Editorial by John Kostura
I have been involved with PC's since DOS ver. 2.1 running on an IBM XT computer. It
has been amazing watching the growth of Microsoft and their spread from providing an
operating system to providing all software needs as well as services and hardware.
So How does Microsoft do It?
Actually it is quite simple. There club is access to the operating system code and
distribution. Couple this with the lack of market development or innovation . . . and you
The Microsoft Steps:
- Let someone else develop a new product.
- Let someone else establish a commercial market.
- Give away a free often inferior product.
- Use your access to the operating system to enhance the product.
- Incorporate the product into the operating system and include it in the distribution.
- Eliminate the competition and control the standard.
The steps to Microsoft controlling the browser market have been all over the news media for the last month. Did they follow the above steps . . . you bet!
Could they have dominated the browser market without their control of the operating
system? I sincerely doubt it!
Real Network - Here We Go Again
The new target is RealNetworks.
This company developed and made popular streaming
video and audio on the Internet. Their innovation led not only to the success of their
company but the success of other companies and the spawning of new companies
based on their technology.
Broadcast.com developed for example using RealNetworks' streaming audio. Since,
Broadcast.com has been acquired by Yahoo! their format is shifting to Microsoft's
Media Player. Now there are two standards for streaming audio and video.
Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM
radio program made extensive use of Real Network's
streaming audio and video. His radio program comes on from midnight to 5 a.m. in
Oklahoma City. So I mostly listened to the program on the Internet the next day.
I have no idea how many other listeners used the Internet to listen to Art's program but
I am sure it contributed to his popularity. Art is now retired but apparently his web master Keith Rowland is also retiring the Real Network format . . . the same format that helped further both Art's career and Keith Rowland's career.
"In a further effort to improve the quality of service, increase the quality
of the audio signal and to lower the cost of delivery to you, the audio archives
will be switching over to the Window Media Player format, effective July 5th.
On the same page Keith also describes how to correct the dropout problem with
Window's Media Player. I have a lot of respect for Keith Rowland and only cite this as
an example of the steps Microsoft takes to dominate a market.
The quality of the audio of the new Windows Media Player, using the same
bitstream rate, is considerably better than the Real Player. We can now get a much
better sounding audio signal to you, using the Windows Media Player at a
low speed dial-up modem bitrate. You may have already enjoyed the better
sounding Windows Media Player LIVE stream.
Furthermore, all of the software used to prepare the archives files, to serve
the files and play the files are freely available from Microsoft at no charge to
you or us. In order to be able to provide the archives at no cost to you,
we need to take advantage of any cost saving measures available to us also. It
is a win-win-win situation, lower cost for us, lower cost to you, and it is
better sounding! You'll also be able to listen to the program using the Radio Bar
feature of Internet Explorer.
We will continue to offer the LIVE feed, in BOTH Windows Media Player and
Real Player. Those who don't run Windows and can run the Real Player, can
still listen to the LIVE show.
During this transition, until July 5th, we will be offering the archives in BOTH
Real and Windows Media Format to give you time to install the Window Media Player
on your computer if you don't already have it. Visit the links on our Audio Streaming
page to download the Windows Media Player. After July 5th, you will only be able to listen to archived shows using the Windows Media Player."
Keith Rowland 6/11/2000
When Yahoo! bought out Broadcast.com they killed all the Art Bell's archives. Years of radio programs immediately became unavailable. Some of these shows where classics and many of the participants are no longer alive. What a waste!!!
All for the Benefit of the Consumer!
The consumer is the winner . . . right . . . why pay for software when you can get it from
Microsoft for free or it is already included in your operating system! What a deal!
So what is the Microsoft innovations? I cannot off hand think of any. The original DOS
operating system was purchased by Bill Gates. The Windows GUI interface came from
Apple. Microsoft did not develop the word processor, data base or spreadsheet. They did not directly contribute to the development of the Internet. I apologize for not being able to recognize their innovation . . . I am sure there is something I have missed? There must be some innovation that Microsoft brought to the market?
So why does Microsoft do it? How could they possibly profit from this type of strategy?
Well it is simple. It does not let any other company rise to a competitive level. It also
keeps the consumer going back to Microsoft for each and everything they need.
Microsoft has decided to not support their own legacy operating systems such as Windows 95 and NT. So if you want the latest version of Microsoft's Media Player plan on upgrading your Window's Platform!
"Windows Media Player 7 Upgrade Notice
Unfortunately, Windows Media Player 7 does not play on
Windows 95 or Windows NT 4 operating systems and a
version of Player 7 will not be created for those operating
systems. If you have Player 6.4, are getting an upgrade
prompt and want to turn it off, see Product Support Services"
The next step for Microsoft is obvious. They will in the near future introduce a new media format that will ONLY be available for Player 8. Then they will lean on the media providers to move to that new format. Upgrade your Window Platform or go without your favorite media.
How many companies never are launched or software never reach the consumer, because of Microsoft? There is simply no way of knowing. I doubt any new company does not have to anticipate and deal with Microsoft. It has to be the first question from
any potential investor.
The Software Solution
The only viable solution is to level the playing field. Disconnect Microsoft's operating
systems from their applications. Their operating system must be made available to all
programmers from other companies. This would greatly increase the efficiency of Window based programs not coming directly from Microsoft.
The other important factor is to stop Microsoft from including their additional software as
part of their operating system. Cut off their distribution channel. Do not let them dictate
to other companies or consumers what software they must have on their computer systems.
If these steps are taken, stand back and watch the new companies startup and brace
yourself for a new round of innovation!
The Breakup of Microsoft
Is it sufficient to simply segregate and isolate Windows from the rest of Microsoft? Well not really. Microsoft has branched into all areas of the micro computer world. To really level the playing field the correct breakup would isolate the following elements of the Microsoft tentacle.
Microsoft Separate Companies
It might seem unfair to break Microsoft into four separate companies . . . well think about it. They claim to dominate three of the four areas right now. So let them all stand on their own and compete with companies in those markets. I think Microsoft should definitely be rewarded for their business practices . . . don't you?
- Microsoft - Windows Platform
- Microsoft - Application Software
- Microsoft - Hardware
- Microsoft - Service Provider