Battle of the Bill
OK, let's cut to the chase with this Microsoft saga. Behind all the marketing fluff, we all know Microsoft produces software that returns decent margins and essentially does the job well enough to make it a staple for many resellers, retailers, PC assemblers and even integrators in the enterprise space.
The fact that we can now officially point the finger and accuse Bill of building a monopoly is not exactly the world's greatest revelation either.
What is impressive is that the US Department of Justice is prepared to write a blank cheque on the legal costs needed to investigate what everyone knows is Microsoft's unassailable position in the IT industry.
The real test will be to see just what power the courts can exercise over a company that has risen to become one of the world's largest corporate behemoths and in theory has the financial backing to literally do whatever it likes.
I think the reason why the IT industry at large is so keen to see Microsoft pulled apart is not because of the old `tall poppy syndrome' but because we simply don't like its corporate arrogance. I should clarify that to say `veiled' arrogance because I'm yet to meet a Microsoft employee who exudes such an air.
But it's fair to say that the industry simply expects more of a company this large.
For example, the Blue Screen of Death (aka B-SOD) is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it's just not funny. And if I read another story about Microsoft bringing out products late to market . . .
In fact, this whole argument can be summarised by a line I read on a satirical calendar: `Striving for mediocrity in a world of excellence.'
According to Inform research, a healthy percentage of the channel agrees that this sentiment applies to Microsoft.
Just under 40 per cent of respondents in Inform's 99 Channel Trends survey rated the company's product technical quality as either `poor' or `below adequate'.
On the flip side, Microsoft is rated by over half the respondents as the most effective marketer with close to 55 per cent of respondents giving it the thumbs up. And to give you an indication of its lead in the Australian IT channel marketing race, Attach trails way behind in second place at around 3 per cent, with Lotus and SAP recording similar results.
And marketing success is seen by many as more important than product quality, which I think is one of the industry's greatest misnomers.
One of Microsoft's greatest strengths in Australia is the support it maintains within the channel.
As a result, I will be very interested to hear from more of you after the DoJ delivers its final verdict on Microsoft soon.
If you are not happy with its performance, now is not the time to sit back and accept the fact that Microsoft will never change. Send us your feedback or tell the company yourself.
As we have written in our Channel Verdict on partner programs this week (pp. 35-46), your partners are critical to your future success. Soon you may actually be able to choose a viable alternative to Microsoft, and that puts the ball in your court.
On a much lighter note, I am pleased to welcome Ben Fuller to the ARN team as our graphic designer. You will notice he has already made a significant difference to this issue after just one week, which is a promising indication of great things to come.