Tech Wars: Microsoft versus Fill In The Blank

Microsoft has been a mainstay of stories in Computerworld over the past 15 years. It seems Big Bill is always in the wars over something or other. Here are our favourite Tech Wars.

Microsoft has been a mainstay of stories in
Computerworld over the past 15 years. It seems Big Bill is always in the wars over something or other. Here are our favourite Tech Wars.

Microsoft and the Department of Justice

In the blue corner: MS has been bad. Very, very bad. It must be punished.

In the red corner: We're just very good at what we do. Now go away little man.

The outcome: A change in government has lead to a change in heart at the DOJ but the case is still struggling to reach its final conclusion. A negotiated settlement seems to be falling apart.

The verdict: Microsoft will continue doing what it does best: marketing.

Microsoft and Sun

In the blue corner: Sun introduced Java, a "write once, run anywhere" solution that meant you didn't need to be running Windows unless you really wanted to.

In the red corner: Bill wrote his own version that twisted the "purity" of Sun's Java until Sun head Scott McNealy took his ball and went home.

The outcome: Java left out of Microsoft's new IE 6 browser and hasn't really taken off as a Windows killer.

The verdict: McNealy is less than enamoured with his new role as Bill basher.

Microsoft and Netscape

In the blue corner: Microsoft decides it wants the browser market so launches Internet Explorer to take on Netscape's all-dominant browser. MS offers IE for free.

In the red corner: Netscape also offers its browser for free. The behemoths stomp around for a bit, crushing most other browsers in their wake.

The outcome: IE ate Netscape's lunch, dominates the market and is now an integral part of the Windows OS.

The verdict: Round 1: Netscape; Round 2: Netscape; Round 3: Microsoft. Game over.

Microsoft and Palm

In the blue corner: Palm owns the handheld market so Microsoft launches Windows CE to kick its butt.

In the red corner: Palm laughs it off. We own the market, it says, and Windows CE abbreviates to WinCE, which is kind of silly.

The outcome: Microsoft relaunches as Pocket PC, develops support for colour screens and add-on modules, uses relationship with Compaq and HP to sell millions of units.

The verdict: Palm is hesitating, unsure of which way to turn. Microsoft is rapidly catching up despite shortcomings in system (bulkier units, worse power consumption figures). Expect a butt-kicking soon. (Last week Bill showed off a prototype of the handwriting-capable Tablet PC.)

Microsoft and Apple

In the blue corner: Apple owns the computer market. Microsoft really likes the whole desktop analogy and so produces one of its own, licenses Windows on everything.

In the red corner: Apple complains, whines, bitches, sinks into obscurity.

The outcome: Microsoft saves Apple from insolvency with hundreds of millions of dollars. Apple produces iMac, goes from strength to strength, but at a fraction of the market share it once had.

The verdict: Without Apple to show it what to do Microsoft wouldn't be half the company it is today.

Microsoft and the pirates

In the blue corner: Those evil no-gooders are stealing our intellectual property and selling it to one-eyed customers.

In the red corner: Microsoft's numbers are a tad overwhelming, a tad shaky, and Microsoft's occasional practice of offering to waive the charges if the pirates buy MS licences leaves a sour taste in many a mouth.

The outcome: Microsoft may be grossly exaggerating the number of pirated software copies in circulation to further its own causes.

The verdict: Everyone now has to register their operating system, office suite, games, DLLs etc with Microsoft HQ or face having their software switched off. Hey, it's a win-win situation.

Microsoft and IBM

In the blue corner: well it has to be the company that started out making typewriters and ended up owning the entire computing market.

In the red corner: a couple of snot-nosed kids with a borrowed operating system and a licensing plan that slipped in under Big Blue's radar.

The outcome: Big Blue blinked, and fell 10,000 points while Bill and Paul's excellent adventure began with IBM handing over its licence to print money.

The verdict: IBM has an elephantine memory, Microsoft has a self belief that defies description, but these days they have more in common than ever before.

Microsoft and Linux

In the blue corner: Open source code, worked on communally by peaceniks, is evil and an affront to the American dream of owning one's own chicken farm.

In the red corner: Microsoft's evil empire controls too much already and must be stopped at all costs.

The outcome: Linux is fragmenting into numerous models, which is a good thing. Big Bill claims he invented the damned thing in the first place.

The verdict: Linux look out! Bill wants to take yours off you and make it his own. Has he ever failed before?

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