The MonoCulture Creed

Everytime you advance the argument to Microsoft excutives and product managers that the name of the game in the IT World today is integration, compatibility and interoperability and that Microsoft should do more – they just laugh or simply shrug it off. Redmondnites say the IT World – corporates large and organizations small and around the world – this IT world currently votes otherwise and they are just responding to their customers needs. And look, the ITWorld currently uses Windows desktops, Office, Microsoft coding & development tools in the 90%++ range with only Internet Explorer starting to nudge below 90% usage. The IT world has bought the Microsoft idea that a monoculture of one operating system, one applications system vendor, one place for all applications to aggregate, develop and cross-integrate is better than several.

Look no further than Internet Explorer for a dramatic example of that. The history of IE is appalling: First IE and IIS were given away for free to cutoff the oxygen to Netscape. Next in the rush to produce IE a lot of coding corners were cut from a development cloth (VC++) that was already lacking in secure and reliable coding measures (no standard “try, catch, finally”, missing rigorous exception handling that were commonly available in Ada, Delphi, Java and other programming languages, missing bounds and other validity/memory management checking facilities etc). Even more disturbing – Microsoft was warned by experts at the time to stay away from using ActiveX and using coding that allowed for System privileges to be accorded to IE users. Microsoft chose otherwise. And all of the recent spate of security problems with IE canbe traced to these sloppy and opportunistic coding decisions by Microsoft back in the late 1990s( So when Microsoft says we are victims of being the number one browser and that all browsers are equally vulnerable – you know otherwise. Microsoft Internet Explorer just offers hackers and phishers the path of least resistance, the weakest link – and so they exploit that first).

And the last travesty, Microsoft since about mid 2000 has cut off all development on IE, disregarding its earlier commitements to users to bring it into full standards compliance. So IE has steadily fallen well behind all other browsers. And Microsoft has said it will not update its browser until Longhorn. And it has declined to say what and how the Longhorn version of IE will do and lok like. So inevitably IE has started to lose market share, especially in the face of repeated and unprecedented security problems and updates required with IE. But despite that here is what Techworld had to say about IEs prospects:
“Firefox still appears to be maintaining the momentum of its highly publicized 1.0 launch ten weeks ago–the project says users have downloaded more than 19 million copies of the browser. But it could ultimately be stalled at a low figure by factors such as incompatibility with some websites. Enterprises also frequently build in-house applications on the proprietary Microsoft technology supported by Explorer, a factor Microsoft says it is counting on to maintain its dominance. If for nothing else, Explorer is necessary to access Microsofts Windows Update site.

In effect, IE is the poster child for the Microsoft Monoculture Creed. That Monoculture Creed posits:
1)Microsoft can be more innovative, faster to market, and more supportive of users specifically because we dont have to develop for other platforms adding to costs and endangering reliability, security and performance;
2)By having one large monoculture(Windows), Microsoft can be the lowest cost producer and/or offer the best set of support services;
3)By being the largest market, Microsoft offers to its 3rd party ISVs marketing opportunities not available elsewhere; and if they so choose to support other platforms they are just leaving themselves vulnerable because other third parties (and Microsoft itself)will have lower cost structures because they only support one;
4)Our customers want to reduce the nightmare of supporting multiple platforms and multiple application stacks; we offer them an OS platform with the broadest and widest collection of apps and the lowest TCO – better than Linux for sure, for sure;
5)And even if you wanted to switch, you cant very well because you are tied into our proprietary technologies. These proprietary technologies are geared such that the switching costs are high (people and software development and change costs trump all the hardware and commodity costs by factors of 2 to 10) and in these times of reduced IT budgets and reduced functional improvements in new technology – there is no ROI in switching. And this is true even if we burden you with high security, reliability, adhoc operating and forced upgrade costs. Oh … and if you thought you had seen proprietary – wait until we unveil the Gates of Longhorn.

In the 60s through 70s one of the most astute political cartoons was Walt Kellys Pogo. Albert the Alligator and Churchy LaFemme are complaining to Pogo that their beloved Okefenokee swamp has become an UnderUtilitized Pollushunned Zoned or some such. The conversation continues somewhat like this:
Churchy: Lookee what I found here right on the shore, a bent golf whump club.
Albert: Ill have you know that golf whump clubs are no dimes ugh dozen why they is … gaack … that is my long lost cousin, my favorites Wham whumper .. what is it doing here?
Churchy: Well finders sleepers and I am going to be a big whump wheepers cause I has found your WetWham Whumper and I will not be able to return it to you cause of sentimental values and you have been an ingrate pollushers of our Okeefenokee pride and joy, unless of course you …
Albert: My do tell here what do we have … I thunks its nones other than Churhwhiles old by two weeks refrigermerator! But I do recall you said that you was goin to give this to the Goodwill Salavatin Industries -and since when did they move to this part of the Okefenokee NayBoarHoods ?
Churchy: Why you two faced Pollushun Contralol agents, you are just tryin to besmirch my fined record and I for one and only one will not ….
Pogo, in final frame aside: I guess we have met the Pollushun enemy … and they is us.

Likewise for the ITWorld, for we have bought into the Microsoft Monoculture Creed hook, line and stinker.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005