Can You Live Without Microsoft?

Microsoft Rules The Mac

A Powerbook 3400 is my traveling companion, and surely, when I boot up that Apple, I am purged of Microsoft's villainy. Hah! Yes, the operating system-Mac OS 9-is free of any Microsoft connection. But when I write a document, it's in Microsoft Word-and for Mac users, there is no real competitive software aimed at business users. When I manipulate spreadsheets, it's with Microsoft Excel. When I browse the Net, it's with Microsoft Internet Explorer. As for e-mail, I use Microsoft's Outlook Express. In each case, this is the best software there is that runs on the Mac platform.

Determined Microsoft bashers could use Apple Works, an all-in-one application with a word processor, spreadsheet, etc., but that's more suited to personal use than business use. Netscape could replace IE, but IE is much slicker. And no e-mail package written for the Mac comes close to matching Microsoft's Outlook Express. Jettisoning this software in a search for a computer freed from Microsoft's rule would be a big mistake-at least I won't do it.

Incidentally, Microsoft's role on the Mac platform is not accidental. In 1997, Microsoft stunningly invested $150 million in an Apple Computer that was on its deathbed. When Microsoft announced this infusion of cash, it rocked the computer world, as pundits searched for a "why." Microsoft also promised to continue developing Mac software, and this was at a time when other developers were looking askance at the then-shrinking Mac market. At the end of the day, no one really knows why Microsoft did this, but it's indisputable that the money pumped new life into Apple. In retrospect, the Microsoft investment looks brilliant, as Apple has made quite a turnaround. But an ironic upshot is that Microsoft may now have more decisive rule over Apple users than over PC users, given the federal ruling.

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