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Microsoft and the Rest of Us (editorial)
Contributed by CmdrTaco on Wed Mar 25 11:03:54 1998 EST
From the stuff-worth-reading dept
Karl Fogel contributed this editorial on Microsoft, and why they are a problem. It is well written and makes a lot of good points very clear and you should read it carefully and think about it. This isn't the typical 'Microsoft Sucks' rant, read it with an open mind.

Everything after this point is written by Karl Fogel

Microsoft and the Rest of Us


Why do programmers hate Microsoft? After all, there's nothing wrong with trying to make money in the computer industry. Why should one company be vilified for doing what everyone else wishes they could do? Isn't Microsoft just trying to make a profit like the rest of us?

Not quite. Microsoft is certainly trying to profit, but not like everyone else: the missing ingredient is self-restraint. We all understand that for society to function, we must exhibit this quality in our personal lives, but sometimes we forget it is just as important in public life. Self-restraint means resisting temptation to push the envelope, because you recognize that the envelope was agreed on for good reasons.

Microsoft pushes the envelope by trying to control standards so it can lock in customers. It is not so much that it dislikes competing "fairly", as that it fears competing at all. Microsoft doesn't want any playing field, unless it can be be both referee and defending champion, and its relentless drive to be the the sole and only vendor of operating software for personal computers has brought it very close to that goal. Fortunately, our society long ago recognized that such snowballing accumulations of power were a weakness of open markets, and we enacted anti-trust laws to deal with the problem.

Some people don't think that anti-trust action is appropriate in this case. It's easy to regard Microsoft as blameless, merely using its market share the same way anyone would. It's also easy to believe Microsoft's claims that they're path-breakers at the leading edge of digital technology, whose creativity would be stifled by government over-regulation. These opinions, being so understandable, deserve detailed rebuttal.

Imagine this scenario: a regional supplier of electric current decides to get into the stereo business, and starts burning out its competitors' products by changing the rate at which it delivers alternating current. That would be intolerable, right? A clear case of using forced market share in one area to remove choice in another. But this is just what Microsoft has been doing! By controlling the operating system, it controls the substrate on which other software manufacturers are forced to build their products. They have no choice in the matter. And when threatening products come along -- Netscape Navigator, for example, which offers users a non-Microsoft window on the Internet, or Sun's Java programming language, which potentially offers an alternative platform to Windows 95 -- Microsoft responds like a classic monopoly: it tweaks the current.

As it happens, Netscape's grievances are being addressed by recent Justice Department actions, while Sun's plight prompted that company to bring a lawsuit against Microsoft. But neither should have been in these positions in the first place, and wouldn't have been if Microsoft didn't insist on abusing its position as a supplier of something very analogous to a public utility.

Nor are these isolated examples -- rather, they are the pattern which has always delivered Microsoft's success. Time after time Microsoft has leveraged an existing monopolistic base to gain control of a market which was being served perfectly well by an open, undominated standards process. Yes, new features and programming interfaces and standards pour forth from Redmond at a furious pace, but this is not because of customer demand. It is because Microsoft knows that by giving the rug sharp, unpredictable tugs from time to time, it can keep everyone -- especially software developers -- slightly off-balance, scrambling to keep up with a rate of change defined not by market pressures or genuine creativity, but by one company's need to hold all the cards no matter what the cost to consumer choice.

Anti-trust scrutiny is appropriate in this case for exactly the reasons those laws were originally enacted: a single company is in the position of being able to dominate an entire market, bringing competitors to their knees not through the superior quality of its products, but through the well-known dynamics of open markets, which, if unchecked, will always allow the larger to eat the smaller, and thus grow larger yet. For not only can the larger afford to keep fighting longer, it can also persuade third parties to choose its side or face the consequences. This latter ability is particularly insidious in an industry so dependent on cross-vendor standards to maintain interoperability.

It is tempting to shrug and say "Yes, but if it were not Microsoft in this position, it would be someone else. They are merely behaving in the only way they can, given their position as operating-system vendor." This is a seductive argument, but actually they could behave considerably better than they do. Other vendors have dominating market shares (Cisco Systems, for example, in network routers), but haven't acquired a reputation for forcing their proprietary standards on an unwilling public, nor for bending the public standards until no one knows what's public and what's proprietary. Microsoft is exceptional because it is never willing to give up control, even though it is very clear that no one else wants a single party to have control.

The Internet has a proven ability to settle on good, workable cross-platform standards by consensus. But Microsoft still tries to force us into doing things their way. Unlike other software vendors, they implement their own proprietary protocols before getting around to implementing public standards (i.e., ActiveX before Java, WINS before DNS, and does anyone even remember that document-embedding format they killed off?). This undermines perfectly good standards, even as it fails to establish Microsoft's way as a publicly available solution. The end result is that overall interoperability is made more difficult. Computer users face a choice between using only Microsoft products, or dealing with the headache of making their Microsoft products work with everything else. Don't think for a minute that this is not deliberate -- Microsoft knows full well the effects of what they do. That's why they do it!

Were it not for Microsoft's iron grip, we might well have long ago settled on a workable, public operating system standard that would allow developers to write truly portable software without worrying about whose monopoly they're buying into. This is not fantasy -- it has already happened in the Unix world, but Microsoft's influence has so far fatally hampered any possibility of an equally healthy standards process in the world of mainstream personal computers.

The notion that regulating Microsoft might stifle progress is also mistaken. If Microsoft were the source of any interesting progress in the computer industry, this might be a plausible argument. But let's briefly review some software history: what are the most important innovations of the last decade or so in computing? Off the tops of our heads, most of us would probably list the mouse, graphical user interfaces, networking in general and email in particular, certainly the World Wide Web. And how many of these bright ideas were first developed, or even brought to maturity, at Microsoft? Not a single one. Microsoft was actually a latecomer in all these areas, waiting until market pressure spelled out the future for them before acting.

Or perhaps you wonder if Microsoft has at least broken new ground in more esoteric areas, making contributions too technical to be noticed by the average computer user, but acknowledged among programmers? But you'd be disappointed again: there are none, at least none that would be called significant by anyone except a Microsoft employee. For all its treasure-laden coffers and glitzy, look-ma-we're-inventing-the-future public relations campaigns, it remains an essentially conservative company, watching others dive in while it tests the waters with its little toe, and rarely developing new technologies -- though often acquiring them by purchase: even MS-DOS, their first major product and hardly an innovation by anyone's definition, was not created in-house, but bought from outside.

What comedy, then, that Microsoft is so often referred to as an ``industry leader''. Its corporate policy is to follow, for which I suppose we should be glad, except that it's a particularly late and ungainly follower, throwing its weight around with little awareness that there are standards of good behavior even in a for-profit world.

There are indeed new things under the sun these days, but Microsoft isn't one of them. It's an uncomfortably familiar monopoly, no different in principle or practice from all the ones we've seen before. As for the creative genius being trampled by insensitive anti-trust watchdogs -- forget about it. The cutting-edge stuff isn't going on at Microsoft and never has been. Instead of worrying about Microsoft's problems, worry about yours: imagine a world where you could shop for operating systems the way you shop for anything else, and where you wouldn't have to pay an upgrade tax to Bill Gates every few years just to continue using your computer.

Scary, isn't it? Mr. Gates apparently thinks so.


(Back to Karl Fogel's home page.)
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Reader Comments

CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP
W. O. Frobozz
Wed Mar 25 11:26:43 1998 EST
kgf@sentex.net

Bravo! Well said. Innovation hasnever been one of Gates & Co's forte,they have ALWAYS been followers, andcontrarians to ANY standard.

I just wish the general unwashed wouldwake the hell up and realize that Microsoft is NOT the so-called 'innovator' they are portrayed as.Sigh.

Warm Fuzzies
Mike Trinastich
Wed Mar 25 11:28:42 1998 EST
talon@purelinux.ml.org

If we were to vote on the best editorial this one would win. Very well written. I it makes me wonder if Microsoft people read this, if so what is there take on it.

It is true, there is NOTHING Microsoft innovated. I remember MS BOB.. hehhe.. as a matter of fact I still have MS Bob on CD.

From microsoft word to microsoft world
chuckee
Wed Mar 25 11:39:40 1998 EST
chuckee@chuckee.com

< src=http://www.netaction.org/msoft/winfish.gif>

Forgive me if you've seen this before, but I think that this is a stunning article (below) on how microsoft actually became a monopoly, and how they probably will end up dominating many other areas : You can dive right in at http://www.netaction.org/msoft/world/part1.html or go to their home page with indexes of other stuff at: www.netaction.org

If you feel strongly enough you can even take some netaction!

I agree so much
Mehdi
Wed Mar 25 11:43:58 1998 EST
medtib@club-internet.fr
http://wwwell.not.yet.on.the.www/but.soon

Well, you're quite right. What you wrote is exactly what I have been saying for many years till now. Microsoft is aiming at taking control of the whole computer industry by customizing any standard that come up, and entering for mere seconds in this system means not quitting it for ever.But the worst is that Gates wants to take over more than the only comp market. He wants to be "the king o'the world". And he might succeed in those foolish purposes sooner than one thinks.

Beware everyone. If 2000 is the end of the world -- it wont be because of the lill' green men, but "thanks to" mr. god-gates.

Woohoo!
Eli Boaz
Wed Mar 25 11:52:06 1998 EST
eboaz@nyx.net

That is one of the best editorials I have ever written. And it portrays Microsoft as they are, not as they want to be seen. I agree 100% with it. . . Hopefully, someone with enough authority feels the same way and will explain it the same way rather. Personally, the best way to help stop this behavior is to force (yes, it will have to be by force) Microsoft to give up control of Win32 to some standards organization (ISO maybe?) ohwell, enough of the soapbox...
Link to Contrary Opinion
Aaron M. Renn
Wed Mar 25 11:53:15 1998 EST
arenn@urbanophile.com
http://www.urbanophile.com/arenn

The Cato Institute (and ultra-libertarian "think tank") wrote a policy analysis about Microsoft. It deals with their view on the IE integration issue. If you know anything about Cato, then you know they don't have a problem with it. Here's the link. (Warning: 144K doc!)

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-296.html

This article contains quite a few sentences that betray the authors partisanship, such as "Microsoft decision-makers evidently believe that the long-term health of the software industry justifies their aggressive stance". (Even in the world of Cato, business act in their own self-interest, not anyone else's, so I don't know why the author included it).

Typos abound...
Eli Boaz
Wed Mar 25 11:54:46 1998 EST
eboaz@nyx.net

excuse me, that phrase should notbe "I have ever written." It should be "I have ever read."

Whatta shmuck I am...

Bravo!
David Palmer
Wed Mar 25 12:08:15 1998 EST
dwpalmer@teleport.com

Very well done! That is the best editorial I've yet seen on the subject.

Though I still think the best way to deal with MS is to make a toaster-like Linux distribution. Give the masses what they want - a no-brainer OS-interface that lets them feel powerful.

ODBC
Peter C. Norton
Wed Mar 25 12:17:30 1998 EST
spacey@pobox.com
http://spacey.dyn.ml.org

Well, the one good thing M$ has donehas been to throw its weight behind ODBC. A big problem w/ the RDBMS marketis the flourishing of non-standards.Then again, it wasn't really "Open" until someone decided to write a gpl'd version.
Publish this!
Richard Cohen
Wed Mar 25 12:24:39 1998 EST
rcohen@bitsmart.com
http://dicky.home.ml.org

First of all - Woohoo - excellent writing and very well put.

Secondly, would it be possible for the author to GPL(or something similar) this text and for it to be distributed to the technical and non-technical press? I'm sure that there would be a few newspapers/magazines out there which would publish something like this, especially if they didn't have to pay royalties. Seriously, can we get this into the press somehow? It is the best explained and most lucid article of it's kind I have ever(as far as I remember) read.

Go get 'em tiger!

MS does research
Andrew Mobbs
Wed Mar 25 12:26:58 1998 EST
at@dotat.at
http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~andrewm/

Overall, an excellent article, and I'm in serious danger of being called a Microsoft apologist for saying this, which I am absolutly not, but WTF.

Karl is mistaken in one aspect of his essay, Microsoft _are_ doing "blue sky" research, and have bought some damn good people to do it (particually in the Cambridge, UK research centre). No, I haven't seen much noticable effect on their products yet either, but these things take a few years to filter from research labs to desktops.

OK, so Microsoft are almost certainly doing this solely as a patent trawl in order to increase their stranglehold on the market, but Karl is wrong to suggest that they are entirely non-innovative.

MSR will be the new DEC-SRC

See:http://www.research.microsoft.com/for details.

activism
christ
Wed Mar 25 12:46:28 1998 EST
fool@dfw.net
file:/dev/null

i liked this editorial; it manages to address the issues without coming off as mindlessly antagonistic.

a friend and i have been toying with the idea of having an anti-MS rally at our university...the local student chapter of the ACM has agreed to "sponsor" the event. we think that giving people an opportunity to see some of microsoft's business practices and industry relations would be a real eye opener to people in a world where microsoft is the sometimes-undisputed champion or de-facto "standard" (hrmph).

being the leader of the local student linux users group, i obviously have ulterior motives but feel it best to hold off on seeming a fanatic--all i want is the opportunity to show people that the current market leader is not at all on the level, not try to sell them my solution.

as my friend said, the time for whining is over. it is time to do something, whether that be helping KDE or GNOME come up to par with what the windows world expects (haha, ok, they're already there, i meant, surpass), building a "toaster-like linux distribution" or just opening the eyes of people who are blinded by the radioactive glow coming from the northwest US.

save the planet!

Holy poop
Greg
Wed Mar 25 12:49:16 1998 EST
gckroah@pscnet.com

Very well done. This is the essay that I will point others to that constantly ask me, "What is wrong with Microsoft?".

"Blue sky?" Bwahahah
A. Cypherpunk
Wed Mar 25 12:50:12 1998 EST
cypherpunks@cyberpass.net

Check out Markus Kuhn and Ross Anderson's "Soft TEMPEST" work to see what MS are actually doing there. To paraphrase Ross, MS gave Cambridge $20 million, so we thought we should do something for them We asked them what they particularly wanted, and they decided what they wanted most of all was a way to prevent software copying." (rough paraphrase, and I'll post the whole letter after I get to where it's archived. Basically, they designed a way to have computers radiate a serial number that "software license detector vans" could pick up, thus helping to prevent piracy. MS didn't want that, though. They wanted a technology that would completely prevent all copying of MS software.
Bull Kaka!
Rene S. Hollan
Wed Mar 25 12:56:39 1998 EST
rhollan@poboxes.com

O.K. I hate Microsoft's poor products and lack of real innovation as much as the next nerd, but the fears raised in the editorial simply do not exist.

Unix, and Linux, in particular PROVE that alternatives can exist in spite of a single player's unfair dominance.

While it's frustrating that application development does not consistently produce apps for, say, Linux first, this is simply because that's not what the market wants. Even if we nerds realize the folly of following Microsoft like lemmings, it is no more correct for us to push our technically-superior view of the computing world than it is for Microsoft to push its.

As long as Linux development is not actively impeeded by government decree, we need not fight Microsoft. Consider this: do you really want to break up the monopoly of a company that produces garbage? At least there's garbage from only one source!

As for anti-trust laws, THEY are the biggest threat to Linux's survival: Consider the scenario where the "industry leader" Microsoft argues that a rapid rise of Linux popularity to dominate the OS market undermines the ability of producers of "stable" software like Windows, and threatens computer users everywhere. THAT's the real danger, as far-fetched as it may seam.

I can see it being real easy to "show" that Linux providers are "dumping" an OS on the market "below cost".

Micrsoft is greedy and stupid; perhaps evil for taking advantage of the unwary. But we do not need government to push our "superior" agenda on them.

First big Windows-based disaster will remind people that it's not good to put all your eggs in one basket.

Regards,

Rene

Excellent!!!!
AvM
Wed Mar 25 12:57:32 1998 EST
avmaintmgr@aol.com

I give this one 6 stars on a 5-star scale! This editorial is going to be printed and framed on my office wall :-)

-avm

Microsoft "Research"
Scott Goehring
Wed Mar 25 13:00:20 1998 EST
scott@wilberworks.com
http://wilberworks.com/~scott/

I strongly suspect that Microsoft's "research" investment is mainly so that they can whine about how DoJ is "stifling research". At this point, _every_ action Microsoft takes is specifically designed to strengthen their antitrust defense while simultaneously tightening their stranglehold on the market. They're not doing the research for the benefit of their customers, you can be certain. (I suspect their other intent is to try to patent as many semi-useful technologies as possible so as to be able to prevent anyone else from using them.)

MS hires good people
Stephen Martin
Wed Mar 25 13:03:13 1998 EST
smartin@mks.com

Microsoft also hires good intelligentpeople, they have the money to pay andanyone will sell their sole for the right price (well almost anyone). I think the real problem is that the M$corporate culture is based entirely on ego. I've gone to IETF working group meetings where there has been a pack of microsurfs fighting amongst themselves. It wasn't pretty (it was funny though!). AnywayI think that the problem at M$ is that all the smart people they hire are either pitted against each other or justto vain to get along. It shows in the s**t they pump out the door in little shrink wrapped boxes.
The Year 2000 Syndrome
Anthony Taylor
Wed Mar 25 13:12:07 1998 EST
tonyt@ptialaska.net

I have a personal theory about the future. It's my "Year 2000 Syndrom" (YTS) theory-- there's a certain short-sighted attitude that leads us to make myopic choices, like choosing to represent the year with only two digits instead of four or more.

Choosing MS products (or any other product not based on well-constructed industry standards) follows the YTS pattern. Whether we sacrifice The Right Thing to expedience, ignorance, or Gates Hero-Worship (my brother suffers from the last one), the result is the same: costly problems in the future. With MS operating systems, the problems are with scalability and security and reliability. Meanwhile, we are assured that, "The next version will fix all that." And we (as a society) believe them.

It's our fault (as a society; I'm sure most of us as individuals fight the MS monopoly as much as possible). Me, I can't wait for the day when my culinary choices are MS-McDonalds or MS-Taco Bell. I'm sure my brother will defend MS-- "It's not a monopoly. You can still raise your own cattle and and have a nice beef steak if you want." Yep. Then, me and my MS-wife can drive our MS-Bronco MS-home, and have MS-Sex 3.0 if we desire.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. (MS-Dennis Miller)

Applause
Beecher Greenman
Wed Mar 25 13:15:36 1998 EST
rbg6038@rit.edu

Well done! Completely true (like most "MS Sucks" rants), but with one distinguishing feature: it's actually well-written.

Of course, wait till you hear Microsoft's stance on the issue. They claim that they won because the other companies were motivated by greed while M$ was out "to improve the world through computing." I don't remember the article where this came from; can someone help me out here? But still, it's good for a laugh. M$ basically sees itself the way anyone with any brains sees such things as Linux and MacOS: innovative products which really do improve the world through computing (each in its own way). Can we say arrogant?

I think that's possibly the saddest part about M$. Not that they're evil. Not that the computing world would be better without them. But that they don't even realize what they've done. They don't care that the computing world is light-years behind where it ought to be, because they don't realize their part in it. It's almost tragic. Almost.

Odds and ends
Ludvig A. Norin
Wed Mar 25 13:17:50 1998 EST
Ludvig@home.se
http://www.ludd.luth.se/users/no

First Of All: I agree this is a great editorial.

Critizism on, personal opinions on

Talking about effects and causes makes a better argument than talking about the intentions of the party being discussed. This is due to the fact that one can (and shall) prove the cause-effect relationship (even though it might be "well known"), but to prove someones intentions is most often futile.

This editorial is to very large extent discussing the cause-effect aspects of Micro$ofts buisness practices, but from time to time conclusions of intentions are drawn. Sometimes "well-known" and probably correct, but nevertheless probably impossible to prove.

This is critizism, but also appriciation, as I really admire the well written argument.

[with jaw dropped]
pohl
Wed Mar 25 13:19:49 1998 EST
pohl@screaming.org

This is easily the best slashdot content so far.
Microsoft's research
Dan Reish
Wed Mar 25 13:22:57 1998 EST
dreish@izzy.net

Microsoft's research reflects the Gates cult the same way the rest of Microsoft does. Gates is methodical, determined to the point of obsessiveness, and uncreative; so is the bulk of his company. The "cutting-edge" research areas being pursued by Microsoft are just further attempts at some of the same old AI problems that have been around for decades. In fact, I'll bet he doesn't even care much about solving most of these problems. I'd venture that the primary purpose of that type of research is to give Microsoft a more "innovative" image. (That seems to be Bill's Buzzword O' th' Day.)

This is probably an optimal arrangement from Gates' viewpoint: wild ideas fail more often than not, and can even be an embarrassment for the inventor (see Bob), so why not let other companies try them? If they do fail, Microsoft loses nothing. If they succeed, Microsoft need only buy the company, or, failing that, copy the start-up's idea and crush them with it.

Microsoft == Borg
Peter Baylies
Wed Mar 25 13:27:59 1998 EST
pdbaylie@eos.ncsu.edu
http://research.microsoft.com/os/Millennium/mgoals.shtml

Want to know what Microsoft's new great next generation technology is? The borg. :) follow the link... (not my web page this time...)
Correction
Dan Reish
Wed Mar 25 13:31:54 1998 EST
dreish@izzy.net

I didn't mean to imply that I thought Microsoft Bob was particularly original.
Dont diss MS Research
Stu Charlton
Wed Mar 25 13:37:28 1998 EST
scharlton@uwaterloo.ca

Well written article...

BUT -

Surf to http://research.microsoft.com

There's real research going on, by extremely smart people doing really cool things. Jim Gray, the father of the database & transaction theory, now heads up the research on "scalable commoditity servers", or how NT clusters will eventually scale to mainframe power.

(I don't know if he'll succeed, I have my doubts.)

The thing is - MS does research, and it does research well - but it hasn't used any of it properly yet. Natural Language Processing is of no real use yet. Speech recognition is being perfected more outside of MS than in. And Microsoft BOB was well, err..

Many researchers are jumping to MS because their ideas have the potential to be used in the future, and the salary is much better than at a university (and they dont have to fight for grants).. There's a lot of good going on there, just nothing amazing yet, like the stuff that IBM Watson or Xerox PARC as churned out.

MS vs. Newton...
Phil Fraering
Wed Mar 25 13:43:26 1998 EST
pgf@globalreach.net

As another example of Bill's ego problem, look at the killing of the Netwon by MS' Apple division. It would have been easier and better (and moreprofitable to MS) to have bought the Netwon OS and marketed it; but it's more in line with Bill's ego to kill it and try to make a pen-computer version of Windows (where the interface doesn't make sense). Heck, he has all the original authors of the Netwon OS working for him; why can't he do something new rather than Pen Windows CE?

The really scary thing about Microsoft, to me, is that they don't care about profit. They'd sacrifice it to maintain control. Which is why they need to lose both.

Opposing view... sort of
Ian Downard
Wed Mar 25 13:46:10 1998 EST
itd@ee.umr.edu
http://www.umr.edu/~itd

The difference between Microsoft and electric utilities is that no matter what you do, if your electric company changes their line voltage, you *have* to use capable hardware - or suffer the consequences - which is to say that the electric company has a monopoply and therefore complete control over how you use their product, unless alas, you don't use it. If Microsoft issues software that requires you to do something, you have the option to stop using their products without actually oliminating your computer usage.Microsoft is not a monopoly buy the strict definition of the word. There is competition, and anyone who says differently is absolutely mistaken!! Anyone who is tired of Microsoft should use something else. Here I'll use the example of Linux: the more people that use Linux, the more commercial products companies will make available to it. And the more commercial products there are for Linux, the more people will want to use it. And needless to say, the more people that use linux, the less people will depend on Microsoft - which is a good thing now and forever will be until Microsoft makes itself a reputable and desirable company (in the eyes of people who know the difference). That's why I think the govt. shouldn't intervein in anything other than criminal activities (with respect to the Microsoft ordeal). Here's food for thought: is even Linux untouchable by Microsoft?

Cut the other half
ewjc
Wed Mar 25 13:56:16 1998 EST
ewjc@iname.com

Indeed a great editorial! I can even show this article to some layman. It does not contain technical jargons that Bill Gates intentionally tried to confuse the public during the Senate hearing. And this is a hell of a punch over that kind of gibberish.

As a ramification, can we collectively write a more technical article about the "drag" Microsoft imposed on the technological advance? I still feel very bitter about the damage DOS has done to the industry during the last decade. I've seen people stuck in permutation of TSRs in the 640K+UMA even the machine is a 3(4)86 class. Endless nights should've been spent with family had gone wasted in the Microsoft domain of technological atrocity. The constant changes of programming interfaces reflect the hard truth of ill-conception. This is why the acknowledgement of Bill Gates are quite different between us technical people and those non-technical ones.

Back when IBM PC was introduced, there was a company Oasis introduced a small Unix. UCSD system, with its success in the Apple II world, never made into the mainstream with their pre-Java innovations. The entire decade was dominated by a bastard of Unix and CP/M called MSDOS. Those people defending the interface of DOS against Macintosh users' laughter are the same people that are bragging about the "intuitive" interface of Windows/{NT, 95}. For people using Unix (or even VMS) during college years, the degradation of interface in the MS world can be described as a real holocaust: the so-called MS-innovation brutally killed you loves toward computers.

The PC industry had never been the field of innovations; it's just the same one we have in steel and oil industry. Microsoft's solution is to mass produce like Merck but never intends to have doctors around.

With an artcile shown as the editorial we just read, I can't help but thinking about what's like during the post-Microsoft era.

Great article, but you left out something...
Lee Berdick
Wed Mar 25 14:06:33 1998 EST
lberdick@tinker.housing.fsu.edu
http://tinker.housing.fsu.edu/~lberdick

As the article stated Microsoft has a dominating market share of the operating systems. The article fails to mention WHY? Microsoft packages its operating system with computer system manufacturers and this thrown onto the biggest market share of computer users, the "idiotic general public." They make the biggest number of users in this industry and they are clueless of the fact that there are choices in the OS market. Unless the computer system manufacturers do something about this( hey VA Research) problem the Justice Department is wasting their time. Win or lose with the suit brought by Sun and Netscape, Microsoft has too big of an install base for it to matter.
Publish it!
Ben Sussman
Wed Mar 25 14:09:01 1998 EST
sussman@red-bean.com
http://www.red-bean.com/~susman

Karl is one of my best friends and a fantastic programmer/Linux advocate/FSF-connected person.

I've seen many drafts of this article evolve, and I know it's ready for real publishing. As I recall, Karl has sent it off to the NYT editorials, and perhaps a Chicago newspaper. Unfortunately, nobody responded.

I imagine that the real place to get this article published is in a computer mag somewhere. If people have connections to such publications, please get in touch with him!

I'm thrilled that he finally shared his work with an appreciative audience. Every rewrite just keeps getting better.

Research This
monolith
Wed Mar 25 14:09:55 1998 EST
monolith@frag.com
http://www.frag.com/

Not to sound to anti-MS, but the Microsoft Research 'branch' is just one more marketing face belonging to that bloated corporation. Look at the projects that have been produced so far: Comic Chat (the biggest piece of crap since Bob), Speech/Dication technologies (read From MSWord to MSWorld), MBone (again, read the same), and MS Belief Network (which I admittedly know nothing about). I'm sorry, but I don't see anything of significance there except a few words that make it appear to the masses/press/whoever that MS is only out for the good of the world.
Lets do something about this?
jay
Wed Mar 25 14:18:02 1998 EST
jaras@exit3.com

First off id like to say, good article. it actually points out what is wrong here. not that stupid view of 'MS sucks.. kill kill kill'. now that we have identified the problem dont you think we should do something about it?

we have kde, gnome, a slew of other apps and free unix and we can make something good out of it.

go take a look at the QNX demo floppy. we've got a unix like os.. but at the same time a gui system. If we can take the core of linux and build a Windows style os around it that is very transparent to the end user.. its unix.. but yet its not unix THEN we have a viable solution to replace MS products at a fraction of the price. Think about it vendors a simple Net device plug in.. minimal configuration to get it authenticating off of a master server, then BOOM youve got a gui system up that is simple to use. Its a lot of work to create a distro like this and patch what needs to be patched and build install utils... but it can be done... i think something like this should be done, if not done already...

jay

So get the word out, and some apps
vlax
Wed Mar 25 14:20:32 1998 EST
vlax@yahoo.com

So, get your company to switch to an OS without an annual upgrade tax. All the businesses I know of that do that have vastly lower costs of ownership, including one shop will 400 seats and a single full-time technical support person.

The business case for Linux is strong, unfortunately, Adam Smith was dead wrong in assuming managers make decisions based on cost-benefit analysis. Managers make decisions based on how cool PowerPoint is.

We need apps. Big, strong, robust, industry responsive, standard apps. We need an integrated, free office suite, with something as cool as PowerPoint in it. We need better UNIX based publishing systems, strong diverse ones that handle SGML and large publishing needs and at the same time let your grandmother write a letter to her congressman. We need an open source Mathematica, and a potent spreadsheet like Excel, that can be used for scientific and financial applications. God knows we need lots of other stuff too.

We need better installation and configuration systems, which has always been the weak point of UNIX. We need a UNIX where no one ever has to se a command prompt if they don't want to.

When we can point to the open source products and say, we do everything Microsoft does, and we do it better, and it's cooler and more user friendly, THEN managers will buy it. Then and only then will the business case become compelling. We need to out-cool PowerPoint, and out-number crunch Excel.

The OS needs to be more than cheap and stable, it needs to be bright and colourful and fun, even for the people who don't know what a kernel is and would care if you told them.

We need a UNIX for the stupid MBA's who actually make these decisions.

There is some movement in that direction, but not enough. The government might take down Microsoft and it might not. Java may make Windows irrelevant, or not. Do you want to trust your OS to Janet Reno or Scott McNealy? The greatest virtue of open source is that you don't have to rely on CEO's and Attorney Generals to make things right.

CODE SOME SELLABLE APPS!!! Even if their free, they have to compete anyway.

At least try. Find a market niche and try to fill it. Buy a bunch of O'Reilly books and learn to do this stuff if you don't know how. They make a better education in computing than most schools offer anyway.

The open source world has this single, great benefit that can make it the most important player in the market: it can marshal an army, and the likes of Microsoft and Apple and IBM can't. It can draw on everyone who wants to be involved, not just paid programmers.

It's a better way of doing things - it represents a future where computing costs less instead of more and where information systems are a part of everyday life.

*Sigh* this seems to have turned into a speech. From what I've seeen here, I'm preaching to the choir.

Interesting...
Farrell McGovern
Wed Mar 25 14:22:07 1998 EST
farrellj@hotmail.com

First of it, it's a wonderfully written article.

One thing that has struck me reading it and the comments that follow is that all Microsoft is really doing is adopting the old Japanese model of competing in electronics. Rarely, would they really innovate, mostly, they would jump on trends, and ramp up production to flood the market with product, and do virtually no innovation.

MS could do all the R&D it wants, but it has no relation to their products. It is mainly for name status only. You can hire the guru who disigned VMS, but if you only implement it with bogus coding, then you get a wonderfully looking OS on paper, and a fiasco to manage and support. And how does MS support their OSs? It brings out a new version. Doh! And are there fixes? Maybe...occasinally. I still stay that if MS was creating good products that are not flaky, then they would not be considered the next incarnation of the Evil Empire.

Hold it now...
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 14:28:02 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

I'll have to agree with Ian and Renee.. Even though we all hate Microsoft, they are definately NOT a monopoly and the government does NOT have a right to get involved in this market!
A government can do much more harm to this industry than Microsoft can because of the simple fact that Micorsoft cannot use physical force to make us use their products but the government can use physical force to make us follow its rules.
Personally I think that the Cato Policy Study mentioned above is a very well documented bit of work and makes some very good points. Please read it if you have not. It is worth much more of a consideration than the above writter indicates.

The only way that we will unseat Microsoft as the only dominant OS company is to provide something better for the typical ignorant consumer. We, as the Linux community, have not done that yet. We will, however, if everybody quits whining about Microsoft and gets behind things like Pure Java and the GNOME project.

-Del

MBone is no MS
MBone
Wed Mar 25 14:32:10 1998 EST
gt4985d@prism.gatech.edu
http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/

Actually MBone has nothing to do with Microsoft. In fact, none of the MBone applications that runs on Windoze(s) came out of Microsoft. MS Netmeeting doesn't talk to MBone apps. Nobody is making (or going to make) big bucks in this area, so why bother?
No office apps, no survival
main()
Wed Mar 25 14:38:20 1998 EST
gt4985d@prism.gatech.edu
http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/

UNIX will not survive is there's no good office apps. Here "good" translates to "cost little", "reliable", "can do easy things easily", "can do complex things easily" (this is definitely not a strong point of MS Office), etc. To me, I'd love to spend $99 on an office suite that includes FrameMaker, DeltaGraph, and Visio.
Regulation
Tom Cronin
Wed Mar 25 14:45:23 1998 EST
teasea@ix.netcom.com

I disagree strongly with the assertion that Linux or anyone else would be hurt by some regulation on the industry. If I create a new TV station, I Must broadcast my signal within the prescribed bandwidth. The TV manufacturers all work in this bandwidth. One should not be able to make a new TV that only picks up the TV manufacturers signals. The main point is the OS should be a standard--as it's integral to the computer--and free. IBM compatible would mean not only the hardware, but the prescribed interface.
post-microsoft era
Matthew Benjamin
Wed Mar 25 14:47:33 1998 EST
mbenjamin@comshare.com

Impressive article, and interestingly, impressive comments on the article, as well.

I detest the MS monopoly, and what it has done to my software development career.

That said, I believe that the groundswell of protest against that future, and the deniable FACT of not one, but several alternatives, sign the death warrant of Bill Gates' unfortunate stranglehold on the market.

Because, as this article, and many others by many other authors, point out, Microsoft got its monopoly not by sustained innovation and technical merit--but inspite of them. Microsoft had the good fortune to emerge as computing was redefined from an engineering discipline, to a commodity product, consumed by a non-technical public uncomfortable with the tools and techniques of computing science. Today's corporate decision-maker would rather "standardize" on a product that doesn't work, than face the terror of technology s/he does not understand.

But times they are a changing. People in the mainstream computing press write articles about Linux, and how easy it is to use. Sure, it's easier to use than the UNIX of yesteryear, and easier than the Linux of last year. But what's really changed is the consuming public.

The informed, technically skilled OS consumer/programmer has begun to emerge, and Bill Gates, the world will never be the same.

coercion argument is bogus
Joe Buck
Wed Mar 25 14:52:09 1998 EST
jbuck@synopsys.com

Libertarians always trot out thecoercion argument, but it is bogus.Cato wants physical force to beavailable to Microsoft to force peopleto follow its rules; namely, itbelieves that Microsoft's copyrightsand one-sided "agreements" should beenforceable by law. In a no-governmentworld, Microsoft would vanish in a puffof smoke, as everyone happily copiedall their software, everyone who hadsigned an NDA spilled the beans anyway,etc. If you combine unlimited monopolypower with government enforcement ofcontracts and copyright, and then getrid of all government regulation, youwind up with a world where only BillGates has the power to collect taxes,and everyone pays.

You think Linux can compete? Whathappens when all current hardware hasan NDA attached? Free software isdead unless government can put limitson the Wintel monopoly. They can cutus out, using patents (government powerCato seems to like), copyrights, andtrade secrets.

The government is less threateningthan Bill Gates because we can't voteBill out of office.

Why MS Research won't work
William Tanksley
Wed Mar 25 14:53:10 1998 EST
btanksley@hifn.com

MS has a very aggressive and destructive buisness model, as we all know. However, they've also got an interesting corporate structure which gives them their greatest strength...

And their greatest weakness.

Specifically, they are divided into a bunch of small project divisions centered around a financial/management core. The project divisions report to the management core for deadlines, and the finacial core for funding and marketing. Because the project groups are small and independant (aside from deadlines), they can work like small companies, _except_ that when they think they're ready to release they turn their product over to a HUGE marketing machine instead of having to push it themselves.

Brilliant!

So where's the weakness? Well, the divisions have no obvious, neccesary way of communicating with each other. MS Research can discover all it wants, but if MS .* isn't looking for that specific thing, it won't ever know about it. This is why MS' products all have interface gaps between one another; the tried and true seperation of products makes buisness sense, but fails for programming.

MS will collapse under their own weight, OR change to a less buisness-wise but more programming-wise model. Either one of those things would be excellent for the industry. But they'll only do this if pressure is kept on them from alternative buisness/programming models, such as our OpenSource or FreeSoftware models (or other corporate models, but that's not our buisness).

I personally can't imagine a happier ending than MS going with Open Source and succeeding. Sure, I bear some grudges against them for their abuse of competitors (whose products I depended upon), but when those things are past we'll all be better off.

meta-whining
pohl
Wed Mar 25 15:10:00 1998 EST
pohl@screaming.org

Stop whining about Microsoft and get behind Foo and Bar? How about stop whining about whining and get your own ass to work.

Sorry, but somebody had to say it.

Anybody who says that the US government "does not have the right to get involved with this market" needs a sharp whack with a reality stick, because meddling with their own economies is one of the things that governments do.

Another thing that they do is determine the truth value of Foo.isa(MONOPOLY) statements.

I'm not advocating that they decide either way, but I want to make it clear that the government does have the authority to pursue this matter.

"Scaleable Commodity Servers"
D. Gundlach
Wed Mar 25 15:10:10 1998 EST
dan@garfield.msl.net
http://cesdis.gsfc.nasa.gov/linux-web/beowulf/beowulf.shtml

Been there, done that. And with Linux.Sounds suspiciously like Beowulf, whichis the link on the left.
M$ NL research
Sengan Baring-Gould
Wed Mar 25 15:20:06 1998 EST
sengan@ggi-project.org

Microsoft bought its Natural Language Research group from IBM... where they had not achieved much of "new": they are very applied people using statistics, a premiss on which I disagree.

I find the biggest threat comes from M$ "standards". My manager changed recently. Previously my emails were in ascii. Now the new manager sends me "word documents". Since my main work machine is Linux, well I don't read them. I told him and he thinks its my problem... I have a way around it (another Win95 "test" machine), but its a waste of my time.

The Electric Company
Jehu Jackson
Wed Mar 25 15:24:05 1998 EST
jehu@torture.org
http://www.torture.org

Sorry Karl, but I completely disagree with you on just about everything in your article.

First of all, I am confused by your analogy of Microsoft "pushing the envelope" in not showing self-restraint. It's interesting that you picked that phrase for criticizing Microsofts business practices, and then went on to describe Microsofts lack of innovation. It actually kind of reminds me of the Ralph Nader Microsoft bash where one fellow from Europe during his speech said that the fundamental flaw with Microsoft is that they just "didn't understand how business worked".

The problem with just about every argument I've ever read criticizing Microsoft is that no one really understands the nature of Microsofts business. Microsoft is first and foremost a marketing company which creates software. Microsoft understands all to well how business works, and that is exactly why Bill Gates is the richest man on the planet.There is no disputing this fact.

Microsoft doesn't have to be innovative for the same reason Apple computers has never been innovative. They're not in business to make "good" software, they're in business to make money. The Macintosh was not innovation by any stretch of the imagination. It was a reworked Altos computer taken from Xerox PARC. Microsoft Windows is really just a rework of this same desktop metaphor. The only time it was particularly innovative was during the 1970's when the Altos was first built.

The comment about Microsoft being the Electric Company of the 1990's is also equally poposterous. I read a comment about software on slashdot the other day which I really liked regarding why the GPL wasn't like socialism because software has the property of being a limitless quantity. It works because people who use Linux and yet don't contribute to the effort by writing software for it still further the efforts of the Linux community.

Electricity has never been a limitless quantity and it takes a huge infrastructure to deliver it. Microsoft would have us all buy into this as being the same model which we should consider buying their software with, and it has worked up until now. This shortsightedness on Microsofts part is exactly why Linux will succeed, not because of stiffiling regulation. Linux works because software is a limitless resource. Anyone can copy it, share it, change it, do-whatever-the-hell-they-want with it and Linux still goes on. No money was lost, only everyone in the community gains because companies realize that suddenly there is new market. Something else which they be profitable about like supporting Linux or making new commercial applications for it. Creating new regulations only buys into the Microsoft World Software View and does nothing to further the Linux project.

Re.
Langley
Wed Mar 25 15:38:41 1998 EST
langley@echo23.malebolge.com

Well, I just read this article. And i suggest everybody reads it. It is quite scary when you think about it (unless you are Microsoft).
The Unix World
Steven Pritchard
Wed Mar 25 15:45:29 1998 EST
steve@silug.org

(This comment would have made a lot more sense at the beginning of this discssion, but work distracted me... Sorry it doesn't fit in. :)

Keep in mind, the pre-GNU Unix world (and even the current Unix world) was all about non-standards. Every commercial Unix vendor seemed to think they needed to put in non-standard, proprietary extensions to their version of Unix in order to distinguish it from other vendors' versions. Not to mention the whole BSD vs. SysV issue...

In my opinion, some of the commercial Unixes still suck worse than MS products. (Coming from somebody as pro-Unix and anti-MS as me, that's saying something.)

Re: Langley
vlax
Wed Mar 25 16:09:48 1998 EST
vlax@yahoo.com

I just read that article you linked to. When did Microsoft get into bed with Lernout and Hauspie? #@$%!!!! I almost went to work for them once!!! No wonder they're suddenly pushing this "natural language" research thing!! L+H isn't the best there is, but they aren't bad either.

To think, I might have ended up working for Mr Bill.... **shudder**

What?
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 16:33:09 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

Pohl:Anybody who says that the US government "does not have the right to get involved with this market" needs a sharp whack with a reality stick, because meddling with their own economies is one of the things that governments do.

I'd have to say that pohl needs a sharp whack with the US Constitution. Unless Microsoft has forced me to not use another OS then I say the government has no business getting involved. I am online everyday and I don't use any Microsoft products because they suck.

I'm still not convinved that they have the legal authority. Does almost everyone use MS products? Yes.. Did Microsoft force anyone to do this.. No! That's all we need to know, IMHO..

Re: What?
pohl
Wed Mar 25 16:49:09 1998 EST
pohl@screaming.org

Del, Please quote the part of the Constitution that you feel unambiguously states that the DoJ does not have the right to pursue its suit against Microsoft.
To Joe Buck concerning coercion..
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 16:49:56 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

I have to tell you, Joe, that your ideas of coersion are fatally flawed in that the people who entered into agreements with Microsoft did so voluntarily. The government has every legal right to enforce legally binding agreements between companies, but they have no right to force Microsoft to run their business according to your view of what is The Right Way.. To imply that the government preventing fraud and enforcing legally binding agreements is equivalent to the government forcing microsoft to market ther products in one way or another is a totally bogus idea, IMHO..
Damn right !!!
ObiTuarY
Wed Mar 25 16:56:08 1998 EST
Obituary@cybernet.be
http://freshmeat.unreal.org/

This article is so true I wish it could be published on all the fuckingnewpapers in the world !!! Being objective the only thing Windows 95 isgood for is games (but it could be somuch better on Linux !!!), Windows NTis the most non-standard thing thathas ever exsited, and most of the computer users are stupid as shit.

BUT

we are here for that to change and itis going to change... My soul will bein piece when I will not see windows 95anymore on a computer...

POHL: The Constitution..
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 17:00:16 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

My brother, it's called the 9th and 10th Amendments. Read it carefully and you will see my point. These Amendments state, in a nutshell, that the US government has ONLY the powers that are EXPRESSLY ENUMERATED to it. They go on to state that the people have all other powers. In this case, that would include the power of Microsoft to sell their products however they see fit. It's really very simple. Our government has no power over Microsoft other than to make sure that Microsoft doesn't force anyone to do anything against their will. Because of this, I completely agree that Sun should sue the shit out of MS for violating the Java Liscense, but they do not have the right to force Microsft to GPL it's API's or to unbundle IE from Windows. or any other of the rediculous ideas that I have seen put forth here.
A bit more..
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 17:04:52 1998 EST
del@freespeeh.com
http://www.freespeech.com

Because of the nature of the 9th and 10th amendments, the only valid question is "Where in the Constituion does it enumerate the power to make a company do business one way or the other?"..

That is the beautiful thing about our Constituion.. The government has to have the power enumerated, it doesn't work the other way around. That is one thing that makes our country great, IMHO. SO I ask, where is that power of government enumerated?

Subject
Your Name
Wed Mar 25 17:20:52 1998 EST
email@somewhere

"imagine a world where you could shop for operating systems the way you shop for anything else, and where you wouldn't have to pay an upgrade tax to Bill Gates every few years just to continue using your computer. "

That's funny.. I'm living in that world right now! What world are you living in, Karl?

The world I live in...
JEDIDIAH
Wed Mar 25 17:40:19 1998 EST
kscruggs@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~kscruggs

The world in which even boutiquecomputer stores that catered to somesmaller market segment (like Apple,Commodore or Atari) are a long forgotten memory.

Of 11 or so OSes available for theintel platform, the only one's you're likely to find retail support for, without effort that would be considered unusual in any other sort of market, are all owned by the monpolist.

"Standard OS"?
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 17:47:42 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

To Tom Cronin: And who do you propose should set the OS Standard? I sure don't want Janet Reno dictating what OS I should run.Give me a break. You don't think that would stiffle competition? Have you never heard of CSS? How long has that been in committee now? The whole project is dead because nobody can agree on what the standard is.

The only way for a true valid standard to emerge is for the free market to create it. As of now, the market has dictated that MS junk is the standard because, even though it is junk, it's what most people want. So now, in the name of protecting consumer choice, you propose to limit that very choice yourself by dicatating a "Standard OS"? How silly..

Del...
vlax
Wed Mar 25 17:50:59 1998 EST
vlax@yahoo.com

...the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1887 has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court. This, for all intents and purposes, makes it constitutional. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the constitution specifically grants the Federal government authority to regulate interstate and international commerce.

The Federal government has the authority to intervene wherever companies engaged in interstate commerce appear to have or be near to having a monopoly in any market, or even where their percentage of the market is deemed unacceptably high by a court. That is what the Sherman Act says. It can also strike down contract provisions that will tend to diminish competition unfairly. It can not attack Microsoft simply because it has a 90%+ market share unless it deems that illegal methods were used to obtain that level of control because the law admits that a company making a superior product due to superior art can legal have a monopoly.

We all know that Microsoft's products are not superior, but it is difficult to see how a judge can determine that.

Microsoft can, under the provisions of the act and considering precedents like the IBM consent decree, be attacked for using this natural monopoly to control other markets, undermine legitimate competitors or for violatign existing consent decrees, which have the force of administrative law in the US. This is what the DOJ is persuing Microsoft for. It's no different than the Standard Oil case more than half a century ago.

Now, if you want to debate whether the government should have the authority to regulate interstate commerce to block monopolies, that is a different matter. I would refer you to the likes of John Locke and Adam Smith. Tradition and law considers a contract with a monopoly to be a form of coersion, regardless of the terms.

Not a monopoly? Ha.
John
Wed Mar 25 17:59:53 1998 EST
jquinn@wco.com

Rene, Ian & Del - you're fooling yourselves. Betamax. It has come tomean that the products which aretechincally better don't always win.Market forces by themselves didn't put MS in their present position. Those market forces were maniplulated. Jehuis right when he says MS is a marketingcompany that sells software. let metell you about another.

In the late 80s, the RDBMS market gothot. Larry Elison started countingbooked orders as sales, which skewedthe market share figures. It also madeOracle look bigger than it was. All the point-haired Dilbert-bosses madetheir decisions based on what everyoneelse was doing. Oracle looked like ithad the best chances of success, sothat's where they put their money.

Mr. Bill did that too. If you installDOS on all new PCs you can claim everyone uses DOS, even if the erase itas soon as they get their machine. Soonpeople stop fighting and stop erasing.

Not me.

The government should and will stopMS. It won't turn on Linux. It cannot accuse Linux of dumping. First, who do they prosecute? Second, if programmers aren't paid, there's no cost, so Free is not below cost.

To JEDIDIAH
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 18:00:02 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

As soon as another company has a product that people want, it will be available. There are RedHat and Caldera distributions available in almost every consumer computer store in my area. To act like they are no alternatives is completely false. Just ask VA Research. My company buys many machines from them because they offer what we want. As more people find Linux or other OS's desirable, more companies will spring up with these offerings.
It is enummerated!
Rockwalrus
Wed Mar 25 18:00:56 1998 EST
summersn+sls@cs.byu.edu
http://students.cs.byu.edu/~summersn

Del: United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3: [The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

It's a common misconception that the captialistic system is even mandated by the Constitution. The Constitution gives Congress the right to set up any economic system they wish at any time. (of course they are bound to the fifth amendement requrement to justly compensate any property taken by the government for public use)

The fatal flaw!
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 18:06:34 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

In all of the above arguements calling for government intervention, all of you continue to make the incorrect assumption that Microsoft is a monopoly. This is FALSE and anyone who continues to argue a stance based on this premise is fooling themselves.

As I stated before, we all have the power to use whatever OS we want and to buy our computers from whomever we want. This simply fact shows that the Sherman Act can not be applied here. The idea that Micorsoft somehow has forced the consumers to purchase it's products is false. The idiots in this world purchase their products because,for their purposes, Micorsoft's products are superior.

They may not be superior for my needs, but for most people they are.

US Constitution
JEDIDIAH
Wed Mar 25 18:10:10 1998 EST
kscruggs@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~kscruggs

Interstate Commerce Clause.
Now, in what way does this matter?
Mattias Flodin
Wed Mar 25 18:15:31 1998 EST
Marvin66@wouldilie.com

There is much reason to hate Microsoft, and it seems to be the only thing that everyone agrees on. Then where's the missing link? If everybody hate Microsoft, why is it still so big? It's not because there are lots of clueless morons out there who love Microsoft; my impression is that the less they know, the more they seem to blame their computer problems (MS related or not) on Microsoft.I use Windows every day, I make Windows-based applications, I recommend uninitiated people to install Windows not Linux. Yet I hate Microsoft. Am I schizoid? No, I have merely asked myself the question, "I hate Microsoft. But in what way does that matter?"

Microsoft misuses its power every day. They really could need some slapping on their fingers. But there is one fact that remains, no matter if Bill Gates is the antichrist: They make relatively good, easy-to-use programs. When I worked at a help desk once, a woman cried out as I told her to select "File" then "Exit" in Program Manager that "I'm back to that big darkness again!!". She was referring to MS-DOS, which she had no clue existed in her computer. Windows *is* more intuitive, it *is* easier to use, than Linux. And ultimately, this makes it more powerful to the average user, because in Windows she knows how to get things done. Windows crashes alot - sure - but the average user does not need her system to be able to run for 600 days in one go, she needs to be able to understand how to print a document.

I think it is a mistake to blend in political opinions in your choice of software. As long as Microsoft makes software which is better suited for our needs, why choose something different? Because you "don't like Bill Gates"? If, in the future, somebody finally manages to make an operating system which is more accessible than Windows then I will be *happy* recommend it to any newbie. But I cannot, with a clean conscience, recommend Linux to a newbie.

So what are we discussing, whether we should use Microsoft software, or whether Microsoft Sucks?

No, Del.
vlax
Wed Mar 25 18:17:04 1998 EST
valx@yahoo.com

US vs. IBM, 1952. IBM did not have 100% of the market, DEC, for example, offered related products. Nonetheless, while the DOJ found that IBM held a dominant position in computer hardware legitimately, it required its users to use only IBM software. IBM was, therefore, using it's dominance and better art in computer hardware to sell it's software, despite the existence of better software. It was ruled that IBM would have to divest much of it's software business.

The parallel with the OS and applications business is striking.

The Sherman Act does not require that a company have 100% market share to be deemed a monopoly, nor to be attacked to for monopolistic practises. The same arguement. Anyone possesing too much market share can be attacked by the court for diminishing competition. The function of the Sherman Act and related laws has been to make the US government guarantor of competitive markets, regardless of monopoly status. This is why economic cartels are also illegal.

Preserving competition has, once again, been frequently upheld by the courts as within the authority of the US government under the Constitution.

Even if Microsoft was offering a superior product by any standard, they would still come legitimately under the view of the DOJ for reducing competition. Do you wish to argue that Microsoft is not working to diminish competition through its control of Windows?

Great
Fred
Wed Mar 25 18:23:55 1998 EST
noble@pagesz.net

By far and away one of the best articles on Microsoft I have read. I wish I could write that well. But I have to say I agree with the whole thing. I would love to see more examples of Microsoft being late to market with ideas. And examples of good ideas/companies they have already squashed. THis has been going on for Years!
Oh, I see..
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 18:27:23 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

So mabey we should ask the government to force Microsoft to make a Washington State verison of Windows that has IE intergrated and a version for the rest of us that does not. Please. We all know that the context of that article points toward interstate tariffs and international tariffs, trade disputes, etc. It has nothing to do with telling a company how to market/sell their own products. This is a very interesting point but I don't think it applies to issues like forcing Win32 into the public domain or unbundling the browsers, which is what I am trying to address.

For a glimpse into how out of context you all would like to take this, let's go straight to the horse's mouth:

""Agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, the fourpillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left mostfree to individual enterprise."
--Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801

"The merchants will manage [commerce] the better, the more theyare left free to manage for themselves." --Thomas Jefferson toGideon Granger, 1800.

Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugalGovernment, which shall restrain men from injuring one another,shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits ofindustry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth oflabor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of goodgovernment, and this is necessary to close the circle of ourfelicities." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801

I rest my case...

And that is not the case here..
Del Simmons
Wed Mar 25 18:32:36 1998 EST
del@freespeech.com
http://www.freespeech.com

"it required its users to use only IBM software"

Thanks for making my case for me. Microsoft has not done this and they would be stupid to knowing that IBM was smacked for it. Surely you know that Microsoft's legal department knows about this case and has avoided this situation. If I am wrong, and there is proof that Microsoft has kept it's customers from using other software, then I would agree that government intervention is required. I just disagree with your premise that they have done this.

YES!!!
ERG MAD
Wed Mar 25 18:43:55 1998 EST
The_Emperor@erg-mad.com
http://www.erg-mad.com

One word... Hurrah!
Tarifs
vlax
Wed Mar 25 18:44:16 1998 EST
vlax@yahoo.com

I have seen no mention in the constitution limiting its meaning to tarifs, especially since tarifs are discussed in clause 1 of the same section and article of the constitution.

Jefferson's words do not have force of law. Capitalism and market freedom is not enshrined by the constitution. The US government most specifically retained the right to nationalise, seize properties for the common good and regulate commerce.

Although the Cato institute may think that even monopolies are better than laws, few agree.

Jefferson never defended monopolies. Corporations did not exist, and weren't even possible in that era. Even banks were very local in nature. A few years later, there was a banking scandal, and the very same people who signed the constitution passed laws regulating banks. Economic liberty is always subject to the public good in Jefferson's writing and those of his contemporaries. It is not a fundammental right, not even for the likes of Locke or Smith, the most important free-market philosophers of the era.

Indeed, in your last quote Jefferson allows that government should restrain the activities of people to prevent them from harming each other. This is exactly the intent of the Sherman Act and the acts that followed, including the Tunney Act involving consent decrees, and is supported by precedent and practise.

Regardless, the point is that US law allows, very specifically, the kind of court action the DOJ is undertaking against Microsoft. If you feel it is wrong, that is your philosophy and you have a right to it, but it certainly does not violate the constitution nor US law.

whew!
Karl Fogel
Wed Mar 25 18:47:26 1998 EST
kfogel@red-bean.com
http://www.red-bean.com/~kfogel

Quality commentary is the sincerest form of flattery; my thanks toboth those who liked the essay and those who disagreed (but took thetime to articulate why they disagreed). Slashdot rocks.

Before I mouth off any more on this topic, I'm going to check out theresearch.microsoft.com URL, the Cato Institute study, and some of theother pointers people have mentioned.

A quick word before I go off to my studying, however:

Although I don't disapprove of the DoJ's actions (and in general thinkanti-trust laws are a necessary, if inelegant, solution), I mainlywrote the essay to answer the question "Why do we hate Microsoft somuch?", in language non-programmers can understand. Mainstream usersdon't really understand why Microsoft is the target of social(not just technical) disapproval in the programming community. So Itook a stab at explaining that phenomenon. But I'm really, reallyhappy to see the commentary it's provoked -- after all, it's notenough merely to explain why some people don't like the company; weought also be debating if Microsoft is truly causing a problem for theindustry (not just for certain other companies) and if so, what to doabout it. And that debate is exactly what seems to be happening,three cheers!

As Ben Sussmanmentioned, I did send off an earlier version to the NYT, but theydidn't print it (that version was less polished, so their rejectionmay or may not reflect lack of interest in the topic). I don't thinkI ever got around to sending it to other newspapers. Anyway, sure itwould be nice to get it published in a trade rag or "crossover"magazine (like Wired), but first I want to read the URL's mentionedabove and see what changes they necessitate.

Okay, enough, got some homework to go do. Thanks to all for thethoughtful responses!

-Karl

Re: And that is not the case here...
pohl
Wed Mar 25 18:51:34 1998 EST
pohl@screaming.org

"Thanks for making my case for me."

So your case was not rested. I can look the other way. ;-)

It is actually you who have made my case for me. You have done so by pretending to have the authority to judge this issue. While you are entitled to your opinion, in the long run your opinion is not binding. (Neither is mine, but I've not advocated any judgement on the issue.) What is binding is the opinion of the court, which was authorized by The Constitution to interpret the laws passed by Congress, which was authorized by The Constitution to make laws that govern commerce.

Indeed, the government does have the right to intervene. I rest my case.

Re: IBM
vlax
Wed Mar 25 18:53:11 1998 EST
vlax@yahoo.com

Microsoft, until a few weeks ago required OEM's to install IE on users' systems in order to benefit from lower system prices and restrains them from making similar arrangements with Netscape. It does not provide equitable access to the API to third party developers, insuring certain advantages to Microsoft software that do not derive from superior art.

Technically, you have a choice, but Microsoft can insure that those choices are, in certain respects, either inferior in quality or more expensive. It can and does reduce choice of OEM's who must install certain products if they wish to install Windows.

The Sherman Act treats this as exactly the same kind of behaviour.

Furthermore, by enacting licensing terms on NT requiring users to pay a higher price before they can install thrid party software on it (e.g. a web server) they have met all the conditions of reducing choice for people using Windows or unfairly tilting the options in their favour. The essence of the Act is that the government has the authority to block behaviour that reduces competiton.

If Microsoft claims that Windows enjoys market dominance due to superior art, they are then in violation of the law. If Microsoft does not claim their product is dominant due to superior art, the DOJ has the authority to restrain them or dismantle them.

Give us more...
Smelecat
Wed Mar 25 19:06:17 1998 EST
smelecat@icom.net
http://www.icom.net/~smelecat

First, I would like to say that was the best editorial on the subject I have ever read.

At the end though, it left me wanting the rest of the story...

This editorial will be a great tool for me to explain to people why M$ is bad.But I would like to see another editorial on what the consequences would be, if in the future you couldn't use a computer unless it was running a M$ os on it.

As for Linux...

I have never had so much fun with my computer until I installed Linux. It is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to my computer. But I'm a computer nerd and Linux was only fuel for the fire.

As for the rest of the world..I work with people who have used computers for years and still dont have a clue what as to what they're doing on one. They have 'memorized' what buttons to push to get a job done. Anything beyond that and they lost. They either can't or wont think for themselves. They don't know they have a choice of operating systems. Hell, they don't even know what an operating system is. To them, Windows IS the computer. We have to come a long way in Linux to win these people over. I think this is a tremendous challenge. Think of all the extra, resource hogging crap that would have to be added to Linux to make it a viable soution for these people while still being appealing to the hacker type.

So everybody ought to get off their butts and do something. If you can write code, jump in and make this happen. If you do graphics ( which is what I do ) there is room for you too. If you can compile a program or install a .rpm or .deb, then you can submit bug reports. Together we can do our part to make this thing happen. If you're not actively doing something for 'the cause', you dont have the right to bitch about it.

OK i'm done :^)

Jefferson, please..
Brad Weir
Wed Mar 25 19:12:11 1998 EST
zambini@concentric.net

Lets not even mention Jefferson here. As vlax said, when Jefferson was around, nothing even close to comparable was present. Jefferson had no experience with Standard Oil, or J.P. Morgan. Please, if you're going to use quotes, lets get some from TR, Taft, and Wilson. Three presidents I'd love to see in the oval office today.
MS and the Office World
morbid
Wed Mar 25 19:32:58 1998 EST
johnp@disturbed.org
http://www.disturbed.org

In a world where law suits amass daily over the words "honey" and "sweetie", complexity is frowned upon. People want simplicity. MS has given the business world simplicity. Most IT managers should be a little more grateful that Microsoft has made their lives a slight bit easier in the line of tech support. If a company tried to implement an all-linux workstation policy, chaos would break, and the very fabric of the space-time continuum would be eradicated. (as far as these simple secretaries know, anyhow.)

So why bash Microsoft? Is it just a trend? Is it industrial fustration? Is this "monopoly" a reality? Personally, yes, Microsoft does have a monopoly on the PC Operation System market. This is apparent, this is not up for arguement. But, how did they come about with their monopoly? Obviously, their product had qualities that appealed to business and personal users alike. Should we be so harsh as to put them in the same boat as pre-1985 Ma Bell? Or do they use their current position to destroy competition? And, if so, is government intervention *REALLY* the answer?

As you might remember, this are the same accusations IBM underwent way back when. Although the hearings didn't affect their business, look what happened to their grip on the PC market. :)

Reguards.

$ clap --loud
Aitor
Wed Mar 25 19:39:25 1998 EST
freakpie@NOSpAM@intercom.es
http://freakpie.dyn.ml.org

Simply, one of the best 'MS vs The Human Race' articles I've ever read...
This is a public announcement...
Phil Fraering
Wed Mar 25 19:41:38 1998 EST
pgf@globalreach.net

It's probably too little, too late, but here I go.
Did that do anything?
BTW, I am going to argue that the Feds aren't needed to solve the Microsoft problem.
As it becomes more and more suicidal to develop for Windows and compete with Microsoft, developers are going to abandon that platform for others they can make money on.
Like Linux.
It's just good business.
No Force?
Nate Bargmann
Wed Mar 25 21:17:26 1998 EST
ka0rny@midusa.net

I've read several commentaries in this thread that stated something similar to, "M$ doesn't force anyoe to use its products." On the surface, I think it is easy to believe that is true. Yet, I recall reading about Caldera's lawsuit against M$ alledging that M$ OEM licensing arrangements were structured so that OEM's were effectively prevented from providing any alternative. Much has been said of the slim margians in hardware sales, so it stands to reason that very few OEMs would risk even a few dollars on each machine just to satisfy a possible niche market that only amounts to a small percentage of their total sales.

The statement of M$ not forcing users to use its OS or apps is correct in that M$ doesn't prevent anyone from overwriting its code with that from another vendor once the machine is home or at the business. Yet, every machine an OEM sells (from what I understand) has a license fee paid back to M$, and (if what I read about a year ago is correct) the licensing agreement may also impose stiff penalties for selling machines without any OS on them. M$ forcing the users? No, but they wield an almost irresistbable influence.

Great Job!
Peter Kovacs
Wed Mar 25 21:34:23 1998 EST
kovacsp@egr.uri.edu

Wonderful article. It's exactly what I've been trying to put into words myself. I especially like your electric company analogy because similarly if the electric company changes the current, you can always go out and buy or make a generator for your own house. Likewise you can always write your own, or use some other non mass-market OS.

Anybody who says that Microsoft isn't a monopoly obviously doesn't know what a monopoly is. Technically speaking a monopoly is a price setter, that is whatever price they set the market will pay. If Microsoft raised it's price to $200 tomorrow there's not much anybody can do.

However they keep their price low so it isn't obvious that they engage in monopolistic pricing practicies. They do, however with alot of their other softare applications such as Office, or Visual Studio. Those are priced far beyond what it cost Microsoft to make.

The question really is what can the government do about it now? Can you really break up Microsoft? Should we (*laugh*) nationalize operating system production?

That's the real question we should be asking ourselves, not whether or not Microsoft is really a monopoly, or even bad.

The Future of Linux?
John Hoffman
Wed Mar 25 22:16:38 1998 EST
support@compmore.net
http://www.gdiweb.com

Ok, so many I don't use Linux as much as I want to. I've had to switch back to Win95 at home basically because I couldn't do with some of the apps (like Photoshop and 3DSMax), but don't get me wrong, I don't like Win95 ;)

I don't profess to be a Linux whiz, I've only been using it for about a year now, but I DO have a big problem with what I've been reading lately.

People are talking about changing the future of Linux, and Unix in general. They're talking about making it easier to install, friendlier interface and all that jazz, making it available more to the public avaerage joe-blow user, and this frightens me.

When I first installed Linux, I had NO clue. I didn't know that my CD drive was IDE, had to re-install Slackware 6 times before I got an installation that recognized my CD-ROM drive, and then another 6 to get the packages I wanted. Sure it was tough, the instructions were hard to read and filled with techno-babble. I had to go out and find hardware that wasn't "Made for Win95". I had to reboot several times into Win95 to search the internet for HOW-TO docs and IRC channels for help. But when I was done, when I first got X up and running, when I first heard my modem dial up through PPP, when i first looged in as root to my own private little multi-user world, it made it all worth it, and that day I was DAMN proud to be what my friends would call a 'geek' ;)

I hadn't done something new, something that had never been done before, re-invented the whell ... but I had done something that the guy next door couldn't do, your average joe-blow "user the computer at work" kinda guy.

If they take this away, give it a nice GUI interface to administration, point-click-boom design, the same thing that Win95 did to DOS, I think I'd have to lose repect for Linux. An operating system that in so little time has made so many major improvements. Although I think it's important to inform all the Microsoft-nipple-sucking-power-user-wannabes out there that their operating system is FAR from the perfection they want it to be, I don't think that we should be trying to convert them to an operating system that's to fast, stable, reliable, robust, and portable for them to handle. Let them have Win95, and keep Linux for those who want to use it, for those who understand that there's more to system administration than point&click. For those who understand that knowledge doesn't come in a box, can't be bought, has to be learned, passed down.

Well, that's just my 2 cents worth anyway.

M$ Dead is Near!
NuKeLiTe
Wed Mar 25 23:34:26 1998 EST
nukelite@hotmail.com

Well said!!! Ufff! What an article!I, personaly, vaticine the M$'s dead in the next 5 years in the hands of Sun, Netscape, Compaq and possibly HP and off course: Linux Community! Let's Work to accelerate this event!
You have to see both sides
Alban Wood
Thu Mar 26 00:09:42 1998 EST
awood@bloodwolf.org

Being creative doesn't mean inventing things. Stifling progress doesn't mean inventing things either. You can be creative and stifle progress by implementing great ideas in great ways.

When the Macintosh first came out, it was a very creative innovation from a very creative team. However, as you know, the Macintosh team had not invented the user interface. They had, however, implemented it in a great way.

I do think that Microsoft's monopoly is a bad thing, and is bad for the software industry in general. But it is unfair to say that Microsoft does not sifle progress. They make the greatest development tools. That is one thing you cannot disagree with, even for a Microsoft basher (which I'm not saying you are).

For the time being, there is no better support for component programming then on the windows platform. I am sure you are familiar with component programming.

Also, there are no operating systems that offer an API as large as the Windows API. You can do just about anything with the Windows API.

Having said this, I agree that Microsoft products are bugged. There are a lot of bad things about Microsoft. But in your article, I haven't read one single positive thing about Microsoft. And an article should always bring both sides of the subject, good and bad.

I've also developped on Unix, and I can appreciate the robustness and stability of the OS, which are very superior to windows. But there is no comparision when it comes to development tools, API capabilities. There are not platforms that support component development better than Windows.

Applications
Daniel Quinlan
Thu Mar 26 00:13:15 1998 EST
daniel@netwise.net.au
http://www.netwise.net.au

I've seen alot of call for Linux to have more 'apps' written for it.I've also seen alot of accusations thatMicro$haft provide a moving target with their API's.But where is Linux's API. What one GUI APIcan I write an app to that will work on every Linux box. None.If there is going to be serious commercial development of apps that are a no-brainer to install we need

* a universal package system* an API that a Windoze programmer would be able to use.

I believe Deity (Debian) is trying to achieve the first and I was under the impression KDE and Gnome are trying to achieve the second.If this is the case Hurrah!If not where do we start?

Didn't finish !
Alban Wood
Thu Mar 26 00:18:12 1998 EST
awood@bloodwolf.org

So what I'm saying is that to many people bash microsfot without realizing that it's thanks to MS that there is a computer on every desktop.

The bottom line is that you have to see both sides of Microsoft, good and bad. I do hope that something is done about their unfair practices, but I also want to keep benefiting from the good things they do.

Re: Bull Kaka
Shem Mazur
Thu Mar 26 00:30:23 1998 EST
SMazur@cybec.com.au

"Unix, and Linux, in particular PROVE that alternatives can exist in spite of a single player's unfair dominance."

Don't know about that. Linux is free. The people who work on Linux will continue to write it, and it doesn't matter if Windows sells 100 million copies, or if it sells 10 copies. MS dominance has little to do with the future of Linux. That's probably what I like about Linux the best... the fact that big sales of Windows aren't going to stop Linux developers.

Now I can think of an OS which tried to compete with Windows - OS/2. Anybody remember that? Oh sure, sure, IBM didn't sell it right, so they lost fair and square. OK, let's see the other "competing" platforms. Where are they? BeOS? They don't even claim to be competing - instead they are a "specialist media OS". Well, BeOS seems like it could be a darn good desktop OS for the average home user, but no, they will not fight MS, because they know they don't stand a chance. Rhapsody for Intel? Well, we will have to wait and see why MS is so interested in Apple all of a sudden. As for now, today, I don't see any "alternatives" that can actually stand a chance to compete.

The sad thing is that your average computer user has no idea what OS is running on his/her machine. You'd be surprised how many people have no clue if they have Win-three-point-something or Win-ninety-five something. They just know they purchased a computer and it had these Windows things on it. Much like buying a Pizza but not being shown a menu to see what the hell is on it. Just take the standard pizza - bloody hell, everybody does!

Monopoly? Shit yeah.

R&D
Jack Stonebraker
Thu Mar 26 00:46:33 1998 EST
jstonebrSPAM?NONE FOR ME THANKS@dpg.devry.edu

Excellent article. MS isn't all that robust in the Research and Development catagory because they don't have to be. They are the dominant company and their products have been efficiently shoved down the throats and digested by the consumers. Now that the average consumer is used to 'eating' whatever's on the MS plate, MS can slack off a bit more and react to it's competitors. MS's competitors on the other hand need to invest heavily in Research and Development to build something which tastes better on the consumers' plates, but is at the same time better for everyone. I'd prefer a more open market, but it really doesn't matter either way. There's always money in integration.

Jack Stonebraker

re: didn't finish
Shem Mazur
Thu Mar 26 00:55:16 1998 EST
smazur@cybec.com.au

I think if it wasn't for MS, we'd still have computers on our desks, just not Wintel ones. Before MS came along, lots of people had computers. Some had Apples, some had Commodores, some had Amigas, and some had IBMs. Now, verybody has Wintel. MS didn't put computers on everyone's desk. I already had a perfectly good Amiga on my desk, before I was forced to buy a Windows machine because everybody else was using one, at work, at school etc., and definately not because my Amiga was inferior.

Shem

Micro$soft
Tom Barta
Thu Mar 26 01:29:19 1998 EST
Tebart@skcla.monsanto.com
http://macnow.netmug.org

Microsoft is the reason it is almost impossible to make money in the software industry. It's like this: "Company A makes cool, innovative product. Company A goes IPO. Micro$oft comes in with lame knock off. Everybody laughs. Micro$oft works behind the scenes to make company A's software crash on Windows and forges exclusionary pacts with IT types and hardware vendors to offer only its product and NOT company A's. Company A slowly loses marketshare. Micro$oft is happy. Consumers are stuck with buggy MS product.

This scenario is what they did to Wordperfect, Netscape, Persuasion, Macintosh. the consumers lose-- and don't even know it; don't stop to think about it!

Wow!
David Turner
Thu Mar 26 01:46:05 1998 EST
snowboardingsqrd@hotmail.com
http://www.snowboarding2.com

I was about to write about five paragraphs worth about this great article (best I have seen yet!). But as I scrolled down(through the most replies I have ever seen on this page!) most people shared my opinion and was already stated.

So we will keep it simple. Great article!

Microsoft and Consumer Choice
Aron Hsiao
Thu Mar 26 03:06:01 1998 EST
linux.guide@miningco.com
http://linux.miningco.com

Those who continue to support Microsoft and deny that Microsoft is a monopolistic company often point to consumer choice as evidence for their reasoning.

"The consumers continue to choose Microsoft products!", they say. "They could go out and choose any other operating system, but they don't! Therefore, Microsoft is not a monopoly."

This sort of reasoning is absolutely incorrect; the consumer does not choose Microsoft. The consumer chooses a hardware product from among literally hundreds of thousands of computer manufacturers, and no matter which hardware product is chosen, Microsoft products are included as a condition of the sale; if you don't believe me, go to Office Max tomorrow and try to buy an X86-based computer /without/ Windows. If you've already tried this, you know that it isn't possible, and yet Windows is obviously not an inherent component of the hardware product (as evidence, I submit the Linux window in which I am currently typing, on a completely Microsoft-free system).

Regardless of the particular hardware purchased by the user, no choice of operating systems is ever /offered/, and therefore, users have not /chosen/ Microsoft. The fact that users are ignorant to this fact is further evidence of the Monopoly; many users aren't even aware that a product called "Windows" is stored on their computer.

When a user-level (i.e. not hidden from view) product becomes so entrenched that name recognition and marketing are no longer necessary for maintained sales, it's time to break up the monopoly, IMHO.

P.S. Someone should send a link to this very page via e-mail to every senator and congressman.

Past decade
Thad
Thu Mar 26 03:53:26 1998 EST
no@spam

Great article!! Extremely well-written, except for a few minor details..... Some of the innovations mentioned to have originated in the past decade are older than a decade indeed. Remember the first Mac? It had a GUI and a mouse, in 1984. That is fourteen years ago. Xerox was developing the first GUI somewhere in the 1979-1984 range. Microsoft has not created a single original product in two decades, BASIC being the last (and, possibly, the only). This is not just a recent 90's phenomenon, Gates and co. have been doing it from the very beginning. Yes, even the mouse was forced away from a small company and slapped with the "Microsoft" tag some fifteen years ago. Observe, emulate, and conquer! That is the motto in Redmond.
Object Model
Piotr Mitros
Thu Mar 26 04:24:28 1998 EST
pmitros@mit.edu
http://pmitros.mit.edu

'that object model' presumably refers to OpenDoc (as opposed to OLE/ActiveX). OpenDoc does not fit the series, because it came out well after OLE/ActiveX. On a side note, IBM invented OLE and still holds the patent to it (obviously, MS holds a license of some sort).

OpenDoc was superior overall (imho), but did have it's own share of problems (mostly bloat).

re: Newton's death vs Microsoft
Joseph Garcia
Thu Mar 26 08:50:45 1998 EST
jpgarcia@execpc.com

In response to Mr. Fraering's comment on the death of the newton, I have a little conspiracy theory.Apple is the one who put the knife to the newton, The interesting thing is that even though they got lots of offers (i've heard) for the newton technology, they haven't sold any of it (ive heard).Could it be possible that Apple did this in order to further their Macintosh platform. They need the people and the full concentration on getting the Mac back in business, and with MS in the courts, and a growing support, this is a perfrect time for it.Now the conspiracy theory: How many maintream big companies have suffered a full-out death in the family due to MS? I would have to say none... except for the Newton. You know that this would ocme up in the courts that CE is the only full operating system out there. (Pilot is getting there, but still for the most part needs a mother desktop) Since CE was NOS's primary competitior, and it was a very good system, I can't help but say that Apple has made the right decision.THe reason I say it is a conspiracy theory is because of 4 words: I can't prove it.Was that too much ranting?
Re: Past decade
fredric
Thu Mar 26 14:21:58 1998 EST
hof@dataphone.se

Microsoft has not created a single original product in two decades, BASIC being the last (and, possibly, the only)

Well, BASIC was not really MS idea. It was a public domain language that BG wrote an interpreter for on goverment founded computers, slapped on a price tag and got bundled. You will not be surpriced to find that their very first buisnnes partner got screwed too. Read more at History of the Microcomputer Revolution.
The only brilliant piece of SW MS seems to have come up with is Paul Allens 8088 emulator for the DEC.

A GUIfied UNIX
Bill Rugolsky
Thu Mar 26 14:34:14 1998 EST
rugolsky@ead.dsa.com

According to vlax:"We need a UNIX where no one ever hasto see a command prompt if they don't want to. "

While I think that is a great goal for Linux and all OpenSource software, andnecessary to attract the non-sophisticate, we shouldn't deludeourselves into thinking that this iseasy. Microsoft has made *billions*of dollars selling products with limitedfunctionality, and has plowed *most* ofits development money back into (lousy)GUI tools to configure and use thatlimited functionality. The OpenSourcecommunity, OTOH, is awash withpowerful functionality captured in tens of millions of lines source code, muchof which was developed with an eyetoward flexibility and experimentationand *not* simple configuration.

I see two problens:

1. A large fraction of OpenSource tools have "little languages" for configuration; the question is how do weprovide a GUIfied configurationinterface, while allowing the power userthe ability to "edit the config file".Anyone who has used any of the the UNIXsysadmin interfaces over the years knowswhat I mean; I run RedHat and find myself asking which !@#$ variable I needto set in sone /etc/sysconfig file,rather than hacking the config filedirectly.

2. Microsoft has centralized control over most configuration; the OpenSourcecommunity is decentralized. So MS candemand that its programmers conform totheir configuration guidelines, or elsetheir code doesn't get used. For thirdparties, MS won't certify you asWindows 9x -compaitible if you don'tconform. And MS is not the first to do this; Apple largely started this with the Macintosh; MS has elevated it tohigh art. There are obviously sound business reasons for doing this, butit is not clear that it can ever meshwell with the free-wheeling style ofthe OpenSource community.

For more on this topic, take a look at the Linuxconf site for the paper motivating the project.

Any bright ideas?

Forced OS????
Thomas Cronin
Thu Mar 26 18:45:35 1998 EST
teasea@ix.netcom.com

To Del: Feel free to reread my previous post. I'm sure everyone here can appreciate the need for the devils advocate (not literally), But I feel like you've said the answer to "How tall is the empire state building?" is "True." Why on earth would I want to force anyone to use a specific OS? Now that's TRULY silly. And no, as far as I know, CSS stands for Cybermedia Support Server. I have and always will despise the way the "less keystrokes" mentality has degenerated English into incomprehesibility.
Forced OS????
Thomas Cronin
Thu Mar 26 18:55:11 1998 EST
teasea@ix.netcom.com

Oh. Also, It's quite obvious that even if Microslob isn't a monopoly in the absolute, strictest, 100% by the book definition straight from the Oxford Dictionary and confirmed by at least two other independent and respected sources, Macroslab is still a monopoly, and comes closer to perfect realization every day.

Standards
Pierre Etchemaite
Thu Mar 26 22:04:05 1998 EST
petchema@concept-micro.com
http://girafe.ensba.fr/iris/letouv.shtml

After reading some answers (like Del's), that "m$ is not monopoly, no one forces you to use their OS", it is obvious that some people missed an important idea of this editorial : the role of standards.
Computers today are more and more often connected together, working together by the means of standards. So far, the Internet (isn't that a good example ?) is built on top of mainly open standards. It is important that "alternate" systems keep existing, otherwise mainstream closed standards will be enforced on us (see Sengan Baring-Gould case).
Just look how many governments were "convinced" to work with m$ technologies lately... We're close to that already, at least in some countries :(
It's not possible to close our eyes, "coding on our corner" like someone suggested, and let the market decide for us some day.
Research != Innovation
Nathan Myers
Fri Mar 27 05:09:29 1998 EST
ncm@nospam.cantrip.org
http://www.cantrip.org/nobugs.shtml

You might wonder why a company with so much money in the bank cannot or will not pay for innovative research. (Other companies Microsoft's size spend a hundred times as much on research.)

The reason is simply that research destabilizes markets, which wouldmake things less predictable and harder to "sew up"; and thus would cutdown on their income. Back when IBMwas King, it hired the best and brightest to work at TJWatson Labs,specifically to prevent them from going out in the world and changing things. They did brilliant thingsthat were just put on the shelf.It worked for a long time,and we're years behind where we wouldhave been without TJW Labs.

Everyone I have met who worked atMicrosoft is very competent. It doesn't matter; they are collaredand cannot apply their competence whereit would do any good. Money gets whatmoney wants, and at Microsoft it doesn't want innovation.

So, why *pretend* to fund research(in paltry amounts but with lots ofhype)? To attract and hire bright,creative people so they can be kept from innovating.

DoJ vs Linux?
Richard Felker
Fri Mar 27 09:32:15 1998 EST
dfelker@drake.cnu.edu
http://dalias.home.ml.org

Whoever it was that was worrying about potential future attempts to dismantle a Linux "monopoly" should look at a few reasons that would not work:

1) Linux is not a product people buy in itself. Most users buy distributions, which do things in their own way and "compete" (as is obvious from what happens when some newbie asks, "Which distro is best???" :).

2) As far as I know, no Free Software developers use coercive tricks to get others to use their software. Rather, Free Software is judged by merit and suitability to the task.

3) Linux adheres for the most part to open standards. Any coder writing a general purpose app who doesn't make stupid assumptions (or need a special hareware-specific library) should make something that's reasonably portable to any other unixish environment that adheres similarly to open standards. And, even if porting takes a bit of work, that's one reason we've got Open Source, right?

4) I can see how the price of Free Software could be objectionable to some exploitive people who want to make proprietary software in the future, but that's just too bad. See, Free Software is so decentralized that no one has or ever will have a monopoly. Instead, many different people's apps will be used to make up a complete system.

BTW, I wanna let whoever was complaining about no photoshop for Linux...GIMP kicks Photoshop's arse! :) Try it! For something 3DS-like, keep your eyes on Moonlight Creator in the future. Hopefully sometime soon it'll get texturing and advanced modelling features.

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Everything else is © 1998 Rob Malda.
 
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