bridge of the enterprise - Is Microsoft Really the Evil Empire?

Who created the Microsoft of today anyway? Who is responsible for those guys in Redmond and their ‘control’ over us? The answer is: You are! I am too, as are most everyone in our industry who has helped set any standards internally or externally.

I run NT, Win 95 and Windows CE. On top of all that, my company has standardized on MS BackOffice running Exchange and SQL Server and will be implementing SMS. In addition, we run MS Office Professional, MS Project and MS Publisher, and our Web site is done with MS Front Page.

We made the decision to move to these products, not to please the gods of Microsoft, but because they made the most sense for our organization. The applications interact well together, share many resources and are usually upgraded at the same time. In addition to all of that, support and on-going maintenance become easier as they are all from a single source. Not all of our applications, operating systems and utilities come from Microsoft, but obviously many do.

If we, as the consumer, were offered better products, at attractive prices, that provided as much interaction we still may not buy them. Why? Marketing, that’s why. Microsoft is the best marking company in the computer industry today. By the time they are finished with the media and all the attention they get, their ad campaigns and all the other marketing tricks they use, the consumer does not stand a chance.

No wonder Microsoft’s competitors are crying. They simply cannot figure out how to beat the competition. It is a lot like beating the San Francisco 49ers between the years of 1984 and 1994. It could be done, but not consistently and not by the same competitor.

This leaves companies like Netscape -- who makes an excellent product -- in a position where they think they must sic the bureaucrats of the government on the competition. This aggravates me! I don’t call the cops each time one of my competitors beats me on a deal, or hires somebody that we are after. Microsoft didn’t sic its local congress person on Lotus or Novell. They figured out how to out-market them. Besides, the U.S. government has no business running or regulating business (other than for public safety or theft) in a capitalistic society. Buck up, Netscape, and figure out how to beat them at their own game.

In the meantime, our lovely government will spend millions -- if not billions -- of our hard-earned tax dollars fighting a legal battle that has no real bearing on anything. They already tried this with IBM throughout most of the 1980s and it essentially yielded nothing except handcuffing IBM and its stockholders. It is possible this action between our beloved bureaucrats and Microsoft will kill Windows 98. So what! I don’t care, chances are, you don’t care and it is quite possible that Microsoft doesn’t either. It’s NT they want out there anyway.

No, Microsoft is not the great Satan of the computing world. They are a fierce competitor, wielding the power that we, the consumer, gave them. They provide a good product at a fair price and when they stop that, we will choose another player.

A message to Microsoft’s competitors: Learn how to compete! Develop a better marketing strategy, make your tools work together and with others, make deals with hardware vendors, offer free product. Do all the things they do, and you may be pleasantly surprised. As for the rest of us, we must always remember with whom the real power lies. We have a choice and have the freedom to exercise that choice.

--A veteran of the IBM midrange arena since 1983, Chris Gloede is executive VP for Business Solutions Group in Wayne, Pa.