|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
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 (http://www.javalobby.org).
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.
BTW: Be sure to check out our home page (http://www.innoval.com)
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.