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Microsoft returning to old monopolistic tricks.

Do you remember those times when Microsoft killed DR-DOS by charging computer manufacturers with the royalties of MS-DOS for every computer made independently of whether it included MS-DOS or not?

It seems that Microsoft is returning to those times:

http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-868505.html

Gateway also faulted another provision of the new licensing        agreement, which requires PC makers to pay a Windows royalty  on every PC shipped, even if it didn't include Windows. To top it off, to qualify for market development funds, PC makers  have to put a Microsoft OS on every PC. As a result, trying to sell non-Windows PCs, or even PCs without software, is a financial loser for computer makers.

Ramón García Fernández
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Yawn. 

Aren't there about 400 articles on Slashdot about this very topic? 

If you had drawn some even remotely interesting conculsion other than "Microsoft is evil" I wouldn't be responding this way.  I'm just so tired of EVERY single software development board I go to involving "M$FT sux0rz!" in one form or another.

Joe Blandy
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I too get tired of the "us versus them" monotony, but I found this story interesting, probably because I find their tactics very troubling.  In the end, I'm in favor of the best ideas available.  This kind of bullying short-circuits the natural selection process.  If Microsoft's stuff is geniunely better, they should succeed without the dirty pool.  As it stands, we'll never know.

I am puzzled, though, by the word "returning" in the topic.

Timothy Falconer
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Nifty, I had not seen Microsoft abbreviated with a "$" instead of the S;)

Tomorrow's top story "Water is wet!"

Sooner or later Microsoft will defeat itself anyway.

RYan
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I develop software and I dont care what OS it is for. M$ will always be there and so will alternatives. I really disslike the _noise_ created by forums like /. where interesting things are covered with "I hate M$" stuff. Makes you wonder if people are going to miss the forest for the trees.

James Ladd
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

To Joe Blandy:

I agree with your suggestion of trying to think something minimally novel and non-obvious that has not been already seen. So I will try.

The new licensing scheme is implicitly blessed by the Bush administration, since it complies with the proposed agreement. So the Bush administration seems to think that monopolies are good provided that they are USA-based monopolies that grant the leadership of the USA in software.

The conclusion is that the European Union should be doing something.

Why does Microsoft need do that? There is no viable competitor in the desktop market because no operating  system from the competition can execute Windows binaries.  Following a Joel's suggestion, their intention is probably showing their power to other software developers and hardware manufacturers so that they refrain from competing with Microsoft. (See http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000016.html  )

Ramón García Fernández
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Ideas are a dime a dozen. What's is sorely lacking is execution. I'm sick of the constant complaints about Microsoft. In the end, Microsoft executes a hundred times better than practically anyone else. Linux has a pretty significant installed base despite how lousy it is for the average person. Mozilla completely killed itself by spedning so much energy on useless components like mail, news, compose and chat when all anyone wants is a competitive browser. Expedia and Carpoint are just plain better than their competition despite the disadvantaged positions Microsoft should have had in those industries. Suite-makers can't seem to come to grips with the fact that only one thing matters: file format compatibility with Office. Real pretty much blew it with their lame pricing structure and constant (non-)updates. There are plenty of companies that have made massive in-roads into user's desktops that are in a position to leverage (Reall, Macromedia, Adobe, AOL, Napster, Sun, Apple, etc.). Problem is, Microsoft is by far the company most focused on serving customers and making money. Everyone else seems to whine and philosphize.

pb
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Replay to pb:

My disagreement with you is that your idea is too simplistic. You say that Microsoft are intelligent and the rest destroyed themselves by their mistakes.

Sorry, that cannot be true. Every year lots of intelligent programmers finish their courses and start working. Not all of them work for Microsoft. And there are lot of venture capitalists willign to invest in a new project. So the constant pattern that Microsoft always wins is a strong evidence that the market is not sane. Otherwise, it would be absurd to think that everyone looses because he or she is less intelligent than Microsoft. So something must be wrong in your reasoning.

Your most important error is to ignore economy of scale. Software is very special because unlike a bridge it is developed once and copied many times. The cost is independent of the number of copies sold. Therefore, a strategy for a big company to crunch the competition consists in hiring better programmers with better salaries. The resulting software will be better. Now, the big company puts it at the same price as the competition. As the cost is divided by the number of sales, they will be profitable with the same price. Now the consumer sees two software packages with the same price. One is better. The consumer buys the better one.
Therefore, there is no competition; there is a monopoly.

This has happened in all the cases that you mention.

You complain that Linux is lousy for the average person. Somehow you imply that Linux distributors are so monon that they cannot develop a good user interface. You are wrong. They do not invest in develop that interface because they know that unless they run Windows binaries that will not be enough for the average user. But the Windows API is very complex; Microsoft has amortized its development by the economy of scale described above. So Redhat prefers to stay in the server market where competition is posible.

You complain that suite makers are unable to provide file compatibility with Office. You are not taking into account that the file format of Word is really complex because it has lots an lots of feauters. Emulating it accurately is a very difficult work, that Microsoft has amortized by economy of scale since the days of Word 2.0.

Mozilla had to deal with a horrific codebase, which forced them to do a rewrite (I will not discuss whether this is a good idea; that is another interesting topic). The reason was that Microsoft released Internet Explorer for free. Therefore Mozilla could not afford hiring good programmers. In adding they are making important mistakes, but that is beyond the point.

And so on.

Ramón García Fernández
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I wish I could get back all the time in my life I've spent skimming through "us vs. them" rhetoric & advocacy.

oh hell, why fight it....  I think Emacs kicks ass on VI.  And I also think that all people are idiots that indent like this:

void getALife() {
  System.out.println( "This is a joke" );
}

Timothy Falconer
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

lol. Good for you Tim. Don't fight it. Join the Dark Side. =)

Mark W
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Who cares what the f  MS did and did'nt do?  Get on a winner and make money out of it.
That's your obligation to yourself.
You can bitch about this and that but at the end of the day its all about what you got out of it. Personally I've been working with microsoft development tools for the past 14/15 years and have made a few million bucks out of it by now (sorry - not gloating but that's the way it is), as it happens I've also made a few people happy by delivering good product on the way.

I've often thought that this could be better or that could be better but ultimately I've always waited for someone else to do the hard work.  Just like all the complainers.

People forget that MS were there right at the very, very start and so can at least claim some street cred for where we are now. Things will change others will come and go but for now MS are delivering some stuff that is at least OK, if you do'nt like it, do something better yourself, then the world will love you.

Business is a hard world, philosophers are the most vocal when its not their money at stake. Move to China if you hate MS, or M$ if you like.

Jack
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Good point Jack, ultimately the reason were all doing this is to make money.  Well I don't like Microsoft having all the power it seems to, I would not have gotten into computers without them.  I started in help desk and worked my way up to DBA.  I new enough to do helpdesk because I had my own computer and am a fast learner.  I haven't seen too many Unix help desk jobs.  I've had people ask me how get into a database related postion.  I've always maintained go get yourself a copy of Oracle or SQL Server because that is where the majority of database jobs are.  Myself I agree with another poster, I too have spent way to much time following some of the fields jihad's.  BTW Vi rocks ;)

Ryan
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

> I agree with your suggestion of trying to think
> something minimally novel and non-obvious
> that has not been already seen. So I will try.

And, under the guise of intellectualism, the troll comes up with....

> The conclusion is that the European Union should
> be doing something.

Oh.  "Something".  That's great.

Please stop trolling and go over to Slashdot or JavaLobby if you want to dig this old, dead conversation back up.

Joe Blandy
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

I think the emphasis should be on the 'European Union' part of the suggestion, not the 'something' part.  It's clear that the US doesn't mind doing things it would complain about from others, if they benefit the US (e.g. steel tariffs).  And that's fine - the leaders of a country exist to serve the citizens of that country, not the whole world.

So yes the EU should do 'something', I don't expect anyone posting here to put together a two hundred page report on exactly what.  Though I guess if they did you would mock it for only being 200 pages.

Paul Harris
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

DR DOS didn't fail as a mass market product because of motherboard licensing, it failed because Novell decided not to compete with Microsoft for the desktop after having bought DRI for partly that purpose in the first place.

In South Korea we'd already had their FTC rule that MS's motherboard licencing was illegitimate.  The restrictions also increased AMD's market as the licencing tended to apply to boards with Intel processors.  In some ways the way MS did business increased DRI's opportunity to market product.

At the time Novell made their decision it probably seemed the reasonable thing to do, a laager mentality was already spreading.  In perfect hindsight hanging on for another 18 months would possibly have seen the breakdown of the OEM/MS tied contract completely. 

Monopolies sometimes come about not through malice but through a lack of courage on the part of competitors.  MS simply take advantage of their position.

Simon Lucy
Friday, March 29, 2002

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