Microsoft Corp has made Windows 98 available on new personal computers this week, prompting fresh criticism from campaigners who want to see a Windows alternative made available for consumers buying new PCs. Consumer activist Ralph Nader and his colleague James Love have written to the US Department of Justice pointing out that consumers should not […]
Microsoft Corp has made Windows 98 available on new personal computers this week, prompting fresh criticism from campaigners who want to see a Windows alternative made available for consumers buying new PCs. Consumer activist Ralph Nader and his colleague James Love have written to the US Department of Justice pointing out that consumers should not be forced into purchasing a Microsoft operating system when they buy a new computer. The letter comes following Nader’s correspondence with IBM Corp chief Lou Gerstner last week, asking him to open up the OS/2 source code to offer an alternative to Windows (CI No 3,428). Love told Computergram this week that the DOJ should not accept that everyone on earth should be buying computers with Windows on them. One of the alternatives that Nader and Love – who work at the Consumer Project on Technology in Washington, established by Nader in 1995 – believe is a viable alternative to Windows is the Linux shareware operating system, as well as OS/2 and various other little known systems. Love compares the Linux systems to a drug without a pharmaceutical company to sell it, and believes that given a chance Linux could prove very popular. The Linux kernel is available for anyone to develop applications on top of, and there are already some 20 companies working with it. Love believes the most sensible way to implement it or other possible alternatives, is to have them available alongside Windows on new computers. Users will then have the choice of what operating system they wish to use. The letter that Nader and Love sent to the DOJ was addressed to Joel Klein, assistant attorney general at the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, and the pair understand the document is receiving attention at the moment. One of the main hurdles to be overcome in reducing Microsoft’s vice-like grip on the operating system space is to get its partners and distributors to provide an alternative. But big companies such as Dell Computer Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and Compaq Computer Corp are going to be cautious about upsetting the software giant, because a large proportion of their business is generated through Windows. A nudge from the DOJ would kick start the process. Even if an alternative is made available, Love says a Windows slow down is not going to be imminent and warns that we should not underestimate Microsoft’s power and clout in the industry, and points out how prevalent Microsoft is in so many different areas. We may not be able to eliminate Windows, but we can eliminate the monopoly, Love said.