RE: POL: Reaction to Microsoft Ruling

From: Matt Gingell (
Date: Sun Apr 09 2000 - 19:02:53 MDT

Billy Brown wrote:

>Sure. How about we refrain from arguing about whether Windows is good or
>bad, or even whether MS is nice or not, and stick with the question of
>whether the government can do something to make things better by intervening
>in the market?

That sounds very reasonable to me.

The basic problem that I see is that there is no real competition in
the i86 operating system market. Let's ignore how that situation came
to be - I have nothing against Microsoft persay, I'm not interested in
punitive damages - and talk about whether it's a bad thing and whether
government intervention can do something constructive about it.

Now, obviously I think monopolization is a bad thing - so you can
insert all those standard arguments here. What it really comes down
to, I think, is that control of the PC platform is too important to
trust to a single corporation: there's too much potential for abuse
and we loose the advantages of distributed economic optimization. This
is an abstract compliant, not one specific to Microsoft. Perhaps you
don't object to monopolization as strongly as I do, either because you
think it's unstable or because it's a lesser evil than government

There will never, without government intervention, be an
implementation of Windows offered by anyone other than Microsoft. The
API is too big and the target is moving too fast. Consider the
failings of Win-OS/2, and the Wine project. Even putting aside
copyright issues, the propriety kernel ABI for instance, binary
compatibility with Windows is a pipe dream. The only way to compete is
to create something new - and here the barrier to entry is
applications support. I'm not making any value judgments here - I'd
object as strongly if OS/2 had dominated the market or if, one day,
Linux is in a similar position and turns to the dark side. It seems to
me that the OS market, by it's very nature, tends towards
monopolization. The resolution I see is insistence on public

So, then, what is are appropriate remedies? I'd like to see, as I've
suggested before, a prohibition against government itself purchasing
software based on non-open standards. This minimally interferes with
the market - it doesn't place any restriction on what you can write,
buy or sell, and it doesn't specify what those standards might be or
how they are developed and controlled. It doesn't target Microsoft
specifically, it applies to all vendors and doesn't cripple one
competitor while artificially rewarding others. It doesn't place any
restrictions on what private parties are allowed to do. Microsoft
would be free to choose whether it opens it's specification and
provides the source for a reference implementation, develop a separate
product to sell to government, or opt out of that particular market.

I'd like to see a market where I don't buy an 'operating system,' I
buy a memory manager, a tasking subsystem, a file system, a desktop
environment, etc, from independent vendors - and they all work
together because they all conform to open standards; in the same way I
can purchase a nut and a bolt from two different manufactures because
they come in standard sizes. I go down a check list getting the pieces
that best suit my needs and my budget, or I just buy the whole thing
from a system integrater. Now, I don't really think that this is
possible in practice, at least in a pure form, but it's the sort of
thing I'd like to see us strive towards.


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