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Criticism of Microsoft


Corporate

Since the 1980s, Microsoft has been the focus of much controversy in the computer industry. Most criticism has been for its business tactics, which some perceive as unfair and anticompetitive. Often, these tactics have been described with the motto "embrace, extend and extinguish". Microsoft initially embraces and extends a competing standard or product, only to later extinguish it through such actions as writing their own incompatible version of the software or standard. These and other tactics have led to various companies and governments filing lawsuits against Microsoft. Microsoft has been called a "velvet sweatshop" in reference to allegations of the company working its employees to the point where it might be bad for their health. The first instance of "velvet sweatshop" in reference to Microsoft originated from a Seattle Times article in 1989, and later became used to describe the company by some of Microsoft's own employees.

Free software proponents point to the company's joining of the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) as a cause of concern. A group of companies that seek to implement an initiative called Trusted Computing (which sets out to increase security and privacy in a user's computer), the TCPA is decried by critics as a means to allow software developers to enforce any sort of restriction they wish over their software.

Advocates of free software also take issue with Microsoft's promotion of Digital Rights Management (DRM), and the company's total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons with its "Get the facts" campaign. Digital Rights Management is a technology that gives digital content and software providers the ability to put restrictions on how their products are used on their customers' machines; these restrictions are seen by the technology's detractors as an infringement on fair use and other rights. DRM restricts even legal uses, for example, re-mixing or playing in a slideshow. Microsoft is not the only platform provider who supports DRM, however. For example, Apple Computer has been under fire from the French Government for "FairPlay," a DRM system used to control usage of content downloaded from its iTunes Music Store service. The "Get the facts" campaign argues that Windows Server has a lower TCO than Linux and lists a variety of studies in order to prove its case. Proponents of Linux unveiled their own study arguing that, contrary to one of Microsoft's claims, Linux has lower management costs than Windows Server. Another study by the Yankee Group claims that Windows Server cost less than Linux for those with legacy systems and more for those without.

 

Technical

Older versions of Microsoft products were often characterized as being unstable versions of Windows based on MS-DOS, and later the Windows 95 kernel from the mid 1990s to early 2000s, were widely panned for their instability, displaying the "Blue Screen of Death", when Windows abruptly terminates an application — usually due to malfunctioning drivers or hardware. In Windows NT/2000/XP Professional, the blue screen is also known as the Windows Stop Message. While less frequent, Windows 2000 and XP are still susceptible to Blue Screens of Death. Computer users not familiar with the division of responsibilities among applications, the operating system, and third-party device drivers sometimes blame Microsoft for problems that are created by third-party software, particularly poorly written and unsigned drivers. Microsoft has consequently announced that it will disallow unsigned drivers in the 64-bit editions of Windows Vista.

The user interface of Microsoft products is occasionally criticized for its inconsistency and complexity, requiring interactive wizards to function as an extra layer between the user and the interface.

Numerous Microsoft products, most notably Internet Explorer, are seen as being insecure to malicious attacks such as computer viruses. Rob Pegoraro, writing for the Washington Post, says that due to Windows leaving five Internet ports open for various running services, malefactors have an easier time compromising the system. A study conducted by Forrester Research refutes these claims, stating that it found that after a year of studying Windows and several Linux distributions, Windows had the fewest vulnerabilities and that "Microsoft was the only vendor to have corrected 100% of the publicly known flaws during the study's time period." In an article for SecurityFocus, Scott Granneman said that as of 2004-06-17 there were 153 accumulated security holes since 2001-04-18 and that Internet Explorer "is a buggy, insecure, dangerous piece of software." Mike Nash, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President, responded to Internet Explorer security concerns in a 2005 interview by stating that the version of Internet Explorer shipped with Windows XP Service Pack 2 gives it security on the same level as its competition. The next planned version of Internet Explorer, 7, is scheduled to feature a security overhaul with anti-phishing and malware prevention technology. In a recent review, PC Magazine's Neil Rubenking commented that the phishing technologies in Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 were superior to equivalents from McAfee and Symantec.

 

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