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

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Wed Jul 11 2001 - 17:41:07 PDT

  • Next message: Henry van Eyken: "Re: [unrev-II] "As We May Think", The Exploratories Project & a Tour of Mindmapping Links"

    Thanks for the post Eric. The judgment part corresponds with articles in The
    Economist under the telling headings "Guilty Mictosoft" and "Loss of Trust":

    And then there is "The Rights and Wrongs of Bundling," an article in the
    rubric "Economic Focus," which is only available to subscribers or purchasers
    of the printed edition.

    For a fascinating example of an urgent, complex problem, see in the same issue
    "Europe's Fearless Diplomat" (Mario Monti, the European Union's competition

    The stories introduce also a worldwide perspective of the Microsoft case.

    Most interesting are the recommendations made by John (Maddog) Hall, notably
    the insistence on jail terms for those who break the law so blatantly, but it
    is probably easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye.

    Well, see what happens.


    Eric Armstrong wrote:

    > 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
    > a
    > day associated with freedom in the United States. Yet most US citizens
    > confuse the Constitution (a document which just helped facilitate
    > commerce
    > between the thirteen colonies) with the Bill of Rights (which gave us
    > our
    > freedoms). Somehow I think that the current administration leans towards
    > the former and tends to forget why we struggled for the latter. This
    > will
    > 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
    > the
    > 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
    > allows.
    > For technical reasons this is probably not as tight as most people
    > think,
    > but once the system is up and running the only thing they would see as
    > the
    > main interface is the browser.
    > Where the case was handled well was in the decision to break up the
    > ruling
    > 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
    > used
    > 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
    > in
    > 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
    > at
    > much lower penetrations rates. Yet no one regulates Microsoft at over
    > 90%.
    > Microsoft would not be as scary if they just stuck with operating
    > systems.
    > 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
    > no
    > 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
    > when
    > they had to purchase development copies of Microsoft Windows for their
    > corporation.
    > Now Microsoft is getting into supplying network services, buying
    > portions
    > of banks, portions of industry magazines (to perhaps "influence" the
    > editors?) and other non-operating system businesses. They are using
    > their
    > immense wealth (Gates, Allen and Ballmer together are worth
    > approximately
    > 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
    > fields
    > 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
    > there
    > is no areas other than marginally profitable ones that Microsoft has no
    > interest. When the "marginally profitable" business turns into a
    > largely
    > profitable one, Microsoft moves in for the kill. Ergo, what is the
    > sense
    > 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
    > the
    > people who helped to innovate the field might make a little money and
    > the
    > 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
    > it,
    > 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
    > with
    > enough force that people will believe you. Well, Microsoft has said the
    > word "innovate" enough to make people believe that they do the
    > innovation,
    > 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
    > FUD
    > 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
    > actions.
    > 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
    > law.
    > Simply fining them is not enough. Most of these people are wealthy
    > enough
    > 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
    > for
    > 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
    > would
    > 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
    > US:
    > 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
    > investments
    > 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
    > to
    > POSIX interfaces. This will force ISVs to have versions of their
    > products
    > 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
    > interfaces
    > for their new operating systems that they produce, which will encourage
    > even more ISVs to port to standards, instead of Microsoft's proprietary
    > interfaces.
    > 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
    > proprietary
    > software from a rogue company.
    > Therefore all research grants offered by the government (both federal
    > and
    > 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
    > reasonable
    > alternative exists.
    > This will help students become more aware of Microsoft alternatives,
    > which
    > in turn will help formulate diversity and innovation out in the
    > commercial
    > world.
    > 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
    > several
    > 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
    > not
    > be able to be applied to an accredited degree, and students should have
    > to
    > pay extra tuition to cover the expenses of offering such a course.
    > VII. Reguire Standards-based Certification for Government Computer
    > Employees
    > There are two Certification efforts in the Open Source arena, and one
    > that
    > is being developed by SAGE, a non-profit special interest group of
    > USENIX.
    > Systems administrators of federal and state governments should be
    > required
    > to eventually pass these certification suites, instead of the
    > proprietary
    > 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: 80 Amherst St.
    > Voice: +1.603.672.4557 Amherst, N.H. 03031-3032 U.S.A.
    > WWW:
    > Board Member: Uniforum Association, USENIX Association
    > (R)Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several
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