Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
10/2/2006
04:34 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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Is Microsoft Playing Its Own Game Of Chicken With Zune?

Microsoft is said to be thinking about leaving the development of podcast management tools for its forthcoming Zune to third-party developers. My guess is that this fleeting thought has about as much life expectancy as a fox standing in the door of a henhouse thinking about becoming a vegetarian. If I were a developer, I'd read up on what Microsoft is doing to security vendors and run away from the Zune player as fast as I

Microsoft is said to be thinking about leaving the development of podcast management tools for its forthcoming Zune to third-party developers. My guess is that this fleeting thought has about as much life expectancy as a fox standing in the door of a henhouse thinking about becoming a vegetarian. If I were a developer, I'd read up on what Microsoft is doing to security vendors and run away from the Zune player as fast as I could.Microsoft has proved over and over again that the only reason for the existence of third-party products is to prove the existence of profitable markets. If a company makes a profitable software product that runs on Windows, it's automatically on Microsoft's dinner menu. The only survival strategy is to get big enough fast enough that it's easier for Microsoft to buy you out than to squeeze you out. And no matter how big you get, you can never relax, as the biggest of the big security vendors are discovering.

Symantec was first, two weeks ago, with its accusation that Microsoft is using monopolistic tactics to keep third-party consumer security software from disabling Windows Vista's built-in security dashboard. Today McAfee joined the fight with a full-page ad in the Financial Times of London that offered its own version of the charge that Microsoft is using the introduction of its new version of Windows to squeeze out third-party security products in favor of its own Microsoft OneCare.

"Microsoft is being completely unrealistic if, by locking security companies out of the kernel (core), it thinks hackers won't crack Vista's kernel. In fact, they already have," the ad read in part.

Microsoft, for its part, has responded, "Partners are at the core of Microsoft's business model. We have worked closely with our security partners throughout the development of Windows Vista, and continue to do so."

The placement of the ad is the tip-off to what's going on here. The Financial Times is the business paper most read by officials of what government agency? Hint, it's not the SEC. That's right, it's the European Commission. Microsoft is already in big trouble with the EU's antitrust regulators, and Symantec and McAfee are obviously hoping they can stir up enough concern on the continent to break Microsoft's resolve on owning the security market at home.

Microsoft, for its part, is issuing veiled threats to withhold Vista from the European market if it has to take any more antitrust guff.

My guess is that that's all bluff. Microsoft has literally bet the company on Vista. It has to sell Vista--a LOT of Vista--if it's going to remain a force in the software business. And it's going to need sales in Europe, because right now it looks like U.S. sales aren't going to be very strong very soon.

But if I were a security vendor, I'd be worried. Microsoft really means it: Partners ARE at the core of its business model--and its diet. If I were Symantec, in particular, which is most closely tied to the consumer market, I'd be trying to do everything I can to look less like a chicken dinner.

And if I were a developer with a deep understanding of podcasting, I'd think that writing apps for the Zune would be just like brushing myself with barbeque sauce.

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