How to be like Microsoft
Many software companies want to learn from
Microsoft. Unfortunately, there can be only
one Microsoft. If you are a monopoly, then
everyone is a competitor. The key technology
is the written contract, not software.
- Any contract worth signing must have a
booby-trap for the other guys.
- Identify a hole in your market. Find a
hungry company attempting to fill this hole,
and let them have your exclusive endorsement
for a few years. In return, they will sign a
contract with a suicide clause. When you are
ready to absorb this market into your own
product line, you exploit the clause and they
- If new technology moves too fast, then you
must form a strategic alliance. Find other
competitors with no interest in the new
technology and get them to sign contracts
endorsing your incompatible, vapor-ware
alternative. You kill the new technology and
burn the other competitors at the same time.
- If a competing technology succeeds anyway,
then remember that a monopoly has its
privileges. Distribution channels must sell
your weak products if they want the strong
ones. Prevent the distribution of competing
products. Such contracts are always
- Non-disclosure agreements are an end in
themselves. Anyone who asks about your
long-term plans is a potential threat. Get
such parties to sign agreements not to
discuss the issue with anyone else. Tell
them how you will vaporize all competing
technologies they may have considered. They
can't check your story with anyone else.
They can't complain if they base decisions on
Amazingly, you can usually find companies to
agree to these contracts for nothing.
They'll sign just to be your friend.
Bill Harlan, March 1999
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