Feeds

Why Microsoft vs Mankind still matters

The Penguin is missing, while Apple's gone to Hollywood

The essential guide to IT transformation

You can't make somebody compete with Microsoft, if they don't want to

This situation raises some of the most awkward questions of all for public agencies: and these are really questions of political economy - how do states deal with a monopoly?

Is having $70bn sucked out of the global economy each year a price worth paying? Once India and China develop further, that figure will be closer to $200bn. What do we get for this, exactly?

Uniformity, certainly: everywhere you go, there's Windows - with the same security holes all over the world. And stability, too: a company earning $200bn a year isn't going to go out of business overnight.

But it's still an extraordinary sum of money. With 80 per cent profit margins, Microsoft must be busy inventing some incredible stuff: cold fusion can't be far away, you'd think.

Alas, even the most innovative company in the world, with a guaranteed income of $70bn per year, isn't going to be inclined to take too many risks. And Microsoft has "innovated" like a heavy sleeper, only momentarily waking up. Microsoft gets busy only when it has to - when it perceives some immediate competition. Netscape provoked a brief spurt of action at Redmond, RIM obliged Microsoft to incorporate push email into Exchange server - and there was a spurtlet when FireFox made a splash three years ago.

Otherwise, it's been heavy snoring all the way.

Quite apart from the fact that the EU ruling addresses desktop computing only tangentially, there's a profound problem in the philosophical approach of regulators. The EU sees its role as addressing market failure, with the presumption that once tweaked, competition will flood into the market.

Politicians - and the regulators they appoint - have yet to envisage a situation where competitors can't, or don't want to compete. Today, Microsoft is the textbook "natural monopoly" - but does anyone have the will to call it what it is?

Some people argue that we live in an era when all the big political ideas have failed: when "politics is over". In fact, "leaving it to the market" is the only new idea politicians have come up with in the past 25 years. If that's the case, then you see the problem. A situation where the market has failed presents them with a "divide by zero" error.

While the EU has been lauded this week for taking a stand against a global corporation, it's really hard to see politicians or regulators anywhere progressing to the next step - and setting out to create a new framework for dealing with what is in effect a global, private computing levy.

Bill Gates promises politicians that not only will he "take care of computing", but he'll take care of the foreign aid budget, too. And who but a grump could object to that?

I can see why Benji Cohen prefers a Web 2.0 fantasy to the reality: the answers are too hard to think about. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report
Development alliance working on desktop, mobe software
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?