Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in virtualization, networking, open source, and cloud computing

Return of the Old Microsoft

Microsoft just can’t seem to shake off the perception in the industry that it will do whatever it takes to kill the competition, even if that includes unfairly leveraging a monopoly on the desktop OS market—an act which is criminal in nature and violates US anti-trust laws. It was those laws that landed Microsoft in trouble for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows in an effort to kill Netscape. (I’ll leave for another day the discussion of what is right and wrong for a company to do in a competitive marketplace.)

Now we see Microsoft doing it again: limiting ways in which users can utilize functionality provided by competitor’s products and restricting customers to utilizing only Microsoft virtualization technologies. VMware’s white paper on the subject lays out clearly the ways in which Microsoft is actively attempting to block competitor’s functionality and lock customers into Microsoft’s products only. Sadly, I have to say I’m not too terribly surprised. Neither is Alex Weeks of Virtual Infrastructure 411:

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I said that Microsoft would find a way to unfairly restrict or cripple VMware.

John Troyer of the VMTN Blog really points out what an obvious ploy these recents moves are:

Do you think that when Viridian, Microsoft’s hypervisor, eventually comes out and has “live migration” that they’ll find a way to decouple licenses from physical hardware? That when Viridian can do the equivalent of DRS and HA, they’ll suddenly become advocates of putting your enterprise software in virtual resource pools for manageability and reliability? Funny how that works. It’s all bad for the consumer right now in 2007.

C’mon, Microsoft! Have you learned nothing? Compete on the basis of your products’ quality, not your marketshare! Make the Windows Hypervisor the best virtualization platform out there and people will use it. Why are VirtualPC and Virtual Server losing to VMware? Because VMware’s products are better. All you need to do to win is make the best product, and doing anything else—especially stuff like this—only makes your customers mistrust you. That trust, once lost, is unbelievably hard to regain.

I know I said I’d leave the topic of right vs. wrong in a competitive situation for another day, but I do have to speak to one phrase I saw while reading the NY Times article on this issue:

“This seems to be a far more subtle, informed and polished form of competitive aggression than weve seen from Microsoft in the past,” said Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University. “And Microsoft has no obligation to facilitate a competitor.”

Facilitate a competitor? I don’t think VMware is asking Microsoft to facilitate them. What VMware is asking is that Microsoft stop changing license policies in a way that specifically prohibits actions that were once allowed. VMware wants Microsoft to stop saying that customers can only use Microsoft software with other Microsoft software, which is essentially what these EULA changes are doing. That closed attitude, in my humble opinion, is what has helped drive Linux and the open source realm to its current level of adoption.

Personally, I hope that VMware does launch an anti-trust lawsuit (like Mary Jo Foley seems to think they might). It’s wrong for Microsoft to use a monopoly in one market (desktop operating systems) to extend marketshare in a different market segment (virtualization). I’d say the same for VMware or Apple or IBM if they tried to do the same thing.

What about you? What do you think?

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