Friday, September 28, 2007

Microsoft and Ethics


I feel that last week's ruling against Microsoft by EU's second highest court could be a strong blow to Microsoft.

The court upheld the European Council decision of March 2004 saying that Microsoft abused its monopoly in computer operating systems; that its anticompetitive business practices have limited consumer choice; and that remedies imposed by antitrust regulators — including the forced licensing of sensitive technical details of the Windows operating system to competitors — are appropriate.
I am placing a serious analytical link here. You can click here and read in detail if you wish.

Despite my being a Microsoft loyal for long, I must admit that I feel now that Microsoft should rethink its business strategy. It should understand why competitors are hell-bent on fighting it based on anti-trust law. And why these competitors are feeling that they are being cheated out of selling their own products. I think its time now that the people of Microsoft weigh their own actions against ethical principles.

Let’s look at it this way. We know that arguably 90% of the world's computers are now running Windows Operating Systems. But do we know whether Microsoft has achieved these astounding sales with ethical business practices?

Because today, when you buy a Microsoft Windows Operating System you get with it, a lot more. Among many other software freebies, you get the latest of Internet Explorer browser, Outlook Express e-mail ware, Windows Media Player, and the Windows Movie Maker. All bundled. And All Free. So, obviously, customers would buy it up. And the sales chart would look up.

But this has been annoying other software vendors who make browsers, media players or movie makers. And quite rightly so. After all, why should Microsoft kill these competitors’ market segments by offering products free in those segments? Isn't Microsoft exploiting its dominant market position, by these bundled offers? Isn’t Microsoft preventing other software vendors from purveying their wares?

Therefore, it was no surprise when Sun Microsystems and Real Networks decided to take on Microsoft by complaining and thereby moving the court, which after a five-year investigation, said in March 2004, 'Yes. Microsoft has abused its monopolistic position, and used anticompetitive business practices."

According to Tuesday’s Seattle Times, Microsoft had settled with Real Networks out of court two years ago for $716 million, and struck an alliance with Sun in 2004. It also has already paid and accounted for the fines.

In spite of all that, now, with this Monday’s upholding of that 2004-decision by The European Court of First Instance, it could be very heavy on Microsoft. It now faces a $613 million penalty, the commission's largest, equal to about 3.3 percent of Microsoft's operating income in its past fiscal year.

However, Microsoft can still appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Communities, the highest court in Europe, and continue the battle, but will it do a lot of good to its image? That is the question.

There may be some who say what’s wrong with Microsoft’s way. It didn’t steal. It didn’t spy. It just gave its own products free. And some may even quote “All is fair in love and war”. But this is Business. And when Business does not seem fair, there is always competition that will fight for it, and the government that will insist on it.

Business Ethics is not an oxymoron. Anymore. Atleast not in these days.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ramadan Mubarak


Ramadan Mubarak to all my muslim friends!

And here's some Ramadan Information for all my non-muslim friends.

Today is the beginning of the month of Ramadan, and yesterday was the end of the month of Shaban, in the Islamic Calender.

And among the many things that awe me in Islam is this 'Holy Month of Ramadan' that begins today; a month of fasting for muslims all over the world. People fast from sunrise to sundown, abstaining from food, drink, smoke, entertainment and even sexual relations with their spouses.

Many attempt to spend time tuning up their spiritual lives. I had a colleague who actually completed reading the book of Quran during Ramadan last year. She had said that that was her target and went on to do it. Many still do.

That is why Ramadan month is often termed as a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control.

Special service in the form of the distribution of food and clothing for the needy, is also undertaken by many muslims or muslim charity organizations.

Fasting during this month is actually the third of the five pillars - or religious obligations - of Islam. For those who wish to know the five, they are:

  1. IMAN - Faith or belief that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet

  2. SALAH - Prayer five times a day (Mosques call for prayer (or Adan) at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Listen to some Azzans/Adhans here ).

  3. ZAKAH - Giving to the poor from what God gave. [All wealth is God-given, and individuals are merely trustees. Zakah actually means 'purification' or 'growth' and one can be purified by setting aside some of their wealth for those who need].

  4. SAWM - Fasting in the month of Ramadan. ROZA is another word for the same.

  5. HAJJ - Piligrimage to Makkah (in Saudi Arabia) by those who are able to physically and Financially do so. [I remember a muslim friend who came and returned some money he owed me - the day before he left for Hajj - saying, 'I want to go for Hajj with a clear conscience and I can't do so without settling this'.]

Bahrain, despite its cosmopolitan nature, is still proudly Islamic. And during daytime in this month, eating, drinking or smoking in public is not allowed. Cafes, restaurants and other eating places are closed. Public - muslim or non-muslim - will not be seen eating anywhere. People dress modestly, and no blaring music is heard from cars. All Discos, Bars and Night Clubs cease their activities.

But ofcourse, like the world over, the elders complain that the younger men and women are not observing Ramadan in its true spirit, with devotion. They say that during Ramadan nights, they infact eat more than they eat during normal days. And they stay up late nights, as most schools, universities and offices work for less time during this month.

One muslim friend joked saying that some young people look forward to Ramadan-Month not because its a time of fasting but because its a time of feasting!

But all said and done, having seen the months of Ramadan, living in Bahrain, for eight years now, I can only say that the fervour and the devotion with which it is observed is remarkable. To abstain from drinking even water during the "Hot Arabian months" is not easy. Its an amazing test for self-control. I tried and fasted a couple of days during some Ramadan months, and I must say its tough!!

Most importantly, the devotion, the charity, the seriousness and other aspects of life of the muslim brethern is simply admirable.

With each passing Ramadan, my respect for my muslim friends just keeps growing.

Ramadan Kareem.