Where Microsoft Gets Its Power
Enough is enough. In your article "Is Microsoft too powerful?" (Special Report, Mar. 1), Philipe Kahn of Borland International states: "Microsoft is the IBM of the '90s." Kahn is way off base. IBM used tactics such as proprietary hardware, incompatible software, loss of support contracts, etc., to force its customers to use IBM. Microsoft uses none of these tactics. The bottom line is they make a first-quality product that the customer wants and needs. The beauty of the PC revolution is that it has been totally consumer-driven, not company-driven.
J. Tilmon Brown
I have used a lot of word processors and spreadsheets, but my corporate and personal choices are Word and Excel by Microsoft. Is this because Microsoft has an advantage over Lotus, Borland, WordPerfect, and a thousand other companies because they wrote MS-DOS and Windows? Not likely. I use a Macintosh. Sorry, chaps--Microsoft just does it better.
Peter T. Magee
West Lebanon, N.H.
Here's Microsoft's secret for dominating the desktop-computer market. I just linked two computers in my office. I got bids of $600 to $1,000 for hardware, software, and installation, plus advice to budget for training. Instead, I went to Egghead Inc., paid $400 for Microsoft Windows for Workgroups, installed it in an hour and a half (counting the time to watch the instructional videotape included in the box), and had a working, easy-to-use network.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
I find that Microsoft products have distinct personalities. I recently installed two Windows applications, one from Microsoft and one from Borland. If it weren't for the implicit standardization of Windows and some common cosmetics, you wouldn't know the two products were from the same company. Documentation and installation processes were substantively different, and post-installation adjustments on the Microsoft package require either technical or arcane knowledge. The Borland package, on the other hand, was delightfully straightforward and well-documented, with subsequent adjustments almost intuitive.
This suggests that as long as the primary market for software is large installations with dedicated technical staffs, Microsoft will be effective. However, your sidebar on Intuit and my experience with Borland show that Microsoft is vulnerable when marketing to a more general audience.
Forrest E. Stanley
Your comprehensive report on Bill Gates omitted the more pointed speculation that Gates is on the road to becoming the most powerful individual in history.
The expanding microcomputer market has increased 10% to 45% each year for all but one of the past 10. This increasing growth leaves behind a larger installed base of machines and users for continuing sales--by Microsoft and others--of software and peripherals.
America has nearly one microcomputer for every three adults aged 20 to 64--a ratio that is likely to double over the next five years. New educational initiatives are sorely needed to help our students cope with the wrenching changes that Gates and his colleagues brought to office, school, and home.
Sorry, but you guys were really off the mark in your story about Bill Gates and Microsoft. My son Jan joined Microsoft on graduation from Cornell two years ago. Somebody has got to notice that Microsoft is a mother's dream!
People dress casually, and there are no time clocks or punch cards. Employees rate their own performance, as well as their boss's. Each building has a cafe--complete with trees and skylights, lots of separate counters where you can buy herbal tea or espresso, Italian ices, quiches, whatever one's ethnic or semi-ethnic heart desires. People are smart and friendly. They greet each other! They don't even blanch at an occasional mom wandering around muttering: "I must have done something right."
If you want to know about Microsoft and its CEO, ask the employee--or better yet, ask a parent. It's obvious Bill Gates is Clark Kent in disguise! (P.S. If you see this, Jan, please call home.)
Ann Arbor, Mich.