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[P]
Microsoft: Bundling vs. Modularity

By Theovon in Op-Ed
Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:32:05 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Microsoft wants us to believe that Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player are tied so deeply in the OS that they cannot be removed. As middleware they are good things, but so is DirectX, and Microsoft doesn't say that can't be removed from the operating system. Windows is far more modular than Microsoft wants to admit to the court. Microsoft has grown to the point that they no longer need to compete, and the only way for them to survive as a company is to stop competing and start sharing. If something doesn't happen to change Microsoft's behavior, the backlash against them and other corporate giants will send proprietary software and countless tech jobs into obsolescence.


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Introduction

I am a chip designer and software developer for a small company that specializes in graphics. While I use Windows plenty, I am the only hardware designer at my company that uses Linux on his workstation, while everyone else uses Windows. Similarly, most of the software developers use Suns, and again I have gone my own way. There are many things I prefer about Windows and Solaris, but since I develop for UNIX platforms, getting a PC with Linux was very comfortable combination of fast, inexpensive hardware and a UNIX-like environment. I enjoy using Linux, but I am not a Linux zealot.

I have been paying attention to the Microsoft trial since long before there was a trial. I like to be fair but have always had reservations and complaints about the way they do business, not to mention the quality of their software. This article outlines some of my thoughts about their approach to business and technology.

What is an Operating System?

The academic debate over what is an operating system has existed since the idea was first conceived. Professors and grad students had their abstract ideals, and all the real world had computers with their own unique operating systems which fell far short of each ideal in their own varied ways.

As the decades passed, new ideas and features began working their way into our computer systems. Once, there was no such thing as virtual memory, and now every PC has it. There once was no such thing as the internet, but now no operating system (OS) would be caught dead without TCP/IP built in. Ten years ago, when games like Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein 3-D first game out, all of the 3D graphics technology was part of the game itself. By contrast, today's operating systems come with facilities like OpenGL and Direct3D that provide advanced 3D graphics in a portable and generalized manner, saving developers time and giving them easy access to the latest graphics technology.

What an operating system is has evolved dramatically over the past half century. What is considered fundamental to a particular OS varies from one to the next. While to one OS, the file system might be inextricably tied to its basic functionality, another one might consider it to be no more part of the OS than a web server, and yet a third might not even have the concept of files.

As expectations have changed, the lines between application and operating system facility have blurred. When the NCSA Mosaic web browser was first developed, it was an application which could be installed and run on various UNIX platforms as well as Windows. It was an application that was self-contained. It relied on certain basic things being in the OS, but nothing else relied on its presence. Today, Microsoft says that Internet Explorer is part of the operating system.

Bundling and Middleware

As people have striven for clarity, another academic concept has started to become popular, called "Middleware". As that idea has proliferated, and developers have wanted to combine technologies, things that were once applications have transformed so that sometimes, they are the application, and sometimes, they are an OS facility being used by another application.

But regardless of how you divide the OS from middleware and applications, users have come to expect certain things to just be there. A typical user has no concern for how you define a web browser. He just wants to surf the web. In fact, the number of things that users have come to expect to "just work" has multiplied exponentially over the past few decades.

Because of this, there is great merit in the idea of bundling key facilities with an OS. Microsoft is right to want to bundle web-browsing and multimedia facilities with their OS because many applications other than just Internet Explorer (IE) and Windows Media Player (WMP) rely on them as middleware. Because of these things, a developer of a business application can embed web and multimedia facilities by just calling up pieces of IE and WMP to do the job. That saves him a lot of work, time, and money.

This kind of modularity can also save space and development time for the OS itself. For instance, an OS need not have a web browser separate from its help system. Even though they differ in some areas, they both use the same basic hypertext approach. This means that both the help system and the "web browser" are just shells which make use of the same web browser middleware facility that is embedded in the OS.

Modularity

Modularity is an old concept which is being forced into mainstream maturity by the current state of the art in the computer consumer market. In a Computer Science class, they teach us to write software in a modular way so that code we wrote six months ago can be dropped into a new application that we are developing now. This kind of thing has to happen at one level or other in any huge software project, but that modularity stayed at the development level, hidden from the user. Now, the industry has taken this idea to a whole new level where entire programs are modules which can be plugged in and made to interoperate with everything else.

Now, we take modularity for granted. Everyone who has ever bought a new graphics card and had to install driver software has seen the benefits of modularity. The GeForce 4 you just bought to replace your old Voodoo Banshee seems to put windows and icons on your monitor screen no different from before. Windows boots up the same, and you have the same desktop that you always did. But you notice that your 3D games are a heck of a lot faster, and you can crank up all those nifty antialiasing features to the max and still be able to play the game. Because of the modular nature of the Windows operating system, a small piece of software makes every graphics card look like every other so that Microsoft Word does not know or care that you changed the hardware.

Microsoft's fear of losing market share has, however, caused them to play some games with definitions. On the one hand, to developers, Microsoft is touting their platform as a great modular system that provides all of these wonderful features out of the box. They even have nifty names for technologies they have developed to support modularity like OLE, COM, DLL, ActiveX, and now their "holy grail" .NET. On the other hand, they try to tell consumers that their OS is not modular enough to have certain things removed and that's why they have to have IE and WMP installed with every computer. Sounds to me like Microsoft is having some difficulties with being honest.

The truth is that if Windows were not modular at every level, it could not have been developed. With the hundreds upon hundreds of developers who have written pieces of what we know as "Windows", the OS has to be chopped into very small, clearly-defined pieces that can be handed to individual programmers and then assembled later. Modularity permeates every level. One group of engineers writes functions that perform primitive tasks. Another group of engineers assemble those together into features. A third group assembles sets of those into pieces of middleware. And finally, more engineers assemble those pieces together using a user interface shell that leads us to believe that everything is a unified whole.

Most importantly, that modularity has to be purely hierarchical. Every piece of code that is developed must be tested by itself, independent of anything that might rely on it, and only once the lowest levels are finished can you do anything with the next. Often, you will see one facility that relies on another, but seldom will you see two that are so interdependent that neither can run without the other. That would be a software development nightmare, and even Microsoft is not foolish enough to do things that way.

Microsoft can tell you that the file system cannot be removed from the OS. Although the file system in Windows is just as much of a module as anything else and can be replaced quite easily, you cannot really have an OS for a PC without one. Essentially everything relies on being able to access and manipulate files, but I can name hundreds of things that can run just fine under Windows without the presence of a web browser. Microsoft is justified in "tying" the file system to the OS, but the web browser?

To Bundle or not to Bundle

So which is it? First I said bundling the web browser and multimedia facilities is a good thing. Then I said the opposite.

To answer that question, let us consider another example of Windows modularity. DirectX is a collection of facilities that make it easier for game developers to manage audio, video, 3D graphics, and a number of other things. Almost everyone who has ever installed a game on their Windows PC has encountered it. Much like how IE is built on an HTML rendering facility and Windows Media is built on a collection of codecs, most Windows games are built on top of DirectX. New Windows computers today come with DirectX pre-installed, but not always in the past, and as a result, game developers have had to supply it with their games.

Going a little further back, consider Visual Basic. In the beginning, Visual Basic programs were not compiled to machine language. In order to run, a module had to be installed in the OS which provided the proper environment, and that environment was not bundled with Windows. By default, when installing an application written in VB, the installer would automatically plug in the necessary module so that the VB program would run.

The key to these Microsoft technologies was that the developer could bundle them with their application without paying a royalty to Microsoft. Even today, games that rely on DirectX do not assume your OS has the necessary software installed. The benefit to this approach is two-fold. One is that the OS comes installed without unnecessary facilities that the user may never need. The other is that if such a facility is ever needed, it can be installed with the application that uses it. DirectX and VB are only two examples of the plethora of middleware modules that can be added to Windows by an application.

The "technologies" behind IE and WMP are no different. There is no reason why Netscape could not use IE's HTML renderer or IE use Netscape's. Open standards that make things interoperable allow developers to take advantage of this kind of modularity universally. Of course, Microsoft isn't into open standards any more than they are into being nice.

A Nicer Microsoft?

Microsoft is not in the business of playing nice. Before Windows, Microsoft was just like every other company. It was a business in a competitive economy, and it had to fight tooth-and-nail against competition to make a profit. Today, Microsoft is a legally-declared monopoly which has a stockpile of tens of billions of dollars in liquid assets and little or no competition left in many areas, but they haven't shed the small-business attitude. When they had competition, they helped the economy by striving to produce something that sold better than someone else's products. Now that they are a monopoly, they hurt the economy by squashing anyone who dares to invade their territory.

Having a monopoly is not illegal. Acting to maintain it is. Because of these things, Microsoft has superseded IBM and AT&T as being the evil giant that everyone loves to hate and everyone feels forced to deal with at knifepoint. Few people I know actually like Microsoft; they just use their software because they're forced to by everyone else who is also forced to use it. Microsoft has used underhanded tactics to put out of business every company that was once competition, taking choice away from consumers. Capitalism is not perfect, but it works well because it is based on fundamental human selfishness and adversarialism. People only strive to do better when they have something to gain and someone to beat.

Now Microsoft is in trouble. They have been caught being a bully, and they may have some things taken away from them because of it. But it is amazing how they continue to act as they always have, being just as anticompetitive as ever. Unless they get an attitude shift really fast, they will suffer.

What kind of attitude shift, you may ask? My suggestion that follows is laughable and unrealistic, but they need to become a different kind of company. No longer the kid who had to compete with his siblings and schoolmates, they are now the parent who must be mature and nurturing towards the smaller people. That's a condescending way of putting it for smaller companies, but the idea is that Microsoft should remove themselves from the competitive arena. They have arrived at the end of the journey and need to fade into the background.

First, they should nurture the developments of other companies. Rather than competing with Netscape (or some other browser), they should have licensed and expanded the technology, paying royalties to Netscape and sharing in the development. Rather than developing their own media player, they should have licensed Real Player (or something better?) and paid royalties to Real. Every technology they have decided to copy in order to put someone out of business, they should have licensed from someone else. There are pros and cons to that approach, but it's cooperative, not anti-competitive. Now, the time is past for some companies, but Microsoft needs to change how they add a new facility to their OS in the future; they should prefer to pay for someone else's technology in order to help that company grow.

Second, they should nurture ideas and technology. Rather than developing proprietary technologies which they reveal only to those who do not pose a competitive threat, they should make everything open so that anyone can develop for their platform. They should give to the community, not take away. Rather than trying to compete with other operating systems through FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), they should embrace the ideas of their would-be competitors by being compatible with them. More people would use Linux if it could run Windows programs; likewise, more people would use Windows if it could run Linux programs. Rather than making their file and printer sharing incompatible with other operating systems, Microsoft should cooperate with other OS vendors to ensure that they can all interoperate. Microsoft has grown to the point where they now have the responsibility to play fair and even foster competition with themselves.

Using Windows and writing applications for Windows needs to be an easy experience. Microsoft knows this and is saying that they need to continue to behave as they have in order to maintain that. But if they were a team player and had an open attitude, they would have an even more secure hold on their dominance in the OS market because everyone would like them and want to do business with them. For a very long time, companies have lived in fear of Microsoft crushing them or suing them into oblivion if they developed something that touched Microsoft's territory. Microsoft needs to become a benefactor that helps smaller companies by providing them with development tools and distribution channels.

I think this is the only salvation for Microsoft, but I do not think they are daring enough to do it. As an idealist who would like everyone to be happy, I believe that if Microsoft turned from being everyone's enemy into being their friend, then everyone would get off their case. Unfortunately, this is also totally against human nature. Since when has any company ever been nice to anyone? Why should we expect Microsoft to turn into a non-profit charity? It would never occur to them.

The Open Source Alternative

Partly because of companies like Microsoft, things like the Open Source and Free Software movements have grown dramatically. In order to combat the strangle-hold of the corporate giant, people who want to do away with the hassle and actually get something done are turning to Free software. By their own desire to maintain the cathedral of proprietary software and profit at all cost to the consumer, Microsoft has sent the human race on a path that will make proprietary software largely obsolete.

The definition of property in our capitalist society is changing. Some have suggested that Free Software is socialistic, but that is quite contrary to the truth. Free Software has changed the definition of ownership, but it has all of the qualities that define a capitalistic approach. Rather than competing to gain money, many Free Software developers compete to gain fame. That is an even more valuable commodity. A developer is revered not because he has the greatest market share, but because he has shared the greatest amount with the market. Everyone competes to create the the best software on merit, not profit, and the competition is sometimes vicious. But at the same time, everyone has a chance to play and compete.

Conclusion

I think it is clear that there are benefits to middleware and how Microsoft is right in wanting to provide it. It is also clear that Microsoft has already solved the problem of providing that middleware without forcing it on people who have no need for it. Microsoft's only salvation is to change their fundamental approach to the software industry, but I fear that they cannot bring themselves to do it, and that will spell doom for them and many of the things they produce that are good for us. It is my sincerest hope that those involved in the Microsoft antitrust trial will learn to understand that Microsoft is not entirely lying, but not entirely telling the truth about what they can do technically. I hope they do the right thing. The backlash against commercial software that is growing as a result of Microsoft's behavior is unfortunate because much software would never be developed and many developers would not have jobs without some software being proprietary. A software industry that is entirely closed is as unbalanced as one which is entirely open, and we need to strive to maintain that balance.

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Microsoft: Bundling vs. Modularity | 157 comments (128 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
I've been working with MS 1993-2000 ... (4.41 / 12) (#3)
by cem on Thu May 02, 2002 at 04:12:48 PM EST

... as a partner company. I know a lot of MS VPs and other managers as well as Steve Ballmer. MS is a pure money making machine. A truely fascinating one. They never share. They really play the GORILLA GAME. Nobody plays it so well as MS.

You know MS inside credo? Embrace, extend, execute. Technology, markets, partners.


Young Tarzan: I'll be the best ape ever!

Bonzi Buddy (2.00 / 2) (#86)
by pin0cchio on Fri May 03, 2002 at 12:36:14 PM EST

They really play the GORILLA GAME. Nobody plays it so well as MS.

The gorilla game? You mean like this recent arc in User Friendly?

I say spank the monkey and win $20.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Face facts; you're a hardware designer (1.50 / 22) (#7)
by Assume on Thu May 02, 2002 at 04:23:55 PM EST

Why do you think you're qualified to make a judgement call on anything in the software realm?

Having had experience with all three platforms, I can say that I am definitely happiest using Linux.

You never specify why, but it's one of two things : A)The software you use to design hardware is available only on Linux or B)You're a Linux Cultist.



I'm ... just a man. Only a man.


Well... (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by Danse on Thu May 02, 2002 at 07:47:26 PM EST

He's more qualified than the judge in this case, and from what I've seen so far, he's certainly more qualified than most of Microsoft's witnesses.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Re: Face Facts (3.50 / 2) (#111)
by van of monks on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:52:03 PM EST

I love it when i see people so intrenched in using microsoft products, they dismis other companies products without any real experience with them. The difference with most Linux users, is that the majority of them switched from Microsoft products.

I use Linux because I like it. I find it easy to use, stable, I have far more control over my system( I use SGL or slack primarily), and it does everything I want it to, most far far better than any Microsoft product ever could, or any other companies product on a Microsoft platform.

Microsoft products are not easy to use, nor are they high quality. User friendly does not mean easy to use. Do some time in tech support if you dont believe me. The problems people have are not due to lack of intelligence, but poor design.

I am sure there are quite a few Linux users that use Linux b/c they hate Microsoft, but most use it b/c it is, and has been, a wonderful system to use. It is true, that one has to have some intelligence to use linux, although that seems to be changing with some of the more recent distributions. But the same is true for Windows, the difference is that for most people learning to use a computer means learning to use windows, then if one tries to switch to Linux the things they learned are not there. I firmly believe that Linux is far easier to learn if started from scratch.

But to get back to your post, you forgot C).

[ Parent ]

If I had a nickel... (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by rebelcool on Thu May 02, 2002 at 06:43:42 PM EST

for every nerd that posted his thoughts on microsoft and 'what they'll have to do - OR DIE!', i would be richer than bill gates.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

if I had a penny (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by cetan on Thu May 02, 2002 at 07:36:44 PM EST

...for every time someone on k5 bitched about someone else writing on a topic they felt was overdone, I'd be able to buy  North America.
===== cetan www.cetan.com =====
[ Parent ]
If I had a farthing... (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by SIGFPE on Thu May 02, 2002 at 08:05:55 PM EST

...for every reply that is merely a copy of the original post with a simple substitution made to it the world would be mine...all mine!
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
if I had a hammer (5.00 / 3) (#76)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:55:54 AM EST

IF I HAD A HAMMER
Peter Paul and Seeger/Hayes- Ludlow Music Corp. - BMI

If I had a hammer,
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land

I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a bell,
I'd ring it in the morning,
I'd ring it in the evening,
All over this land

I'd ring out danger,
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a song,
I'd sing it in the morning,
I'd sing it in the evening,
All over this land

I'd sing out danger,
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

Well I got a hammer,
And I got a bell,
And I got a song to sing, all over this land.

It's the hammer of Justice,
It's the bell of Freedom,
It's the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

It's the hammer of Justice,
It's the bell of Freedom,
It's the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

Ah sorry, off-topic....or is it ;-)

[ Parent ]

If I had a hammer (none / 0) (#148)
by pwhysall on Mon May 06, 2002 at 06:05:36 PM EST

There'd be no more folk singers.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]
If I had a tenth of a penny (5.00 / 4) (#31)
by Majromax on Thu May 02, 2002 at 08:06:00 PM EST

... for every time someone did an "if I had a <foo>" comparison that was a few dozen orders of magnitude off, I'd be able to...

Oh wait, nevermind.

[ Parent ]

If I had a piece of crap... (1.50 / 2) (#40)
by Tachys on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:46:47 AM EST

For every post complaining about an article being MS-centric I would have a lot of crap.

Any game that gets banned by the Austrailian govt can't be all bad... - Armaphine
[ Parent ]

You're right; it's a wet dream (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by epepke on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:50:51 PM EST

I mentioned this in the editing process. Just once I'd like someone to explain why they think something bad is going to happen to Microsoft if they don't do a particular thing. From where I see it, Microsoft gets to do whatever they want, and there isn't the slightest inkling of a smidgeon of a trace of a hint of the barest possibility of evidence that anything bad will happen to them.

Microsoft isn't IBM. They're Cuba. As long as Gates and Ballmer are alive, they will do whatever they want and get away with it.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
So... (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by loucura on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:18:59 PM EST

You're suggesting we assassinate Gates and Balmer?

[ Parent ]
Nothing like a little insanity... (3.00 / 1) (#117)
by rebelcool on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:22:33 PM EST

to prove to the rest of world geeks really are that out of touch with reality.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Overall a good (albeit long) story, save 2 things (4.25 / 8) (#26)
by skim123 on Thu May 02, 2002 at 07:39:38 PM EST

Overall your submission is good (voted +1) and I think it should generate some good discussion, although I think your argument hinges on the presupposition that "Microsoft is evil," which is a viewpoint I do not take.

I like to be fair but have always had reservations and complaints about the way they[, Microsoft,] do business, not to mention the quality of their software.

I happen to think, overall, Microsoft makes good software. I know it is the prevailing opinion of many Linux fans, university students, etc., but I think it is ill-founded. But what does quality of software mean? How does one define it? Being a user, I'll define it as the software being easy to use and able to help me get the job I need to get done, done.

Linux users may point to Windows 9X and the BSOD. I agree, when I used Win9x I got a lot of BSODs and those are annoying and lead to frustration, thus hampering the accomplishing of some task. Linux/UNIX as an operating system is much more stable than Win9x, I grant you this. What about Windows 2000, though? Windows XP? I've not used XP, but I have been running 2k since September '99 and I find it very usable and of high quality. I have another box that runs Linux and both boxes have comparible uptimes, if that's what you wish to use as a metric.

Moving beyond operating systems, let's examine Microsoft's other software, which I contend is quite useful and of high quality, yet you (and many others in the "Microsoft sucks" camp) disagree. I use IE 6.0 to browse the Internet, and it is a great, high quality piece of software in my opinion. You may point to potential security holes that IE has had and think "crappy Microsoft," but realize that other competitors have had similar problems (Netscape has had many known security holes in it over the years, for example). Now, examine non-MS software, especially on a non-MS platform. It is year 2002 and for some reason the Suns at my school have Netscape 4.x installed on them (and on many of the PCs too!). I've used Netscape 4.x on my Linux box at home (as well as Mozilla and Opera). I also used IE 4.0 extensively when it was out, doing (mostly) server-side Web development at the time. Can you honestly say that Netscape 4.x is better than IE 4?

Now you may say, "Hey wait, you just said don't compare Windows9x to Linux because it's 'old hat,' so why are you comparing old browsers?" Good point. Ok, have you used Mozilla on Linux? I don't know about you, but opening a Web page spikes my computers CPU cycles to full capacity for a good 1 to 2 seconds. (Opera is much better, and it's been on par to IE 6, IMO.) I am not intending to just point the finger at non-MS software and say, "It sucks," because there are very good non-MS products out there that I use on a daily basis (Opera, as aforementioned; WinAmp; nedit; etc.), but to claim that Microsoft makes crappy software? I think that is a bit of a stretch. In fact, I think they make damn good software.

Having a monopoly is not illegal. Acting to maintain it is.

This wording makes it sound like once a company is declared a legal monopoly they must stop competing. I believe the only restrictions on them is that they can't use their monopolistic powers to grow other non-monopolistic portions of their business. That is, Microsoft was sued for trying to use their OS monopoly to grow their Web browser monopoly.

First, they should nurture the developments of other companies. Rather than competing with Netscape (or some other browser), they should have licensed and expanded the technology, paying royalties to Netscape and sharing in the development.

The only reason Microsoft went after Netscape with such vigor was because Netscape was threatening to build middleware that would make Microsoft's OS obsolete. Given this threat you would want Microsoft to fund their competitors? How much money does your company give to its competition each year?

Are you willing to extend your idea to other arenas? Should the Vons down the street (a large supermarket chain here in California) have to let the independent fruit seller guy on the corner have a spot in their shop? Should Vons have to buy from this small guy?

As an idealist who would like everyone to be happy, I believe that if Microsoft turned from being everyone's enemy into being their friend, then everyone would get off their case. Unfortunately, this is also totally against human nature. Since when has any company ever been nice to anyone? Why should we expect Microsoft to turn into a non-profit charity? It would never occur to them.

While you may think this might make "everyone happy" I can think of a list of folks who it would infuriate:

  • Microsoft's stockholders
  • The employees of Microsoft, who will soon be jobless (a non-profit charity cannot support Microsoft's 30,000-odd employee base)
  • The families of the employees who will be out of a job.

The definition of property in our capitalist society is changing. Some have suggested that Free Software is socialistic, but that is quite contrary to the truth. Free Software has changed the definition of ownership, but it has all of the qualities that define a capitalistic approach. Rather than competing to gain money, many Free Software developers compete to gain fame. That is an even more valuable commodity. A developer is revered not because he has the greatest market share, but because he has shared the greatest amount with the market. Everyone competes to create the the best software on merit, not profit, and the competition is sometimes vicious. But at the same time, everyone has a chance to play and compete.

The thing we should be striving for is a free market, so if you get your kicks from programming for free and getting fame, go for it, but why should that preclude me from trying to sell my software? Also, last time I checked my bank was wanting me to send in my mortgage payment in US dollars, not PFP (programming fame points).

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


How to maintain a monopoly (4.80 / 5) (#37)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 02, 2002 at 10:28:56 PM EST

Look at Intel for a good example. They guard their IP fiercely, but they license it to anyone who wants to (such as AMD), and they make all of their docs freely-accessible, and publish complete, thorough books which detail every single little facet regarding how to interface with their chips. They even give these resources away to students (all you have to do as a student if you want a printed, bound copy of, say, the 80686 instruction set is to ask and they'll send it to you for free - shipping included).

This is a good way to maintain a monopoly without pissing off users or attracting the attention of the DOJ, while still being quite profitable (and even their relative niceness of licensing their patents gives them plenty of profit).
--
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]

Really? (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by astatine on Fri May 03, 2002 at 02:09:24 AM EST

I obtained a set of Pentium docs a few years ago, and they didn't contain any of the processor control or memory management stuff, just instructions used by applications. An appendix indicated that that part of the specification was available only upon execution of a non-disclosure agreement. Bleh.




Society, they say, exists to safeguard the rights of the individual. If this is so, the primary right of a human being is evidently to live unrealistically.Celia Green
[ Parent ]
Odd, but unsurprising (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by fluffy grue on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:18:54 AM EST

The 386 docs (which I had) were complete, and the Pentium Pro docs (which a friend of mine had) were mostly complete (though they'd neglected to put in some the conditional move instructions), but the Pentium was during a rather brief "let's try to be really secretive" phase; like, apparently they tried to keep MMX incredibly secret, but Microsoft (of all the people) threatened not to support MMX at all in their compilers unless they opened up the instruction set.

Regardless, the rung 0 stuff on Pentium is, from what I understand, no different than 386, or at least not importantly so. You don't really need any Pentium-specific stuff anyway, since the 386 stuff works just fine on it. :)
--
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]

Narrow quality comparison (5.00 / 3) (#72)
by Peaker on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:35:58 AM EST

but I have been running 2k since September '99 and I find it very usable and of high quality. I have another box that runs Linux and both boxes have comparible uptimes, if that's what you wish to use as a metric.

A collection of small things make Linux a much better and simpler user experience for me. For example, recently, I bought a new hard disk. Through Linux, I created a partition for Windows with the _exact_ same properties as it had on the older hard disk. I created a new partition for Linux. I copied all of my Linux files to the new disk, and it booted on the new disk without a problem. I copied the _entire_ NTFS partition bit-by-bit to the new _identical_ partition, but Windows didn't seem to like that.

Windows booted up from that partition, except that it seemed to have an "auto-recognition" of its partition being some different partition and insisted on naming it F: instead of C:. Then, after logging in, it gave me 10 seconds of work, after which it automatically logged out. I found this quite absurd, and didn't manage to find a way to fix the problem in the 10 seconds I had while it let me log in.

Then I tried reinstalling Windows from its CD. Its "automatic" features obviously never asked me whether I want to overwrite LILO, but did it anyway.

Its a collection of these small "automatic features" and many other small problems that make Win2K a far worse user experience than Linux, that can be configured to be as invasive as a user wants.

Also, I don't find anything quite comparable to apt in Windows, which makes up a lot of my Debian Linux user experience.

[ Parent ]

DirectX (3.66 / 3) (#28)
by Danse on Thu May 02, 2002 at 07:50:52 PM EST

As middleware they are good things, but so is DirectX, and Microsoft doesn't say that can't be removed from the operating system.

I don't know of any way to remove DirectX from Windows 2000. Is it actually possible?






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
no (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by eviltwin on Thu May 02, 2002 at 08:02:36 PM EST

because in 2000 and XP it is an integrated part of the operating system and not an add on - and why would you want to ?

All generalisations are false, including this one.
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't... (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by Danse on Thu May 02, 2002 at 09:02:40 PM EST

Guess I just wondered because the article seems to say that it's removeable. Guess that only applies to NT and Win98 and earlier.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
oh ok i see (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by eviltwin on Thu May 02, 2002 at 09:37:38 PM EST

Yeah it was an optional component in those - althought win98 and ME basically needed it to work

All generalisations are false, including this one.
[ Parent ]
Why? (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by binaryalchemy on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:36:57 AM EST

But you could if you wanted to. Just run dxdiag, delete every file under "DirectX Files" (No, don't really do it, there are some none DirectX files in there too). None of the normal Windows interface depends on DirectX, it's all GDI.
------
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft E
[
Parent ]
Because Win2k is a server OS (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by pin0cchio on Fri May 03, 2002 at 12:32:30 PM EST

Why?

Why would one need DirectX on a Windows 2000 Advanced Server in a rack?


lj65
[ Parent ]
yes, it's possible (none / 0) (#145)
by rehan on Sun May 05, 2002 at 05:45:15 PM EST

Just unregister and delete all the dlls that implement the directX objects. is that really so difficult?

Stay Frosty and Alert


[ Parent ]
Wrong on several points (2.13 / 15) (#44)
by Rasman on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:40:44 AM EST

First of all, Microsoft, by far, makes the best software. Whether this is because competitors are stamped out or not is not my point. Several times I've tried to stray from Microsoft to things like StarOffice or AbiWord or WordPerfect and they all suck compared to Microsoft's product.

Secondly, there are an uncountable number of instances where IE follows open standards and Netscape does not. I am a web developer by trade and when I read "must work in Netscape" in the requirements, I groan every time. Netscape has so fewer features and so many more bugs than IE! I'd love to hear a logic explanation about why IE is not the best browser (on Windows).

I was, however, interested in the discussion and think it worthy of the front page.

How about "Too Invasive and Patronizing" (3.54 / 11) (#45)
by Stealth Tuna on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:52:22 AM EST

I'd love to hear a logic explanation about why IE is not the best browser (on Windows).

While i agree that the competition is in many ways technologically worse, with MSIE i often have the feeling the browser has a bit of a will of its own. Perhaps it's the way it starts its own "Media Player" or "Search the internet with MSN" bars, or the way that it automatically tries to download all sorts of plugins from microsoft.
Perhaps it's the way it treats you, like a small frightened child that can't handle descriptive error messages, even with "friendly error messages" turned off. Why would you care if the DNS lookup failed or if the server refused connection? It would only confuse you, poor baby. MSIE will shield you from all that terrible technical talk.

Now listen to me, Microsoft Internet Explorer, i do not need your "help".

[ Parent ]

Sounds like your problem (1.85 / 7) (#61)
by Jevesus on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:03:40 AM EST

If you think of Microsoft's userfriendly approach as patronizing, maybe it's you who have a problem with your self-esteem rather than whatever idea flew into your mind..

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
My self-esteem aside... (5.00 / 4) (#62)
by Stealth Tuna on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:43:20 AM EST

Perhaps i did not explicate myself properly.

The problem is that when it decides to do something automatically, it never does what i was planning on doing. This means that i have to undo the automatic action before i can do what i wanted to do. This is not only true with IE but also with the various programs in the office suite, that are actually rather good once all the "auto" options have been disabled.

If i have to judge by the amount of time "saved" by their approach, it should be dubbed user-hindering, not user-friendly.

[ Parent ]

That's odd (1.25 / 4) (#63)
by Jevesus on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:47:24 AM EST

You seem to have a very different version of Internet Explorer, and Office, than I have.. or are there deamons in your head by any chance?

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
Could very well be. (4.66 / 3) (#64)
by Stealth Tuna on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:56:27 AM EST

The IE in winXP (i think it's version 6) is considerably more stubborn than version 4 or 5 that i used to have before i upgraded. Perhaps i just haven't found all the options to make it shut up yet.
Office has had the annoying autoformat/autocorrect options since the early stone age.

As an aside, if you can't handle a difference of opinions without repeatedly inferring the other person is mentally ill or otherwise deficient, maybe it's time to have your own psyche examined professionally.

[ Parent ]

Hmm. No, that's what I have (1.00 / 1) (#138)
by Jevesus on Sat May 04, 2002 at 08:04:07 PM EST

Noo, I use Windows XP, with Internet Explorer 6, aswell. In fact, I've never experienced the weird supposed behaviour that you describe in any version of either Internet Explorer, Office, or, Windows. That's funny.

I'll have my psyche examined when I start seeing things that, basically, aren't there. As for you, more power to you in all your quests.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]

Make sure you never go into education, or politics (1.50 / 2) (#68)
by Parrot Fish on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:24:30 AM EST

With an attitude like that you'll get you ass handed to you in no time.

[ Parent ]
oh please (4.80 / 10) (#48)
by christfokkar on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:41:53 AM EST

First of all, Microsoft, by far, makes the best software.

Oh come on, that's silly.  The reason why Microsoft makes "the best software" is because of how you have defined it.  Many people think that Linux is better software because their definition of "good" is based more on technical merit than seamless UI.

Your argument is almost tautological because Microsoft has a 15-year product legacy.  Windows is "good," and so in order for it to remain "good," Microsoft merely needs to add features incrementally.  But in order for a competitor to be "good," they have to rewrite Windows from scratch every time.  Witness Netscape and their shitty custom UI.

Whether this is because competitors are stamped out or not is not my point.

This is sort of a critical legal issue for you to simply ignore.

I'd love to hear a logic explanation about why IE is not the best browser (on Windows).

Most people would agree that it is, but Microsoft was able to pour millions of dollars into making it happen.

Meanwhile, Opera is nearly as good, or perhaps better - I, for example, don't have a clear preference between the two.  Yet Opera was created with far fewer development resources and no market advantage.  

So tell me again why Microsoft is so great?  Because they spent vastly more money to create the exact same product?

[ Parent ]

IE is inferior to Mozilla and here's why. (4.16 / 6) (#57)
by lonesmurf on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:56:41 AM EST

Security. Java script exploits, pop-ups abound, active X nightmares, broken certificates, inability to manage cookies and ad images properly. When I use IE I get the distinct feeling that my computer is trying very hard to wrangle itself out of my control.

I love how mozilla is more stable, more compliant, free and best of all, under my control. Not only that, it's getting better all the time.

I'd have agreed with you a year and a half ago when mozilla was a buggy mess, but after using it exlusively for the last four months (both on windows and on my mac powerbook) I have to say that I just can't complain.

And it does all this without being wedged into the operating system.


Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


[ Parent ]
What about java applets? (3.00 / 3) (#60)
by Rasman on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:02:57 AM EST

In the past, I've always dumped Mozilla because it always sort of claimed to have a java applet plug-in, but it never really did when you went to the site. Once I got it to work under RedHat, but it took hours of searching for the right file and plugging it in to the right place, etc...

Is that better now? If it isn't built in, will it at least forward me to a link to download the plug-in?

And is there a better source for themes than the "get themes" link in the browser's menu? The ones there are pretty lame.

[ Parent ]
Re: What about java applets? (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by sjmurdoch on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:30:33 AM EST

I just downloaded the JDK/J2SDK (or JRE if you don't want to write any Java) from http://java.sun.com/

Then install it as instructed and copy the file jre/plugin/i386/ns600/libjavaplugin_oji.so into the Mozilla plugins directory (normally /usr/local/mozilla/plugins/)
--
Steven Murdoch.
web: My Home Page
[ Parent ]

Gosh, it's just that easy, eh? (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by Rasman on Fri May 03, 2002 at 12:00:22 PM EST

Oh, okay, so I just move the /plugin/i386/ns600/libjavaplugin_oji.so file into the /usr/local/mozilla/plugins/ directory to enable java applets. Oh, sure, this browser is going to compete against IE for the desktop of the common user!

[ Parent ]
This is a known issue... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by aluminumaloi on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:34:17 PM EST

And people are working to resolve it.  Keep in mind that Mozilla is still in a prerelease state.

[ Parent ]
Linux? (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by codepoet on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:52:00 PM EST

Umm, well, considering you're talking about Linux, I think not.

However, in Mac OS X you just download the MRJ plugin from versiontracker.com, drop it in the plug ins folder, and restart Moz and you're on your way.

So, I think it will compete in the near future.  Most of the lists I'm on have people sending mail from Moz daily, if that's any indication.

If I say what I mean and mean what I say then when do I say what I mean and mean what I did not say if when I mean what I say I say what I mean? Cheese!
[ Parent ]

It's too ugly, though (none / 0) (#100)
by Rasman on Fri May 03, 2002 at 03:04:29 PM EST

Mozilla contrasts so much with everything else in OS X that I prefer Mac IE on my Powerbook. Mac IE renders things a bit askew, and often locks up, but I love the Download Manager. What a great feature that other browsers just don't have. Oh well... We can dream of the perfect software anyway...

Oh yeah, my question... Why is there no Aqua theme for Mozilla? I would switch to Mozilla in a second if it looked a little better. Am I being too vain? :-)

[ Parent ]
oh lord (3.00 / 2) (#109)
by lonesmurf on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:02:48 PM EST

Mac IE 5 is bar none the absolutely most compliant browser on any platform. It doesn't render anything I've ever written even slightly incorrectly whereas I still have stupid problems occasionally with table backgrounds and such in iCab and Mozilla.

Can't say I blame you about the look and feel, but you have got to be kidding about the download manager. It's not that great.


Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


[ Parent ]
Why there is no aqua theme for Mozilla (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by vectro on Fri May 03, 2002 at 06:07:18 PM EST

Because Apple will sue anyone that tries to write one.

If there were an aqua theme for Mozilla, you could use it on non-Mac platforms. And we can't have that, now can we?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Latest Mozilla (none / 0) (#115)
by dvNull on Fri May 03, 2002 at 06:50:04 PM EST

Fits in perfectly with the rest of your Aqua desktop

dvNuLL


If you can see this, then the .sig fell off.
[ Parent ]

Chimera (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by nedrichards on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:00:38 PM EST

You might want to try chimera then. It's a native osx app that uses the gecko engine and comes at you from the might of mozilla.org

[ Parent ]
Don't copy the file, (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by binaryalchemy on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:21:46 PM EST

make a symlink. It needs a real copy in jre/plugin/i386/ns600/libjavaplugin_oji.so and you'll end up shooting your self in the foot if the two copies ever differ.
------
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft E
[
Parent ]
IE, Netscape and the rest (4.75 / 8) (#50)
by vrt3 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:58:27 AM EST

Secondly, there are an uncountable number of instances where IE follows open standards and Netscape does not. I am a web developer by trade and when I read "must work in Netscape" in the requirements, I groan every time. Netscape has so fewer features and so many more bugs than IE!

First off: when you say Netscape, do you mean 4.x or the new Mozilla-based one? If you mean the old one, you're right about that; you will find that Mozilla (and Netscape versions derived from it, but I prefer Mozilla itself) has much better standard support.

I'd love to hear a logic explanation about why IE is not the best browser (on Windows).

My point of view is this: IE is not a bad browser. Perhaps it's the best, perhaps it's not; Opera and Mozilla are on about the same level, I think, but that doesn't really matter, in a sense.
What is bad is the fact that one browser (IE in this case) developed by the monopoly-of-the-dat (currently Microsoft) has 97% market share. It allows Microsoft to include non-standard features, and encourages web designers to design their websites in a way that they can only be viewed with IE (how many websites say 'designed for Internet Explorer?). In a very artifical way often: there are lots of websites that refuse to load when not viewed with IE, even tough Mozilla, Opera or Konqueror render them perfectly when their user agent string is modified to trick the website in believing they're really IE.

This wouldn't happen when more browsers have larger shares in the market. Web designers will use real standards, and their will be an incentive for browser developers to make their browsers perfectly standards compliant. Live would be better for everyone (except the monopoly itself): web pages that follow the standards can be viewed by everyone on every (standards compliant) browser. No more need for javascripts differentiating between browsers, no more 'You need Internet Explorer to view this website'.
When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity. -- George Bernard Shaw
[ Parent ]

Need to be "better than" (4.00 / 5) (#53)
by Rasman on Fri May 03, 2002 at 06:45:07 AM EST

when you say Netscape, do you mean 4.x or the new Mozilla-based one?

4.x is so bad it's not even worth talking about. Mozilla is okaaay, but it feels a little clunky and a little slow (I'm sure I'll get lots of protests from that word, but to me it feels slow). Certainly it's slower to start. Perhaps this is because many of the libraries for IE are already loaded when the OS boots..who knows.

I agree with the brunt of your argument which is: "There are many browsers that are almost as good, if not as good, as IE, but the problem is that not enough people use them to keep web developers from using proprietary Microsoft IE code in their web pages."

Although breaking MS up and making IE be an "option" during Windows install would help this, I don't think it's the main thing that needs to happen. The problem is that IE's competitors are "as good as" IE. They need to be "better than" IE before the general public, beginning with corporate decisions and eventually filtering down into Joe Surfer's home, will feel a need to change.

[ Parent ]
Not anymore (4.16 / 6) (#54)
by brunes69 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:11:37 AM EST

Mozilla is okaaay, but it feels a little clunky and a little slow (I'm sure I'll get lots of protests from that word, but to me it feels slow). Certainly it's slower to start.

When was the last time you tried mozilla? M18 or something? Download the latest MOzilla 1.0 RC1 and give it a spin. Wuen the quickload option is enabled, Mozilla starts FASTER than IE5.5 in Windows 2000 for me, at least by 1 second, perhaps more. And everyone knows the rendering speed beats IE hands down. The biggest drawback until recently has been the UI speed, but great strides have been made there over the past few milestones, especially on Windows. Just yesterday I had a coworker come up to me and remark on what cool looking browser I had. Tabbed browsing, popup blocking, sidebar, standards compliance, no security holes, how can you NOT love Mozilla? you can even get an IE skin that looks just like old Internet Exploder.



---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]
Feels slower... All a trick of the mind. (none / 0) (#128)
by mold on Sat May 04, 2002 at 02:31:06 AM EST

Mozilla manages to speed things up by keeping itself alive in the background, which is the same way that IE speeds itself up. However, the first time you load it has to set everything up; IE does this as the OS loads, so you don't really notice it. While there is no real difference, it will still feel like it takes longer, since you have two loading processes (OS and browser), instead of one.

I didn't know that its rendering speed beat IE's hands down. Using the latest Mozilla and IE, IE generally wins on my system. I only use Mozilla for testing sites I build, along with Opera 4-6, Netscape 3-4, and IE 4-6.

IE is very compliant with standards, and I'm (sometimes) glad that MS has its own features. Almost any code that I write for either NS4 or Mozilla works in IE 5.5+. Generally I have three blocks of code: NS4, IE4, and then a standards compliant block for IE5+, Mozilla, and Opera. As to MS's features, while a bit unused for professional sites, when the Mozilla team announced that they would support code along the lines of "innerHTML, outerHTML, ..." I was extatic. Some of those fringe coding methods MS adds in are amazingly useful at times.

---
Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
[ Parent ]

True (4.40 / 5) (#55)
by vrt3 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:50:05 AM EST

Not only do they need to be better in order for people to switch; the improvement needs to be obvious to the candidate-user.

I don't like Microsoft being a monopoly, their embrace-and-extend philosophy etc as much as the average /. reader (or rather more like half that), and obviously they should be punished when they do illegal things. But there's another side to the story: how did they come so far? Because the public has used MS products since the days of MS-DOS without even asking. Not because there were no alternatives: CP/M, DR-Dos, OS/2 in the x86 world and many more when you consider other platforms.Why then? I don't know. One way or the other, the public regards MS products as normal; anything other is 'alternative'.

Breaking them up won't change that, I'm afraid.

I'm not an economist, but AFAIK one of the underlying assumptions in free market theory is that consumers have perfect knowledge of the market, and buy products of a certain quality, for a certain price and in a certain quantity according to their needs and their budger. I have the impression that this assumption in many cases doesn't hold, and that is the cause of much of the problems in modern society. Consumers not knowing (or being blind for) the value of MS alternatives, and buy MS products at MS conditions is just one example.
When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity. -- George Bernard Shaw
[ Parent ]

Some Corrections (5.00 / 3) (#70)
by the coose on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:01:30 AM EST

.. how did they come so far? Because the public has used MS products since the days of MS-DOS without even asking. Not because there were no alternatives: CP/M, DR-Dos, OS/2 in the x86 world and many more when you consider other platforms.Why then?

Remember, they were found guilty of abusing their monopoly. That's illegal and is how they came so far. CP/M and DR-DOS? Heh, that's comparing apples to oranges. OS/2 is a better comparison. The only PCs that shipped with OS/2 in the '90s were, AFAIK, PCs coming out of IBM's PC Company. OEMs were locked into either shipping Windows only for a discount price, or shipping multiple OSes, Windows included, but MS would charge a lot more for their OS. I believe this alone is what killed OS/2. It never had a chance since by that time Windows was already so popular and OEMs couldn't justify spending the extra money for Windows just to ship OS/2. It's a shame, Windows is only now catching up to the stability that OS/2 exhibited 7 or 8 years ago.

[ Parent ]

Ok... (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by vrt3 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:51:02 AM EST

I didn't know MS locking the OEMs already in the early '90s. Apart from my very first PC (which came with MS-DOS 3.3) (it was actually my father's), I've bought all of my computers without any OS, so the issue of OEM lock-in is something I sometimes forget about.
When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity. -- George Bernard Shaw
[ Parent ]
no they don't (4.25 / 4) (#80)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:27:55 AM EST

They need to be "better than" IE before the general public, beginning with corporate decisions and eventually filtering down into Joe Surfer's home, will feel a need to change.
I have two words for you: AOL CDs. That's what it'll really take for mozilla/netscape to catch up, not corporate trickle down effects. How many of your AOL using friends/family even know what IE is? But they still use the software that's on those CDs...

[ Parent ]
Quick Launch (4.00 / 4) (#81)
by mercutio on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:34:26 AM EST

Have you tried the Quick Launch feature of Mozilla 1.0 RC1 (I don't know if it was in earlier versions)? I switched over from IE to Mozilla at that point and never looked back. Mozilla loads just as fast as IE does now. Not only that, but the pages render just as good or BETTER than IE and I like the way the preferences are laid out in Mozilla a lot more. I also like the cookie manager. My only complaint is the ugly icons, but I fixed that with grayrest's icon pack :)

[ Parent ]
97%? (Mozilla is Unstoppable) (4.00 / 3) (#77)
by patina on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:57:03 AM EST

I question that number (which maybe comes from OneStat?). There's a decent discussion of this over at OSNews. Have a look at Google's stats, which suggest less than %97 going to MSIE. Yes, MSIE has a huge share of the market, but Google's "other" category has been growing in recent months.

Mozilla is currently pretty darned nifty. In fact it is the best browser I have ever used (Well, I prefer Galeon, which runs on Gecko, but Mozilla is best across all platforms.) My wife even prefers it on her ibook, and she's not big on installing software. People like it. It is growing in popularity, and there is nothing Microsoft can do to stop it. OEMs must be able to put this on their machines, because their customers will soon be demanding it.

Javascript sniffers have outlived their usefulness. Designers: Code to standards! The future is open like a poikilotherm.

[ Parent ]

Got it from the article you mention (4.33 / 3) (#79)
by vrt3 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:25:08 AM EST

I got the 97% from the article on OSNews you mention, but I just read it on the front page and didn't read the comments.

And yes, Mozilla is my favourite (sp?) too. (Except that the Acrobat Reader plugin doesn't work anymore since I installed RC1, but I'm confident that it will be fixed - it's in Bugzilla).
When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity. -- George Bernard Shaw
[ Parent ]

This is why Microsoft's legal strategy works (5.00 / 9) (#78)
by epepke on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:20:23 AM EST

In a nutshell, it's because people like you can't or won't remember.

When this action was started, Explorer was way behind Netscape. Many of the things people call "standards" started off as Netscape extensions. Even worse, Netscape's long-term plan was to provide a complete environment that people could write applications for. Not just little applets, though that was the first step. Real stuff like spreadsheets and word processors and animation packages.

Whether they could have done that or not if they hadn't been interfered with is an unanswerable question, because they were interfered with by Microsoft, essentially locked out of the OEM market by arrangements that have since been declared illegal. It would be very easy (and very stupid) to assert that they couldn't have done it anyway. Easy, because all you have to do is ignore half a decade of development. Stupid, because the things that Macromedia has done with Flash and Director and the things that Apple has done with Hypercard strongly suggest that such a thing is possible. Macromedia, of course, still exists because they have been going since the mid-1980's, but Netscape was a startup. So Netscape was effectively killed.

Now, one of the things about the legal system is that, when you file a suit, you have to specify what the suit is about. From then on, you're limited to that. So, the suit is limited to what was current half a decade ago. Maybe Explorer is the "best browser" now, but it certainly wasn't when the suit was filed. Furthermore, it is not terribly equivocable to argue that if Explorer is the best, it is substantially because Microsoft killed competition in a way that has been declared against the law by the judiciary. It's easy to become the smartest person by shooting everyone who is smarter than you through the lungs. It isn't very admirable five years later to declare, "Who cares if I shoot them? They're dead anyway. Besides, I'm the smartest."


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Backlash (4.00 / 6) (#49)
by enterfornone on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:55:10 AM EST

If backlash occurs then by all means let it. The market should tell MS what they should provide, not the government or the courts.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
The Market? (5.00 / 2) (#95)
by codepoet on Fri May 03, 2002 at 02:03:39 PM EST

All the market is saying is, "Harder! Harder! Beat me harder! Oh! Harder!"

Since I'm not a part of the market, so I don't like that solution.

If I say what I mean and mean what I say then when do I say what I mean and mean what I did not say if when I mean what I say I say what I mean? Cheese!
[ Parent ]

Not part of the market (4.50 / 2) (#108)
by enterfornone on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:54:40 PM EST

If you aren't part of the market, then you shouldn't care what they do. If the market wants to be beaten harder, why stop them?

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
developer backlash not strong enough (4.00 / 1) (#121)
by gps on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:21:32 PM EST

I have encountered plenty of developers who are perfectly happy to fulfill microsoft's wet dream.  They are just in it for the money and could care less about the big picture figuring they have no hope of changing that.  They will gladly use whatever microsoft throws their way because they know that someone will pay them for it regardless of it means they are microsoft's bitch.

sad and pathetic.  but true.

[ Parent ]

Degree of documentation (4.72 / 11) (#51)
by thebrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 06:05:02 AM EST

What struck me about the first paragraph is that, as far as I can ascertain, it isn't known in any detail how and if desktop Windows XP is modularised at the code and design level (rather than talking generalities in a courtroom) or even if there is adequate internal documentation for a competent third party to determine the degree of modularisation!

In tandem with this there are a host of other issues such as 'to what degree is the design of Windows XP documented at all?'.

My test is 'suppose every single employee of Microsoft was instantly struck dead. Would other people be able to come in and continue development in a reasonable time?'

I suspect not, although I'd be pleased to be wrong. I've seen various quotes (taken out of context in software engineering and management tomes) in which Bill Gates and other Microsoft employees have said that Microsoft's business is to write software, not design it or document it, which suggests that something, somewhere, is lacking.

Perhaps... (3.71 / 7) (#59)
by Aphexian on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:01:48 AM EST

>it isn't known in any detail how and if desktop Windows XP is modularised at the code and design level (rather than talking generalities in a courtroom)

True from a code level. However from a user level - I urge you to take a look at XP embedded. I believe they still offer a free 120 day developer kit.

You'd be surprised how much they can strip out and still be functional. Their big claim to fame was that XP embedded was even smaller (disk space wise) than NT embedded.

[I]f there were NO religions, there would be actual, true peace... Bunny Vomit
[ Parent ]

test perspective (4.40 / 5) (#71)
by ethereal on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:06:52 AM EST

I don't think that they could effectively test Windows XP prior to shipping it without it being modular. The various modules may have undocumented and/or artificial dependencies on one another right now, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still more modular than not, and it doesn't mean that a small investment of effort couldn't make the whole thing completely modular.

Really, a court decree that required a modular Windows would probably be one of the better things to happen for software quality at Microsoft. They'd actually have to do a lot more system design ahead of time and figure out where they are going before they dive in and code new features. I bet it would improve their security track record, too.

Anybody who says that their business is to write software but not design it or document it shouldn't last too long in a free market which values software quality. So either the software industry doesn't value quality, or the market isn't really free in this area (probably a little of both).

--

Every time you read this, God wishes k5 had a "hide sigs" option. Please, think of the
[
Parent ]

it doesn't matter (4.16 / 6) (#73)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:41:17 AM EST

My test is 'suppose every single employee of Microsoft was instantly struck dead. Would other people be able to come in and continue development in a reasonable time?'
Consumer operating systems have a half-life of what, 3/4 years? If Microsoft disappeared overnight, it wouldn't really matter. It would clear up the way for several companies to write new/other operating systems, which they could do in a relatively short period of time. Companies who have already invested in Microsoft infrastructure would continue using it for a few years, and then switch to whatever o/s appeared most promising then.

Don't believe me? How often has exactly this happened in the past? Companies switched from DOS to Windows 3.1+, from Netware to Microsoft networking, from Wordstar to Wordperfect to MS Word, from Lotus 123 to Excel. Every one of these changes was an infrastructural nightmare, I'm sure.

So what I'm getting at is: who cares if MS don't have a really modular system and enough internal documentation? If they don't their systems will collapse in a logistical hell. But replacing these systems is easier than Microsoft would have you believe, especially if it's going to be other companies that do it from scratch.

What Microsoft are doing is essentially arguing both sides of their case, which is a great way of steering the debate. On one side, they refuse to be labeled a predatory monopoly, by saying that they have plenty of competitors to fight, and on the other side, they overstate the importance of their products so that the lawyers and legislators believe Microsoft is vital to the economy and shouldn't be punished too severely.

"Listen Uncle Sam, you need those products we make and we're the only ones who can make 'em, but honestly the code is in such a mess that we can't guarantee we can do those changes you want, we'll do our best though".

[ Parent ]

I disagree (4.66 / 3) (#89)
by thebrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:24:31 PM EST

My belief was, and is, that they don't document properly yet things keep going because of vernacular knowledge. You would not believe the number of systems, some in vital roles, that are largely or totally undocumented and keep going only because the people who originally worked on them are still there! Thus, if the asteroid landed and people tried to recreate - or redesign - they might fail. (Perhaps Microsoft's defence of embedding is because the embedding is so messily done it would be almost impossible - prohibitively expensive - to disentangle the spaghetti. Incompetence rather than conspiracy?)

We may be already seeing all this - in microcosm - with Linux import and export filters for Office products; they're 95 per cent there but to get the other 5 per cent may take 95 per cent of the time. It's well known that the Office binary file formats are a nonsense.

[ Parent ]

still doesn't matter (4.66 / 3) (#123)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:35:41 PM EST

You do make a good point which I agree with, that many systems out there are fragile and quite undocumented. Everytime I read comp.risks I shudder (well I used to, now I tend to laugh cynically). But I don't think it matters much in the case of Microsoft. Here's why:

While thinking about my first comment, it occurred to me that what matters in the case of consumer software is the amount of investment people have in it. My unix home directory is heavily customized, and it would literally take ages to set it up properly if I lost it. So I value it highly. But the people I know who use windows think nothing of reformatting and reinstalling/upgrading. Why is that? They work entirely within the default environment provided by the shrink wrapped setup program.

It's a blessing and a curse for Microsoft. It's a blessing, because they can peddle upgrades very frequently, and it's a curse because some competitor can come in and tell people: wipe your system and install ours and people will do that. So Microsoft's internal documentation and modularity matters little to end users if they are likely to wipe the system if something else/better comes along.

Your example of Linux/Office can be viewed similarly. How many times has Microsoft Office broken its own file format (to within five percent say) and people have accepted that, perhaps tweaked their old documents and moved on? If StarOffice etc. can't import 100%, it's not vital. What matters for Sun is convincing purchasing officers to switch on economical grounds.

Sorry my arguments are a bit disjointed. But here's a short summary. Microsoft is a consumer company above all. Consumers are likely to switch easily if you offer them a one click installation. If Microsoft disappears tomorrow, consumers will move on without batting an eyelid. There will be little incentive to try and go into Microsoft's code (spaghetti or otherwise) to fix its problems and keep it going. People will wipe the systems and move onto something else, written from scratch. That's not hard and happens all the time (and yes, it introduces all sorts of new and old problems).

One last thing: the above argument doesn't work for say IBM, whose big iron customers invest for the long term. If the asteroid destroyed IBM headquarters, the world would be in quite a bit more trouble.

[ Parent ]

Exemplar of poor non-modular design! (4.00 / 2) (#129)
by thebrix on Sat May 04, 2002 at 05:30:35 AM EST

On reflection, the point you make illustrates one of the worst design features of Windows; machine configuration is not modularised (most of it goes into a monolithic Registry) so, quite apart from the danger of a single source becoming corrupted, it's difficult to take settings from one machine to the next. That XP has introduced a program to (in effect) pick keys out of the Registry, zip them up, then put them back in on another machine is telling.

But ... what is often said to be one of the great weaknesses of Linux ('it's all text files; if you alter a character in one of those the whole thing might collapse') is a great strength in the home setting and elsewhere - if experimentation doesn't work I can set up my PC from scratch with a backed-up configuration in half an hour. With 98, 2000 or XP it was taking 5 or 6 hours and, in many cases, needed settings put back in by hand. Presumably this sort of thing is taken into account in 'total cost of ownership' calculations?

Regarding the Office file format, that's all tied up with 'economical grounds'. Microsoft - presumably because of pressure from outside - has kept the format in 97, 2000 and XP backward compatible with glitches. There were huge jumps (way over five per cent) between 2 and 95, and 95 and 97; I know because I had to maintain a design document set of three hundred documents over both these changes (and it cost a lot of my time to do so :)

[ Parent ]

No software company documents to that degree (3.66 / 3) (#98)
by Carnage4Life on Fri May 03, 2002 at 02:35:33 PM EST

My test is 'suppose every single employee of Microsoft was instantly struck dead. Would other people be able to come in and continue development in a reasonable time?

I've worked at three software companies in my rather short career and none of them had the idealized documentation of software and internal processes that you describe.

I suspect not, although I'd be pleased to be wrong. I've seen various quotes (taken out of context in software engineering and management tomes) in which Bill Gates and other Microsoft employees have said that Microsoft's business is to write software, not design it or document it, which suggests that something, somewhere, is lacking.

I sincerely doubt that anyone at Microsoft has ever said something as ridiculous as our job is not to design software just write it.

[ Parent ]
Quote ... unquote (4.75 / 4) (#104)
by thebrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:35:40 PM EST

From Managing Balance: Maintaining Working Relationships (chapter 4 of Beyond Chaos: The Expert Edge in Managing Software Development by Larry Constantine):

A developer's job is to write code that we sell, not to spend time writing high-level design documents. (Chris Peters, described as 'a Microsoft manager')

Any methodology where you have a document that's independent of the source code ... going off and spending a lot of time on that, it's ridiculous. One document. One. It's the source code. (Bill Gates).

Also, I've heard the 'idealised' point too many times. If you write software which, if it goes wrong, could kill people - as I do - you spend much of your time documenting the 'software and internal processes' ...

[ Parent ]

GIve me a break (4.40 / 5) (#103)
by baka_boy on Fri May 03, 2002 at 03:48:20 PM EST

Microsoft has more programmers working for them than God, and many (if not most) of them are recruited from the best schools and businesses. If they can't manage to product a decently-modularized, documented system, then they don't deserve to survive the attempt to factor out IE and WMP.

Society owes nothing to Microsoft: they are a private corporation, which has abused its monopoly power to the detriment of competitors and customers alike. If on top of that, they also have incompetently-written code running in all their software, I think it all the more appropriate that they be forced to clean up after themselves.

They have broken the law, and personally, I'm getting tired to the hand-job from the DoJ, wanting to make sure that the penalty doesn't hurt too much. Threatening to take Windows off the market was the business equivalent of a toddler's tantrum: they're holding their breath until they turn blue, and daring anyone to not give in to their demands.

[ Parent ]

Unfortunately meaningless (4.50 / 4) (#105)
by thebrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:41:59 PM EST

There would be no problems if 'people who came from the best schools and businesses' were trained properly. Unfortunately, it isn't so; I've interviewed people from 'a good university' (one of the best in the UK according to the Government's research and teaching assessments) who knew no OO because the professor of computer science 'didn't believe in it', and, although I no longer recruit people, I hear all sorts of disturbing things about courses concentrating on the mechanics of programming rather than design principles.

In any case I'd imagine Microsoft, like everyone else, consciously or unconsciously recruits in its own image, whatever that might mean in software engineering terms. (The Constantine book I quoted elsewhere has no hesitation in suggesting what it thinks it means :)

[ Parent ]

Try and Buy an old windows OS (4.33 / 3) (#106)
by dirtydingus on Fri May 03, 2002 at 04:43:35 PM EST

They have broken the law, and personally, I'm getting tired to the hand-job from the DoJ, wanting to make sure that the penalty doesn't hurt too much. Threatening to take Windows off the market was the business equivalent of a toddler's tantrum: they're holding their breath until they turn blue, and daring anyone to not give in to their demands.

I'd be only to happy for M$ to not ship any new OS. Just as long as I can buy Windows 95, 98, or 2000. For some reason though Microsoft doesn't seem willing to sell anything other than XP these days

BTW if anyone doubts that M$ are a bunch of bullies then take a look at this theregister.co.uk aticle

DD
People can be put into 10 groups: Those that understand binary and those that don't.
[ Parent ]

To the contrary... (3.66 / 3) (#52)
by Perianwyr on Fri May 03, 2002 at 06:43:18 AM EST

Microsoft, when asked what their role is in the market, would answer that they must keep competing, because threats come from nowhere. Linux is such a threat.

Ever read the story of Cronus, father of Zeus?

Cronus wanted to cover every angle, and he almost got away with it, too.

Good article (3.80 / 5) (#56)
by Jevesus on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:50:38 AM EST

Overall, I'm pleased and quite impressed with your take on this whole beaten-to-death debate, you explain the cons and pros, good and bad about modularity and bundling, etc, well done.

The only thing I can find to be a serious misconception is that you repeatedly refer to removing IE from Windows as something that is impossible, i.e. undoable on a technical level.
From what I've understood, this isn't the case, and isn't argued as such either. Microsoft's claims are that Windows as an experience, if you will, is not complete without Internet Explorer, or Windows Media Player.
On a side note, the Media Player has been bundled with Windows since, well, forever, I guess. Why start yapping now? Yapping; I'm referring to the general public, not you.

Microsoft does not claim that it is technically impossible, they claim that it is an integral part of Windows as they define it.

Microsoft claim that their operative system is not quite what they want it to be without their own browser. This is a matter of taste, preference, if you like. Think of how Favourites and History, for instance,  integrates well with the start-menu and the rest of the Windows experience compared to how the Netscape and Opera counterparts correlate with Windows.

I'm not arguing that Microsoft should be let lose without restraints and what not, neither that we should just accept whatever they say and let them have their way, I'm asking of all of you to even concider to try to understand their perspective, aswell as your own.

- Jevesus

Illegal Monopoly Abuse? (5.00 / 8) (#66)
by Matrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:13:11 AM EST

Microsoft is found guilty of illegally abusing a monopoly position in a market to crush competition. This means they have broken a law, and punishment will be imposed.

Now Microsoft (according to Jevesus) argues that the suggested punishment makes it so the "experience" of using Windows is not quite what they want it to be.

Well, boo hoo. When an executive gets thrown in jail for fraud, his experience isn't quite what he wants it to be either. How do you think the courts would have reacted if Napster had argued that the restrictions the RIAA wanted put in place on their service made it "not quite what they want it to be", and therefor the punishment was unreasonable and should not be applied?

These people broke the law. They can't expect to do that, get called on it, and not wind up with a punishment that inconveniences them somehow. So what if it means the "Windows Experience" is not quite what they like, because of dual-booting or competing browser installations? In fact, I'd say your examples of how much more IE can integrate with Windows is a sure sign that Microsoft is guilty of what they're accused of - Netscape and Opera don't do the same thing because they can't do the same thing.

(And Jevesus, as an aside, this post is a rather interesting 180 from the position you took in the "Microsoft Exec: OEMs Must Not Install Linux Besides Windows" thread. This guy's making the same assumptions I did - where's your indignant rants about how he can never KNOW anything?)


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

I'm not arguing (4.00 / 1) (#137)
by Jevesus on Sat May 04, 2002 at 07:52:56 PM EST

I can't seem to be able to read the argument you seem to think I argue from my own text.
I'm not arguing Microsoft is not to blame in any way, I'm not arguing Microsoft should be set free to do whatever they pleased. In fact, I expressely explained that this was not what I was arguing, at all, in my comment.
Did you skip these sentences or did you not understand them?

All I argued was that Microsoft does not claim that it is technically impossible to remove arbitrary lines of code, those centric to Internet Explorer as the default web browser.
Microsoft claims that Internet Explorer cannot be removed from Windows due to it's importance to Windows, not because the lines of code are impossible to remove, as the article implies.

Furthermore, regarding the supposed assumptions that I supposedly am not arguing against, the author of this article is not claiming that what he is assuming, guessing based on his experiences, is the truth, must be the truth, that he knows this to be the truth. You however, did not describe your guesses as guesses, but as facts. Is the fundamental difference difficult for you to grasp?

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]

Please Explain... (none / 0) (#140)
by Matrix on Sun May 05, 2002 at 10:05:30 AM EST

Microsoft claims that Internet Explorer cannot be removed from Windows due to it's importance to Windows, not because the lines of code are impossible to remove, as the article implies.

So please explain why Microsoft is using this argument? By any interpretation of the laws, the reduction in value of its product to its customers or itself should not be a consideration in the judgements handed down. Perhaps the reason I have so many problems with your posts is because you're somewhat arguing from their PoV, and their reasoning totally escapes me.


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

I'll do my best (none / 0) (#142)
by Jevesus on Sun May 05, 2002 at 11:53:32 AM EST

So please explain why Microsoft is using this argument?

"This" argument? Which one is that? Are you referring to
a) it's technically impossible to remove internet explorer's lines of code,
or, b) internet explorer is an integral part of windows which cannot be removed without crippling the windows experience?

Microsoft is not arguing a, they are arguing b. Why are they arguing b? Because that's their opinion on the matter.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]

Benefit (none / 0) (#144)
by Matrix on Sun May 05, 2002 at 04:02:20 PM EST

Yes, I know they're arguing B. What I'm asking is what they could possibly hope to gain by doing so. It seems a course of action garunteed to make them look like idiots in front of the court. "Yes, we know we've been found guilty of breaking the law, but we don't think we should be punished because the punishment might inconvenience us or harm us in some way." Why would anyone be dumb enough to try and argue that?

(Alright, temporarily ignore the fact that it seems to be working, or why it seems to be working. The corruption of the American government is better discussed at another time.)


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

The punishment must fit the crime (none / 0) (#146)
by Jevesus on Sun May 05, 2002 at 06:19:05 PM EST

The reasoning is simple. The court may not issue any kind of punishment at all, it too has boundaries.
The punishment can not be of the kind that would inherently cripple Microsoft's products, basically. Think of it like this; a court cannot sentence someone to death for robbing a bank, the punishment has restrictions depending on the type of crime. To continue this anology; Microsoft is not guilty of murder, but of robbing a bank, if you get what I mean.
Microsoft is arguing that the punishment of crippling Windows is a punishment too harsh.

Excuse my layman terms, I'm no lawyer or anything like it, this is the best I can explain it, at this hour (15 past midnight) anyways :)

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]

That Explains Much (none / 0) (#147)
by Matrix on Mon May 06, 2002 at 05:35:48 PM EST

Okay, I can see the logic in that. Problem is, it doesn't work. They were found guilty of abusing a monopoly (business practices) and illegal bundling (product). Shouldn't the penalties be applied to one or both of those areas?


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Applied to, (none / 0) (#150)
by Jevesus on Tue May 07, 2002 at 07:47:23 AM EST

yes, indeed. But that basically isn't the only restraint to the punishment, it still need to correllate to the level of crime committed. Which, crippling a companys main product in this case, is not. That's the argument anyways.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
prevention? (none / 0) (#151)
by martingale on Tue May 07, 2002 at 07:53:57 AM EST

Isn't the court ruling also required to prevent repeat offences of the same type? If it's a question of crippling versus preventing, which should apply?

[ Parent ]

I'm not sure (4.00 / 1) (#152)
by Jevesus on Tue May 07, 2002 at 08:25:55 AM EST

..about specifics any more than I've already mentioned. The main point I'm trying to get across here is that Microsoft is not arguing that IE cannot be technically removed, as many has misinterpreted.
They are arguing that it cannot be removed without crippling the Windows experience, which, the punishment may not do.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
Alternatives (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by Cro Magnon on Tue May 07, 2002 at 01:48:13 PM EST

Ignoring my opinion that Windows is crippled WITH IE, what alternative penalty would you recommend. Microsoft would laugh at a wrist-slap fine.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
I'm not qualified to say (none / 0) (#155)
by Jevesus on Tue May 07, 2002 at 06:43:04 PM EST

As I'm neither an american, a lawyer, a judge or even a juror I don't think I'm qualified to even make an estimation. I'll leave that to the court.

Personally I think Windows XP is the best desktop OS I've encountered so far, I love it. As for IE, I prefer it to any other browser, alltho I havent tested Mozilla of a version higher than 6.0 so I guess that could be as good, allthou I have my doubts ;)
My personal preferences set aside, I don't think Microsoft should be allowed to play their game and have their way. However, they too are entitled their rights aswell as everyone else.


- Jevesus
[ Parent ]

Not qualified (none / 0) (#156)
by Cro Magnon on Wed May 08, 2002 at 11:54:31 AM EST

But I think Microsoft should be forced to open up its API's so that competitors are playing on a level field. If they want to embed IE into the OS, they must publicise enough information for Netscape (or Opera) to do likewise. They should also be required to open all their data formats so they have to compete on merits rather than lock-outs. Also, current versions of Mozilla are much better than Netscape 6.0, and in the same ballpark as IE5.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Everybody's got one (none / 0) (#157)
by Jevesus on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:31:53 AM EST

That's all fine and dandy, but that's just an opinion. It is ofcourse worth as much as anyone else's, except for the court's.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
IE can be removed (4.50 / 2) (#67)
by Theovon on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:19:25 AM EST

What about my article suggested to you that I think IE can't be removed? I thought I made it clear that I thought it could. Maybe I was too indirect.

[ Parent ]
Re-read (4.00 / 1) (#136)
by Jevesus on Sat May 04, 2002 at 07:42:41 PM EST

If you would have bothered to read my comment in its entirety (or was it simply too hard for you to grasp?) you would have understood that my point, as described in plain text, was that Microsoft does not argue that it is technically impossible to remove IE from Windows, but that it is an integral part of it and cannot be removed for that reason.
You went on and on about how it is technically possible, how it must be, how Microsoft's supposed claims that it is not are false, without noting what the claims are in the first place.
Re-read my comment and maybe, if you read it entirely, that will come to you second time around. Unless ofcourse you read it through properly the first time but failed to comprehend this supposedly complicated concept.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
There's the problem (4.75 / 4) (#102)
by baka_boy on Fri May 03, 2002 at 03:34:20 PM EST

The tight integration of IE with Windows, in cases such as your example of history and favorites lists appearing elsewhere in Windows, is exactly the kind of thing that Netscape has been complaining about. Because Microsoft's internal developers had access to APIs and tools that competitors (read: Netscape) did not, Microsoft was shutting out competition by leveraging their insider access to the internals of Windows.

Who knows what kinds of new and useful add-ons might have been developed for Windows, if only Microsoft made the same hooks they used available for outside developers to extend the system? Specifically, I'm thinking right now of the glory days of the classic MacOS, which had low-level system add-ons from countless vendors in the form of 'Extensions' and 'Control Panels'. Everything from fully-customizable user interfaces, to pervasive spell checking, to automatic translation of documents to formats your applications could understand, was done through supported, documented hooks into the OS, supplied by Apple for third-party developers.

Of course, I wouldn't really have nearly as much of a problem with the current state of the Windows software world if Microsoft were more like the company they're made themselves out to be in recent court testimony, or the one suggested by the original poster: the benevolent parent, guiding the tech industry towards its full potential. Unfortunately, as long as they are a profit-maximizing, private corporation, they will never act that way, and will continue to hamper, rather than help, innovation and competition in the computer industry, any time it benefits their bottom line.

[ Parent ]

They get stabbed either way (2.63 / 11) (#58)
by Jevesus on Fri May 03, 2002 at 07:58:22 AM EST

Every technology they have decided to copy in order to put someone out of business, they should have licensed from someone else. There are pros and cons to that approach, but it's cooperative, not anti-competitive.

Haven't Microsoft gotten barked at quite a bit because the supposed new features of WindowsXP with its integrated support for burning CD-roms, etc, are just components they bought from someone else? That's what I've heard anyways, that Microsoft sucks because they can't do sh!t right on their own, just like back in the days when they bought DOS, etcetera.

It seems that nomatter what they do there are always some yapping morons that have a condencending opinion about it..

- Jevesus

Middleware doesnt stay that way. (3.75 / 4) (#75)
by cione on Fri May 03, 2002 at 10:54:30 AM EST

The issue with an OS is that it grows. Windows back in the 3.11 days really didn't have a browser available because the net was still basically BBS and peer to peer. However the entire .com craziness has changed in a way that not so many envisioned. DirectX is another module that the OS is dependent on (WIN2000 and XP). Does the fact that they didn't have it to begin with make it so they can't grow to the point that they need them?

 IE won as a browser because that is what the general public wanted. I remember the browser wars and most people wanted IE. Netscape was slower to load and read pages slower back then. You have to go back to when the battle took place to see why who won did.

OS/2 lost for the same reason that other rivals did. (BTW OS/2 went on to become NT 3.51) Maybe some will remember an OS called Geoworks. GEOworks had a dos based command line. The shell was very similar to Win 3.11. IBM and Geoworks both lost because people wanted Windows. This is hard for many Tech people to understand. People don't want to learn computers. People don't like to work on them. Most people just want to turn the box on and make it work. Microsoft has always been able to provide software that idiots can work. Windows may crash but turning it off and on fixes that issue.

_________________________________________________
"We are the people our parents warned us about." -Jimmy Buffett

rosy history (3.50 / 2) (#83)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:51:50 AM EST

Which browser wars do you remember? I remember people laughing at IE compared to netscape, and urging their friends to check out the web. These friends bought new computers, and lo and behold, they had IE on them.

I also remember that the OS/2 code base was split between IBM and Microsoft (as had already been the case between MS DOS and (IBM's) PC DOS a decade earlier), and then Microsoft decided to push Widows 3 instead. IIRC, Geoworks had a huge patent battle with Apple over the look'n'feel of GEOS.

[ Parent ]

IE history (3.25 / 4) (#87)
by mech9t8 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:05:55 PM EST

IE1 came with Windows 95, and completely sucked.  Absolutely no one used it.  That's probably what you remember your friends laughing about.

IE2 (1995) was marginally better, but still little-used.

IE3 (1996) was much better - about equivalent to its comtemporary, Netscape 3.  It got about, er, 30% market share or so, but Netscape was still dominant.

IE4 (1997) was way better than Netscape 4 - faster, way more standards compliant, more stable.  It was about this time that IE pulled ahead, because compared to it, Netscape completely sucked - and as Netscape stayed static and IE continued to advance, Netscape was essentially wiped out.

IE was part of Windows 95 since the beginning.  It wasn't until it became technically better than Netscape that it started to dominate market share.

(OS/2 is a less clear-cut issue.  OS/2 version 1 was where the split between Microsoft and IBM happened; IBM tried to market OS/2 2.0 (and up, like OS/2 Warp 3.0) against Windows 95 and failed, even though it was generally conceded to be technically better.  There are numerous reasons for this: how much it was IBM's fault (infighting within the company, lack of support for developers, hardware requirements that were too high, compatibility issues) and how much it was Microsoft's (far better developer support and marketing of their product, OEM deals) depends on whom you talk to.)

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

IE came later. (4.33 / 3) (#90)
by ubikkibu on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:27:51 PM EST

"IE was part of Windows 95 from the beginning"

No.  This became Microsoft's party line for antitrust purposes, but in fact IE was inlined into Win95 months after its initial ship.  I have original Win95 retail and OEM CDs, and if you have a box they will successfully install on, you can see for yourself.

[ Parent ]

IE and Windows95 (none / 0) (#99)
by Matrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 03:00:33 PM EST

IE was never actually integrated into Windows 95. You could download IE 1-3 for it, and some newer Windows 95 disks came with IE 3 on them, but it wasn't integrated to any real degree. They only started making the file manager and such use IE components in Win98, and even then, they did a pretty bad job of it.


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

I think you're right... (4.50 / 2) (#101)
by mech9t8 on Fri May 03, 2002 at 03:19:47 PM EST

...it came with Microsoft Plus originally.  (Since Microsoft still hadn't clued into how important the whole "Internet" thing was going to be.)  It wasn't a free download till IE2 came out (which was only a few months after Win95 was released), wasn't included in Windows till IE3 in Win95-OEM2.

I still stand by my position that Microsoft won the browser wars primarily on technical superiority.

Mostly this: Netscape would show the user a blank screen until the HTML had completely loaded and the sizes of all the images were known (which could take a while if the image sizes weren't specified in the HTML).  If a table tag wasn't closed (either to do poor HTML coding or an aborted connection), you wouldn't see anything.  Microsoft would show the web page as soon as it recieved info, putting resizable placeholders in place of images that it didn't know the size of, and would be able to render tables even if all the tags weren't closed.  Result: Microsoft users, especially modem users, got a far more responsive environment.  Netscape users got far more blank screens, and poorly rendered tables and whatnot.  I think it's that, more than anything else, which doomed Netscape - it made an enormous difference to user experience, and they never fixed that till Mozilla came out several years later.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

couple of points (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by martingale on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:11:09 PM EST

IE4 (1997) was way better than Netscape 4 - faster, way more standards compliant, more stable. It was about this time that IE pulled ahead, because compared to it, Netscape completely sucked - and as Netscape stayed static and IE continued to advance, Netscape was essentially wiped out.
Netscape made an announcement on January 1998 that their browser would be free and become open source. Basically, with hindsight, they died that day. The existing browser was frozen except for minor bug fixes. Around that time, NS had about 65% market share while IE had about 30% (from memory, you can google for it). After that there was a lull where IE had no competition while mozilla was being built (65% + 30% = 95%). Since it's now ready, I guess we're in for some interesting times ;-)

The bit about the blank screen you mention in your other post is funny. I think (but this is really fuzzy) that netscape 3 actually rendered incrementally. I seem to remember that there was a jump with 4 which introduced the blank screen while rendering. Either way, I'll agree that was an annoying feature of NS but I doubt it was a make or brake issue.

[ Parent ]

Convenience (3.66 / 3) (#88)
by dachshund on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:08:39 PM EST

IE won as a browser because that is what the general public wanted. I remember the browser wars and most people wanted IE. Netscape was slower to load and read pages slower back then.

I submit that a lot of the people who "chose" IE over Netscape never even compared the two. I mean, a multi-hour download over a modem vs. a pre-installed product? C'mon.

Now, I don't object to the ease and convenience of having something pre-installed. But it doesn't take a great imagination to accept that MS's tactics and OEM hardball probably had a lot to do with IE's winning in the marketplace.

[ Parent ]

Give the people what they...deserve. (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by ubikkibu on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:35:25 PM EST

"IE won as a browser because that is what the general public wanted."

IE did eventually improve to outperform Netscape.  Ignoring the devious ways in which both companies tried to short-circuit the other's performance and compatibility, I do not think that IE won the war based solely on feature comparisons.  Perhaps it's comforting think that IE simply won out in a free market, but that doesn't make it truth.

More generally, if you believe that technologies, platforms, and applications become market leaders strictly by meeting consumers' needs better, I would counter that you're simply showing your youth.

[ Parent ]

RE: Give the people what they...deserve (3.00 / 1) (#96)
by cione on Fri May 03, 2002 at 02:19:09 PM EST

What people deserve (Need) and what they want always turn out to be two different things. To many of us we think of Microsoft with a technical mind. To the general public this is not the case.

I used to advocate Netscape. I mandated at one time that it be put on all PC's that were being rolled out. The simple fact became clear with time. The average person liked IE better. You can have the best software, however if the general public doesn't like the color, shape, and feel of the product you have nothing. Look at AOL, their product has never really been superior on a technical level. They didnt meet any need just wants.

_________________________________________________
"We are the people our parents warned us about." -Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]

You are excluding obvious factors. (4.00 / 1) (#113)
by acronos on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:58:00 PM EST

I used IE because it was preloaded every time I loaded windows.  It was too much of a pain to download Netscape, plus Netscape wanted money unless you used the beta or inferior product.  Microsoft was truly giving IE away.

AOL wins the majority of the population because of marketing.  Almost everyone has heard of AOL and knows how to get it.  They receive it in the mail once or twice a month.  How many people have heard of Earthlink and know how to get it and install it.  The number is much smaller.  MSN is the only competitor to AOL and they compete in the same way.  MSN is loaded on every windows machine at install.  It is readily available.

The success of all of these products had almost nothing to do with the quality of the products.  It had to do with the quality of the marketing and availability of these products.  That is not a triumph of the free market IMO.  It is a flaw in the free market.  That flaw is insufficient information.  I am one of the strongest advocates of capitalism you will meet, but it does have some very real weaknesses.  IE was not superior to Netscape in the beginning.  Only a naive idealist would deny that many of the things that companies do to compete are not in the best interest of their customers.

Caveat:  AOL and MSN target the same consumers, newbies.  Earthlink targets users that are more advanced and therefore uses different marketing.  I recognize that all have their place in the market.  However, AOL is not a product that is in the best interest of consumers.  It is an unstable, hard to use, easy to install, easy to screw up your computer ISP.  I hope Microsoft crushes AOhell.


[ Parent ]

Uh, OS/2 isn't dead... (5.00 / 4) (#97)
by weirdling on Fri May 03, 2002 at 02:25:15 PM EST

Oh, well, one can't expect a lot of voracity from someone who thinks IE beat Netscape on features alone, but OS/2 was so radically better than any other desktop OS that even PC Magazine, that staunch ally of Microsoft, hailed it as the best technology in operating systems available.  Microsoft's solution?  Change Windows 3.1 imperceptibly so OS/2 wouldn't work with it unless you did a simple hack.  Then, release Win95, the Christmas release, which was touted to have 'all the features of OS/2', including 'full 32-bit OS layer' and a bunch of other things that would 'run in 4M of ram'.  Of course, it did *none* of those, while OS/2 did all of them.

Anyway, as a person who ran OS/2 for quite some time, eventually switching to a Mac, as desktop support for OS/2 dried up, I can tell you that it is still in use and still supported by IBM.  The reason?  Banks love it because it is lightweight, secure, and stable, three things NT has never been.

But, yeah, Windows beat OS/2 on technical merits.  Sure.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]

Mozilla (4.50 / 2) (#118)
by nedrichards on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:48:54 PM EST

This is true, IBM provides a port of mozilla for os/2. Which is nice.

[ Parent ]
OS/2 did not become NT 3.51 (4.50 / 2) (#124)
by katravax on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:09:49 PM EST

The first rev of NT was 3.1, not 3.51, and it was the charge of Dave Cutler, the architect of VMS, whom MS grabbed from Digital when the OS-to-replace-VMS (mica?) project was cancelled. Most of the original NT guys were Dave's team from DEC. I'm also fairly sure he's still with Microsoft.

NT has had an OS/2 compatibility layer since way back when, but it's only for (I think) the 2.1 apps, and nothing later. NT does almost nothing like OS/2, even under the hood, so I'm not sure how you got the impression that NT was a descendant of OS/2.

This history of NT and Cutler's involvement is the subject of at least one book and many Web sites. Try Google for more info.


[ Parent ]

I get the impression from (none / 0) (#153)
by cione on Tue May 07, 2002 at 12:10:04 PM EST

Cutler. Cutler did a pretty good interview here about the original NT OS/2 project. I will admit error in stating that 3.51 was the first rev of NT.
_________________________________________________
"We are the people our parents warned us about." -Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]
bah. (4.66 / 3) (#126)
by regeya on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:12:15 PM EST

IE won as a browser because that is what the general public wanted. I remember the browser wars and most people wanted IE. Netscape was slower to load and read pages slower back then. You have to go back to when the battle took place to see why who won did.

Either that's the poorest troll I've ever read or you're both naive and confused. I reember the early days of IE all too well, and when IE1 was first released, it wasn't all that popular. Heck, it hadn't evolved much past Mosaic at that point (which is all it was, with MS "improvements.")

No, the thing that really made IE blossom was the fact that it was explicitly free for the download at first, whereas Navigator worked just fine for the download, but Netscape really wanted $50 for the darn thing. Later, when Windows just shipped with the browser, many people just didn't bother downloading another browser, and in my personal experience, many people here in the U.S. were on dialup accounts at the time, and firing up a connection and staying connected several minutes/hours just to get Navigator seemed a little stupid.

No, IE didn't win because the public wanted it. It won because it was provided for free, and the most convenient way possible, made possible due to Microsoft's unique position in the software market. As I said before, Netscape was given the "sell or die" option, and they picked death. End of story.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Wrong, wrong, all wrong! (2.00 / 1) (#149)
by CAIMLAS on Mon May 06, 2002 at 07:06:05 PM EST

Besides what everyone else has already mentioned, I think it necessary to state that Win3.1, or really, any Windows prior to NT 3.5 or Win95 were not operating systems (and as far as I know, not marketted as such), but basically a windowing system akin to X.

I suspect this could be classified as a semantical arguement, though, for a large part.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Linux using IP thief - acknowledge trademark (2.81 / 11) (#82)
by Phillip Asheo on Fri May 03, 2002 at 11:50:51 AM EST

The term "Linux Zealot" is a trademark of adequacy.org. Their legal team can get very nasty with trademark violations. I suggest you email them at legal@adequacy.org explaining why you have chosen to disregard their intellectual property rights.

Remember, using Linux may make you think you are above the law, however in reality you are not.

Expect to recieve a C&D from adequacy's team of attorneys very soon now.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long

One in the eye in return (2.00 / 1) (#93)
by thebrix on Fri May 03, 2002 at 01:47:14 PM EST

I'd watch yourself before saying things like that:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/25151.html

[ Parent ]

A Hole In Your Logic (3.00 / 2) (#112)
by bjlhct on Fri May 03, 2002 at 05:57:45 PM EST

>"Most importantly, that modularity has to be purely hierarchical. Every piece of code that is developed must be tested by itself, independent of anything that might rely on it, and only once the lowest levels are finished can you do anything with the next. "

Yeah, but don't you only need to do that if you don't want it to crash?

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism

Netscape and Microsoft (3.80 / 5) (#119)
by regeya on Fri May 03, 2002 at 08:52:13 PM EST

If memory serves, they were given a choice to either license their tech to Microsoft, or be buried. They chose the latter.

That doesn't excuse Microsoft's behavior; it's just indicative of the problem with Microsoft, which is that it's become the 500lb. gorilla of the business (note I didn't say software) world. Now they throw cautionary tales to the wind that, if something were to happen to them, the U.S. economy would suffer(!)

If I were in a position of power, that sort of threat wouldn't seem idle, and would make me more likely to take action against Microsoft, since the last thing anyone wants is for some corporation to be running the world economy.

The recent cases of perjury are only indicative of the growing problem in Microsoft, in that it's going from being a consumer-oriented business to a world power with a lust for more. These aren't the words of a Linux zealot: sure, I'm typing this in Konqueror on a Debian box, but right now the machine is backing up a Win98 drive and I work more with MacOS than I do with Linux. I have no aversion to Microsoft products or their bundling of software. Lying in court shouldn't be tolerated, and I'm hoping that MS has finally picked on the wrong organization when they try to bully the government into supporting their monopoly by stating that their demise would somehow ruin America as we know it. It would ruin Microsoft employees' ability to buy expensive, shiny things, to be sure; I somehow doubt that many of us would be ruined. Anyone, at this point, holding on to MS stock with hopes of greater returns has bet foolishly, as their business plan doesn't work without major revisions for long. Companies can only grow so much, even MS.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

Microsoft Modularity & Documentation (4.50 / 4) (#122)
by Dawnrider on Fri May 03, 2002 at 09:54:50 PM EST

Just an idle question... Was anyone else amused by Billy proclaiming on the stand that every once in a while they would discover a new API in Office or something and eventually release it?

Now, maybe I'm mad, but firstly, in any reasonably thought-out system, surely APIs should be in a design document somewhere? At least shouldn't there be code comments? Maybe memos, notes or at the very worst, details on what a programmer/group was doing for a large length of time while they developed it? (Please note, if not, can I please get a job at Microsoft and just sit there surfing all day, and then proclaim that I have indeed been coding, according to their apparent honour system? :) )

And, most importantly, if they are not documenting critical features like APIs, and just 'find them from time to time', would Billy like to tell us and especially the business world which relies on their software for billions of pounds/dollars in online transactions and everyday work activity, how they are going to track down buffer overruns if they can't even work out what their APIs are???

Maybe businesses and the reporters who lauded their feature freeze for security work in February might like to ask them about it and exactly what the state of MS security priorities and quality truly are?

Just a few thoughts....

Rantalicious (3.75 / 4) (#127)
by Graymalkin on Sat May 04, 2002 at 12:19:11 AM EST

While this rant isn't nearly as inflamatory as many I've read I think the Nicer Microsoft suggestions are downright stupid. Suggesting a company ought to just license other people's technoloigies rather than develop their own stands on specious logical ground. Why in the hell would you want to be another company's bitch when you're perfectly capable of developing a competing product? By the same logic OOS developers ought to put down their keyboards and compilers and buy the software they're trying to replace. There's no need by your logic to make a product to compete with an established product. Motorola ought to just sell their cell phone division to Nokia and be done with it. AMD should just sign up to use their factories to produce Intel's processors.

The first and second suggestions are merely roll over and die your investors and creditors be damned suggestions. The difference between a donation and an investment is an investment is meant to increase in value over time, it isn't a write off as a donation is. There's no donation stock exchange for a reason. Investors are out to make money, you're not abiding by your contractual agreement with them by rolling over and dying. Playing fair gets you beat up on the playground. No one is whining to Ford that they ought to use Mopar parts or that Fomoco ought to make parts for Chrystler cars. Suggesting that you should just remove all proprietary components from a product is ridiculous in the real world. Making money is about getting your customer to come back for more, every major industry from drugs to prostitution to software to children's television is about that simple concept. Get the customer hooked such that your product is in constant and recurring demand. The only products that have naturally recurring demand are products you ingest or rot. Everything else requires artificial stimulus of the desire to have it. That is the basic tenet of a demand driven economy. Unless you're proposing some alternate economic system don't go into why a company ought to give away product Foo or cooperate with company Bar.

Capitalist development model? (4.25 / 4) (#130)
by RaveWar on Sat May 04, 2002 at 06:09:42 AM EST

Quoting: "Some have suggested that Free Software is socialistic, but that is quite contrary to the truth" I know that the free software/communism debate has been done to death before, but it is NOT capitalist. That does not make it wrong. In some POV the logic seems to run thus:

- A a citizen of the West I know market economies are prosperous and free, command economies are poor and opressed
- Capitalism therefore good, Socialism bad
- As a linux user I know that free software is good and microsoft is bad, therefore...
- Free software is capitalist

Capitalism's great for boring things like how many loaves of bread to bake and how much to sell them for, but there are some areas that the market simply cannot fill because it is unprofitable. Other areas are natural monopolies, transport being one, operating systems being another. Taking transport as an example: do you see many passenger railways operating without subsidy and/or regulation? There are even railways that are operated mainly by volunteers (the OSS model applied to transport?). But mostly in Europe Nationalisation has been the answer. Nationalisation of microsoft cannot be justified; as a UK (non US) citizen I certainly would be less happy having a US government body in charge of my software and its upgrades, because I cannot even vote for them and they are therefore unaccountable to me. Open source is probably the answer for the reasonably tech savvy, but for the rest of the world's users I agree: Microsoft should be turned into a non profit trust.
We don't need freedom. We don't need love.
We want Superpower, Ultraviolence.

one question (3.00 / 1) (#131)
by martingale on Sat May 04, 2002 at 06:24:33 AM EST

How do you come up with the idea that operating systems are a natural monopoly?

[ Parent ]

Commodity products moving to OSS (5.00 / 3) (#132)
by cam on Sat May 04, 2002 at 09:07:22 AM EST

Other areas are natural monopolies, transport being one, operating systems being another.

A lot of the opensource projects that are successful are for what have become commodity products. The Operating System is one, Productivity Suites are another.

In 1999 when Servlets were fairly new, any software shop that was developing a Servlet based web application was writing their own Framework to manage Sessions, Security, Screens, MVC handlers etc. In essence because there were so many solutions around, it was a commodity market for Frameworks. Now there are numerous and varied OSS solutions for Servlet Frameworks. Turbine, Tea, Tapestry, Struts plus plenty of others.

There is no point trying to sell a Framework when the developers find it easier to get and contribute to an OSS product doing the same. Our software team in 99 built a framework for a project, we wondered if there was a market for our Framework, but there wasnt, everyone already had one they wrote themselves. A project we did last year used Turbine instead of our internal one. No point to use ours, the OSS's solution were better and developing faster with the only cost to us being to join in.

In Operating systems, years ago, a business PC was drastically different from a mainframe and from a super computer. Now Linux boxes can be business PC's, Servers, or Clustered for super computer like processing. Windows can be a PC or a server, as can OSX or Solaris. They all pretty much do the same thing and have the same sort of things with them. Browsers, Webservers, productivity suites, acl security etc. Pretty much a commodity market. Microsoft market dominance is keeping prices for OS's and Productivity Suites artificially high.

A lot of companies have trouble competing in commodity markets because labor costs are high and return is small. The company I am with used to have a strong business in lattice cell tower design, construction and installation. Once the monopoles came, anyone with a crane and three blokes could put a tower up. In essence the engineering companies with high labor costs and administrative overhead could no longer compete. Smaller companies with lower costs were far more efficient and satisfying the buyers needs better.

I know in the company I am with's case, the only markets we can go into that are high turnover/low margin, are ones for highly specialised technical expertise. Where labor is expected to be high as the cost of doing business. In the case of Linux, cost of production labor is close to $0 for most users of the OS. Which is ideal for a commodity product.

Many companies try to reinvent the markets they are in every three years to avoid it becoming a commodity market. Microsofts .net is probably an example of that. Linux of course, doesnt have to compete in that manner as it is a recognized commodity OS already.

In the projects I manage, I expect the hardware and the software costs to be a tiny fraction of the cost of the project, I expect 99% of my charges to be labor. We make money through labor multipliers. Software and hardware markups are bad, as in the case of integrated equipment they often get marked up by the supplier and then by us, as well as holding costs and the like. Labor only gets multiplied when used. I get a far greater return in investing in labor, in both intellectual capital and multipliers. In my projects I make sure the hardware and software we use are commodities, it is cheaper and more efficient. I dont want to be paying for them, and neither do our clients. Our clients are paying us for a solution to their problem after all.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

I'll stick by my guns... (4.00 / 1) (#133)
by RaveWar on Sat May 04, 2002 at 12:26:47 PM EST

It is probably just an assertion, as I do not know whether I read it anywhere. But the largest software company is able to maintain its dominant share partly because the file formats used are not open, meaning that people not using that product will have difficulty sharing files with the majority who are. This makes (proprietry) software look to me like a natural monopoly.
The state traditionally provides things that "oil the wheels of capitalism"; things like education, roads, laws, etc. The market economy needs the state to function (with its public sector to build infrastructure and provide services). OSS (the voluntary sector?) is in the same boat: it to some extent aids capitalism, but capitalism it is not.
We don't need freedom. We don't need love.
We want Superpower, Ultraviolence.
[ Parent ]
orthogonal to economics (5.00 / 2) (#139)
by arcus on Sat May 04, 2002 at 09:08:31 PM EST

I think this argument about whether or not Open Source/Free Software is socialistic or capitalistic is misconceived. Socialism and capitalism are methods of organising an economy: socialism has everything owned by the state with central decision-making, capitalism has everything owned by individuals with things working out (or not) as a result of individual choice. Whereas open source software is both a community and a development methodology.

Probably the thing most similar to open software development is the scientific community, and we don't argue about whether the scientific community is socialistic or capitalistic: obviously it can exist in either politico-economic situation and the same is probably true of free software. Like the scientific community, open development takes the whole thing away from issues of capital and allows the work to stand or fall on its own merits (well, ideally, anyway). The competition is in the nousphere (as Raymond would have it) not in the dollarsphere. The main article indicates this change, and I think this is why Ravewar is right when he says that it's not capitalist: it doesn't have anything to do with capital.

To be sure, free software has the "each give according to their means, take according to their needs" ethos associated with (anarcho-) socialism, but it's also got the 'you can do whatever you want in your free time, and put your work out under what ever contract you want' ethos of capitalism.

So maybe it does have a bit of an implicit socialist ethic, but so what? It's probably one of the best aspects of socialism, --- one which as far as I know was never very well instantiated in the (generally rather poor) examples of socialism we've seen --- so if it's a good thing why not take it up and run with it? Anyway, I don't see that it's something that capitalists can really consistently complain about: if GPL'd software outcompetes Microsoft in the marketplace then regardless of some sort of vauge political flavour they're just more competitive and therefore better. Capitalism doesn't mean everyone gets to keep their traditional revenue streams: that's protectionism approaching feudalism. And we're not inclined to criticise Oracle because Ellison thinks he's a samurai and therefore possibly a feudalist.

I don't want to suggest that politics, ethics or economics have absolutely nothing to do with the issue, of course, but trying to reduce the matter to this (simplistic) political divide is a waste of time, and often performed by someone with a political barrow to push. If socialism wasn't a synonym for evil in some circles the question wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

[ Parent ]

Good. (none / 0) (#134)
by fanatic on Sat May 04, 2002 at 12:44:54 PM EST

the backlash against them and other corporate giants will send proprietary software... into obsolescence.

To the extent that Microsoft repesents that part of the market: the sooner, the better. It seems like too much to hope for, however.

Modularity (3.00 / 3) (#135)
by jd on Sat May 04, 2002 at 03:11:04 PM EST

The definition of modular code is much the same as that for "black box" code. Once the interfaces are described, in some manner, then the module can be removed, substituted, modified, etc, in any way, shape or form you wish.

In practice, it is quite irrelevent as to how the code was actually -written-. For example, let's take winsock.dll. We don't have to care what routines are in this DLL, where they are used, how they are used, or even if they are used. All we need is everything that is externally visible, and the behaviour of each of those visible components.

Trumpet Winsock, for example, can replace Microsoft's Winsock with minimal interference. When they produced it, FTP Software's IPv4/IPv6 stack could also be used as a drop-in replacement. Clearly, Windows is designed to permit such replacements. (Although I've known Microsoft products to mysteriously self-destruct on seeing non-MS winsocks.)

The same is true of EACH AND EVERY DLL in Windows. If Microsoft won't provide the API, you can discover it by using a test-harness and debugging the DLL at the assembly level.

(However, this would be in violation of the DMCA, so I'm not recommending it. I am merely pointing out that it's possible, there is a long history of APIs being discovered this way, and Microsoft's alleged lack of paperwork is utterly irrelevent, at least from a purely technical standpoint.)

There -is- also the argument that Microsoft could always run their own binaries through a profiler to produce a list of what's used, and then print out the prototypes for all the functions. Again, the argument that "we didn't write them down" is irrelevent. You can find the interesting stuff, with nothing more than gprof and grep for Windows. If you really wanted to.

Personally, I'm amazed that Georgie Porgie hasn't passed an Executive Order to mandate that all homes and schools use Microsoft Windows, on pain of summary execution. Hell, he (and everyone else) knows that Microsoft aren't even conforming to the agreement they themselves agreed to. If they are a de-facto dictatorship, it might as well be made official, so we don't have any more farcical lawsuits to listen to.

So wrong... (3.80 / 5) (#141)
by jpmorgan on Sun May 05, 2002 at 11:39:10 AM EST

Another anti-Microsoft troll not doing his background research.

Windows is very modular, much more modular than say, Linux; and just because something is modular doesn't mean you can just pull stuff out without breaking stuff. However, that whole thing about modules being tested independently of each other, and restricting dependencies to strict hierarchies is a complete pipe dream - it doesn't take a lot of experience with large-scale development before you realise this.

Furthermore, even though something may have been designed with a lot of modularity, and strictly defined interfaces, that doesn't mean you want to expose the innards of a system to the world to use at large. Suddenly you'll have people with the craziest dependencies, and you'll be forever stuck in a backwards compatability nightmare where the only escape is to never refactor your system, or bloat your system with hundreds of useless backwards compatability modules.

As for Microsoft licensing technology from other companies? They by-and-large do, for most things they prefer it over in-house development (Office, for example, is full of technology licensed from other companies). However, if you're demanding large license fees (and MS thinks you're trying to rip them off), they may just decide it's cheaper to develop the technology themselves (or buy you). It's a very simple equation, if it's cheaper for MS to license the technology from you, they will.

And despite this 'fear' I know of a lot of software developers that have made themselves very rich through playing in Microsoft's court. MS have very strict ideas about what they want to do, and don't want to do. If I create a successful piece of software for Windows, it's very unlikely that Microsoft will come along and create a competing product that will put me out of business. Sure, it happens sometimes, but usually not before they make a very generous offer to buy the thing. On the other hand, try writing a successful commercial application for Linux; despite the fact that it's almost impossible to sell in the first place, it won't take long before some free software developer takes your application and creates a clone. That's just the way the cookie crumbles, and why you don't see a lot of high quality 3rd party commercial software for Linux.

Each paragraph in turn! (4.33 / 3) (#143)
by thebrix on Sun May 05, 2002 at 02:24:07 PM EST

1. No comment.

2. See my post immediately below; neither side offers any evidence. The point about hierarchies is correct, though (although any system in which most subsystems are exposed internally to most other subsystems is in serious trouble; internal APIs control this).

3. This is essentially a content-free paragraph; it could be replaced with 'Windows APIs persist'. Nobody could now dispute that APIs, for any operating system, are crucial.

4. Yes. But, as far as I can see (and remember - as this machine is running Linux), the technologies licenced are peripheral to the package so could probably be unbundled easily (eg grammar checkers, spelling checkers, dictionaries).

5. This appears to suggest that, if you've deep enough pockets you can absorb competition deemed to be dangerous by buying it ... thus the various inquiries of the past few years!

In fact, the whole paragraph suggests you don't understand the Linux business model; not everything need have a price up front.

With Linux, the home user can easily get by without any Linux commercial software at all because that software is almost exclusively in vertical markets. Many of the people selling, supporting and consulting on such software, such as Sun, Compaq and IBM, donate a lot of effort to develop and improve the horizontal market software on which it runs, namely the Linux kernel, device support, graphical user interfaces and day-to-day applications; there's your alternative business model in a nutshell.

People I know who 'do research' use the most arcane Linux vertical applications which need a great deal of expertise to even understand the problem that's attempting to be solved and could not be 'cloned', not that the effort would be worthwhile.

No offence, but are you a marketing professional? I ask because, when I campaigned on telecommunications issues, the various telecommunications operators put out acres of text like this which was well-written, attractively presented ... and porous.

[ Parent ]

Microsoft: Bundling vs. Modularity | 157 comments (128 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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