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"tough luck" for ISVs ...

In a stunning show of stupidity (quotes pulled from Eweek) …

“Tom Greene, senior assistant attorney general of California, told Microsoft attorney Steven Holley he had met with representatives from AOL Time Warner Inc., Oracle Corp. and ProComp to help draft modifications to the non-settling states' remedy proposal. ProComp is an anti-Microsoft trade association made up of Microsoft competitors including Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle.” …
“During a discussion over interdependencies between various components of Microsoft middleware and the operating system, Holley asked Greene: "So if Intuit's Quicken uses Internet Explorer to render its user interface, it's just their tough luck if Internet Explorer is not present in the unbound version?"
Greene replied: "Well, yes, I think that's right. One of the problems here is that one of the aspects of the barrier to entry is that it's so much easier to write applications to Windows, that if those APIs, etc., associated with Microsoft middleware products are left in, then there will be relatively little incentive for people to write for other platforms.",3658,s=1887&a=26253,00.asp

I mean, how anyone can get behind an argument like that is beyond me. It’s like the Buggy Whip Lobby saying that because buying and operating an automobile is so easy (after years and years of development by the automakers) a person looking for personal transportation is far more likely to opt for a car as opposed to a horse & buggy… therefore we must raise the consumer’s barrier of entry to the car market by requiring that you buy automobiles in separate pieces – i.e. Horse/Buggy/Whip now Auto/Engine/Accelerator Pedal… I thought all this was intended to aid consumers and the industry (developers)….

Does anyone else out there see that this is a huge step backwards for everyone? A huge productivity loss. A huge increase in support costs.

I am interested in hearing your oppinions.

Nick Katsivelos
Thursday, May 2, 2002

I'm not sure the Intuit argument is that compelling, since they rely on a minimum version of IE, 5.5, and they include it on their distribution CD in case the installed version isn't up to that version.

Similarly, one could argue that DirectX couldn't be unbundled from the OS build.  One could argue it, but then all the games that require DirectX stuff whatever version they tested their build on their distribution as well.

There is no Application distributor argument you could make for not unbundling IE.  Still less of an argument for unbundling say Media Player.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, May 2, 2002

Nick, lawyers are just a fact of life. Don't worry about it. They pose stupid questions to all professionals, and to innocent victims of crime too, for that matter. Society has conflict and hence we have lawyers.

Microsoft is big enough to look after itself, although, I must say, it would be a disaster for lots of ISV's if core components of users' desktops suddenly weren't present.

Hugh Wells
Thursday, May 2, 2002

Reminds me of that classic Kurt Vonnegut short story, copyright-violated here:

In the distopian future, everybody with any kind of talent is required to have it surpressed (smart people get loud bursts of noise to keep them from concentrating; the physically fit have to carry around weights) so as to force everyone to be "equal."

The mere concept that Microsoft would have to deliberately handicap their OS to make it a worse development environment so as to make it an equally poor development platform as other OSes is obviously anethema to Microsoft.

As an independent software developer for which Microsoft has two competing products, not just one, I am still glad that IE is on every Windows computer. Without this I would not be able to distribute my application as a download, which is where I get almost all of my customers from.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, May 2, 2002

I agree with Joel here.

1) if the OS came without a browser, how would you go online to get a browser?

2) this is the first time I understood MS's position in the whole thing. It's not that you can't rip the browser out of the OS it's that so many software developers use bits of the browser to develop their programs.

Of course, I still think they *could* rip the browser out of their OS if they wanted to. You could either leave certain bits in with the OS (without the browser proper) or give the bits away to developers to include in with their installs.

They could also offer a 'crippled' browser the same way the offer a minimal word processor (wordpad formerly known as write), media player, cd player, etc. so your computer isn't useless before you go out and buy software.

Too bad very few sites would work on a crippled browser, including the ones you would go to to download a new browser from.

Thursday, May 2, 2002

Well, lets see, I 'downloaded' my first browser (NCSA Mosaic) via FTP. I could have also downloaded it from a local BBS using a terminal program. Or I could have gotten it on a couple of floppies from someone else who already had it.

As it's been said before, most commercial (CD based) software that needs a browser ususally needs at least a certain version. To make sure this happens, they include it on the CD.

Jeff Pleimling
Thursday, May 2, 2002

Wouldn't it be pretty easy to design a little desktop app and a standard for setting up a "browser downloading webservice" that anyone who wants to have their browser downloaded (e.g., MS, AOL, Opera, Mozilla) could set up on their own?

Then users could just fire up the little desktop "browser download" app and connect to whichever "browser download service" they wanted. 

Isn't that sort of what .net is all about?

Herbert Sitz
Thursday, May 2, 2002

it's just not worth the energy to continue on this thread... so I'll start another far more insidious thread.

Why do any of these OS conversations seem to end up like this:

"You're Wrong"

"No, You're Wrong"

"Well You're Wrong Infinity"

"Yeah well You're Wrong Infinity Plus One"

"There Is No Such Thing"

"Yes There Is"

"Yeah, Well I Said It First"

"Did Not"

"Did Too"

"Did Not Infinity..."

Thursday, May 2, 2002

Something always seems to be missed in pro MS arguments about the antitrust case. It is NOT about the consumer. When the original laws were passed because Standard Oil was abusing their monopoly in the 1890’s, it was not about the consumer.
It is about using the monopoly to keep competitors out of the market. Saying that you must have IE installed is a way of keeping other browsers from being installed. That keeps other companies from competing. Don’t even get started about the OEM agreements and boot loaders.
Maybe having one monolithic, consistent architecture is the best thing for computer users (I disagree). It is not the best thing for entrepreneurship or a free market. Whether or not the price we pay for software goes up is important to us, but it is not the point.

Doug Withau
Thursday, May 2, 2002

Its somewhat of a red herring to say that one couldn't distribute an app if there wasn't a browser available (he iterates).

If they are online,  and they navigated to your website, downloaded your app. Umm, they have a browser, having the browser is not the issue.

Because of compatibility issues (not just between different vendors of browsers, but different browsers by the same vendors), you end up building a particular app for a particular restricted set of browsers.

Its a standards and API issue, not an issue about what OS and what components are bundled.

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 3, 2002

"Well, lets see, I 'downloaded' my first browser (NCSA Mosaic) via FTP. "

So did I, but could you see the AOL/Best Buy types trying to do that?  Not likely.

That was in a time when internet software (well actually software in general) was small; you didn't need a broadband connection to download a patch or upgrade.

Brad Clarke
Friday, May 3, 2002

There's another answer which won't break anything: let Microsoft continue to bundle IE but require that they standardize the interfaces so that someone can easily replace it if they choose. I prefer to use Opera just because the interface is so much better even though IE6 and Opera 6 render pages almost identically - it'd be nice if all of the embedded browser applications could look at my account settings to see which browser engine I prefer.

Note that I don't buy the broken software argument as getting them off the hook: they integrated IE to strangle Netscape - the benefits to ISVs were secondary.

Chris Adams
Monday, May 6, 2002

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