RE: POL: Reaction to Microsoft Ruling

From: Matt Gingell (
Date: Sun Apr 09 2000 - 01:53:01 MDT

On Sun, 09 Apr 2000, Billy Brown wrote:
>> This is argument by anonymous authority. I don't find it persuasive.
>Actually, its argument by summary - I don't really have time to try to think
>of every argument you might possibly want to advance, especially when I'm
>taking the side that almost all of the experts are on. If you think my
>generalizations are wrong, give me a specific example of how.

I think monopolization is a problem and that intervention is in some
instances beneficial. I'd be interested in discussing arguments
that this is not the case, but simply asserting there exist unnamed
experts who disagree with me isn't useful. I'm not going to do your
research for you.

>No, it doesn't. If Microsoft made all the most useful APIs in their OS
>secret it would help their applications division, but at the expense of
>crippling their OS's ability to compete. Remember, anything Microsoft can
>implement, other OS vendors can also build. If those secret features are
>actually important, a competitor can make a mint by building public
>implementations of them.

This would be true if there were competition. There isn't.

>Microsoft does not own the hardware companies, and it does not have a magic
>wand that controls the industry. If hardware vendors pre-install MS
>software, they do so because they thing their customers want them to.

This would be true if vendors had some credible alternative to
shipping Windows. They don't.

>No, it isn't. A large company can not gain a competitive advantage against
>smaller rivals by selling its product below cost. Why? Because the bigger it
>is, the faster it looses money by dumping.

Not true. The incremental cost of software is zero.

>The problem is that an OS that doesn't run a customer's software is
>worthless. Most customers care a lot more about their apps than they do
>about their OS.

Exactly. Since the software most people want to run is only available
on Windows any other OS is worthless - regardless of it's other
merits or technical superiority to Windows.

> If the benefits [of the Posix standard] were really all that great,
> you wouldn't need a government mandate - people would be buying it on
> their own.

This gets into deeper game-theory questions. The consequence of
individuals doing what is locally optimal isn't necessary the global
optimum. (Nine out of ten dentists agree with me on this one.)

>> Programming languages are another example. Because C is a public
>> standard, I can choose compliers based on quality and appropriateness
>> to a particular task. The same can't be said for Visual Basic, where
>> I'm lucky if my code is even portable across versions.
>There is an inevitable trade-off between backwards compatibility and
>innovation. If you value stability, write C code on Unix. If you value rapid
>improvement, use VB or another 4GL on Windows (or wait for MS's new
>Intentional language, but that's another story).

This reminds me. I forgot to mention vaporware as another monopolist's
tool. But I'm not talking about backward compatibility - I'm talking about
public standards. These are distinct.

>But we don't have to agree. I'm perfectly willing to let people like you go
>one using whatever OS and programming technology you prefer. I just want you
>to extend the same courtesy to people like me. Just let everyone take the
>approach they prefer, and let the market decide which one works best.

Sure. Do what you want. I don't want to restrict your choice, I want
to give you more options. Wouldn't you like to choose between
different Windows or VB implementations?

>> Because with 'features' you get incompatibility, and with
>So, let's see, you're against features, you'd like to see innovation
>stifled, and you think the government should make everyone use the same OS.
>Which agency did you say you worked for?

You caught me. I'm a shill for the Man - the SS will be at your door
anyday now. We're going to make you run CP/M.

Anyway - I apologize if the above is a bit glib. I find this all
somewhat tiresome. Doing a search on DejaNews will turn up gigabytes
of variation on the arguments we've both advanced going back 10
years. I think both our positions are clear, and I'm sure you find
mine as ludicrous as I find yours. Do you see a middle ground we'd
both be happy with - any room for constructive discussion?


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