[unrev-II] Maddog -> The Microsoft Trial: Current Thoughts

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Wed Jul 11 2001 - 13:20:37 PDT

  • Next message: Henry van Eyken: "Re: [unrev-II] Maddog -> The Microsoft Trial: Current Thoughts"

    Forwarded from the linux alias... excellent reading.

    ------------- Begin Forwarded Message -------------
    Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 09:18:38 -0400
    From: "Jon 'maddog' Hall, Executive Director, Linux International"

    I started this response on July 4th, as I was flying from Argentina to
    Germany between two Linux events. Ironic that I started this letter on
    day associated with freedom in the United States. Yet most US citizens
    confuse the Constitution (a document which just helped facilitate
    between the thirteen colonies) with the Bill of Rights (which gave us
    freedoms). Somehow I think that the current administration leans towards
    the former and tends to forget why we struggled for the latter. This
    make it harder for all of us.

    First of all, I agree with the courts in the fact that the case was
    handled both well and poorly. We will treat the "poorly" first.

    Judge Jackson should never have made those comments to the press. Nor
    should he have allowed his feelings to influence his decision. I am not
    sure that he did, but the comments made by him leave reasonable doubt in
    my mind, and our law, for the better, says "reasonable doubt" lands on
    side of the defendants.

    Secondly, the major item in the case was the browser. Unfortunately in
    this area I agree with Microsoft, that the browser SHOULD be part of the
    operating system, and as tightly coupled as the operating system
    For technical reasons this is probably not as tight as most people
    but once the system is up and running the only thing they would see as
    main interface is the browser.

    Where the case was handled well was in the decision to break up the
    into two parts:

            o Is Microsoft a monopoly?

            o As a monopoly, did they use strategies to undermine other
             vendors and enter new markets?

    In both of these cases I believe (and the courts all agree) that the
    answer is "yes".

    Without reviewing all of the case materials here, I think it is quite
    obvious that Microsoft controls more than 90% of the desktop operating
    system marketplace with a growing marketshare of servers. That they
    their market position to bully vendors into doing their will simply
    because the vendors thought they had no alternative to Microsoft's
    products on the desktop. Without Microsoft and the ISV base they
    represent, a vendor of personal computers would have their business
    drastically curtailed, if not go out of business entirely.

    I find it interesting that the bulk of the American people don't seem to
    understand that acceptable (perhaps not "moral" or "fair") practices are
    legal when a company owns a small percentage of the marketplace, are
    ILLEGAL when that company grows beyond a rather hazy boundary. That
    Microsoft is so far over that boundry that we now have to take drastic
    action is where people differ in opinion. Judge Jackson did a fine job
    detailing this.

    I find it ironic that AT&T and Time-Warner wanted to merge, but were not
    allowed to because AT&T's DSL service linked with Time-Warner's cable
    service would mean they controlled over 40% of the marketplace. Two
    airlines recently want to merge, but they are viewed as anticompetitive
    much lower penetrations rates. Yet no one regulates Microsoft at over

    Microsoft would not be as scary if they just stuck with operating
     Sure, we would suffer under the "one OS for everything", but given some
    concentration perhaps Microsoft could up with a really good operating
    system that would meet most people's needs. And since they would have
    competition, perhaps they would ship the source code to people, to allow
    their customers to make the changes that Open Source promises today.

    But Microsoft has gone into compilers, networking, office suites, photo
    packages, and on an on, all funded by uber-profits derived from their
    operating system. In effect, Corel was funding their own competitor
    they had to purchase development copies of Microsoft Windows for their

    Now Microsoft is getting into supplying network services, buying
    of banks, portions of industry magazines (to perhaps "influence" the
    editors?) and other non-operating system businesses. They are using
    immense wealth (Gates, Allen and Ballmer together are worth
    100 Billion dollars) and notoriety (Gates talks to kings and presidents)
    to buy their way into other markets. This is when they have "only" 450
    million licenses out there. What happens when it grows to six billion?
    What happens when their software drives their networking, and both drive
    their banking services? What happens (as in the case of their online
    encyclopedia and the lovely, kind way it described Mr. Gates) when
    Microsoft controls both the delivery medium and the content (and the
    ability to influence that content unchallenged)?

    What happens when all of computer science has to be filtered through
    Redmond, Washington?

    For years I have heard the words from my contemporaries asking what
    of computer commerce that Microsoft would not be interested in, so they
    could start businesses in those areas. I think it is now clear that
    is no areas other than marginally profitable ones that Microsoft has no
    interest. When the "marginally profitable" business turns into a
    profitable one, Microsoft moves in for the kill. Ergo, what is the
    of starting the business?

    It would not even be too bad if Microsoft evaluated and bought the best
    technology in a field and integrated it into their products. At least
    people who helped to innovate the field might make a little money and
    end user would receive the best technology. Often, however, Microsoft
    goes for the second-best or third-best technology, knowing that the best
    will probably be much more expensive to buy (if the developing company
    wants to sell), and that the end-user will probably not know the
    difference. This was the case with Netscape. Microsoft could not buy
    so they bought the second or third best, then used their monopolistic
    influences to make it "number one".

    A rule of politics states that if you say something long enough, and
    enough force that people will believe you. Well, Microsoft has said the
    word "innovate" enough to make people believe that they do the
    not that:

            o the Internet came out of DARPA and the universities
            o the web came from the open community
            o pieces of Microsoft's own distribution came from the Open
            Source world

    Microsoft has both the money and press contacts to keep spreading this
    to both the people of the world and to our government representatives.

    I (and various Linux International members) feel that the officers of
    Microsoft (both current and former) should be punished for their
    They broke the law. They forced good companies out of business. They
    stifled (not encouraged) innovation.

    Now you might ask me what I would do to remedy this situation. I will
    list the remedies here:

    I. Jail the people at Microsoft who were responsible for breaking the

    Simply fining them is not enough. Most of these people are wealthy
    that they can pay great fines and not "feel" it. If I had "only" a
    BILLION dollars left after heavy fines, I still might not feel remorse
    my actions. After all, if I had not been so ruthless, I might not have
    even that billion dollars.

    But after two or three years in jail, with the stigma and the loss of
    freedom, I might think twice about breaking the law again. And this
    serve as a deterent for those who decide to break the law because they
    feel they are above it.

    II. Allow compensation to damaged companies

    Here is where Microsoft and its varied employees might feel the monetary
    pinch. This would be in addition to the jail time, not in lieu of it.

    III. Regulate Microsoft as a utility

    If Microsoft is so essential to our economy, then it should be regulated
    like AT&T was when it controlled 90% of the telephone industry in the

            o regulated profits
            o limited areas of expansion into new businesses
            o published standards (so other companies can compete)
            o regulated mergers and acquisitions

    IV. Promote standards

    At one time the military had a policy that only operating systems with
    POSIX interfaces would be purchased. This was to protect the
    of the government in applications purchased, to make sure that the
    operating systems could run those applications. To get around this
    Microsoft used two tactics:

            o create a weak set of POSIX interfaces on top of Windows NT
            o get an exception for their Windows 95 and 98 operating systems

    After a while, this ruling was worthless, as most ISVs wrote their
    applications to the Win-32 interfaces, ignoring POSIX.

    I suggest that the government change that ruling to say that (phased in
    over time) all APPLICATIONS purchased have to be written and published
    POSIX interfaces. This will force ISVs to have versions of their
    that run on POSIX compatible operating systems, and therefore have a
    better chance of running on other companies' operating systems. It will
    force Microsoft to create a better, more complete set of POSIX
    for their new operating systems that they produce, which will encourage
    even more ISVs to port to standards, instead of Microsoft's proprietary

    V. Remove funding from universities that do not promote open standards

    While Universities should be free to select the best tools for teaching,
    the government (and the public) does not have to help pay for
    software from a rogue company.

    Therefore all research grants offered by the government (both federal
    state) should specify that non-Microsoft operating systems and software
    (when available) be used for the development of research projects.

    For state-run universities, state money should only be used to support
    classes where freely distributed software (when available) is used as
    teaching tools, and Microsoft products only used when no other
    alternative exists.

    This will help students become more aware of Microsoft alternatives,
    in turn will help formulate diversity and innovation out in the

    VI. Federal and State Accreditation agencies should disallow "one vendor
    training classes" for accreditation.

    Students should not be taught "Microsoft Word for Managers" as an
    accredited college course. Instead, a course like "Comparative Word
    Processing Programs for Managers" teaching the students how to use
    different word processors (and the advantages and disadvantages of each)
    should be taught.

    There is another reason for this other than the "monopoly" issue. A
    course based on a single product has a limited lifetime, usually until
    that product has another revision. The benefit of a publically paid
    college course should not be of this short a lifetime.

    If these "one vendor" courses are still taught, the course time should
    be able to be applied to an accredited degree, and students should have
    pay extra tuition to cover the expenses of offering such a course.
    VII. Reguire Standards-based Certification for Government Computer

    There are two Certification efforts in the Open Source arena, and one
    is being developed by SAGE, a non-profit special interest group of

    Systems administrators of federal and state governments should be
    to eventually pass these certification suites, instead of the
    MSCE tests now developed by Microsoft, which only require knowledge of
    their products.

    These are the remedies that I would like to see in this case. Quite
    frankly, from a company standpoint, Microsoft should have taken the
    "breakup" and been thankful.

    I now look for =>your<= thoughts on this, and (hopefully) Mr. Nader's.
    More importantly, I look for the feedback that I asked for at that
    breakfast on March 20th at FOSE:

    What can the member companies of Linux International do to help with the
    lobbying efforts that you are carrying on with Congress?

    Warmest regards,

    Jon "maddog" Hall

    Jon "maddog" Hall
    Executive Director           Linux(R) International
    email: maddog@li.org         80 Amherst St. 
    Voice: +1.603.672.4557       Amherst, N.H. 03031-3032 U.S.A.
    WWW: http://www.li.org

    Board Member: Uniforum Association, USENIX Association

    (R)Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries.

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