An open letter to Microsoft

December 11th, 2009 by ftobia

Dear Microsoft,

I used to not like you a whole lot. I was kind of mean, too, sometimes calling you the Evil Empire or something similar. I want to take this opportunity to apologize, and to try to explain myself.

A whole lot of people used to not like you. I admit I got swept up in the anti-Microsoft rhetoric and jumped on the bandwagon when I should have given it more thought. You know the whole FOSS-vs-MSFT posturing, people hating on Windows because it’s not free, stuff like that. I even came up with a whole tirade about the economics of monopolies and marginal cost pricing, how charging so much for Windows is inefficient. I was petty, and it was silly of me; I recognize this now.

Here is why I came around:

First, you gave $15k to Creative Commons at the end of their 2008 fundraising campaign to put them above their goal. That was big. And I know you’ve been funding CC for a while. They’re a cause I really care about, so it means a lot that you’d be such a supporter.

Second, you’re really not that bad. I read an argument that the Microsoft Windows monopoly really amounted to extracting economic rents from middle-class Americans and, through the Gates Foundation, channeling those funds to aid efforts in Africa. Not to mention, Windows gave everyone a standardized platform in the meanwhile, and that is really valuable.

Third, you’re just a profit-maximizing firm, after all. You have a duty to your shareholders to make as much money as you can, even if sometimes that means using underhanded tactics. Spreading fear uncertainty and doubt, or engaging in “embrace, extend, extinguish“, while uncool, isn’t out of the ordinary in the business world. I can’t blame you for the system you’re a part of.

So it took me this long to realize that, no, Microsoft is not evil. You’re just doing your thing, you know? Maximizing profits and all is hard work. And right now Google is in a position to do a lot more damage to freedom than you are. I hear Windows 7 is pretty awesome, too.

I hope you accept my apology. Give Google a hard time for me, okay guys?

Amicably yours,


One Response to “An open letter to Microsoft”

  1. Brian Rowe Says:

    Hmmm interesting letter, I agree with you on the CC front. It is nice to see anyone support them with money but even better to see open content.

    I myself am divided on Microsoft. I am impressed by some of the work they have done on accessibility, an area often over looked by the open source community. While on the other hand I am extremely bothered by closed source code and software patent. Even MS struggles with software patents while they claim Linux violates over 100 patents owned by MS they are spending millions defending patent troll suits. I personally think the size of MS has resulted in several split personality some you can love and others you can love to hate.

    Corporate giving v. Corporate fiduciary actions. Is not giving just another corporate action designed to win fans. Weighing these factors are tough.

    PS I am bias here being from Seattle and often speaking on the opposite side of softies for copyright stuff, but also work with some great softies for local teaching and outreach like the Future of the Law Institute.

Leave a Reply

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.