Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

February 1998


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Microsoft Bashing?

By Dan Porter, President
InnoVal Systems Solutions, Inc.

Microsoft Bashing: At least that is what some in the press are calling it. Careful examination suggests that all of the "bashing" of Microsoft is but a symptom of something more. That something more is a major two-front assault on Microsoft because it has become a harmful monopoly. The legal system and the free market, two "estates" oftented against one another, are together in recognizing that the Microsoft monopoly threatens innovation and the economy of the information technology sector. Something must be done to curb Microsoft. An editorial entitled, "Microsoft: What's Really At Stake,"appearing in the January 15, 1998, issue of Business Week said it best."Monopoly practices that inhibit competition and innovation do dire harm and should be curbed. Period." The editorial was guarded. It did not argue conclusively that Microsoft was stifling innovation. But it did call for thorough examination. "The stakes are too high ...," the editorial went on to say, "If innovation declines, it threatens the entire entrepreneurial culture of America." I agree.

The legal front mostly involves government intervention to limit Microsoft's influence and grip on technology. At a federal level, The United States Department of Justice contends that Microsoft is in violation of a 1994 consent decree which barred Microsoft from tying any other product to the purchase of Windows 95. The consent decree does not apply to the forthcoming Windows 98 or to Windows NT but the U.S. may seek to expand coverage of the consent decree to include these. At a states level, the Texas Attorney General's office is leading an effort to investigate Microsoft for violation of antitrust laws. He is hoping, in fact, predicting that as many as twenty-four states will join efforts to bring the entire issue to court. The Japanese Fair Trades Commission is also investigating Microsoft for violations of Japanese antitrust laws and there is some possibility that a European commission may do likewise. In a civil action, Sun Microsystems is suing Microsoft for violating the terms of a licensing agreement for Java.

On the marketing front industry leaders are speaking out. This sort of "bashing" of one major corporation by executives and company spokespersons of other major corporations is uncommon. Scott McNealy of Sun, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Gary Reback, an attorney for Netscape, are leading the charge --- with very charged statements. Consider the tenor of this Reback quote in Business Week, "They're hell-bent on dominating the entire information infrastructure of the world, and it scares the daylights out of me."

In what may be the strangest of alliances, Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, is working closely with major industry leaders to examine Microsoft and look for ways to halt Microsoft's control. In November, Mr. Nader brought together leaders from several industries, including information technology, to begin examining how the Microsoft monopoly affects all of us as consumers. Microsoft's dominance of the desktop impacts on all of us from the individual OS/2 or Mac user to the likes of giant corporations such as IBM.

As an individual and an InnoVal executive, I fully support government intervention in the case of Microsoft. Microsoft's actions are unfair and predatory and therefore threaten a free information technology market. I wholeheartedly agree with the Business Week editorial position. But I do seriously wonder how effective legal action will be in the near term. How long will it take to slow down the Microsoft machine in the courts? History suggests that it could take years.

I also wonder how effective Microsoft bashing is? I doubt it does much good except to bring the issue more into focus in the public mind - sort of like nudging it from the Wall Street Journal in the direction of Rivera Live. Microsoft bashing won't significantly effect the sales of Windows nor contribute much to the sales of other operating systems. When you walk into CompUSA and find that Windows is the only game in town, as a consumer you don't have many options. You can't simply cross the street to the OS/2 store.

The best opportunity for curbing Microsoft is with technology. The best immediate technology is Java. Java is a major concern to Microsoft because you don't need Windows to run software written in Java. Microsoft would like us to believe otherwise. The December 1997 issue of Java Report says it well. "Microsoft technologists talk as though portability/architecture neutrality were a pipe dream. They don't want you to believe that you can build demanding, real world systems all in one high-level language." The magazine went on to say, "Microsoft may well be an organization torn between supporting its customers and attempting to retain its exclusive grip on computing. Be warned: You can sometimes predict the future by understanding the present." Microsoft's implementations of Java and Java development tools are technologically subversive. Legally, except for perhaps license agreement violations, they can do that. Java is not a legal standard. But, to my way of thinking, to twist the defacto standard as they do violates the tenets of business ethics.

As an executive of a small software development firm, I can't do much in the legal arena. Within my technology sphere, Microsoft bashing from me is little more than "preaching to the choir." What I can do, and will do, is make sure that InnoVal is an effective advocate for Java. Our first 100% pure Java application, J Street Mailer, clearly shows how capable Java is as a language and operating environment. It demonstrates that InnoVal really believes the Java promise. Watch us. We are going to do a lot more.

I encourage everyone to be pro-active for Java. Support Java development. Join Java user groups or join the Java Lobby ( Write to the technology editors of local newspapers about success stories. Encourage trade magazines and ezines to add more Java coverage. If you live in the U.S., write to your state's attorney general. Explain how you, as a consumer, software producer or service provider are affected by Microsoft's monopoly.

Microsoft would have you believe that Java is good only for livening up web pages. Ha.

BTW: Be sure to check out our home page ( to see a screen shot of a real Java application and look at the list of features. Java is for real.

Editor note: The above was originally posted to comp.os.os2.advocacy on Jan 17, 1998. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.


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