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Taking aim at Microsoft

Is Microsoft discouraging user loyalty? Feedback hed: Taking aim at Microsoft dek: is Microsoft discouraging user loyalty?

Re your August 2001 Insights column, specifically the following paragraph: “Internet Explorer’s smart links will send users to Microsoft’s partner sites for information …. AOL and many other ISPs and online providers will see dramatic drop-offs in users unless they partner with Microsoft.”

As Draconian as they sound, smart links will not change usage patterns on the World Wide Web. Copyright laws are quite clear: Microsoft must obtain permission from the host site to alter page content from the target site to designate link destinations.

A copyright holder may also control how other sites link to its Web pages. United Media, for example, has the right to enforce linking to the Dilbert home page instead of the database of cartoon images so that people may not bypass banner ads via a third-party Web site.

Thus, Microsoft must have permission from both source and target to legally deploy smart links. Since we currently have similar content-sharing agreements in place, this does not change the way users navigate the Web (although it does make things more convenient for some). And should Microsoft violate copyright on a registered work, it will fund not only its legal defense but also the injured party’s offense.

Jason Paul Kazarian

Plano, Tex.

You express a fairly common view of Microsoft, to wit: It continues to monopolize the market, and do so with a less than adequate product.

I agree, but I think you missed the answer to this problem. You discussed how some see Linux as the Microsoft killer. Microsoft has managed to kill off those who dared to compete, but I don’t think even Microsoft can quash Linux.

The beauty of Linux is that there’s no target for Microsoft to shoot at. True that Sun, Corel, and others are backing it, but if they all collapse tomorrow, Linux will go on. Even Microsoft can’t search out and destroy hundreds or thousands of “software manufacturers.”

But the key ingredient, the one you missed mentioning, is the market, the computer user. We have to quit buying Windows and Office like sheep, and work together to overcome this company that is hindering our well-being. We have to remember that all those Lilliputians, working together, succeeded in capturing Gulliver.

However, there is a major obstacle to all this: the shortage of applications. I would dearly love to try Linux, but I need applications, and as far as I can tell, they’re not available. I’m not talking about shareware knock-offs of established Windows apps; I’m a little afraid of those for my mission-critical needs.

The good part is that Microsoft is discouraging user loyalty with its frequent upgrades. If we are all going to be forced to migrate to a new OS, why not make it Linux? But that will only work if Linux is a viable alternative for the desktop. We already saw IBM blow such an opportunity with OS/2. Will Linux come through? I certainly hope so.

Rick Van Dusen

Pasadena, Calif.

I read your article (“Internet slump short-term,” September 2001) and thought I would share my experience. I must be one of the very few lucky ones (although my neighbors and associates all have had similar experiences). I use AT&T Broadband for high-speed internet service.

From the beginning, I have had great service. At first, only my oldest daughter (17 at the time) was connected. She was downloading music and sharing digital images, and was the only one who seemed to have a need for more bandwidth. I then bought a Linksys system to distribute the high-speed service to my youngest daughter (15 at the time) and my home-office computer. After a couple of minor setup headaches, this system also was perfect. For about two years, we had three computers connected to one cable modem system and it has all worked without incident. The price wasn’t cheap ($39.95 per month), but once I had this working, I cancelled my third analog phone line.

I am disheartened by the horror stories that you described in your article. I, for one, am a totally satisfied user. Every morning, I go downstairs, get my coffee, log on to the Net, and check all the news that I want. I rarely read the morning paper and believe that the technology that I am using now is where the world is headed.

Ray Sansouci

President & CEO

MicroE Systems Inc.

Natick, Mass.

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