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[sharechat] Say NO to XP (off topic)

From: "DR" <>
Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2001 17:52:48 +1300

John Naughton
Sunday October 28, 2001
The Observer

Microsoft is often described as 'the 800lb gorilla of the computer business'. This is unfair to gorillas who, by and large, are peaceful and unaggressive creatures.

A better analogy may be Tyrannosaurus Rex, though this may also be unfair, because paleontologists are divided about whether Tyrannosaurus was a predator or a scavenger, whereas there can be no doubts about Microsoft on that score.

Consider its recent history. In 1993, following extensive complaints that Microsoft was exploiting its monopoly of the DOS/Windows platform, the US Department of Justice initiated an investigation into the company's business practices with a view to launching an anti-trust action.

In July 1994, Microsoft signed a consent decree agreeing to desist from the practices complained of. In return, the DoJ dropped its anti-trust action. The vaguely worded decree, however, allowed Microsoft to develop 'integrated products' - a fatal mistake, as it turned out.

Later the same year, a start-up called Netscape Communications launched the first commercial internet browser. Internet use, fuelled by the new program, began to soar.

At this stage, Microsoft did not have either a browser or an internet strategy, but its management became paranoid about Netscape's 80 per cent share of the market, not to mention predictions that the browser would replace Windows as the interface through which computer users would interact with their machines.

In June 1995, at a secret meeting with Netscape, Microsoft executives threatened 'to cut off its air supply' if the upstart refused to cede its browser business. Three months later, Microsoft launched its own browser, Internet Explorer (cobbled together from code purchased from another company), and included it free with each copy of Windows, which by this stage powered more than 90 per cent of the world's PCs.

Internet Explorer, however, was a turkey and in December 1995 Bill Gates, alarmed at Netscape's continued dominance, declared that henceforth Microsoft would be 'internet-centric'.

Within the company, there were frantic discussions about how best to 'leverage' the ubiquity of the Windows operating system to crush Netscape. Various ingenious strategies were devised and implemented.

Computer manufacturers found themselves under irresistible pressure from Microsoft to exclude the Netscape browser from factory-installed Windows machines. Netscape was duly crushed.

In May 1998 the DoJ - unable any longer to overlook Microsoft's increasingly vicious commercial tactics - sued Microsoft for anti-trust violations.

Two years later, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft was guilty of holding (and abusing) monopoly power and should therefore be broken up. The company duly appealed.

The appeal court upheld Jackson's finding about monopolistic behaviour, but overturned the break-up ruling, recommending that other ways of penalising the company be sought. At the moment, another Federal judge is pondering how best to discipline Mr Gates and his cronies.

In such delicate circumstances, any normal company would have approached the design and marketing of a major new product with some circumspection. But Microsoft is not a normal company.

Throughout the anti-trust trial its executives treated the courts and the US government with sneering contempt, coupled with a ratty annoyance that any public authority should have the temerity to interfere in its business.

They persistently declared their intention to continue the bundling practices which had triggered the anti-trust action in the first place, and proceeded to design the next generation of the Windows operating system - Windows XP - as if nothing had happened.

In doing so, Microsoft has thumbed its nose not just at the US legal system, but at the whole world. Windows now powers 92 per cent of all the PCs on the planet. We are moving into a world without precedent, a world whose information infrastructure will be entirely dominated by a pathologically aggressive, uncontrollable, convicted monopolist.

Is this really what we want? The time has come to kick the Microsoft habit. Just say no to XP.

From The Observer, London today

I say YES to that,




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