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spikegifted - Random thoughts


You've got to be kidding!... Microsoft to do antivirus...Yeah right!

June 12, 2003

Let me drag you guys down 'Memory Lane'...

The year was 1993, most people were using MS-DOS 5.x and Windows 3.1 (that was before WorkGroups 3.11). MS signed an licensing agreement with Stacker (spelling?) to incorporate a disk compression feature into the next version of MS-DOS. The new version came out and in all the marketing be that was being dished out, one of the features was called 'DoubleSpace'. It was suppose to 'nearly double the disk space available to your PC'. Remember, this was 1993! If you had a 1GB HDD, you're über-geek! CD-ROMs had just become cool and most people's PCs are running out of disk space; DoubleSpace was like a god-send. That was the reason why many people upgraded to MS-DOS 6.0. The only problem was that there was a problem with DoubleSpace. I'm not sure (or I can't remember) what was the exactly problem or where the problem came from, but MS was forced to make some adjustments in the code and a newer version of DoubleSpace came out as part of MS-DOS 6.2. Unfortunately, by changing some of the code to fix the problem, MS has violated its agreement with Stacker and they sued. To get round the problem MS made further changes to the code and renamed 'DoubleSpace' to 'DriveSpace' and it was part of MS-DOS 6.22. Since the code has been changed so much, it was no longer covered by the licensing agreement and MS did not want to sign another one with Stacker since it was, by that time, in effect MS's own code. Stacker decided to market its own product instead... There was a law suit and a counter-suit in there somewhere also, but as usual, the suits came to nothing - just a lot of time and money wasted.

So, where is Stacker today? They had a product that people loved. What happened?

The above scenario is the model of MS's business model for its OS division and it relies on one very important human nature - we're all lazy.

If money was no object and that's the reason why most utilities are below the $50 mark - 50 bugs, that's not a really big deal, people are willing to buy the utilities if they can't find it in the OS. However if they come as part of the OS, why bother?

Look at all those companies that used to make utilities or add-ons to MS products, OSes in particular... Can you tell me what happened to the makers of Stacker, PC Works Utilities, QEMM, AfterDark screen saver, Netscape and a whole host of others? I'm confident that Symantec (Norton) is about the one that has survived to date, along with smaller ones like PowerQuest and a couple of others.

The introduction of Windows 95 and the companion Plus! pack killed off a good number of utilities companies and only ones that have survived are the people who make anti-virus products. Why? Because MS hasn't integrated such feature into the OS. By integrating the features that you'd otherwise spend $50 a piece on, MS charges you to 'upgrade'...

You may argue such features are not part of the OS. Well, other people have tried making that argument and look where they are now? (I'm talking specifically about Netscape and the 'browser war'.) The point is, for the average Joe out there buying their PCs from Walmart, they don't give a sh!t what is considered part of the OS. All they really care is that they buy a rig and it has all those features. Computer magazines tell people to defrag their HDDs to keep the rig running efficiently, fine the OS has such a feature and they'll run it once every 6 months. Newspaper columns tell people to get some protection against viruses, fine the OS has such feature and they just click a few buttons and enable it. Does it matter if the virus definitions are completely out of date? Do they care?

I would not be surprise that some time in the not-too-distant future, a firewall will be part of the OS, so would a partition manager and a messaging client, etc... Would people like you and I, who have a reasonably good idea what's a good piece of software, use them? Probably not - we'd spend the money to get the products that actually do a good job. Would the average Joe who buy their rigs from Walmart use them? Probably... They're just too lazy to find out for themselves that there're better products out there.


June 12, 2003

You see, you have a choice. I had a choice also - I started out using PCs with Lotus 123 and WordPerfect in DOS in my first job. Then when I owned a PC, I used Lotus SmartSuite (mainly Ami Pro, later Word Pro, 123 and Freelance Graphics) and WordPerfect Office (WP - only for a while, Quadro Pro and Paradox). They were great products at the time.

Between my first job and my second, I did an MBA and during that time and immediately afterwards, I carried out some IT consultancy and I noticed more and more companies used MS Office - thanks to MS's bundling policies, linking the OS with its office productivity applications. To be completely frank, some of MS's products took a while to catch up with the competition. By the time Office 6 came out (with Word 6, Excel 5, Powerpoint 4 and Access 2 or something like them - I can't remember the exact version numbers), most of the products are leader of their class, but many companies were still using products other than those offered by MS.

However, two things happened which pretty much drove nearly everyone into MS products - compatibility and integration. The compatibility problem happened slowly at first, but then the growing usage of the internet and e-mails accelerated the whole process. If you want to do business with others, you have to be able to read the files they send you, otherwise the cost of doing business just became too great. I don't know whose fault it was that different office productivity suites which offered very similar end-products became incompatible with the others, but someone decided not to make them fully compatible and kaboom the whole world was using MS Office. To add to the advantage of MS, Lotus and the WordPerfect suites were not as tightly integrated as the competition. (We are still talking about the time around 1994-96, Office 6 and Office 95.)

From that point onwards, it was a world according to MS and its products. I didn't have a choice any more - I can't launch Lotus 123 to check out Excel spreadsheets; I can't use Word to edit my Ami Pro/Word Pro files; my beautifully formatted Freelance Graphics slides came out like unformatted text in Powerpoint - my working life became a nightmare! I was forced to relearn many tasks that I've mastered using non-MS applications and I had to spend money on applications and books to teach this 'old dog' new tricks.

Since Office 95/97, with the exception of integrating VBA across the line, I have yet to find a single new feature in MS Office that I can honest say I can't live without. Yes, I agree that the level of integration has improved, but hey, we're now at Office 10 or 11 (I lost count), should they not get it right yet? To 'encourage' people to upgrade to MS's next biggest, sexiest, baddest, most bloated and most hog on resources, MS decided to use the one trick that made them the most popular productivity application suite in the first place - they made files incompatible with previous versions. Yes, you can still open and edit them, but then again, people are lazy and they don't want to physically select the opening and saving options and companies are forced to shell out and upgrade.

If you believe in having a choice of choosing which application to complete your tasks most efficiently, having a single dominant supplier is not the answer.

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