Friday, March 16, 2007


Vista, hell of a gamble, 100% MSFT's fault

CNet asked, "are the problems people are having with Vista Microsoft's fault?" As if someone else might be to blame for Vista's outrageous hardware requirements.

Anyone who designs PC hardware or software for MS-Windows has two bosses. The company who signs her pay check, and MSFT. When I was designing Ethernet cards at 3Com, the boss came around every year and apologized, and dropped a copy of the Microsoft Hardware Design Guide on my desk. Every year it got thicker and more constraining.

If you broke any of the rules, MSFT would blackball your product. They do that by prohibiting you from using the "Designed for Windows" logo. That locks you out of the distribution channel. They can also "make a mistake" and drop your driver from their release "by accident." It hurts a big company so badly it might never recover. It's instant bankruptcy for a smaller one. To a much greater extent than you would know from the trade press, MSFT directs and controls the PC hardware business. It's tighter than Apple ever was over its "third party" hardware makers.

With that kind of control, MSFT is 100% at fault for all of the problems with Vista.

MSFT took a huge gamble with Vista, gambling that its network effects-based monopoly is so strong that its customers would tolerate being told they have to discard a generation of hardware that runs competing software platforms just fine. (If you don't know what "network effects" are, look in a good economics textbook.) That gamble reflects MSFT's confidence in the strength of the monopoly. They want to retire the working hardware because it is relatively open, and replace it with stuff that will enforce Digital Restrictions Management. The jackpot MSFT is going after is control over music and motion picture distribution in the next decade. Heck of a gamble.

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