Michael Dell's a chicken

Michael Dell’s a chicken. So is Ted Wiatt of Gateway, Lewis Platt of H-P, and whoever is running Compaq for Ben Rosen these days.

All these men are afraid to speak a basic truth. The fundamental technology of computing has changed. Windows can’t be for everyone.

Windows won’t work on a handheld device because there’s not enough room on the screen, not enough space for a keyboard, and the user interface is wrong. The folks at Palm Computing have proven that to every user’s satisfaction, but they keep rolling out these Windows CE things, wasting millions because Bill insists on it.

Windows won’t work on high-end servers. It’s not unstoppable and it doesn’t scale. Wal-Mart tried to build its e-commerce effort with Microsoft software three years ago, and now they’re three years behind. NT’s kernel is too big, and when you start having to run hundreds of transactions a second, its overhead is just too distracting.

Whether we like it or not, Larry Ellison of Oracle was right. Clients need to be simple and basic, with all the complexity pushed to professionally managed servers. (Oracle beat the Street with its earnings this last quarter, I noticed.)

The reasons why no one will admit that computing’s Emperor has no clothes were detailed in the Microsoft anti-trust trial, whose public phase ended this month. It was right there in the testimony of the IBM executive who described how Microsoft tried to bully IBM into killing its own Lotus Smart Suite program, finally delivering Windows for the ThinkPad 15 minutes before its launch. Microsoft’s defense was that’s just the way business works.

Well, that’s not the way business works. That’s the way a monopoly works. Many businesses may try the tactics IBM was subjected to, but only a monopoly gets away with them. And, unless there’s some action from Judge Jackson, Microsoft has gotten away with them.

It won’t take much Jackson action to give Michael his courage back. The mere finding that Microsoft has a monopoly should be enough. It means new rules, a new consent decree, and a new stance by all sides in future business dealings.

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