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Letters to the Editor.

Because of the overwhelming volume of letters Computer Technology Review received in response to Josh Piven's article on the Department of Justice's findings of fact against Microsoft Corporation ("It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over. Uncle Bill vs. Uncle Sam", page 1, December 1999 CTR), we are dedicating this month's Letters section to them.

Your article is one of the best I have read on the subject. It was well written, intelligent, and, most of all, objective. I've done a fair amount of publishing (two books and numerous articles), so I know quite a few publishers. Many of them would not release such an article due to fear of Microsoft retaliation. I know of a few online journals that lost substantial advertising revenue from Microsoft because they published an article that Microsoft didn't like.

However, I must disagree with one of your points, a point many have made. Many believe that Microsoft dominance was a good idea because it promoted standards. It is true that we have Microsoft standards, but I think standards would have developed in any event. Look at one of the most important standards in use today: Internet Protocol. IP was not a Microsoft development. In fact, Microsoft networking protocols are inferior. NetBEUI is being phased out in Windows 2000 due to lack of scalability and security.

My point is that we should not underestimate the market. If there is a need for a standard, the market will provide. Microsoft has done great damage to the industry by breaking standards. Microsoft plays fast and loose with HTML and it doesn't properly support XML. There is a lot of software aimed at cross platform compatibility on Linux, Mac, and Solaris. My feeling is that Microsoft has done a lot more harm than good.

I don't have a problem with for-profit companies developing standards, as long as they are open. Many companies have done an admirable job. SSL, developed by Netscape, is a good example. Ethernet, FireWire, SCSI, GL, and PDF were all developed by for-profit companies and are widely used throughout the world. The industry is in desperate need of good, open standards. Microsoft is not the answer: It has convinced the world of that.

Madhu Siddalingaiah

Good article, although I disagree with the preferred remedy. I think Microsoft should be split into three companies: OS; Applications; and Developer Tools (IE would go to the apps division). No, this would not eliminate any of the monopolies, but it would eliminate most of the tools that Microsoft uses to maintain its monopolies. Remember that it is not illegal to have a monopoly.

Most of Microsoft's strength comes about because it sells the OS AND the major Applications AND most of the Developer Tools, making a chain of invincible links. If a competitor tries to replace one link, Microsoft has many ways to make that link appear to be the weak one in the chain.

I think dividing Microsoft into three companies is the cleanest and most effective (long-term) solution. It would not take nearly as long to implement. The trouble with the other scenarios is that we do not have any past experience with these and really don't know how they would play out in the industry.

Jim Stegman

Exodus Online Services

Cute, but your article missed the obvious: With the Web, the OS is irrelevant. For example, were it not that my PRIMARY app (AskSam) is not yet available for Linux, I would have switched LONG ago.

Lewis A. Lindner

I think your article stated the facts clearly. I am also in agreement with your suggested solution and have been for years. I think people need to look toward the future and possible infractions by Microsoft in the wireless arena. I personally think the Palm operating system in conjunction with WAP will win out over Windows CE. We shall see.

Kurt Liebendorfer

Houston Cellular

Telephone Company

Your article was an eye opener. As one who remembers the different flavors of DOS, I believe you have hit upon the right idea with auctioning the Windows source code. Let people decide which flavor of Windows they want to use. With different flavors of DOS, great strides were made to improve the operating system when there was competition. Thanks for finally giving us a workable solution. Let's hope that the Department of Justice agrees with you for this win-win solution.

Jack R. Johnson

I found your article very well written, informative, and well researched. I have a couple of comments, for what they're worth.

To the best of my knowledge, Microsoft bought the rights to (rather than created) the technology that became IE. Also, during most of the time, Microsoft was bullying others to get IE market share. IE was clearly inferior to Netscape; only recently has it become relatively equal.

I found the article's accompanying tables to be of great interest. I had not realized that with all their bullying, Microsoft still has not achieved the 83% dominance that Netscape had previously held.

I do take issue with your omission of the fact that Microsoft has always vigorously opposed any move toward any standards. The fact that Microsoft has been so successful in its use of unfair, illegal, and underhanded business practices does not make its OS a standard. Rather, it has made for a lot of lawsuits. The current and future success of Open Source (e.g., the Internet and Linux) will defeat the rabid practices of Microsoft even without the lawsuits and give us real standards. In other words, it won't matter which OS a person uses in the future.

J. Peter Fuller

Your message comes across loud and clear: You don't like Microsoft or Bill Gates and now you can point to a government ruling that says you were right all along. Then, you go on to say you want innovation. Trouble is, real innovation isn't something that the government can manage at gunpoint: "Innovate, but don't succeed too greatly or we will use force to break up your successful company." Wonderful.

Did Microsoft use actual force to make anyone use its operating system? Should I sue my Ford dealer when he won't sell me a new Windstar minivan with a stereo made by Nissan? The statements in the article regarding Bill Gates' personal wealth give away your real problem.

Either the market is free and open or it is not. There is no government-managed middle ground. Either you favor free markets or you don't. There is no such thing as a monopoly, unless it is one that is granted by the government and backed by government force (for example, the U.S. Postal Service). Compete in this market and the government will shut you down by force. For the record, I don't own any stock of any companies involved.

Jamie L. Jacoby

Like it or not, I agree that "we do need Windows." What we need and, hopefully with the court's decision, will get is a common operating system. We need one that recognizes its responsibilities to the industry as a whole and does not favor any one vendor over another.

Included should be:

* A common "look and feel"

* A common user/programmer interface

* A standard I/O interface

These should be well defined and should provide the necessary "hooks" to allow developers easy and broad access to the operating system, while still maintaining the interoperability of a common system. The problems have developed as a result of Windows trying to be "everything for everyone" rather than defining the standard and letting the chips fall where they may. It is the responsibility of a device or program developer to write the necessary software for his or her needs and not the responsibility of the OS designers to constantly make changes to accommodate their every whim at the expense of others. The "hooks," however, have to be deep enough, so as to allow a device or applications designer the root access that their devices might require. To the contrary aims of a good OS company, Microsoft has consistently favored both themselves and various others to the exclusion of those innovators who do not "see things their way."

Microsoft in the '90s has become what IBM was in the '70s and '80s. The belief was "If we build, it they will buy" with no concern for whether it was a universally good product. The courts, in both cases, correctly decided that this is not product innovation, but rather a monopoly. I've been in the business since 1959 and the parallels are astounding!

Don Pomeroy

I was pleased t read your article. I found it the most "condemning" to date, but most in line with the judge's finding., which has been available online for some time. Too often, reporting of this affair (especially by those in TV and radio) has presented both the pro-Microsoft and anti-Microsoft rhetoric equally, as if weighing their truthfulness and value by how loudly their proponents have been in presenting their case.

The Microsoft propaganda engine, which is one of the strongest in this country, has been very effective in marketing to those who don't understand the computer industry and many think of the Department of Justice action as one intended to restrict free market values and motivated solely be Microsoft's competition. While it is certainly true that Microsoft's competition has been lobbying for this for some time, the Department of Justice would not have taken up this case without due cause and the Judge's findings would not have been so strong if the evidence were not there to support them. Contrary to what the Department of Justice would have the world believe, our executive and legal systems do not take up cases lightly and this is not a case of "the Department of Justice vs. the Freedom to Innovate," as the Department of Justice's web site proclaims. Luckily, those in our industry know better, Sadly, in a case of this type, there is so much money at stake that it will take years to implement any realistic rem edies.

I found the various remedies the article suggests interesting, but an important one was missed. We have many situations where a company bas been in a position similar to that of Microsoft; where there was a monopoly in place; where there was a value in having a monopoly: and where an effective solution has been realized. I'm referring to the utilities industry, which is government regulated. I'm not in favor of government involvement where it is not needed and big government has been an ill of this country for some time: however, there are cases where a regulation is a good thing. Those are cases where consistency and availability are in the public interest. At this point, it is in most peoples best interest to have a consistent and strongly supported windows desktop. This does not apply to the other Microsoft offerings (applications, developer tools, etc.). At this point, the industry and government of this country would stop without Windows. We, therefore, need to put it in the public trust via the governm ent, not some ad hoc collection of public-minded Internet communities.

Mark Klamerus

Your article offers the most lucent explanation of the case against Microsoft that I have seen.

Ken Libeler

I find it amazing that, in a recent interview with Larry King, Bill Gates said that the charges brought by the Department of Justice were a big mistake. That is to say, bringing the charges was the mistake, not any actions by Microsoft!

I disagree with you about needing Windows. I agree with your goals--seamless interoperability and exchange of information. The standards that would have to be implemented to pro vide interoperability and seamless exchange of information could be offered in the public domain. We need disk formats and file formats to be a non-issue for the end user. When standards are established with regard to these two issues, the operating system will become much less significant. Both can become transparent to the end user.

Even if we had, as you suggested. Windows from many companies, we as programmers, would be faced with Microsoft's perpetual desire to penalize those that don't choose Microsoft first. Microsoft would still be setting the standards regarding the APIs and I'll bet those would become even more of a moving target than they are today. This would also make it very difficult for other Windows manufacturers keep up with the changes imposed by Microsoft.

Even with multiple vendors providing windows clones, the issue of how User B can view a PageMaker file that he or she received from User A when User B doesn't have PageMaker has not been solved. It doesn't matter that they are both using the same version of Windows from the same manufacturer!

Brian McMurry

You wrote a great article on Microsoft. Full of true statements. Thank you.

I would like to supply you with some history of Microsoft's continual abuses since I have been in the PC industry. I started my career where Microsoft did. I used to love them, until 1988, when they turned predatory.

When I was programming in the early '80s, Microsoft had a stable operating system on which free competition existed. Lotus 123 was the most popular spreadsheet (with Borland Quattro on its heals); WordPerfect was the most dominant word processor (with Microsoft word close behind); Ashton Tate's Dbase was the de facto database (Microrim's Rbase was there, too). The hot programming language was Borland's Turbo pascal environment ($69--compared to Microsoft's development kits for $800).

Macintosh's GUI environment was the envy of every user on the planet. Microsoft knew this and created a program called Windows 286 (to compete with Gem Desktop, and some other GUI environments for DOS.). They did O.K., but it was not a stellar product.

Microsoft developed Excel for the Mac (copying a lot of features from Borland's Quattro Pro) and everyone loved it. They then created Excel for Windows. Microsoft also created word for Windows. Both pieces of software were O.K., but stability and speed were lacking.

At this time, the industry was growing and everybody was sick of the 640k barrier and Intel architecture (which we still live with today). Microsoft entered into a partnership agreement with IBM to produce the next operating system for the future. The shared development teams marketed together, convinced every company to develop for OS/2 (Dbase, Rbase, Lotus, etc.--much of NT is OS/2 technology). Microsoft had carefully crafted the legal agreement with IBM to have an ending date. It kept developing Windows and all of the applications for it. No one liked Windows very much, but everyone was waiting for OS/2. When OS/2 was released. Microsoft began its anti-IBM/SO/2 campaign, labeling it RAM PIG, poor code, bad interface, etc. The agreement terminated and Microsoft stole hundreds of IBM programmers, took much of the OS/2 development code it had carefully kept control of via licensing and ownership, much to IBM's chagrin.

Overnight, Microsoft began shipping Windows for free with every computer and copy of DOS. Word and Excel began appearing every where--they helped open the piracy market, removing all copy protection and dumping full evaluation copies everywhere. Everyone was copying disks and showing off the software.

Meanwhile. Lotus, WordPerfect, IBM, and all the other developers that spent MILLIONS on development for OS/2 had no code for Windows and began playing catch up. Their code was bloated and they didn't have access to the full set of hidden APIs in Windows that Microsoft used.

At the same time, DR Dos was making a big splash in the DOS market and Stac Electronics was making hard disk compression software. There is a lot more, but this should lend some interesting perspective to Microsoft's blatant theft of technology.

Ray Poorman Computer Systems & Services
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Publication:Computer Technology Review
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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