The Commission for Unfair Trade

Here's something I just noticed looking at one of Microsoft's sites:
In compliance with the Korean Fair Trade Commission Order, Microsoft will produce for distribution in the Republic of Korea new versions of Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional. The new versions containing “KN” in the name will not include Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Note that computer manufacturers may pre-install third-party media players or instant messaging software on computers running these new versions of Windows XP. Korean consumers may also separately install media players or instant messengers, either from Microsoft or a third party. The new versions containing “K” in the name will include links to Web sites containing links to software downloads to third-party media player and instant messaging software and will also be available to Korean consumers.
How is there anything "fair" in this "Fair Trade Commission" order?

Commissions like this are supposed to act in the best interest of the widest population they serve - which is the consumers.

How exactly is the consumer served by this ruling?

What this ruling does is disadvantage the consumer by prohibiting Microsoft from providing a service (seamless media and OS integration) that it is in a unique position to provide. So this service is not provided, benefitting no one but the vendors providing their own media players and messengers.

Imagine for a moment that there was this car company, let's say GM, that provided cars with no stereo. If you wanted to listen to music in one of their cars, you'd have to buy a car stereo from one of a number of manufacturers. A healthy market of car stereos for GM cars would thrive.

Then, one day, GM would decide that the consumer would be better served if their cars already came with a stereo. The stereo would be free, and it would be a standard one that the owner could freely replace with any other one if she so chooses. But for those people who can't be bothered to worry about the stereo, one would already be there for them.

Suppose the stereo manufacturers made a furore about how this is going to destroy their business, and complained to the government that it must interfere. The government would step in and order GM to not include a stereo in their cars, or else they'll face stiff fines, or worse.

That's exactly what's happening with Microsoft. This isn't governments preventing a monopoly. It's just governments preventing the markets from working properly - shifting the playing field in somebody's favor.

How about Linux distributions that all come with SSH software already installed. Our company makes SSH software for Windows, but suppose that we made it for Linux. Perhaps then we should complain to an antitrust body that those Linux distros are all ruining our business by freely bundling OpenSSH?


boris kolar said…
I never liked Microsoft, but their market share was won fairly. It's very obvious why Microsoft is so big and wealthy and powerful.

Linux just can't compete. They don't get it. They don't understand that forcing users to choose between Gnome and KDE is a burden to users. Forcing users to choose between different packaging systems in another burden. This clearly shows they don't get security either. Also, installing anything requires root privileges, which is a terrible security policy. Complete lack of innovation in Linux is apparent (it seems they can't do anything better than clone successful commercial projects). Linux sucks just as much as Windows does, possibly more. I absolutely hate OpenOffice. Some bugs in Firefox make me mad. Crappy Thunderbird can't even count emails right.

Those who complain about Microsoft strategy should take a look at (lack of) quality of their products. Bitvise products will continue to be successful, because they take quality seriously. It's more likely that WinSSHD will be bought by Microsoft than replaced with a free alternative.
denis bider said…
I think open source has two problems - lack of coordination and lack of resources. Both problems are fundamental to the open source concept and solving any of them would mean changing the open source concept radically. This cannot be done on existing projects without complete coordination and consensus because the GPL locks everyone into an unsustainable model of development.

I tried installing Ubuntu on an old laptop yesterday, thinking it would make better use of the hardware than Windows. After a lot of fiddling I managed to get everything working the way I desired, except that whenever I booted Linux, it crashed the DNS server in my local network router. So I installed Vista, and it turns out that, on this 4 year old laptop with 512 MB of memory, it's smoother than Linux. And it doesn't crash my network router.

It's probably not Ubuntu's fault that the DNS server in my 5 year old router crashes. But what Ubuntu lacks is the resources to test their software with every conceivable hardware and software equipment the user is likely to use. The problem is that the last 20% of the product, the polishing, takes 80% of the work. And that's the part of the work that's dull and boring, the kind of work that people won't take up unless you pay them to do it.

There's no way open source can compete with Microsoft and Apple on the desktop because there's no way they can find the motivation and the resources to polish anything to the expected level.

The existence of open source, however, is a good thing for computing because it forces software companies to polish things, because if we don't, there will be a comparable, unpolished, open source product.

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