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Microsoft

RMS on Dealing with MS 208

SMR writes "This article features Richard Stallman's proposal on how should DOJ deal with Microsoft's monopoly practices, should the company lose the trial. "
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RMS on Dealing with MS

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Some MS apologist or possibly paid spin doctor wrote:


    -----
    I find it amazing the extent to which people are willing to ignore Microsoft's rights simply because they write bad software. There are arguments (I think bad ones) to be made that Microsoft has committed a crime, and should be punished, but if this is the case, their punishment should be restricted to that provided by law, and the law should be specific. Assuming that antitrust law is acceptable in the first place (which I do not think it is) the acceptable remedies would be along the lines of fines and injunctions against the specific things that they are alleged to have done wrong. This attitude that since Microsoft is a monopolist, then the government has the right to do whatever the hell it pleases is nonsense.
    -----

    I think MS has broken many laws with reckless abandon. Particularly intellectual property rights they always hide behind and believe that they (MS) are the only people on earth who are allowed to enjoy them. I may not agree with the implementation of US antitrust law but it's intent is valid and the legal remedies available (regardless of fashionable lassie-fare) to the attorney general are UNLIMITED as a matter of law. The MS anti trust case is one where that unlimited power should be exercised.

    -----
    1. Require Microsoft to publish complete documentation of all interfaces between software components, all communications protocols, and all file formats.

    I see no reason why anyone has a right to know anything about Microsoft's products. The fact that Windows is popular does not make it public domain software, and I see no moral obligation on their part to document or not document any part of it.
    -----

    This does not deny MS any right or expose their intellectual property. This merle asks that full API be made public. If people have to compete in the application area with MS on MS's turf it is nice to actually have concrete standards. If competitors have to be interoperable with dominant MONOPOLY OS it is only reasonable that that expectation be possible. It's not asking for the source code to MS word, it is simply asking what the fuck is in a word file. Had we had this maybe there would have been no GUID fiasco, you might also still have a real choice for a business word processor. This is the most reasonable proposal offered I'm glad it's on the table.

    ------
    2. Require Microsoft to use its patents for defense only, in the field of software. (If they happen to own patents that apply to other fields, those other fields could be included in this requirement, or they could be exempt.)

    There is a strong argument to be made against software patents, and I would support revoking all of MS's software patents along with the rest of the industry's patents if it is done in a reasonable way. But until that happens, I see no reason for the courts to make a special exception to Microsoft's lawful property rights. If software patents are bad, the solution is to repeal them, not simply to revoke them if they are "abused." Giving the courts the power to revoke/cripple patents at will is a terrible preceedent.
    ------

    Software patents are already terribly crippled. Copyright applies much better to software and most is covered under copyright, GNU included. What are companies like MS trying to do when they try to Patent the way software works not just their specific implementation. Should I not be allowed to implement W3's standard for cascading style sheets because MS filed a patent behind everyone's back?


    -----
    3. Require Microsoft not to certify any hardware as working with Microsoft software, unless the hardware's complete specifications have been published, so that any programmer can implement software to support the same hardware.

    This is perhaps the most ridiculous. For starters, this is a free speech violation, as it prohibits Microsoft from expressing an opinion on the topic. Furthermore, it seems to me that if this were done it would be a simplistic attempt to use the trial to bludgeon hardware manufacturers into building open systems. Open systems are in most cases a good thing, but computer companies have a right to make closed systems as well, and I see no reason to forbid them from getting MS ceritification.

    One response I can anticipate: The idea that corporations do not have rights is baloney. Individuals have rights, and corporations are just associations of individuals. If each of Microsoft's shareholders and employees have rights to free speech, property, etc, why would MS not have that right.
    -----

    This one is limited in scope to advancing free software and not really addressing the huge problem that is MS. However, it does benefit consumers to have the guts of their system documented and that documentation available to developers.
    As for corporations not having rights... they don't have individual rights. They don't. Every shareholder was supposed to not be liable for the companies actions and in turn the company was taxed as a corporation (how many modern companies try to worm their way out of how many taxes?) the companies executives don't enjoy that privilege, they are liable for their actions and the things they say. it's not free speech it's responsible speech and some companies need to return to it! I can not believe that any companies even one as large as MS, have rights that trump the rights of the individual. They shouldn't, I have free speech and I can say Microsoft SUCKS and ask you where you want to go after you've ditched windows and no company lawyer can reign in my free speech because it might just violate a trademark!
  • I guess RMS suggestions are the best I've ever
    heard regarding Microsoft.

    They will not really hurt Microsoft in any way
    except to cripple them in their ability to
    destroy opponents with unfair practices. If
    Microsoft is really an "innovative" Company as
    claimed by itself, it will easily hold a big
    marketshare because MS will able to do its
    implementation before the competition.

    Furthermore, it will not only enable free
    software to compete but closed-source software
    as well.
  • Microsoft doesn't have any rights -- it's a company. Its employees, and shareholders have rights, but there is nothing in the law that protects their investment and work from being lost when company breaks the law. Since the harm was done, a remedy for it should be done as well.
  • You've already admitted you don't think anti-trust laws apply in this case. I can't help but thinking that doesn't color your arguments. Fine are ridiculous. Clearly no fine would be sufficient to curb Microsoft. It would take a fine nearing $10 billion just to deplete their cash reserves, but more money keeps flowing in every day! Injunctions are likely to be useless. The ban on forcing computer makers to pay for Windows regardless of whether they install it or not (found in the original Microsoft consent decreee) is functionally equivalent to an injunction, but accomplished nothing. You are basically arguing that Microsoft should get a slap on the wrist and be sent on its way. I'd recommend arguing from first principles: namely, stick with your argument that anti-trust laws are bogus.
  • In response to point 1:

    As I understand it, the US government can under anti-trust law declare a service to be "essential" and thus regulate its pricing and implementation. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not sure exactly how this would work, but if that's the case, they should be able to specify that all APIs must be open and documented.
  • The gnu drawing actually reminds me of some of Picasso's later pen-and-ink drawings.

    Plus it looks like RMS.

    I'd prefer it to any slick, sterile, high-tech logo. Especially those tacky, overGIMPified, 3-d rendered chrome logos which are endemic to most Linux projects. Those are the worst!
  • Should M$ be proven monopolistic, steps will be required to take away it's unfair advantage, nothing more.

    The spectrum of M$ competition ranges from Linux/GNU and BeOS to IBM, AOL and Apple, all employing different business practices. A level playing field is not possible without limiting all competitors to the lowest (least restrictive/competitive) common denominator. We're talking the economic version of Harrison Bergeron here - bad idea.

    For Stallman's suggestions to work, and be morally right rather than anti-M$, they would have to be applied to the software industry as a whole. No way in hell will that ever work.

    ...

    Regulations and restrictions must be industry-wide, not just levied against the most successful of contenders.

    If MS, which is a monopoly, I remind you, loses its case, then would you admit that the absence of a level playing field can be attributed (to a fair degree) on MS's practices? We're not talking about "success" here; if this is "success", then Charles Keating and Willie Sutton were successes as well, and to have them do time as convicted felons was an unfair punishment. A solution or remedy that is MS-specific is just as valid as an industry-wide remedy, provided it's judged to be a fair one. I'd say an MS-specific solution would be better and less of a hassle to us all, but YMMV.

    They are not above the law by virtue of being a corporation, "successful" or otherwise. And a law that protects us from the excesses of a Microsoft (or anyone else) is valid, no matter what the anti-government folks say; MS have done their bit to limit freedom as well as competition.

    --

  • Yes Microsoft is a monopoly. But it isn't illegal to be a monopoly. It is illegal to use monopolistic powers to hurt consumers.

    The focus of the trial is to determine whether Microsoft's actions have hurt consumers.

    On just that merit I'm not sure if this case is sound.

    Is it just consumers, or are competitors (past, present, and future) included in the equation as well? If MS can be proven to have taken deliberate steps to use it's legally-adjudicated monopoly (to use Howard Cosell's pet phrase) to screw its competitors, or to screw the possibility of competition in general, then they're as guilty as if they directly screwed consumers one by one.

    IANAL, of course, so I may have gotten this all wrong.

    All the politics now surrounding this case have mad the whole point totally obscure.

    What politics? /. politics? Bill Neukom? Bruce Francis? Politics of some sort surrounds every square inch of life itself. Fortunately, in this particular case, there is a courtroom, a judge, lawyers, and quite a few journalists involved. Stick to that, and you'll do OK.

    --

  • No way that's gonna happen. Why is RMS wasting his time on hypothetical situations? ;-)

    What RMS does is distill almost every good idea I've heard from engineers and programmers into a single page. This is a great article; read it.

  • Come to think of it, this is also the first reasonable proposal for dealing with M$ that I've seen. Others do something, but don't solve any problems. This would solve the problem, and to boot I can accually belive it is reasonable.

    I'm still shocked that I agree with RMS, normally I respect him as a programer and keep his views seperate.

  • Proposal 1 (require MS to open all APIs)
    has already been rejected by
    capatalist pundits as being more of an
    advantage to Microsoft's competitors rather
    than helping consumers.

    I refer you to this article (parts of which
    may annoy you) for the capitalresearch.org perspective on DOJ vs. MS in respect to OSS:

    http://www.capitalresearch.org/trends/ot-0499a.h tml


    RMS proposals 2 and 3 are good -- I especially like
    3 (requiring hardware vendors to release specs to
    get the MS seal of approval). Proposal 3
    demonstrates how MS could apply pressure to
    help consumers rather than just using pressure
    to boost it's own market share.

  • Anti-trust legislation hinges on how company X
    affects *consumers* -- if the gov't deems that
    company X is a monopoly but does not hinder or
    harm consumers than it can go on -- business as
    usual. Competitors have to fend for themselves
    and can only get help from Uncle Sam if they
    can prove that the monopoly us hurting consumers.

    ...so the only way to "convict" Microsoft is
    to prove that they have been hurting consumers,
    which I believe is true and can be proven. On the
    other hand, proving that Microsoft crushes all
    competitors is gray area between capitalism,
    darwanism, and government control.
  • I'm still shocked that I agree with RMS, normally I respect him as a programer and keep his views seperate.

    Yeah, I agree. I usually tend toward Linus-like pragmatism and view RMS as a blue-sky idealist, but of all the proposed remedies that I've read, RMS' make the most sense.

    TedC

  • The fact that Windows is popular does not make it public domain software, and I see no moral obligation on their part to document or not document any part of it.

    Any seller of operating systems software (not just MS) should be required to provide complete and acurate documentation for their APIs. Withholding this information puts such a company in a position to exercise undue control over their customers (and the market), and has in this particular case allowed Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world by selling substandard products.

    TedC

  • Contrary to this assertation, one reason Microsoft has gotten into corporations favor is that every product they create has a published API.

    I haven't written a Windows program for over three years, but last time I did the API documentation sucked. This was with VC++ 1.5, and a lot of the prototypes in the online "help" didn't even match the header files. Some of the stuff is documented, some of it isn't, and some of it's documented, but just plain wrong. The only real way to be an effective Windows programmer is to subscribe to the non-MS windows programming mags and keep up on what's been discovered by other programmers.

    Of course things may have improved since 1995, but I doubt it.

    TedC

  • A key idea in capitalist thinking is that free competition helps consumers. A monopoly is allowed to exist only if it has not harmed consumers (as you say). One form of harm is the use of monopoly power to prevent competition and thus restrict consumer choice. If the monopoly exists solely BECAUSE of overwhelming consumer choice, it is allowed.

    Thus, if MS is an illegal monopoly, helping competition restores consumer choice, and remediates the problem.

  • The rights forfeit by a particular crime should be comensurate with the nature of the crime.

    Use a boat to smuggle drugs, you loose the boat. Commit armed robbery, loose the right to own a gun, Use unpublished 'insider' API's to extend your OS monopoly into other software, loose your unpublished APIs. There's nothing unusual there. It's just another case of removing the means to commit the crime again.

  • It's a matter of context. There are many examples of that in law, and all are based on the liklihood of causing harm to others. A few examples, you can yell fire in the middle of an empty field, but not in a movie theater. You can fire a gun at the firing range, but not the bus station. You can even drive drunk on your own property.

    To further illustrate the point, Apple CAN'T do some of the things MS has done specifically because they don't have enough market share. For example, they can't afford to charge higher prices to VARs who also sell Wintel. MS can and DOES do that. The difference: A VAR can afford to write off 3% of it's customers in order to undersell the competition in 90% of it's market. On the other hand, no VAR can or will write off 90% of the market in order to be more competitive in 3% of the market.

  • Actually, the entire DOJ vs. MS case revolves around that metric. What the metric boils down to is that if MS is using it's monopoly to stop competition, it is in violation of the law. If it does nothing to prevent competition, then it is a monopoly by consumer choice.

    For example, if VARs only offer Windows because their customers only want windows it's legal. If VARs only offer Windows because MS penalizes them for offering a choice, it's illegal. You will notice that before the DOJ took MS to court, there were two distinct groups of computer VARs out there, those who offered only Windows, and those who offered other OSes and not Windows. That's because if a VAR offers other OSes, MS won't give them a rebate on Windows licensing and thus, they can't offer a Windows system at a compeditive price vs a VAR that DOES get a rebate from MS.

  • Whatever happened to the innocent until proven guilty rule? Does it somehow not apply here just because we are talking about Microsoft? If it is found guilty, then yes, until such time the corporation did not do anything wrong. So it did not forfeit any rights, as long as it remains innocent.
  • Abusing it is not.

    Microsoft is being charged with abuse of a monopoly. The primary case is being built on the Navigator/Internet Explorer issue because that is the most obvious.

    Microsoft is in a monopoly position. Netscape came to the field and was making roughly eighty percent of their money off Netscape Navigator. Microsoft, by the internal e-mail statements of head operational officers, wanted to destroy Netscape. Their method for doing so was to dump Internet Explorer on the public and choke Netscape's browser revenues. This is illegal. It's called product dumping and most of the U.S. was furious when Japan did that to us. It's no different here except the dumper is the poster boy for American Capitalism.

  • And this is not a problem? It is a very bad thing to arbitrarily deprive a company of its rights because their market share is too high. "Monopoly" is a very fuzzy concept. Technically, Microsoft does not have a monopoly, it has a number of competitors. The only way to define MS as a monopoly is to define some market share threshhold, but then we are using demographics to decide companies' rights, which is a very scary concept.
    The only way to define ANYTHING as a monopoly is through market share coupled with market pressure the company can exert. Microsoft has a 90-percent marketshare of the desktop systems (where the case is being tried). They have enormous capability to basically draft new standards for the market and have them become de facto standards

    So what? If I were to invent an immortality pill and a transporter, would I lose my rights? I could live 140 years, I could be on 5 continents nearly simultaneously, and you couldn't keep me in jail.
    And this is a problem for everyone else. There is now, no way to punish you for violation of others rights.

    But seriously, the rights of corporations are not new rights, and they do not literally lie with the corporation, since the corporation is not a physical entity. The rights of a corporation are only an extension of the rights of its members. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Wrong again, bucko. The rights of a corporation have to be less than the rights of a citizen. This is because, in the USofA (where Microsoft is incorporated), the rights of the individuals are not supposed to be revolked merely at the whim of the majority.

    Not the legal status of a person. Look at marriage. A marriage has many of the characteristics of a corporation: special tax laws, joint property, the ability to be on two continents at once, etc. Does this mean that a marriage is a "ficticious entity" that cannot own property or have free speech rights? If a couple is arrested for something, does the court have an unlimited right to fine them, since their property is owned by a "ficticious entity?" The issue is exactly the same. The same arguments can be made about churches, schools, governments, social clubs, universities, unions, etc. Groups get their right from the rights of the individuals who make up that group.
    Actually, that is blatantly false. The closest thing marriage is to any business enterprise is that of a partnership. The property is owned by each member of the marriage whereas in a corporation members (i.e. stockholders) are generally immune from having their personal assets seized in the event of bankrupcy. Contrast this to a partnership or marriage where the members can be directly sued and fined by the courts and forced to pay out of their own pocket. The remainder of your rant about marriage being like a corporation is equally off-base.

    The only other thing you came remotely close to was that governments get their rights by what the citizens give them. This is always true, but sometimes the "giving" involves force.

  • The purpose of Anti-Trust Law is to help competitors with the belief that a thriving competition will help consumers.
  • Yes, it must be shown the consumer was harmed. HOWEVER, all remedies go to helping competitors under the assumption that more competitors is better for the consumer.

  • So 90% market share is a monopoly? What about in a very small industry, that cannot support more than a couple of companies? Or in a brand new market that has as yet only one producer? Or in the case of a company whose competition is grossly incompetent? None of these standards can be written into law in a reasonable way. That is my point: basing law on the concept of "monopoly" is extremely arbitrary and makes the system ripe for abuse.
    Next time you quote me, please include everything I say which is relevant to the discussion. I said:
    The only way to define ANYTHING as a monopoly is through market share coupled with market pressure the company can exert. Microsoft has a 90-percent marketshare of the desktop systems (where the case is being tried). They have enormous capability to basically draft new standards for the market and have them become de facto standards
    You left out the bold part. Yes, the law is inexact. It should be trivial to prove that a company is grossly incompetent. In fact, all Microsoft has to do is show how it is truely innovating. It isn't. It buys out companies and integrates, but does not innovate.

    On rights not being revoked by the majority

    uh? The rights of corporations are? I certainly don't think so.
    And you're correct. The problem is Microsoft blatantly violated several sections of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. They are being punished for violation of the law.

    As for the marriage example, you are right that limited liability makes the marriage different from a corporation. But I don't think that this is the least bit relevant to the question of whether it has rights.
    You brought up a stupid analogy and I called you on it. What's the problem?

    The argument I have heard (yours may be different) is that since corporations are not persons, they have no rights.
    No, they have whatever rights the government chooses to give them since they are only entities in the eyes of the governing. A corporation isn't a tangible "thing" or self-conscious entity. It is a legal twist. That is all.

    This applies equally to marriages.
    It applies to marriages but not to the participants of a marriage. There is a difference. Just because you incorporate your business doesn't mean you give up your rights as a person. You, in fact, gain several legal protections.

    And if you don't believe that married couple have joint property, then why is there always a lengthy procedure during a divorce to decide who-gets-what? If the property was seperate, they could go their seperate ways immediately.
    I didn't say that. I said the "marriage" doesn't own any property. The two people who partake in marriage still own the property under a specific legal ownership description. There is a fundamental difference that should be clear from the above wording.

    I don't remember for sure if this is the argument you made. If you were making a different argument, please correct me. But the essential feature of a corporation in terms of rights--that it is a ficticious entity comprised of more than one individual--applies equally to both marriages and corporations. I don't see what the connection is between limited liability and the lack of rights of corporations.
    No, again, it doesn't. You are confusing the legal entity of a corporation with the rights of the two people who have made a legal contract called marriage.

    The people in a marriage gain some specific rights in return for the contract they have undertaken. If they break the contract, i.e. by annual or divorce, they lose those rights. Very simple. Marriage does not create a legal entity. It allows Mary to speak on behalf of John in some specific circumstances, but the union MaryAndJohn does not exist. MaryAndJohn is not a specific legal entity. Mary is a legal entity. John is a legal entity. Mary and John together gain some benefits from the government.

    Contrast this to corporations where Ybox Corp is a legal entity. Ybox Corp can be sued as an entity (Mary and John can be sued together, but you cannot sue the entity MaryAndJohn). Ybox Corp shields its owners from damage (MaryAndJohn provides no protection to either member). Ybox Corp is not a natural entity (Mary and John both exist independent of whether or not the government gives them a slip of paper saying they're married), nor is it made up of natural entities (it is owned by them, but that is a different issue). Ybox Corp is a governmental construct.

  • Unless you have some credentials to back that rather revisionist history up, please cease distributing it.

    The other annoyance you forgot to mention was the lawsuit Microsoft placed on Stac for using undocumented features reverse engineered from doublespace. Woops, so much for the law protecting you from reverse engineering for compatibility.

  • For cross-licencing. I believe IBM uses their patents that way. Whenever some other company accuse IBM for violating one of their patents, IBM point out 50 IBM patents the other company is violating, and suggest a cross-license.
  • HAhaha! :) Cleaning the barn :)
    Seriously tho, I dont think there's any subliminal messages or anything in the GNU logo. I like it really, it has its own personality and charm.
  • I have to say that point 1 a VERY good one. I feel points 2 and 3 are in there to artificially help the free software movement and NOT to help solve the Microsoft dilemma.

    What would forcing Microsoft to cross licence ALL of there patents DO beside's make Microsoft utterly useless.. I mean, something needs to be done, but hell, removing their legs AND arms is a little to far.. There is a difference between solving the problem that exists, and disolving Microsoft..

    And forcing Microsoft to not allow certification of their OS on a machine? Again, this would only force hardware makers to show their hands, NOT solve the Microsoft problem..

    RMS really needs to think about what he writes, and defend them as he writes..
  • Now WAIT a minute.. Forcing a company to serve as a public service is NOT very Capitolist. To make Microsoft serve as the catalyst to IP reform is NOT the way to go.. Open Source is looking arrogant for even suggesting this..

    I suppose the same would apply to Red Hat being given Hard specs to allow the Linux Kernel to function on new hardware as well?

    Oh wait, this is about solving MICROSOFT, isn't it?
  • Well, I can agree with youin part.. EVERYTHING except your reponse to point 1. Microsoft runs on over 85% of computers. Many comapnies, and all of our general interests, are all on the shoulders of these systems. It'd be like if suddenly water was the sole property of one company (Ok, THAT'S extreme). It'd be in the general good to force them to open it up..

    I DO agree that it's simply NOT RIGHT to force them to do it.. But what's right and what's for the general good are two different things..

    People who own property shouldn't be forced to turn it over to the government, yet, eminent (sp?) domain is there for a reason.. The same applies to IP in my mind..

    But now we're on to the realm of personal opinion..
  • So you support the ability for the federal government to dissolve companies? That's what these would do.. Everything Microsoft owns would be out in the open.

    'Off with their Head'!!

    -- RMS on Microsoft..
  • A breakup is one thing.. What RMS is suggesting is quite a bit more..

    Imagine if what he's suggesting happen to Microsoft happened to AT&T. EVERYTHING that At&t ever did would be open for anyone who wanted to pay the fee to licence it. Oh, and anyone who wanted to do things WITH what was left of the company would also have to publish everything about their equipment.. What's he's suggesting is MUCH more then what happened to AT&T..
  • Free Software DOES in a off kinda way help consumers, but the Anti-trust laws are aimed at helping COMPEITION, not really what's best for the consumer..

    And anything that targets needing to give away IP data, as in the hardware makers, would need to apply to everyone.. NOT just Microsoft..

    And the problem with hardware vendors and IP isn't related to the Microsoft trial..
  • The POINT of the laws, and the laws themselves are two different things.. The laws, as implemented, give no power the help the customer, merely to help the competition..
  • There's several problems here.. MS would be required to licence the OS's themselves, as they are patented. Anyone could licence and clone to their hearts content, hence, Microsoft is robbed of it's best money maker. There are to many holes in what's suggested..

    Not only that, but it would start to get at hardware manufacturers as well..

    Looks like when given the chance, we all becouse Microsoft.. We now want to do EXACTLY what they force others to do. This is like Raping a rapist, then cutting off his dick. It may seem right, but it's hardly ethical. Shall we become what we fear the most?
  • I think we should replace the GNU & Tux both with Jack. http://ww4.choice.net/~ra/shark_logo.jpg

    I forget where I found the shark, I didn't draw it myself.

    -Rev. Randy
  • I hate to say "What he said" but in this case I have to say "What he said"! A nicely reasoned and presented argument from RMS. A contribution from somebody who sounds a hell of a lot more mature than Perens or Raymond. (Sorry, but the recent flamefest really dropped my opinion there.)

    My god, what does it mean? I may have to revise my opinion of RMS! Damn! :-)
  • But what is the market level if there's no one else in the market? It's what they say it is.

    I think the correction that needed to be done has already occurred because the DOJ did press the case. OEMs and other business partners got a little slack because MS had to play nice, Linux took off, and now we're seeing $500 PCs pre-loaded with a non-MS OS for the first time in many years. But that doesn't excuse them. They ARE a monopoly, and they DO use that power in a way that reduces choice and increases the expense for consumers. Remember a lot of that expense is not just at the point-of-sale, it comes through "required" upgrades and poorer performance from the system.
  • Hey, that was quite nice. First I said "what the heck is he talking about?" and then I got to the part about Win 3.1. How about if Bill G. said something like "OS/2 is a great operating system" and stated it would be the successor to Win 3, would that be nasty enough to convince you? :-)
    Lotus and WordPerfect worked on OS/2 versions of their stuff, MS did Win3, and then said "Whoops! No more OS/2 after all!" BANG. That was the end of Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. It took so long to re-groove for Windows MS Word and Excel had already taken the field. That was enough for me.
  • You've said that you don't agree with anti-trust laws, but it bears repeating that the US courts have affirmed them time and time again. And the foundation of those laws is that a company which holds a monopoly is a special case, subject to different rules. The same rights do not apply. That is the foundation of anti-trust, otherwise anti-trust just means 'follow the law like everyone else'.

    (On the subject of corporations having rights or not: Ever seen a corporation literally imprisoned? Ever meet someone 140 years old who existed on 5 continents simultaneously? My point is that corporations and people are not the same. A five year old knows this. There may be rights appropropriate to corporations, just as there may be rights appropriate to sheep. But there is no reasonable basis for granting the legal status of a person to a fictitious entity ipso facto.)

  • But seriously, the rights of corporations are not new rights, and they do not literally lie with the corporation, since the corporation is not a physical entity. The rights of a corporation are only an extension of the rights of its members. Nothing more, nothing less.

    What do you mean by 'only an extension'? People do not forfeit their individual rights as members of a corporation. (Well, in the negative sense, as employees, but that's another thread.) They may manage a corporation which is bound by additional laws, but that's not really the same as saying that they are bound by those as individuals. Different laws apply to group action than to individual action, nothing radical about that.

    Does this mean that a marriage is a "ficticious entity" that cannot own property or have free speech rights?

    Yes. Marriages don't have free speech rights, people do. You could make the case that a 'marriage' does not have the full rights of an individual, while the individuals within it do. Of course, in practice the difference is so slight as to be unneccessary. Two people in mariage can have joint ownership of property, meanwhile, but there is no limited liability to give significance to the fictitious entity.

    The same arguments can be made about churches, schools, governments, social clubs, universities, unions, etc.

    Yes again. These entities are subject to laws which do not apply to individuals.

    Not complicated.

  • Yes Microsoft is a monopoly. But it isn't illegal to be a monopoly. It is illegal to use monopolistic powers to hurt consumers.

    Well, it's also illegal to use a monopoly in one area to gain a monopoly in another. Then the question becomes, did MS use an OS monopoly to attempt the monopolisation of the browser market? And if so, are they really two separate markets, or two facets of the same market?

    The focus of the trial is to determine whether Microsoft's actions have hurt consumers.

    On just that merit I'm not sure if this case is sound.


    The focus of the trial is to determine if MS used one monopoly to gain another.

    All the politics now surrounding this case have made the whole point totally obscure.

    Damn straight. This is not a real trial of Microsoft the marauding monopoly. It's a trial of corporate character. The offence should focus on the core issues; and Microsoft should focus on the core defence.

    As it is, though, the prosecution is giving MS enough rope to hang itself, character-wise. MS is no longer the unsullied uber-corp in the eyes of the public. So if nothing else positive comes of this, at least people will know what kind of corporation is running the desktop software industry.
  • You can't compare Microsoft with Unix. You might compare Microsoft with Sun or with HP but if all Unix boxes were Sun boxes your argument goes out the window (no pun intended). Windows 95 & NT have different API's just like different Unix's might.

    My gripe is that Microsoft have engineered an environment where everything is supposed to be the same. Every desktop looks alike and every application looks/works alike and innovation in design can't happen any more. Microsoft is on nearly every business desktop (can you say "single point of failure"?) and the whole IT world is in danger of becoming just one huge pile of dead clones. Reminds me of the book/film 1994.


    Regards

  • It's sad seeing how very free Stallman feels to dispose of others' property. It's even sadder reading his ever-present GNU/Linux label. It's worse seeing someone actually thinks he's right in disposing of others' property.

    Why is it that hard to accept the notion of a free market? Let Microsoft fight it out in its terms, and we'll fight on our own. Linux is doing excellently (can you honestly imagine all the mainstream press even a year ago? Did you ever imagine Microsoft admitting Linux poses a threat to them?) and it's poised to capture much larger mindshare and marketshare.

    Can't we just stop wasting time rebuilding Microsoft or its products, and focus instead on making better (and more user-friendly) software? Can't we stop wasting electrons arguing about GNU/Linux vs. Linux vs. Microsoft vs. Red Hat vs. whatever?

    Have a great weekend!

    E

  • Unfortunately no. Microsoft's one and only goal is to prevent you and me from building any software that doesn't earn them money. They want us to develop for Windows or not develop at all. This is hardly a position I would be trying to support.

    I never said anything about supporting Microsoft. All I ever said, in this and other postings, is that we waste too much time complaining and rearranging Microsoft's future. Use that energy for something constructive.

    As for coding for Windows or not, Linux is living proof that we don't have to do that.

    For the record, most of my customers were Microsoft to the bone. I managed to steer them toward Java/Solaris, Java/Linux, Java/Windows (clients) or some permutation of these successfully. It all depended on a simple truism:

    We proved that the technology, business model, users' level of service expectation, and support infrastructure were the same or better than Microsoft's or legacy (mainframe) solutions.

    As for Microsoft's goal, I think it's pretty clear: Make money no matter what. If embracing Linux makes them money, they will. That's why I think it's so important that we stop wasting time complaining about the evil empire and create useful, fun products for Linux. We can then raise the bar higher and make it harder for them to compete. I think the current state of the Internet server market is a good yard stick: Linux-based systems outperform Microsoft's in every way. These Linux solutions exist thanks to people who aimed at doing the right thing the right way, not at destroying a successful company.

    E

  • At least the Baby Gnu [fsf.org] (the one used as /. icon) is good and cute.
  • ... as I haven't seen Microsoft abusing patents yet.

    Here [ibm.com] is my favorite example of a few patents [dejanews.com] by Microsoft that may be stretching the limits of being resonable IP. Abuse? Its scares the hell out of me what they are doing.
  • I see no reason why anyone has a right to know anything about Microsoft's products. The fact that Windows is popular does not make it public domain software, and I see no moral obligation on their part to document or not document any part of it.

    The moral obligation is not that they document it, rather it is that they allow for competition. The definition of a monopoly is: exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action (from http://www.m-w.com). I think that MS has all three. To restrict the monopolists power, some or all of those need to be checked. MS supplies the API and that wouldn't change. MS still has hardware vendors wrapped around their little finger (remeber win9x refund day and the per box licensing fee that they used to charge). MS legally has the right to refuse knowledge of their API's. What are Microsoft's stances: They reserve the right to "innovate" (create and impliment new APIs/"standards"). They want to be able to have licensing agreements (An exec admitted in court that MS didn't have to take into consideration any market forces when they priced Win98, hrm doesn't that sound like a monopoly to you?). They want to keep their API's secret. Lets take a look at the real world (not the strange software one). Auto companies regularly buy competiter cars, drive them for a while then take them apart to see what makes them tick. It makes the auto companies stay in line with each other (within the limits of patants and intellectual right, yes). With software you have to use cleanroom techniques to reverse engineer things otherwise things get really hairy.

    What then is the best solution? You have your choice of take away their ability to license to vendors (no income), take away their right to "innovate" or take away their right to refuse others knowledge of their product? Since they are making an operating system rather than a standalone word processor, it would seem that the SHOULD release the specs. Since they also produce an office suite, programming tools, and write hardware drivers, I guess they really don't need to release those pesky APIs for things like other competing compilers or optimized drivers.

    There is a strong argument to be made against software patents, and I would support revoking all of MS's software patents along with the rest of the industry's patents if it is done in a reasonable way. But until that happens, I see no reason for the courts to make a special exception to Microsoft's lawful property rights. If software patents are bad, the solution is to repeal them, not simply to revoke them if they are "abused." Giving the courts the power to revoke/cripple patents at will is a terrible preceedent.

    Aye, that it is.

    This is perhaps the most ridiculous. For starters, this is a free speech violation, as it prohibits Microsoft from expressing an opinion on the topic. Furthermore, it seems to me that if this were done it would be a simplistic attempt to use the trial to bludgeon hardware manufacturers into building open systems. Open systems are in most cases a good thing, but computer companies have a right to make closed systems as well, and I see no reason to forbid them from getting MS ceritification.

    The third point would be bad law. I understand RMS's reasoning, however. The problems is that MS does have a very tight grasp on the marktet. Once hardware vendors realize that there is money in them thar Open Source/Free Software people they will come around (i.e. Logitecs announcment today).

    My Take on the situation: MS should "open" up their APIs. Even a simple disclosure of all them would be an improvment over the black box called windows. If I buy a machine from a big name company (like that will happen), I want to have a choice of OS. I never have thought of an OS as a commodity item. Again from http://www.m-w.com, and Operating system is: software that controls the operation of a computer and directs the processing of programs (as by assigning storage space in memory and controlling input and output functions). MS is trying to change that definition. Sure, the install media for the OS can come with a web browser, but don't call it an integral part of the OS. Anyway. Enough of this.
  • Corporations are not people in the same way that you and I are.

    The rights of a corporation are granted to it by the government, IIRC because the corporation can somehow achieve a greater good for the populace than individuals could, even if they worked together. These rights can be, and I feel this ought to be used more often, revoked if the corporation does not do some common good. (There is a campaign going to have Phillip-Morris' charter revoked. I'm no lawyer, but I expect this would nullify their copyrights, patents, etc. as the entity that owned them no longer existed)

    If MS really were just a bunch of people, then they would not have the limited liability that they currently enjoy. MS could go down in flames, but no one would be responsible for paying their debts, or would go to jail, etc. You can't put a corporation in jail. Except maybe in Texas ;)

    Also, I guess they wouldn't be able to own things jointly. So each person would need to own their own tools, or have to borrow them or something. Would definately be interesting....

    But at any rate, the rights of corporations are few. OTOH, they (sometimes literally) get away with murder, because most laws only apply to real people, and certainly a lot of meaningful penalties only do.

    Anyone know more on the subject? (corrections, perhaps?)
  • I'm not sure if the federal govt. does, but the state governments already have this power, though it's hardly ever been used.

    I suppose the SEC or some other body could work in conjunction with the Washington state government to prevent MS from transferring their assets, etc. to a different company (chartered in a different state) if this went through. It probably wouldn't unless the Washington judiciary is pro open source.
  • Apple doesn't have a monopoly in personal computers. Furthermore, there aren't eight jillion companies who have their balls in Apple's grip. Apple isn't abusing their monopoly on computers they make (and that's silly anyhow; Dell has a monopoly on Dells, Packard Bell has a monopoly on Packard Bells (not that anyone would want it)) anyhow.

    To be a monopoly you have to be BIG. Then the government doesn't care unless you use that monopoly to get another monopoly. And Apple has a monopoly in what now? And they're leveraging it into... gee, you tell me.

    RMS is being pragmatic. There is actually a possibility that MS will undergo some sort of externally mandated change. Apple isn't even in court - why would he waste his time on comparatively small potatoes (e.g. everyone who isn't MS).

    When Apple is the undisputed ruler of the microcomputer world this exercise has merit. Otherwise who cares?
  • I'm confused by what RMS is thinking. His proposals seem to assume that MS is in this antitrust battle because they have been unfairly competing against the free software and Open Source community.

    That's not what the trial is about though. However, propsition 1 he presents is an actual possiblity. It addresses one of MS's major threats against it's commercial competitors (the ones that are at the heart of the suit).

    Remember, it's only a free bonus to the Open Source world if MS looses and gets whacked. This isn't about us vs. Microsoft.

    hasta,
    scottwimer
  • Right above where it asks me to contribute to the FSF, sits their beloved mascot, which makes me think of cleaning the barn instead of writing code or docs. Is there something implied that I don't know about?
  • I like all three proposals, kudos to RMS for a very clear, short and on-target article. I do feel thought that this would not be enough. We still need to break MS into at least two separate companies (not just divisions): applications and OS. I would also make the contracts with hardware vendors like Compaq and Dell public for revision. We don't just need to limit the future damage but try to mend the past one.
  • As I said, don't tell me that there are other choices because I remember the days when chosing a Word processor actually implied use of your brain and comparison of features. Today almost every company in the western world (I don't know about the rest) uses MSWord. No choice. You might try to use a compatible product but there's no way to avoid it. Same for spreadsheet. Same for gaming API, if it wasn't for John Carmack we would not have any choice between D3D and OpenGL and you could forget about Quake on Linux.
    How that happened ? Not with competition, I welcome competition and I know that to be competitive you must be tough. That's not the problem. The problem is killing other product putting bogus incompatibilities in Windows (DR DOS and OS/2 for just a couple of examples) As I said this practice has been used since the days of DOS 2.11 when MS decided to release the OS only after Lotus 1-2-3 was released in order to push their product (anybody remember Multiplan :) ?) MS has destroyed people's freedom of choice in the field of applications for PC, that's a fact. They did it using unfair techniques and illegal contracts in collaboration with other vendors. They did it with threatening and treachery not competition.
  • Yeah, the API thing is one the other is that they can easily drive somebody out of business using the revenues from Windows. For example, they spent about 500 million dollars for IE and gave it for free just to destroy Netscape. With a split in two the application division will have to show profit and will have less availability of cash to do this kind of dirty tricks.
  • MS doesn't build any hardware ? How can you say that ? Let's see, there the mouse, the sidewinder joystick series, the USB speaker and the WebTV box. I think it's a prtty good list and I believe I forgot something.
  • The problem in this matter is not the so called MS-rights. MS deliberately removed one of the fundamental rights of people: freedom of choice. Unless you have no recollection of the PC industry the entiry history of PC SW development is defined by the tactict of MS used to crush competintion using the OS. This happened since the days of DOS 2.x. The point is not that MS write crappy software, the point is how the use it to control people. To this extent we have to stop them and regain freedom of choice. Don't tell me "if you don't like their software don't buy it". I havent bought MS software in all my life and I don't use it. But for millions of people there no choice and no alternative. They walk in a store and 99% of the times they will walk out with a Windows PC + MS Office.
    I like the proposals of RMS, I do believe that that's not enough and MS should be broken into pieces. Even after that we will still have to work very hard to gain our freedom of choice back.

    --Paolo
  • >1. Require Microsoft to publish complete >documentation of all interfaces between software >components, all communications protocols, and >all file formats.
    >
    >I see no reason why anyone has a right to know >anything about Microsoft's products. The fact >that Windows is popular does not make it public >domain software, and I see no moral obligation >on their part to document or not document any >part of it.
    >

    Actually, I find a strong argument could be made for the implementation of this clause, as reguards the OS that Microsoft develops. For one thing, MS is not supposed to have secret channels between its OS and software divisions where they can give unfair advantages to the software division over everyone else (like, by having special code written in the OS to help support some feature of the software, but not disclosing this new functionality to the rest of us).
    By forcing them to publish all those informations would be beneficial for all, and it would keep Microsoft honest.
  • The problem that all of these "MS should be required to..." solutions have in common, is that they would require direct government regulation to maintain. Some people would argue that that is a good thing, but there are real problems with it. Will this new regulating body only apply to Microsoft, or will it apply to the entire industry?

    There are other companies that might eventually gain the power that Microsoft has. If, down the line, MS lost a great deal of its power, or even went out of business (Linux, anyone ;) it would be rediculous to have a regulating body for an obsolete company. On the other hand, if it regulated the entire industry that could be at least as oppressing as Microsoft. Imagine a world where software innovations had to be filtered through a beauracracy before becoming available to the public. Granted, most of the things that were pointed out would be good in the short term. But the minute we say "regulate" there will be abuses. It may work out fine for a while, but eventually big business will bring money and the politicians will follow them, things will change and we'll end up with the government protecting money just as always. That's not what we want.

    I would rather have a non-regulatory solution that allows the rest of the industry to simply continue without government intervention. Rather than creating a body that could sterilize the computer industry and make it into just another business as usual economic sector.

    There's more at stake here than just Microsoft, it's the whole concept of free software (not merely "Open Source") that we are fighting for. Let's not lose sight of our goals because of hate for one particular company.

  • Can't we just stop wasting time rebuilding Microsoft or its products, and focus instead on making better (and more user-friendly) software?
    Unfortunately no. Microsoft's one and only goal is to prevent you and me from building any software that doesn't earn them money. They want us to develop for Windows or not develop at all. This is hardly a position I would be trying to support.

  • I'd like to see a proposal for what _we_ should do if MS _wins_ the trial
  • Of all the solutions I've read, this one really seems like the fairest - instead of trying to cripple Microsoft or hurt them in an effort to make things fair, RMS is simply proposing that the playing field be leveled so that the quality of the final product is the only determining factor towards purchase. I've always liked how RMS has been one of the most level-headed and rational in this debate - see Is Microsoft the Great Satan? [gnu.org], even if he does view Bill Gates personally as a jerk. It seems like a much better way to get what you want, than say, posting a doctored-up image on your website portraying Bill Gates as Hitler, and Windows users as Nazis. (ahem)
  • by bgarrett ( 6193 )
    Whatever you think of his politics, you gotta admit RMS stays loyal to em. I don't see any vehement "MS must die" rhetoric here -- the suggestions he makes here tend to support maximum freedom for open programming.

    For those who complain about the "MS must publish interface specs" part, bear in mind: these are potential solutions to be applied if Microsoft is found "guilty as charged" of monopoly status, and long-standing legal precedent (along with common sense) demands that monopolies operate under different rules than "normal" companies or concerns.

    One other outcome I'd like to see from this trial (hoping against hope here) is a serious re-evaluation of the policy of issuing patents for software. But right now I'll knock on wood and hope that things turn out as well as they can without dreaming any further :)
  • "To whom it may concern:

    The government of the United States, by court order, has declared that the following patents
    and copyrights owned by the Microsoft Corporation, [insert list], are null and void. The works covered are now in the public domain and their use and duplication are no longer subject to regulation by the United States.

    Love,

    President William Clinton."

    No regulation or enforcement. In fact,
    quite the contrary.

    [ignore my munged .sig, please.]
  • Many of the comments have forgotten or are unaware of what the DoJ anti-trust case is about. Microsoft has been accused of using it's monopoly position as the desktop OS to unfairly compete in another field. In this case, the other field is application software or more specifically, web browsers. That is why much of the DoJ case has focused on MS's contracts that tied in Windows with IE (e.g., IE icon placement, no Netscape installation). Additional evidence was presented to illustrate that these predatory practices was not exclusively related to just web browsers.

    Hence, if MS is found guily, the DoJ would likely propose a solution to prevent MS from using it's desktop OS monopoly to unfairly compete in another field (applications). The breakup of MS is one obvious solution (i.e., separate the OS from everything else). Unfortunately, I don't remember the DoJ presenting any evidence concerning patents nor hardware specifications. Therefore, RMS's 2nd & 3rd points may be irrelevant.

    As for the 1st point, some evidence of MS software manipulation was presented (e.g., by Apple, Sun, and Intel). Hence, it is possible that the DoJ would consider opening up the code. The states involved in the case have also raised this possibility.

    Finally, don't forget that being a monopoly is not illegal. However, being a monopoly means that you must abide by a different set of rules that don't necessarily apply to the rest of the industry.
  • Standard Oil was a oil monopoly at about the turn of the century. What got them into trouble was the establishment of associate companies that they incorporated into a trust. They then had a stranglehold on transporting their oil, end distribution, financing, etc... This type of business institution was prevalent 100 yrs ago and led T. Roosevelt, among others, to develop trust busting legislation. Ironically, Roosevelt was a Republican.

    To add to the rest of your comments, there is another way that a monopoly can be maintained. A monopoly can use it's dominant position in one realm, to kill competition in another. It then extends it domain further establishing it's strength.
  • "Proposal 1 (require MS to open all APIs) has already been rejected by capatalist pundits as being more of an advantage to Microsoft's competitors rather than helping consumers."

    I read the article you referenced; it is the typical "Anything that drives the Dow up is Good" kind of paper.

    The bottom line is this: the most likely scenario of full format (API, file, protocol) disclosure is that people can write applications that truly work with Windows as well as Microsoft's applications do. Interoperability skyrockets and tying vanishes. And suddenly, I no longer have to have a copy of MS Office to exchange info with people who do. I can buy Something Else! And so could my correspondents, if they choose. All of a sudden, Microsoft and Star and Applix and Corel have feature-comparable applications that all see comparable performance. The companies have to compete for my purchasing dollar. One of the easiest ways for them to do that is not to add dancing paperclips, but to -- brace yourself, this is a big thing -- cut their prices.

    And price-cutting is Good for consumers. Yes, full disclosure helps competitors more than consumers in the short run -- but you can't help consumers without competition and you can't have competition without helping the (unlawfully restrained) competitors.

  • "isn't there a danger that by over-regulating microsoft, what would really be accomplished is a sort of affirmative action for microsoft competitors?"

    Yes -- and the reasoning is the same as the reasoning that drove AA laegislation: those who have unfairly or unlawfully gained an advantage are not going to surrender it willingly, so we provide disproportionate assistance to the underdogs _until the inequity is resolved._

    The question of when that takes place is certainly open to question; for me, one indicator that competition has been restored would be when Microsoft tells Michael Dell "if you want to put Windows on any of your machines, you'll put it on all of them" and his response is "suck my dick, you assholes."
  • I find it amazing the extent to which people are willing to ignore Microsoft's rights simply because they write bad software.

    No, that's not why. This is a trial. M$ is on trial for breaking the law, the anti-trust, anti-monopoly law. Court cases have penalties for losing defendants.

    It's convenient for your argument to forget this. If M$ loses, the court can impose penalties. In general, judges have wide latitude. Have you never heard of criminal cases where the judge imposes novel punishments, such as the drunk driver who had to write a letter every day while in prison to the mother of the kid he killed?

    So if the judge decides that proper punishment is releasing the source, or APIs, or splitting up the company, or anything else, he has a pretty wide latitude.

    their punishment should be restricted to that provided by law

    Yes indeedy, and that's exactly what all the discussion is about. All the proposed remedies *are* legal if the judge imposes them and they make it thru appeal.

    I see no reason why anyone has a right to know anything about Microsoft's products.

    Because the remedies in anti trust cases are designed to prevent further abuses, just like a 20 year prison sentence is designed to prevent further criminal activity. In this case, the remedy is to prevent them holding a monopoly.

    I see no reason for the courts to make a special exception to Microsoft's lawful property rights.

    If you commit a crime, and the court confiscates your property as part of the restitution, is that not legal? Again, you are forgetting that M$ is on trial here.

    The idea that corporations do not have rights is baloney.

    The idea that corporations can not be held accountable for breaking laws is baloney.

    --
  • The only way I can morally justify the M$ anti-trust trial is if indeed they did engage in _blatant_ non competitive practices. I don't believe that browser intergration, even if to block Netscape warrants the kind of penalizations that are being talked about. Heck, if they put MS Golf, Bob, Office, and Proxy Server in Windows 98, I'd still have to use it at work.

    The point is that OS functionality is a grey area. 5 years ago, PPP wasn't included with most OSes, Win/Mac or UNIX. Morning Star Technologies made the Morning Star PPP software, should they have gone about litigating with Sun, SGI and Apple because of the inlcuded PPP software with the respective OS?

    How about this; if M$ came out with IE5 for Linux, could they sue the KDE group because browser code is distributed?

    However, _if_ M$ did something blatant, like, oh, I don't know, make Windows 3.1 intentionally give fake error messages when installed upon a competing DOS, that act in itself is enough (IMHO) to call out the Trust-Buster Storm Troopers and AT-ATs and send them up to Redmond.

  • While RMS' suggestions are linked to helping free software, they do also provide opportunities for other commercial software vendors to not be blocked by the monopoly that MS has created.

    The "penalty" should reduce their monopolistic powers, without crippling thier ability to do business (make money) in a fair way.

    In this fashion, the first suggestion prevents MS from creating propietary, undocumented file formats and protocols which extend their monopoly from the desktop OS to the office suite to the e-mail client to the server... and beyond. Breaking up MS into Baby Bills could have the same net effect, but places a greater burden on MS to remain competitive than appropriate.

    Item two is tricky; it is required for the first part to work. Removing software patents altoghether would be an improvement, but there are some things that are truly worth a patent. I personally don't understand how effective this solution really could be, though.


    The third comment... ok it is a blatant push for open source hardware. I think this is something better suited for the next hardware manufacturer's antitrust trial.

    In truth, i would like the government to make a minimal ruling to solve the issue, and not have them regulating software any further. However, something has to be done to level things out a little bit.

    prk
  • The first part of the article is a direct ad hominem attack on Ralph Nader. I can deal with that, but it certainly isn't fitting for a Washington think tank...unless, of course, that the think tank is paid to do 'research' to promote certain viewpoints ( in this case, unabated, unregulated American captialism.)

    That article proves its intellectual bankruptcy with the following quote:

    "...OSS rejects free market competition and loses the market's distinct advantages to meet consumer needs with quality products and targeted marketing. In a free market, identifiable manufacturers own the product. They are responsible for product performance, and they can be held liable for inexcusable flaws."

    The last line is especially telling-no software company can be held liable for flaws. If something doesn't work like you think it should, then you're pretty much SOL. ( EULA nonsense) As for the topic of ownership, software is quickly becoming less product-oriented and more service oriented ( that's where the real money is ), and there is certainly a great deal of room for companies to compete in services, much more so than in products.

    Why is that? Because with proprietary software, there are the "haves" and "have-nots". The practices of vendor lock-in, interface hiding, and patent clamping have virtually held software innovation to a stand-still. If it wasn't for the need of standardized computing ( items antithetical to the proprietary tactics above), things would be even more stagnant than they are now. RMS offers solutions to all three of the practices that MS has used to singlehandedly retard computing for at least 5-8 years. And yes, that includes item number one, first and foremost.

    Just think: What if office suites had become the killer app for data interchange, instead of the breeding pits for vendor lock-in through file formats? We might have had XML in everyday use _long_ ago. What if MS/Novell had chosen TCP/IP instead of IPX or NetBeui? I'll leave that one for your mind to toss around.

    In short, if these scenarios would have played out differently, then hardware might be catching up with software, and not the other way around. RMS suggests way to stop poor practices now, and thus lessen the devastation that proprietary computing has wrought on the digital landscape.
  • I have to agree with you on this, and the reason harken back to the whole API thing.

    When Microsoft announced their OLE technology for Windows, they did so nearly simultaneously with the launch of Office that took advantage of those feautures. What this amounted to was leveraging their control over development of the OS to give Office a competitive advantage.

    Thus, the problem of MS pulling a blitzkrieg attack where they exploit a loophole to code apps that use the new APIs internally before the are even released to early adopters and then release those apps before the others have a chance to react.

    As long as their is not some formal delineation and separtion between OS and app divsions, expect this kind of behavior to be rampant. We are dealing with a company with all the self-justified delusion that normally only accompanies cult members. This kind of behavior, in their eyes, is not only ethical, but indeed a moral imperative, done for the sake of "innovation".

    As for my solution to this whole mess:
    Redmonda delenda est.
  • But other parts of the Win32 platform that are hidden are done so for _purely_ anitcompetitive reasons.

    1) Internet explorer integration. Why can't I integrate Netscape instead of IE?

    2) Explorer shell. Why are the LiteStep people having such terrible problems with compatibility? Why isn't there an effective MacOS replacement for the Windows shell?

    3) Every MS app goes in and manipulates the file associations without regard to user wishes or desires. Most applications now are forced to combat with the same anticompetitive, anti-choice with mirror reponses.

    Redmonda delenda est.
  • The question you must now answer is this:

    If the provisions RMS makes are implemented, would the entire software industry ( both free and proprietary) benefit?

    1) Open APIs? Certainly benefits free software since NDA's aren't an option in free code. Benefits proprietary software when the API's aren't even disclosed at all, no matter what the arrangement. I'd say the industry benefits on all fronts.

    2) Patents. Encourages start-ups ( both free and proprietary) to overcome the oppression of patent lockdown. Allows greater sharing of ideas, resulting in more consumer choice. Allows companies not to use MS patents if they want to keep their own patents under their control. Benefits free software community, who is exposed to the patent issue and has no patents ( with restrictive licensing) of its own the greatest. But the biggest winner is still the consumer, since all will have greater access to more ideas and thus resultign in a higher degree of innovation.

    3) Open hardware programming specifications for all certified drivers. Much less clear than 1) or 2). Forces hardware companies to sacrifice their freedom to hoard information in order to provide guaranteed functionality for customers. Better solution-promote consumer awareness of hardware companies that are free-software friendly. Publically vilify those that are not. Don't let MS's crimes give an excuse to strip the freedom of other companies. Just make those companies that don't comply look like the nasty, paranoid, "greed is good, avarice as always" American corporations that they really are. Inform the public and let natural selection do its wonders in our incredibly time-accelerated industry.

    Redmonda delenda est.
  • For one, let me address the last line of your post:

    "Regulations and restrictions must be industry-wide, not just levied against the most successful of contenders."

    MS is the only defendant on trial for abusing monopoly power. Note that each of the companies you have mentioned does not hold monopoly status, and thus cannot abuse the power therein.

    Now I'll address the question of "Can RMS's actions work without the whole software industry taking hold?" The answer: yes.

    1) Nondisclosed API's are only beneficial if they are used in conjuction with an established product with monopoly marketshare as a means for giving other products a competitive advantage. If the nondisclosed API's are in a non-established product, then the customer can simply choose another product. Say Apple put a hidden API into Quick Time that allowed the MacOS to perform superior to Windows on certain streaming applications. Fine then, they do that. Since Quick Time is not in a monopoly position, then one could choose Real Video G2 or MPEG-I Layer 4 for video content. One is not forced to forced to have QuickTime to view internet videos. There is a choice. There is no choice ( until recently ) for desktop operating systems. Nor is there any doubt to Windows' monopoly marketshare.

    2) Patents. The patent pool takes away any hope of MS reclaiming its closed API tactics. ( as RMS pointed out) The key is to keep the Windows monopoly from being leveraged onto other products.

    3) Hardware. I think this is a consumer education issue ( lay out the quid to cooperative vendors, calmor for support and openly chastise stubborn companies ) more than a MS-realted problem.

    Redmonda delenda est.
  • by Dast ( 10275 )

    I find it amazing the extent to which people are willing to ignore Microsoft's rights simply because they write bad software.

    (Bold tags added by me)

    Where exactly did you get that idea?

    This has very little to do with the fact that MS writes bad software, and a whole lot to do with the fact that they use their monopoly to strong arm others from selling software that would compete with theirs.

    The idea that corporations do not have rights is baloney. Individuals have rights, and corporations are just associations of individuals.

    But as history shows, protecting freedom is usually stoping large associations of individuals from taking away the rights of smaller groups of individuals.

    Corporations do have rights. But they are not allowed to do some of the things that MS has done.

  • As I read it, RMS's terms would be enforced by other software partners. Remediation would happen through the courts and not through any regulatory agency. Not sure who's bureaucracy is worse...

    But its all moot. I agree with those who note that the DOJ suit has nothing to do with competition via free software and they will not impose open source remedies.

  • The requirement to publish complete and correct HLSD-like documentation along with all software deliverables would be a recipe for all kinds of problems. Who has ever worked off a detailed spec that was maintained all the way through project completion? I know I often invoke the old saw, "are we building a perfect spec, or are we building software?" all the time.

    If RMS or others want complete and correct docs, they'll need the code. Its complete and correct by definition.

  • You've already admitted you don't think anti-trust laws apply in this case.

    Actually I am opposed to the concept of antitrust law. But the point is the same.


    The ban on forcing computer makers to pay for Windows regardless of whether they install it or not (found in the original Microsoft consent decreee) is functionally equivalent to an injunction, but accomplished nothing.

    But if in fact Microsoft is obligated to obey the consent decree, (which I don't think it should be) then the court should enforce that obligation. And in that case, if MS continues to flout the consent decree, fines will bring them into line. It is only a matter of how high they have to go.

    You are basically arguing that Microsoft should get a slap on the wrist and be sent on its way.

    To be honest, yes, that is what I think should happen--because I don't think they have done anything wrong. However, i think that even if you accept the argument that they should be punished, I still think that the rule of law should apply, and that the punishment should fit the crime. Even murderers have rights. If you are convisted of murder, you are still fed, housed, protected from cruel and unusual punishments, allowed to appeal, etc. At no point does the rights of any person or organization become completely irrelevant. The rights forfeit by a particular crime should be comensurate with the nature of the crime. Most of the punishment suggestions I have seen assume that the crimes for which it is convicted are irrelevant, and that all that matters is what we want, regardless of justice. In other words, they re more interested in punihing Microsoft for being evil than in the actual crimes for which they are convicted.

    I'd recommend arguing from first principles: namely, stick with your argument that anti-trust laws are bogus.

    Well, as you may have noticed, I have done that on a couple of occasions already, and I think we have beat that horse to death. If anyone wants to see those threads, they can probably find them in my user history.
  • MS deliberately removed one of the fundamental rights of people: freedom of choice.

    This is an extraordinarily messy concept. If you want to look at it literally, I have dozens of choices: Mac OS, Linux, Be, the other frreeware unices, Sun, SGI, and many smaller ones. Now it is true that none of these are approriate for some tasks, but I fail to see how one can reasonably draw a brightline between the cases where we do and do not have "enough" freedom of choice. Do you use market share? number of competitors? how agressively the monopolist competes?

    I think it is vey dangerous to assert and put into law rights unless they can be clearly defined. It is clear 99% of the time when someone has committed rape, murder, theft, etc. On the other hand, what constitutes a violation of freedom of choice is so arbitrary that it pretty much allows prosecutors to go after any company with a majority market share. And since what constitutes a crime is so vague, it is next to impossible to defend themselves. They are essentially required to prove that they did not attempt to reduce the market share of their competitors in "unfair" ways. But that is what competitors do--they try to beat their competition, and what onstitutes unfair can be changed to fit almost anything.

    The result is that Microsoft is being asked to prove that it is not a meanie. And obviously, they have been mean to a number of people, so they are likely to lose. But is this really how we want to make laws? Not on specific actions but on elastic categories of behavior that fit far more people than we can hope to prosecute? I think not.

    As an example, let's look at Apple. They hav screwed a *lot* of people over, including cloners, Opendoc developers, Newton users, etc. In fact, Steve Jobs is a downright ruthless competitor, and if anything counts as anticompetitive, their closed-OS, closed-system, change-strategies-every-two-years way of doing business qualifies. The only difference I can see is that they are not as successful as MS. So is it ok to be anticompetitive is you are the underdog, but not if you are successful? That makes no sense to me.
  • No, that's not why. This is a trial. M$ is on trial for breaking the law, the anti-trust, anti-monopoly law. Court cases have penalties for losing defendants.

    I suppose I misspoke here. This is the official reason. Still, I get the feeling that the reason that many /.ers are so passionate about this is not a concern for the law but because they see it as an extension of the Linux vs Windows war.

    Yes indeedy, and that's exactly what all the discussion is about. All the proposed remedies *are* legal if the judge imposes them and they make it thru appeal.

    you missed the second half of my sentence. Laws need to be specific. There are no murder laws that say "someone convicted for murder may gat anything from a $10 fine to the death penalty, at the discretion of the judge." Nor should antitrust law allow a judge to do pretty much whatever he likes as now is the case. Obviously there much be some choice, but too much is an invitation for curruption and injustice.

    Because the remedies in anti trust cases are designed to prevent further abuses, just like a 20 year prison sentence is designed to prevent further criminal activity. In this case, the remedy is to prevent them holding a monopoly.

    But if their crime is "having a monopoly," then the proper response is an injunction against holding a monopoly and possible punative fines. As an example, if I am convicted of stealing a car, the judge can order me to pay for it, but he is not going to order me to get the money in a specific way. In exactly the same way, the judge can order MS to reduce its market share or whatever, but he has no business micromanaging their activities.

    If you commit a crime, and the court confiscates your property as part of the restitution, is that not legal? Again, you are forgetting that M$ is on trial here.

    If I am convicted of shoplifting, the judge should not confiscate my computer or order me to stand on my head. The punishment should fit the crime. The patent suggestion has no apparent connection to the monopoly. Every company uses software patents in this way. I see no reason why the patents should be singled out.

    The idea that corporations can not be held accountable for breaking laws is baloney.

    I agree. However, the "held accountable must be defined specifically in the law.

    And I think that the concept of antitrust is baloney, so even if they are convicted, I would consider them victims.
  • DrDOS is only one example. It could be argued that everything that MS is is due to their using illegal tactics and is therefore forfeit.

    This is my point. I don't know the details of the DrDOS thing, but if they violated the rights of the DrDOS people, then they should be held accountable. But here Microsoft is not being tried for any specific offense. They are being tried for having a monopoly. And the evidence is a whole bunch of things, where any of them by themselves would be perfectly legal. Somehow, however, when you get a large enough market share, you have to start being nice to your competition, and making sure they have a resonable chance, and that they you aren't too compeititive.

    To repeat: If Microsoft broke a specific law, one that involves a victim, I wholeheartedly support suing them for that offense and having them compensate the victim. But I oppose prosecuting them for "anticompetitive prractices," even though none of these practices by themselves are illegal.
  • You've said that you don't agree with anti-trust laws, but it bears repeating that the US courts have affirmed them time and time again. And the foundation of those laws is that a company which holds a monopoly is a special case, subject to different rules. The same rights do not apply.

    And this is not a problem? It is a very bad thing to arbitrarily deprive a company of its rights because their market share is too high. "Monopoly" is a very fuzzy concept. Technically, Microsoft does not have a monopoly, it has a number of competitors. The only way to define MS as a monopoly is to define some market share threshhold, but then we are using demographics to decide companies' rights, which is a very scary concept.

    On the subject of corporations having rights or not: Ever seen a corporation literally imprisoned? Ever meet someone 140 years old who existed on 5 continents simultaneously? My point is that corporations and people are not the same.

    So what? If I were to invent an immortality pill and a transporter, would I lose my rights? I could live 140 years, I could be on 5 continents nearly simultaneously, and you couldn't keep me in jail.

    But seriously, the rights of corporations are not new rights, and they do not literally lie with the corporation, since the corporation is not a physical entity. The rights of a corporation are only an extension of the rights of its members. Nothing more, nothing less.

    But there is no reasonable basis for granting the legal status of a person to a fictitious entity ipso facto.

    Not the legal status of a person. Look at marriage. A marriage has many of the characteristics of a corporation: special tax laws, joint property, the ability to be on two continents at once, etc. Does this mean that a marriage is a "ficticious entity" that cannot own property or have free speech rights? If a couple is arrested for something, does the court have an unlimited right to fine them, since their property is owned by a "ficticious entity?" The issue is exactly the same. The same arguments can be made about churches, schools, governments, social clubs, universities, unions, etc. Groups get their right from the rights of the individuals who make up that group.
  • Repeating myself...

    Somehow when you get a large enough market share, you have to start being nice to your competition, and making sure they have a resonable chance, and that you aren't too compeititive.

    This is my point. When you have a small market share, doing things like this is "competing." When you get a large market share, the is is "abusing your monopoly." Companies are supposed to compete. That is what they do. Microsoft should not be penalized for being good at it.

    It's called product dumping and most of the U.S. was furious when Japan did that to us. It's no different here except the dumper is the poster boy for American Capitalism.

    Anti-dumping laws are really strange. I fail to see how charging too low a price for something or giving it away for free can be a crime. If someone will give us something for free, why should we be forced to pay for it? I am certainly not "outraged" when Japan sends us cheap supercomputers or steel or anything else. "Dumping" is simply a term that inefficient companies use to protect themselves from competition. If Netscape were so great, people would use it even if the alternative was free.
  • I think the Standard oil monopoly is largely a myth. My understanding was that they never had a complete monopoly, and in any event, they continually *lowered* oil prices and *raised* quality.

    And even if one does have a monopoly, it is next to impossible to maintain it except possibly in some very specialized cases like telephones. The moment a monopoly starts to raise its prices very far above the market level, soimebody is gonna start up a competing business. That is what the capital markets are there for: to route funds to potentially profitable companies. The only way to gain a monopoly and keep it is to keep your prices down and your customers happy. And even then, it takes years and lots of hard work.
  • Dumping looks good for the customer in the short term... until every player in the market but one is destroyed, and the victor gains back the revenue they lost during the price war by gouging everybody for the next few years or decades.

    And what is stopping someone else to enter the market once you start "gouging" me?

    There are also a number of other concerns. One is that markets are never as clear-cut as they are in economics books. So no company can ever get 100% of an actual market. There will always be niche players that target small segments that are not served by the monopolist. Any of these niche players will take the opportunity when they start "gouging" and expand their market share. Remember also that demand is elastic. I will have to sell a lot of stuff below cost to drive my competition out of business, and then no one will want to buy from me once I drive prices up.

    There is also the issue of definition: at what point does fair competition become "predatory pricing?" In practice, it means pretty much whatever the judge involved says it means, which is very bad law.
  • The only way to define ANYTHING as a monopoly is through market share coupled with market pressure the company can exert. Microsoft has a 90-percent marketshare of the desktop systems (where the case is being tried).


    So 90% market share is a monopoly? What about in a very small industry, that cannot support more than a couple of companies? Or in a brand new market that has as yet only one producer? Or in the case of a company whose competition is grossly incompetent? None of these standards can be written into law in a reasonable way. That is my point: basing law on the concept of "monopoly" is extremely arbitrary and makes the system ripe for abuse.

    in the USofA (where Microsoft is incorporated), the rights of the individuals are not supposed to be revolked merely at the whim of the majority.

    Huh? The rights of corporations are? I certainly don't think so.

    As for the marriage example, you are right that limited liability makes the marriage different from a corporation. But I don't think that this is the least bit relevant to the question of whether it has rights. The argument I have heard (yours may be different) is that since corporations are not persons, they have no rights. This applies equally to marriages. And if you don't believe that married couple have joint property, then why is there always a lengthy procedure during a divorce to decide who-gets-what? If the property was seperate, they could go their seperate ways immediately.

    I don't remember for sure if this is the argument you made. If you were making a different argument, please correct me. But the essential feature of a corporation in terms of rights--that it is a ficticious entity comprised of more than one individual--applies equally to both marriages and corporations. I don't see what the connection is between limited liability and the lack of rights of corporations.
  • Well, I have made a number of points in other posts, but I will summarize.

    Antitrust law is a vague, arbitrary, and overreaching law. The relevant phrase, I believe, is that Microsoft is guilty of "combinations in restraint of trade." That's it. If that is not vague, I don't know what is. If you look at the history of antitrust laws, you find that the definitions and standards change every couple of decades, to fit the new bad guy. And since the law is so broad, it is possible to nail anyone with a sufficient market share, even if they were doing things that were not crimes at the time they occured. In short, antitrust law is an unjust mess, and it should be repealed. In the meantime, I consider anyone prosecuted under it to be a victim, MS and Intel included.

    This does not mean that I think Bill Gates walks on water. In fact I don't like Windoze, and I realize that they have done some pretty sleazy things. it may be that they have broken some legitimate laws, like fraud, patent infringement, or whatever, and in that case, I fully support going after them for that.

    But I don't think that having a monopoly is a crime, and I don't think that abusing it (whatever that means) should be either. The merits of the government's case is irrelevant, because Microsoft is being prosecuted using an unjust law.
  • by binarybits ( 11068 ) on Friday April 16, 1999 @11:32AM (#1929778) Homepage
    I find it amazing the extent to which people are willing to ignore Microsoft's rights simply because they write bad software. There are arguments (I think bad ones) to be made that Microsoft has committed a crime, and should be punished, but if this is the case, their punishment should be restricted to that provided by law, and the law should be specific. Assuming that antitrust law is acceptable in the first place (which I do not think it is) the acceptable remedies would be along the lines of fines and injunctions against the specific things that they are alleged to have done wrong. This attitude that since Microsoft is a monopolist, then the government has the right to do whatever the hell it pleases is nonsense.

    1. Require Microsoft to publish complete documentation of all interfaces between software components, all communications protocols, and all file formats.

    I see no reason why anyone has a right to know anything about Microsoft's products. The fact that Windows is popular does not make it public domain software, and I see no moral obligation on their part to document or not document any part of it.

    2. Require Microsoft to use its patents for defense only, in the field of software. (If they happen to own patents that apply to other fields, those other fields could be included in this requirement, or they could be exempt.)

    There is a strong argument to be made against software patents, and I would support revoking all of MS's software patents along with the rest of the industry's patents if it is done in a reasonable way. But until that happens, I see no reason for the courts to make a special exception to Microsoft's lawful property rights. If software patents are bad, the solution is to repeal them, not simply to revoke them if they are "abused." Giving the courts the power to revoke/cripple patents at will is a terrible preceedent.

    3. Require Microsoft not to certify any hardware as working with Microsoft software, unless the hardware's complete specifications have been published, so that any programmer can implement software to support the same hardware.

    This is perhaps the most ridiculous. For starters, this is a free speech violation, as it prohibits Microsoft from expressing an opinion on the topic. Furthermore, it seems to me that if this were done it would be a simplistic attempt to use the trial to bludgeon hardware manufacturers into building open systems. Open systems are in most cases a good thing, but computer companies have a right to make closed systems as well, and I see no reason to forbid them from getting MS ceritification.

    One response I can anticipate: The idea that corporations do not have rights is baloney. Individuals have rights, and corporations are just associations of individuals. If each of Microsoft's shareholders and employees have rights to free speech, property, etc, why would MS not have that right.
  • by binarybits ( 11068 ) on Friday April 16, 1999 @11:36AM (#1929779) Homepage
    I find it amazing the extent to which people are willing to ignore Microsoft's rights simply because they write bad software. There are arguments (I think bad ones) to be made that Microsoft has committed a crime, and should be punished, but if this is the case, their punishment should be restricted to that provided by law, and the law should be specific. Assuming that antitrust law is acceptable in the first place (which I do not think it is) the acceptable remedies would be along the lines of fines and injunctions against the specific things that they are alleged to have done wrong. This attitude that since Microsoft is a monopolist, then the government has the right to do whatever the hell it pleases is nonsense.

    1. Require Microsoft to publish complete documentation of all interfaces between software components, all communications protocols, and all file formats.

    I see no reason why anyone has a right to know anything about Microsoft's products. The fact that Windows is popular does not make it public domain software, and I see no moral obligation on their part to document or not document any part of it.

    2. Require Microsoft to use its patents for defense only, in the field of software. (If they happen to own patents that apply to other fields, those other fields could be included in this requirement, or they could be exempt.)

    There is a strong argument to be made against software patents, and I would support revoking all of MS's software patents along with the rest of the industry's patents if it is done in a reasonable way. But until that happens, I see no reason for the courts to make a special exception to Microsoft's lawful property rights. If software patents are bad, the solution is to repeal them, not simply to revoke them if they are "abused." Giving the courts the power to revoke/cripple patents at will is a terrible preceedent.

    3. Require Microsoft not to certify any hardware as working with Microsoft software, unless the hardware's complete specifications have been published, so that any programmer can implement software to support the same hardware.

    This is perhaps the most ridiculous. For starters, this is a free speech violation, as it prohibits Microsoft from expressing an opinion on the topic. Furthermore, it seems to me that if this were done it would be a simplistic attempt to use the trial to bludgeon hardware manufacturers into building open systems. Open systems are in most cases a good thing, but computer companies have a right to make closed systems as well, and I see no reason to forbid them from getting MS ceritification.

    One response I can anticipate: The idea that corporations do not have rights is baloney. Individuals have rights, and corporations are just associations of individuals. If each of Microsoft's shareholders and employees have rights to free speech, property, etc, why would MS not have that right.
  • There are lots of monopolies, many of which are strictly controlled. Look at your electric company (depending on where you live). Look at your water company. They're often monopolies, and often very highly regulated. It's not restricted to microsoft, nor was it invented by microsoft. The general principle is that if you can exert undue influence over your market, you're not going to be allowed to.

    As far as Microsoft being required to publish specs, there is precident for that, as well. Ever go to the supermarket? Every food item which isn't composed of one thing only (i.e. bananas, apples, slabs of beef) are required, by law, to include both caloric information and the ingredients, listed in order of volume. Shouldn't companies be allowed to put anything they want into the food that they sell and not have to tell us?

    Of course not. Why? Because then they place people in danger. If you don't know what you're dealing with, you might take something that you're allergic to. Why should M$ be forced to publish the full version of all their specs? Because without them, they can exert an undue influence on their market. If I write a story in Microsoft Word, I should be able to retrieve it, even if I no longer have Microsoft word. They have no rights to my intellectual property, and no right to keep it from me. By using an undocumented API, they are, in effect, keeping it from me.

    Can you come up with a convincing argument for why selling something doesn't inherently imply selling the information on how to use it and interact with it? Can you give a convincing reason why a company should be allowed to make a product which hides my information, or the information that someone else gives to me, in a format that only they can read so that I am forced to pay them for it (without invoking the morality that if I steal from my neighbor but he can't force me to give it back, I should be allowed to keep what I've stolen)?

    Think of it this way: do you think that it would be OK if Honda sells you a car, that can only use Honda ExpensoTires, and they're the sole manufacturer of them? And if you only found out about it afterwards (how many software boxes say "This product uses a proprietary format that binds you to our products and doesn't allow interoperability with other people, excepting that they also use this product")?

    Out of curiosity, do you believe that slavery should be legal, if, say, people became slaves by selling their freedom rather than being cought or sold by someone else? E.g., Henry takes out a morgage. Henry is then laid off from work, and can't pay his morgage, so the bank reposeses his house. Unfortunately, property has devalued, and the house is only worth 80% of the morgage (and let's not forget interest). So the bank sells henry to pay for his debts. Do you think that this should be legal or illegal. If you think that this should be illegal, how do you reconsile this with your statement that microsoft should be able to do anything that they want, including product dumping, market control through proprietary APIs, etc.
  • In general, in a competitive situation, I respect the idea that companies keep secrets to maintain a competitive edge. I dislike the notion of secret interfaces and APIs intensely, but can't think of a good reason for forbidding them in normal circumstances.

    Windows is not a normal circumstance. For all practical purposes, it is the only game in town. You cannot do business (computationally speaking, duh) in today's world without being able to interoperate with Windows-based systems. Where economics alone don't force that condition, politics help out. Windows is a monopoly.

    Given this situation, the usual rules (much as I dislike them anyway) do not apply. Since application developers are essentially forced to develop for Windows, MS cannot be permitted to keep any secrets in the OS APIs. That would give MS's application developers a huge boost in this game that everyone else is already being forced to play. It's like playing poker against someone who gets to look at all the cards.

    If developers had the option of not playing, I would (grudingly) say, fine. But they don't. A large and constantly increasing percentage of potential customers won't even accept a compatible product that works on another OS. It's Windows or nothing. To decide to develop for a non-Windows platform is, in many fields, to decide not to do business.

    Given this reality, it is necessary to force the monopoly player (MS) to fully publish and share all of their platform (OS) APIs with the rest of the application developers as freely as they do with their own. This is the only measure that can prevent the monopoly player from steamrollering every market they wish to.

    If you think it's fine for one giant conglomerate to control the whole market, great. Many people don't seem to think monopolies hurt them. I do. The US government seems to agree. Look at some markets that are controlled by giant, monopolistic conglomerates and tell me how much better they are than competitive ones. Tell me how much better the consumer is served. Tell me how much less the customer gets reamed by monopolies than competitive companies.
  • Proposal 1 (require MS to open all APIs) has already been rejected by capatalist pundits as being more of an advantage to Microsoft's competitors rather than helping consumers.


    Uhm, the whole purpose of the anti-trust trial is to help competitors who have been harmed by unfair business practices, not to help consumers. Hence, forcing opening of the APIs would be a perfectly logical thing to include.

    Forcing hardware vendors to open specs in order to be Microsoft-certified has nothing to do with Microsoft, unless Microsoft has been pressuring companies not to release specs (one charge I haven't heard yet).

    Restricting use of patents is a preemptive measure, as I haven't seen Microsoft abusing patents yet.

  • The problem with requiring MS to release documentation on its interfaces is that it
    assumes that said documentation exists
    in a meaningful form.

    Now, I'm as anti-microsoft as the next guy.
    But I tend to believe in stupidity as a side
    effect of human effort rather than actual
    malice, in most cases; and I think it's more
    likely that MS releases undocumented and
    incompatible interfaces because the teams
    responsible for developing them didn't
    thoroughly document them --- they're incompatible
    because different teams within the company didn't
    know what each other were doing.

    This creates an image of MS as being a massive
    bureaucracy --- like if the federal government
    were responsible for developing software, only
    it figured out it had to do it fast, so it
    decided to do the paperwork later, and never
    got around to it.
  • by Mr Bill ( 21249 ) on Friday April 16, 1999 @11:51AM (#1929819)
    It is important to remember what Microsoft is actually being charged with here. The brunt of the case is about Microsoft illegally tying the browser into the operating system, and the exclusive contracts with OEMs. Any remedies will have to address this issue. The DoJ can't implement remedies that don't directly relate to the case.

    It seems to me that RMS is only looking for ways to help the free software and open source movements. Although I agree that these methods would go a long way to opening the door for some compeditors (ie Linux), I don't think they really relate to the DoJ's case.

    How do patents relate to tying a browser into an operating system?

    How would Hardware specs restrict Microsoft from making exclusive contracts with OEMs

    How do documented interfaces, communications protocols, and formats help either of these problems?

    Although I think these remedies would be great for the free software/open source movements, I do not think that they directly apply to the case at hand...

    If I'm missing something crucial here, please enlighten me

  • by quux26 ( 27287 ) on Friday April 16, 1999 @12:26PM (#1929831) Homepage
    While you do make some valid points under normal circumstances, you're entirely missing the point that Microsoft has gained an enormous advantage by doing illegal things. This has resulted in profit not only for itself, but taken profit away from other businesses.

    DrDOS is only one example. It could be argued that everything that MS is is due to their using illegal tactics and is therefore forfeit.

    Your argument is a bit like saying that since a person is a human being, when they break the law they can't be sent to jail because then they lose their freedom, their friends, etc. When MS breaks the law, they have to be punished in a way that is commensurate to the harm done. If you want to argue that Stallman is going overboard and is being excessive, fine. But you're fundamentally misunderstanding the governments case here.

    My $.02
    Quux26
  • MS is getting bludgeoned in the suit on the basis of anticompetitive practices agains *other* closed-source vendors. But RMS's whole argument seems to rest on the sentence:

    "The latter would mainly help others proprietary application developers compete, which would only offer users alternative ways to let go of their freedom."

    In other words, "now that you've won, abandon the logic that won you the suit and help out Open Source advocates instead."

    Its a nice idea, I'll grant him that. But I don't think the judge can explore remedies that aren't geared towards helping out the aggrieved parties in the lawsuit.

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