News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 10/21/97

From: beno@euro.apple.com (Michel Benevento);
Sent at 10/22/97; 1:26:24 PM;

Two mental exercises from a legal nitwit: MS can win the case by claiming to be integrating Windows with the Internet (instead of IE with Windows), thus necessitating a browser for using the computer. No judge will keep them from bundling that. Is it too late to start making this claim?

DoJ can win the case by claiming that if MS really only were interested in making things easier for their customers, they would have integrated Word and Excel in Windows by now. MS would have to defend themselves by stating that they view the OS primarily as a means of accessing information, not necessarily to be productive (ouch!) -- or they would have to tell the truth.

From: wnc@mindspring.com (Will Cate);
Sent at 10/22/97; 6:20:16 AM;
DOJ is wrong!

Dave, I'm amazed that you seem to be siding with the gub'ment on the this issue. This is simply another case of the Feds sticking it to a big company. DOJ say MS has a monopoly on operating systems. Wrong. I can go right down the street to CompUSA and buy a new Macintosh (perhaps not a 9600) so it's a lie for Justice to say that there are no alternatives. Even on an Intel box I can run OS/2, Solaris or Linux (though admittedly the general marketplace is not sophisticated enough to realize this).

Compare this with my local phone company, BellSouth. Can I get local phone service anywhere else? ISDN? No, even 18+ months after so-called Telecommunications Deregulation there is no alternative to my local telco. Any fines being handed out to these guys?

Last time I checked, Netscape still had close to a 70% share of the browser market. Why does the company that makes love to its developers now need to learn restraint? Gates is perfectly justified in thumbing his nose at Reno & crew. The Clinton administration is setting the stage for wholesale regulation of cyberspace, which, of course, would be terrible.

Let the marketplace take care of Microsoft. The truth is that system software and application software are really the only two things they do well. All their other ventures (MSN, MSNBC, Sidewalk, etc.) are money-losers. The EOM's could easily band together and say "we don't like the terms of your license." But this doesn't appear to be happening, either.

It's so much easier to just let Uncle Sam step in to right these perceived wrongs. Phhhhllllllbt! Hogwash.

Thanks for reading,

From: gorskic@concentric.net (Chris Gorski);
Sent at 10/21/97; 11:44:31 PM;
Steve Ballmer on Charlie Rose

On tonight's Charlie Rose program, they have been discussing the DOJ/Microsoft suit. The first segment included a former head of the FTC who said that according to the law, and this is my rough paraphrase, different products are defined by whether or not there are separate markets for them and separate demands for them.

Then, Charlie talks to Steve Ballmer. Steve says that Internet Explorer is part of Windows. No surprise there. He said further that it's not really free because it's part of Windows. Therefore when you pay for a copy of Windows you get IE.

If I were on Charlie Rose, I'd want to ask Steve this question: How do you explain the Mac version? I don't own Windows--never bought it and I really don't want to (no offense). From my position, it's a separate product--it's not a part of *my* operating system. Did I pay for MSIE as part of Mac OS 8?

I guess I just don't get it....


P.S. Steve said some other things too. He said they are gonna integrate whatever they want into Windows so long as it helps consumers. No matter if that rolls over the ISVs who develop for the Windows platform. The greater good is served by rolling the MS version into Windows because it's easier and more convenient for consumers.

From: tuckerg@inch.com (Tucker Goodrich);
Sent at 10/21/97; 10:51:07 PM;
Re:Microsoft & Restraint

What astounds me about the DoJ suit is that it shows a complete lack of understanding of the OS market. Janet Reno talks about Microsoft's "monopoly" of Windows. No kidding! Of course they have a monopoly on Windows! It's called a *copyright*, and the express purpose of a copyright (and a patent) is to encourage people to innovate and create, and then give them exclusive rights to those creations so they may profit from them. Patents and copyrights provided the foundation for the industrial revolution, and all the innovation that's followed. Does Dave Winer have a monopoly on Frontier? Damn right! And he deserves it--he created it. Does Dave have a monopoly on scripting languages? Nope. (Not yet, anyway :)

And Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly on Operating Systems, or even Windowing Operating Systems. Xerox invented them, Apple first won commercial success with them and, currently, Sun's Solaris, IBM's OS2, Apple's Mac OS and Rhapsody, Be's Be OS, the free Linux from a variety of different sources, FreeBSD, and a variety of other flavors of Unix offer alternatives to Windows. (I've left out a few...)

Microsoft has a huge market share 'cause they've done a great job of marketing, innovating, and listening to their customers. That's a crime?

The Federal Trade Commission recently rejected a merger in the office superstore market because it thought the merger would increase costs to the customer. If DoJ wins, it would *definitely* raise costs for the customer in the web browser market. Where's the sense in that?

The flavors of Linux I've seen offer a web browser and lots of other stuff in their distributions, as part of the "OS." Where's DoJ there? Hey, they don't just give the browser away, they give the whole OS away for free! That's surely uncompetitive!

I use IE 'cause it's a better product, in my view. I'd pay for Netscape if it was that much better, but it's not. My only objection to IE4.0 is that it's not *more* integrated into the system. I don't like the fact that a seperate window from IE pops up if i want to view a local file, when I can view it in the current window. Hey, viewing a directory, then a text or graphic file in the same window's a cool idea!

DoJ is attacking MS 'cause it's an easy target, and maybe Reno would like to distract the media from her other problems. But she's not doing me any favors, and with all the other Government sanctioned protected markets out their, she could spend her time better on other things. (Don't get me started on the sugar tarriff, and how about government price fixing in the milk market!)


From: PradeepS@aditi.com (Pradeep Singh);
Sent at 10/21/97; 6:47:27 PM;
Re:Microsoft & Restraint

Missed you at Agenda.

Billg just finished his session (the same Fireside Chat - Q&A format). As you can guess, both these questions (the Sun lawsuit and the DOJ piece) were a significant part of the session. As always Bill did well, same arguments, more or less, as you pose and clearly that's where the rebuttal to the Justice Dept will come from - can a bureaucrat tell MS what innovation/features they can add to Windows or is that an MS decision?

But he also got a bunch of questions from the audience relating to the restraint issue - as to where does MS draw the line, at what time can an ISV know that the OS will not include his application. This he did less well at - largely 'cause he won't do the feel good stuff and say don't worry ... his stance is simple, we will include anything we want ... your challenge is to ensure that you're always innovating ahead of MS ... that doesn't make anyone feel real secure ... but it's the truth in any case.

Have really missed seeing you here ... I don't see much of you and Agenda/Demo are the two places I used to run into you.

Btw: I do want to congratulate you on the great job you've done in building yourself a voice in the industry. Fabulous.

From: meerkat@flash.net (Wes Simonds);
Sent at 10/21/97; 5:25:15 PM;
MS -- > human, APPL --> stupid

I was intrigued to see Doc Searls contrasting Microsoft's "humanity" with Apple's "stupidity" in a recent letter, citing Apple's recent replacement of 1-800-SOS-APPL with a fee structure as evidence.

Searls is focusing on a false contrast. Is Apple to be blamed because, for over *four years*, it provided absolutely free tech support, even a toll free line, while Microsoft has always charged both long distance and a fee for consultation -- the same fee Apple charges today?

I think Doc has been spoiled by Apple's kindness all these years.

From: derick@valinor.med.utah.edu (Derick Siddoway);
Sent at 10/21/97; 4:53:41 PM;
Re:Microsoft & Restraint

Interesting. I'm approaching this from the standpoint of a network administrator who has loved Macs, tolerated Windows and detested NetWare before being touched to the core by Linux. Linux has the same energy and synergy that the Mac used to have. It's biggest drawback is that it's Unix, which usually gets the same reaction as you outline above. It's biggest draw, however, is that it's Unix.

When I first saw Linux, I had an old 486/25 that I was supposed to be using to administer a couple of Novell networks. Windows 3.1 was barely functional on the thing, and when Windows 95 came out a couple of months later, it wasn't near functional. It only had 8MB of RAM, so how could it be useful?

Linux *was* useful on this hardware. It's what made me realize that the stuff Redmond produces is wasteful. I learned how to do a number of amazing things on Linux that similar hardware could never have done in the Windows world.

Most of us willingly left Windows behind to begin playing with Linux. We generally don't see a *need* to do things that work well with Microsoft's way of doing things. We have our own ways to get the job done.

There is a vibrant developer community sustaining and sustained by the Linux community. I don't yet see a need to *not* be isolated. Linux is growing by leaps and bounds, without any real cross-platform stuff. Why does that need to change? On the internet, especially, Linux is an astounding platform from which to dive.

So, I guess a summary would be that commercial Unix vendors may find it necessary to play nice with Microsoft and Microsoft wares, but Unix in general doesn't. The Linux phenomenon bears this out.

From: searls@batnet.com (Doc Searls);
Sent at 10/21/97; 10:46:31 AM;
The Servant

What we need is restraint in characterization.

Right now Microsoft is being attacked for its position in the food chain. And for its intelligence. In other words, for its humanity.

In The New Character of Positioning, I characterize Microsoft as "The Servant." Because that's what Microsoft is. They serve customers better than anybody else. Building IE into Windows, if they do it right, will make the Internet easier to access and use, for millions of people. There is no moral difference between Microsoft building IE into Windows and Nordstrom selling espresso drinks in the same mall as Starbuck's.

Of course, stupidity is human, too. While Microsoft gives away its browser, Apple discontinues free customer support. As of last Monday, 1-800-SOS-APPL went, essentially, dead. It's a maze that leads only to help in "making purchase decisions" or, at best, to an infuriating recording that says, "All of our support representatives are currently assisting other customers at this time. If you would like to hear this message again, please hold." If you hold, it repeats, then cuts off the connection.

The desperate user might, after wandering through voice mail mazes or the promotional BS on the Apple Web site, find customer support numbers on which a human being -- clearly hating what has happened to his or her job -- will offer options to pay $35 for a "single incident" or $70 for Apple Care. Per computer. In my case that $70 cost them one of their most loyal customers. I've had more Macs than I can count, going back to one of the first 128s off the line in 1984. But this was the last straw. Smart trade, Steve.

I see Jesse Berst and others are talking about how Microsoft's mooshing IE and Windows together will fail in the "court of public opinion." This is BS.

Markets are conversations. All Microsoft products with version numbers upwards of 2 are the visible half of a vast conversation between Microsoft and its users. The size of that conversation grows for a very good reason.

Microsoft is an object lesson in Marketing 101: talk to customers, find out what they want, give it to them, and repeat. Marketing 102 is about doing the same with the rest of the conversation's participants, which in the case of the platform business includes other developers. This is at the heart of what Microsoft does, and it is a fact that most of Microsoft's competitors (and the press that covers the business as if it were some kind of sports event) ignore, mostly because they credit as wisdom the grace of success with brilliant products for which little conversation is required -- and the abundance of those kinds of successes.

What too few companies in the computing business understand is that successful adaptation over long periods of time requires constant and caring conversation with customers, users and developers. Until its competitors put that principle to practice, Microsoft will continue to build its monopoly the same old-fashioned way -- they earned it.

From: jeff@FuturePress.com (Jeff Watkins);
Sent at 10/21/97; 10:48:52 AM;
Re:"Microsoft & Restraint (Unix)"

At least in the realm of Linux with Netatalk and Samba, all my systems work great together. There isn't anything better than a FREE operating system. The funny thing is, it really isn't hard to set up -- especially if you've bought a decent box from Dell or someone like that. Basically, if it'll run NT, it'll run Linux.

I really do wish the Unix community would take Macs more seriously, especially now that Rhapsody will be based on a BSDesque kernel.

From: dwiner@well.com (Dave Winer);
Re:Microsoft & Restraint


You're right. I'd like to apologize to all people who use Unix.

There were a bunch of very vocal people, mostly from Sun, or formerly from Sun, who had a wierd atti tude about people who use personal computers such as the Mac and Windows.

I believe they couldn't look past the low-tech nature of the OSes and see that there were a lot of p eople they could work with anyway.


From: durrell@innocence.com (Bryant Durrell);
Sent at 10/21/97; 10:22:44 AM;
Re:Microsoft & Restraint

Nice piece. I wanted to make some notes about the UNIX culture...

You keep saying "UNIX people." There isn't any such thing. There are Solaris people and linux people and FreeBSD/BSDI people, maybe; there are still even a few SGI people left.

If you treat us as a unified whole, some of will be insulted. "I'm not a UNIX person, don't classify me with the Solaris drones!" It's not necessarily sensible but it's human nature. The religious wars between Mac and DOS advocates are dwarfed by the religious wars between emacs people and vi people; between linux users and Solaris users.

With regards to Sun -- I don't know if you noticed or not, but Sun took on John Osterhaut's TCL as its designated scripting language. I don't think TCL is the best choice, but that does explain where Sun is coming from. It's a shame.

I know you made a bona fide offer but I'm not sure you made it to the people you thought you made it to.

Re: the DoJ and HyperCard -- excellent point!

Mind you, I don't think we should say "sorry, you blew it with HyperCard so you can't ever raise this kind of issue again." That's bad; you've got to be able to correct your mistakes in this world.

I don't know if IE 4 is part of the OS or not. I think it could be. I think if it *is*, Microsoft shouldn't be marketing it separately; you can't have your cake and eat it too.

It's all interesting to watch, anyhow.

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