The Standards Blog

ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 2

ODF vs. OOXML:  War of the Words (an eBook)

This is the second chapter in a real-time eBook writing project I launched and explained last week.  The following is one of a number of stage-setting chapters to follow.  Comments, corrections and suggestions gratefully accepted.  All Microsoft product names used below are registered trademarks of Microsoft.

Chapter 2 – Products, Innovation and Market Share

Microsoft is the envy of many vendors for the hugely dominant position it enjoys in two key product areas:  PC desktop operating systems – the software that enables and controls the core functions of personal computers - and "office productivity software" – the software applications most often utilized by PC users, whether at work or at home, to create documents, slides and spreadsheets and meet other common needs.  Microsoft's 90% plus market share in such fundamental products is almost unprecedented in the technical marketplace, and this monopoly position enables it to charge top dollar for such software.  It also makes it easy for Microsoft to sell other products and services to the same customers.

Microsoft acquired this enviable position in each case through a combination of luck, single-minded determination, obsessive attention to detail, and a willingness to play the game fast and hard – sometimes hard enough to attract the attention of both Federal and state antitrust regulators.  Early on, Bill Gates and his team  acquired a reputation for bare-knuckle tactics that they sometimes seemed to wear with brash pride.  Eventually, these tactics (as well as tales of Gate's internal management style) progressed from industry rumors to the stuff of best sellers, like Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

With the  emergence of the Web, of course, the opportunity for widely sharing stories, both real (of which there were many) and apocryphal, exploded.  Soon Web sites such as Say No to Monopolies: Boycott Microsoft enthusiastically collected and posted tales of alleged technological terror and dirty deeds.  More staid collections were posted at sites such as the Wikipedia.  The increasing tide of litigation involving Microsoft, launched not only by state and federal regulators but by private parties as well, generated embarrassing documents.  Such original sources were not only difficult to deny, but almost impossible to repress in the age of the Web - and of peer to peer file sharing as well.

Moreover, while Bill Gates and his co-founders rarely displayed the creative and innovative flair of contemporaries like Apple's Steve Jobs, neither were they troubled by the type of "not invented here" bias that sometimes led other vendors to pursue unique roads that sometimes led to dead ends.

Instead, Gates and his partners paid careful attention to what was available and successful in the marketplace, and had no compunction about copying the basic designs of products already in the market.  In any event, while Microsoft's developers could be creative at the code level, its success was built far more on innovation in business strategy rather than innovation at the level of product design.  In the early days of Microsoft, this path was eminently available, because software could not then be patented.  Even after that rule was conclusively overturned in the courts in 1998 (ruling on a patent initially granted in 1993), copying the concepts, but not the actual copyright-protected code or screen displays of existing software remained fair game for a time.  Only gradually did a sufficient number of software patents accumulate to begin to inhibit the ability of one vendor to create products that substantially replicated the functionalities of competing products.

And what Microsoft couldn't copy, it was more than happy to license or  buy.  In some cases, competitors felt that Microsoft went much farther, and Microsoft soon acquired a reputation for overly aggressive, and worse, tactics of many types.  Nor did the vendor discourage that reputation entirely as it developed an increasingly brash, steamrolling corporate persona that suggested the inevitability of its success in any niche that it chose to enter.  Sometimes, these tactics landed Microsoft in court.  In one of the more notorious examples, a company called STAC claimed that Microsoft first gained access to its disc compression technology under an agreement between the two companies, and then appropriated that technology into its own products.  Microsoft outlasted STAC in court, and STAC eventually went out of business.  Microsoft steamed forward, stronger than ever.

The strategy of buying rather than building served the company well at the most critical juncture in the company's history, when Microsoft famously agreed in 1980 to provide an operating system to IBM for the new line of "personal computers" that IBM wanted to introduce into the market.  In an effort to catch up with early market entrants like Commodore, Tandy, Altair, and especially Apple, IBM decide to diverge from its historical development practices.  Instead of designing and building the IBM PC from the ground up, it decided to use as many third party components as possible – including both the CPU (or central processing unit, the silicon chip that provides the engine that drives the computer) as well as the operating system (OS).  For the CPU, it bypassed an advanced, available and suitable chip of its own, and turned instead to Intel, ordering less powerful chips in that vendor's new 16 bit 8086 chip line.  And for the operating system, IBM turned to a largely unknown software company called Microsoft after negotiations with a larger company named Digital Research broke down.  In a decision that not only secured the future success of Microsoft but also established the technology landscape for decades to come, IBM famously agreed to license, rather than buy, that OS from Microsoft.

What IBM did not know was that Microsoft didn't have an OS to sell, and wouldn't develop one in time to meet the requirements of the contract.  After signing the agreement with Big Blue, Gates scrambled to license the original operating system from a nearby hardware company, called Seattle Computer Products, for relicensing to a "secret customer."  SCP had first named that OS "QDOS," for "quick and dirty operating system," because it had been developed for internal product testing purposes with only a few man months of effort.  Reportedly, Microsoft paid only $25,000 to license QDOS, and then a further $50,000 to buy the OS outright (later, it paid $1 million to settle a suit brought by SCP in connection with the transaction).

Ironically, while IBM succeeded in giving the "PC" name to desktop computers, PCs never became as successful a business line as it had hoped, in part due to these early design decisions.  Eventually, IBM sold the business in 2005 to Lenovo, a Chinese company.  Nor did SCP, the developer of the OS Microsoft bought, flourish: it's own 8086 related hardware products did not sell well, and eventually it went out of business.  But IBM's willingness to license rather than buy the OS it used in the IBM PC allowed Microsoft to license the same operating system (which it now called MS-DOS) to other vendors as well.  And since IBM had opted to buy Intel chips rather than use chips of its own design, other vendors could buy them as well. 

The result was a rapidly growing market for what came to be called "IBM PC clone" computers, which was unfortunate for IBM, but wonderful for the success of the PC market in general, because it supplied a "de facto" standard platform upon which independent software vendors (ISVs) could economically create software to sell to an ever-expanding market of compatible computers, all built by different vendors.  The growing availability of useful application software helped make clone PCs more attractive than the proprietary design computers still being sold by Commodore, Tandy, Altair and Apple.  Moreover, competition between the new, largely fungible products of the clone vendors naturally drove down the prices for all of their computers (and to prices that IBM sadly could not profitably match).  This fierce price competition drove clone sales up, and encouraged more people to found new desktop software application development companies to sell software to run on the victorious "WinTel" platform, since there were more and more customers to buy their wares.  The final result, of course, was enormous profits for Microsoft and Intel, and lower and lower profits for everyone else.

Microsoft's decision to buy rather than build the initial MS-DOS operating system has typified its strategy ever since, underlining the value of innovation in business and marketing strategy over technical innovation.  In the years that followed the success of MS-DOS in overwhelming the desktop, Gates in particular played Rome to Steve Jobs' Greece.  Just as the Romans admired, copied, and then expanded upon the innovations of their neighbors to the east in the ancient world, Gates never thought twice about adopting the creations of early market entrants and product visionaries like Jobs.  And just as Rome eventually conquered the Greeks and seized its colonies, Microsoft swiftly came to dominate the marketplace for the desktop OS software that the first home computer manufacturers had created. 

Nor did Gates stop there.  When Apple launched a revolutionary new computer called the Macintosh in January of 1984 with the first commercial implementation of a "graphical user interface," or GUI, it appeared that Apple might begin to regain market share.  Unlike MS-DOS, which required users to navigate solely using cursor keys and to sometimes learn and type obscure commands, Apple's Macintosh was far easier and intuitive to use, making it particularly popular with schools.  What made it so much easier to interact with a Macintosh than a PC clone was not only the GUI, but another technology that Apple was the first to commercialize: the mouse. 

Microsoft reacted by launching a GUI development effort of its own, copying essential elements of the Apple GUI in the process.  It launched the first version of what it called Windows in November of 1985.  Not surprisingly, Apple took Microsoft to court, alleging copyright infringement – but Microsoft pointed to a pre-existing cross license between the companies, claiming it gave it the right to knock off the Macintosh GUI.  Although that license had been intended for a different purpose, a judge agreed that it could be read broadly enough to cover the rights Microsoft needed to copy Apple's innovative GUI as well, and Apple's fortunes began to recede once again.

Still later, Gates famously underestimated the importance of the Internet, allowing a brash, venture-backed startup called Mosaic Communications Corporation (its name was soon changed to the more familiar Netscape Communications) to both create and soon own the market for software that made it easy to access and "browse" Tim Berners-Lee's new creation:  the World Wide Web.  Owning the access point to the Internet and the Web, Netscape (and eventually Microsoft) realized, could permit users to easily access and alter files from any operating system linked together via a network, a capability that might undermine the source of Microsoft's dominance.  Once that realization belatedly struck home, Gates reacted swiftly, making an aggressive entry into the browser market.  Soon he succeeded in supplanting Netscape - by largely copying Netscape's Navigator browser, and then by giving what Microsoft called Internet Explorer away for free.  Even more effectively, Microsoft bundled its new browser software with the Windows operating system, so that every new PC that shipped with its Windows operating system (which is to say, virtually every computer not sold by Apple) also included a free copy of Explorer.

Gates had learned another valuable lesson from Microsoft's success in the PC clone marketplace that he would never forget:  the importance of attracting and holding the attention of a wide range of ISVs willing to develop products compatible with the WinTel platform, and thereby make that platform more attractive to potential new customers at little or no cost to Microsoft.  As time went on, Microsoft played a sort of cat and mouse game with the growing number of ISVs in the desktop marketplace.  On the one hand, Microsoft provided technical information and marketing support to ISVs to provide incentives for them to "port" their products to those of Microsoft, and to upgrade those products as Microsoft upgraded its own to keep the two compatible.  But from time to time, Microsoft would also launch new products in competition with those of ISVs, or worse, simply add the functionalities of those products to Windows itself at no additional cost.

When it did, the result was both good and bad for the end user, who got more and more software functionalities and services for the same price.  Meanwhile, processor speeds, storage and other capabilities continued to increase as well, making a desktop computer more and more desirable.  But at the same time, each time that Microsoft eliminated a competitor, choices and innovation diminished, because the incentive for Microsoft to improve those functionalities abated, and potential new competitors had little hope for success in selling for a fee what Microsoft was already making available for free.  In the case of Explorer, for example, Microsoft allowed its rapidly developed browser to languish for almost seven years without a major upgrade, after vanquishing Netscape Navigator – roughly half the entire lifetime of the Web at the time.  Only when a resurrected version of Navigator, called Mozilla, began to gain market share did Microsoft issue a new release of Explorer.

After the desktop version of Windows and the Office productivity suite, Microsoft's next most popular and profitable product line is the version of Windows created for use on servers, the computers that most business PCs are linked to in networks.  These computers are more powerful than PCs, and (among other tasks) host application software – the software that business people use to perform discrete tasks, such as creating documents and working with databases.  These larger computers "serve" needed application software to the PC's that individuals use at work, which become their "clients" in the client-server architecture that has become pervasive in most business environments today.

Microsoft's entry into the server space was both inevitable and timely.  Inevitable, because having conquered the desktop, it needed to attack another platform in order to grow its OS sales faster than the desktop market was growing.  And timely, because of changes in the marketplace itself.

Those changes involved the evolution of the IT environment away from proprietary, closed systems where a single vendor would sell the entire "stack" of hardware and software to a customer, and then own that locked in customer for many years.  In the proprietary world, desktop users sat at "dumb" terminals comprising a monitor and keyboard, but no resident application software, linked to huge "mainframe computers.  Later, terminals more commonly connected to the minicomputers that for years were the foundation for the transitory success of companies like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Data General and Wang Laboratories - all now gone.  These minicomputers in turn gave way to what we now call servers, and these servers, like many of the minicomputers they replaced, ran variations of a program called UNIX, originally developed by Bell Laboratories.  But each vendor used a somewhat different version of UNIX, making it still difficult for customers to switch from one vendor to another.

Microsoft came late in the game to the server marketplace, but its timing was right, in that the next evolutionary transition was beginning to take place in hosted terminal architecture.  And while many major companies, such as IBM, HP and Sun were well established in this marketplace, Microsoft had good field position as well for the game that was to follow. This was because most Microsoft's PC customers already used servers, and these customers could gain technical advantages by buying both server and desktop products from the same vendor so that they would more easily work together.  Customers could expect favorable bundled pricing as well, and that pricing could be very attractive indeed as Microsoft first entered the market for server operating system software.  

Still, fourteen years after introducing its first version of Windows usable on servers, Microsoft has today not a 90% market share, but a rising [42%] position, sharing the server niche with declining sales of UNIX systems, which continue to be offered in various proprietary flavors by vendors such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, and also with an "open source" operating system called Linux, which is dominant in applications such as Web hosting, and enjoys a roughly equal market share with Microsoft overall.  The Linux operating system is available in multiple distributions (or "distros," for short) for free from a variety of commercial companies, such as Red Hat and Novell, and from numerous non-profit, volunteer projects as well, with names such as Ubuntu and Debian.  Together, Linux and other open source software (about which much more later) has raised a formidable challenge across the board in all existing and emerging computing environments in which the Microsoft competes – servers, desktops, and mobile devices, such as personal data assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones.

Still, despite Microsoft's huge early successes, enormous market capitalization, and huge cash reserves (typically over $30 billion), Microsoft has launched far more failed and semi-successful products than dominant ones.  Over the years it tried and failed to achieve success in areas such as portable touch screen LCD monitors (SmartDisplay, launched in 2002 and cancelled the following year), and in a rare and ill-fated effort to match Apple's level of creativity in user-friendly product design, called Bob – an interface intended to make learning how to use a computer more simple.   Bob proved not only to be unsuccessful (and some thought even more annoying than Clippy, Bob's lineal descendant), but was soon cancelled, earning the unfortunate honor of being named "worst product of the decade" by CNET.com.  Today, Microsoft has increasing revenues from a variety of newer products and services, such as its Xbox game stations, where it competes with Sony's PlayStations and Nintendo's GameCube, Web-based advertising, where it lags Google and Yahoo, Zune portable music players, where Microsoft (and all other competitors) have been hopelessly outsold by Apple's wildly popular iPod line, and the CE OS for portable devices such as phones, where a variety of Linux distros is rapidly becoming dominant.

Microsoft's difficulty in entering markets that were already dominated by well-established and capable competitors is doubtless attributable in part to its culture of copying already successful products rather than entering the marketplace with more innovative alternatives.  As a result, it has operated many of these new business lines at a significant loss – often in the billions of dollars per year - as it struggles to gain market share.  These billions continue to be provided by its two flagship products, operating system and office suite software.

The picture that emerges from even such a cursory review of Microsoft's history, as well as its current financials, is therefore of great and ongoing dependence on just two product lines – Windows and Office, although that picture is gradually changing over time.  In 2005, Windows and Office contributed $[X] billion and $[Y] billion out of $[Z] in total revenues, and a much larger percentage of its operating profits (Microsoft projects that the equivalent numbers for its 2007 fiscal year will be X, Y and Z for 2007).   Clearly, under no circumstances can Microsoft afford to see its dominance in either of these product lines be eroded.

Moreover, Microsoft knows only too well how it acquired control of the office productivity suite marketplace to begin with, and how its lock in of the same niche has been sustained.

->Next Chapter      What a Difference a Decade Can Make
In which Microsoft captures - and locks in - the office suite marketplace

<-Previous ChapterOut of Nowhere
How ODf came to the attention of the World - and Microsoft

  <All Chapters>

 

sign up for a free subscription to Standards Today today!

Comments

Permalink
Andy,

I really enjoy your posts and your book effort.  I (like you) think this is important.

My major criticism of this second chapter (and the reason for this post) is that I think you're being too nice to Microsoft.  This is not an attempt at bashing Microsoft, but an attempt to get the full range of activities into the record.

You failed to mention that Microsoft was not always able to copy or buy technology and when they were unable to copy or buy, they stole it.  Example # 1 was Bill Gate's dumpster-diving & 'theft' of computer resources while writing the first basic compiler.  They also have a long history of dirty business dealings with their partners / competitors.  I submit as example # 2, the STAC disk compression technology which later became the source of a lawsuit when Microsoft violated their agreements with STAC and 'took' the technology into Windows, thus driving STAC out of business.  Microsoft managed to delay the court case long enough that STAC folded before the ultimate 'win', leaving their technology orphaned and vulnerable to a Microsoft ownership claim.  This was a common theme during their early years - 'take' competing technology, stall the lawsuit until their competitors folded, then claim the technology as their own 'innovation'.  I believe that Groklaw may also have a 'history of Microsoft lawsuits' page that should have lots of examples of Microsoft showing no respect whatsoever of other people's IP. 

Another example is the Winframe/Winview products from Citrix.  The Microsoft duplicate offering is not as good, but is more prevalent today because it's 'free' with the OS.  Citrix revenues have taken the hit for this as customers object to paying full price for MS with one multi-user graft-on capability, then having to buy the Citrix server & per seat client licenses on top of that.  Fortunately for Citrix, the Microsoft terminal program does not work nearly as well and does not have near the feature set of Citrix.

Ditto their entire 'EEE' history of their 'partnerships'.  I know that Groklaw has a 'dirtry tricks' page - much of which originated with the Iowa class action lawsuit that may provide some more interesting reading and far more details than I can recall from the top of my head.

I hope you keep up the good work as I believe there needs to be records of Microsoft's 'business' and litigation history including mentions of their 'business ethics' (or lack thereof).  Don't forget they they made exclusive deals with all major PC vendors and in that illegal move (illegal per the anti-trust findings), they starved OS/2 out of existance as well as one or two additional OS(s) that never caught on (such as BEOS).  Most - if not all - of their IP infringement lawsuits were settled out of court and under seal, so there is no public history of the outcomes other than that the plaintiff eventually went out of business and that Microsoft continued to ship the contested technology as part of Windows.  I can only observe that as many times as Microsoft has been sued for copyright or patent infringement and as many times as they've settled and as much money as they've paid out in settlements sure implies a very dirty history that they do not want widely known.

In summary, while I enjoyed reading your 2nd chapter, I think you do your ebook a grave disservice by setting a tone (or at least giving the impression) that Microsoft's 'business innovation' was at all times legal and above-board.  It was not - far from it - as many techies saw first-hand at the time and as we continue to see today in such things as the OOXML <-> OSI fracas and the OOXML <-> ODF spin that Microsoft employees continue to spread via blogs now that their PR releases are no longer regurgitated verbatim by mainstream journalists.

- Ed

"I submit as example # 2, the STAC disk compression technology which later became the source of a lawsuit when Microsoft violated their agreements with STAC and 'took' the technology into Windows, thus driving STAC out of business.  Microsoft managed to delay the court case long enough that STAC folded before the ultimate 'win', leaving their technology orphaned and vulnerable to a Microsoft ownership claim.  This was a common theme during their early years - 'take' competing technology, stall the lawsuit until their competitors folded, then claim the technology as their own 'innovation'."

I think they did the same thing with the avi container format.

Permalink

In the 12th paragraph (the one that begins "When it did, ...") there is ".. selling for a free ..." that should be "for a fee".

I would suggest that, in the following two paragraphs, that you have oversimplified the history of "servers" beyond usefulness or relevance. The client - server architecture has slowly evolved from the dumb terminal - mainframe architecture of yore, with almost no change in the basic relationship. The server market was dominated, for a long time, by Unix derivatives and clones. Linux, being a Unix derivative that is the same on all machines, is the logical replacement. Microsoft's entry into the server business was provided by the proprietary and secret communications protocols (SMB?) that Samba provides, that Microsoft is constantly changing to discourage Samba and that is the center of the EU antitrust rulings.

I expect that Microsoft expects to use OO-XML in some way to further lock up the server market.

Jeremy Allison would be a good source for the straight scoop on all this.

Otherwise, I mark your e-book "excellent".

Gordon MacGinitie < grundoon at telerama dot com >

I agree with the parent - furthermore, I recall Microsoft marketing in the early days that had many managers believing that in order to be 'compatible' with Microsoft clients, all datacenter servers had to run Microsoft code - including web servers, DNS/DHCP/NTP/etc, in addition to file/print servers - despite the availability of early versions of Samba & various studies that said that Samba scaled better than MS file/print servers.

Technically, this argument never had merit outside of the MS servers that used the MS proprietary extensions to SMB.  For those servers, Samba was always available except for a short time period after each time MS made a non-compatible update to the protocol until the Samba team caught up.

I don't know if Microsoft is still succeeding with this mis-information campaign to get IIS into datacenters, but I suspect they are.

- Ed

Permalink
"Soon he succeeded in supplanting Netscape - by largely copying Netscape's Navigator browser"

I find the use of the word "copying" in this sentence slightly problematic. I understand, using the context from previous sentence, that what is meant is Microsoft "copying" the functions of Netscape.

In the previous paragraph, "copying" is used to meant "pirating" Mac GUI. (Although a judge throw it out, we understand what you meant)

In this case, however, Microsoft actually bought in a budding, alternative implementation of a browser. See Wikipedia's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer  (version history).


----

"and then by giving what Microsoft called Internet Explorer away for free"

Knowing that you have a legal background, and continuing from the fact that the previous paragraph says the trial judge rules in favour of Microsoft over Apple in the UI case, I think you should consider mention here that DOJ failed to convince the original judge that this is an illegal practice in the Microsoft antitrust case, probably as a footnote.

HTH

Permalink
Thanks very much to each of you for these helpful comments - I appreciate the help and your time and trouble.

First, an overview response before addressing each comment individually.  There are a number of constraints and decisions that I'll likely be working out for quite a while which will result in ongoing changes in chapters already written.  By posting the chapters in real time, you'll be able to see how these changes work out, rather than (in the usual course) only seeing the final, finished book.  And I, of course, will benefit a lot from input such as this in deciding on the adjustments to make.

Two key concerns I'm juggling are length, depth and tone control.  A book like this would normally be c. 200 pages in length, which means about 60,000 - 80,000 words, if I were to target that length, and I've already used up about 6,000 of them.  That means I'll need to think carefully what to cover and in what depth, which will mean that I'll have to shortchange a lot of good historical material, in particular, in order to leave enough room for the narrative of the ODF-OOXML story.  That means that I need to shorthand a lot, using terms like "borrow" and "copy."

The tone control problem is particularly tricky, because if you use the unsubstantiated "some say" approach, then you're not practicing very respectable journalism.  But if you go into adequate detail, then you run into the length problem.  That said, I agree that I need to add something into this chapter that acknowledges the issue you bring up, but probably not in much detail, because I had already planned to come back to some examples in the course of the narrative.  For example, one will be the history of Gates in first justifying heavy copyrighting of his initial programs, then copying products widely when there were no patents, and now today rattling the patent sabers not because others have copied Microsoft products, but because there are so many patents now that anyone creating anything may innocently run afoul of existing patents.

Now on to specific comments.

Ed:  I've covered a lot of your comments in the overview above,  but that still leaves your examples and your central point.  I had considered going into the dirty tricks topic here, and indeed using the STAC saga as an example, as it was not only an egregious but a well documented example.  I decided not to use it in the first draft primarily for length concerns.  The other examples are good ones that I know a lot less about.  If I decide to go into "dirty tricks" in detail, I'll need to spend more time on research.  That will take a bit of time, but there will be plenty of existing material for me to make use of, as you point out.

That said, I've added in the following paragraph for now, which could be expanded later, or I can come back to the topic in future chapters.
And what Microsoft couldn't copy, it was more than happy to buy.  In some cases, competitors felt that Microsoft went much farther, and Microsoft soon acquired a reputation for overly aggressive, and worse, tactics of many types.  Nor did the vendor discourage that reputation entirely as it developed an increasingly brash, steamrolling corporate persona that suggested the inevitability of its success in any niche that it chose to enter.  Sometimes, these tactics landed Microsoft in court.  In one of the more notorious examples, a company called STAC claimed that Microsoft first gained access to its disc compression technology under an agreement between the two companies, and then appropriated that technology into its own products.  Microsoft outlasted STAC in court, and STAC eventually went out of business.  Microsoft steamed forward, stronger than ever. 

Gordon:  Thanks for the thoughts on servers.  While length is a concern, I've invested another couple of paragraphs, and revised one of the ones that was already there.  The server-related text now reads like this, so let me know if you think this does a better job :
Microsoft's entry into the server space was both inevitable and timely.  Inevitable, because having conquered the desktop, it needed to attack another platform in order to grow its OS sales faster than the desktop market was growing.  And timely, because of changes in the marketplace itself.
Those changes involved the evolution of the IT environment away from proprietary, closed systems where a single vendor would sell the entire "stack" of hardware and software to a customer, and then own that locked in customer for many years.  In the proprietary world, desktop users sat at "dumb" terminals comprising a monitor and keyboard, but no resident application software, linked to huge "mainframe computers.  Later, terminals more commonly connected to the minicomputers that for years were the foundation for the transitory success of companies like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Data General and Wang Laboratories - all now gone.  These minicomputers in turn gave way to what we now call servers, and these servers, like many of the minicomputers they replaced, ran variations of a program called UNIX, originally developed by Bell Laboratories.  But each vendor used a somewhat different version of UNIX, making it still difficult for customers to switch from one vendor to another.

Microsoft came late in the game to the server marketplace, but its timing was right, in that the next evolutionary transition was beginning to take place in hosted terminal architecture.  And while many major companies, such as IBM, HP and Sun were well established in this marketplace, Microsoft had good field position as well for the game that was to follow. This was because most Microsoft's PC customers already used servers, and these customers could gain technical advantages by buying both server and desktop products from the same vendor so that they would more easily work together.  Customers could expect favorable bundled pricing as well, and that pricing could be very attractive indeed as Microsoft first entered the market for server operating system software. 

And thanks for the typo catch.

Anon:  I think that "is" is right, since it modifies the singular "a variety" rather than the plural distros themselves.

I see that other comments are still being posted, but I'll post these comments for now, and return with responses to other comments later today, or first thing tomorrow morning.

Once more, thanks to all.

  -  Andy

Thank you for the response, Andy.

I'd like to highlight to you that the practice you cite as 'bundling' of servers with desktops appears to be leveraging the MS desktop monopoly to try to gain a monopoly in servers - another practice that ran afoul of the DOJ anti-trust proceedings.

- Ed

Sorry for the frequent posts, but I just wanted to mention the famous "DR DOS" error in Win 3.x where Microsoft checked a certain bit in the running DOS memory space that was only set by MS-DOS and if it was not found, would post an error to the user that Windows may not run properly because it was not running on genuine MS-DOS.

This bogus error message seriously hurt sales of DR-DOS and PC-DOS and the courts eventually found that there was no technical purpose for this error message other than to scare customers toward MS-DOS - even though MS-DOS had fewer features and far more bugs than its competitors.  These types of Microsoft activities have continued to this day.  Examples: The marketing campaigns to management that only an MS server can be compatible with an MS desktop and the insistence by MS that OOXML is the only file format can provide backwards-compatability with older MS file formats because "only the OOXML file format was designed to be backwards compatible with legacy *application* features" - in other words: "If you do not go with an MS file format (that we can change at will), your documents will not be compatible and you will lose all access to all legacy content."

As we know, there is no technical justification for this OOXML claim, but it sure works to scare the non-technical management types.

IIRC, Caldera ony recently finally settled the DR-DOS lawsuit - long after DR-DOS had folded an become obsolete.

- Ed

Andy,

It took me all day to realize what it was that unsettled me about your current draft (prior to - and even including - your amendments).  My challenge is that Microsoft appears to be being given a sort of 'whitewash'.  Microsoft has always tried to cover up, whitewash, spun, mislead, and obfuscate their true purposes, ethics and business practices.  Where necessary, they have lied, and manufactured whatever court evidence may have been required to 'clean' their image enough to get what they want, yet their continuous repeating of previous bad practices and their continuing efforts to cover up their bad faith continues to this day.

Examples of this positioning include their court 'evidence' that IE was integral to their OS, their 'vaporware' sales (A vendor comes out with a new product that threatens Microsoft, so Microsoft announces that that feature will be bundled in Windows in the next release.  This leads customers to *not* buy from the vendor, but to wait for the MS version which never materializes.  Once the vendor is bankrupt, Microsoft announces that there was no demand for the feature and that they are cancelling it); Microsoft sealing all court cases that they pay off so as to not have any public record of of the case and so that one case cannot utilize information from another case - in other words, one victim cannot benefit by learning the tricks played against a different victim; Microsoft's 'philothrantric' (sp?) gestures of giving software to schools amid massive publicity, only to come back the next year and demand full-price licenses from all this 'free' software they gave - in many cases, these licenses cost more than the school had budgeted and sometimes more than they could afford;  Microsoft is playing the 'innocent' in the current OOXML struggle, but evidence of their corruption continues to surface.

I don't think any accurate history can *not* mention the fact that Microsoft's total history is one of graft, greed, and corruption or that everything they've gotten has been at the expense (destruction) of others - including their customers.

Microsoft will be more than willing to rewrite history so they come out looking like the good guys, struggling against IBM and all those zealots and communists and bearded barefoot hippies that are struggling to shut down their 'innovative technologies' and destroy all their advances (mostly in the fields of customer lock-in and innovative uses of FUD, marketing, and litigation).

Anyway - just my opinion, but if Microsoft's transgressions do not get documented, they will be free to continue transgressing, while claiming that they've never transgressed in the past.

Just my two cent plug for a less 'optomistic' view of history.

- Ed.


Andy,

Thank you for responding to my comment. The changed paragraphs now work much better for me

My thoughts about Samba and the EU antitrust would only be an example of monopoly at this point
and won't be relevant to OOXML until Microsoft ties it into their collaboration software .

If you want typos identified: from Alan's comment - "fell was" has become "fwas"

Gordon

Permalink
I think you maybe misunderstand the part of IBM in this.

In the early 80's, IBM was under the 'consent decree' dating back to 1956, and IBM knew that it should not take a dominant position in adjacent businesses. So, if the plan was to sell Personal Computer 'boxes' and dominate the market for a while, it would be a good idea not to use IBM microprocessors inside; and it would also be a good idea not to run IBM software on top.

Of course IBM could have done that; www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/pc/pc_4.html was a fine machine; and there were (and still are) thousands of capable software engineers on the staff. Tens of thousands, actually.

Also, IBM tends to sell things for use in businesses, by professionals. Isn't really capable of selling things for use in homes,  where you need to do a much higher volume with lower margins.

'Way of a product' for IBM starts with an IBM 'exclusive', which sells for high prices; then, as competitors are drawn in to a profitable business, prices fall, and IBM exits the business. Happened with card punches. Happened with typewriters. Happened with networking service. Happened with hard disks. Happened with personal computers. But there's always something to replace the old burnt-out businesses; put enough effort into Research and Development and you'll find it.

Things are really on edge now, that it has happened with OS/2 (the successor is Linux, no charge, downloadable from many places such as ibiblio.org) and Lotus SmartSuite (the successor is Lotus Symphony, no charge, downloadable from symphony.lotus.com

Permalink
Hi Andy,

thanks for doing this. It is a good read so far. I have 2 comments:

1, 3rd Paragraph, "Even after that rule fell was conclusively overturned...". Should there be an 'and' between "fell" and "was"?

2, One important area not mentioned in the section on the server/mini-computer time was that of Novell. Everyone I knew in the SME had Wintel on the desk and Novell's file and print servers running over their proprietary SPX/IPX stack. Microsoft nicked IBM's NetBEUI and killed Novell's server business on just a few short years...

Keep up the great work.

Alan
http://www.theopensourcerer.com

"Microsoft nicked IBM's NetBEUI and killed Novell's server business"

That's deeply wrong.  Microsoft didn't steal NetBEUI, and whatever they did to kill Novell, they had a lot of help. 

There were a lot of LAN vendors in those days, and Novell was a great one for holding a gun to its own foot.  Novell was in no hurry to help their customers get off IPX/SPX, or do anything that would injure Netware sales.  TCP/IP was gaining currency: you could buy -- still can! -- an X server and and NFS client for $200.  Nobody was bothering to sell a TCP/IP stack for reasonable money, despite the fact that the protocol and the (BSD) implementation was free.  Eventually Novell bought UNIX, but by then
the jig was up.  And let's not forget Apple, which thought AppleTalk was what everyone should speak, and never bothered to develop a multitasking operating system until, oh, 2004 or so. 

The only server Microsoft had was OS/2, which, unlike Netware, was at least a protected memory system.  Compared to UNIX and VMS, it was awful, but it was also 1/100th of the price.  And NetBEUI lacked some important features compared to DECnet and TCP/IP -- notably routability -- but it worked pretty well, certainly as well as IPX/SPX. 

IBM and the minicomputer guys either couldn't or wouldn't pay the PC business any mind.  They had technology, but they wouldn't let it go at $50 a seat or less.  Novell would, but thought it was selling Netware, not networks.  They left the field to Microsoft, and Microsoft eventually walked on. 

Just like they had done with video cards and printers, Microsoft made networks pluggable, via NDIS drivers.  And they made the protocol pluggable, too.  The user could set up a Windows machine to run not just NetBEUI, but also DECnet or TCP/IP.  That meant it could access a relational database server running on a respectable machine, say a VAX. 

Still, everything hung on OS/2 on the server side.  OS/2 was technically superior to Netware, but it wasn't wonderful.  The fatal blow was delivered by Windows NT.  It had a familiar GUI, real process isolation, and made a pretty good file & print server.   You didn't need a CNE to set it up.  It ran TCP/IP from Day 1 (thanks to BSD).  That was about 1995. 

NT wasn't perfect either, but it was well designed and did a lot of things right, at the right price.  It ran Windows programs; it supported the Windows programming API.  It used cheap hardware (compared to Sun, say).  It was a better GUI than you could get from Sun or DEC or IBM, with better networking than you could get from Apple. 

And better software (and cheaper!) than the offerings from Lotus and Wordperfect, who had bought the line about OS/2 being the Next Big Thing and didn't have decent Win32 wares.   People forget (if ever they knew) Microsoft pioneered the Office Suite.  Others had bundles, but Microsoft worked hardest to harmonize the look-and-feel, to standardize the menus, and sell the combination for a fraction of the sum of its parts.  Don't think so?  Ever try to paste your Lotus chart into your Wordperfect
document? 

For a long time, Microsoft continued to flog the DOS horse: Windows 95, Windows ME, etc.  But their competitor's air supply was choked off by NT's trifecta.  As machines got better, DOS's competitive advantages dwindled, and NT came into its own.  No one else had a chance, and by looks of Microsoft's financials, no one will for a long time. 

I'm no Microsoft fan!   I think they should support Samba, not try to squash it.  Heck, I said years ago they should create Windows for Linux, putting the 95 GUI on the Linux kernel.  How was I to know Apple would listen?  But it's simply not true that Windows got where it is today by treachery and chicanery.  Their real secret was selling mediocre technology cheap, and using the DOS cash to build the NT castle.  That, and making incrementally better versions of office application software year after year for a decade, and selling it cheap.  It's not so cheap now, but now's a different day and age. 

jkl





Permalink
Good chapter Andy. My gripe is its treatment of the development of the GUI. No doubt Apple is an awesome player which more than once strived in bringing to market the right technology, that technology which many others couldn't productize or couldn't even see worth productizing. Examples of those are the GUI, the MP3 player, and the kind of graphics hardware acceleration brought with OS X (wisely ditching years of efforts in the previous generation of this technology, which both Apple and Microsoft had pretty mastered; sadly Windows got stuck with that until Vista came out). All of these weren't really their invention. The first non-marketed implementation of a GUI was Xerox's [1]; furthermore, the "idea" wasn't new either. The MP3 player was already invented (I think the first one was made by Creative; it was a huge brick resembling a discman but much heavier), but Apple's was the first product which just was comfortable enough (and the iPod/iTunes is another exercise in customer lock-in) to attract lots of people. Similar with OS X windowing subsystem (the idea had been around for long, but nobody could productize it before... and for years to come). Now, back to the article, more disturbing is that it is portrayed as Microsoft won over a technicality (a very broad interpretation of a previous agreement). But, why should have Apple been able to exclude a competitor of marketing a GUI? Certainly copyright -- now we can see that -- does not "protect" the idea of using little boxes and a mouse (it would do if it aesthetically resembled Apple's GUI in a very obvious way I think). Patents were thankfully not around at the time. So, I'm GLAD Microsoft was able to "copy" the GUI. I understand that, at the time, it could have been confusing whether or not Apple should have been granted an exlusionary right over it (I understand the Gates himself thought that Apple had rights to the GUI -- and still he did it; that just says something about him!) Don't get me wrong, there are just too damn many shady things Microsoft did and still does. Furthermore, even if its PR guys are getting better, they just simply seem unable to stop doing it, so I think they will keep doing it :(. But bashing Microsoft for doing something we can now understand shouldn't be excluded from doing doesn't help the book. Waiting for the next chapter (and a permanent link to the latest and greatest full edition in a PDF :) :) :) ), nachokb [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_graphical_user_interface#Initial_developments

Sorry my last comment went awry.

nachokb

=====================================
Good chapter Andy.
My gripe is its treatment of the development of the GUI. No doubt Apple is an awesome player which more than once strived in bringing to market the right technology, that technology which many others couldn't productize or couldn't even see worth productizing. Examples of those are the GUI, the MP3 player, and the kind of graphics hardware acceleration brought with OS X (wisely ditching years of efforts in the previous generation of this technology, which both Apple and Microsoft had pretty mastered; sadly Windows got stuck with that until Vista came out).
All of these weren't really their invention. The first non-marketed implementation of a GUI was Xerox's [1]; furthermore, the "idea" wasn't new either. The MP3 player was already invented (I think the first one was made by Creative; it was a huge brick resembling a discman but much heavier), but Apple's was the first product which just was comfortable enough (and the iPod/iTunes is another exercise in customer lock-in) to attract lots of people. Similar with OS X windowing subsystem (the idea had been around for long, but nobody could productize it before... and for years to come).
Now, back to the article, more disturbing is that it is portrayed as Microsoft won over a technicality (a very broad interpretation of a previous agreement). But, why should have Apple been able to exclude a competitor of marketing a GUI? Certainly copyright -- now we can see that -- does not "protect" the idea of using little boxes and a mouse (it would do if it aesthetically resembled Apple's GUI in a very obvious way I think). Patents were thankfully not around at the time.
So, I'm GLAD Microsoft was able to "copy" the GUI. I understand that, at the time, it could have been confusing whether or not Apple should have been granted an exlusionary right over it (I understand the Gates himself thought that Apple had rights to the GUI -- and still he did it; that just says something about him!)
Don't get me wrong, there are just too damn many shady things Microsoft did and still does. Furthermore, even if its PR guys are getting better, they just simply seem unable to stop doing it, so I think they will keep doing it :(.
But bashing Microsoft for doing something we can now understand shouldn't be excluded from doing doesn't help the book.

Waiting for the next chapter (and a permanent link to the latest and greatest full edition in a PDF :) :) :) ),

nachokb

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_graphical_user_interface#Initial_developments

Again, thanks for all the comments.

First, a response to several comments to the effect that I'm "soft on communism:"  This is a strategic decision, as explained below.

There are endless numbers of books, blog posts, editorials, legal complaints, and so on that make the points that you're raising.  The world doesn't need another one from me to tip the balance of public opinion one way or the other. 

The second is that I'll be giving lots of examples of who did what when in the course of this book for people to draw their own conclusions.  I personally am a believer that the conclusions that people draw themselves are more powerful than the ones they're told to believe.  A full and fair presentation of the facts will give people plenty of opportunity to do so.

Next, it would be inaccurate to say that this is a story that is about white knights and black knights here.  There are a lot of vendors that have a hand in this story that play the game hard as well and have been known to do some things that aren't too nice, even if historically they aren't as bad as Microsoft.  And it's also true that the sides they are on doesn't have anything to do with protecting the public or preserving history.  It has to do with making money.

But perhaps the most powerful reason is that if I write a book that starts out by saying "Microsoft is a scumbag and everything they do is dishonest and rotten to the core," then Microsoft and its supporters will understandably say "This is a hatchet job.  Don't believe anything this guy has to say."  And many people will believe them, and many will also echo that statement.

My approach, therefore, will be to tell the news, accurately, in the context of this story, and people can form their own judgments - without me telling them in advance what to believe. 

So on this one, please bear with me and come back later if you don't think the approach works.

Next, in reply to "On Netscape:" 
When I come back to revise this chapter, I'll fiddle with the words a bit.  Mostly, though, is that the more precise I get, the longer, less interesting, and more bogged down in detail I'd have to get.  So while I don't want to be inaccurate, I think I do have to generalize to the extent that I'm not misrepresenting things.  I will go back and be sure that I'm not going over the line here.

Re IBM:  Thanks for the interesting insights on the impact of the government antitrust suit.  I'll be doing a chapter on IBM as well, and will look into this further.  When I do, I'll come back and adjust this text.

In reply to Allan:  Thanks for the catch; now fixed.

As regards GUIs and Apple:  Another space constraint problem here.  In fact, Apple wasn't the first one to fool around with a GUI, either.  In the case of the mouse, I supplied a link to the Wikipedia entry, so that people could see that the mouse had been around and through quite a few variations before Apple came along.  And as regards the legality or illegality of copying, my point is more about who innovates and who copies, rather than whether it was legal or illegal to do so.

Finally, re Konqueror:  I resolve all viewing issues as soon as they're brought to my attention.  Over 100 different browsers (including multiple versions of individual browsers) visit this site a month - trying to stay compatible with all of them takes a lot of work.  By the way: Konqueror users total 1.62%, while the top browser is Firefox, with 20.96% (November access logs).

Thanks, all

  -  Andy
This one hasn't before, but I'll pass it along.

Andy,

Not to belabor the point, but I think there's a vary fine line here on the issue of Microsoft's dirty tricks and I'm not sure where that line is other than it is those self-same tricks that drove me (and many others) away from Microsoft once they were verified.

There's a big gulf between unverifiable accusations such as would be required or implied by your point, and not acknowledging the role and the impact of the Microsoft dirty tricks that have been documented all over the web and through several court cases.

Furthermore, with the introduction of Vista, people are finally starting to break ties with Microsoft and look for alternatives, so the MS 'fanboy base' is shrinking (not gone, but shrinking).

I believe, however that if you error too much in the other direction and fail to call a spade a spade, you will get the same reaction from the Linux & MAC communities "His writing is pro-Microsoft and therefore nothing but more whitewash & FUD, so pay it no attention - and BTW: I don't recommend it because it's clearly biased in Microsoft's favor".  Furthermore, it's unlikely that MIcrosoft fanboys will recommend a document that details any kind of OOXML/ISO/ODF history with anything near accuracy, while the pro-Linux/ISO/MAC crowds will be far less likely to recommend the article to others if there is a feeling of 'whitewash' or that it went soft on Microsoft's actions.

So the question is:  Where is the line that represents impartiality ?  Which do you fear more - the Microsoft astroturfers that will support and push Microsoft positions on any topic, ignoring all counterarguments, and that regularly post to popular news sites, - or the Linux zealots that disbelieve everything that Microsoft says until there is verifiable proof of each statement ?  Particulary bad examples of both include allmost all zdnet blogs, Jason Matusow's blog (pro-microsoft & astroturfer where he is not directly involved with the topic under discussion), and Microsoft Watch that is clearly pro-Microsoft but has many active Pro-Linux posters.

Anyway - the main point of this ramble is that concerns about being labled as 'anti-Microsoft' work both ways.  Being too soft on Microsoft will draw its own flames.  The best option I can see here is to reference the MS bad behavior, then (in a footnote perhaps) provide sufficient links to various articles that the reader is not left with any doubts about the true history of Microsoft ethics in business.

I do feel it's important to get this right as the MS reputation and historical ethics is probably the biggest differentiator between Bill Gates the 'Business Man of the Year' and 'Bill Gates the Philanthropist' and "Bill Gates the Tantrum-Throwing, Childish Unethical Dictator".  Whichever variation of Bill Gates (and Steve Balmer for that matter) you happen to believe will heavily influence the reader's perceptions of the rest of your book.

(I' going to stay off this topic now - thanks for listening...

- Ed

Thanks again Andy for your time.

WRT GUIs, I wasn't trying to elaborate on the legal aspect, but rather whether or not Microsoft "copied" a GUI, as in this context the word seems to have a negative connotation (they couldn't "innovate" so they "copied") when I think it was (not only legally, as the court found out, even if only through a technicality) really OK, and furthermore it should have been encouraged to do so. It's just that I'm tired of listening that line.

I promise to make my comments smaller from now on :)

peace,

nachokb

Permalink
As the first poster mentioned, this is a pretty sanitized version of MS history.
Not too much mention of MS tactics such as using monopoly revenue to dump products freely and starve competitors of revenue, extending of standards to break compatibility with the real standard, modifying API to break applications of competitors, surreptitious involvement in funding of scurrilous lawsuit, illegal marketing arrangements with PC OEM's.
 I am not too sure if you see the world through rose-colored glasses, or just shy away from conflict, but I am starting to doubt whether this version of history will be courageous enough to tell the whole story.
 To add insult to injury, trying to post a comment to this site using Konqueror yielded the message "Precondition Failed We're sorry, but we could not fulfill your request for /standardsblog/comment.php on this server. We have established rules for access to this server, and any person or robot that violates these rules will be unable to access this site."  
 
Here is some background on the "other" MS.
http://www.michaelrobertson.com/archive.php?minute_id=65
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_acquired_by_Microsoft_Corporation

Permalink
OK, guys.  I've made further changes, and that's all for now.  To recite my reasons:

-  THIS IS A DRAFT - it's not final text

-  THIS IS ONLY ONE CHAPTER - there will be about 30 to follow, where there will be great detail added

-  THIS CHAPTER CAN'T BE BOOK LENGTH

-  IF THE TONE CONTROL IS TO STRIDENT IT WILL TAINT THE BOOK'S CREDIBILITY and also make it too easy to be characterized as pure propaganda

Finally, it's easy to say whatever you want at a blog, but when you put charges in a book that you can't personally document and prove it's not only irresponsible journalism, but you're setting yourself up to lose a libel case.  So please don't give me grief about using words like "alleged" unless you're willing to personally post a bond.  Web sites have lots of accurate stuff - and they have stuff that isn't as well.  I don't have the time or the resources to sort out which is which - nor is it the purpose of this book.

So here are the principal paragraphs that have been changed from the original draft on this point (there are other changes in other paragraphs as well).  Hopefully you'll agree that this gets this single chapter in the right place:

Paragraph 2 and 3: 

Microsoft acquired this enviable position in each case through a combination of luck, single-minded determination, obsessive attention to detail, and a willingness to play the game fast and hard – sometimes hard enough to attract the attention of both Federal and state antitrust regulators.  Early on, Bill Gates and his team  acquired a reputation for bare-knuckle tactics that they sometimes seemed to wear with brash pride.  Eventually, these tactics (as well as tales of Gate's internal management style) progressed from industry rumors to the stuff of best sellers, like Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

With the  emergence of the Web, of course, the opportunity for widely sharing stories, both real (of which there were many) and apocryphal, exploded.  Soon Web sites such as Say No to Monopolies: Boycott Microsoft enthusiastically collected and posted tales of alleged technological terror and dirty deeds.  More staid collections were posted at sites such as the Wikipedia.  The increasing tide of litigation involving Microsoft, launched not only by state and federal regulators but by private parties as well, generated embarrassing documents.  Such original sources were not only difficult to deny, but almost impossible to repress in the age of the Web - and of peer to peer file sharing as well.

Paragraph 6:
And what Microsoft couldn't copy, it was more than happy to license or  buy.  In some cases, competitors felt that Microsoft went much farther, and Microsoft soon acquired a reputation for overly aggressive, and worse, tactics of many types.  Nor did the vendor discourage that reputation entirely as it developed an increasingly brash, steamrolling corporate persona that suggested the inevitability of its success in any niche that it chose to enter.  Sometimes, these tactics landed Microsoft in court.  In one of the more notorious examples, a company called STAC claimed that Microsoft first gained access to its disc compression technology under an agreement between the two companies, and then appropriated that technology into its own products.  Microsoft outlasted STAC in court, and STAC eventually went out of business.  Microsoft steamed forward, stronger than ever.

Andy - I like this version *MUCH* better !

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

This chapter now references the seldom-told side of Microsoft that most people never bother to learn until it's too late and until that company, individual, or government has already been burned or damaged beyond repair.

Examples of being burned include:
    - Companies like STAC & Citrix - once innovators, not either gone or irrelevant - these you referenced - thank you.
    - Individuals burned by Vista marketing such as the class-action in California where even the Microsoft executives cannot keep their stories straight on the meanings of 'Vista Capable' vs 'Vista Ready'.
    - Governments were burned by Microsoft not supporting native languages and where native languages may be supported, by not correctly supporting dates, currency, or other aspects of computing.
    - Government institutions such as the Russian schools that got accused of copyright violations via the WTO for software they could not afford and that has resulted in Russia standardizing on Linux in their schools to avoid the MS trap in the future.
    - International organizations like the ISO are burned when events such as the OOXML votes in Sweden(?), the situations in Portugal and in Chekoslovakia(sp?) not only occur, but are actually anticipated by many.
    - Also with the ISO is the subversion of their rules and processes such as the numerous allegations during the fast-track OOXML vote were members were told that a 'yes with comments' would guarantee that the comments got addressed (not true) and where NBs were given the wrong due dates for ballots and where various committees were suspected of being stacked at the last minute by Microsoft partners. 

Most histories of computing are chock-full of platitudes and euphamisms wherever Microsoft is mentioned.  No doubt that is because the authors are afraid of Microsoft lawsuits - to extend one of your (many) themes Microsoft's history of innovation is NOT in the technical realm - it's in the Legal realm (first and foremost), the economic realm (not the business realm - Microsoft made it a practice not to compete on standard business terms, but to 'arrange' for their competitors to be starved for resources that most people take for granted (sales channels via the major OEMs, customers interested in new technology that were swayed by 'vaporware' to hold off on purchases that would have kept competitors in business, extended legal appeals and onerous discovery demands in court cases - anything to sap the $$$ from competitors' bottom line, paying all major law firms in a geographical region for some sort of service with an eye to creating conflicts of interest so that no competitor can hire quality attorneys to fight lawsuits *against* Microsoft).  Microsoft also innovates in the Marketing realm by making very outlandish and lavish marketing promises early in a product cycle, only to have most features dropped as 'too complicated for this release' as each release date approaches.  Of course the features that got dropped were never surfaced again or included in upgrades, but the features that were announced were often those that where small competitors were about to release working products.

I now feel that what you wrote is referencing both sides of the Microsoft story (It's still very flattering to Microsoft, but now qualifies as truthful enough for an overview - especially if you squint a bit) and though I did not check the references, I very much like the way that you sprinkle them through your text for those that want more details while keeping your high-level perspective.

Please keep up the good work !

- Ed

PS: did I mention that I'd like to say "Thank You" for not producing another flattering puff piece that makes Bill Gates out to be someone worthy of admiration or respect ?

I find your comments rather bizarre, to the point of irony.
How are the examples of MS enforcing its license, or neglecting to include native language support, representative of the kind of abusive anti-competitive behavior that MS has used to unfairly preserve its monopoly?
You then thank Andy for including material that he did not even include.

Must be a full moon tonight.

Please allow me to assist with your confusion:

1.  The 'Thank You's were for including some of the smarmier sides of Microsoft's history and for posting links to yet more details throughout the article.  This latest set of revisions from Andy provides more balance and less 'whitewash' in what Andy *did* see fit to include.

2. I've seen so many Microsoft dirty tricks over the last 22 years that I'm heartily sick of Microsoft the company and all that it stands for.  I'm also a strongly ethical person and believe that businesses should behave ethically and honorably with customers and with each other.  Microsoft has never (in my opinion) dealt honorably with either partners or competitors, so I tend to take any and all opportunities to try to get their lack of ethics publicized as long as there is factual data for each incident that I reference in my arguments.

3. The examples I gave in my previous post were not intended to show FUD or anti-competitive behavior - they were intended to show how various organizations (even governments) were 'shafted' by their choice to do business with Microsoft or to use Microsoft products (even when given for "free").  Countries that use languages that are written from right to left (such as those that speak Arabic & Hebrew) or those that speak languages written from top to bottom (Japanese) have to use their computers left to right because that's the best they can get Microsoft's code to reflects their language on-screen.  As we're finding in the OOXML comments, a 'cup' is a different unit of measure in the US & in the UK, but Microsoft does not recognize the difference.  When the Russian school principle was sent to jail because his school could not afford the price of MS licenses and followed the 'standard' Russian practice of pirating the code, both Microsoft Russia and Microsoft US (Redmond) denied any involvement with the charges that "Microsoft" pressed against that individual and both organizations refused to get involved to find out who actually selected this particular individual as a scapegoat/example by pressing these charges.  Clearly the intent was to send a message to all Russian (and Russian-influenced) school administrators in an attempt to 'frighten' all Russian schools into 'compliance' with the Microsoft licensing schemes -> the 'F' in 'FUD'.

Does this help ?   I probably should have provided stronger transitional elements in my post when I changed topics or lines of thought and for that I do apologize.

I've been Microsoft-free now for over 5 years and never happier.  I've also found employment that does not require me to boot a Microsoft box for months on end - I even run Lotus Notes over wine on my Linux box at work.  Given Microsoft's current self-destructive tendencies and all the deficiencies (both first- and second/third/fourth/etc-hand) as well as what I read on the Internet, I'm even starting to recommend to our vendors that they start re-writing their products for native Linux (if they are not already doing so) if they want to have a viable product in 2-3 years.

- Ed

Thank-you, that makes sense. I share your enthusiasm for Linux and fre software, and may have been harsh in my response, but I am leery of the many soft "criticisms" of MS that I see, that seem to trivialize the opposition to MS.Criticizing the right of MS to enforce their own EULA, for example, but I do see where you are coming from.

Permalink
Quote:
"Web sites have lots of accurate stuff - and they have stuff that isn't as well.  I don't have the time or the resources to sort out which is which - nor is it the purpose of this book."

Then what is the purpose of a book? MS tactics are material to the subject of this story. They are well documented by credible sources - let us know what you need. Irresposible journalism is also omission of relevant facts. You also contradicted yourself by saying these were final changes, then insisting that it is just a draft.

Permalink
Geeklog was apparetnly working too hard for me yesterday.  Two people tried to leave comments and Geeklog ate them, claiming they contained Spam.  We're trying to figure out what's wrong, but in the meantime I've successfully posted one above, and failed at adding a second one on Netscape.  The gist of that reader's comment was that Microsoft had not developed IE, but in fact bought it from a small client called Spyglass, in exchange for royalties on sales - of a browser that it later gave away for free.

That's a bit of history I had either never known or forgotten, and I agree requires modification of the text.  I've ordered a couple of books that should arrive soon, and when they arrive I'll source out further details, and amend the text accordingly (thanks, Rufus).

Meantime, it looks like if you take the time to leave a comment, it would be best to cut, paste and save a copy before you hit the "preview" button, to be sure that you don't lose your text in case Geeklog doesn't like it.  This isn't a feature I can afford to disable entirely,  as the hundreds of blog posts already here would soon be swamped with spam comments and spam links (as they used to be before we turned this on some time back).

  -  Andy

Permalink
Andy

In Microsoft's IE6 Help > About the following is listed:

"Based on NCSA Mosaic. NCSA Mosaic(TM); was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Distributed under a licensing agreement with Spyglass, Inc.
Contains security software licensed from RSA Data Security Inc.
Portions of this software are based in part on the work of the Independent JPEG Group.
Multimedia software components, including Indeo(R); video, Indeo(R) audio, and Web Design Effects are provided by Intel Corp.
Unix version contains software licensed from Mainsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1998-1999 Mainsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Mainsoft is a trademark of Mainsoft Corporation.
Warning: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law."

Again, Microsoft bought in their Internet Explorer software rather than write it from scratch!

BTW, I believe Marc Andreessen and colleagues worked on this Mosaic software at the University Of Illinois before leaving to set up Mosaic Communications Corporation which they later changed to Netscape Communications.

Would your chapter 2 benefit from stating from where Microsoft purchased their browser software?


Regards


Paul

Permalink

Hi Andy,

This is an excellent project and I fully support your efforts to document things, as they say, contemporaneously.

One thing to give Chapter 2 that à la mode flavor -  the Xbox nowadays competes with the Playstation and Nintendo's Wii, rather than the Gamecube.

Keep up the great work!

Permalink
I feel the pain of this process as many of you also have. Unfortunately, you are only discussing one part of the problem. You forgot to mention that the organization that drove this standard through the ISO process did so by ensuring those that stood against it felt some pain. I know of may people who voted in the their respective countries against this standard. The Microsoft representatives in these countries quickly moved to identify them and contact their respective employers. In several of those case, Microsoft indicated that software prices would be increasing significantly if the person did not change their minds and quickly.

Several persons actually were dismissed as the companies they work for have no spine. They would rather deal with crap software than doing the right thing ethically. Think this is something out of a movie, think again. Many good professionals had their livelihoods and reputations damaged by one company. If you were to look at the current standards that Microsoft and others are influencing you might not sleep at night.

My only advice "you better move fast" or get plugged in real quickly to some of the current standards currently being proposed and developed in ISO.

I commend your efforts.