The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 October 2002

Greatest Hits, volume IV

Originally posted 2 November 2001

Already there is a flood of complaints from the usual suspects, unhappy with the settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department. As usual, they missed the whole point of the exercise, which is simply this:

People, by and large, are lazy. Nobody buys a Windows machine to learn computer science; Windows machines are bought because they appear to do cool stuff without a whole lot of effort. At least from Windows 3.0 on, Microsoft has done its best to cater to user indolence, throwing in all manner of applications — the Web browser is merely the most obvious — on the reasonable assumption that if the customer already has a suitable application for something, he won't go looking elsewhere. Much is made of how Microsoft steers Windows customers to its own, presumably inferior and cranky, programs, though I'm inclined to believe that none of these complainers have ever gone through, say, a RealPlayer installation.

I have, or at least I think I have, enough computer smarts to choose my own tools for my own Windows box. Some of them come from Microsoft; more of them don't. For me, the status quo prevails: I stand to gain essentially nothing by the settlement. Joe and Susan Sixpack will be faced with choices they weren't willing to make before, so it's hard to see how they will be able to work up any enthusiasm for it. The only winners here are the PC manufacturers, who won't have Redmond breathing down their necks quite so heavily; other software manufacturers, who might sell a few more copies of something now; and, of course, two platoons of lawyers. But it is worth noting that had the megacorporation actually been broken up into a number of, um, kilocorporations, the results would be likely much the same — only the volume of paperwork would change. If someone at Justice indeed figured this out, there is hope for the department yet.

Posted at 7:20 AM to Greatest Hits