Hooked on the lowest bidder

We all know that our corporate operating system monoculture is dangerous, but most of us also recognize that we have been willing participants in the creation of it. It wasn't that we knew better when we started down this track, and it wasn't that we had a lot of choice. But that period of innocence collapsed like a cheap deck chair.

There was a time when corporate wisdom was that no one got fired for buying IBM. Why? Because you were making a serious strategic decision when you purchased or leased IBM equipment and the company was a serious business partner. This last point was important because IBM provided real service and had a track record - the decision you were making had legs.

Then along came the PC revolution and the LAN revolution and then the Internet, by which time Microsoft's market dominance had been consolidated as the company made some smart moves, papered over the cracks of its dumber moves and did some really aggressive marketing while all the other vendors stumbled or fell over their own feet.

So today the perceived wisdom is no one gets fired for buying Microsoft -- the company has achieved that "old school" veneer of respectability.

But wait! Microsoft did it with cheap products sold to mass markets! These weren't system sells as in the IBM mainframe days or even the Digital minicomputer days -- these were stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap building blocks.

By the time we started to realize the consequences it was too late! These weren't systems products, particularly where networking was concerned, and they were built from a vast flotilla of proprietary and de facto standards that sprouted like mushrooms. Using this hodgepodge we built bigger systems than ever!

We all got hooked on cheap and easy PC operating system products and proved that we had about as much true grit available to change our habits as a crack addict has of turning down a free dime bag.

What really got corporate attention was the proliferation of worms and viruses that capitalized on Microsoft software vulnerabilities. And now that we know what Windows source code looks like it confirms our suspicion that Microsoft compromised the (dare I say) sanctity of the operating system code for the benefit of its own applications!

So what we have is a global computing infrastructure built by the lowest bidder that for all its sophistication and fine engineering is based on marketecture and compromises on top of trade-offs founded on hacks and old, old code.

We have only ourselves to blame and only ourselves to look to for a fix.

Keep 'em coming to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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