Microsoft vs. The World
There are a number of people who proudly carry the moniker of "Microsoft Basher." Indeed, an entire industry has sprung up, whose mission it is to show the world that there are viable alternatives to a dependance on Microsoft at any level.
Microsoft may not have played fair all the time. Their Marketing Group may have engaged in unscrupulous (though possibly legal) business practices. Their Applications Group may have had the unfair (though possibly legal) advantage of a direct pipeline to the Operating Systems Group.
The fact remains that Microsoft's products are always top performers in their categories, and while there are other products of perhaps equal stature, the synergy that is available from having multiple Microsoft products is worth more than the cost of the individual products.
The best reason to buy Word is Excel, and the best reason to buy Excel is Word. Microsoft may not be the best company to everyone all the time, but it is usually a good company to most of us.
That is rare, unfortunately.
In the late '80's ADAPSO (currently known as Information Technology Association of America (ITAA)), a computer industry trade group, was preparing to testify before Congress about Software Piracy. It polled it's members, asking them to estimate how much money they were losing to software pirates. Microsoft responded with quite a large figure, but most of the other members said that either they had no way of knowing or that it wasn't very much.
ADAPSO added up all the numbers and was preparing it's presentation materials when Microsoft said the total was too low and demanded that ADAPSO increase it. ADAPSO doubled the total, but Microsoft continued to balk. ADAPSO doubled it again, but Microsoft still wasn't satisfied. ADAPSO told Microsoft that they were going before Congress with the original numbers because they were testifying under oath and had nothing to support the inflated estimates.
Microsoft withdrew from ADAPSO and formed the Business Software Alliance which testifies before Congress with very large estimates of revenue losses due to software piracy.
In the mid- '80s, Borland had a line of inexpensive programming languages, the flagship of which was Turbo Pascal. Every high school kid that dreamed of being a computer programmer could learn to write programs without spending a lot of money by buying one of these products. Microsoft had a line of professional programming languages, all of which cost much more than Borland's Turbo- line, so it countered with it's line of programming languages like QuickBasic and QuickC. These also became very popular with amateur and budding programmers, many of whom grew to become professional programmers.
In the early '90s, Borland had some financial and management problems, and it's Turbo line languished. Microsoft saw this as the market drying up, so discontinued it's Quick product line. Young people with an interest in computers had no way to experiment (legally).
As a result, all that was left were the very expensive programming languages from Microsoft (plus a few other minor players.) Software Piracy was seen as a significant ethical issue, and was widely discoraged in the US and many western nations. That was not so in many parts of the world, however, and many places had copies of Microsoft's programming languages available for next to nothing, and the local authorities did almost nothing to discourage the practice
Currently, software companies are complaining that they can't find competent entry-level programmers in this country, so they want to either shift their software development outside the US or bring entry-level programmers in from other countries. It turns out the countries that developed these new programmers are the ones that permitted the most software piracy in the '90s. Is it possible that the new programmers that these companies want to employ learned to write programs without spending a lot of money by buying pirated copies of Microsoft's professional programming languages?
See what happens when you pirate software? Your children get good jobs!
Symantec: Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts
The Symantec Corporation has never come up with anything new. It just buys the companies whose products it likes, or at least buys the exclusive rights to market those products. After an indeterminate amount of time, some, then all of the products from the purchased company would be discontinued from the Symantec product line for seemingly no reason.
A company called Fifth Generation Systems produced several good products, one a first class backup program called FastBack, another a printer sharing device called The Logical Connection. Both of these products sold well right up to the the time Symantec bought Fifth Generation Systems. The Logical Connection was dropped from the Symantec product line almost immediately, and Symantec had listed FastBack in their product catalog for years, but you couldn't buy it anywhere.
Two companies, Norton Computing and Central Point Software, both produced a variety of high quality products, some of which competed, and both companies were doing reasonably well when Symantec bought them. Now, most of the products from both companies have been discontinued, none of the Central Point products are being supported, and only a few of the Norton products have been upgraded.
Symantec is less than the sum of its parts. Competition in general, and the computer consumer in particular, are the poorer for it.
The Computer Industry and the Media
I remember, several years ago, the cover stories for Time and BusinessWeek, and a headline on the front page of the Wall Street Journal were all about a RAM shortage which they unanimously professed would cripple the computer industry in this country. What struck me most about all these stories was that they were all published the same week, one week after InfoWorld and PC Week carried stories stating that the 4 month old RAM shortage was over and that wholesale prices were headed back down.
It took the general media 4 months to even find out about something, and by the time they got around to telling anybody about it, it was over!
If you want to know what's happening in an industry, check the trade press, not the general media.