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Criticism of Microsoft has followed various aspects of its products and business practices. Issues with ease of use , robustness , and security of the company’s software are common targets for critics. In the s, a number of malware mishaps targeted security flaws in Windows and other products. Microsoft was also accused of locking vendors and consumers in to their products, and of not following or complying with existing standards in its software.
The company has been the subject of numerous lawsuits , brought by several governments and by other companies, for unlawful monopolistic practices. Commission case, and it received an million euro fine. On September 14, , Microsoft’s flagship store was shut down by protestors as part of a direct action organized by Close the Camps NYC. From its inception, Microsoft defined itself as a platform company and understood the importance of attracting third-party programmers.
It did so by providing development tools, training, access to proprietary APIs in early versions, and partner programs. Although the resulting ubiquity of Microsoft software allows a user to benefit from network effects , critics and even Microsoft itself decry what they consider to be an » embrace, extend and extinguish » strategy of adding proprietary features to open standards or their software implementations, thereby using its market dominance to gain unofficial ownership of standards «extended» in this way.
Microsoft software is also presented as a «safe» choice for IT managers purchasing software systems. The Windows API is so broad, so deep, and so functional that most independent software vendors would be crazy not to use it. And it is so deeply embedded in the source code of many Windows apps that there is a huge switching cost to using a different operating system instead It is this switching cost that has given the customers the patience to stick with Windows through all our mistakes, our buggy drivers, our high TCO total cost of ownership , our lack of a sexy vision at times, and many other difficulties [ In short, without this exclusive franchise called the Windows API, we would have been dead a long time ago.
Concerns were raised that this requirement would hinder the use of alternate operating systems such as Linux. In a post discussing secure boot on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft developer Tony Mangefeste indicated that vendors would provide means to customize secure boot, stating that «At the end of the day, the customer is in control of their PC. Microsoft’s philosophy is to provide customers with the best experience first, and allow them to make decisions themselves.
Gates’ letter provoked many responses, with some hobbyists objecting to the broad accusation, and others supporting the principle of compensation. The Halloween documents , internal Microsoft memos which were leaked to the open source community beginning in , indicate that some Microsoft employees perceive «open source» software — in particular, Linux — as a growing long-term threat to Microsoft’s position in the software industry.
Another concern of critics is that Microsoft may be using the distribution of shared source software to harvest names of developers who have been exposed to Microsoft code, as some believe that these developers could someday be the target of lawsuits if they were ever to participate in the development of competing products. This issue is addressed in published papers from several organizations including the American Bar Association and the Open Source Initiative.
Starting in the s, Microsoft was accused of maintaining «hidden» or «secret» APIs: interfaces to its operating system software that it deliberately keeps undocumented to gain a competitive advantage in its application software products. On October 10, , Microsoft joined the Open Invention Network community despite holding more than 60, patents.
On July 6, , Microsoft announced that it was placing their ECMA and ECMA specifications under their Community Promise pledging that they would not assert their patents against anyone implementing, distributing, or using alternative implementations of.
NET stack not submitted to the ECMA for standardization has been the source of patent violation concerns for much of the life of the project. The concerns primarily relate to technologies developed by Microsoft on top of the. NET and Windows Forms see non-standardized namespaces , i. These technologies are today [ when?
In June the Ubuntu Technical Board stated that it saw «no reason to exclude Mono or applications based upon it from the archive, or from the default installation set. Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields has stated, «We do have some serious concerns about Mono and we’ll continue to look at it with our legal counsel to see what if any steps are needed on our part», yet «We haven’t come to a legal conclusion that is pat enough for us to make the decision to take mono out».
In November at an Ubuntu Developer Summit , developers voted to have the Mono-based Banshee media player removed from Ubuntu’s default installation beginning on Ubuntu Mono developer Joseph Michael Shields defended the performance of Banshee on ARM, and also the claims that Banshee was not well-maintained as being a «directed personal insult» to one of its major contributors.
Microsoft ignored unauthorized copying of its own software for their benefit on the long term. While talking about users in China who don’t pay for the software they use in , to an audience at the University of Washington, Bill Gates said «And as long as they’re going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade. The practice allowed Microsoft to gain some dominance over the Chinese market and only then taking measures against unauthorized copies.
In , by means of the Windows update mechanism, a verification program called » Windows Genuine Advantage » WGA was downloaded and installed. This behavior angered users and generated complaints in China with a lawyer stating that «Microsoft uses its monopoly to bundle its updates with the validation programs and forces its users to verify the genuineness of their software».
A common complaint  comes from those who want to purchase a computer that usually comes preinstalled with Windows without a copy of Windows pre-installed and without paying extra for the license either so that another operating system can be used or because a license was already acquired elsewhere, such as through the MSDN Academic Alliance program. While it is possible to obtain a computer with no or free operating systems,  virtually all large computer vendors continue to bundle Microsoft Windows with the majority of the personal computers in their ranges.
The claimed increase in the price of a computer resulting from the inclusion of a Windows license has been called the «Windows tax» or «Microsoft tax» by opposing computer users. In , all major OEMs agreed to this restriction.
Microsoft does not provide refunds for Windows licenses sold through an OEM, including licenses that come with the purchase of a computer or are pre-installed on a computer.
According to Microsoft’s End User License Agreement for Windows 7 the ability to receive a refund for the operating system is determined by the hardware manufacturer: . By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed. Acer Inc.
Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit. Based on the updated language, vendors refused to issue partial refunds for Windows licenses, requiring that the computer be returned altogether. In some countries, this practice has been ruled a violation of consumer protection law. Microsoft’s market dominance and business practices have attracted widespread resentment, which is not necessarily restricted to the company’s competitors.
In a publication, Dan Geer argued the prevalence of Microsoft products has resulted in a monoculture which is dangerously easy for viruses to exploit. Microsoft has been criticized for the use of permatemp employees employees employed for years as «temporary,» and therefore without medical benefits , use of forced retention tactics, where departing employees would be sued to prevent departure, as well as more traditional cost-saving measures, ranging from cutting medical benefits to not providing towels in company locker rooms.
Historically, Microsoft has also been accused of overworking employees, in many cases, leading to burnout within just a few years of joining the company. The company is often referred to as a «Velvet Sweatshop», a term which originated in a Seattle Times article,  and later became used to describe the company by some of Microsoft’s own employees.
For example, the kitchenettes have free beverages and many buildings include exercise rooms and showers.
However, the company has been accused of attempting to keep employees at the company for unreasonably long hours and working them too much. A US state lawsuit was brought against Microsoft in representing 8, current and former employees that had been classified as «temporary» and «freelance», and became known as Vizcaino v. The Final Settlement  came in The case was decided on the IRS-defined basis that such «permatemps» had their jobs defined by Microsoft, worked alongside regular employees doing the same work, and worked for long terms.
A side effect of the «permatemp» lawsuit is that now contract employees are prevented from participating in team morale events and other activities that could be construed as making them «employees». They are also limited to month contracts and must leave after that time for 6 months before returning under contract.
Microsoft is the largest American corporate user of H-1B guest worker visas and has joined other large technology companies like Google in recently lobbying for looser H-1B visa restrictions.
Jesse Jackson believes Microsoft should hire more minorities and women. Jackson has urged other companies to diversify their workforce. He believes that Microsoft made some progress when it appointed two women to its board of directors in During the antitrust case United States v. Microsoft , ATL sent a poll to 19 state attorneys general purporting to show that «the public believes state AGs should devote their energy to causes other than Microsoft».
In June , the AdTI published a report, quickly pulled under the argument that it was a draft version, which contained criticism of the copyleft model and the GNU General Public License.
A May press release for the report stated that it would contain arguments suggesting that governments could be threatened by hackers and terrorists who could study potential vulnerabilities due to source availability if it used open source software. However, the draft contained no references to these topics. The advert featured a newborn baby being launched out of its mother—aging as it flies through the air, and crashing into a gravestone.
It contained the tagline «Life is short, play more. The comparison included the cost of hardware, and put Linux at a disadvantage by installing it on more expensive but poorer-performing hardware compared to that used for Windows.
Microsoft spokesperson Catherine Brooker expressed the belief that the article had been «heavily written» by IBM employees who supported the rival OpenDocument format, though she provided no specific evidence. Internet entrepreneur and Wikimedia Foundation founder Jimmy Wales described Microsoft’s offer as unethical. In , it was found that a photo on the Polish version of Microsoft’s business productivity website—which depicted three people of various races during an office meeting—had been edited to replace the head of an African-American man with that of a Caucasian , whilst also failing to edit the person’s hand to match the different skin color.
Dame Margaret Hodge , a Labour MP in the UK said, «It is unsurprising — yet still shocking — that massively wealthy global corporations openly, unashamedly and blatantly refuse to pay tax on the profits they make in the countries where they undertake business».
John C. Dvorak said that in the s, Microsoft classified journalists as «Okay», «Sketchy», or «Needs work» and targeted «Needs work» journalists in an attempt to have them terminated. Dvorak said that he was denied information about Windows because he was on a blacklist.
Microsoft along with Google, Yahoo , Cisco , AOL , Skype , and other companies has cooperated with the Chinese government in implementing a system of Internet censorship. On June 4, , the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre , searches for the Tank Man image and videos were censored by Microsoft Bing search engine worldwide. Hours after Microsoft acknowledged the issue, the search returned only pictures of tanks elsewhere in the world.
Search engines that license results from Microsoft such as DuckDuckGo and Yahoo faced similar issues. Microsoft said the issue was «due to an accidental human error. The director of Human Rights Watch , Kenneth Roth , said he found the idea it was an inadvertent error «hard to believe».
David Greene, Civil Liberties Director at Electronic Frontier Foundation , said that content moderation was impossible to do perfectly and «egregious mistakes are made all the time», but he further elaborated that «At worst, this was purposeful suppression at the request of a powerful state. Microsoft was the first company to participate in the PRISM surveillance program , according to leaked NSA documents obtained by The Guardian  and The Washington Post  in June , and acknowledged by government officials following the leak.
Microsoft has denied  participation in such a program. In a statement, Microsoft said that they «provide customer data only in response to legal processes.