly history has shown that
what matters is this combination, whereas business
acumen or technical superiority alone doesn't succeed as well. So I say: good for them.
However, having a large share of the market is both a reward
and a responsibility, and your argument doesn't mention the latter.
Obviously, I'm talking about sizeable markets here, with large numbers of customers, not the "bespoke software" niche (term coined by Neil Stephenson in Diamond Age). Microsoft, and any other monopoly before or after it,
has a responsibility to keep the barriers to entry in its market
as low as possible.
This is the only way of ensuring that "there will almost always be choice" as you say.
Some software markets have high barriers of entry due to technical and safety
requirements - I can think of certain types of engineering software, which
precludes just anyone writing and selling in that market.
Most business and consumer software markets, which happens to be what Microsoft concentrates on, do not have such safety or technical requirements, and therefore are not served by high barriers. To pick some examples, if your letter
doesn't print with the correct margins, you can print it again with slightly different settings. If your computer game crashes, you reboot, reload, and replay the level. Nobody gets hurt.
Microsoft do not keep barriers to entry low. By adding improperly documented
interoperability features between their products, they force
a new entrant in the market
to match Microsoft's features before even being considered by customers, irrespective of the relative importance of those features in the market considered.
So for example you might write a business email client for Windows XXX to compete with Outlook,
and it'll have to communicate with Exchange's calendaring features
before being considered. If the interface is insufficiently (or not at all)
documented, you won't be able to enter the market because of the artificially high barrier
Where's the competition going to come from if say Microsoft stops actively developing (ie "stabilizes") Outlook? Are customers better served with another email client which can't do Exchange calendaring? No. Would customers be better served if Outlook continues to add features they want? Yes. Is Microsoft better served if it adds more features to Outlook? Perhaps, perhaps not. It depends upon how many customers will be willing to "upgrade" and how much they'll agree to pay for the upgrade. If there's too little projected revenue relative to other potential projects, the new features will get axed. This is an important point: even if in absolute terms the projected revenue from new features justifies their development, they may get preempted by some completely different project which has a higher marginal rate of return.
In the Microsoft situation, consumers can always
choose Linux, Mac or BeOS rather than Windows. If
those alternatives are unappealing, is that somehow
In light of what I said above: Microsoft must make it easy as pie
for Linux, Mac or BeOS (RIP) based software to take advantage of or replace
completely its own offerings in a way which is seamless to the consumer (*).
Bring those barriers to entry right down.
This is obviously not in Microsoft's own best interest, but as I said in
my previous post, their interest is subordinate to the market's best interest.
Only if Microsoft loose their market monopoly can they again behave exclusively in their own best interest, to catch up so to speak.
Ok, this post is long enough already.
(*) This does not mean doing all the work for the Linux, Mac or BeOS developers, but simply not denying them the prerequisites, ie proper documentation. My rule of thumb is: if some guy in his basement could write it, then Microsoft aren't obstructing alternative developers in that particular market.
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