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The rhetoric of dread: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in information technology marketing


This article examines the nature and legality of FUD, which—as will be seen—is a timely subject. IBM may have been FUD’s originator but its greatest practitioner is allegedly none other than Microsoft, which (according to the firm’s critics) has repeatedly exercised FUD tactics in order to acquire and maintain its operating system monopoly. In particular, this article compares Amdahl’s experience with IBM to the emerging contours of Microsoft’s battle against a surprisingly able competitor, the open source operating system called Linux. A major contention of this essay is that attorneys, judges, and legal scholars tend to pay insufficient attention to the unique characteristics of technology enterprises, and thus cannot distinguish meaningfully between practices that are plainly legal under U. S. antitrust law, and those which are not. A perspective drawn from the history and sociology of technology (namely, Thomas P. Hughes’ concept of technological systems) is used to elucidate what is predatory, and what is not, in a dominant market player’s use of FUD and associated marketing tactics.

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where his scholarly and teaching interests include cyberlaw, intellectual property in high-tech industries, and the social issues posed by advanced information technology. He is also the author of several best-selling trade and textbook titles, including Webster’s New World Dictionary of Computer Terms, 9th ed. (Hungry Minds) and Computers in Your Future, 4th ed. (Prentice-Hall). He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Pfaffenberger, B. The rhetoric of dread: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in information technology marketing. Know Techn Pol 13, 78–92 (2000).

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  • Switching Cost
  • Network Effect
  • Legal Scholar
  • Computer Industry
  • Market Entrant