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Forced Upgrades

An interesting problem recently arose on Usenet. It seems that an Excel 1.0 user in Holland wanted to upgrade to system 6.0.4, but when he did so, Excel stopped working. Microsoft said that it wasn't their problem and that he should upgrade to Excel 2.2. The cost of an Excel upgrade in Holland equals out to about $370 so he had quite a bit of incentive not to upgrade, especially considering the added functionality was unnecessary. The question was then, who is to blame, and if Microsoft, is this a breach of contract? After all, someone must be at fault-that's how the world works :-).

Few people were surprised that Excel 1.0 didn't work under the new system because Microsoft products are notorious for disobeying Apple's programming guidelines, and as such, tend to break when Apple updates the system software. Apple isn't at fault for Microsoft's flaunting of the rules-in fact, Apple even had code in early versions of MultiFinder to deal with Excel 1.5's quirky memory requirements (it had to be loaded into the first megabyte of memory to work). The feeling in some of the postings (and one with which we agree wholeheartedly) is that Apple should let Microsoft products crash and burn when updating the system software. That way Microsoft might receive enough negative comments to start following the guidelines. Even Microsoft's position as the largest Macintosh (and microcomputer) software company should not afford them such favoritism. In many ways, Apple's guidelines have helped the Mac become what it is because users can be assured of the interfaces in different programs being similar.

Quite some time ago a similar problem arose with Microsoft Works on the PC. A group had created a number of macros to handle their tasks, but they ran into some major problems with those macros when they upgraded to the next version. Unfortunately, they had sent back their original disks and replaced the working copies so they couldn't easily move back to the older version. At first Microsoft wanted to charge them for the older version, but complaining vociferously on the net and to the customer support people finally convinced Microsoft to just give them the old version back again. Such actions might work in this more recent instance as well.

We don't have a copy of the Microsoft warranty/software contract and are certainly not lawyers, but if the warranty says anything about "working as advertised" then a case might be made for a breach of contract. In comparison, the MacTools Deluxe warranty does say "the SOFTWARE will perform substantially in accordance with the accompanying written materials," which implies that bugs would be covered under warranty. It may not be possible, but we would like to see companies being flexible enough honor odd circumstances like this, especially since it is more than worth it in customer loyalty.

Information from:
Norman Graham -- norman@d.cs.okstate.edu
D. Daniel Sternbergh -- ddaniel@lindy.Stanford.EDU
C. Irby -- ac08@vaxb.acs.unt.edu
Steven A. Schrader -- SAS102@psuvm.psu.edu
Hans Mulder -- hansm@duteca8.tudelft.nl


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