PowerBlog, by Mark Newhouse    

C'mon Bill...

I am not a Microsoft Basher (although I am always willing to poke a little fun when the occasion arises). I am not even sure that it should be split up (but it does make for interesting reading). This "article" by Bill Gates that appeared on the Time Magazine web site, was just a little too much to take. If Windows and Office should stay under one roof, it isn't for the reasons Bill delineated here.

My comments are interspersed in Bill's article in orange.

From Time Magazine Online:

MAY 15, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 20

The Case For Microsoft
Why Windows and Microsoft Office should stay under one roof

Two weeks ago, in response to the government's proposed regulatory scheme to break up Microsoft, I said that our company could not have created the Windows operating system if we had been prohibited from developing Microsoft Office as well. The symbiotic nature of software development may not be obvious outside the industry, but it is a phenomenon that has produced enormous consumer benefits. Windows and Office--working together and drawing on each other's features and innovations--have improved personal computing for millions.

Actually this may be true, but it was because of the access given to Apple's OS code, so that they could make Office work better on the Mac, that they were able to develop Windows. As for the last statement, had those millions switched to the Mac from DOS, rather than waiting for Microsoft to play catch up, they wouldn't have needed Windows to improve their personal computing experience.

The benefits of developing operating systems (OSs) and applications software under the same roof will increase as new intelligent devices emerge over the next few years. Take the tablet PC. Today most people carry a paper notebook to meetings and then transcribe their notes to a PC. The tablet PC that we are developing will streamline that process. A small, lightweight, portable device, it will enable you to take notes, dictate, annotate and then seamlessly transfer everything to a PC or any other device. It will make meetings less of a chore.

Hmmm... Apple did that with the Newton (an entirely separate OS from the Mac OS) and Palm is the current MS target, er, I mean front runner in the handheld market. Again, an entirely new OS. Neither of these platforms required MS Office, or any other application, in their creation.

Under the government's plan, however, Microsoft's tablet PC simply won't happen, because our OS and applications developers will be unable to collaborate. Almost every aspect of the tablet PC's evolution--starting with the design of handwriting-recognition applications--requires real-time collaboration between OS and applications developers. Today that happens spontaneously, just as it does at IBM and Sun Microsystems. Real-time collaboration is the cornerstone of software development.

I'm not following your logic here, Bill. Who says two companies can't engage in real-time collaboration? You could use NetMeeting, couldn't you? Other companies develop software for your Windows OSs (you haven't swallowed them all up, yet). I think you are just worried about being first to market with your "innovations." That is still possible under the "breakup" proposed by the DOJ.

Just as chassis developments at Lincoln (owned by Ford) are shared with Ford's other car divisions, Microsoft takes the best thinking among its applications software developers and shares it with Windows developers (and vice versa). In doing so, Windows can incorporate innovations that can then be further leveraged by independent developers and even by our competitors.

Or even the Office Group, or the OS group.

Just because Ford's Taurus is an American best seller, should the company be barred from sharing its innovative work among its divisions? Should America Online, the No. 1 website, be stopped from sharing technologies developed by Netscape (which AOL owns) or with Time Warner Cable and http://CNN.com? Should Sun, a leading player in high-end e-commerce servers, be stopped from sharing among its OS, applications and hardware?

If consumers' interests are paramount, the answer to each of these questions is clearly no.

Still not sure why this can't still happen.

Windows never would have gained popularity and reached critical mass without the benefits of innovative, user-friendly technologies developed by our Office team--technologies that often then became part of Windows and further drove innovation across the industry. For example, in 1991 software developers for Microsoft Office introduced a new feature known as a toolbar. We now take toolbars for granted. If you are reading this article online on a Windows PC, the toolbar is the series of icons at the foot of your screen that with one click allows you to switch from your browser to your word processor or your e-mail. Had those toolbars been created elsewhere, they no doubt would have been patented and never incorporated into Windows. Once added to Windows, toolbars became available for use in software programs created by Microsoft and thousands of independent companies. That is the great efficiency of innovation in platform software.

I thought that was called the Windows Task Bar. And No, MS didn't invent tool bars or the Task Bar. Tool bars have been in use from the earliest paint programs on the Mac, and the Task Bar was first called a Dock in the NeXT OS.

Had the proposed plan to dismantle Microsoft been implemented 10 years ago, such innovations might never have found their way to broad consumer availability. They never could have moved from the "applications" company to the "OS" company that the Justice Department envisions. Consumers and developers would have been harmed.

This is simply untrue. There are many, many programs, not created at MS, that use tool bars. It is not because of MS that tool bars are ubiquitous. It is because they make sense and they work.

The DOJ plan reflects a profound hostility to Microsoft's efforts to make products that work well with one another. For example, the plan would effectively prohibit the new Windows and applications companies from engaging in technical discussions to develop new versions of Windows and Office. Such close cooperation would be impossible under the DOJ plan because it mandates that no technical information can be discussed that is not "simultaneously published" to the entire computer industry, which would be a practical impossibility.

You manage to make products for the Mac that exceed their Windows counterparts, without this high-level cooperation. Perhaps a break-up would be a good thing for innovation after all...

The DOJ scheme permanently prohibits any further improvements to the Internet software in Windows. It would mean no improvements in browser technology and no support for new standards or technologies that would otherwise have helped protect your privacy or the safety of your children online.

Standards? Privacy? On-line safety of our children? What do any of these have to do with forcing everyone who uses Windows to use Internet Explorer? Again, the only browser you have released that is standards compliant is IE 5 for the Mac. You didn't need Windows for that. And when did you decide that privacy was important? And the safety play, that is good. Make the government look like it doesn't care about our kids. (Can you say FUD?)

The DOJ scheme also effectively imposes a ban of up to 10 years on the addition of any significant new end-user features to Windows. New features must be provided on an a la carte basis and priced separately to computer manufacturers. Provisions like these would kill innovation in the OS--and impair the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of independent software developers who depend on constant innovation in the OS to make their products more attractive. Updates to Windows and Office technologies that could, for example, protect against attacks such as the Love Bug virus would also be much harder for computer users to obtain.

More Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). What does "effectively imposes a ban" mean? And "impair the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of independent software developers" - this is classic. One more thing - it was problems with the Microsoft program Outlook that were exploited by the Love Bug worm (not virus). And third parties are the ones that have come up with solutions, not Microsoft.

The effect of this lawsuit will be to punish Microsoft no matter what harm this does to consumers, software developers, the industry that has driven America's remarkable growth--or, indeed, the entire economy. That is why Microsoft plans to appeal the district-court decision, which is at odds with a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals and with antitrust law. We remain confident that the courts will reaffirm that every company, no matter how successful, should be encouraged to build better products for consumers.

I agree that success should not be punished. However, illegal leveraging of that success deserves full and comprehensive punishment. And the findings of fact state that MS did abuse their success. And that is where the problem lies.

As I stated before, I am not sure a break up is the best remedy. In that respect, I hope Microsoft's lawyers can come up with better arguments than Mr. Gates.

Good luck.

Copyright © 2000, Mark Newhouse, all rights reserved

  PowerBlog, by Mark Newhouse