A Matter of Perspective

A Matter of Perspective

Microsoft is everywhere, and in my darker moments I can only wish them well.

Common sense says that eventually the industry must suffer from having one such dominant force. But then again this is an industry that has always played by its own rules and which, when the rules don't fit, simply moves the goalposts.

Right now Microsoft is being hauled over the coals in an antitrust case in the US. It is a case which many commentators like myself never believed would get so far, even though we believed it a worthy cause by the Justice Department.

Most of my former colleagues in the fourth estate still hold that view. But since I swapped over from gamekeeper to IT lord of the manor, my attitude towards the 1000 pound gorilla has softened a little. Our desktop productivity applications are Microsoft; our servers run on Windows NT, although a lone NetWare device keeps the heterogeneous dream alive; and on the Web, Microsoft is increasingly gaining byte-share on the boxes. With the recent acquisition of a new general ledger we are now also moving to SQL Server as a preferred relational database.

Needless to say Internet Explorer is our browser standard as it is for about 55 per cent of the 18,000 people who visited our Web site last week. The browser decision was the easiest to make because Netscape wanted to charge for its browser while Explorer was free. While I know it's probably wrong from a pure market sense, I have to admit that as we are developers of Web products I selfishly look forward to the day when Explorer dominates the browser space.

That will mean that we no longer have to worry about designing pages around the lowest common denominator functionality of the multiple platforms that currently exist. No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft and I don't expect to be the first. So for all these reasons I'm increasingly comfortable with Microsoft's ubiquity and the terrible secret is that many, but certainly not all, of my colleagues in mid-range user land feel the same. And yet and yet . .

. Microsoft has brought this storm upon its own house. Even under intense scrutiny from anti-trust lawyers it has continued to behave in a belligerent fashion. Take its decision, hastily revoked earlier this year, to not support users of Novell's NDS running on NT. Before that, there was its fairly arbitrary move to end concurrent software pricing at a considerable benefit to itself -- and at the expense of its customers.

Your organisation is riddled with Microsoft gear: the virus with a user interface as one commentator described it. Have no doubts at all, the antitrust case is big news. It has huge implications for you and for your company. This gig has just begun.

Andrew Birmingham is the CIO of IDG Communications. He can be reached at

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