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Microsoft

DOJ considering source-licensing punishment 184

Posted by sengan
from the not-quite-opensource dept.
Mike McCune writes "News.com is reporting that a committee advising the Department of Justice is considering forcing Microsoft to license the source code to it's operating systems." Another alternative is to block Microsoft from adding features to the OS. In related news, Frédéric writes "Maybe you know Microsoft is trying to use Be to prove it does not have a monopoly on OS's. The SJ Mercury news speculates that Be's CEO Jean-Louis Gassée may join the antitrust suit against Microsoft Corp.". This transcript of this interview with JLG gives his position."
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DOJ considering source-licensing punishment

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  • It seems to me that the only thing forcing Microsoft to license its source would do would be to give them the green light to "embrace and extend" as many "features" (read: products) into their operating systems as they wanted, as long as they showed others the final product. How does this preserve competition, even before you consider that a source license would probably cost quite a bit?

    I'm all for punishing Microsoft, believe me, but I think this isn't really much of a punishment.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • Since splitting up MS would be unlikely and making them pay for "damages" would probably be useless, I think forcing them to lisence Windows is the only solution.

    Why not? If damages will be more than what Mcirsosft can pay, Microsoft, Gates and all that stuff will be gone forever.

  • Another solution would be to set a cap on how much a company can charge for an operating system, like is done with the telco industry. Regulate the prices so that no matter what, you will always be able to buy Linux -or- Windows -or- BeOS for exactly the same price. (Say, $25)

    That way, OS growth is based on features and value to the end-consumer in terms of service, rather than being based on which company can make the best deals with distribution agreements, etc.
  • I'm having difficulty understanding what you're trying to say.

    First, the problem is not that Windows leads the market. It's that product tying and bundling are preventing underdogs (Not just Linux but Rhapsody, OS/2 and Be... Solaris on the desktop? Naah) from entering getting OEMs to pre-install their software.

    Even if Windows were a true monopoly, this would not be a problem were they not exercising monopoly power. Even if Be had 90% of the market, they'd not be at risk unless their marketing turned far meaner.

    Anyhow, should Windows fall, I'd say Linux is presently the most likely replacement, Be coming in second. Why can folks only recognize a superior non-commercial product in "hippie love-fest sharing-and-caring open-source Linux land"?
  • Word has its monopoly because it's good.

    Windows has its monopoly because of illigal bundling and tying practices.

    There's a BIIIIG difference there.
  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    I hope we'll get to see the windows source code at some point.
  • Posted by hrearden:

    • Linux cannot add features beyond kernel 3.3
    • Java remains Java3
    • etc...
    You know what this means - AIX will become the dominant architecture.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    Ahem. Sorry to rain on your parade dude, but according to recent reports in the press ( "The Australian", February 9th, 1999 ), there appears to have been a snag with Microsofts "integration" argument.

    Specifically, Microsoft has presented video "testimony" of a Windows 95 machine's performance with IE and without IE ( ie, a "before and after" IE comparison ). This "presentation" clearly shows a signifigant run-time degredation in the machine after IE has been removed.

    The problem with this is that one of the members of the DOJ team noticed that the "before" and "after" machines were different. In short - they were two different machines, so the comparison appears to have been ruled as invalid.

    Considering what the media are like, this story could turn out to be total BS. Then again, if it is true, it kind of puts the whole "Windows IE integration" argument in the garbage bin.

    Just my 0.02c worth dude.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    This is the whole point of the MS anti-trust trial. The last time they were in court, they were told to back-of and play be the rules.

    They didn't. That's why the DOJ has hauled them back into court.

    The last time around, Bill ( "I did not have sex with Ms Lewinski" ) Clinton intervened on Microsofts behalf. Because of that, the DOJ had to water down it's judgement. Because of that, Microsoft got a slap on the wrist and were told to behave, purely as a face saving act ( without any teeth to back it up ).

    Microsoft didn't behave. More importantly, since Bill ( "I did not have sex with Ms Lewinski" ) Clinton has his own problems at the moment, the DOJ has a lot more scope this time around.

    Now this is just my personel opinion ( and therefore highly biased ) but I suspect that the DOJ is going to knock a few of Bill Gates's teeth out ( just so that he knows who the *boss* is ). The DOJ ( and the twenty odd state goverments who have forced the issue ) will probably be satisfied with that much. At the moment, they can't go much furthur than that, since to do so would provoke a storm of protest from all of the Pointy Haired Imbecile's who think that Windows is actually an OS.

    Of course, if I'm correct in this regard, then if Microsoft doesn't play by the rules that the DOJ defines, then things could get very nasty. If they have to drag Microsoft back into court for a third time, then it will be a matter of necessity for them to nail Bill Gates up to a tree ( or run the risk of loosing their credibility with the public ).

    This brings me full circle. You like OS/2? Well, that's up to you. It's certainly preferable to Windows. One of the points that IBM has made during the current trial is that as big and experienced as IBM is, Microsoft's marketing strangelhold over OEM's is such that even IBM can't get it's foot in the door of the desktop market.

    As to "force is the most expedient way", sorry, but their is something that is even more powerful - consumer backlash.

    It's 1999 and MS has already admitted that it has a number of Y2K "issues" ( ie, bugs ) to resolve. When we hit 01/01/2000, just watch as every incompetent idiot blames Y2K for everything that they can't explain. In this kind of a situation, there is a very real posibility that Windows will go from the OS that makes PHI's productive to the OS that's the cause of every problem in the world from green-house gas warming to the high price of fish.

    Now we could argue about this, but what's the point? One way or another, we will know the answer very, very soon.

    Just my 0.02c worth dude.
  • Posted by Ogemaniac:

    I have to agree that forcing MS to give away its
    source code sets a bad precedent. Proprietary
    information is the heart of any business endeavor.
    If a company can be forced to give away the
    information it created, why have an R&D division?
    Say goodbye to most scientific and engineering
    jobs - whose purpose is to create information.
    Just wait for someone else to create it, then
    steal it! Oh wait - who is going to create it,
    then? A few enthusiastic people in their spare
    time, perhaps? Yeah, but they are probably dead
    tired after 10 hours working at McDonald's because
    they lost their R&D job.
  • In case you hadn't noticed, MS already does license their source for Windows to some companies, but at an exorbatant price. Citrix's Winframe was developed using licensed Windows source.

    So forcing MS to license Windows would mean nothing new at all.

    Unless, that is, the ruling says that MS would have to give code to *anyone* who can scrape up the money, and MS can't pick-and-choose who to allow to see the code. That's what makes their current licensing next to useless - not the price but the fact that they can pull the rug out from under you if they change their mind or don't like what you're doing with it (Citrix Winframe).

  • >How can you accuse MS of poor coding if you havn't even seen their code before?

    MFC and the macro mess created by the Visual C++ wizards should give a decent idea of what Microsoft code is like...
  • What the DoJ should request is that if MS, or any company, wishes to produce both the operating System and the applications that they allow competition equal access to the API. Full licensing of source code seems a tad bit extreme.

    I think I agree with you.. mostly. I believe that if there is to be true competition, an OS company should allow others to have full access to all APIs and the OS maker should not be allowed to make any application unremoveable. We would also need to define what an OS is and what it is not. IE is not an OS. It is an application or shell for the OS. There is no reason it should be permanently integrated into the OS. We may need to update the antitrust laws to account for the capabilities of software companies to obfuscate their actions with technical jargon so the courts can stop trying to use stupid metaphors to explain what is going on.

  • I believe it was one of Microsoft's witnesses that said that the only real way to compete with an OS like Windows was to be compatible with it. Since they are the ones who have admitted this, I say that they should have to open up the code so that other OSes can make themselves as compatible as they like. It would help the Wine team immensely I'm sure.

    Suddenly the application barrier would be virtually eliminated and there could be open competition among the various OSes. Sure, native versions would still be needed eventually, but at least people could switch to the OS of their choice immediately and developers could see where the market is and produce applications for that market.

    This may or may not work as well as I hope it would, because developers may just figure that since every OS can run Windows programs, that's all they should make. But I think that if they saw that 50% of users were running Linux or BeOS, they might be inclined to write native versions that take advantage of the strengths of that OS.

  • Be could send someone to be a rebuttal witness for the DOJ. They could discredit Microsoft's claims that NetPositive is integrated, and as an OS maker, they could offer up evidence that there is no real reason to integrate a browser in the manner in which Microsoft has done other than to prevent competition. Perhaps they could help on other issues where Microsoft is claiming technical victories because the DOJ doesn't have the best grasp of the technology. In other words, Be could have someone act as another computer science expert that also works for an OS maker and is therefore familiar with the issues being discussed.

  • As was discussed several years ago when M$ began to expand beyond OS products into office products, MS should be broken up into an OS company and a Applications company. The OS company would be forbidden from developing Application products.

    This idea is very old. But MS contends that IE is not an application. Is Notepad an application? Would MS-OS be able to sell Win9A with Notepad included? Or would Notepad become owned by MS-APP? How about Write or HyperTerminal or Solitaire? Is character map an application?

    How about the Telnet client? Is it part of the OS or an application?

    Is COM part of the OS? It relies on the registry to work, but you could probably replace it with a different ORB if Explorer didn't use it.

    Is the Explorer shell part of the OS? Is the start menu part of the OS?

    I agree that MS should be two separate companies, but I do not think it would be easy to decide how they are broken up. I would be a huge trial and it would be hard to find many people who agreed with which Windows component goes where.
  • Microsoft made it simply because it was the first microcomputer player to be taken seriously. THAT was primarily due to the IBM trademark. The rest is the resulting marketing inertia. People have bought into Microsoft not because of any of it's other attributes but merely because it was the percieved 'market leader'.


    Others HAVE done better. Network effects, side effects of the need for compatibility between applications and hardware kept them all from gaining on the MS Inertia.
  • All right, we are going to get spaghetti code from Windooze. At one point, Windows 3.1 and NT may (read may) have had an interesting source code, but with so much shit added to it, and flat uncoherent apis (win32s, win32 and NT), that code would have to be horrible to look at.
  • http://slashdot.org/www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,323 61,00.html

    should be http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,3 2361,00.html [news.com]

  • Maybe people should learn about US legal system before posting about it.

    IP rights are upheld by courts, not DoJ. DoJ is executive branch, courts are not. If you break the law, MS will sue you in court, DoJ has nothing to do with it.

    Criminal cases are another story, but that's irrelevant.
  • I sorta doubt it would be an open-source license. For Wine to legally succeed, they probably wouldn't even be allowed to look at it.

    --

  • Okay, say Microsoft loses (which isn't too much of a stretch). Say they're only slapped with a fine of a meager couple billion. End of story, right?

    Wrongo. That's when the fun begins. As soon as Microsoft is declared to be at fault (no matter what the penalty) lawsuits will immediately be filed. Netscape, Apple, Sun, and Caldera are definites; AOL, Intel, and Be are likely; and you'll probably see some come in from PC makers and lots of other little companies who got squashed along the way.

    This is why Microsoft is screaming its innocence before an onslaught of incriminating evidence: from a legal defense standpoint, it has to. If it weakens its stance for even a moment, if it even hints that it recognizes it might have used poor judgement or behaved inappropriately, that's all it takes to legitimize a wrongful-damages lawsuit against Microsoft.

    I guarantee you that Microsoft's legal woes are far, far from over. Give it at least three or four years before the end is even in sight.

  • > Word has a monopoly on the word processing
    > market - should MS be forced to make the source
    > code available?

    Absolutely! Given their inability to debug their own software, they have to let the rest of us fix things on our own schedule and our own budget.

    "Property rights," including those to "intellectual property," are by no means absolute or inviolate in any civil society.

    > Apple has a monopoly on the Macintosh market -
    > should MacOS X be made public?

    Yes. Security considerations alone demand that the source be available.

    > If MS is shown in a court of law that it is
    > indeed a monopoly and is forced to reveal its
    > crown jewels, then it will open a flood gate
    > of similar attempts of competitors against
    > market leaders (e.g., Sybase against Oracle)
    > and ruin the software market.

    What mountain were you standing on when you had the divine revelation that companies or individuals have a "right" to keep their software proprietary? The big bucks are in support anyway.

    > There will be no economic incentive to develop
    > software.

    What the heck have you been smoking? Proprietary
    software is not by any means the only, or even the
    most profitable, way to make money in the industry.

    You're also assuming, contrary to the existence of top-quality, category-killing free software, that economic incentives are important to developing good software.
  • That's what MS does. But shutting out all supply channels to competitors, they effectively force people to buy Windows with every PC purchased. It worked for IE, it worked for MS-Office, and it will work for any other "innovative" (meaning, innovatively filling MS-Coffers) product.

    I don't want the government to stifle innovation. But, by the same token, I don't want Microsoft stifling innovation, either-- and Microsoft has a history of doing just that. The government hasn't done much bad, except cryptography, patents, CDA and CDA-- The Sequel. As far as I know, they have never purchased and gutted a company simply to stop an innovative product (like Microsoft has).
  • You, Sir, are either very ignorant, or insane.

    To call MS visionary is silly. They haven't been visionary at any point-- every major advance MS made was based on some other company's research. And Microsoft's biggest strength has not been its vision-- it's been the ablility to change direction on a dime. Consider the Internet: MS had no intention of entering the Internet market. Bill Gates publicly scoffed the internet (in his first edition of the ghost-written "The Road Ahead"). It took the threat of a web-based desktop replacing MS-Windows as the dominant desktop to force them into the arena. And once they were there, they did nothing half-heartedly.

    Why would someone writing a novel care about the underlying OS? Because they don't want to lose an hour's work. How many working hours have been lost to blue screens of death? Hmm? For me, it could be reckoned in days. That was back before I discovered OS/2 and Linux. With Linux, I have never lost a single word. (I write technical articles and SF short stories.)

    MS has never been a company of the people. They have been a company of the profits. They have just been in the right place at the right time, with the right contacts. They have used their early, dominant position to maintain a dominant postion; and a monopoly power has to follow different rules of conduct than a non-monopoly power. That is why this trial has focused on Microsoft's dominant position (is it a monopoly or not) as much as specific instances of penis-waving and muscle-flexing.

    Other companies have given better, more stable, easier-to-use products. (NeXT, anyone?) So that argument does not hold.

    However, I do agree with you. Blocking even Microsoft from adding to their own product is insanely stupid. Stopping them from tieing the browser or a commercial-grade database to the system is one thing; to stop them from producing a truly feature-rich product is another. Not that I think Microsoft is capable of producing any good code. (MS is too big and too paranoid to produce anything good anymore. And they haven't had a good product in about 3 years. Well, maybe MS-SQL Server 7.0, but I've not used it myself.)
  • 1) Force them to License source code. Not a free source license or public domain, but a commercial license, and with no NDA's.

    2) Publish the Win32 API.

    3) Break them up inbetween logical divisions. For example, Instead of a single OS division, you'd have 3 or 4 OS divisions, all starting out with the same source code. That way, no IP is lost, but competition is created, and there is a big incentive to conform to a standard, since no one company will be able to "embrace and extend".
    --
  • As far as the licensing goes, MS already licenses their code, the DOJ would just set a price.



    As for the API, it would be possible to verify that the API is accurate if the source didn't cost an arm and a leg to license.



    Read my split up scenario a little bit more carefully. I think you misinterpreted it. The split that I called for was inbetween logical divisions, not necessarily along logical divisions. With this type of split, you wouldn't have to determine what came with the OS and what didn't, since everybody would get everything. It's trivial to make copies of the source.
    --
  • Yeah.. Billy and all his cronies the chair! Fry his sorry ass! Make him suffer!!!!
    --
  • All it says is licensing the code. It doesn't say how the code will be licensed. Perhaps it will be OSS-style, or perhaps it will have to be sold, or something else.

    Also, consider the potential impact this may or may not have on other operating systems, and eventually the software industry in general. This may or may not be a Good Thing. Only time will tell.
  • Just for reference, the ZDNet article is:

    http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153, 1013867,00.html
  • 1) Total asset forfeiture - just like a drug case.
    2) All M$ patents and copyrights transferred to public domain.
    3) All M$ executives of VP and above banned from conducting business anywhere forever. This would include board membership in any company.
    4) Permit civil legal actions against M$ executives (VP and above) by corporations and individuals to drain the remaining cash that is in the hands of the M$ millionares.
    5) Require the children of VP and above to attend public schools.
    All of this is necessary to prevent other corporations from even trying the kinds of evil mis-deeds that M$ has perpetrated on society.
  • Just more blatant M$ astroturf (i.e. fake grass-roots) to tell our grandchildren about.

    You cant blame the M$ people for trying the same tricks that what worked against OS/2 in the past. It won't work against GNU/Linux/Apache/XFree86 and the rest because they are _free_.

    Sorry Bill, only the best tasting software gets to be free.

  • I really don't care what happens to Microsoft as long as the market has something to fall back. Releasing the source to windows would give any Microsoft competitor a fair advantage. Including Linux with WINE! I say this is a good well rounded punishment.


    ---------
  • in my opinion is to split them up into 2 or more
    companies. Suppose we say "applications" and
    "operating systems" - ok, now you are a member
    of the applications group, all you care about is
    selling as many copies of your app as possible
    (rather than trying to protect the windows monopoly) do you have any objection to porting to linux (if you believe there is money to be made)? Nope no objection. Are you interested in tying
    your application so completely to one os that porting becomes impossible? Not hardly. Now if you are in the os group, are you interested in providing special secret information to one particular application vendor? Are you interested in moving things into the kernel that really don't belong there to improve the performance of another company's app? Nope. Would you be willing to port your os to say, sparc? maybe. Would you be interested in making sure your os was very well documented and standards compliant so that everyone would want to write apps for it? Definitely. I'm happy to entertain criticisms
    of this line of reasoning, but I do think it is
    by far the most compelling option.
  • Well - you may be right but there is actually
    some precedent for this. When the government
    actually does step in to break up a company
    (as they did with standard oil) they don't just
    say "ok, you guys be sure and compete now" they
    actually put regulators on the premises for a
    period of years, monitor communication, stock
    transactions, etc. All of this under a "sudden
    death" rule whereby if the company is caught
    attempting to collude with one of their newly
    split off "competitors" the company is terminated.
    I certainly share your doubts as to MS's desire
    to voluntarily comply with something like this,
    I'm just saying that historically the government
    has (oddly enough) actually had some sense when
    it comes to these sorts of matters.
  • cool my submission got published, second time i am on slashdot :o))), i submitted maybe 10 stories, so it's 20% of my news that are keep by Rob & co :)

    --
  • Unless the per-processor, per-series, or per-anything but per-unit licensing goes away, nothing will have been accomplished. And, in the face of the demonstrated lack of integrity of the people who run MS, only fines that seem monstrous to the average person would have the desired effect.

    I think a large fine is in order in any case. I'm not into vengeance, and I think that the interests of MS employees and stockholders must be respected, but there's nothing quite like a big fine to change a corporate culture.

    Another remedy which might help is to require MS to leave the browser market. Their market share was mostly gained illegally, and forcing one of the monopolists out of the Internet picture would give freedom on the Internet a better chance (which would make the Internet more valuable in the long run, for other Internet companies, and for democracy).
  • The only possible way to correctly "document" the WIN32 api is to release the source code. I am sure that there is no other accurate documentation, even at MicroSoft.

    We do not want a "test suite" or a Windows Standards board. These could very well legislate an even worse interface (and quite likely incompatable with Windows programs) than already exists.

    Source code is the only way. The DOJ should also test the code: it must be compiled by a disinterested party, installed on a blank machine, and tested to accurately run EVERY MicroSoft software product (and some large selection of third-party products). In addition, all future MicroSoft products must be demonstrated to run on a system made only from the published source code.

    If MicroSoft adds something to the system they must provide source for this. However, they can provide a "reference" implementation, if they wish they can make an internal optimized version using secret faster algorithims. Software must be proven to work with the "reference" implementation.

  • I agree with you. Letting the government fool with the inner workings of M$ is a bad idea. Ideally the DOJ case would drag on for a very long time, never resulting in a verdict. A long string of convictions and resulting appeals would allow the smaller players in the industry to compete without the threat of being squashed. Then the market could rise to the occation of creating supperior software to run many circles around M$es junky 9x kernel. We already see the market creating better software, with better long term viability.

    Any situation dependant, government created, compition will not create a big enough window for other OSes to break through M$es iron curtain around the OEM's. If the DOJ wins the market will not be ready and OSS will be accused of having success that depends solely on govenment intervention.

    I hope Judge Jackson's gaval does not squash the good reputation of OSS forever.

    Directions to eventually demolish M$es unfair atvantages

    step 1. Try 'em.
    step 2. Convict 'em.
    step 3. let 'em appeal.
    step 4. let 'em win the appeal.
    step 5. repeat steps.

    If the government convicts, and all appeals are exausted, they should release all OS code under the WINE licence. May it never get to that step!
  • If you have access to running water, electricity, or medical care; if your most pressing concern is whether or not Microsoft loses a lawsuit, and you have to CONSIDER whether or not you are better off than those in Iraq...

    sheesh.

  • And not just any "license" -- GPL. Not only that, appoint an Architectural Review Board (like there is with OpenGL) to be in charge of maintaining the source tree. Microsoft may be a member of this ARB, but it should also include the likes of IBM, Sun, HP, SGI, Apple, etc. Microsoft should not be permitted to distribute any version of the operating system that is not approved by the ARB, nor in any binary-only form -- the source must be supplied.

    Why do I say this is perfectly reasonable? Isn't it "cruel and unusual", or something like that? Not at all. Think about exactly what it would mean: the government would simply be confiscating their intellectual property. Some would say that intellectual property should not exist at all. I'm staying away from that one, but it is certainly not any more "special" than any other kind of property -- you don't have any more right to own your code than your car or your house. Those can be seized if you use them to commit a crime, right? Hence, if a company uses its intellectual property to engage in anticompetitive behavior that violates antitrust law, that property can be confiscated and "donated" to the injured parties by means of putting it under the GPL. Remember, this is not just to "see that it doesn't happen again" -- it is punishment for crimes committed.

    Of course, some of us (myself included) might object that this is not good enough because Windows remains a contender in the OS world. However, it's not really reasonable to demand that it be completely purged. Also, how strong of a contender will it be, when forced to compete fairly? As someone pointed out, who would want to contribute to its development? Microsoft could, but their motivation would shrink; it seems unlikely that anything like the Linux development community would spring up, because there aren't enough people who want to contribute to it, but if they do, then the people will have spoken, and it will compete against other open OSes. It would have the advantage of a bigger user and application base, but the disadvantage of being extremely poorly written (so we believe). All in all, it would seem to be as fair a fight as possible.

    David Gould
  • Just a thought. :-)
  • I just don't get it - it seems like meddling by lawyers who really don't understand what this is all about.

    If Microsoft engages in non-competitive practices, (and I personally believe that they do)- fine. Prosecute them with the existing laws that suffice for other industries.

    What's all this noise about how long it takes to connect to the Internet, browser bundling, licensing source code, no new features... It just seems like they're making this up as they go along! It makes me nervous. "Can't add new features to the OS" - what a ridiculous thing to dictate. (Granted, if they just got the bugs out of the existing features, it'd be a good thing) but WHY would the DOJ stipulate that as a solution to a monopoly?

    Fine 'em, break 'em up, whatever, but don't micro-manage what they can and can't code. Just seems like a ridiculous solution, to me. Why not simply enforce the monopoly laws? Oh well, IANAL.

    Ok, I'm done ranting. :-)
  • by Mindphunk (6489)
    If the source code is released I am going to hack a PERL Script to diff the MS Source Code and GPLed apps and make it freely available.

    I'm going to encourage licensees to use it, so they can try and get their licensing fee back when it is revealed they had to pay for a GPLed product and everyone else...

    I am sure that many overworked MS programmers, under pressure may have cribbed little bits of GPLed code to save time, safe in the knowledge that no one will ever know their secret.

    Only way to be sure would be to check :-)

    What d'you think???
  • Some of the statements made by them may be considered a little bit harsh (Especially the claim that linux office productivity applications are a poor substitute for their M$ counterparts). But the Gartner Group isn't supposed to advocate linux but is supposed to tell MSEs whether to junk their NT or commercial UNIX setup and go with linux or not.

    And their answer is clear: If you make widgets, have no idea about computers and it doesn't matter to you if your computer crashes frequently, stay away from linux. If you are a somewhat technical company where employees stopped using the CD ROM drive as cup holder last year, then watch linux because it may be the next great thing waiting around the corner. And if you are willing to take the risk of a platform change (and that's always a risk!), and trust your folks to do it, go for it.

    And then they give step by step instructions how to slowly and sneekingly convert your company to a linux shop, without alerting PHBs and MicroZombies. I was rolling when I read:'...aging NetWare versions, "orphaned" Unix variants, unreliable Windows servers...' Face it, folks: these are the three core targets for linux in the server market right now!

    And they are also right if they say that it's risky to junk all your current computer systems and switch to linux at once. I just keep reading success stories here on /. where bosses didn't even know that their file server ran on linux except that they suddenly was a lot more stable than the previous NT file server setup ... These bosses would have reacted quite differently if they suddenly couldn't run PowerPoint on their desktops any more (no matter how bad it is).

    All together, this article sounds a lot better than this collection of FUD and BS in that IEEE magazine and I don't see a point in writing a fierce rebuttal. In fact, a fierce rebuttal would probably hurt the cause more than it would help. The Gartner Group seems to have actually looked into the matter (there may be some small factual errors, but I'm sure I could find some in the Linux Gazette, too), and they assessed quite well and without unnecessary hype, how linux will enter the MSE market in the next two years and where its current limitations are. We don't need yet another hype article from Jesse Berst, who "always knew that linux is going to make major inroads .."
  • 1) OS group should be separated from browser group - break up MS.

    2) Every customer who do not want to purchase Windows with computer should have the refund with the amount of RETAIL price. That ensure that MS keep retail prices low and equal to volume prices for selected OEM.

    The price discount for good guys is the most anti-competitive hammer of Microsoft. Stop it!

  • I don't think that you understand the basis for why there is an anti-trust case against Microsoft.
    Being an monopoly does not automatically invoke anti-trust proceedings. However, using monopoly power in one realm (i.e., desktop OS) to stiffle competition in another (applications) is illegal. Frankly, Microsoft could (and should) have been procecuted on additional charges besides Netscape.

    Hence (and I am only assuming this), the DoJ is considering the release/licensing of the OS as a means limiting this type of abuse of their desktop OS monopoly.
  • Um... Wait. Because Be's browser can be easily
    decoupled, and M$'s can't, that's good.

    Wait, isn't that a cornerstone of the case
    against M$?

    He's hoping that the near future
    is more evenly, um, coupled.

    -j
  • by Cris (7932)
    While it sounds crazy/sarcastic, I beileve that the perfect punishment for MS should be to GPL their operating system and release the source code. They should still have the entire freedom to develop and pursue it however they chose, as well as develop applications for it which are NOT restricted. This way they can still make billions and billions off of Office, etc, and their monopoly can be totally eliminated.
  • Yes that is the actual name of it.
    Two of my employees are former Microsoft employees who worked on the original 95 release "Chicago", and according to them, all the real coders an M$ work for a company called Volt Scientific and M$ takes the credit. The project managers are hired right into M$ but many of the coders etc. come from Volt.

    And yes it is a bunch of crappy code. In fact much of the code had comments going back as far as 1986 in Win95, (one assumes to kludge around DOS)

    Anyway, I wouldn't want their code. In fact because Microsoft is not Linux compatable it should not be a choice of business that needs a reliable, supported product.

    Sorry guys but I don't call the 18 year old kid at Soft Bank, technical support. By the way Soft Bank (whose owners are personal friends with Bill Gates) owns ZD-Net. Hell they own Comdex for that matter ;-)

    Cheers,

    Nick
    LSG

  • I followed a link from another post here (which I can no longer find, so let me express my thanks to The Unknown /.'er ;-) to a ZDNet "Talkback" posting [zdnet.com] by one Tom Nadeau back in October, in which he says,

    Preventative remedy: APIs must become public domain, for the good of all. An API is a necessary resource, the same way that water is a necessary resource for a farmer. To deny access to APIs is to imply that you should be able to deny access to farmers selectively based on whether you approve what they're growing or not. If all APIs on all platforms are public domain, conditions can only improve because no hidden traps (like the anti-DRDOS bug in Windows 3.1) can be used to prevent competition. It also would mean that unintentional bugs and inconsistencies due to management or programmer error would be weeded out faster. Only a monopolist would hate this. Product tying by means of APIs would disappear as well, since all products could 'tie' equally, no matter who developed them.

    Another ZDNet reader expanded on this idea by saying something along the lines of, "Let's do it like so:
    1. Let Microsoft keep their Byzantine source code.
    2. Instead, require them to produce a 'public' or 'reference' implementation of Windows.
    3. Let them produce any apps they want, but with the stipulation that all apps that MS wishes to market must first be demonstrated as working successfully on this 'reference' implamentation. If they want to produce an 'enhanced' version of Windows upon which these apps will run better, that's fine: that will make for a better Windows, which is ostensibly Microsoft's goal, anyway, right? But it will prevent them from using 'hidden' APIs."

    I think this is an insanely great idea -- the playing field is levelled, because Microsoft can't pull a fast one on non-MS developers writing apps for Windows, and Microsoft even gets to keep its Sacred Windows Source Code(TM) under wraps.

    Sounds like a plan to me... Anybody else see anything wrong with this? ;-)

    P.S. Rob -- Can you fix the BLOCKQUOTE and P tags sometime? Thanks.

    *The preceding makes use of StyleSheet Technology(tm) unlisenced from Microsoft or anybody else to the full extent permitted by the /. posting software.*

    Zontar

    (somewhere in tenn.)

  • Microsoft knows that Windows 9x's days as
    a revenue-maker will soon be over. Client
    side software will soon be free of cost -
    not just for free Unix users but for
    everyone. Releasing source is hip today,
    and Microsoft might do this anyway to
    make some shareholders happy by looking
    like they are keeping up with the times
    (at least for their workstation class OS
    products.) The DoJ would only be doing
    them a favor: Microsoft would look like a
    martyr and get a better OS out of
    the bargain. I just don't see how this
    amounts to punishment; unfortunately, I do
    not know what one can possibly do instead.
  • this one (the interview with the Be guy) wins the award for the most messed up misspelling of Linux: Lynix.
  • I am still a bit astonished that the DoJ is still not considering the ultimate solution to the whole Windows monopoly thing short of breaking up the company: forcing everyone to buy the operating system as a separate cost item.

    That way, the "Windows refund" crowd here will be happy (because they can install whatever OS they want on the computer), and every OS maker will have an equal chance of getting their market share.

    IMHO, the DoJ is trying to do things the hard way; what I suggested is the best solution of all. Of course, that means Mac users will have to buy the MacOS as a separate cost item, but that means future Macs will allow you to install a version of Linux that takes advantage of the G3 processor.
  • Hmm ... this would allow a clean-room effort to proceed to make wine a true windows emulator.

    I wonder how many "interesting" comments are in the source code regarding such things as wine and DR DOS. Might be some monopolistic smoking guns there. Hopefully the DOJ will force the release of the source code unmodified.

    - John
  • The DoJ seems to be besides itself figuring out what to do if (when) they win the Anti-trust case. As far as I can tell, here's their options:

    (A) They could lay down a bunch of marketing restrictions, but as you correctly said, MS has never paid any attention to consent degrees and fair marketing practices. That just leads to 20 more years of lawsuits arguing who did what when, etc.

    (B) They could break up Microsoft into "OS" and "Application" groups. Harder than it might seem -- IIS (OS?) is intimately tied into IE (app). Likewise, Office 2000 (app) will have an "Office Server" (OS) tied into NT and IIS. Besides - a split-in-half Microsoft is two giant monopolies rather than one.

    (C) They could force Microsoft to give the source code away. I'm sure all of you Unix hackers would love to go fix Win98. What would be more likely to happen would that the hardware vendors and third parties would patch it together to work with their stuff. Imagine an "IBM Windows" or "Compaq Windows" or "RedHat Windows with Gnome", all slightly incompatible. Er, wait, that's just like Linux. Bottom line is that current MS customers wouldn't be too happy with this option.

    (D) The DoJ can wage a war of attrition. Microsoft is basically a big Ponzi scheme that can afford (through paper stock options) to make very smart people work real hard for them. If the stock starts dropping, so will the intelligent people that keep MS on top. Much like the IBM case, by the time it's all over, it might be a moot point.

    (There is a very interesting article over on PC week talking about how the various mid-level millionares over at Microsoft are basically unmanagible, and this is one of the reasons for the lateness of Windows 2000.)

    If anyone else has some interesting ideas on what the government should do to stop Microsoft, I'd like to read them. None of the above seems all that great to me.

  • No, I do not think forcing MS to reveal their source entirely is a good idea. However, your perception of business is just wrong. MS is a monopoly, there are few companies which hold similar market shares in other large markets. Do you really honestly believe that MS has what they have simply because their coding and marketing is better. I say no way in hell. I happen to know for a fact MS has done ever worse things than what has been published thus far.

    As for their 'quality'. MS software is buggy, and everyone who knows software knows this. There are two reasons for this. The first being that MS is a marketing company. Part of the way they market is by adding bloated GUIs and animation and the like. This naturally makes the OS less reliable. The truth is users really don't need these features. A dancing paper clip may comfort Joe Schmoe with 2 hours of computer experience, but it certainly does not help him use it. The second reason for their poor quality is simply that they are a monopoly. No one is going to oust MS any time soon, thus they are afforded the luxary of not patching bugs as they are discovered. For most of the people in this world there is a simple equation when it comes to MS. You can either put up with MS's lack of reliability. Or you can try to change operating systems. Changing OS's and your applications is very time consuming...not to mention hardware issues. Most people would rather grin and bear MS's crappy product, than spend more time changing their Operating System and applications.

    This does not mean what MS does is ok. What they do is wrong, and it should be stopped. I doubt that any decision in favor of the DoJ will ever hurt the consumer. Allowing competitors the same kind of access to the OS's API, as what their own application developers have is only fair. This will benefit the consumer as MS will no longer be able to rest on their laurels when competition can compete on more even ground. This still doesn't address the OEM issue. However, the solution of the OEMs is pretty straight forward. Just force MS to sell to all OEMs at the same price, the economies of scale argument simply doesnt work for this kind of software distribution. End of Story.

  • by Seldon (12264)
    The problem isn't that Microsoft has a big marketshare in the OS market, but if their commercial practices are legal or illegal. And I think DOJ just should proof ( if they can ) weather Microsoft is making illegal practices to broaden their marketshare ( and act accordingly ) or not ( and in that case leave them alone ).
    DOJ shouldn't destroy or at least weaken Microsoft ( as IBM, Oracle, Sun, etc. would like ) forcing them to give away their source code or anything equally stupid ( Don't saying that giving away code it's stupid, don't think so, just forcing someone do it with not any fair reason it's ).
    The right thing to do is avoiding that Microsoft ( or anyone else ) use monopolic practices. DOJ shouldn't 'shutdown' Microsoft ( as I read here once ) just because they are succesful.
    Let's not fight unfairness with more unfairness.
    Besides, do you thing that Microsoft is evil and the others companies involved in this trial wouldn't like to take all the cake for them?
    Come on!

    Seldon
  • I think that a much better idea then making Microsoft give away their source code (especially since I know I wouldn't want to have to sift through all of it, including the bugs, to figure out what's going on) would be to make them turn over the Win32 API (as well as all other relevant API's in Windows) to ANSI or ISO. That way everyone would know how everything in the OS works (including all the "hidden" functions in Win32). That would make it possible to not only create a 100% compatible OS which could compete head on with Windows, but would also allow the WINE group and anyone else who wanted to do so to port the Win32 API to other platforms (Half-Life on Linux anyone, or maybe even an OSS Windows?).

    Making Win32 a standard would also take away Microsoft's edge in the Applications market. They would lose the ability to use functions that no one else knows about to create a product that has better (well maybe not better but you know what i mean) functionality then competing products (such as Office 97, 2000, whatever vs. Corel Office). For example, this would make it possible for Mozilla to replace IE as the default shell in Win98.

    Now I'm not saying this is the best option, and I'm sure that I've overlooked all the bad things that doing this could cause, or maybe I'm just plain wrong...it's just my 2 cents, so no flames please.

    rhavyn
    rhavyn@syru148-28.syr.edu
  • And just how do you think the DOJ would justify prejudicial treatment of M$? The purpose of the DOJ is to see that JUSTICE is done, and that even criminals are treated fairly. So, even if M$ doesn't play by the rules, the DOJ - by it's very existence, has to.

    If the DOJ were to refuse to hear any and all cases dealing with piracy and the protection of intellectual property, that's another story. But in that scenario, the one with the most buck$$ would win. Guess who that is.
  • M$ is simply following the rules because it is more convenient to do so.

    What is to stop M$ from dissolving itself as a US firm, re-establishing itself in a country where the laws are more favorable, and simply importing it's product back to the US? It can set up the Redmond campus as a development sub-contractor, but 'officially' be located on Christmas Island, or in the UK, or wherever. In fact, M$ can buy a small Carribean island nation, and make it's own laws. Wm. Gibson had it right!

    Then, the US would have to sanction that country to control M$.. Not likely.

    As for M$ going OpenSource, I'd love to see the sh*t hit the fan if the DOJ even suggested that a company must reveal trade secrets. Pratt&Whitney, Pfizer, Ford... They'd all start screaming at that precedent. Again, as you say, it's not likely.
  • As was discussed several years ago when M$ began to expand beyond OS products into office products, MS should be broken up into an OS company and a Applications company. The OS company would be forbidden from developing Application products.

    My Computer. My Way. Linux

    --
    Howard Roark, Architect
  • Ouch! You cut me to the quick.
    --
    Howard Roark, Architect
  • Spagetti code??? How can you accuse MS of poor coding if you havn't even seen their code before?
  • What kind of solution is that? I don't think I have to explain what's wrong with that.

    The problem with too many of you people is that you think you can do better. Don't acuse MS of having too many bugs in their software. Almost all software has bugs, that's life. And if there's a better company, it would beat them. MS is simply one of the smartest and most appealing companies in American history. Ever wonder why? Not because they are evil. Because they give the people something useful that makes them more productive. They have visions of future software years before it's released and plan their current software around those visions. I have no doubt they have used some business practices that may seem pretty harsh, but its nothing uncommon to most other companies. Due to MS's huge size, these practices are becoming more apparant than those of other companies. Maybe if the other companies start giving the consumers what they want instead of what some programmer or techie wants, there would be greater competition then there is today. Consumers don't care how the internals of an OS works. They also hate unnecssary confusion. Why would someone trying to write a novel on a computer care if thier OS has a better kernal or whatever? They don't and never will. I know most of the people coming to this site seem to be highly technical people, but the vast majority of computer users are not. That consideration is what seems to be missing from a lot of technical people's visions of the future. MS has always been a company of the people, and that's why they succeed.
  • Everyone thinks that the company should be seperate. (imho to atleast 4 companies)
    But I think that the company run by BillGates himself will eventualy kill the other.

    So, Bill Gates should give away its shares of MS to the US.

    Also they must remove all their patents and copyrights from anything and be forced to use
    only standard protocols and file formats (without "improving" them).

    And another suggestion would be that they must not produce "their version" of other popular products.
  • IMHO making them reveal their source code, while it would be suitably humiliating for them, isn't the best punishment. More appropriate would be to force their application divisions to use nothing in the OS that wasn't equally available to any other company, and to go through the same support lines as everyone else to get questions answered and bugs fixed. They could integrate their browser, for instance, but only if they had an interface that would let Netscape integrate Navigator in the same way and to the same degree. This'd level the playing field without giving MS an excuse to complain that lawyers are dictating OS design, and you can check compliance by checking the source code against the published interfaces without having to resort to opinion.

  • What is to stop M$ from dissolving itself as a US firm, re-establishing itself in a country where the laws are more favorable ?

    In short the goverment would call it treason and do its best to make an example out of microsoft. to prevent other corporations from "defecting" to dodge united states tax's and laws. Microsoft would be labled yellow bellied anti-american scum. No goverment body or contractor would be allowed to license microsoft products. as foreign company they would not be allowed to trade on the NASDAQ. There would be large tarifs on software and all products that did not meet the Terms set by the courts would be baned from import.

    It's my opinon that the goverment would do every thing in it power to hurt microsoft for defecting.Microsoft would live on though after all the world is a very large place.


    I am who I am and that is who I am

    joew

  • MS has been making apps for a pretty long time. The original version of Word was out for the Mac in 1984/1985. The first noise about splitting the company up was around 1990/1991, when Win3.1 came out.

    Back then, Microsoft claimed there was a "Chinese wall" between OS and Apps; no actual collaboration, except on the odd occasion when an engineer from OS and one from Office would sit down together for a personal lunch...

    -jon
  • Okay, I'm not an MS pusher, but I just want to know why everyone thinks integration is bad? I use Winblows 98, an I LOVE the bug (oh, wait, it is documented, so I guess it's a feature) that puts a location bar on your desktop (or more correctly, on the task bar.) While I greatly prefer Netscape Navigator over IE, I use the location bar all the time.

    I wish one of the X window managers had this! (Specifically if it loaded Netscape.) I still use Win98 for two things, games (I like my flight simulators, and there are no good ones for Linux) and doing work that I can't do without proprietary custom Windows programs.

    When I want to use the internet, I use windows if I was already there, or Linux if the computer was off (or in Linux)
    As bad as most Microsoft products (and ideas) are, I have to admit, web integration is a good thing, not a bad thing.

  • IMHO, the best remedy is probably to break up Microsoft. DOJ should force Microsoft to setup 3 (or more) separate companies with complete ownership of the MS-Windows operating system as it exists today (the engineers who know the operating system should also be distributed amongst these new companies). These companies will then start out on equal footing, be enjoined from merging back together, and would then be free to compete in the open market as they see fit. As an example, one company might choose to align itself with Linux/*BSD/UNIX and provide solid MS-Windows emulation at the kernel level. Another might port the MS-Windows OS to a wider variety of hardware. Since all but one of these companies would no longer be owned by MS and yet have a copy of MS's crown jewels, MS would no longer have an OS monopoly.
  • Yea, but what's to prevent M$ from transfering the patents to Microsoft Canada Lmt.?

    Canada\British Colm. would LOVE the tax revenue and the DOJ would be obligated to pursue anti-piracy claims under NAFTA.

    Or heck, even moving their headquarters 45 miles north to Vancouver? SO they pay extra mileage to their developers and are out of DOJ jurisdiction.
  • For those who know me, I have been hoping that forcing MS to GPL all of their OS code would be atleast considered as a just punishment. I still believe that this will effectively remove MS's leverage, and restore some level of fairness in the market. Hell, I doubt I'll even look at it, since it is probubally in the top ten worst written pieces of software ever (Lotus Notes takes top honors). But people working on other projects like wine and OS's that emulate Windows will find the code very usefull. One thing I'm also hoping is that they force MS to allow IBM to release the code to OS/2. I believe IBM would do that if they knew MS wouldn't take them to court.

    Anyhow, it's nice to see the DOJ attornies are thinking on their feet, and not just considering breaking MS up since that hasn't worked very well in any of the previous monopolies.
  • There're a bunch of commies in power in CA anyway.... look at Boxer and Feinstein. We DON'T need that mentality spreading all the way to the federal level.
  • The only thing worse than a monopolistic Microsoft
    is the force of the government. Maybe we then
    will get the ultimate socialistic "leveling of the
    field" - involuntary requirement to render
    source to the tyrant in charge.

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