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Microsoft using MSDN to force developers down Win2K path

Thanks to Brett and the others for the tip: I've gotten a number of emails from MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers recently, which alerted me to a disturbing new revelation regarding Microsoft's abuse of its Windows operating system monopoly. We've all heard the stories about Microsoft using Windows to push other products, such as Office and Encarta through machine bundling, and of course there's the classic example of the integration of Internet Explorer in Windows, designed solely to push Netscape out of the browser market. But it seems that Microsoft's web-like collection of interconnected products reaches much further than that. In a bid to foist Windows 2000 on the world, even at the expense of its other operating systems, Microsoft is now going after that most important market of all: Software developers.

And really, when it comes to domination in the software market, it all begins with the developers. If people aren't writing software for Windows 2000, there's no reason for anyone to upgrade. If Windows 2000 simply ran all the software out there that already runs on Windows 9x and Windows NT 4.0, it would be a little hard to justify the expense of Windows 2000 training and implementation. But if Microsoft could somehow push Windows 2000 on developers, and get them to develop software solely for Windows 2000, this would lead to a much quicker adoption rate for the new operating system. And with over three years of development time and millions of dollars of R & D sunk into Windows 2000, Microsoft is going to want to this OS to sell, and sell as quickly as possible. It's good business, at least for Microsoft.

Here's one example of how they're working toward this very goal. The MSDN program ships a massive set of CDs to its Professional and Universal level subscribers every year, with smaller interim shipments arriving monthly or quarterly. Once a year, the master CD set is replaced; in fact, the new master set for 2000 was sent out just this week. In this new set of CDs, one operating system is conspicuously absent: Windows NT 4.0. While subscribers get a full complement of Windows 2000 versions, NT 4.0 is gone.

A note accompanying the set explains:

"As an existing subscriber, you'll notice that this shipment includes a full refresh of all discs," the note reads. "Many discs are no longer in your old set (such as all versions of Windows NT 4.0) have been moved to an Archive pack and are no longer shipped automatically. Be sure to keep any of these discs that you may continue to need."

I contacted MSDN to ask about this omission and they assured me that any customers needing the NT 4.0 discs could receive them, free of charge, "within days." When I explained that Windows NT 4.0 had a user base of approximately 60 million and questioned the omission, they explained that this decision was under review and that it could possibly be changed should enough customers call and complain. However, I must wonder about a company that would so callously remove its current business operating system from a set of CDs aimed at its own third party developers. If I were developing software right now, I'd want to target NT as well as 2000; right now there aren't any Windows 2000 users at all, at least not in any appreciable numbers.

This situation also occurs with Microsoft's upcoming consumer release, Windows Millennium Edition ("Windows Me"). It seems that Microsoft has no plans at all to include Millennium in the CD shipments that MSDN subscribers receive. When asked about this decision, the answer was so ludicrous that I thought they were kidding. They told me that MSDN wasn't shipping Millennium because, get this, it's designed for consumers. Well duh, Microsoft. But MSDN is for developers. Wouldn't developers want to work on software that runs on Microsoft's consumer OS as well? That way, they could target 100% of the market, not just Microsoft's as-yet-unreleased business OS.

It's not so far-fetched to look at these decisions as part of a far larger plan by Microsoft to force Windows 2000 down the collective throats of all of its customers, past, present and future. Taken in the larger context of the antitrust allegations against the company, it looks even more sinister. As far as I can tell, all roads lead to Windows 2000, whether you want it or.

If you are an MSDN customer, there's something you can do. Call and complain (800-759-5474 in the U.S.). Or write and complain. Make sure that they know how you feel, whether you agree with practice this or not. As paying customers of Microsoft, remember that the company is there for you, and not vice versa. Unless you stand up and let your voice be heard, you're simply a blip in their bottom line

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