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RE: The Problem with Microsoft

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-----Original Message-----
From:	Bill Allen, S.E. [SMTP:Bill(--nospam--at)]
Sent:	Wednesday, October 21, 1998 8:13 AM
To:	seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject:	RE: The Problem with Microsoft

The DoJ is using the incident where MS offered to buy or JV with Netscape
and Netscape rejected MS's proposal. Subsequently MS was alledged to attempt
to put Netscape out of business by coercing OEMs to ship only IE and not
Netscape. I am not certain about the exact business tactics used and I
certainly don't know if any of them were illegal.

[Bill Polhemus]  

So far, we're on the same wavelength.

[Bill Allen]  

However, IMO:
Even with all its faults, MS has done more good than bad for the computing

[Bill Polhemus]  

That's debatable, but certainly tenable.

I think that there is very little that MS has done from a TECHNICAL standpoint to further the interests of the "computing industry."


1) The Advent of DOS

Well, they didn't actually INVENT DOS, did they? This was a product of Seattle Computing, which was purchased by Mr. Gates, who had previously made a little money writing and selling compilers and interpreters for CP/M.

They licensed it to IBM, and continued to develop it for IBM and others.  IBM was able to take over the development and support of their own flavor (PC-DOS) with no problem.

2) PC Software

They were virtually a non-player in PC software for many years.  In fact, their flagship products got started as Macintosh software.

3) Windows

Took six years for it to get off the ground; it was only in version 3.1 that they finally had a viable product.

Even then, it took "leverage" to get it onto computers.  Only by insisting on a package deal (you take DOS, you have to take Windows) with ISDs and computer manufacturers were they able to get it into the mainstream.

At that point, they were able to virtually wipe out their formerly-DOS competitors WordPerfect and Lotus,  by having the privilege of owning the OS as well as the applications.  Non-MS applications have always come later than the MS versions, when upgrades to the OS roll out.

BTW, one way that MS was able to accomplish this, was through hardware drivers.  In the era of DOS, hardware drivers were the responsibility of the application developer.  Windows changed that (and rightfully so).  WordPerfect, for example, was favored because they supported virtually every printer and display device known to man.  That feature was nullified by Windows.

And it should be said that Windows extended the life of the DOS cash-cow for at least four years beyond when it should have left the stage.  Along with the continuance of DOS came the continuance of the basic hardware problems that DOS perpetuated, esp. memory management.

4) OS/2

OS/2 was and should have been the REAL "NT".  However, since it was a joint venture between IBM and MS, MS couldn't count on it for market dominance.  When they left it solely to IBM in 1992, they did so in favor of 16-bit Windows.  So you had MS eschewing a new, object-oriented, 32-bit operating system (OS/2 2.0) in favor of "business as usual" with a kludgy, erratic 16-bit "application," Windows 3.0/3.1, that ran on top of DOS.

Thus, they dropped the innovation in favor of the money.  Yes, a sound (short-term) business decision, only if you're more worried about being "the only game in town" than being a big player on the bleeding edge.

When Windows 95 came around, MS continued to display its marketing prowess, convincing everyone that an OS with a fraction of the features that the Mac OS had had for ten years, and that OS/2 Warp had had for two years, was a "new and innovative thing."

5) Windows NT

OS/2 2.1 (the first real major release of a 32-bit PC-based OS) was released in Spring 1993.  Windows NT 3.1 (THE first release of NT; there WERE no GA versions prior to that time) came out about nine months after.  Windows NT 3.1 was horrifically slow, demanded very large resources (at a time when memory was very expensive) and had no applications, no driver support, and no real destiny.

Windows NT 3.5, released in 1995, was a vast improvement, but sported the crummy Windows 3.x interface at a time when OS/2 Warp 3.0 and even Windows 95 had an elegant look.

Windows 4.0 was better still, with an interface similar to Windows 95, but has continued to be hampered by compatibility and hardware driver issues.

Windows 5.0--getting better all the time--has been a classic case of vaporware; should have been released late LAST year, but won't be around till almost two years later than that.

6) Applications

Although fraught with bugs, MS continually maintains that they don't exist, or if they do, will be fixed in the next release which all users cheerfully pay for.

Just a few examples of the "great things" that MS has done for computing.

[Bill Allen]  

 No one has any problem running whatever browser they want on their computer.

[Bill Polhemus]  

Well, I use Netscape by choice, but I have to say that it crashes regularly on my Windows NT 4.0 system.

IE does not.  Is that a coincidence?

They used to say, back in the "old days": DOS ain't done till Lotus won't run.

Is this more of the same?

[Bill Allen]  

 Any DoJ action will hurt computer users (i.e., the taxpayers). The
integration MS is trying to achieve is a feature I like very much.

[Bill Polhemus]  

The integration that LINUX is trying to achieve is a feature I like very much.

And it won't come at the expense of flexibility on the part of the computer using public.

[Bill Allen]  

 The DoJ, IMO, is being hypocritical attacking the power of MS. The DoJ is
itself flexing its muscles, much like Waco and Ruby Ridge. The public may
soon become even more cynical of the Federal Government than it already is. 

[Bill Polhemus]  

Well, I agree with this approach.  No matter how much I dislike the MS hegemony, I dislike the illegal hegemony of the Federal Government even more.

At least there is a POSSIBLITY that MS can be unseated by upstart competitors--just look at the threat from Linux.  There IS no possibility of the Federal Government being "unseated" unless it is done by the voters.

[Bill Allen]  
If Netscape, Sun Microsystems, et. al. can provide better OSs and software I
say "Bring it on. Let the customer base decide what is best and don't go
crying to your mommie (i.e., DoJ)". How long have we been hearing about
JavaOS? Why did Corel yank their Java based Office Suite?

[Bill Polhemus]  

I can't say why Java hasn't been as successful as it was touted.

But I can say that MS has done everything in its considerable power to subvert it.

[Bill Allen]  

 With regards to being "boxed into a corner", you still have a lot of
choices. There are several browsers available, several office suites
available, I think there still is a Mac OS and I believe there is one guy
out in Arizona still using DOS (whatever that is).

[Bill Polhemus]  

What I said was we shouldn't VOLUNTARILY box ourselves into a corner.

What I'm suggesting is that we who use computers in our business need to keep ourselves aware of what is out there that may be better, and not be sheep.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

[Bill Allen]  
We don't need the Feds to protect us from ourselves. The consumers should
decide what they want on their computer. In the end, we will be the victims
of any DoJ action.

[Bill Polhemus]  

Well, MS will be.  And I think that the Feds will be emboldened by successful action against MS.

As I say, and repeat, I see the action against MS as being about "punishment" for a company that hasn't paid "its fair share" to the party in power in the White House.

[Bill Allen]  
With regards to your notion that buying companies is immoral: what drugs are
you on, Bill? It happens all the time. If you feel that way and own any
stock in any company, you better sell it because that company (any company)
has either bought, sold, merged or acquired another company. Get real.

[Bill Polhemus]  

So you are saying that, because something happens a lot, it isn't immoral?

Of course, I realize that I'm whistling down the wind, here, because your attitude is very much the common one.  But I see things differently.

I think that there are A LOT of things that occur commonly that are not right.  MS trying to buy out Intuit, or Palm Computing, because they couldn't dominate the market in the areas of personal financial software or personal digital assistants, is wrong and bad for consumer choice.