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>>> 1. Can you really buy a different operating system from Dell or Gateway or others. These companies don't even advertize what operating system is pre-installed. If you want Linux you have to call and make an effort to get Linux.
>>>2. Can you buy an Office suite other than Microsoft Office pre-installed on a new computer? It used to be that a customer was offered a choice. Not anymore.

Yes and yes, to 1 and 2 above. The local Fry's Electronics sells Linux machines with Corel Suite. Of course, nobody buys them - why would the consumer want an operating system that you have to be a techie to run? And why on earth would they want an office suite that about half works about half the time?

>>>3. One of the major issues in this case is bundling, which was the same issue way back in the 1960s when IBM bundled its software with its hardware. It was illegal then; it's illegal today.

Microsoft doesn't sell hardware, so I'm not sure what you think you're talking about here.

It's never been illegal to bundle software products together. Office suites, value packages - as in buy this and get this free, OS addons for free or for special prices as part of a package - these are common in the industry. Heck, I frequently price like that to my own clients - let me give you an entire development team, and I'll cut my rates on each developer. Are you trying to say that ought to be illegal?

>>>4. The idea that Microsoft cares about the customer is a joke. Try to get support from them. What they really care about is the terms of their contracts with the OEMs. They have bullied them as evidenced by the issues raised vis a vis IBM.

I've never had any trouble getting support from MSFT, except for the month after Windows 95 went gold. I always hear this crap, but when I've dealt with MSFT support by phone or email, they've been prompt and professional. If you want poor support, place a call to Novell, sometime. Or better yet, call Apple's customer service line. The last time I called Apple, I got a message saying that the support queue was full and a hangup.

Is MSFT support perfect? Nope. But they're certainly better than their competitors, which is one reason I use their development tools.

>>>5. Is MSFT still a good investment? Think long and hard about this one.

[g] I dunno about whether they are today or not, but if they go to 80 I'm takin' out a second on the house.

>>>It is also suffering a major drain in talent that is leaving the company.

What's your source for that information? I've seen nothing published anywhere to indicate that, and industry scuttlebutt that's come my way indicates exactly the opposite - that employee retention is actually improved over the last year.

>>>IBM's PC division lost its way during their lengthy battle with Justice back in the late 1980s. IBM never recovered its PC position.

IBM never had a PC position to recover. They shipped the PS2, then about a year later shipped OS2, assuming that the IBM logo would be enough to market both. The support was the pits, neither product was ready for prime time, and IBM never got the market share they projected. They didn't recover because they never had anything to recover from.

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