Rivals for Power: the fight to offer Internet services

Rivals for Power: the fight to offer Internet services

It’s time to take off the kid gloves and put on the heavy duty fighting mitts. Software meganopoly Microsoft and media major-domo AOL Time Warner have, of late, dropped all pretense of friendship and are about to duke it out to the death. Both want to reign supreme on Internet service provision. In the past, Microsoft’s goal was to have its operating system on every computer on the planet and, except for mine and a few others, they have succeeded. AOL, on the other hand, was happily distributing millions of floppy disks and later CDs to lure the masses to use their portal to the internet. All was happy in heaven until these two giants began stepping into each other’s turf.

AOL is prepared to put hard cash on the table. It will pay computer makers to showcase its e-mail service in place of Microsoft’s claiming that it has been a victim of MS’s monopoly position. In retaliation, Microsoft is crying the blues and accusing AOL of not making its instant messaging service compatible with their own.

With this fall’s release of Windows XP, Microsoft will include features that pave the way for Internet services which they call .Net. The combined services include MS’s copycat instant message service, Windows Messenger and Passport which offers built-in registering of passwords and personal data. AOL has a similar Passport-like utility designed for easy on-line transactions.

AOL is at the forefront in opposition to the release of Windows XP, using the DOJ’s monopoly ruling as proof that the new OS will be only more of the same. In fact, the two mega rivals are using strategies based on PR and legal points, which does not bode well for either. Eventually, both companies will be forced, by necessity, to collaborate, no matter how each detests the other.

Best Buy buys the Future

Best Buy, the largest US merchandizer to sell computers and consumer electronics, has seen the future – and it is Future Shop. Future Shop is Canada’s equivalent to Best Buy. In fact, rumour had it that Best Buy was prepared to move into the Canadian market and to bulldoze Future Shop into oblivion. Interviews with Future Shop COO, Kevin Layden, indicated they were ready willing and able to withstand the upstart from south of the border. However, Best Buy, with a financial end run, bought the company lock, stock and strong management team.

How will Canadian Mac folk fare with the revamped Future Shop? For starters, the name will remain but will be changed down the road to tie in with Best Buy’s international strategies. The Mac buying experience at Best Buy was spotty, to say the least. At Future Shop, it was even more dismal. Future Shop’s fast rise to prominence was primarily due to price. Service was a no-starter. Sales of cheap PCs (referring to quality as well as price) was the rule. Occasionally an iMac might be seen in a dusty corner or featured in an ad, but the buying experience was unrewarding. So poor were my experiences at my local Future Shop (hungry sales staff chomping to reach their sales goal) that I have never bought a major item from them. I did buy my new Sony TV with their help, though. They ran a sale on the model I was going to purchase and I used their ad to get the same price at Sears whose service and buying experience I much prefer.

Potential Mac buyers may be better off to wait until Apple opens its own stores in Canada – hopefully in the near future (pun intended).

Ralph J. Luciani

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