Microsoft v. Dept. of Justice

It is such perfect timing for Pick Up Ax, I tell ya. This Department of Justice lawsuit against Microsoft for anti-competitive practices is fascinating. Strangely enough I’m actually on Microsoft’s side on this one, even though I love Netscape.

I was watching Burden of Proof on CNN today and they had lawyers for both sides arguing their respective cases. It’s maddening how few of these attorneys understand the technology they’re condemning. So many of the players in this case (and on today’s Burden of Proof) said, almost proudly, that they couldn’t install Netscape’s browser without the help of their nine year old kid. That essentially makes them computer illiterate. I mean, how hard can it be to point your browser to Stop me if I’m wrong, but there are “Download Netscape Now” links on almost every site on the Internet. What kind of difficult questions do you have to answer once you get there?

Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

What language do you want?
Swahili, German, or English?

What O.S. are you using?
Macintosh, Windows NT, Windows 95, or UNIX.

Which version of the software do you want?

Do you want industrial strength encryption?

What add-on software do you want to go with it?

You could literally make wrong choices for half these questions and the software would still be fine. As long as you know you’re using Win95 and want English, you could pick an older release or the wrong encryption type by mistake and it wouldn’t make a difference. You download one file and have to double-click on it once. That’s it.

Admittedly, things could get more complicated if you, for example, ran out of disk space during the installation. But for 99% of people, this should be a no-brainer.

The irony to all this is that if the DOJ suit is successful, products like Linux will gain market share. That’s good right? Maybe. But then these same attorneys who couldn’t figure out how to download a browser under Windows 95 will be faced with recompiling Linux kernels, tweaking archaic Xwindows configuration files, and figuring out why they can’t read the Windows 98 disk they were just given on their bitchin’ BeOS system.

Replace Linux, Windows and Be with Commodore 64, Apple II, and Atari and you’re back in 1985. I remember 1985, it sucked. What I dreamed of was the day when if someone said they had a computer, you didn’t have to ask “What kind?” It took a long time to get here. I, for one, don’t want to go back.

  2 comments for “Microsoft v. Dept. of Justice

  1. C. W. Weddle
    February 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    So glad you did not defend Micro$oft on ‘conservative’ econ-polit grounds. Similarly you had the wisdom/cleverness to avoid technical grounds. And the finding of fact had not been rendered when you posted this so the ‘not guilty’ cry would have been premature. But “ease of use”, and “standards”!? (my condensation of your argument) Please, a standard is only good and useful when it defines product or process that is, at or above the mean, in “good or useful”, otherwise it is stupid dictatorial excrement from some standard setting bureaucrat. When it comes as defacto standard from a monopolist, it is a crime. M$oft’s guilt is and was common knowledge. Only because I suspect you never knew, Several builds of M$0ft IE did programmaticly sabotage downloads of competing browsers. I documented it in a study for a silicon foundry, about the time frame you wrote this blog. Why are so many people willing to accept anti-competitive practices? Seriously I am curious.

    Naturally you might assume I took umbrage with the lack of recourse against the giant in Redmond, but in truth I bare them no ill will. I do believe the three company split would have saved business in America millions of Dollars, but we’ll never know now. The computer industry is still on track for my vision, of a world where people rarely talk of computers. They just interact with them daily with the ease of a common pencil, both those they own and those they don’t. I, for one, don’t want to go back.

    • Ron
      February 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      It sounds like we are on the same side here. The primary point of the article was exactly what you stated at the end of your comment: I don’t want to go back the day when we had to spend all our time talking and thinking about the technology instead of just using it.

      Of course, as you noted my article was written 15 years ago and much has changed since then. What’s most important is what has NOT changed: the trend toward data compatibility between phones, laptops, tablets, and any other devices.

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