Forwarded from the linux alias... excellent reading.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
Jon "maddog" Hall
-- ========================================================================== === Jon "maddog" Hall Executive Director Linux(R) International email: email@example.com 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
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