- Capitalism and Alternatives -

A free-marketeer defending a monopoly?

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on October 19, 1999 at 14:22:10:

In Reply to: I will continue to buy Microsoft products posted by David on October 19, 1999 at 10:51:55:

: I have no problems agreeing with those of you who point out the advantages of Unix and other OS systems. In fact, I know for a fact that they are better. However, for me personally, Windows 98 works wonderfully.

: The only things I use my computer for are word processing (and other data processing such as spread sheets, etc.), internet, and playing computer games.

Except that the 'net runs on Unix (or the vast majority of it does) - thus Unix and Unix-compatible OSes like Linux are the "best" tools for using on the 'net. Internet access was only added into Windows '95 as an afterthought; and Windows '98 is nothing more than a slightly revamped Windows '95; Windows was not designed with the 'net in mind; it suffers as a result of this.

: Naturally, I choose the operating system that facilitates the greatest in these areas. Windows is that. Not only did it come with all the word/data processing software I need (Mircrosoft Office 2000), it also came with a web browser and instant internet access (although, I will be switching to broadband sometime this month) and it is compatible with all of the computer games I use.

Although you don't know it, the price you paid for your computer included the price of the software; so you actually paid for MS Office (which is a bloated and unwieldy bit of code and a resource hog to boot). You were never given the option to buy something else; nor were you given the option of not buying MS Office (RRP in the UK: 400) - say, Star Office from Corel (RRP in the UK: 49; functionality; pretty much identical to MS Office).

Isn't there something rather ironic about a follower of the free market defending an obvious monopoly like Microsoft? In your books, monopolies are bad because they restrict freedom of choice; yet you seem to be blind to the fact that it is nearly impossible to buy a preassembled PC with anything that isn't Microsoft Windows installed; a clear monopoly.

Furthermore, Microsoft used its commercial muscle to restrict your choice of 'net browser; witness the tactics it used against Netscape when it tried to cut Netscape's air supply.

: It would be silly for me to install a completely new OS when the gains are not all that great.

Well, if you count stability, security, net-connectedness and privacy as unimportant, fine; I don't.

: If, however, I were in the position where I was running complex software or using my computer for far more in depth things, then yes, I would switch to a more efficient, less buggy, OS.

All modern software is comparatively complex; and increasing in complexity. As this happens, a small group of programmers (Microsoft) necessarily become less effective at spotting the bugs; the code becomes far too complex for one company to screen. At this point, you can either release the code as is (as Microsoft and proprietory software developers do); or you can release the code to the world and submit it to peer review (which is what the Open Source movement is all about).

The more people you have looking at code, the more likely you are to find bugs and fix them. Linux has ten times as many people looking at bugs as Microsoft can ever afford; because Linux coders do these things for fun, intellectual stimulation and kudos; whereas MS programmers do it for money. The comparative quality of the two operating systems bears this out.

: This is where the free market comes into play. I would say that 90% of computer users are like me. I am even an exception because I have quite a bit of indepth knowledge as to software and computers.

And yet, as a free-market fan, you support a monopoly?

: Regardless, many of them simply do not want the hassle associated with other OS systems. Some find Mac OS far easier to use and buy them, others buy Windows. I frankly don't really care what people buy. If someone asked me my opinion on what to get, I would ask them what they are going to use it for. If it turns out that they are like me (and 90% of the population) then I would suggest they get Windows.

Uh-huh; what about Linux (which will run on PC or Apple hardware) or BeOS (ditto)? Linux is more functional than Windows and BeOS is more capable than MacOS.

(The special effects in the film Titanic were done on Linux - to quote this page;

"In an article originally published in Linux Journal (issue 46), Daryll Strauss, a software engineer at Digital Domain, describes the use of GNU/Linux in generating visual effects for the film Titanic.

Using 200 DEC Alpha-based systems running the Red Hat 4.1 distribution of GNU/Linux, after upgrading the kernel to support the PC164 mainboard, Digital Domain found a performance increase of three to four over SGI systems. The combination of the GNU/Linux OS and Alpha CPUs also delivered the most cost-effective solution to time and processing demands.

Daryll Strauss writes that feature film and television visual effects development has provided a high performance, cost-sensitive, proving ground for GNU/Linux. He concludes that the low entry cost, versatility and interoperability of GNU/Linux is sufficiently attractive to warrant more extensive investigation, experimentation, and deployment.")

Oh, and for the core of MacOS X (codenamed "Rhapsody"), Apple has abandoned their own operating system kernel in favour of BSD Unix.

The U.S. Army recently also junked their Microsoft NT web servers because they were too insecure - and replaced them with Apple Macs (see here)

The U.S. Department of Labor lost a week's work last year due to a particularly bad NT crash (see here).

: Microsoft products have never let me down and I like their interface. I will continue to buy Microsoft products, not out of principle, but because I feel they put out quality products. Should that change, I would change what products I buy.

See the links I put in my response to Frenchy; if you believe MS makes quality software, then you have a very low expectation of what "quality software" is.


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