The Lie That Has Become Microsoft

Microsoft has been the dominant OS in my life since 1983. Over that period of time I have gone from being awed by the software giant, to experiencing periods of disgust. Recently, I came to terms with MS and Bill Gates, and I accepted Microsoft as a positive entity.

In the Fall of 2007, I started shopping for a new PC. The OS choices were few, but not easy. The first decision was Mac or Windows. Given the amount of work I do on the Windows platform, I decided to go with Windows. Then the fun started, and what should have been an easy choice mutated into a living nightmare.

First, I had to decide on the new Vista or the older XP Pro? Since I had XP Pro on two different boxes already, I decided to make the leap…Vista. They should have been the end of it, but again it was not as simple as that. I now had to decide between Vista’s different flavors: Home Basic, Home Ultimate, Business or Ultimate…32-bit or 64-bit?  Why couldn’t it have been a simple decision…like the one Apple offers?  If you buy a Mac then you get only one OS choice: Mac OS X…and what a empowering choice that is.

The number of choices at this point was almost overwhelming. As most consumers, I like to know what I am buying, what the advantages are, and what the potential problems are. Given that Vista was new on the scene; this was not an easy choice in spite of spending several hours researching the topic. This level of anxiety, confusion, and this sense of helplessness on the part of the consumer seems to be part of the marketing strategy of Microsoft. Wait, wait, wait…how creating such a negative psychological state in the consumer can be advantageous to the vendor?

Simple, confuse the consumer and he will be more likely to select a version that will not be the one that fits his needs. Consequently, once the end-user realizes that his OS does not meet his needs, then it will be necessary to buy a new version or upgrade. As we know, Microsoft is in the software business and the key to their financial success is to sell as much software as possible…nothing profound here. On the other side we have Apple whose bread-and-butter is hardware. Apple does not have to worry about how much software they sell, because their hardware innovations are one of the primary drivers in the field of technology. Apple has been able to focus on its OS so well, that it has become the model that Microsoft seems to want to emulate in its Windows OS. It is too bad that Microsoft did not take it upon itself to try and replicate Apple’s method of providing and selling an OS that met the needs of the consumer.

Why must a consumer be forced to make such decisions about an operating system, when the majority of them do not even understand how an OS works? To force such decision making upon the consumer is to take advantage of their lack of understanding. Add to this the lack of any data or knowledge about the product, such as in the case of Vista when it was initially rolled out, and this becomes an unethical business model. As a species we tend to act conservatively when it comes to making big decisions…knowing this, Microsoft has exploited, and taken advantage of our innate weakness.

As consumers we did not know where to begin with the purchase of Vista, and Microsoft has never been forthcoming in sharing its information with others.  Even if Microsoft does have information that could affect the running of their products, they still roll it out. Microsoft did share some information with the public… they made it known that their soon to be released product did have some shortcomings. For example, we were often told that 64-bit drivers were not there for Vista 64-bit. So…why did they release it? I wanted a 64-bit OS, but with this information I was pushed into the 32-bit corner. I doubt if I was alone here, and I would guess that many other consumers were pushed into the 32-bit version by both Microsoft and vendors who were well aware of the fact that within a year or two the 64-bit OS would be “the way.”   Is it fair to assume that MS was fully aware that a 32-bit OS would be obsolete within one to two years? Yes, it is their business to know.

When you buy an Apple, you can be assured that there will not be the plethora of drivers issues that Vista experienced. Granted, Apple does not have the number of hardware devices to contend with that Microsoft does, buy Microsoft made itself the “King of the Mountain,” and it is just a part of their business. But…if there were known problems, then why did Microsoft insist on releasing the product?  In almost any other business sector, such an act would be unheard of and in most cases prohibited by the Feds. So why did Microsoft do it? To increase their profits: we learned in Econ 101, which with increased sales comes larger profits.

With Apple, everyone gets the same OS regardless of who they are…home, business, government, or education…everyone pays the same for the same OS. The kicker is that the consumer will pay about half the price for the Apple Mac OS X ($129) as they would for the comparable Vista Ultimate ($399), can be purchased for far less than half of the cost of Windows Vista Ultimate. Why? Let’s look at the first curve MS threw at the consumer.

Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate…What flavor do you prefer? Honestly, how can the average user of computers make a knowledgeable decision…especially if it was a “must buy now” scenario? He or she cannot. So, you go with the flavor that seems to address your specific needs. The typical home user would go with the Home Basic version of Vista, which is a no frills, lemon of an OS that should not even be sold to the public. Hell, it should not even be given away. But, let’s assume that the home user is somewhat knowledgeable of the different versions of Vista and they go with Home Premium. That is good except there are a few things that basically separate it from the Ultimate version. Namely, with Home Premium you do not have the capacity to: Protect yourself from hardware failures, or “better protect your data against loss.”  These two components are needed by home users probably more than the business user. The average home user is concerned with using the computer, and in most cases does not have back-up drives, or other means to protect their data and/or protect their hardware. The average home user is naïve when it comes to hardware, and so why would MS assume that there is no need for these two components in the Home version of Vista?

The two other components not in the Home Premium are scanning, faxing, and remote access capabilities. But, for $15 a component ($60) the Home Premium user can upgrade to Vista Ultimate. The Business to Ultimate upgrade costs is $20…$20 that buys you better protection to protect your data from loss and various multimedia components. TWENTY DOLLARS is what determines the decision. The choices are absurd. The choices provided should not even be thrown out there to the consumer. There should be only one choice of OS…just like the Mac OS.

So, what is it that ultimately separates Vista Ultimate from its brethren? Microsoft Vista Ultimate has one component that none of the other packages have. One, not two, three or twenty as one would expect but one. That component is the ability to “better protect your data against loss…” Again, this is absurd. MS should provide data loss protection to all consumers and this should not even be a choice that has to be made by anyone. What it boils down to is the consumer is being strong armed into protecting his/her data.

The problems with MS Vista don’t end there. The biggest rip off for the consumer is the fact that MS makes 32-bit and 64-bit versions of their OS. When you purchase the OS as a complete package you get both versions so that you can upgrade or downgrade latter. But, most users buy computers with the software pre-installed. What you are not told as an end-user is that the software you are most likely purchasing is OEM. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) software comes with a lot of hooks.  Caveat emptor.

Here is the OEM Disclaimer at Newegg.com: Use of this OEM System Builder Channel software is subject to the terms of the Microsoft OEM System Builder License. This software is intended for pre-installation on a new personal computer for resale. This OEM System Builder Channel software requires the assembler to provide end user support for the Windows software and cannot be transferred to another computer once it is installed.

Let’s look at this, but before we do let’s look at how we go into a computer purchase…in other words, our expectations. We pay to purchase the software with our computer, but the caveats of the OEM license are: 1) you may not use the OS on another computer at anytime…legally. So, when your computer becomes obsolete then you are expected to trash the software when you trash the machine. 2) Even though you bought the software you do not own it. Suppose you decide that you no longer want to use XP Pro, and want to upgrade to Vista Ultimate. The logical thing to do would be to sell the former, and buy the latter. No. You cannot sell it…I know, I tried to do exactly this and sell it on eBay. Guess what? Within two days MS had eBay pull my auction for  ”violating intellectual property”  laws. 3) Another complaint is that you do not get the usual full version of Vista, in that you do not get both 32-bit and 64-bit OS’s rolled up into one package. MS actually assumes that the average computer user is going to go out to Best Buy and purchase a wrapped version of their OS.  In 2007, only 12% of those polled said they would upgrade to Vista (Article) That is only, 12 people out of a hundred were willing to go out and buy Vista off of the shelves. That means there are a lot of Vista sells that did not include both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Guess what this means for Microsoft two years down the road when 64-bit becomes the required/desired OS?

The problem with the OEM is that that average, or even advanced computer user may not be aware of the limitations. In fact, when you purchase an OS from a manufacturer you are NOT told while purchasing the software or while checking out that you are even purchasing OEM software, nor are the limitations of OEM ever provided to the user…it is all in the fine print, assuming you can find it. Anyway you look at it, it is mass deception.

MS is well aware of the trends of technological evolution, and had to know that the 64-bit version would be the OS of choice within a couple of years. In fact, data shows the move towards 64-bit OS Article. What that means to the consumer is that MS has once again left them with nothing of substance in their hands. Again, those who faithfully bought into Vista within months of it release have been duped. Yes, we can plan on upgrading and spending another $200 if we want to keep our machines current. Those of use with our 32-bit versions are already beginning to feel the err of our ways. Adobe is migrating its applications to 64-bit, drivers are available for most device, the RAM trend is moving toward a 4 Gb minimum, but guess what? If you want your computer to see all 4 gigs of RAM, then you need a 64-bit OS. Tell me MS didn’t see that one coming. We try to put trust into those who come into our homes, we try to trust MS, but look how they treat the consumer.

Now, let’s compare Apples to oranges. When you buy an Apple you can rest assured that you are getting the same thing as anyone else, that you do not have to pay extra to insure that your hardware and data are being protected to the fullest capabilities of the OS, and you are getting a 64-bit OS and you are not buying down. The question to be asked here is why would a person want a PC that provides you with sub-standard software? Yes, it is sub-standard to the extent that if the manufacturer knows how to protect the consumer data/hardware then that should come wrapped in all flavors of the OS. The only reason to buy a MS OS is if you are a gamer. Other than that, it is a waste of money and wasting money is something that MS accepts as the norm. If they didn’t then why would the pay Sienfield $12 million to be in some ads? Microsoft does not have a conscience. If they did then they would not lie to the public in order to get their impression on their products. I am referring to the ‘Mojave’ ads where MS tells the end-user that they are viewing a new version of Windows…lo and behold, there are eventually told that they are viewing Windows Vista. Come on…get on with it folks. We just want a product that will meet our expectations as computer users. MS does not meet our expectations and that leaves only one choice left: Mac OS X.

The big question is going to be: what happens to MS when game software starts being ported to OS X? Dollar for dollar, the Mac has superior graphics and hardware reliability. The Mac OS has always been superior to Windows. The problem was that MS dominated the software market and basically bullied its way into our homes, but it has not bullied it way into our hearts. Soon, America will start buying with their conscience and when they do is when we will see the fall of a software giant…Microsoft.