Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Microsoft Gets Away With One

By adamba in Technology
Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:48:57 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

To those who dislike Microsoft, the company is guilty of a multitude of sins. Abusing its market position, producing buggy software, stealing ideas from others, overcharging its users...the list goes on and on. How many other companies have a webring devoted to showing the world that Microsoft is evil and must be stopped?

With all these people out there who dislike Microsoft on general principle, you would think that genuine unethical behavior on the part of the company would raise a hue and a cry. In fact, such behavior was recently revealed. But paradoxically, nobody seems to care very much.


A couple of months ago, it was revealed that Microsoft had settled an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its misstatement of income. In times when Microsoft earned more money than it wanted to, it had been putting some of the money in reserve, so it could "earn" it in later quarters when the numbers weren't looking so good. It was not a one-time event: the misstatements occurred over a four-year period from 1994 to 1998. And the amounts were not small: almost $1 billion at times, for a company that typically has annual income between $5 billion and $10 billion.

Despite this, you never hear much about this. It's not like there isn't an opportunity. Besides the standard Microsoft-bashers, the current spate of accounting scandals has given every writer looking for a lead paragraph a chance to recite a litany of corporate evildoers: Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Tyco...but not Microsoft! CNN's special corporate fraud scorecard doesn't mention Microsoft at all.

There are some differences in the Microsoft case. The inquiry has been settled; nobody is going to jail; Microsoft was not fined or charged with accounting fraud; nor was the company required to restate its financial results. The price of the stock was unaffected, and obviously the company is nowhere near bankruptcy. To the SEC and Wall Street, this is not nearly as serious as the other cases.

And Microsoft defenders are quick to point out another key difference: Microsoft was guilty of understating its earnings, not overstating them. That is, it was shifting earnings from the current quarter to a later quarter. When Worldcom booked regular expenses as capital expenses, it was shifting earnings from a later quarter to the current quarter (since the capital expenses would eventually need to be expensed over time, thus hurting every future quarter in which this was done).

Still, while it is nice that Microsoft was taking a long-term approach to cooking the books, there really isn't a whole lot of difference in philosophy here. In both case, earnings are being improperly shifted from one quarter to another. Does it really matter which direction, in time, the shifting is done?

More importantly, the fact that Microsoft was doing this shows it was too focused on its stock price. Microsoft is a publicly traded corporation and has a duty to provide value to its shareholders, but it is the business of producing software. Once it decides it is instead in the business of producing a nicely sloped stock price, it is losing its focus on its real business. As Microsoft employees we were always told to keep making great software and the stock price would take care of itself; but now it seems that upper management decided the stock price needed a little help.

To me, this seems the first truly indefensible thing Microsoft has done. Many will laugh at that statement, but I can see a reason behind every action. Take the antitrust lawsuit: since the company was only determined after-the-fact to be a monopoly, how was it supposed to behave? If it had held back merely on the possibility of being a monopoly and then the courts had later ruled that it wasn't one, wouldn't that have meant that it was being needlessly cautious and possibly hurting itself? But the "reserve" accounts were obviously meant to be deceptive; Microsoft made no attempt to defend itself or claim the reserves were legitimate in some way, and I'm sure was relieved that the only punishment was promising not to do it again. So why did the company do it in the first place?

The reason, of course, is that Microsoft wanted the stock price to go up to keep shareholders and stock option holders happy, but it also didn't want it to go any faster than necessary. After all, any excess gains would just make it harder to keep growth rates up in the future. And continued stock option gains were the carrot on the stick that kept so many employees working at Microsoft.

Not the top employees, however. Bill Gates recently pledged that neither he nor CEO Steve Ballmer would ever take stock options. Gee Bill, that's easy for you to say, when you received about 50 percent of the shares when the company was incorporated, and Ballmer almost 8 percent (their portions are now down to 12 and 4.3 percent, respectively). Who needs options when you already have so much equity? More important question are: Does Jim Allchin get options? Does Jeff Raikes get options? Did Rick Belluzzo get options before he left? The answers, of course, are yes, yes, and yes.

Such fake sincerity about stock options has got to stick in the craw of many Microsoft employees, now that the stock is down to 1998 levels, 20 points below what it was at when Ballmer gave everyone extra options as a morale booster. Let's face it, it's the kind of thing that...that...that Scott McNealy or Larry Ellison would say. Microsoft employees are proud of the fact that their leaders are more dignified than those two, rarely spouting off in public or denigrating the competition. During the antitrust trial, employees were sustained by their belief that the company was a good, honest company, led by good, honest people. But with the revelation of accounting shenanigans, sometimes you have to wonder.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Microsoft's accounting of "reserves" was:
o A reason to send Bill Gates to jail 16%
o The worst thing the company has ever done 1%
o Bad, but no worse than a lot of other Microsoft practices 34%
o Not a big deal compared to other things it is guilty of 27%
o A bit sketchy, but the company is basically good 6%
o Hardly worth the SEC's time and money to investigate 6%
o A legitimate way to keep shareholders and employees happy 6%

Votes: 176
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Microsoft is evil and must be stopped
o Microsoft had settled an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission
o corporate fraud scorecard
o Worldcom booked regular expenses as capital expenses
o pledged that neither he nor CEO Steve Ballmer would ever take stock options
o gave everyone extra options as a morale booster
o Also by adamba


Display: Sort:
Microsoft Gets Away With One | 161 comments (116 topical, 45 editorial, 0 hidden)
Bleh (4.09 / 21) (#1)
by rusty on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:18:14 AM EST

No one much reported this because it ain't news. There's no action by the SEC other than a "don't do it again!" which ensures that political investigations of the SEC will always show that "constructive action was taken." A ruling of don't do it again is the SEC equivalent of an "eh, whatever."

It's not really fraud, because, as you point out, MS was understating earnings in some quarters, and bringing that income forward in later quarters. It's kind of a shell game, but given the choice, this is the way it ought to be done. Enron et al were basically big pump and dump scams, where the company was systematically overstating earnings every quarter, by shifting debt into shell companies but keeping revenue for itself. The stock went up, the big fellas bailed, and it all crumbled, leaving Joe Mutual Fund holding the bag.

MS, on the other hand, will have short periods where the stock is lower than it could be (due to underreporting of earnings) and other periods where it's accurate. The difference betwee the two is the difference between a con game and volatility management. The key factor is that at no time did MS report that it had money it did not actually have.

So, the SEC has said they'd rather you not do that, and MS has said Ok, sure guys. Much as I hate Microsoft, there's just nothing here.

You want an MS financial scandal, look into the stock option pyramid scheme.

____
Not the real rusty

do you know anything about finance? (4.66 / 15) (#3)
by RelliK on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:36:22 AM EST

The whole point is that understating/overstating earnings is illegal. It is called "cookie jar". Using this creative accounting trick, you can make your earnings appear to be less volatile then they actually are, which increases the stock price. What Microsoft is doing is exactly fraud.

On the other hand, the stock options pyramide scheme is, for better or worse, legal.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Heh (3.90 / 10) (#4)
by rusty on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:37:53 AM EST

do you know anything about finance?

No. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

So... (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by rickward on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:24:41 AM EST

...when should we expect an update on 501c(3) status?

"Crack don't smoke itself." —Traditional
[ Parent ]

It's late already (4.33 / 3) (#71)
by rusty on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:33:50 AM EST

You should expect one this week. But, seeing as how it's Friday already, it probably will be next week. Shame on me. Shame!

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
this doesn't seem as bad to me. (3.00 / 4) (#39)
by joshsisk on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:18:50 AM EST

I don't know much about finance, but to me, what MS did doesn't sound as bad as what Enron, WorldCom or even AOL did. The SEC, who I'd imagine are experts, seem to agree.

They got told not to do it again, so I imagine they won't.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

They get told that a lot, by various agencies (none / 0) (#150)
by ethereal on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 11:51:50 AM EST

Doesn't really seem to have worked yet, I would argue. Especially considering how hard the DOJ is going after some companies at the moment; the standard SEC tap on the wrist looks even gentler than normal.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

I shoud add that (4.33 / 3) (#121)
by RelliK on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:24:46 PM EST

the cookie jar is an essential component of the pyramid scheme. In order for the stock option scheme to work, the stock price must continuously increase. And cookie jar provides an excellent way to ensure that.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]
Cisco (4.90 / 10) (#10)
by RandomPeon on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:15:08 AM EST

Cisco did something very similar to this. For about a decade they beat analyst's expectations by exactly $0.02/share every quarter. Needless to say, they did it by "time-shifting" money instead of "space-shifting" like Enron and Friends and the Feds never made a big fuss. This created the illusion that revenue and expenses were extremely stable and that the market for routers was like the market for soft drinks - pretty boring and predictable. Of course, when the fecal matter struck the rotational cooler everybody realized this wasn't true and quite a few people got burned because they believed Cisco's markets were about as variable as Coca-Cola's.

Defenders of this practice often proclaim, "Investors don't want voltaile earnings reports." This is true, but investors want accurate reports even more. It's like the classic software engineering trick for keeping on schedule - cut time from the end of the process (testing). You can use the same justification - "The boss wants to hear it'll be on time". Yes, but he doesn't want it to be a lie created by creative accounting.

[ Parent ]
Well, ok (4.57 / 7) (#11)
by rusty on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:44:59 AM EST

It's not good practice. You make a convincing case. Do you believe that it's fraud on the same level as Enron and Worldcom though?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
No (4.80 / 10) (#15)
by RandomPeon on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 06:58:29 AM EST

I would agree it's far worse to take money that will never appear and claim it exists or that you don't owe money that you do and so forth. Further, I told people something is deeply fishy about a company like Cisco being so stable but they wouldn't listen.... But fundamentally, profit/expense shifting is the same thing as making expenses disappear - instead of presenting an accurate picture of a company's finances they present what people want to see.

A third popular trick that falls between the two in terms of scumminess is to realize all the revenue from a transaction immediately, but to count the costs over time. Bandwith swapping agreements took this to a ridiculous extreme - WorldCom sold Qwest excess bandwith and Qwest sold excess bandwith back in a 3-year deal, for example. They both claim a profit immediately and count the expenses over time.

But this is the problem with "modern" accounting - it seems to closer to public relations than economics. The whole point of accounting is to figure how good or bad things are now, not how we want them to be.

I don't know if there's really a point in rank-ordering fradulent practices from best to worst, especially given how forgivingly we view even the really bad ones compared to other crimes. Fraud is, almost by definition, a complicated thing. It's theft via complexity. In Dante's circles of Hell, the only people closer to Satan than Ken Lay are traitors :). Murderers, thieves, and men who start wars all get better service in Hell. He argued that fraud was the most evil of sins because it abuses humanity's greatest gift - our reason - and traitors are simply frauds on a greater scale than other hucksters. Maybe we need to subdivide the 10th bolgia in the 8th circle - a first sub-bolgia for revenue-shifters, a second for bandwith swappers, a third for "concealers of debt of unholy proportion".

[ Parent ]
This practice is bad when wide-spread... (4.66 / 3) (#94)
by traxman on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:54:32 PM EST

...and shows how investors can be lulled into complacency, only to be shocked into panic when things get really bad. I have to agree with the others, Microsoft's actions reported above, aren't as bad as what Enron or World Com did. However, when a whole slew of companies do this, the outcome is just as disastrous as the Enron game.

Investing in a company (theoretically) is based upon knowledge. Investment knowledge is the sum of a companies product, business practices and goals, and it's owners. (I know: overly simplistic, but not central to my point) When you can't rely on accurate information, especially when this practice goes on for a long time, you can't make sound investment decisions. Eventually, when there isn't enough cash to cover a down-turn (or crash) you hurt alot more people than you would've otherwise

Multiply this across an industry, and the problem becomes something serious. You can't blame the individual companies, (at least not completely) because the SEC lets everyone do it. Economics don't occur in a vacuum, (as we all know) and if a country's companies aren't policed properly and are allowed to cheat, investment capital goes to companies elsewhere, in a country where they are held accountable.


traxman


[ Parent ]
Possibly Yes (4.00 / 2) (#125)
by j harper on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:14:43 PM EST

The action itself--taking profits out of today's quarter and putting it into a piggy bank for tomorrow--doesn't seem like fraud; after all, the money wasn't just created, as with Enron. However, it's a very powerful manipulation of stock price, especially for a company like Microsoft that has built a reputation for infallibility. Microsoft has, generally, continued a progression of increasing its stock price over the years, without fail. If it were to slip sometime in the future (well, it has now, but...), that would damage its reputation and do far more harm to it than it would to a company with less visibility. Microsoft's strong growth is almost as much about the company as about it being famous for strong growth, thus the piggy bank action.

To me, that's fraud. That's cooking the books. They hid money to protect their image later. It doesn't matter if the money they padded their earnings reports with came from the past or the future, it's still fraud and should be punished as such.

"I have to say, the virgin Mary is pretty fucking hot." - Myriad
[ Parent ]

Understating vs overstating. (4.80 / 10) (#12)
by Znork on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:51:45 AM EST

The earnings are understated with the intent to overstate earnings in later quarters. The effect is close to the same; while the company wont potentially suddenly implode, it will potentially suddenly implode a few months later instead. The only difference is in how fast cash reserves run out with a (faked positive) negative cashflow. Of course it's a question of how much it's done and what the real earnings are. But neither Worldcom or Enron would have collapsed if they had larger real earnings. That does not change the fact that they were perpetrating a fraud upon stockholders. And so was Microsoft.

The foundation of the stockmarket is the ability of investors to decide on a (sort-of) rational basis (risk, P/E ratio, etc) wether or not to buy a stock at a certain price. When the books are faked in _any_ way, this becomes impossible and misjudgements cause peoples savings to get wiped out.

[ Parent ]

Good point, but how important? (4.25 / 4) (#26)
by gauntlet on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:36:12 AM EST

The impression I have, although I haven't seen it stated explicitly anywhere, is that underreporting earnings in one quarter in order to overreport them the same amount in another quarter is legal as long as the two quarters are in the same fiscal year.

If that's the case, then I agree with Rusty. You just have to presume that the quarterly reports and full of crap, because the company is under no obligation to tell you the truth.

If, however, there is no limit to how long the income can be deferred legally, then this is a real problem. Take the example of a fictional company in a volatile market that manages to put a years worth of earnings in a piggy bank. The economy tanks, and the market for their product bottoms out, yet somehow they continue to have just slightly below average earnings for an entire year, promoting investor confidence. Then, wham! The piggy bank runs out, they lose the ability to pay their bills, the stock price plummets, and we end up with the same damn problem that overstating caused.

I just don't know enough about it to be able to judge one way or the other.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

Microsoft vs. Worldcom (5.00 / 5) (#87)
by adamba on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:34:16 PM EST

Consider what Worldcom was doing, treating regular expenses as capital expenses.

If I buy a computer for $1500, I don't have to count that expense all in one year. If you assume the computer has a useful life of 5 years, then you could argue that after one year, I still have a computer worth $1200, so I should only have to expense $300. Since the government likes to encourage economic activity like buying computers, the IRS allows capital expenses to be spread out over the years, according to a specific schedule for various types of assets (I have no idea if it is 5 years for computers, just an example).

Now at the end of a year, I still have $1500 less in my bank account and a computer that may or may not be worth $1200...the question of if I count $1500 as expenses in this year or $300 for each of the next 5 years is just an accounting decision. I don't consider it a question of "report[ing] that it had money it did not actually have."

Meanwhile if Worldcom spends the $1500 on something else, say donuts for the corporate jet, then at the end of the year it is out $1500 and has no donuts. So a company should expense those all in one year. What Worldcom was doing was taking those donuts and pretending they were computers, and only expensing $300 in donuts this year. But it still would have been on the hook to expense $300 in long-gone donuts each of the next 4 years also.

Of course, that probably wouldn't have happened. Worldcom execs would have a) hoped the economy recovered enough that nobody noticed the $300 in expenses, or failing that b) come up with some new accounting ruse to delay recognizing the $300, or failing that c) quit and let someone else deal with the fallout.

And of course, in Worldcom's case the amount was the difference between being the only profitable telco, and being just another overbuilt bit hauler spiraling into bankruptcy. And for better or worse, the SEC *does* treat shifting money from the future to the present worse than the other way.

But from a moral point of view, I don't see much difference.

- adam

[ Parent ]

MS "pyramid scheme" link-- ugh (4.16 / 6) (#111)
by startled on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:36:49 PM EST

Pyramid scheme! MS, instead of being profitable, LOSES 18 billion dollars when they use proper accounting techniques! OMG OMG!

It sounds a lot less glamorous when you state it impartially and accurately, as the Economist does (whose position Parish misrepresents): "For instance, Microsoft, the world's most valuable company, declared a profit of $4.5 billion in 1998; when the cost of options awarded that year, plus the change in the value of outstanding options, is deducted, the firm made a loss of $18 billion".

Ah, okay. So it's a dispute over whether or not to expense options. I come down firmly on the "yes, goddammit, you expense them-- they're a fucking expense" side of things, but why does Parish have to keep dancing circles around the actual issue by making up other terms? In fact, he has a scarier case if he goes after non-expensed options in general, as that affects almost all tech companies, and many other large companies.

Well, his editorial's slightly old news now. People are waking up to the cost of options, and several companies have recently declared they will expense them (Intel, unsurprisingly, just declared they will not-- joining many other tech companies for whose balance sheets the decision would be disastrous). But the markets are still slow to react. Many investors are still in denial, despite the words of market demigod Warren Buffet: "If options aren't a form of compensation, what are they? If compensation isn't an expense, what is it? And, if expenses shouldn't go into the calculation of earnings, where in the world should they go?"

[ Parent ]
RE: Bleh (4.00 / 1) (#144)
by mansley on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 06:49:46 PM EST

So when exactly does MS get nailed for risk hiding. All fund managers that have invested in MS have been defrauded, as they are of the opinion that MSFT stock carries a lower risk than it actually has, based on it's audited numbers. Risk is about the fluctuation, you are not allowed to hide it. Exactly when do the hidden fluctuations in it's earnings become worse than, say, Enron? And who decides, as the hidden risk grows, when it should start being accounted for?

[ Parent ]
Bolstering stock prices (2.80 / 5) (#2)
by mdabaningay on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:32:11 AM EST

I prefer to see a company bolstering its stock price by time shifting revenues forwards than by making mass redundancies as seems to be the policy with most companies. But I suppose institutional stock holders might see it differently from employees.

Your premise is flawed (3.31 / 19) (#5)
by skim123 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:46:56 AM EST

You seem to condemn Microsoft as being an evil company because of their three sins: "Abusing its market position, producing buggy software, stealing ideas from others, overcharging its users." While I'll agree with the first of your three points, I heartily disagree with your second three.

Since when was it a "sin" to release buggy software. Have you ever written a large, bug free program? Are you a programmer? If you are then you've most definitely written buggy software, and chances are you've missed some bugs when shipping! If you are not a programmer then you obviously don't understand the difficulties in creating bug-free software. People make comparisons to Ford and such, saying, "Imagine if Ford's cars were so buggy." Well, they are, in a way. Engineering disciplines have various acceptable degrees of error. That is, the Ford truck is designed to support x tons of cargo. If you put more than that in, the chassis will collapse on itself - does this mean that Ford is a producer of buggy equipment?

Essentially, the window of allowable error is determined primarily by what the market will accept. Yes, Ford could spend oodles of more money to make a truck that could support 10x tons, but would you be willing to pay, say, five times as much? Similarly, Microsoft (and other large software companies) could produce less buggy software, but it would take longer, require more testers, end up having fewer features, and hence would cost more.

You deride Microsoft for overcharging its customer base. If I understand you correctly, you want bug-free software that costs very little. And I would like Bill Gates to give me a blow job, but it ain't gonna happen. I think you fail to see how capitalism works - a company charges a price for a product that consumers will pay. If they charge too much, consumers will balk. Now, you may claim that since MS has an OS monopoly, it is unfair capitalism. Ok, I'll grant you that, but how much do you think an OS should cost? If you are one who thinks it should be free, then go use Linux, you bong-smoking hippie. :-)

Finally, about stealing ideas - how is it stealing. Is it because they take the ideas of others and apply them into their business. Well whoopdie-freakin'-do, call the police Ma Kettle, because Ford Auto has "stolen" many ideas from GM Auto.

Still, while it is nice that Microsoft was taking a long-term approach to cooking the books, there really isn't a whole lot of difference in philosophy here. In both case, earnings are being improperly shifted from one quarter to another. Does it really matter which direction, in time, the shifting is done?

It does matter. While I will not defend Microsoft's "cooking the books," it is different, IMHO, when the amount of money you say your company made over time is correct. Granted, you may have lied in Q4 saying you made more, but if you summed up Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 it would reflect the actual revenue. While that may not seem morally acceptable, I view it as much more morally acceptable than reporting that your revenue was higher than it actually was. (Yes, I know in my example MS is guilty of this for Q4, but at least the numbers add up in the end - they're not outright deceiving investors - yes, there is some deception, but it's not as evil as, say, Enron and Merrill Lynch conspiring to lie about revenues that did not actually occur.

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


Please educate yourself. (3.44 / 9) (#16)
by apokalypse on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 07:11:53 AM EST


You don't mention the most important crime Microsoft has committed: abusing it's monopoly.

"Now, you may claim that since MS has an OS monopoly, it is unfair capitalism. Ok, I'll grant you that, but how much do you think an OS should cost? If you are one who thinks it should be free, then go use Linux, you bong-smoking hippie. :-)"

This statement indicates that you don't really understand monopolies or anti-trust legislation. But you are like many people, so the following is worth repeating.

Microsoft has aggressively aimed to destroy it's competition in non-OS fields by abusing it's operating system monopoly. This is AGAINST US LAW.

Monopolies are not against the law, but using a monopoly to hurt competition is.

If you don't understand why exploiting a monopoly position is bad please do some reading about, for example, John D. Rockefeller. Or look up anti-trust legislation. You sound like you need some education.

[ Parent ]

Monopolies (1.50 / 2) (#24)
by JChen on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:29:01 AM EST

in of themselves are illegal; the very point of monopolies and trusts is to destroy all oppositing market forces.

Microsoft is not a monopoly. Just because more people prefer (you may argue that Microsoft uses its money to shove it down people's mouth, but remember, in a capitalist society, if the consumer doesn't want the product in the end, they will in fact ditch it en masse and move on to better ones) to use Windows does not signify that Microsoft has in fact done anything illegal. It means that Microsoft has done a good job of marketing and creating good software. If the consumers really hate Windows and the rest of the Microsoft hoopla so much, why have we yet to see a mass migration to Linux or MacOS, or any other OS for that matter?

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

cluestick (4.50 / 4) (#30)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:45:08 AM EST

People WERE switching.  As was the case in DR DOS!  But guess what?

People loved and overwhelmingly used Netscape until Microsoft "bundled IE for free" into their OS.

And what about Java?  Remember when Microsoft would do anything to corrupt Java standards by including all kinds of incompatible and proprietary extentions and trying to make people use them?

Have you ever read the Halloween Documents?  Just click on each Halloween link on the left side and CAREFULLY read them through.

[ Parent ]

Alas (2.20 / 5) (#31)
by JChen on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:52:13 AM EST

arguing over Microsoft is like arguing Israel and Palestine: useless. Both sides have valid points (though my bias tends to veer towards Microsoft because they contain more facts than emotionally charged accusations), and both are unwilling settle for anything less than the banishment of the other.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
huh? (2.33 / 3) (#35)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:08:45 AM EST

Since when feelings and reason are antithetic to each other?

Fact is, if we had no feelings, we wouldn't need reason for anything, would we?  Shit just wouldn't matter then.

What about Microsoft calling Linux "unamerican" and "cancer?"  How is that not emotional?  You need to wake up.  You are wrong about every single thing in your post.

[ Parent ]

Netscape? Loved? Snicker (3.75 / 4) (#43)
by edremy on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:30:06 AM EST

People loved and overwhelmingly used Netscape until Microsoft "bundled IE for free" into their OS.

Excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.

Netscape sucked. You may not have been around for the beginnings of the WWW, but they were widely hated for doing exactly what MS is accused of now: using their virtual monopoly to break standards. Look up "Netscape extensions" sometimes.

The Netscape browser was *never* a good product. It was bloated, slow and buggy as all hell until Mozilla came along: version 1 and 2 routinely panic'ed my Sun, the only program ever to do so. (With Mozilla, it's just bloated.)

I spent endless hours trying to get simple Java programs to run under their JVM on a Mac (version 3). I would watch examples out of Sun's tutorials fail for no apparent reason. I finally gave up and just told people to use MSIE. That was helpful anyway: the applets were CPU bound and MS's JVM was several times as fast.

With v4, we have horribly borked CSS support, bloat out the wazoo and still more crashes. Their server wasn't any better: after spending several days trying to figure out bizarre behavior (it would timeout on any transfer over 1MB.) on my NT/Netscape server, I finally gave up and installed Linux/Apache. Faster, more stable and free to boot.

I didn't switch to MSIE because of MS's monopoly: I switched because Netscape sucked. Now that Mozilla is actually a good browser, I've switched back

[ Parent ]

I'm fully aware of this (4.00 / 3) (#53)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:39:53 AM EST

What Netscape was doing is evil.  However, we're not discussing Netscape now, we're talking about Microsoft.  Two wrongs don't make a right.

From market perspective, when Netscape first came out, people did love it.  Gradually Netscape's quality deteriorated while IE's quality increased.  But there was a point when Netscape was still better than IE and it was still more widely preferred.

Did Netscape help to put a nail in their own coffin?  Sure.  But did Microsoft do an evil thing to Netscape?  Sure they did.

BTW, I've been around when Mosaic was first created and before then.

[ Parent ]

100% wrong (4.75 / 4) (#46)
by Rogerborg on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:32:20 AM EST

Monopolies by themselves are not illegal. Abusing a monopoly position is illegal. You can even own 100% of a market, as long as you do it by offering a better product for less than any potential competitor is prepared to do.

Microsoft do have a monopoly (in the desktop market), because they have over 70% of the market. That's a monopoly, but that's not illegal. The question is whether they are abusing that position by leveraging products, locking in customers and price gouging.

And guess what. You opinion to the contrary, the current legal verdict is that Microsoft do have an illegal and abusive monopoly.


"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

consumer choice (3.66 / 3) (#127)
by janra on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:33:36 PM EST

remember, in a capitalist society, if the consumer doesn't want the product in the end, they will in fact ditch it en masse and move on to better ones

I've lost count of the number of times I've watched people use MS Windows and hate it. And continue to use it, because they don't know there's any other options! The US's beloved "free market" only works if people actually know what their options are.

I advised a friend who was looking for her first computer to get an iMac that was a year or two old: not too expensive, reasonably fast, and most importantly, essentially immune to viruses. She worried that using a Mac would essentially cut her off from the rest of the computing world, not knowing that everything you can do on a Windows PC, you can do on a Mac, and they will talk to each other.

A lot of people think that, so they get MS Windows, despite the fact that they hate it. The "free market" isn't working for them.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Ewwwwwww. (3.28 / 7) (#38)
by InigoMontoya on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:18:21 AM EST

I think I got some Slashdot on my shirt. Man, this'll take forever to get out. Better get the Stain Stick.

InigoMontoya
This signature is self-referential.
mistersite.net
[ Parent ]

economics (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by tps12 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:09:42 AM EST

I think you fail to see how capitalism works - a company charges a price for a product that consumers will pay. If they charge too much, consumers will balk. Now, you may claim that since MS has an OS monopoly, it is unfair capitalism. Ok, I'll grant you that, but how much do you think an OS should cost?
I think you fail to see how capitalism works. In a competitive market, consumers and producers are on equal footing. Prices end up near the marginal cost of production, and any firm that ignores market prices will do poorly. In a monopoly, prices gradually increase depending on how essential the product is. The question, "how much do you think an OS should cost?" is completely absurd from a capitalist standpoint.

That said, Microsoft is probably a monopoly (economically, as well as legally). But already we're seeing Linux distributors and companies like Sun offering competing OSes at or around their marginal costs (media, packaging, and shipping). Microsoft will have to either adjust its practices to stay competitive (which is very likely; Gates is no idiot), or it will collapse under its own inefficiency. This is how monopolies are dealt with in a free market. Antitrust laws may speed the process along, but not necessarily to the consumer's benefit.

[ Parent ]

Naive (4.42 / 7) (#23)
by gauntlet on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:27:18 AM EST

Monopolies are dealt with automatically in a capitalist market only if you assume that money doesn't give the monopolist power to prevent competition, which is not the case.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

good point (3.50 / 2) (#28)
by tps12 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:40:09 AM EST

If Microsoft can get the law on its side, then that is clearly beyond the pale of free market capitalism. As for restrictive contracts, well, that's just business. Upsetting a company that wields that much market influence is not an easy task. But if Microsoft just sits on its monopoly and grows inefficient and stagnant, it will happen.

[ Parent ]
"free market" my ... (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:29:12 AM EST

Yea, it took Linux to do this:

a) Linux source code can be freely examined, changed and redistributed.

b) Linux can be legally used free of charge.

c) Linux is developed by an international community of highly skilled developers.

So, you can't buy out Linux, because there is no company to buy.  You can't cut off Linux air supply the old fashioned way.

So basically, when Microsoft cannot use any of their monopoly leverage, what happens?  Suddenly we have a viable competitor.  This doesn't sound like a free market to me.  It's more like "Microsoft is free to crush your ass market, unless you sidestep the market entirely and offer your product at near zero cost in a legal and sustainable way".  That's a sad, sad situation to be in for the computer industry.  Microsoft IS killing innovation.  No, it HAS KILLED innovation.  There hasn't been any significant innovation in any commercial software that affects Microsoft core monopoly lock-in.

I have nothing against commercial companies if they are ethical.  I'm all for devs being paid, but Microsoft has gone, way, way over the line long time ago.  So have some other software makers, btw, like Adobe (remember Dmitry Sklyarov?).  In short, this is really not about the devs.  It's about the CEOs, and screw the free market!  I bet Bill Gates laughs his ass off every time he hears the phrase "free market."

[ Parent ]

heh (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by tps12 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:36:49 AM EST

Don't be silly. Linux companies sell products that compete with Microsoft's OS. That's a market. Yes, their developer communities are different, but that should not come as no surprise. If you want to beat the big guy, you don't go about trying to imitate him; you innovate, and force him to imitate you to stay alive. Such is business.

[ Parent ]
One word (none / 0) (#32)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:52:44 AM EST

PepsiCola.

[ Parent ]
I am not condemning Microsoft as evil! (none / 0) (#89)
by adamba on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:39:12 PM EST

I was describing what Microsoft bashers think. I don't think any of those things. In fact I have used exactly your arguments, at much greater length. You can read it here.

Anyway I don't want this to be a debate over whether Microsoft is evil. The accounting question is what is up for discussion. The fact that it occured in the presence of so many "Microsoft is evil" folks just makes the silence even stranger.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Microsoft isn't Unix (none / 0) (#161)
by lenrose on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 07:40:23 AM EST

There is only one reason why I hate M$. They don't produce Unix. Well, maybe two reasons :) The second being that they're going around trying to kill unix off .. over our dead bodies I say.
real hackers write code.
[ Parent ]
Why I don't mind. (1.90 / 10) (#6)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:49:30 AM EST

If they can get away with it, I think it's great - why? I don't think it should be a crime in the first place. Taxing income, particularly when spending is also taxed, is a pretty nasty deal. I don't think anyone should have to pay income tax. I won't go as far as some people who say it's a form of slavery, but I think it's just as bad.

farq will not be coming back
You know.... (none / 0) (#7)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:54:53 AM EST

I should learn to read.

farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]
taxes aren't the issue (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 05:14:29 AM EST

They'll still pay the same amount in taxes by the end of the year. These actions were taken so that they could deceive shareholders into a confidence of the stock that wasn't true. The biggest problem is that they could have 3 positive quarters and one really negative quarter. Since the gains in the first quarters would be used to offset the loss in the fourth, the investors in the fourth quarter would be purchasing it based on a false understanding of the company's momentum and market position. There's no two ways about it: the intent is to deceive investors.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
maybe (4.33 / 3) (#64)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:05:57 AM EST

I heard that Microsoft has not payed income tax in years.

here

another
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

That is nothing; read "In Microsoft We Trust& (4.90 / 10) (#8)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:54:54 AM EST

Check out this article, from the July issue of Upside magazine: In Microsoft We Trust.

Written from a legal, not a technical standpoint, it is a laundry list of items that, even at this late date I found shocking and "new". Microsoft essentially is printing their own money, among other things, like banking on non-enforcement of federal law by a corrupt judicial system.

The article names names, and explains all it's assertions. I've never seen this particular perspective on the case before; it gives a very plausible explanation for some of Apples wierd and bad-mojo business moves in the past few years.

It also describes the largely hidden, but crucial role of Paul Allen in supporting and maintaining the Microsoft monopoly via other monopolies, like TicketMaster.

Finally, it shows why the corruption is so widespread, that Microsoft likely will not ever be brought to justice. It shows just how deeply Microsoft has entangled itself into the economy.

Enjoy reading it.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


More info on Microsofts nastiness (4.83 / 6) (#13)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 04:32:12 AM EST

I made a mistake in describing the article I linked in the parent comment; I was thinking of this Bill Parish article: Update on Microsofts Pyramid Scheme. The Bill Parish article is the one that fits the description in the parent comment, and also is highly recommended reading.

The article in the parent comment is very relevant though, and still worth reading; it explains from a legal standpoint why Microsoft will not be brought to justice, and why, although Sun has the law on it's side in it's antitrust case, the law will be ignored by the legal system. And it does illuminate the behavior of Apple.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Bill Parrish - getting a little more whacko? (5.00 / 1) (#149)
by ethereal on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 11:32:01 AM EST

I've read Bill Parrish writings before that were organized, readable, and made their points clearly and succinctly. Unfortunately, this was not one of those writings.

Maybe he's letting the whole Microsoft thing get to him a little; he seemed disjointed, he kept saying that he would explain such-and-such but never really did, he had spelling and grammatical errors which I don't recall him having before, etc. Basically he seems to have crossed the line from unexpected but believable Microsoft finance critic to first-class net.crank.

Which is kind of sad, since I agreed with many of his points in the past and still do, but he's not going to convince too many other people unless he can construct an argument with more than just accusation and innuendo, and then show how his remedies would really affect the problem. If this were the first Bill Parrish piece that I'd ever read, I'd write the guy off as a first-class Microsoft hater with maybe a smidgen of common sense, and I'd never read him again.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

wow (2.33 / 3) (#18)
by tps12 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 08:46:33 AM EST

The author seems pretty worked up about various judges' negative views on antitrust laws. Indeed, how dare one examine the Sherman Antitrust Act with an eye toward the public good, rather than, well, whatever the alternative is. Envy? Mean-spiritedness? Scapegoatism? The fact that he doesn't even bother trying to demonstrate the value of antitrust laws really shocked me. "These guys claim antitrust laws are counterproductive, but we all know that's the Devil talking."

[ Parent ]
Not really his point.... (4.50 / 2) (#128)
by BlaisePascal on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:47:50 PM EST

What I think he's saying is that the Judge's aren't doing their job.  The job of Congress is to decide the best way to go about solving a perceived problem by passing laws or empowering regulatory bodies to make regulations implementing the Congressionally-decided solution.  The job of the Judicial system, in interpreting those laws or regulations, is to decide what exactly the regulations or laws mean where it isn't exactly clear.

In this case, Congress decided in 1913 that monopolies and trusts were screwing the American consumer by denying a competative marketplace, and enacted the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to limit the ability of monopolies and trusts to deny a competative marketplace -- by limiting the types of agreements and actions monopolies could engage in, etc.

There is a difference of opinion between the "Chicago School" of anti-trust and the 1913 Trust-busters as to the effect of monopolies and trusts without a competative marketplace.  It was obvious to the 1913 Trust Busters that the use of monopoly-power to deny a competative marketplace was an abuse of their position, enhancing the trust at the expense of the consumers.  The "Chicago School" doesn't agree -- they feel it is possible for a monopoly to maintain itself using it's power without harming consumers.  In fact, they feel in some cases, competition is worse for consumers than a monopoly, because a too-competative marketplace may, in some cases, prevent efficiencies of scale or cause inefficiencies in other ways.  What is important, to the "Chicago School", isn't competition, but whether or not the consumer is ill-effected by the action.  The Chicago School feels that the 1913 Trust Busters have the wrong solution to the problem of trusts and monopolies screwing consumers.

One of the things the "Chicago School" says is that the vast majority of the antri-trust laws currently on the books could be eliminated without significantly effecting consumers.

The article is saying that these judges, influenced by the "Chicago School", are not enforcing the anti-trust laws as written (as per the express intent of the 1913 Trust Busters), but are rather ignoring the law in favor of the "Chicago School" position on anti-trust.

The Chicago School might be right -- the anti-competative use of monopoly power might not harm consumers -- but simply ignoring existing antitrust law is not the way to change policy.

[ Parent ]

interesting (3.00 / 1) (#129)
by tps12 on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:57:22 PM EST

That is a valid point, to which I have two responses.
  1. Judges should not be exempt from the protections specified by the First Amendment. It should be assumed that they may write or say what they wish, though not about individual ongoing cases, in their time outside the courtroom without it having an affect on their performance in the capacity of judges.
  2. Supreme Court judges may, and should, question the Constitutionality of laws. Even if such a law is not being examined at a given time, it is encouraging that they consider these questions, both to be ready for the future, and to perform their jobs keeping the legislature in check. The Judicial branch is indeed tasked with implementing Congress's laws. But I am glad that they do not do so blindly, but with an eye toward protecting our Constitution.


[ Parent ]
a good monopoly (5.00 / 1) (#136)
by janra on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 08:27:18 PM EST

they feel it is possible for a monopoly to maintain itself using it's power without harming consumers. In fact, they feel in some cases, competition is worse for consumers than a monopoly, because a too-competative marketplace may, in some cases, prevent efficiencies of scale or cause inefficiencies in other ways.

I find this to be a good point. I don't agree fully that the monopoly using its powers won't harm the consumer, but I do think that there are some situations where a regulated monopoly is preferable. Specifically, one company or organization is granted monopoly in a field, provided they service the unprofitable parts of their field as well as the profitable parts, at comparable rates. That proviso is, IMO, the important bit. And yes, I know that this means the people who live in the profitable areas are subsidizing the people who live in the unprofitable areas. This doesn't bother me.

As a quick example, I'll use city bus service. There are routes that pack the busses and make a good profit; there are also routes that run mostly empty and lose money. If this is opened to competition, you will see bus companies running 2-3 minutes ahead of the incumbent on the profitable routes, picking up passengers and charging a cheaper fare, and completely ignoring the unprofitable routes. (This is exactly what happened in Vancouver some 25 years ago or so, until the city smartened up and reinstated the monopoly of BC Transit.) If the incumbent goes out of business, then nobody at all will run on the unprofitable routes, leaving many people without transportation; either that, or they will run at a high fare, making people a lot less likely to want to take the bus.

Which fields are suited to this type of regulated monopoly is a matter of opinion, of course.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Stealing ideas? (2.18 / 11) (#19)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 08:56:30 AM EST

Exactly how does one go about "stealing ideas from others"? Does this involve a lobotomy or something?

good thought in a different context (2.00 / 3) (#34)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:58:38 AM EST

If you posted this in a discussion about patent law, I would rate it as 5.

[ Parent ]
But since it's about Microsoft (3.00 / 3) (#48)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:32:38 AM EST

we ignore the fact that what there's nothing wrong with what they're doing... Boy is that a double-standard.

[ Parent ]
not a double standard (3.00 / 2) (#91)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:46:07 PM EST

Simply put "stealing ideas" is too brief to cover the topic.

What MS does is buy out the companies and integrate their ideas and code into their product.  I don't call that stealing.  (I will refrain from commenting on ethics involved here.)

However, there is a whole lot of "IP" types who keep screaming how "stealing ideas" is wrong and in such a case, the thought that I replied to here would be valid and valuable.

So I give it a 1, because I don't think Microsoft is stealing ideas for one, and secondly, I don't think that it's even relavant to the topic at hand.

[ Parent ]

correction (4.00 / 2) (#102)
by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:13:47 PM EST

What I mean to say is, while I agree that Microsoft doesn't "steal" ideas, what it does do (what people refer to as "stealing") is not necessarily ethical.

However, the main point of the article is that MS is getting away with major cooking of the books while other companies get slammed for the same thing.  As such, I found the comment about "stealing" to be of no value in this context.

[ Parent ]

I see what you're saying then (none / 0) (#139)
by dipierro on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 12:31:27 AM EST

However, the main point of the article is that MS is getting away with major cooking of the books while other companies get slammed for the same thing. As such, I found the comment about "stealing" to be of no value in this context.

And I found it to be of no value in the article. It was a cheap shot, and one that I wasn't going to let pass by without pointing out its incorrectness.



[ Parent ]
that's not it (none / 0) (#151)
by ethereal on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 12:52:27 PM EST

I don't think there would be the same complaints if Microsoft had actually bought out the companies prior to using their technology. What really happened, though, was that Microsoft cozied up to the companies, found out how the ideas/technology worked, and then ran to market ahead of the original inventors. You may not be able to "steal" ideas, but the legal system defines an arrangement to allow inventors limited profits from their ideas, and in that regard Microsoft almost definitely stole some profits from the aforementioned companies.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

What the FUCK? (3.00 / 3) (#106)
by quartz on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:19:50 PM EST

Sklyarov and Johansen going to jail because they enabled others to "steal ideas", while Bill Gates getting wads of cash from blatant IP theft, THAT is the double standard, not someone discussing stuff on a stupid website and wanting to keep to the topic at hand.

--
Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
[ Parent ]
Copyright is not about ideas (1.50 / 2) (#147)
by dipierro on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:11:04 PM EST

Sklyarov and Johansen going to jail because they enabled others to "steal ideas"

No, because they enabled others to "break copyright". You can't copyright an idea.



[ Parent ]
Oh, but there are many ways! (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:25:02 AM EST

For example, team up with another large company to develop a next generation OS, then break the partnership 6 months before the joint release, release an alpha-quality product and use the first-in-market advantage to work out arm-twisting deals with OEMs that will exclude the former partner.

Or, partner up with an e-card company, then when you pick all their tech, quit partnership and include the tech into your next product release (while setting your product to trash the former partner's cards without even informing the user).

Or, copy every feature from the competing spreadsheet software, then use your monopoly in OS market to push *your* spreadsheet to the consumer, threatening the OEMs with higher prices on OS if they try selling the competing spreadsheet software...

Or partner up with a disk-compression software maker to "help" them make their product work better with your OS, then just as soon as you picked all their tech, dump them and include the tech in your OS by default - with no royalty payment to the tech inventors.

Should I go on?


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
IP is not property - can't be stolen (2.00 / 4) (#44)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:30:53 AM EST

Should I go on?

No, but you could try elaborating on what is wrong with doing those things.



[ Parent ]
abusing monopoly position. (n/t) (2.66 / 3) (#59)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:54:37 AM EST


-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
Agreed (2.25 / 4) (#62)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:01:50 AM EST

So it has nothing whatsoever to do with "stealing ideas". We agree then. "Threatening the OEMs with higher prices on OS if they try selling the competing spreadsheet software." That's wrong, and it has nothing to do with "stealing ideas". The rest is perfectly fine.

[ Parent ]
Let me draw this out for you (2.50 / 4) (#74)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:48:06 AM EST

You're obivously either not reading my comment, perhaps you're just plain thick, but I'll try and help you comprehend these simple statements:

  • Microsoft stole OS ideas from IBM and then incorporated them into Windows 95.
  • Microsoft stole e-mail stationery ideas from Blue Mountain Inc. and then incorporated them into Outlook Express, while at the same time setting up a filter that would automatically trash Blue Mountain's cards without informing the user.
  • Microsoft stole ideas from Lotus 1-2-3 and incorporated them into Excel.
  • Microsoft stole Stacker disk compression technology, then incorporated it into DOS.
Of course, none of it would have been successfull were it not for their OS monopoly and the resulting ability to blackmail OEMs. This is a company whose mailing address is One Microsoft Way. Indeed it is...


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
Let me be more specific... (1.80 / 5) (#76)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:54:34 AM EST

Microsoft stole OS ideas from IBM and then incorporated them into Windows 95.

You can't steal ideas.

Microsoft stole e-mail stationery ideas from Blue Mountain Inc. and then incorporated them into Outlook Express, while at the same time setting up a filter that would automatically trash Blue Mountain's cards without informing the user.

You can't steal ideas.

Microsoft stole ideas from Lotus 1-2-3 and incorporated them into Excel.

You can't steal ideas.

Microsoft stole Stacker disk compression technology, then incorporated it into DOS.

You can't steal technology.

Just because someone else came up with an idea, and you use, doesn't mean you've stolen anything. Ideas are free for anyone to use.

In other words, you stole the idea that Microsoft is bad from Larry Ellison.



[ Parent ]
If by "specific" you mean "blatheri (1.00 / 2) (#77)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:58:57 AM EST


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
Can I help? (1.75 / 4) (#85)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:31:28 PM EST

 In case you're a little "thick" (to paraphrase), Decaf, Dipeiro understands that you're saying MS "stole" ideas.... he's asking you to explain why you think this is is morally bad, to which you have yet to offer a meaningful reply.

 He didn't say that he didn't think it was ok, (which he may, in fact), he's asking you to explain yourself a little more.

 I would like you to as well... Explain to us, Can you "steal" and idea? (by definition, if you tell me your idea, it remains in your head too, so how can it have been "stolen", In fact, by you opening you mouth, you've shared it with me.) If so, why is this a "bad" thing? Are certain ideas shareable and others not?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

So he hires a lawyer, eh? (3.50 / 2) (#101)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:12:14 PM EST

I am not letting myself be drawn into your (and your master's) troll and petty nitpicking! Whether you consider stealing other people's ideas morally reprehensible or not is a matter of your upbringing, values, and beliefs.

It stands, however, that for a company that cries it defends its Freedom to Innovate, Microsoft has done remarkably little innovation (and an awful lot of immitation).


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
oh boy... (3.33 / 3) (#110)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:35:24 PM EST

nobody's my master... I don't even know the guy(girl)

However you still(after about 7 posts) haven't answered the original question. Why do YOU think stealing ideas is bad? I know how I feel, I want to know how YOU feel, and more importantly, WHY?

Calling people names and such only serves to hightlight one of two things: You are unsure of the validity of your opinions, but can't admit it or, You unable to think of practicle reasons to support your beliefs. Either way it's sad.

Tell me, do you copy music? Do you copy videos? If so What gives you the right to "steal ideas" but not Microsoft? Isn't this a double standard? Is this right?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

duh... (4.00 / 3) (#115)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:53:27 PM EST

>Calling people names and such only serves to hightlight one of two things

nitpicking comments over language, Such as what it means to "steal an idea".
Claiming that it literally can't be done, when "to steal an idea" is a widely accepted idiom, just serves to highlight that your argument is based on nothing but technicalities. Furthermore it pisses people off, so they call you names that reflect how they view your actions of nitpicking, such as troll and lawyer.

>What gives you the right to "steal ideas" but not Microsoft?

Microsoft profits of stolen ideas and uses them against the idea's original "owners".  Is that so hard to understand?
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

ahh... an actual argument... (2.00 / 1) (#117)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:07:44 PM EST

First off, read the thread again (from the beginning) and you'll see that I was trying to draw a more developed viewpoint from him, not nit pick over the phrase "stealing ideas"

As for the argument you presented:

Microsoft profits of stolen ideas and uses them against the idea's original "owners". Is that so hard to understand?

Well, you "profit" from not having to buy music/videos, by not having to shell out the cash, and by enjoying the music. It matters little how much you profit from it, the idea is the same.



It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

amount matters to some (4.00 / 3) (#133)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 06:19:33 PM EST

The amount you take does matter.  Many grocery stores will not mind it if you "sample" a few grapes.  They will get pissed if you eat a bunch.  Same thing with the bulk bins.

Furthermore, a song is hardly an idea.  Often times ideas inspired songs.  The song itself is a final work.  In escence, Microsoft talked to someone about writing a song.  This person wrote and hummed it for them and then Microsoft sang and produced it, and the writer hardly got a thankyou, while Microsoft is rolling in dough.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

Exactly (4.00 / 1) (#158)
by dipierro on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:09:15 PM EST

Furthermore, a song is hardly an idea.

Which is exactly why what Microsoft is doing is not hypocritical. It's "wrong" (as in illegal) to copy a song. It's not "wrong" (as in illegal) to "steal an idea", at least not in the ways that Microsoft has done so.



[ Parent ]
Double Standard (3.25 / 4) (#118)
by wnight on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:14:38 PM EST

Ask the same questions to MS... They're the ones funding the BSA and pushing Palladium. If they're so against "IP Theft" why do they practice it themselves.

If they define copying Win2k without paying as "Stealing" then why isn't it okay to talk about them ripping off Stacker as stealing, and why isn't this thing with DR Dos fraud? (They lied, making it appear the competitors product had a bug. Lying for financial gain is fraud.)

I myself am of the opinion that ideas can't be stolen, and as such patents and other forms of locking out ideas are almost always blatantly wrong. But, I think we should turn the tables of MS and Adobe, use the terms they like so much (Pirate, Thief, etc) against them. Point out their duplicity and lies.


[ Parent ]

agreed, (3.33 / 3) (#122)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:34:14 PM EST

However I don't have an private audience with Mr. Gates et al. so I have to ask K5 users instead.

(I actually entered the thread to clarify the arguments being made, b/c it was starting to turn into a flame war - I am by no means defending MS)


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Legality (1.00 / 3) (#140)
by dipierro on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 12:37:42 AM EST

Ask the same questions to MS... They're the ones funding the BSA and pushing Palladium. If they're so against "IP Theft" why do they practice it themselves.

Because their version of "IP Theft" is legal and the version called copyright infringement isn't.

If they define copying Win2k without paying as "Stealing" then why isn't it okay to talk about them ripping off Stacker as stealing, and why isn't this thing with DR Dos fraud? (They lied, making it appear the competitors product had a bug. Lying for financial gain is fraud.)

Perhaps it's fraud, but it's not copyright infringement. Also, where do they define copying Win2K as "stealing"?

I myself am of the opinion that ideas can't be stolen, and as such patents and other forms of locking out ideas are almost always blatantly wrong. But, I think we should turn the tables of MS and Adobe, use the terms they like so much (Pirate, Thief, etc) against them. Point out their duplicity and lies.

So, basically, when Microsoft is hypocritical it's bad, but when you are it's perfectly fine.



[ Parent ]
Yawn (1.00 / 1) (#143)
by wnight on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:54:40 PM EST

If anyone is hypocritical, it's fine to call them on it.

I don't call using someone's idea or copyright violation, "theft". MS does, but only when it's convenient. It may technically be fraud, but it's closer to stealing that what any user does. But of course, they define the terms here...

Where do they define copying Win2k as stealing? Do you ever read? Every announcement from the BSA talks about how "piracy" is "stealing" billions of dollars from industry every year.

Finally, grow the hell up. When was I hypocritical? I was point out that they were, I was using their terms. When did I run a business selling copies of Win2k and try to justify it with lawyer games?

[ Parent ]

your own hole (3.75 / 4) (#113)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:40:45 PM EST

First you asked how to steal ideas.
This was answered.
here
Then you asked what's wrong with that.
I said abuse of monopoly power, not to mention acting like a complete asshole.
Then you postulated "You can't steal ideas" without explaining why or what you mean.
Examples of what was thought of as stealing ideas was given, yet you without saying why just repeat ad nauseum "You can't steel ideas".  

Just to get to your thick skull here is an example of an idea being stolen.  

A friend of mine thinks of an invention that will change the world.  He tells me all about it.  I beet him to the market with it and make of like a bandit.  In this example I stole my friends idea. This has and probably always will be the accepted definition of stealing an idea.  

While in sctrict lawyer technical tightassed speak this might not be valid.  This idiom is used very

often

-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

You can't steal an idea (1.33 / 3) (#138)
by dipierro on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 12:22:58 AM EST

And if an idiom is used often on the internet, it must be correct.

[ Parent ]
troll n/t (1.00 / 2) (#141)
by mpalczew on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:18:04 AM EST


-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
It is disturbing... (none / 0) (#61)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:00:25 AM EST

...that you don't see anything wrong with the aforementioned practices!


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
Strawman (none / 0) (#63)
by dipierro on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:03:53 AM EST

I never said I don't see anything wrong with the aforementioned practices. I merely asked you to elaborate on what was wrong, so that you would come to the realization that it had nothing to do with "stealing ideas from others."

[ Parent ]
Learn to express yourself! (2.00 / 4) (#65)
by decaf_dude on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:13:39 AM EST

No, but you could try elaborating on what is wrong with doing those things.

You don't see what's wrong with doing those things and you want me to elaborate. Furthermore, if those examples haven't illustrated clearly enough how Microsoft stole ideas, perhaps pulling your head out of the far end of your digestive system could help.


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
the funny thing is (2.00 / 7) (#73)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:47:20 AM EST

that we could get rid of all of this crap by getting rid of the stockmarket altogether... which does more harm then good in most cases... think resessions, depressions etc...

of course you wouldn't be able to make money from nothing anymore...


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Yes! (2.00 / 4) (#83)
by JChen on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:25:10 PM EST

And while we're at it, let's get ride of every big company that we don't like and therefore deserve to die. Hell, kill the government too! Anarchy reigns supreme!

Syke.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

huh? (2.00 / 2) (#88)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:37:19 PM EST

How does getting rid of the markets have anything to do with getting rid of big companies?

In fact, the stock market flies in the face of free market thinking as a whole, since the environment doesn't decide anything anymore, the markets do. Hence the reason for "creative accounting"

Instead of accepting this institution as necessary, it would be good to actually ponder it's usefulness. Free markets were working just fin before it existed.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Getting rid of stock markets stops recessions? (3.50 / 2) (#98)
by worth on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:07:49 PM EST

What school did you go to? Recessions have nothing to do with the existance of a stock market. Your way of thinking reminds me of that "The Onion" article, where it said that people rejoiced after a big thick line jumped over a thiner, horizontal line on a piece of paper. Funny thing, that getting rid of stock markets wouldn't get rid of recessions and depressions.

[ Parent ]
think about it... (2.00 / 2) (#105)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:19:08 PM EST

Markets don't "cause" recessions...(my bad) however, they do promote/greatly exaggerate them, simply by their nature. To say that the real economy is not affected by the market economy is foolish... perhaps you're giving to much credence to the "school" you were taught at.
 You should keep in mind that there was a time when schools taught that the earth was flat, disregarding the obvious.

 It's no accident that most recessions and depressions were immediately preceded by large stock market crashes... like the 1929 crash, and black Sunday, as examples.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Non-obutse logic (none / 0) (#156)
by X3nocide on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:52:35 PM EST

Stocks are a mirror of how the actual economy is doing. They play a minor role in the overall economy, however. If revenues are up, people are buying stuff and making money, if they're down they're not making so much money.

Assuming such a political nightmare were possible, outlawing publicly owned corporations would lead to the following: consolidation of economical power into the hands of whoever gets ownership of the companies, a greater lack of motivation to consider the public good, a massive increase in the value of non stock properties, the bankruptcy of the Wall Street Journal, a flood of highly skilled financial people from brokers, and the destabilization of the American currency. Most of that I don't think is on the "good for me" list.

Also, a few radical thinkers blame the Federal Reserve for large depressions, citing inflation.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]

Stock volatility and why executives care (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by intuition on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:48:28 AM EST

Once it decides it is instead in the business of producing a nicely sloped stock price, it is losing its focus on its real business.

I am tired of seeing executives and companies being maligned for worrying about the price of their company's bonds and equities. Before I continue let me make it clear that I do think is completely unethical and morally reprehensible to misstate any financial figures. However, I associate no negative connotation with the management of a company worrying about the price of its stock.

In the real world, MSFT stock price affects its ability to access the capital markets, restructure debt, and purchase other companies. All of these things are VERY important to the well being of a large company. Economies of scale often come with large capital investment. (Budweiser needs money to build large beer tanks to meet rising demand, Sprint needs money all of a sudden to build "a nationwide all digital network", your cable company needs money all of a sudden to upgrade your cable plant to support digital cable modems and set top boxes, MSFT recently invested and continues to invest alot of capital into the X-Box initiative) All of these large projects which benefit the consumer require an entity that people can trust to invest their money in. Stock price and volatility is a proxy for the health of the company and is a metric that can be used to convince investors to hand over their money.

Large investment banks need financial metrics like stock price and volatility to demonstrate to investors the risk of the investment to achieve the lowest possible cost of capital. In the end if the project is successful, it is the consumer who pays for these large projects, and it is the consumer who benefits from companies that cared about their financial metrics enough to reduce their costs of obtaining capital.

Of course the system can be abused, but don't give me the sophomoric argument that the only thing Microsoft execs have to focus on is producing good software.

I disagree (4.00 / 2) (#95)
by adamba on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:55:16 PM EST

I am not saying that having a nice market cap is not nice and useful. Or that stock price is not a useful number in the market.

So companies should worry about their stock price. But they should worry about it like, "We are not earning as much money, that is hurting our stock price" or "our product line is getting old, we should invest in R&D to generate future revenus and help our stock price."

The stock should be viewed as a secondary effect of doing your job well. If you move beyond that to treating a high stock price as an immediate goal, then you get into trouble. What do you suggest executives should do when they don't have the earnings to support the stock price they want? Lie about future prospects? Play accounting games? Acquire mismatched companies and go into debt just to gain their earnings? Sure it's nice to have a high stock, but if you ain't got the horses, what are you gonna do?

And you say people need to trust companies to invest in them -- precisely! That's why you need accurate financial numbers, not ones that are jiggered up because of concerns about the stock price.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Miss the point entirely (2.50 / 2) (#109)
by intuition on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:28:53 PM EST

The stock should be viewed as a secondary effect of doing your job well.

Why?

What do you suggest executives should do when they don't have the earnings to support the stock price they want?

Change the way they run the company so that it generates the earnings they and the investors want in an ethical manner. Have you forgotton that fraud is not the only way raise earnings?

I fail to see why stocks cannot be a imperfect proxy for the health of the company. Which is of course what they are for the most part.

[ Parent ]

public vs. private companies (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by adamba on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:58:56 PM EST

Change the way they run the company so that it generates the earnings they and the investors want in an ethical manner. Have you forgotton that fraud is not the only way raise earnings?

And how should they do that. Doesn't it mean (in Microsoft's case) focussing on making and selling software?

Compare public and private companies. Are private companies missing some desire to earn money that is present in public companies? How often do you hear CEOs of private companies complaing how not having a stock to worry about? What they say instead is how nice it is to be able to make long-term bets without Wall Street breathing down their neck. Being publicly traded is a necessary evil, a tradeoff between the distraction of the stock market and the benefits of having access to capital markets for business growth and employee compensation. Because every minute you spend thinking about the stock price as such is a minute you don't spend thinking about the business.

Stocks are too imperfect a barometer, in a way that encourages playing with numbers. For example if earnings are 10% lower, does the stock go down 10%? Maybe. But if it's the difference between beating estimates by 4% and missing them by 6% (which is not exactly 10%, I know), then it has a huge effect on the stock.

- adam

[ Parent ]

unrealistic (2.50 / 2) (#131)
by intuition on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 04:40:19 PM EST

So, you are suggesting that execs in large companies just ignore their bond and equity prices?

That is ridiculous. I outlined the importance of positively influencing your equity and bond prices, to keep access to capital at low prices, not to mention using your equity to buy out other companies to take advantage of any synergies of vertical or horizontal integration.

I will give you a simple example, say you are going to make a major investment on the order of several billion dollars. You will need cash from the markets, are you just going to hope you tender your offer under favorable market conditions? Are you going to cut back capex spending, and adjust your fidicuary behavior appropriately?

An example for an individual is, if you want a car loan, are you going to start applying for credit cards and mortgage refinancing first if you need a car critically?

Stocks are too imperfect a barometer, in a way that encourages playing with numbers. For example if earnings are 10% lower, does the stock go down 10%? Maybe. But if it's the difference between beating estimates by 4% and missing them by 6% (which is not exactly 10%, I know), then it has a huge effect on the stock.

No matter what the system there is always the incentive to cheat. You can't just dismiss the capital markets as something executives don't need to worry about. As for your numerical example, it has no grounding in reality.

[ Parent ]

ignoring your stock price (none / 0) (#134)
by adamba on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 07:45:48 PM EST

So, you are suggesting that execs in large companies just ignore their bond and equity prices?

Sure. Why not? They should be aware of the stock price. But name one thing they should do differently if they are "managing to the stock price" that they wouldn't do to run the company well anyway. The only one I can think of is possibly not diluting the shares too much via stock options. And what if the stock price objective is in conflict with the other objectives of the company (a common short-term vs. long-term issue)? I can come up with any number of examples of companies doing dumb things for a short-term boost to their stock price.

When you say "positively influencing your equity and bond prices" it sounds like you mean "making up stuff to artificially pump up the stock price."

I didn't understand the rest of your comment.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Managing the stock price (none / 0) (#155)
by X3nocide on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:41:43 PM EST

  • Corporate stock buyback

  • Early announcing of better than expected revenues

  • Filing for Chapter 11

  • Listening to the Board of Directors

  • Answering calls from personal investment companies
  • This is a short list, but you get the idea. All of these are beneficial to the stockholders, and to the public at large most times.

    pwnguin.net
    [ Parent ]

    Actually, that's a good argument AGAINST M$ (4.00 / 2) (#130)
    by MickLinux on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 04:28:48 PM EST

    Follow me here:  the banks will only make loans if the standard deviation of the company's earnings are not too great.  

    That seems to be your point about why the executives should care about the stock price and earnings.  

    Well, considering that the banks are insured by the FDIC, and they do regularly need bailing out [I seem to remember that a recent bailing was to the tune of something like $10 billion, over stock losses], then there are real costs associated with fraud against the banks.

    Now, arguably, that most recent bailout wasn't technically by the government.  But ultimately, others have to pay for it.  So decieving the bank lenders should carry the price of the bailouts.  

    In other words, there should be a very high price for what M$ did, direction [understating profits] notwithstanding.  

    I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
    [ Parent ]

    Gee (2.83 / 6) (#100)
    by trhurler on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:10:35 PM EST

    Maybe the reason it was considered a much lesser offense than Worldcom is because there wasn't any potential for anyone to get hurt by it. Granted, playing marketing games with your books is not honest, but the fact is, everyone up til now who bought and held onto Microsoft stock made money over time. Neither their suppliers nor their customers nor any creditors were defrauded. Employees were not harmed financially or otherwise. Most importantly, the scheme they used to defer earnings essentially made the company more stable, less likely to be abused by large volume traders at the expense of the little guy, and overall probably had a net positive outcome for most investors as a result.

    In short, what Worldcom did is like wearing a nun's habit in public to disguise the fact that you've got a bomb strapped to your waist, whereas what Microsoft did is like wearing a nun's habit in public to disguise the fact that you've got some imperfections on your skin.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    the deceptiveness could be a problem (4.20 / 5) (#107)
    by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:21:58 PM EST

    if you profit for three quarters but have a negative fourth quarter, all investors who buy are looking at numbers that really aren't legit. It has the potential for covering up a loss that would have indicated that the company is in worse shape than is otherwise indicated.

    I agree, it's not as bad as Enron, but it's deceptive nonetheless. I think this probably would have gotten more play had the recent accounting scandals not appeared. Still, the lessor of two evils is not a good.

    -Soc
    I drank what?


    [ Parent ]
    yea, if by "imperfections" you mean a le (1.00 / 1) (#119)
    by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:18:11 PM EST

    No offense meant to anyone with an STD.

    [ Parent ]
    doh, here is the subject line (1.00 / 1) (#120)
    by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:20:18 PM EST

    yea, if by "imperfections" you mean a lethal STD

    [ Parent ]
    Not quite. (5.00 / 2) (#142)
    by Znork on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:20:54 AM EST

    Microsoft had a stock price of 120 in '99. Now theyre hovering around between 40 and 50. How exactly does that qualify as 'made money over time' and 'not being harmed financially'?

    The scheme they used to defer earnings made the company _seem_ more stable. It didnt _make_ the company more stable.

    The fact is, Microsoft is in the software buisness, which is _not_ a stable buisness. The entire company could theoretically be wiped out by market shifts in a way far different from a heavy industry corporation, quicker, more throughly and without any the ability of any restructuring to help the situation. MSFT is a high risk stock.

    Risk is part of the calculation that stockholders make when they decide wether to buy or sell a stock. If the company cooks its books so the stockholders cannot accurately asses the risk in a stock, then they are being defrauded.

    [ Parent ]

    Damage done (4.00 / 1) (#154)
    by X3nocide on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:27:06 PM EST

    Microsoft has done damage though. By padding the growth curve they've made themselves look like a more stable company. That apparent stability has brought MS into many mutual funds. We've seen their stock prices fluxuate heavily, in part from certain lawsuits. But their financial creativity hides the fact that most of their money years are when new OS's are released. MS is a cyclical company and they've been doing a good job of hiding that up while trying to amend that by hunting down new product lines. But if an os loses out to a cheaper and more flexible competitor then you can expect revenues to fall flat if not recede. And that would be bad for investors.

    Its not Worldcom flavor fraud but its not entirely acceptable or victomless either. Also, there have been ruminations that there are similar reasons for GE's rock solid growth patterns.

    pwnguin.net
    [ Parent ]

    Microsoft affects us personaly. (3.00 / 3) (#103)
    by delmoi on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:13:52 PM EST

    I wonder if the number of 'microsoft bashers' is going to go down now that their OS dosn't suck as much anymore.

    But the reason I think most people hate MS is that their 'evilness' affects them personaly, because they need to run crappy software.

    So even though M$ dosn't compare to enron, worldcom, martha stewart and others... and certanly not Hitler, whoever you don't like in the I/P thing, etc.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    Huh? (none / 0) (#145)
    by hans on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:59:38 PM EST

    >now that their OS dosn't suck as much anymore.

    What version of Windows are you running, buck-o?



    [ Parent ]

    Heh. (2.00 / 2) (#148)
    by Sancho Panza on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 06:39:44 AM EST

    MS Denial XP (Released earlier this month ;)
    Service Pack 1 incorporates "valid counter-claims and arguments" and "new material" to argue in the defense of Microsoft Products. It's expected to be released sometime.

    Rumours that the "ad-hominem" Denial Assistant is to be deprecated are wildly exagerated.

    [ Parent ]

    it's a clever hack, nothing more.. who cares? (3.18 / 11) (#104)
    by trener on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 01:19:05 PM EST

    microsoft looks at laws not as laws, but as another system with it's own risks and rewards. just as there's a risk in releasing a new product, or in trying to break into a new market, there's also a risk in bending a law, or even in straight up breaking it. microsoft is very good at figuring out the risk/reward ratios of their actions, and that is -all- they pay attention to. who cares about laws? microsoft recognized that it was worth it to them to break the law, even if they got caught, so they did.

    it's smart business (somewhat unethical, but in a capitalist system, who really cares about ethics??). it's why microsoft is where it is right now. they understand that laws aren't written in stone, and they know how to use the system to their advantage. in other words, they know how to hack the system.

    as for this particular hack, who cares? they've always had the money to back up everything they've said. so they had a little bit more - are you honestly comparing them to worldcom/enron/qwest?

    capitalism and ethics (3.00 / 1) (#152)
    by octalthorpe on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 06:50:19 PM EST

    it's smart business (somewhat unethical, but in a capitalist system, who really cares about ethics??).

    If ethics was not important in capitalism then there would be no need for the SEC to exist, or for there to be a US commercial code. Sure it's an established principle that in a capitalistic economy entities act to further their own interests, but it is also well known that ethical checks and balances are required to keep that self-interest within limits.

    Microsoft's violations don't seem to me to be as egregious as Worldcom's, but the nonetheless IMHO Microsoft's behavior, both financially and competitively, deserves a greater corrective response then we've seen so far. But we are still waiting for the anti-trust case to finish...




    --
    "For my birthday I got a humidifier and a de-humidifier... I put them in the same room and let them fight it out." -- Steven Wright
    [ Parent ]
    My Feelings on "M$".... (3.50 / 2) (#123)
    by exZERO on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:47:09 PM EST

    And technically most of the people on this thread, from what I can tell, by Penny Arcade(copyrighted by Mike Krahulik & Jerry Holkins)...

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2002-07-22

    <<Zero_out>>

    rofl (4.00 / 3) (#124)
    by tealeaf on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:02:42 PM EST

    I spell it like that sometimes, but much less lately, due to peoples' requests.

    Thing is, the dollar sign symbolizes that Microsoft will do everything for money, including selling your baby into slavery if that's what it needs to do to make money.

    You think it's silly, but it's actually a political commentary of the same kind when you see pictures of various politicians with "E" Enron symbol on their foreheads to symbolize that they are crooks.

    Get used to symbolism.  Ever seen a political button/pin?  It's basically the same thing.

    Now, if you hear people say "Mickeysoft", or "Microsloth", or "Microcrack", then it really is meant to be more derogatory.  There just isn't much love for Microsoft around.

    [ Parent ]

    M$ is BASIC; E is the new A (3.00 / 1) (#146)
    by pin0cchio on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:08:46 PM EST

    Thing is, the dollar sign symbolizes that Microsoft will do everything for money

    It also symbolizes the fact that Microsoft got its start as a vendor of tools for the Basic programming language, where the name of a string variable always ended in $.

    10 M$ = "Microsoft"
    20 PRINT "Boycott "; M$

    I see the use of M$ (Basic syntax) as somewhat analogous to the idiomatic use of $foo (Perl syntax) on geek boards such as Slashdot.

    see pictures of various politicians with "E" Enron symbol on their foreheads to symbolize that they are crooks

    Does that mean "E" is the new "A" for corporate whores?

    Now, if you hear people say "Mickeysoft"

    People who use "Mickeysoft" to refer to Microsoft are possibly being inaccurate. "Mickeysoft" is Disney Interactive.

    [ Free Mickey ]


    lj65
    [ Parent ]
    On "Winblows" and others (5.00 / 2) (#135)
    by klerck on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 07:54:26 PM EST

    The following is copied from a slashdot comment from a while back. I saved it for future use. If someone could point me to the original comment, I would appreciate it! Also, for future reference, Penny Arcade isn't funny.

    HAHAHA! 'WINBLOWS'

    By taking the name of the popular operating system 'windows' and replacing the last bit with 'blows' (which is a colloquialism meaning 'bad' or 'inferior') you've just given the name a whole new meaning, while not really changing the sound of the word too much! this is the epitome of both wit and humour!

    other highly amusing (and often underused) slag terms are 'windoze' (doze meaning 'light sleep' or 'knap') and 'M$' (which usually stands for MicroSoft, but in this case, the 'S' is deliciously replaced with a dollar sign to represent how they unfairly charge for their products!)

    This is a new wave of humour, people. I think we should riddle all our posts, replies and (where applicable) everyday speech with these little beauties to forever represent that we, the open source community, know better than everyone else!

    [ Parent ]

    The Fool (4.33 / 3) (#126)
    by fullcity on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:24:12 PM EST

    There's a good article on MS accounting over at the Motley Fool:

    We're Selling Microsoft

    Bill Mann argues that Microsoft's accounting tricks (in particular, stock buybacks) demonstrate that the company is not acting for the benefit of shareholders.

    There's one fly in the ointment that we've swept under the rug.

    A question about accounting (none / 0) (#153)
    by X3nocide on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:13:14 PM EST

    While it wasnt the focus of the article, MSFT has been in the news recently for saying they won't put down stock options as an expense. Apparently the Motley Fools have ditched Microsoft for their lack of leadership. My question though is, how exactly do you expense an option?

    Consider this scenario. You give your employees a generous payment of options when prices are high. A few months later the option is above market value. How do you list the option? As a one time expense? As an outstanding debt? Its clearly not a one time expense, as its possible to not be an expense at all. Likewise it may not be a debt. Furthermore, what does it matter when the value of that option is marginally above zero?

    I think a lot has been said about stock options but little has been thought about fixing them.

    pwnguin.net

    It's a liability. (none / 0) (#160)
    by vectro on Mon Aug 26, 2002 at 09:57:35 PM EST

    And it's no harder to keep track of than other kinds of assets or liabilities that change in value over time, such as real estate or variable-rate loans.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]
    Actually, it IS a pretty bad thing (4.00 / 2) (#157)
    by Sethamin on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 09:56:10 PM EST

    I will disagree with most people here and say that it is, indeed, a very bad thing to understate earnings. I would not quite go so far as the author does, but nevertheless I assert that it is harmful to understate earnings. When you overstate earnings, people will buy your stock who might not have otherwise, based on the inflated numbers. In the inverse, people might sell your stock who might not have otherwise. Either way you are cheating investors of the information to make a decision.

    You may still be thinking this is all passe, but what if Microsoft was not still doing moderately well, but had, in fact, fallen into a deep rut along with everyone else in this recession? What if their revenues were down 10, 15, even 50%? What if investors could have noticed the drop off in revenues much earlier if not for the fact that MS was hiding earnings and reporting them later to keep themselves looking attractive? Then it would be a big deal. Then when the time where the carried earnings ran out and REALLY bad news was released, the stock would drop all of a sudden instead of gradually over quarters, denying long-term investors their chance to have looked at the numbers and seen it coming.

    This is not how the scenario played out. But if it did, then heads would be rolling...

    A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman

    Microsoft's goodness (1.00 / 1) (#159)
    by pico on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:25:59 AM EST

    Although microsoft, or more accurately bill gates are known and pretty much hated for achieving the american dream.

    Bill gates entered the game at the appropiate tiem and gave people what they want. Though some may call this next statement false, but his company pretty much start the technology bloc of america.

    Through the 90's, microsoft, along with others helped propel the united states into a tech-oreinated nation.

    Through history, man and woman have achieved similar level achomplishments for society. A sort of cruel way of rewarding them is often giving them privledges. The "city key" awarded to heros of a city is something i can call a more modern reference people can recognize.

    We all know about the classic story of teh teacher's pet. She usually gets more attention then the other student because she excels in her studies.

    Why punish people for the same _type_ of action? I am not going to say crime, because i believe that anything used to better a society (in this case, technology microsoft develops which in turn develops the first worlds) should be allowed and accepted by the society.

    Microsoft should have leaway, as well as other corporations that have built up america, have layed the frames for progress.

    the pico

    Microsoft Gets Away With One | 161 comments (116 topical, 45 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!