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7/19/2004
06:39 PM
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Microsoft: Hated Because It's Misunderstood (Opinion)

Prejudices and misconceptions about Microsoft make it hard to evalute the company's merits. The biggest myths about Microsoft are that its desktop products are overpriced, it doesn't respect its customers, and reliability and security are poor. And some think the company is downright evil.

Microsoft Doesn't Respect Its Customers
This perception became clear after I spoke with a number of CIOs. Basically they were used to the way they were treated by the big hardware OEMs who would fly them around in the corporate jet, take them out to luxury dinners, and host them in private boxes at big athletic events. The CIOs would also often get nice gifts when they visited the vendor. Microsoft generally didn't fund customers' travel, seldom takes them out, and their idea of a treat is a trip to the Microsoft employee store, where customers are allowed to spend a limited amount of their own money. As an ex-auditor living in these post-Enron times I'm thinking that Microsoft's behavior may be more appropriate, but I have to acknowledge that this behavior hurts Microsoft a lot with their large corporate customers.

I wouldn't't use gifts as reason to choose a vendor. I've seen too many people get in lots of trouble going down that path.

If you are going to make a software deployment decision on something other than price, consider the risk factor in choosing an alternative company and you may find the grass isn't always greener. For instance in considering Microsoft vs. Sun on the desktop, bear in mind that the desktop isn't Sun's space, they are funding it at a fraction of what Microsoft spends, and if Sun's financial problems continue, the company may well decide that the desktop is less strategic than other areas, and should be cut. Also, with respect to StarOffice, while you'll likely be as impressed as I am with what the product does, the little things the product doesn't do may drive you nuts.

Other factors may be important to you, I'm just pointing out in this piece some of the things that are important to me. Don't just look at where you are coming from but where you are going. No matter how bad things seem, take a look at the potential destination before jumping out of the frying pan. Trust me, things really can get worse.

Products Are Unreliable And Insecure
Way too many people are complaining about breakage of Microsoft products. I'm on current Microsoft products and I hardly ever crash. In looking at virus and crash analysis data, problems appear to be related to drivers, older applications, and code that was developed before the Internet was really understood. Most people believe the source of the problem is Microsoft's platform. Regardless of the truth of this, I agree that it is Microsoft's problem to solve.

But there is something really strange when criminals develop code that is openly hostile and designed to break your products, and the criminals are blamed less than the vendor. For instance if you bought a car and a gas refinery intentionally developed a formula that would cause your car to explode, I have a hard time believing we would be hunting the manufacturer of the car. I actually can't picture any product developer could withstand a concerted attack brought by a massive number of people; I honestly don't think there is anyone good enough to anticipate every possible attack that could occur. People buy bulletproof cars, but I wouldn't drive one with American flags on it through Iraq right now.

Also, SCO was hit recently with a major denial of service attack and they run a Linux distribution. Oracle was hit the day after they announced their product was "bulletproof."

As a result of recent attacks, the U.S. government is considering regulating both vendors and enterprise users of software. It won't matter what platform you run, you'll enjoy extra costs as you try to comply with that regulation. Governments are ticked off and they aren't just targeting Microsoft.

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