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Microsoft

Auction off Windows Source? 235

MsWillow writes "Here's an article on something the states are proposing to do to Microsoft: force them to auction off source code and trademark to Windows. Microsoft could still make *a* Windows, but not *the* Windows. I personally doubt this will happen, but hey, a grrl can hope, can't she? "
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Auction off Windows Source?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Look, slashdotters like yourself with no clue about business have been saying things like "Time for that stock price to drop" with every anti-MS thread at slashdot since the trial began. People who have continued to buy MS stock over that time, however, have seen it consistently rise. People who tried to short it are probably now living in a van down by the river.

    Guess what I'm trying to say is that the Magic Eight Ball does a better job of understanding the business and financial world than the kids at slashdot.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • by Anonymous Coward
    As I see it, you are bringing this down to the very level of evolution. From your point of view, competition between corporations and workers creates better civilisation and better humans.

    You also work on the fact of public choice on the moral issues of limits to companies and/or individuals alike.

    Haven't you considered the fact that the very existance of such laws means that people have decided that such limits MUST be set, to stop problems that the "look out for yourself"-mode created?

    There was/has been a time for each coutry (I'm not American) when competition between companies was free and things like hostile takovers and intimidation were commonplace?

    And hasn't the fact that it no longer is so already told you thet it SHOULD not be so!
    The rights of an individual or a group within a society are ALWAYS defined by the benefit of the society, and it's people, not by the preference of the individual or the group!

    Such thoughts crossed my mind while folloing this conversation..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is everyone blind to the fact that the sheer number of Operating systems from over the years has greatly held back the advancement of software?

    In my eyes, a OS monopoly is a *GOOD* thing. Although I don't agree taht MS is the organization to head such a Monopoly.

    Why?

    Imagine where software would be today if we weren't trying to recreate the wheel on 100 different platforms.

    Imagine where software would be today if everyone out there could build upon the works of others completely without having to port the code to different platforms first.

    Look at the Unix market. In most ways, Unix is extremely stunted in terms of software maturity compared to Windows. Of course this is a generalization. There's lots of advanced software on Unix, but most of it is advanced in only one area and ignores all the other factors of software that has evolved (such as UI).

    No, I don't think breaking down monopolies just because they're monopolies is a good thing.
  • Yep, that's the price of the limited liability achived by incorperating...
  • The corperation is a legal fiction, not a natural entity. In exchange for some special rights for the stockholders (limited liability, etc) they give up many of the rights associated with natural persons.

    (note: I only had 1 law class, and I got a 3.0 in it)
  • At a time, it was a feminist term ... These days it seems to have been perverted into another idiotic fashion statement. So much for that.
    ----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -
  • Yeah they could have the auction at Ebay. No, wait, I forgot microsoft hates ebay
  • 37 cents and an unopened pack of Big Red bubble gum. I know, it's a little extreme, but I think the gum's stale.

    - A.P.
    --


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

  • the theft of this revenue

    This is a forced sale, not a theft. Because it's an auction, MS gets a chunk of money out of it. Theoretically, other companies will bid approximately the present value of the stream of profit they expect from having the license. In a competitive market, this would be about equal to MS decrease in profit, so it's arguably pretty fair.

    Mind you, MS stockholders will probably lose some on the deal. Because the market is not competitive, the profit stream is bigger in MS hands than it would be in someone elses hands after the sale. And a fair price would be a big chunk of MS's market cap -- who could come up with that much cash?

    The analogy someone made above to eminent domain seems pretty apt -- fair in theory, but mighty unpleasant. And I'm not convinced it will improve the world one bit. It certainly doesn't address the office-suite monopoly, which is more important now than the OS monopoly.

  • err.. gotta start previewing these...

    That is to say W2K after all _is_ not on the market yet.
  • I dunno I'd love to see micros~1 port Office so they could be publicly humiliated by lack of sales. I know _I_ wouldn't use it, much less buy it.
  • Businesses don't have the same rights as people. The Constitution doesn't say "We the businesses"
  • They brought it on themselves.
  • "...the world thinks it's a good thing.."

    Not the world, just one country. A country which I might add doesn't prohibit people from leaving.

    It does occur to you that this is supposed to be a form of punishment, doesn't it? If it comes to pass Micros~1 will have no one to blame but themselves.
  • It's true that people would still tend to go with a micros~1 version of windows and theoretically micros~1 could make their new version of windows suffer from the same kinds of interoperability issues they have now, but it would take considerable time to do this and they already have their hands full trying to launch W2K. I tend to doubt that resources would be diverted to accomplish repollution of the code. It would also require getting people to upgrade _again_ to get off the ground. I didn't see in the article just exactly which codebase they would be licensing. I could foresee a compromise situation where the W2K codebase is exempt, after all not on the market. It would be interesting to see how quickly the released codebase became abandoned by MS.
  • I'm not sure of the current legality of such a
    thing, but I
    should be allowed to offer my services only to, say, white people, if I choose to.


    It's precisely this type of thinking that shows why:

    1. Racism is alive an well in America
    2. Affirmative action is still needed


    If EVERY employer said "Let's just hire white Caucasians", if EVERY school said "Let's only accept white Caucasians", this country will waste a LOT of potential talent in all fields. Most minorites aren't looking for a handout, all we want is a fair chance.

  • OK, so you're saying Microsoft *didn't* rip off Stac Electronics? Or mislead Spyglass when they (Spyglass) developed Internet Explorer?

    Microsoft lives in a glass house and throws stones.

  • Posted by tdibble:

    Microsoft could easily comply with these demands and yet retain business-as-usual, or, worse, further cement their monopoly.

    "So, you want to auction off code? Fine, here's the code. But we won't tell you how to use it. Oh, and our automated code-filing system just stripped all the comments out last night to save space on our servers. Now, how much do you want to pay me for this?"

    A handful of companies bid, and the highest bidder gets the whole shebang. Hundreds of engineers descend on the indecipherable, obfuscated mess, which even with help and comments would take several years to figure out (I once heard that Windows programmers are brought on board and not allowed to make any architectural decisions until they've lived through one full upgrade cycle. If MS employees can't grok Windows code enough to make architectural decisions unless they stare at it for several years, what hope do these upstart bidders hold?!?!?)

    Then, just as the company that bought the code and subsequently hired a hundred brilliant engineers to figure out the various pieces is bringing its slightly improved piece of work to the market, Microsoft is bringing the "next generation" to market, with a slew of new API's and other "improvements". The public buys this for two reasons: it has MS's name on it, and the "alternative" obviously doesn't have much of a future.

    All this costs Microsoft *nothing*. It costs one witless competitor *everything*. It does not hurt Microsoft, but instead helps them. When I first read this I actually thought maybe it was a "leak" by Microsoft attorneys hoping the state attorneys general would take the bait, but now it looks like the state attorneys general just haven't thought things through very well, and have a very poor understanding of the pace of the industry.

  • Sorry to rain on your parade here, but why exactly is this so great? The fundamental concept that everyone seems to be missing is that Windows sucks. I don't want to see different companies produce it. I don't want WINE to emulate it. I don't want to see anyone make, use, or sell it. EVER. I want it to die. Not because I hate Micro$oft (after all, this is about somebody else selling it), but because it's a bad idea. The concept of a brutally complex, single-user operating system - term used loosely - is a bad, bad idea. Better to kill it immediately than to prolong the pain, even if it is supposedly at Micro$oft's expense.

    Therefore my settlement proposal is as follows: "Microsoft may not produce or sell any operating system or operating system-like product for a period of 10 years, and must immediately destroy all copies of source and/or binaries for any of its current operating systems or operating system-like products." This gets rid of Windows permanently, and gives competitors a chance to do just that - compete. Tough but fair.

  • If people choose to use a certain OS, whether it's Linux, *BSD, OS/2, Windows, etc., it is their right. We shouldn't just come along and take that right away, even if they do choose (in many people's opinion) an inferior OS.

    Ignoring for a moment the issue of whether anyone actually chooses windows, the important point has been missed here. Windows sucks. From every conceivable technical standpoint it is inferior to every other halfway mature product on the market. I'm not interested in ensuring that people have 67 instead of 66 choices of OS. I'm interested in seeing technically inferior software die out, because that's what making a better product is all about. Every day of windows's existence is a slap in the face to the thousands of people like dmr, rms, and Linus who have written better software.

  • This is state-sponsored expropriation, plain and simple.

    No it isn't. MS will likely be fairly compensated in any scenario, and, if not, you should consider any losses to be (in effect) the punitive damages for previous actions - actions that caused the DOJ case(s) to begin with. If there were no legit reason for all this, then you could fairly call it expropriation, but, then again, IANAL.

    --

  • The cornerstone of MS's hold on the desktop is based on the control and use of nonpublic proprietry APIs and file formats. 'Freeing' up the OS won't make much of a difference while MS still has everyone who uses Office by the nuts. Or should I say by "the data".

    Q: Why can't people move to a different productivity suite?

    A: They can't. All thier data is locked away in proprietry MS file formats.

    Q: Why can't people write filters for other programs?

    A: MS is reluctant to give up the format info.

    Q: Yes, but people have written filters anyway, what's wrong with those?

    A: They're often incomplete and by the time they are written the latest version of Office is out and the file formats have changed again.

    Q: But couldn't people just settle on using an older version of the Word file format?

    A: People and businesses need to stay up to date wrt to MSOffice so that they can handle .doc files from thier peers that have been written in the latest MSWord.

    A workable solution to the MS problem would also have to handle the file format issue. Maybe with a requirement to have the file format public. Maybe XML will help here. I think that making all info wrt interchange and file formats would be a good lesson for the SW industry in general.



    Even the mailbox format in Outlook is non-standard!

    Does anyone know the format for NS mailbox summary files?
  • The "fragmentation" of unix is actually its greatest strength. Through diversity, unix has become the Hydra that microsoft cannot kill. I shudder to think of Windows gaining similar potency from such an auction.
  • ...in the mass market, where people prefer to learn only one system.

    There must be some other reason, because the unity of Windows is an illusion, not only for any given fixed point in time, but as time passes as well. Windows is no less fragmented than the unix market. The only thing about it that is more unified is the number of vendors who can sell it. (I think its success lies in Microsoft's persistent leveraging of any protocol, API, or file-format that they can own and strategic morphing of same with each release, but I'm no super-pundit.) The differences between different "flavors" of unix are no greater than the differences between DOS/Win98 and NT, so the dominance of the latter cannot be pinned entirely on the fragmentation of the former.

  • Maybe "Hydra" isn't the mythical beast I meant to invoke. Whatever it's called, the legend is that the beast has many heads, and it keeps growing new ones as you cut them off. It's true that there are flavors of linux that are dead today. However, unix itself is alive and well, and doesn't suffer that much with the death of any particular implementation, except in the short term.
  • I'm not a Randite (whatever that is) and I'm definitely not in cahoots with a political party that glorifies drug dealers and prostitutes as "business models".

    It is interesting that you believe that you should have the right to conduct business with little government oversight, but that the government should have the power to waste our tax dollars locking up sex workers, drug dealers and drug users.

    But, you are correct. From MY business strategy, anyone with money is a potential customer. However, I reserve the right to withhold my products and services to whomever I deem fit (communists, smelly vegan types). You should do the same.

    Smelly vegan types? Most of the vegans I know aren't smelly, but I'll assume for a moment that what you really mean is "Smelly hippie types", like the loser Phisheads that hang out in front of Nectar's that I have to walk by every day. If you run a retail establishment, I suppose that you could set a minimum personal hygiene standard for clientele, but most states don't allow you to discriminate on the basis of political affiliation (like communists). The fact is, you simply don't have the right to withhold your products and services to whomever you deem fit. You can't produce a software product, distribute it to stores, and then specify in the shrinkwrap license that communists and smelly vegan types shall not be allowed to use the software. There are also restrictions on hiring/firing of employees, My boss can't stumble across the bisexual links [together.net] on my homepage [together.net] and decide to fire me because of it. If you don't like this, go start your own government somewhere, and leave the rest of us alone.

    Jake "Veganitarian" Patterson
  • As for smelly vegans comment, that was a snide comment that could (and should have) been left out of the discussion, as it was not pertinent to the discussion at hand. If you want to be a vegan, it's your choice.

    No no no, you misunderstand. I'm a veganitarian. I eat vegans. Very soft and tender. um um um.

    Either you have the right to your property (and the disposal thereof), or you don't. There is no inbetween. So, it's your choice:, freedom or slavery.

    I would submit to you that it does not constitute slavery for the law, which is written by representatives elected by the people, to require that if you are going to offer an apartment for rent, that you not discriminate against prospective tenants on the basis of race and certain other traits. There was a time in this country that it would have been impossible for a black person to rent an apartment in a white neighborhood. If you think that it should be right and proper for a cartel of landowners to decide where people should live based on race, then I guess I don't understand why you think such a cartel would be any different from an oppressive government.

    Your flavor of Libertarianism fails to recognize that you can't have completely unregulated business without marginalizing our representive form of government. Public funding of private schools is another example of this, all that would accomplish would be to take the power out of the hands of an elected school board and put it into the hands of the owner(s) of the private schools, who are not elected.
  • Uh... in most states in the U.S. your boss *could* fire you.

    Not in the state where I live.

    I do think there should be a federal anti-discrimination law which covers sexual orientation, but I guess I'm biased. Before anyone here screams "Special Rights Bad", such a law would also prevent non-straight landowners and employers from discriminating against straight tenents and employees.

    I don't support so called "hate crimes" laws, though. I think that it is inproper (even if the Suprime Court thinks it is constitutional) to punnish people for their thoughts.
  • I don't see any situation which would cause MIcrosoft from banning me specifically from their software.

    If there were no government oversight at all, Microsoft could include on their shrinkrap license a list of people who Charman Bill has decided to excomunicate, and these people would be prohibited from using their software. Or imagine if the original Windows 95 license had a clause that denied licensing to anybody who has ever used Linux. Do you think that anywhere neer as many people would be using Linux today if Microsoft could have done that? The vast majority of jobs in the computer industry require the use of some Microsoft software, even with all of the headway that Linux has made recently.
  • Well, if they did that *now* it would be suicide for them, but if they could have done it in 1992, there would be no Linux today.

    Regardless of what effect such a move would have, you seem to be arguing that Microsoft should have the right to blacklist certain people from their products. I'm sorry, but that's just wacky.

    Believe me, I don't trust the government. However I trust business even less, because I can't vote for who should be CEO of Microsoft.
  • >All philosophies that I've seen have at least one fatal flaw, and Objectivism is no exception.

    You're right about that, although wrong about the exception. The flaw is that essentially, we live in a world that is consistent with Objectivist rules already.

    You don't believe me? Look at any deed. Who grants that deed? At least in the U.S., it originates in the government. What are the rules of the government? The laws of the country. They are restrictions on the use of the land controlled by the U.S. Government, a super-HOA contract if you like. Don't like the restrictions on the use of your property? Go somewhere that doesn't have those restrictions. Can't find such a place? Hey, that's not our problem.

    Objectivism assumes absolute ownership of property, which simply isn't the case.
  • by crayz ( 1056 )
    Maybe Oracle could buy it, or everyone at /. could contribute some cash and /. could collectively own it. Cool. I somehow doubt this was one of MS' concessions during bargaining... maybe the settlement isn't going so hot. Time for that stock price to drop.
  • by crayz ( 1056 )
    It's great that people have made money, but the first people in a pyramid scheme make money too. People made money before the Great Depression too. I am just saying that I don't understand why the stock price has doubled since the beginning of the trial. Is MS really twice as valuable? Aren't any of these people scared at what will happen if(when?) the DOJ wins?
  • Speaking as an attorney, but this is not legal advice:

    A settlement is extremely unlikely at the moment.

    The basis of a settlement is finding mutually acceptable ground, or at least a ground that each side sees as preferable to the reisk of what they'll lose.

    The problem is that it appears that both sides think they've won. When, after the evidence, there appears a strong probability that one side has one, or that the outcome is in the air, settlement is possible. In the first case, it is on terms close to surrender by the losing side; the winner gives up something for certainty. WHen it's in the air, something in the middle is palatable.

    In this case, though, both sides are offering the first type, with themselves as the winner. Neither side has offered anything significantly different from what they receive in a win, and thus neither side has any reason to consider the other's offer.

    Before serious motion towards settlemet can occur, the judge is going to have to drop some hints. So far, all of the hints lean against microsoft (laughing at witnesses, for example).

    *If* there is a settlement, I expect that the judge will be involved, in the form of dragging counsel from each side into chambers, and strongly "suggesting" something to consider.

    hawk, esq.
  • Caveat's: I am an antitrust lawyer and economist. This is not legal advice. I have not reached a conclusion about the legality of microsoft's behavior, but here assume they lose. I do have an academic paper waiting to be finished on related subjects.

    That said, a little competition goes a long way. It is not necessary for the competing windows to gain a laarge market share; just enough that third party projects won't want to overlook it, especially if compliance is easy.

    The successful bidders will have a vested interest in *opening* the API, rather than creating interlocking NDA's: give the world enough information to make sure their products run on your version.

    Any of the vendors could still make changes, but they would need to reveal them. Or they could come up with new versions collectively. But "hidden" changes to provide clandestine support for other products will be impractical; it cuts off access for that app to part of the market.

    If an extension is useful enough, programmers will use it. If not, it dies.

    The key thing here is that competition does *not* have to be for the entire market; it is sufficient that the contested portion, as well as that held by new vendors, be large enough to have some value. Almost all interesting economic phenomona occur at the margin; here that is in the contested portion of the market. And a little bit of it goes a long ways . . .
  • [...]
    Even the mailbox format in Outlook is non-standard! [...]

    I seem to remember that Outlook stores its mailboxes in JET format: ie using the Access database engine. This explains what it does to your email: beautiful, swan-like RFC 822 compliant documents go in, and a mass of bloody guts and feathers emerges, possibly crashing your machine. More seriously, if this `mailbox' gets corrupted, it's a binary file, and you can't recover the data in it. Email should be robust, and a binary database file accessible by only one firm's products just doesn't cut it.


    --
    W.A.S.T.E.
  • Whose freedom?

    Daniel
  • (a) I have little doubt that it would be difficult to legitimately use knowledge about the Windows source code in free software projects. I don't want Wine to get tangled in a legal fiasco.
    (b) It won't be free software in either sense of the term:
    - Making Windows "open-source" software, which would render it publicly available for use but not for resale. Software writers simply could obtain the source code for products they develop without having to pay a fee.

    They're just throwing the term "open-source" around because they've heard it so much recently, IMO. Of course, this would at least be better than the current situation...

    Daniel
  • I don't trust the DOJ or the states to come up with a reasonable consent decree for limiting Microsoft's monopoly. Look what they did with the last one [lawcrawler.com]. Microsoft's lawyers, while apparently not much good in the courtroom, certainly understand their business better than the DOJ and can make any settlement a mockery.

    IMHO, the only fair settlement would be to enforce transparent pricing on Microsoft, fully open their API's, with a severe penalty for MS products that use undocumented API's. Opening or auctioning their source is not a good idea in it's present form, but it should be available on an ongoing basis to an independent body who will judge compliance with the API specs.

    The only open source plan that could work would be to force Microsoft to distribute all future versions of Windows under the GPL. Watch them run to narrow the scope of windows when that happens. (Windows? that's just the kernel (aka DOS). Win32, IE, the GUI, drivers, those are still our proprietary property.)

    Microsoft should also be forced to observe a 2 year moratorium on aquiring companies. Let them innovate, not assimilate.

  • This would be a disaster. Windows needs to die, not proliferate! The last thing this world needs is more reason to use Windows or the Win32 API. Time to write another letter to the DOJ.

    --
    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address
  • No clue about business? You mean like the people who are betting on companies like Amazon? Amazon is hot as hell and wont be profitable for a few years yet. Betting on stock prices is like trading baseball cards. There is no basis in reality for the price of a stock, besides gullibility of other stock buyers. There is always some moron out there willing to bet on anything. Microsofts stock has always gone up. It has nothing to do with the stability of Windows XX. DOJ or not when the uncertainity of Microsoft business becomes apparent the price will swing like Tarzan.

    What we at Slashdot do know is what kind of shity products Microsoft produces. If morons like you continue to inflate its stock prices why should we care. Why don't you bet on the current buzz word like portal or something.
  • I believe the 'customer advantage' is that Windows is an enormous pile of dung.
  • You make an assumption which is sadly naive. I am guessing you are an Onjectivist (I've heard almost the exact speech from others before; all of them were Onjectivists too). All philosophies that I've seen have at least one fatal flaw, and Objectivism is no exception. Objectivism's is this: it assumes that all businesses act honorably (by this I mean that they do not lie, cheat, or steal). Those that do, according to Objectivism, must fail because the people will not buy from a business which does these things.

    But I pose a question: what if the people do not know what M$ does? What if it is so clever at hiding these things, masking them in the jargon of a technology with whic depressingly few people are familiar, such that it can do whatever it wants and people who only think they know what's going on accept it? Such a man (or woman, I suppose), my friend, are you. I don't blame you for it; Microsoft is very devious. It hides its actions quite well. But I ask you: look over the trial; the obscenity behind the mask of Microsoft is coming to light, slowly but surely. You'll find, if you reread The Fountainhead, that Gates and Co. are nothing but real-life analogs to Howard Roark's competitors in the steel industry. (By the way, if you've never read The Fountainhead I suggest you don't; it's awful). And what's more, people are finally starting to take notice.
  • What should really be done is for the Win32 API to be handed over to a standards body; a complete specification (sufficiently complete to produce a Win32 implementation) should be handed over by Microsoft (or distilled from MS source by independent experts), and put in the custody of an independent body, such as X/Open, IEEE or ISO. Microsoft should be restricted from extending its implementation of the API in proprietary fashions and using such extensions in applications.

    This is the optimal solution. It imposes minimally on Microsoft (compared to a breakup or expropriation of source), whilst breaking the hub of Microsoft's monopoly, their control of the industry-standard desktop API. Microsoft can still compete, but they will have to do so on merit, by ensuring their Win32 implementation is the most efficient and stable (a novel concept), and they will have plenty of competition. (For one, IBM could build a Win32 implementation on their OS/2 code; and there will surely be Win32 implementations for Linux, possibly bundled with every copy of RedHat and the like.)
  • by ploeg ( 3058 )
    For a Randinista, the whole thing comes down to autonomous individuals having the moral authority to create and to make agreements with other individuals without interference. You have no obligation to buy what I produce, nor do I have any obligation to sell you what I produce.

    For whatever weaknesses there are in the Randinista position, that isn't one of them.
    -----
  • I would like to see the trial drag on for long as needed. The most valuable aspect of the trial as I see it are the little gems of information that are usually hidden. The public and other businesses may learn that screwing your customers is not cool.

    May they be fined a dollar, people learn a good lesson, and we might see evolution in action. At that time, people might ask, "what monopoly?"
  • Black Parrot wrote:
    The problem with your proposal is that so long as MS maintained their current status, all they would have to do is "embrace and extend" the now-public API's and file formats. Sure, you could make them update the standard every time they came out with an new release of anything, but that would just mean they could push the standards around at will. Where's the consumer's advantage in that?

    After all, there are already standards out there,a nd MS just ignores them, except when they need to pervert them to their own advantage.


    Microsoft can't "pervert" a standard format if it's public. They can change the standard with their own products, but if they must release documentation for coding to that standard they cannot prevent others from maintaining compatibility. Soon, if these changes become a hassle for its users, the vast majority may decide to go somewhere else for their software.

    Right now this cannot happen because Microsoft maintains a complete lock on their file formats. They change them with the sole intent of obfuscation to promote ignorance. The same is true of internal APIs to Windows and the kernel. These things should be documented and that documentation should be available either for free on the net, or in print for a nominal sum.

    If the DOJ does that in five years Microsoft will be competing on their merits or closing in on bankruptcy.
  • So what if more vendors begin modifying and selling Windows? The issue isn't just Microsoft's monopolistic control over Windows and Office suite software, but their control over proprietary API, network and file formats. Two or more companies selling and developing the same product with interlocking NDA's could still leave us in the same position as before. More vendors selling Windows(tm) does not imply open standards or an end to monopolistic control over desktop software. This "solution" is a red herring which fails to resolve the core issues preventing competition in the desktop marketplace.

    I suggest the government force Microsoft to document and release their Windows API, network and file formats to a standardization body like IEEE. Let the world know how to program to these standards while forcing Microsoft to either keep to those standards they created, or update the standards documentation with IEEE every time they make a change. The world doesn't need Microsoft's code, only reasonable documentation.
  • A monopoly (control of 100% of the market) will never be created without a government mule to create and control the market.
    the microsoft monopoly is the result of a government mule: copyright.
    If you truly believe in a competitive environment
    then you should understand that people have a right to copy, modify, and distribute information.

    "ownership" cannot apply to something that can be copied.

    that said, forcible licensing and auctioning of the source code is a stupid remedy. the legal problem isn't the monopoly, but leveraging the monopoly into other markets (OS to internet). so the obvious solution is to break them up into smaller companies (OS, app, internet/media).

    but this is just treating the symptoms. the only way to cure the disease is to eliminate copyright.


    information is free.
    the only question is:

  • nice idea but if you want compensations, than everybody affected by bad MS practises should get such compensation. and if MS will pay ... hmm ... 200 milion US$ how much will get each one? 5 cents? what good does 5 cents for each one? and to be fair, windows users should get such compensation too (loosed data, unnecesary reboots and other "sweatees" they encounter)

    i think the best for everyone is something like releasing MS' sources and/or reasonable documentation (as mentioned by maynard) otherwise nothing will change

  • Microsoft may even come up with a perfectly good deal to settle out of court, however I would rather see them lose in court and end up with less than let them wiggle out of trouble again. I can see the quotes now:

    "We decided to settle out of court even though we 'knew' we were right and justly had the freedom to innovate, we just decided this would be better for OUR customers... blah blah blah blah.....etc."

    Ken Broadfoot

  • Releasing windows source will not solve its problems. The greatest fault that windows carries is its baggage of interfaces and APIs. There are so many that its impossible to make a new one, or improve on a current one without breaking a myriad of other Microsoft products, let alone anyone elses.

    Microsoft won't release its source, and even if it did, there would be no point. No one in the nerd community wants to improve the Windows code base because its dirty, ethically and code-wise. No one who codes for Apache, or GNOME, or Wine, or the Linux kernel is going to all of a sudden drop what they're doing to help out Bill. Seeing as how there is a finite supply of nerds who are qualified to do this type of work, I think that Windows wouldn't get much help.

    Microsoft's monopoly has nothing to do with Windows, IE, Office, Media Player, IIS, Visual C++, or any single product. Microsoft has established a monopoly by being able to code, feature bloat, and market anything they want, and to buy any software startup that doesn't open its source. The only way to stop Microsoft is not to buy the software, to take the cash away, and that's something that the government can't do.


    Andrew Gardner
  • Not everyone agrees or beleives that ideas and creative works are equivilent to and can be treated the same as physical property.

    Creative works must be allowed to be copyrighted, or anyone could copy War and Peace and sell it as his own. I think you're confusing copyrights (creative works) and patents (ideas) - I will agree with you that software patents are bad, bad, bad - but were talking about forcing a business to give up it's actual product, not some design technique.
    Were talking about stealing, plain and simple.

    Besides that, how can a "public" company ever hold "private" property?

    That's a loaded question - using the word "public" in regards to the ownership of MS is a misnomer, even though it's done all the time - it is in fact a privately owned company. Just because a company has more than one owner, does make it "public". Microsoft is owned by all of those people who were inclined to purchase a piece of it's stock, not the public-at-large.

    Dream
  • Microsoft uses their OS as a weapon against competitiors.

    How dangerous is this "weapon" to human life?
    I mean in comparison to an M-16 rifle or a stealth fighter?

    Pretty pathetic - as weapons go - if you ask me. I doubt you'd lose consciousness if I hit you square in the face with it.

    When MS was losing the war against Netscape, then they stopped trying to make Internet Explorer look like a seperate product and claim erroneously that it is a part of the OS.

    War? Why is it that the open source community can be so precise and so full of integrity when re-defining terms that help us ("software-piracy" comes to mind), and so underhanded and mis-leading when using other terms, like describing two companies trying to out-sell each other as "war".

    Folks, governments wage wars, not private companies. Governments are the ones with the tanks, mines, chemical/biological/nuclear weapons, torture chambers, prison camps, and human experimentation programs, not businesses.

    If anyone is sticking a gun in anyone's face, it's Microsoft!

    Amazing how people can turn annoying business pratices into guns, and ignore the actual guns!

    Dream
  • The line was drawn many times in the sand and they crossed it far too often. They have no room to cry about anything. You have even less room to cry for them.

    I'm not crying for MicroCrap - hell, I don't even buy their products - I'm crying for us. Have you given any thought to what will happen when Linux becomes very popular and some gubbmit agency takes a liking to it?

    "Why, Linux is so popular it's used everywhere - it's become a public resource. We can't have the public modifying and changing this valuable public resource, people depend on it! We'll just have to take over the project and make sure it gets done right!"

    Dream
  • Get Real. If you don't like what the government is doing, vote them out (you guys are the land of democracy and freedom right?).

    Interesting double-standard. To get my government to stop doing what's it's doing, I have to take action, but to stop MS from doing what it's doing, all you have to do is refrain from buying thier product.

    And speaking of guns and weapons...try to stay clear of diesel fuel and fertilizer, you really scare me. This is /., the News for Nerds.... Militia and "Patriot" sites are around the
    corner, way over on the right.


    I do stay away from bombs and weapons, because I don't like them! (What is it you think I've been saying?)

    Dream
  • Isn't the whole thing very simple really? Microsoft now produce the OS and the applications.
    The control this gives them is harmful to the market.
    So, they should be compelled to make *either* OSes *or* applications, but not both.
  • The point you make is very valid and highly plausible. The article did mention Windows2000 but didn't say if it was to be the Professional Edition which is the renamed NT5.0. But that is totally besides the point. Like you commented, all Microsoft has to do (and what they do best) is to come up with a newer version that breaks the compatibility with any versions they are forced to sell off.

    Perhaps Microsoft could also deliberately put very subtle bugs into Windows 2000.
  • by craw ( 6958 ) on Sunday March 28, 1999 @02:21PM (#1959329) Homepage
    Microsoft has been posturing the past two weeks about settling the case with the DoJ and the 19 states. They actually put forth a proposal to the states, and will be talking to the DoJ on Tuesday. According to some new sources, the proposal to the states is woefully inadequate.

    In the grand scheme of things, what the states are doing is countering MS's offer with one that must be totally repulsive to MS. After all, MS offering was most likely equally repulsive to the states. This is called negotiating a settlement.

    MS has been sitting pretty since the trial recess as their stock price has steadily gone up because of the talk of a settlement. The best way to remove the smug smile from someone is to kick him in the nuts.
  • Does anyone else get the feeling that this whole DOJ thing is an exercise in futility? I seriously doubt that the DOJ will be able to find a "solution" that properly fixes the Microsoft situation. (Sort of like trying to perform brain surgery with a baseball bat.) I'm not with those who feel there shouldn't be any government controls over businesses, but in this case, I don't think the DOJ (or the States) has a clue how to fix the situation in a way that is fair to all parties, but still puts an end to whatever illegal practices MS is engaging in.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Microsoft's days of complete control of the industry are numbered. They can't beat Linux into submission like they did with OS/2 or the original Mac - there isn't any company there to crush or buy out. People KNOW now that Windows is a piece of trash, and there are alternatives. Microsoft isn't about to go the way of the dinosaur, but there is enough of a hole in it's armor that other players will start to inflict damage. Unix is long from dead. Apple is making slow headway. Linux is making it's way into the server market, and as applications continue to roll out, it will continue to build strength on the desktop.

    Microsoft has played dirty for too long, and people resent it. Fires are popping up left and right now, and Bill can't put all of them out at the same time any more.

  • In my mind, Microshaft's lawyers could send this stuff away, unless they're forced to release it freely.

    This is free as in freedom, not beer!

    Just think about it: we all give lots of money to the source god of choice (ie RMS/ESR/BLAH) and they purchase the code and relicense it specifically under (say) the GPL.

    ... Then a little while down the track we release Windows 2001: Open Source Odyssey....

  • I'm rather disappointed that so many posters here think that this is a good idea. I, for one, am frightened that the world thinks it's a good thing to be able to force a company to cut its head off, after droning on and on that they are doing this so that others can "compete." I don't know what definition of "competition" that you guys are using, but my definition implies that there will be winners and losers. Despite their methods (which are actually protected by the government that claims to protect us, and are facilitated by the actions of all those OEMs that let Microsoft trample all over them), they have built up a product that is an incredible source of revenue for them. That so many people seem to support the theft of this revenue, rather than legitimately producing something better, disheartens me.

    logan

  • You'll find, if you reread The Fountainhead, that Gates and Co. are nothing but real-life analogs to Howard Roark's competitors in the steel industry.

    Howard Roark was an architect. I believe you are mixing The Fountainhead with Atlas Shrugged, in which Hank Rearden was put forth as the ideal steel manufacturer.

    However, your point is still valid, if you replace "steel industry" with "architectural industry." However, at no point in the book is it proposed that those firms that did not meet the author's ideals should be stripped of their rights and property. Giving or stripping away an entity's rights should not depend upon how much you like that entity. What if the government someday doesn't like you?

    logan

  • Look, if you're a Randite Libertarian, the whole thing comes down to getting money when you supply something of value, right?

    If so, anybody with money is a potential customer.

    If you reserve the right to not supply your value to people for irrelevant reasons (i.e. anything but they don't have enough money), then you're not living your philosophy, you're contradicting it.

    I never said that. My philosophical standpoint is that you have no right to impose your philosophy upon me to the extent that you violate the same rights that you pretend to support and protect.

    logan

  • Businesses don't have the same rights as people. The Constitution doesn't say "We the businesses"

    Let me see if I've got this straight. First, we are all born as "people," and given the rights typically given to "people." At some point in our lives we decide to interact with our fellow human beings. As soon as that happens, we cease to become "people" and thus lose all our rights?

    logan

  • The econ/CS major's $0.02:

    Sorry to rain on your parade here, but why exactly is this so great? The fundamental concept that everyone seems to be missing is that Windows sucks. I don't want to see different companies produce it. I don't want WINE to emulate it. I don't want to see anyone make, use, or sell it. EVER. I want it to die. Not because I hate Micro$oft (after all, this is about somebody else selling it), but because it's a bad idea. The concept of a brutally complex, single-user operating system - term used loosely - is a bad, bad idea. Better to kill it immediately than to prolong the pain, even if it is supposedly at Micro$oft's expense.

    Such short sightedness. Remember, opening up the source lets people *fix* things. This same imposition was made regarding the magtape distributions of UNIX System III and V from AT&T. Opening up the source helps. If the source to Windows is opened (including Windows NT/9x/CE/etc), people can pluck out the bad parts and keep the (OLE anyone?) good parts of kernel and userland alike. (Let me respond to any free-source zealots who would point me to CORBA/ORB: No, it isn't the real deal... yet.)

    Let's also make this clear. A lot of supposed *flaws* in a Microsoft system are actually flaws in the coding practice brought about by the closed source. For instance, you don't *need* to reboot an NT system after making changes and reloading the TCP/IP stack (for you point-and-clickies out there, allowing for a new network service or protocol). I've actually reloaded the stack on the fly and have had no problems. NT *can* handle it (who knows, this might even apply to peripheral configuration as well). But, because the code is NOT open source, programmers assume their peers are idiots and demand a reboot. Open source will help stop that.

    Furthermore, selling the source (but forcing this to be done) shows that Open Source need not be Pay-Nothing Source. This is a situation that will make pseudo-libertarians and GNU enthusiasts alike happy, or at least content. I'm a big fan of Open Source, but I much prefer the BSD-style licensing, which imposes less in the way of ideological restrictions. I believe a laissez-faire attitude will pop in and weed out those who would attempt to corrupt the system. And before anyone tells me that the DOJ case reeks of government interventionism, let me respond by saying that someone elected the people who appointed these folks.

    Business and Politics are just two of many ways to get the masses to improve their situation. Together these ways make up economics. A lot of people confuse business with economics =P )

    Now let's listen to your proposed solution:

    Therefore my settlement proposal is as follows: "Microsoft may not produce or sell any operating system or operating system-like product for a period of 10 years, and must immediately destroy all copies of source and/or binaries for any of its current operating systems or operating system-like products." This gets rid of Windows permanently, and gives competitors a chance to do just that - compete. Tough but fair.

    Neglecting for the minute the difficulty in achieiving this goal [slashdot.org], let's look at history. Sure, keeping Microsoft from being an operating system OEM has been done. It's been done to AT&T actually. That's why they opened up the source of UNIX S3 to universities and the like. That's why bored university folk hacked at the system till, by God, it worked. But to destroy all the copies of Windows because of a personal grudge you have against it? Sounds like the Ch'in emperor burning all the books and building the Great Wall of China to keep out foreigners.

    It didn't work. Neither will your plan. Opening the source will allow peers to see exactly what's going on behind the curtain, and thus more efficient coding practices will come into play (no more assuming that loading X will fuck up Y, if you can see how the loading process works), and who knows? Maybe compiling Windows with a better optimization flag helps! =)

    Ok. i know I was begging the question. Sue me. :)

  • Yikes! I hit the "preview" button, fixed my problems, and lo and behold they still existed after submission! Sorry -- sinator

    The econ/CS major's $0.02:

    Sorry to rain on your parade here, but why exactly is this so great? The fundamental concept that everyone seems to be missing is that Windows sucks. I don't want to see different companies produce it. I don't want WINE to emulate it. I don't want to see anyone make, use, or sell it. EVER. I want it to die. Not because I hate Micro$oft (after all, this is about somebody else selling it), but because it's a bad idea. The concept of a brutally complex, single-user operating system - term used loosely - is a bad, bad idea. Better to kill it immediately than to prolong the pain, even if it is supposedly at Micro$oft's expense.

    Such short sightedness. Remember, opening up the source lets people *fix* things. This same imposition was made regarding the magtape distributions of UNIX System III and V from AT&T. Opening up the source helps. If the source to Windows is opened (including Windows NT/9x/CE/etc), people can pluck out the bad parts and keep the (OLE anyone?) good parts of kernel and userland alike. (Let me respond to any free-source zealots who would point me to CORBA/ORB: No, it isn't the real deal... yet.)

    Let's also make this clear. A lot of supposed *flaws* in a Microsoft system are actually flaws in the coding practice brought about by the closed source. For instance, you don't *need* to reboot an NT system after making changes and reloading the TCP/IP stack (for you point-and-clickies out there, allowing for a new network service or protocol). I've actually reloaded the stack on the fly and have had no problems. NT *can* handle it (who knows, this might even apply to peripheral configuration as well). But, because the code is NOT open source, programmers assume their peers are idiots and demand a reboot. Open source will help stop that.

    Furthermore, selling the source (but forcing this to be done) shows that Open Source need not be Pay-Nothing Source. This is a situation that will make pseudo-libertarians and GNU enthusiasts alike happy, or at least content. I'm a big fan of Open Source, but I much prefer the BSD-style licensing, which imposes less in the way of ideological restrictions. I believe a laissez-faire attitude will pop in and weed out those who would attempt to corrupt the system. And before anyone tells me that the DOJ case reeks of government interventionism, let me respond by saying that someone elected the people who appointed these folks.

    Business and Politics are just two of many ways to get the masses to improve their situation. Together these ways make up economics. A lot of people confuse business with economics =P )

    Now let's listen to your proposed solution:

    Therefore my settlement proposal is as follows: "Microsoft may not produce or sell any operating system or operating system-like product for a period of 10 years, and must immediately destroy all copies of source and/or binaries for any of its current operating systems or operating system-like products." This gets rid of Windows permanently, and gives competitors a chance to do just that - compete. Tough but fair.

    Neglecting for the minute the difficulty in achieiving this goal [slashdot.org], let's look at history. Sure, keeping Microsoft from being an operating system OEM has been done. It's been done to AT&T actually. That's why they opened up the source of UNIX S3 to universities and the like. That's why bored university folk hacked at the system till, by God, it worked. But to destroy all the copies of Windows because of a personal grudge you have against it? Sounds like the Ch'in emperor burning all the books and building the Great Wall of China to keep out foreigners.

    It didn't work. Neither will your plan. Opening the source will allow peers to see exactly what's going on behind the curtain, and thus more efficient coding practices will come into play (no more assuming that loading X will fuck up Y, if you can see how the loading process works), and who knows? Maybe compiling Windows with a better optimization flag helps! =)

    Ok. i know I was begging the question. Sue me. :)

  • Yeah, whether Microsoft actually decides to TURN OVER the source in it's ENTIRETY is doubtful. And if it were done, Whoever buys the source will probably be swallowed by Microsoft anyway.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Now that I think about it, This could pose an interesting point.

    If Microsoft can "develop *a* windows", wouldn't that be just what they want? I mean, when a person (GASP!) goes to buy Windows, they usually want MICROSOFT Windows.

    BUT, I think a peek at the windows source code would be very interesting, but as I said before, parts could be conveinantly left out, and I don't doubt Microsoft would do that.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • P.S.:

    How much would they auction it off for? I mean DAMN, if they base it on sales of versions of the 9x kernel alone, that auction would get PRETTY steep.....

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • hehe, Maybe. But by 9x, i'm referring to the 4.x kernel. Notice 9x, not 9.x. :P

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Do you truly believe that Microsoft will say "Shit, we lost. Ok everyone, Delete all of the windows source code, and nobody work on any operating system-related things for 10 years." Gimme a break. If in fact your idea were to be put into play, it would be useless, because all Microsoft would have to do is develop it's OS behind the scenes as technology progresses, and after 10 years, they'll release it.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I am a 110% believer in Linux. I Don't want Office to be ported to Linux, let alone any microsoft product. I'd prefer not to be included in your stereotype, thank you.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Exactly. WINE is based on non-Windows code, and That's their hook. They're not going to sacrafice that.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I got news for you. If Microsoft stops developing it's operating system, it's stock WILL drop.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I must agree with your sentiments. I generally do not want the government messing with a free market. If Microsoft has broken the laws that everyone else abides by then yes they must be punished in some way. I honestly can not think of an acceptable to do this however.
    I would rather, see us(us being anyone who wants quality software to win out) beat Microsoft. I don't want the government's help and consequently I don't want them to bully me if my company does really well. Instead I want to be able to compete and win customers on the basis of the quality of my work and my ability to convey that ability(i.e. marketing). I know that is idealistic, but I think we have to push for a market that rewards quality work.
    Stuart Eichert
    U. of PENN student/FreeBSD hacker
  • It isn't so much that I would like to see MS lose, rather, I'm not sure that we could trust anything that Microsoft is WILLING to do. As far as the forced lisencing of the source code - I think that this would only be effective if it were made publically available and not able to be made proprietary by Microsoft again, ala GPL. Otherwise you end up with incompatabilities in standards once the next version of Windows is released. As for the arguement that MS makes that they shouldn't be allowed to innovate, Microsoft's very exsistence is a creation of statute. Likewise, the ability to "innovate", ie. Intelectual Property, is a creation of statute. The government has every right and responsibility to monitor the behavior of corporations. Forcing Microsoft to give up it's intelectual property is a very valid way of keeping them in check.
  • Not everyone agrees or beleives that ideas and creative works are equivilent to and can be treated the same as physical property.
    Besides that, how can a "public" company ever hold "private" property?

    Trent
    I used to know what I was talking about.
  • I am not ignoring definitions, rather I am asking a question with regards to how we define these words. I understand the definition of "Publically Held Company" and "Private Property" and I know that legally a public company can hold private property. I am challanging the notion that any company, especially those that are in the public trust, can claim the same rights to privacy and property ownership as an individual.

    Any company is a creation of the government and exsists because the government allows it to. In contrast, individuals are not dependent on the government for their existence rather it is the other way around.

    Perhaps my question would be better worded "How can a statutory creation (public company) claim inalienable rights (to hold private property)?"
  • Creative works must be allowed to be copyrighted, or anyone could copy War and Peace and sell it as his own. I think you're confusing copyrights (creative works) and patents (ideas) - I will agree with you that software patents are bad, bad, bad - but were talking about forcing a business to give up it's actual product, not some design technique. Were talking about stealing, plain and simple.

    We'll just have to disagree as far as copyrights is concerned. I am fully aware of the differences between copyright and patents. I am not talking about the validity of either copyrights or patents, I believe that they have their place. However, I don't believe that they should be treated as "property". You believe that they should be.

    That's a loaded question - using the word "public" in regards to the ownership of MS is a misnomer, even though it's done all the time - it is in fact a privately owned company. Just because a company has more than one owner, does make it "public". Microsoft is owned by all of those people who were inclined to purchase a piece of it's stock, not the public-at-large.

    There are only two types of companies that I would consider truly private, as an extension of the individuals. All others are statutory, (creations of the government, which in turn is a creation of the "public"), and therefore are public. The two exceptions: Sole Proprietorships that are not incorporated, and general partnerships that don't enjoy the benefits of limited liabilty. I suppose that certian types of co-ops would also fit under this category. Again, we can simply disagree on these definitions if we want to.
  • by zosima ( 8652 )
    Don't think it will happen, but I bet the WINE developers are drooling at the possibilities. Just think of what they could do if the Windows source code was opened up!
  • by zosima ( 8652 )
    I agree that would be bad, but LOOKING at source code to get a better idea how all the APIs and such work is a lot different than ripping lines of code. Regardless, it probably is all moot, I don't really see it happening.
  • can we have an in-depth analysis of microsoft financial future by a slashdot-reader/expert-suit?
  • Check the source yourself.

  • <META name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 3.0">

    Check the source yourself.

  • This is state-sponsored expropriation, plain and simple. It's horrifying that it's even being considered.
  • $2.00 and all the useful M$ documentation I've used over the years.

    If accepted I'll turn the source over to the WINE project so they can speed up their work on defusing the grenade that is Windows compliance.


    More power to them, it's a work that I wouldn't concieve of undertaking.



    ~Grell

    The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word "crisis." One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. -- President Richard Nixon


  • I think this would possibly be the best thing to ever happen to Windows. Different distributions of Windows challenging each other in the market place would no doubt lead to stronger and quicker development within the OS. Then again, they might also splinter apart and end up existing as entirely different operating systems if no standards are held among them. In the end it could end up that you need entirely different applications and such depending on if you use MS Windows 98, MS Windows NT, IBM Windows, Apple Windows, RedHat Windows, NUTTYX Windows, etc. This would no doubt lead to confusion amongst the consumers and make them end up buying Microsoft Windows anyways.
  • I think your last sentence hits it right on the head! (^_^)

    Contrary to the belief of the /. crowd here, most MIS types are VERY reluctant to take on any new OS unless there is a LOT of "handholding" from the OS vendor. This is why Red Hat is getting to be the "de facto" standard for Linux, since at least you can get regular support from Red Hat on installation and configuration issues. I'm sure that Red Hat is getting pretty close to being most people's favorite variant of Linux anyway.

    Because Microsoft knows Windows more than anyone else, even in Windows is auctioned off to IBM, Caldera, Novell, etc., most people will still buy the Microsoft version since they are more comfortable working with Microsoft.
  • I'm not an Objectivist, but I am familiar with her work, and you are mistaken:

    it assumes that all businesses act honorably (by this I mean that they do not lie, cheat, or steal). Those that do, according to Objectivism, must fail because the people will not buy from a business which does these things.

    Anyone who has any familiarity with Rand knows that the sole purpose of an Objectivist government is to prevent people (and organizations, which are groups of people) from violating the rights of others. Stealing does this. So does cheating and lying (which are forms of fraud.) If Microsoft were to order its employees to do these things, Rand would be the first to advocate their being brought to justice.

    But I pose a question: what if the people do not know what M$ does? What if it is so clever at hiding these things, masking them in the jargon of a technology with whic depressingly few people are familiar, such that it can do whatever it wants and people who only think they know what's going on accept it.

    This is where courts of law and evidence come in. If someone thinks that Microsoft has stolen someone else's code, for example, they can take MS to court to recover damages. I fully support that right.

    This is not the issue here. Microsoft is in essence being sued for being too successful, and then using its success in one market to help it succeed in others. This does not qualify as "theft, lying, or cheating." It is called competition. Microsoft spent a lot of money to produce a (bloated and buggy, but nonetheless) very popular and useful product. It is not theft for them to set conditions on the use of this product, including giving discounts to dealers who sell only its product.

    I find your lack of understanding of Rand's ideas amazing. You clearly did not take the time to understand even the basic principles of the philosophy you claim has a "fatal flaw." I suggest that before you post, you make sure you know what you are talking about.
  • Nor is the existence of the Act any news. MS's lawyers should have been keenly aware of it all along, and if MS didn't want to fall afoul of it, all they had to do was behave.

    The problem is that what Microsoft is accused of is "combinations in restraint of trade." That is so vague and Microsoft has a large enough market share that pretty much anything they do can be interpreted as a "combination in restraint of trade." Thus about the only way Microsoft could have avoided this is if they had stopped developing new products, and made sure they never pissed anyone off. As much as many /.ers would like this, I think we can agree that Microsoft's OS success does not make it unethical for them to produce Windows products.
  • Businesses are simply groups of people. If the people individually have rights to liberty and property, how can the group not have those rights?
  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Sunday March 28, 1999 @12:48PM (#1959376) Journal

    One of the percieved advantages of Windows over the Unix world, from the standpoint of MIS directors, is that there is only two flavors (and they both run the almost the same set of applications).

    Corporate buyers would probably stick with authentic Microsoft Windows, and you'd only see the generic versions on cheap clones.

    (Case in point - long ago I worked at a place that bought lots of IBM brand PCs. They formatted IBM DOS off the hard drive and installed MS DOS, even thought they're basically the same thing, except the MS EMM386 was broken on IBM hardware. But they did it anyways, because other applications weren't "supported" on non-MS DOS.)



    --
  • Yeah, it's *my* business, so I shouldn't have to pay fair wages, or give lunches and coffee breaks, give my employees a day off on stat holidays, etc., right? There will still be plenty of people who don't mind being exploited, after all!


    Yeah, it's *my* rental property, so I shouldn't have to rent it to any of those ornery minority types, right?

    When you're in business, you have a responsibility to play fair and abide by legislation. Microsoft obviously hasn't and doesn't, and they deserve whatever they have coming to them.
  • Remember what happened to Unix? Each Unix company developed their own Unix variant. They were all slightly different. Moving programs back and forth became so difficult that there is a GNU package specifically designed to handle it (autoconf).

    If there were two or more owners of Windows, the same thing would happen. In the case of Windows, as the market split, people would stick with the known vendor: Microsoft.

    I don't think this solution is any solution at all.

    A better approach along the same lines would be to create a standards body with the ability to brand versions of Windows. Require that all Microsoft versions meet the branding. For anybody else, branding would be optional. Let the organization evolve the brand over time. However, this is quite complex, and it's hard to imagine that the court could create an organization which could adapt quickly enough and fairly enough to the rapidly moving market.

    I think the simplest solution would be to require Microsoft to license the entire Windows OS under some open source licence. That would give Microsoft a choice: bundle it in and make it open, or keep it proprietary and don't bundle it.
  • by Richard Frost ( 18848 ) on Sunday March 28, 1999 @01:44PM (#1959400)

    I think that you are being a little too fanatical about this. By destroying Windows in the way that you suggest, you would, for many people, effectively take away their right to use the OS they want to use. If people choose to use a certain OS, whether it's Linux, *BSD, OS/2, Windows, etc., it is their right. We shouldn't just come along and take that right away, even if they do choose (in many people's opinion) an inferior OS. As to "why exactly is this so great?", if the source is open (or at least, opened to a dozen or so different organizations), then it gives everyone involved with it's development a chance to improve this "brutally complex, single-user operating system". It might turn Windows from a thing to be despised into a thing to merely be made fun of. :)

    Richard Frost

  • In my eyes, a (sic) OS monopoly is a *GOOD* thing.

    Imagine where software would be today if we weren't trying to recreate the wheel on 100 different platforms.

    No, I don't think breaking down monopolies just because they're monopolies is a good thing.


    This is a good analogy -- a very good analogy, in fact, but like many analogies, it is misapplied.

    First off, just because a wheel exists, don't assume that it is not worth reinventing. You bring your analogy from the "Real World," where we have a nice round wheel which works very well. But imagine if that wheel were in fact square? The wheel as we know it is not worth reinventing, which is the basis for that expression. However, if the wheel were substandard, ie: a square wheel, it would be very much worth reinventing. And that is how I believe the analogy would be more apliccable to our Operating System situation. We have a square wheel (Windows), which we are trying to re-invent, or rather supplement with a better, round version (ie: *nix).

    Don't let the mantra of "Don't reinvent the wheel" prevent you from replacing a substandard wheel.

    Second of all, A wheel may be worth improving. Not necessarily reinventing, but improving on the original design. Such as (for a real-world wheel) adding shocks, tyres, and so on. In terms of our software analogy, this can mean anything from Microsoft's attemtpts at "embrace and extend" (bad) to Linux's DE's such as KDE and GNOME (good). On their own, each individual strain of improvements may lead to OS clutter and usability setbacks (witenss the KDE/GNOME flame wars on Slashdot), but on the whole, especially once you combine them, and/or relegate each improvement to its specific purpose, they are a definite improvement.

    Third , and finally, don't confuse standards with monopolies. This is where the wheel <--> Operating System analogy really shines, and also where you misapplied it. There is absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with a standard -- standards are good. The wheel is a standard; everyone can use a wheel. But the wheel is not a monopoly. No one company or person has control over either the design or the implementation of the wheel.

    Rather, the wheel's design is well-known. It is ubiquitous -- a standard. Anyone who wants to can take a wheel apart, find out how it works, and make another one. This is the reason why it is a standard -- also why no-one reinvents it. Simply because no-one has to. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not allow this with their Operating Systems. Not only is no-one allowed to take them apart and see how they work, but it is very difficult to emulate them. And this is exactly the problem that the "solution" propsed by the states is trying to solve!

    By opening Windows up, and forcing Microsoft to release/auction off their source code, they would be effiectively freeing up the design for the wheel, and letting anyone build their own, so they don't have to reinvent it!

    So don't confuse design and implementation. Ubiquity of design is great. A monopoly on the implementation (which Microsoft has) is not. We don't have to reinvent the wheel because the design is open to us. With the opening up of the "Windows" wheel, we won't have to reinvent that one, either, and maybe, just maybe, we can improve it, changing the wheel from a rolling log into a spoked set of discs on an axle, with tyres and shocks. Pardon the analogy, but I think you can see where I'm going.

    Basically, you hit on the problem, but misapplied it, coming up with the wrong solution. Or rather, you had the right solution, but translated it the wrong way.

    I agree, we shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. That is what we are trying to put out. And A monopoly can be good. But a monopoly on design, belonging to the people, rather than a monopoly on implementation, belonging to a company.

    If Dunlop had a monopoly on the wheel, and priced it/did quality control to match, I'm pretty sure there would be alternatives that people would use, leading to fragmentation. Thankfully, they don't. The design of the wheel is open, leading to standardization as people realize what features are and are not useful.

    Don't let a fear of fragmentation lead you into accepting a square wheel.
    --
    - Sean
  • I haven't researched it extensively, but what I've seen of the MS offer basically amounts to agreeing to act in the future the way they should have been acting all along, but without any provisions to enforce it, let alone any substantial punitive damages for bad behavior in the past.

    And even the above ignores that all-important caveat reserving the ability to innovate. But since for MS, "innovate" means to copy someone else's idea and use the copy in a monopoly context to run the true innovator out of business, allowing such a loophole would mean MS wasn't really even bound to good behavior in the future.

    Personally, I think an acceptable solution should not only coerce good behavior in the future, but should also involve huge cash recompenstions to all the owners of competing products who have been crushed by MS's unethical practices in the past.

    Truly, I expect the states + DOJ to apply an ineffective remedy, but I'm hoping that all the dirty laundry that has been aired by the trial will cripple MS more than any legal remedy is likely to anyway.
  • There are hundreds of things Microsoft can do to make the auctioning off not work.

    Here's a scenario:

    - Microsoft gives the source to NT 4 to 3
    companies.
    - Microsoft then ships NT 5.0
    - Microsoft makes changes to the API that
    aren't compatible with the source they
    gave to the 3 companies.
    - Everyone wants NT 5.0 for the bug
    fixes that should have been in 4.0,
    that are now in 5.0.
    - The third parties licenses are totally
    worthless.

    This is a stupid stupid stupid solution. Without the engineers behind the OS, it's going to take a minimum of 6 months for any licensee to even get started doing anything.

    -----
    http://www.Windows2Linux.org [windows2linux.org] (Submit your Links)

  • The thought of forcing Microsoft to release its Source Code to Windows is the most horrendous idea I've heard yet. Microsoft built it, it's theirs and if you don't like it, run X (or Be, or MacOS, or Workbench, etc) or write your own!

    Microsoft got to where it is today because it provides a product that people want, or a product that people accept. If you truly believe in a competitive environment, then you have to accept the fact that Microsoft, Sun, or anyone else reserves the right to refuse to sell their products to anyone they deem fit, for any reason. If Microsoft refuses to sell it's OS to manufacturers because it sells systems with other OS's, it's their decision, it's their product. If you question the viability to survive without Microsoft, ask VA Research how many of their boxes shipped with Windows 95 last year. In fact, it seems that there is an ENTIRE subculture emerging around non-Microsoft operating systems (Linux, Be, and the ever present Amiga).

    Just as an aside, for people who hate Microsoft, why do most of these same people quiver with glee when rumors of Microsoft porting Office to Linux appear? This "fence" straddling perplexes me.

    And finally, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its allied bills, laws, etc, is nothing more than a wordy repeal of the right to own property, ideas, etc. A monopoly (control of 100% of the market) will never be created without a government mule to create and control the market.

We were so poor we couldn't afford a watchdog. If we heard a noise at night, we'd bark ourselves. -- Crazy Jimmy

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