Well now, today's news is that Microsoft is considered a
European monopolist. Ironic, isn't it, after all these years of investigation
for locking up the browser market by bundling Internet Explorer with the
Windows desktop, the Europeans nail Microsoft for being piggish with the Media
Player? Doubly ironic, when you consider another operating system vendor that
bundles its browser and media player software on its desktops, and nobody is
going after it. Of course, I refer to Apple, with its Safari and iTunes
applications. I guess having a two or three percent market share is the best
way to keep the government lawyers from tying you up in legal knots.
The trouble with Apple is that the company still thinks it
can go this alone and forget that there is a hungry world of partners and
developers out there, anxious to license and embrace and extend the company's
work. As Chris Stone, the CTO of Novell told me not too long ago: "If
Apple just could put Aqua in open source, Microsoft would be in deep trouble,
and the game would be over. People would rush to develop apps using that software."
Instead, we say, "So what?" Say the Europeans
fine Microsoft a bazillion dollars. Microsoft cuts the check. Its corporate
treasury makes back the dough in about 3.5 days' worth of sales. Life goes on.
Meanwhile, more and more ISVs write to Windows Media Player and IE. Eventually,
the alternatives die on the vine, like an overexposed Netscape that has been
through too many corporate acquisitions. Do you remember Netscape?
The problem is that the world court of opinion doesn't
evolve fast enough to keep up with technology. In the meantime, we are stuck
with IE. And soon we will be stuck with Windows Media Player too, Europe
IE has become the defacto operating system environment for
the Internet, like it or not. Just about every vendor that has come through
lately to show me their latest and greatest software has something that works
only on IE, only on Windows, and only on version 5.x or later. Why bother
writing code for anything else? It is, after all, what most of us use on our
Those of us that are on Mac desktops know this drill all
too well. I have a spare Windows machine on a nearby desk that I go to from
time to time, because the applications that I need to run just run better
there. Our corporate expense reporting system -- which is entirely browser
based, I might add -- just runs faster and with fewer problems on Windows with
IE than on a Mac. Every time I go to American Airlines' Web site, it runs
faster on Windows with IE than on my Mac. All my WebEx and other remote desktop
sharing demos that I get from the vendors around the country only work on
Windows with IE. The list goes on and on. And these are the Web applications.
Forget about those apps that are written specifically for Windows.
Yes, I know, I could get Virtual PC and run Windows under
my Mac OS. But I shouldn't have to. And my Panther Mac desktop at home does run
Web apps much faster and cleaner than my aging work OS9. My point is that
developers have focused on IE and Windows and will continue to innovate on
these products, as well as newer things that we can't even imagine that
incorporate managing media files and applications for the future.
This is the next battle, as the European commission has
rightly identified. But it is almost too late for any judgment in this sector
too. True enough, iTunes is available on Windows, finally. It is a dandy
application. It is so easy to manage my media; there isn't anything Microsoft
has written that comes close to its elegance, simplicity and functionality.
But, eventually, Microsoft will dominate in the media
player world, just as they have in the browser world. Once a monopolist, always
contents copyright 2004 by David Strom, Inc.
Strom, email@example.com, +1 (516) 562-7151
Washington NY 11050
Informant is (r) registered trademark with the
Patent and Trademark Office.
#1524-6353 registered with U.S. Library of Congress
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