Microsoft discovers 'FUD'

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FUD, fear uncertainty and doubt, was invented by IBM. The idea was to stop customers from buying superior products by sowing seeds of doubt about the future of the competing company. It is one of the nightmares that all IT managers fear, a bankrupt supplier, particularly of mission critical systems. It is seldom disastrous because the failing company is usually taken over by another one, Computer Associates in most cases, but there is no doubt that support and ongoing development get worse and the cost increases.

While other technology suppliers were not averse to using FUD on occasions, it was IBM, because of their dominant position in mission critical systems, who were the leading exponents. Microsoft on the other hand were not interested in FUD. Instead they used their monopoly position to control the competitors, even going so far as to suggest that they were not in competition with Corel, Lotus, etc. in the early days, since they all used the Microsoft operating systems. How naive those PC software vendors were! Microsoft also used another clever trick to gain control of the desktop, which was to "package" a set of applications into a "suite". The corporates liked this since they only had to deal with one supplier instead of various PC companies, even though this meant that the original idea of "best of breed" applications was abandoned. In fairness to the IT departments, in those early days the PC applications were not that dominant, so that few recognised the steady growth of the monopoly, with all the disadvantages we suffer from today.
So why did Microsoft not join in with the FUD concept? The answer is simple, at the time only a wild gambler would use Microsoft's unstable software for a mission critical application, and that subset of the industry would ignore FUD in any case. But now the situation is somewhat more complex. Microsoft software is now being embedded in significant business applications. Over the last five years superb marketing by Microsoft has enabled them to penetrate the server market with NT. This in practice is still concentrated at the departmental level but Microsoft have made clear their intention to attack IBM, Sun, et al with an enterprise version of Windows 2000. In any case Unisys have already implemented Windows 2000 on a large scale server, although there must be some worries over the failure of Compaq to continue an OEM agreement to sell the system.
It follows then that as an enterprise level system supplier Microsoft must get interested in FUD; it is a sign of increasing maturity! And so it is little surprise that they have started. It is also no surprise that the first target is Open Source Software. There is a parallel here with DEC. In the 80's Digital (DEC) were predicting that by 2000 they would have grown to be bigger than IBM. It all went wrong though, not because of any failure of their anti-IBM strategy, but because of other developments, in particular Unix and TCP/IP, not to mention Intel processors and the Internet. And so it may well be with Microsoft. All their plans for mastery of the IT industry have been thrown into confusion by the Open Source Software developments. It was poetic to read that Linus Torvalds, the originator of Linux, has no axe to grind against Microsoft. He even claims to be unusual in that he actually likes Bill Gates - I bet that is not reciprocated by anyone in Microsoft!
Now I wasn't present to hear the comments of senior Microsoft VP Craig Mundie personally, so he may well have been misquoted, but what a load of drivel! According to Mundie the OSS movement is flimsy, flawed, jeopardises property rights, increases security risks and creates dangers of software instability. This from the company that produces software that is notorious for crashing, is forever being plagued by security problems and is desperately trying to introduce a new version of NT that is based on a sound model and not the bag of worms that exists today. The only software stability that Microsoft could claim was they had cornered the market and were forcing people to use their products because there is no alternative. As to jeopardising property rights, the whole point of OSS is to free up the market and yet to make it commercially viable with the General Public Licence. Its only Microsoft it doesn't suit. My handkerchief was wet through crying over Microsoft's woes!


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article 2001-06-22T00:00:00.000Z Martin Healey
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