We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

EeeUuugh!

Here are a few items concerning the various ghastlinesses of the EU.

First, a briefing paper from the Instituto Bruno Leoni, by Alberto Mingardi and Paolo Zanetto, about the Microsoft versus EU case. Pdf only, alas, but worth a look.

Microsoft stands accused by the EU of daring to supply an operating system that is too good and does too much and has been ordered by the EU to cripple it and to tell all its rivals how it does everything. Microsoft wants to call its crippled version of Windows “Crippled Windows” and the EU says it can’t so there and has fined Microsoft Z zillion euros. To add lunacy to lunacy, the EU is now saying that when a multinational corporation wants to innovate, it must convince the EU that its innovation is a good idea. Never mind about convincing mere people. First, Mario bloody Monti and all his rapacious and power-mad cronies and successors have to be persuaded. So now, guess what, the EU is taking a swipe at the iPod. Microsoft said “the iPod is innovative – go investigate that”. So the EU duly started an investigation into the iPod! No need for it. No reason. Not necessary. What’s wrong with 78s? Hire a gypsy violinist.

I embroidered somewhat there, but only somewhat. The picture that Mingardi and Zanetto draw of the EU is not pretty. Expressions like “shake down” and “sting” are hard to avoid when pondering the behaviour of the EU towards Microsoft.

I would not normally have made myself read right through this piece, because it is too depressing. But I have been told to review it for here, where Mingardi adds some further comment on the case. Apparently Crippled Windows does not work as well as uncrippled Windows. Extraordinary.

And here are a couple of EU-related pieces in today’s Telegraph.

Patrick Minford writes about the costs of EU anti-dumping rules. His title says it all: The EU’s manufacturing policies are costing us a fortune. He is finishing a book. Thanks to Tim Worstall for that link.

And here is a news report about the EU’s efforts to protect the government of Cuba from its dissidents. Do not provoke Fidel, says Louis Michel, the EU “development commissioner”.

The EU would do better to concentrate on developing itself. I live in hope that the influence of the recent Eastern European additions to the EU, of countries where they take economic development seriously and seem to have quite a solid grip on what does and does not promote it, will improve the EU. But reports like those above make such optimism hard to cling to.

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42 comments to EeeUuugh!

  • And presumably the thought had never occurred to them that forcing EU businesses to use a less-good operating system might just damage their competitiveness.

    So much for the arguments going “our way”.

  • zmollusc

    Microsoft product ‘too good’!!! Ipod ‘innovative’ !!! What is going on? Are our masters working their way through a secret EEC mountain of crack?
    Tomorrow, no doubt, Evian’s products will be under scrutiny for being ‘too dry’.

  • zmollusc

    Pre-emptive response to “Microsoft has biggest pile of cash, ergo they must have best product or the market wouldn’t have channelled them all that wealth” : Not necessarily.

  • Milo Thurston

    The idea that as Microsoft have made huge profits they must be selling a good quality product turns up here quite a lot. It is, if course, a product that a lot of people use, but I wouldn’t call it great.

    On a related matter, I was once speaking to a Marxist who professed a hatred for capitalists and the “rich”. However, is opinion of BG was that he was a “great bloke” because he gave so much of his profits away to helping the poor.

  • guy herbert

    zmollusc:

    Quite. The EU and Microsoft both have strangely skewed and self-serving definitions of competition. The difference is the EU pretends more successfully to be operating in the interests of others.

    Microsoft makes some splendid products, but it is not in general a startling innovator, so much as a marketer and value-engineer. Usually the good MS products started out iffy and were refined through numerous iterations adopting the best features of the competition and integrating them neatly. Sometimes they have gone backwards. (For my money, Word 2000 is a much worse product that Word 97).

    Microsoft’s big mistake as far as the EU is concerned, however, was not the manner of bundling or exploiting its market position, but something that it will find much harder to fix–an unforgiveable sin in the eyes of Eurocrats. It is an American firm.

  • Julian Taylor

    If the French (oops, my mistake … “The EU”) think that taking on Bill Gates is difficult then just let them get Jobs into a hearing on innovation restriction or unfair software practice.

    Oh, and regarding Marxists – ever met a poor Marxist or even a Marxist who had to earn a living by doing a 9 to 5 job? The quote by Howard Hughes in The Aviator, when he is at Katherine Hepburn’s family house still rings true, “Of course you are socialists, you can afford to be”.

  • Euan Gray

    Microsoft’s big mistake as far as the EU is concerned, however, was not the manner of bundling or exploiting its market position, but something that it will find much harder to fix–an unforgiveable sin in the eyes of Eurocrats. It is an American firm

    No, I think the real problem simply is abuse of market position. Most of Microsoft’s commercial competitors are also American, and the EU has used them in support of its case. And don’t forget that the US has also successfully attacked Microsoft on the same grounds of anticompetitive behaviour.

    Microsoft’s operating systems (as distinct from their application software) are generally pretty dire from a technical point of view. They are unreliable and inherently insecure. Some of the integrated software (esp. WMP and Internet Explorer) is also riddled with numerous security holes. Given the massive market share that Microsoft enjoys, they don’t seem to feel any particular need to improve matters since many people and businesses will keep buying it anyway, believing (in the absence of any evidence) that it is somehow superior simply because it comes from a large corporation.

    EG

  • Euan Gray

    Oh, and regarding Marxists – ever met a poor Marxist or even a Marxist who had to earn a living by doing a 9 to 5 job?

    Yes.

    EG

  • zmollusc

    Someone (a long time ago) said that Microsoft is a marketing company that produces software. Off the top of my head, two ‘features’ of microsoft products that annoy me are…….
    1. Word lets one direct the flow of words in a document ( so that one’s deathless prose can continue from page 1 to page 3, missing out page 2) but can only do this a highly suspicious number of times (15 or was it 31?) before packing in.
    2. Windoze has a ‘my documents’ folder with ‘my pictures’ , ‘my music’ etc folders inside it. Hooray! It also has file type associations and stuff so that it ‘knows’ what files are. Hooray, this will help organise things! Oh, dear. When I save a picture (or whatever recognised filetype), it doesn’t default to the ‘my pictures’ (or filetype) path, it defaults to the last folder used. How I laugh every single time i correct this.

    These are faults (granted only niggly ones) in software written for 686 processors and up with gigabytes of filespace and hundreds of megabytes of ram. This is not old dos software struggling to cope with the load. If they can’t be bothered to fix little things like this then i am not suprised that the supposedly pre-emptive multitasking operating system slugs whenever there is any i/o (like when you cram a disk in) and cannot shut down a process when you want it to.
    and… and…and..and….

    There’s those shooting pains and the dead relatives beckoning again……. time for a cuppa and some pills.

  • David Wildgoose

    I’ve been a Linux user since 1993, but even I think that the EU’s attempts to cripple Microsoft are pathetic. Windoze is buggy, insecure and unreliable. Almost all its competitors are vastly better than Microsoft’s offering. But those competitors should win because they have a level playing field and they can compete on merit. Rather than try and damage Microsoft directly, they should instead insist that government offices use open standards for data files. PDFs, Rich Text Format, open XML formats, etc., not closed, hidden proprietary formats like Microsoft Word. THEN let the best person win.

  • Jake

    I don’t think the EU need to worry too much. The open source model seems to becoming stronger and stronger. I’m not sure it will ever dominate. But there is no need for an informed user to touch Microsoft’s second rate products. Despite my dislike of government intervention, I can’t quite bring myself to lose any sleep over MSoft’s plight!

  • zmollusc and Milo:

    The idea that as Microsoft have made huge profits they must be selling a good quality product turns up here quite a lot.

    Not if this editor can help it…

  • Johnathan

    Euan is right, there are some Marxists who have 9 to 5 jobs. They tend to be union officials, in my experience.

    If Microsoft is as unreliable as the usual Gates-bashers claim, then how do they explain Microsoft’s “dominance” of the marketplace? It is no use bleating about “monopoly” or dirty tricks. Without active support from the State, such a “monopoly” will fail in the end. Someone higher up this thread mentioned the growing popularity of Linux. Quality always wins in the end.

  • James Dudek

    The point is the Microsoft makes “good enough” software. Sure it might not be ‘good’ software, but it does the job well enough for the vast majority of consumers (ie. the non-geek community).

    A lot of car enthusiasts wouldn’t say the Toyota Camry is a ‘good’ car, but it is good enough for a lot of consumers

  • Daveon

    This is a needlessly emotional review of the situation and one which falls into the rather Orwellian EU bad, Private Enterprise Good meme which infects Samizdata.

    The EU issues revolve around Media Player and its integration with the Desktop. As the Media Group are running around doing product deals with all and sundry, i.e. Nokia and others, it suggests that in fact the Media Group is a separate product that probably should not be bundled for free into the OS but should be down to the customer to decide if they want at a later date.

    There’s a lot of credible media playing software out there, but installing something onto the Windows Desktop to replace something MS stuck in there isn’t exactly easy.

    Alernatively we could just say that MS are the world’s largest software provider and therefore all the software in the world ought to come from them and there’s no point in allowing coompetition.

    But I don’t think we want that do we….

  • Duncan

    Ok let me get this straight.. this site, a site on capitalism and the evils of government intervention, is going to pick on Microsoft because they’re successful? Someone actually wrote
    ” But those competitors should win because they have a level playing field…” ?!

    WTF?

    Sure Microsoft isn’t perfect. But on the other hand I think your fooling yourself if you don’t think they haven’t played a large role in expanding the PC market and have generally been a good thing. How many @#$ing jobs are around directly or indirectly because of Microsoft? I’d say Bill Gates has done more for this world than Pope John Paul and Mother Terresa combined. So what if Bill gives his money away? It’s his to give and isn’t that what libertariansm relies on to some degree? The idea that people can be generous without being forced by the goverment?

    Don’t like Microsoft stuff? Don’t use it. And the fact that the US (pathetically) chased Microsoft with anti-trust suits further proves that if the are a monopoly it’s because the make good products that people like at decent prices, not because of government favoritism.

  • Verity

    Julian Taylor asks if we know of any Marxists doing a nine to five job. Yes, the British prime minister and the ratbag collectively known as the British cabinet. Not just Marxists, but Sixties student Marxists … still staggering on through a haze of pot.

  • Verity

    Duncan – Your post was going up at the same time as mine. I agree with every word. Microsoft isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to use and provides features that people find useful. Yes, it’s irritating at times, but hundreds of millions of people are prepared to sigh and put up with the blips in return for a product that works well and is simple to use. The EU has no role to play in this and should butt the hell out. The marketplace will decide on Microsoft’s future.

    If Gates were a vengeful a person, he’d simply pull out of the EU and let them find their own software, written by some of these famous European commercial software developers. Like ….. uh …., oh, wait a minute …. like …

    There’s enough in N America, India, China and the rest of teeming Asia and S America. Without Microsoft, the strangulated, staggering economy of the EU would lurch to a dead halt.

  • Euan Gray

    If Microsoft is as unreliable as the usual Gates-bashers claim, then how do they explain Microsoft’s “dominance” of the marketplace?

    Back in the distant past of personal computing, Microsoft won the contract to provide the operating system for the then new IBM PC. This is well documented and perfectly legitimate. The phenomenal growth of the personal computer market, and the general use of the IBM type PC in business, led in a short time to a very large installed base of Microsoft products. This is also perfectly legitimate. Although there were competing products (such as OS/2, CP/M, UNIX and other types of DOS clones), some of which were technically better, the market was hard to crack open. This is in part due to the fear of change in many businesses, and the substantial cost of a large scale change to an alternative system. Given the size of the installed user base, the dominance is somewhat self-reinforcing. Just as in earlier times, no-one got fired for buying IBM, so no-one gets fired for buying Microsoft – it’s a de facto standard simply by virtue of widespread use. But this is changing.

    The rise of free open-source software, spawned in large part by the availability of the internet, has led to several developments which seriously (and possibly fatally) threaten Microsoft’s dominance:

    the rival software is now completely free of purchase cost, so the cost argument no longer exists;

    in many cases it is technically superior, more secure and more reliable;

    anyone can see the code and satisfy themselves it is safe to use;

    security patches are often available in days rather than months;

    you get what you want, instead of what a single supplier thinks you probably want;

    anyone is free to modify the code to suit their own needs.

    A further factor boosted by modern computer technology is that it is trivial to mass-duplicate pirate copies of expensive software, which eventually led Microsoft to offer a very cheap version of Windows to the Far East market in an effort to keep some sales.

    There is overall no longer any pressing need to pay large amounts of money for a piece of software, when one can easily obtain for free an alternative that is at least as good. This is especially the case for servers, where UNIX clones like Linux excel by virtue of vastly greater reliability and security.

    The internet community of people prepared to make code for the intellectual challenge of it rather than for direct profit, and to release it at no charge to the user fundamentally threatens the “traditional” type of business model such as Microsoft’s. To that extent, EU and US anti-trust actions are somewhat pointless, since large parts of the software market might not be traditional paying markets for much longer.

    EG

  • Euan Gray

    written by some of these famous European commercial software developers. Like ….. uh …., oh, wait a minute …. like …

    Linus Torvalds?

    EG

  • Duncan

    Euan,
    Businesses like to have companies, preferably large, successful ones, backing the products that are essentially the backbone of their operations. Certainly free/open source stuff has people who will trouble shoot/take responsiblity for it.. but then your paying for it again of course.

    Note that as a programmer I’m totally into coding for the hell of it and think open source/free software is a good thing for the market… but I don’t think it’s going to be toppeling the likes of Microsoft et al anytime soon.

  • zmollusc

    …..ah, i feel better now.
    What’s that? Microsoft products dominate because they are ‘good enough’ at the ‘right price’?
    Hmm…. I think it is a combination of purchasing decisions being made for political rather than utilitarian reasons (the people who use the things not having a choice of what tool gets bought) and Microsoft’s undoubted prowess as a marketing company.

  • Duncan

    “and Microsoft’s undoubted prowess as a marketing company.”

    I’d like to assume you’re not implying that’s a flaw.

    “the people who use the things not having a choice of what tool gets bought”

    If it’s a company your talking about, then this is certainly not odd or strange… if it’s my company, I decide what we will use. If you’re talking about general consumers… they absolutely have a choice. Anyone can opt for a Mac, or whatever.. and yet many don’t. I’m not implying there aren’t other, perhaps better, products (though the Mac doesn’t impress me so much). But all said, the market is functioning as it should. Microsoft is playing just fine within the rules of capitalism. If its products were so disastrous, people wouldn’t buy them.

    I recently had some annoying spyare issues, and wasn’t really looking to pay for a solution if I could avoid it. I found a product who had a trial version and it worked quite nicely. Of course after a while it ran out and I was going to break down and buy it. Low and behold, I went to their site and Microsoft had bought/cut a deal with them and was now giving it away for free for Windows users. Thanks Bill. I win and I’m sure Giant won. Capitalism at it’s finest.

  • Euan Gray

    Businesses like to have companies, preferably large, successful ones, backing the products that are essentially the backbone of their operations

    True enough for managers, but the IT departments know that the advantages of this are largely illusory. Since software is sold without any warranty of any kind, what’s the merit of having a big company backing it up? Speaking for my own company, many troubleshooting operations are entirely in-house or resolved with the assistance of (free) online discussion groups.

    Where you do need specialist knowledge you can only realistically get for payment is in the use of specialist or custom software. For general purpose server and desktop software, it is largely avoidable.

    I recently had some annoying spyare issues […] I found a product who had a trial version and it worked quite nicely. Of course after a while it ran out and I was going to break down and buy it

    Try Adaware. It’s free and has no expiry period.

    EG

  • Duncan

    I do use Adaware (and like it) and it actually didn’t fix the problem I was having… and this product did. And it IS free now…

  • Duncan

    Euan, I work in IT and certainly agree with everything you said in that last comment. But I think the problem is people like us, and most posting here most likely, are pretty knowledgable, and take for granted the ease that MS products allow someone to integrate many useful tools into their system. You can point out the many MS flaws from a technical standpoint, but to the consumers (and managers) to whom a computer is a magical box that somehow just does stuff, the “whole package” approach is very appealing.

  • David Wildgoose

    Duncan, WTF? Are you honestly trying to say that the best competitors on a level playing field won’t win?

    I made a post attacking the stupid attempts to hamper Microsoft whilst doing nothing about opening standards to create a level playing field.

    My post was attacking mindless Microsoft-bashing, whilst wanting to encourage a thriving competitive market. (I work in IT, I know how Microsoft can stifle competition).

    And your response was “WTF?” as if I had said the most stupid thing imaginable.

    To which my response, on a free market libertarian website can only be, WTF?

  • Duncan

    David Wildgood,

    Please accept my apologies. It was rude.

    My point was that the idea of the goverment “leveling the playing field” sounds decidedly un-capitalistic.. but the whole rest of your comment was in total alignment with myself so seriously… sorry for that.

  • David Wildgoose

    No problem. I suppose I should add that governments should only mandate open standards for their own dealings, private operators should be allowed to use private and proprietary standards if they wish.

    I only get aggrieved when my tax monies are used to help entrench a monopoly…

  • Daveon

    …they make good products that people like at decent prices

    I personally don’t mind Microsoft, I do make a significant portion of my income from them, however, this is nonsense!

    The problem is not the products they sell at prices the market will bear.

    The problem is stuff they give away for free and bundle with the OS in direct competition, often, to existing products who’s manufacturers can’t afford to give the stuff away.

    That’s ultimately bad for everybody, even if it makes life easier for the bulk of us.

  • Euan Gray

    That’s ultimately bad for everybody, even if it makes life easier for the bulk of us.

    How so?

    The stuff MS bundles and gives away free can, of course, be replaced with alternatives bought from other companies. It can also be had from still others absolutely free anyway. You can download a free browser which is, by any standard, superior to MSIE except for using MS proprietary protocols. You can download free media players which are at least as good as WMP. Ditto mail clients, image viewers/manipulators, word processors, spreadsheets, etc.

    Even if MS was forced to charge for its bundled stuff, thus helping the competing companies actually compete, you can still get completely free alternatives. Should it, therefore, be made illegal to give away free software? Does not the rise of open source / free software essentially mean it simply does not matter what MS bundles at no charge, because there will always be a no-charge alternative? Do classical market assumptions actually work in software any more, since there are so many things willingly given away for absolutely nothing? How does capitalism explain this?

    EG

  • Duncan

    “The problem is stuff they give away for free and bundle with the OS in direct competition, often, to existing products who’s manufacturers can’t afford to give the stuff away.

    That’s ultimately bad for everybody, even if it makes life easier for the bulk of us.”

    This could be good or bad.. certainly good for consumers who are happy enough to use the given products for free. Bad for the competitors and their staff, shareholders etc… but it’s a totally legit way of business. Nobody is forced to use their stuff… and for all those who claim Windows makes it difficult to use any other products I call bull!@#$ on you. I have at least 3 or 4 different media players on my computer… most of which practically installed themselves whether I wanted them or not (see iTunes/Quicktime)…

    Windows is Microsofts product.. they can rightfully put whatever they choose in it and people can buy it or not buy it. And just because it’s easier to go with Microsoft is not an excuse. If people are too lazy or fearful to leave something they’re not happy with, that’s their own problem isn’t it.

  • daveon

    The stuff MS bundles and gives away free can, of course, be replaced with alternatives bought from other companies. It can also be had from still others absolutely free anyway.

    I have a couple of broswers and media players – my mother has the ones shipped with the OS. My wife works for a bank who lock their PCs and they have what they are given. Many people either can’t or won’t bother buying or downloading software when there’s something already on the machine. I’m happy to accept that the minority of people of actively partake in Blogs are the exception rather than the rule.

    Should it, therefore, be made illegal to give away free software? Does not the rise of open source / free software essentially mean it simply does not matter what MS bundles at no charge, because there will always be a no-charge alternative?

    That might be the case for you and me, but I’d argue we probably are highly unrepresentative of the market – even though I’ve downloaded Firefox, I still find it generally simpler to use IE.

    Do classical market assumptions actually work in software any more, since there are so many things willingly given away for absolutely nothing? How does capitalism explain this?

    But the actions of MS are perfectly explainable in terms of Capitalism. It doesn’t matter to them if people give software away – they own the desktop, or at least enough of them that the free software shouldn’t make too much of an impact.

    If it does, they take actions which can make the free people hurt. Look at what they do to people who try to hook into their Instant Messaging channel. They guard the APIs pretty strictly – the legal agreements are frightening documents, believe me.

    If a business can effectively remove the mass market competition then there isn’t really all that much competition – which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the consumer. As Duncan says, “but it’s a totally legit way of business.”

    It is – but I’d not want to bet my income on beating it, and I’d make no claims about it actually being good.

  • Euan Gray

    But the actions of MS are perfectly explainable in terms of Capitalism

    I meant the actions of those who give software away in general. Microsoft obviously makes a profit even when it gives away some of its stuff, because it sells other stuff. How does capitalism explain the people who give ALL their stuff away free, INCLUDING the desktop? How do the market theories deal with them? And what happens if the free system including desktop starts to seriously rival commerical vendors?

    Look at what they do to people who try to hook into their Instant Messaging channel

    True, but their IM channel is not the only one. You could, for example, use Skype which is completely free and runs on Windows or Linux (Mac too, I think). There are several others.

    I think that ultimately (probably not in our lifetimes) many things will become free since the cost of producing them becomes infinitesimal. This is possible through automation of numerous kinds, thus removing some of the humans from the chain. Humans need money because they have to buy food and shelter, which is provided by other humans, who in turn need money for the same thing. The more humans you remove, the cheaper things become. Remove all the humans from the equation and you don’t need money any more. Capitalism ceases to exist because capital no longer exists.

    I see this as an inevitable evolution. I think it will happen first with information. We see it starting to happen already with software – fewer people needed, those people who are needed do it because they want to rather than need to, and so on.

    EG

  • Johnathan

    I never quite understood the hostility to Microsoft’s “bundling” of products. It goes on other fields of commerce all the time, and much to the convenience of the consumer. Modern industrial manufacturing would be hopelessly restricted if anti-trust doctrine were harshly applied to all fields.

    As someone said at the top of this interesting thread, I rather doubt Gates would be in the firing line if he were not American. Of course, given Europe’s paucity of software giants, perhaps envy explains it.

  • daveon

    Euan, but while the software for many things is free, the services and so forth around it are not. One of the reasons MS still beats Linux is, while the software is free, the actual support and availability of people who can admin it easilt and cheaply isn’t, or at least isn’t as cheap.

    Likewise, yes, there are lots of IM clients – but none that reliable interface with a lot of the back end services in the way that MSN IM does. Skype’s software might be free but the key services aren’t necessarily – and I’m waiting to see what MS does with them.

    Johnathan, I think it has more to do with the way MS bundle products than the bundling itself. Plus this argument that the EU is being anti-MS because they are American is bunk – most of the action is aimed at protecting Real Media, who, as somebody else pointed out, are hardly European.

    There’s plenty of European software giants, not in the PC field, but certainly in other sectors and most of these are beating MS currently.

  • lucklucky

    So when MS bundle functionality stuff in OS for free is bad and when someone just “gives” open source” is good?

    In my opinion XP and W2k are good enough (i give 13 in 20) products, it have plenty(still not enough) of applications for my taste: video editing there is about 10 good ones, CAD idem, 3D surfacing etc.
    I choose MS because they have more applications.

    I hope that Mac and others are able to fight with MS that way.

    I can see Linux being a eventual good for big firms
    but not for a small firm right now .
    It seems that Linux is in the path of
    “free” software to buy “expensive” to support. Not surprising. Car industry sometimes work like that.

  • Euan Gray

    One of the reasons MS still beats Linux is, while the software is free, the actual support and availability of people who can admin it easilt and cheaply isn’t, or at least isn’t as cheap.

    This situation will not necessarily last forever – you will have to pay for Linux support if you want someone else to fix it for you, just as you pay for Windows support. But in both cases, you don’t need to pay to solve problems since you can almost always find out the answer for free. In any case, I don’t personally buy the “expensive support” FUD ^W argument against Linux – in most circumstances it actually need far less maintenance and support than Windows due to its greater reliability and security.

    Anyway, supposing we get to the position where support costs are equal, how does capitalism explain the phenomenon of people willing giving away the product of their labour for no charge, when that product is not just an application or two but a complete and fully-featured operating system with all the mainstream applications most people need?

    Is it not somewhat interesting that possibly the greatest long-term threat to Microsoft comes not from regulating states or from a business competitor but from a disparate and widespread group of people giving stuff away in a non-commercial manner?

    but none that reliable interface with a lot of the back end services in the way that MSN IM does

    Personally speaking, I find MSN-IM reasonably reliable but not the most reliable one out there – YMMV, of course. Frequent upgrades, necessary only for MS to prevent others using the network, are a pain. Of course, it is MS’s network, and they can do as they please with it, but it is daft to think it is the only or even the best one available.

    Skype’s software might be free but the key services aren’t necessarily – and I’m waiting to see what MS does with them

    Forgive me if I’m missing something, but what does MS have to do with Skype? What hold do they have over them? Skype also runs on non-MS platforms, so the OS API is not relevant here unless MS decides to prevent Skype using Windows – which would likely result in action on the ground of restraint of trade.

    It’s true enough that much of the objection to MS in geekdom is political or religious in nature – many geeks are rather more socialist than the mainstream population, and of course there is the undoubted sanctity & theological purity of open source coming into their world-view. Even so, it is my experience that many non-geeks don’t like the unreliability and insecurity of MS software, and many seem to have a pretty unflattering view of MS’s business tactics. More secure and reliable alternatives are available at no cost, but are fiddly for the average person to set up. Again, this won’t necessarily last forever.

    EG

  • Milo Thurston

    Euan Gray: “many geeks are rather more socialist than the mainstream”

    I can’t say that I’ve noticed that, and most of the socialists I know are Windows users.

    In my experience, many Windows users don’t really care what OS they use, and would happlily use Linux if it were not for these things:
    1. They have to install it themselves. This can be easier than a Windows install, but it’s not something people like to do.
    2. “Can it run all the newest games?” The answer is “no” which puts many people off.
    3. “I can’t switch to a different system – I’d have to learn new stuff!”
    4. “I can’t switch to a different system – it won’t be ‘compatible’!”

  • Euan Gray

    I can’t say that I’ve noticed that

    Hang around some geekish discussion groups and read a bit, then.

    many Windows users don’t really care what OS they use, and would happlily use Linux if it were not for these things

    Valid comments, but they will not always be true.

    Game support in Linux is steadily improving, but a critical mass is needed to really get things moving. When, or whether, this will happen is another matter.

    Compatibility is becoming less of an issue thanks to projects such as WINE. Learning new stuff is pretty much irrelevant for integrated desktops such as KDE, which can very easily be made to look and behave just like Windows (or a Mac).

    My point is that it is likely (though not certain) that things like Linux will soon enough be able to offer an alternative to Windows that is compatible, good for games, easy to use and install and requires no extra effort on the part of the user. My question is how does the capitalist model work when all of this is free?

    EG

  • Daveon

    but it is daft to think it is the only or even the best one available.

    Of course it’s daft, and I’ve not said that. However, for the majority of users, its the only one they see because it comes on the desktop. Just like most users won’t or can’t download an alternative to IE.

    Forgive me if I’m missing something, but what does MS have to do with Skype? What hold do they have over them?

    There’s been stuff in the press, but I can’t make any comments directly on this question without breaking NDAs.

    Suffice to say, there’s a lot that could be done, at least where Windows is concerned – of course, they work on a range of platforms but MS does represent 80 odd percent of the market.

    So when MS bundle functionality stuff in OS for free is bad and when someone just “gives” open source” is good?

    Open Source generally isn’t the problem. Its where Microsoft “decide” to “bundle” stuff that people have a commercial competing product for that people think is unfair business practise, mostly because they can afford to “sell” stuff on this basis long after most competitors can afford to.

  • Milo Thurston

    In reply to Euan Gray:

    Hang around some geekish discussion groups and read a bit, then.

    Perhaps I am hanging around the wrong (or should that be right) ones, or not enough of them.

    When, or whether, this will happen is another matter.

    Loki did a good job, but it seemed that most users bought the Windows versions instead, so they went out of business. The games will be back if enough people switch and want to buy them, I expect.
    I still have Loki versions of CivCTP and SMAC – they are rather good.

    As for compatibility and learning new things, I realise that these are not a problem (with the exception of the sort of users who are confused by seeing a “K” rather than “start”). However, user perception is a problem. I have been told (by users who complain about how bad Windows is) that unless linux looks exactly like the Windows desktop and runs the same software that behaves in the same way then they won’t touch it. It sounds rather lazy to me.

    My question is how does the capitalist model work when all of this is free?

    One will pay for the service, not the product. I’ve never paid anything to Red Hat for legal copies of there software, but my employer has paid them a large sum of money to get me an impressive certificate to impress clients. They also do such things as selling telephone support or premium download services, but one can always choose to install it for free oneself. This seems very reasonable to me – paying for help (if you want it) rather than a licence to use something.