January 26th, 2004


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jimbojones
05:16 pm - MS... monopoly? Yes. But probably not in the way you think.
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about whether or not Microsoft is a monopoly, and if so, why. Yes, they are a monopoly - but not because they develop both applications and operating systems. They're REALLY a monopoly because they've gotten enough third-party developers in the habit of only developing their programs for Windows that the average user would have to change nearly every single application he uses in order to switch operating systems.

Nearly every Windows program you can think of that *isn't* written by Microsoft still isn't available for other operating systems - or if it is, it's only available for Macintosh, and probably doesn't really work the same way. Worse, the Mac is also a closed platform - so in this case, you have a developer that's spending double the development cost to cover those two platforms, but *only* those two platforms. But why should they have to? Answer: they shouldn't.

In this day and age, writing an ABI (Application Binary Interface) to run another operating system's programs under your own operating system is relatively trivial - they're used all the time in the Unix world for one Unix to run another Unix's compiled code. Some of them are so good that you can even run *device drivers* under them (I've personally used video drivers compiled for Linux under the Linux ABI for FreeBSD). But the one thing that's necessary for this to happen is for there to be some kind of published standard for the ABI writer to adhere to. In the Unix world, there is one - it's called POSIX, and all of the Unixes conform to it closely enough that their remaining differences can be pretty easily ironed out.

Microsoft, however, runs to no standard and doesn't like to publish standards. Microsoft instead *destroys* standards whenever possible, by deliberately making their own operating system and applications respond to them in unexpected ways - realizing that since they have such an overwhelming percentage of the mass market desktop mindshare, the inevitable perception is going to largely be that "nothing works right unless you make sure it's *all* Microsoft." Microsoft calls this policy "embrace and extend", which sounds friendly and progressive - but the problem is, they don't submit their "extensions" to standards committees or publish them; they just quietly make them work *in their own programs and nobody else's.*

These are two flip sides of the same coin, and together they're a textbook example of monopolistic abuse. Microsoft is more focused now on leveraging the work of third parties to keep their monopoly afloat and on subverting open standards that allow open competition than they are on actually improving their own product. The focus is no longer on offering the best product, it's on maintaining monopoly conditions *in spite* of problems with their product.

Don't believe me? Stop and think about it - what are the biggest differences between Windows 2000 and Windows XP? Digital Rights Management. Forced product registration. Hardware checks that disable the OS if too many components have changed since last boot. Service packs that disable the operating system if applied to one with a "bad" registration key.

Ask yourself - are these the kinds of changes a company makes to win consumers over by offering a better product, or are they the kinds of changes a company makes to lock down consumers they figure have no place to go?

 
Current Mood: cranky
Current Music: Weird Al Yankovic - It's All About The Pentiums

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Comments:



 
[User Picture] From: teapotdome
Date: February 9th, 2004 - 08:38 pm
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You know, the best way to combat the MS monopoly is by referring to them as "Micro$oft" whenever possible. FIGHT TEH POEWER!!!1


 
From: (Anonymous)
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 03:13 am
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um jimbo windows supports an old version of posix, they haven't updated it in a while but when win 95 and the equivalent windows NT came out it had posix support. they haven't updated it since then though cause no one was using it, plus i think it didn't work as good as their win32 api

later
trey


 
[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 06:15 am
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Re:

The POSIX support under NT (Win95 never even attempted a POSIX as far as I'm aware) never actually worked. Still doesn't. Also note that they never attempted to make the OS itself POSIX compliant, they attempted - halfassedly, and failed - to make a POSIX ABI without disclosing any of their own standards.


 
[User Picture] From: lauracroft
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 03:59 am
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The Simpsons

Setting: After Lisa Simpson notices Bart's Krusty the Klown doll literally 'killing' her barbie and other toys....

Lisa: Bart! Don't you see? The Krusty the Klown dolls are trying to corner the market by killing off the competition!
Bart: (confused) (Pause....) Like Microsoft?
Lisa: Exactly.

*true episode*


 
[User Picture] From: mightymonju
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 09:32 am
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If the consumers truly had no other place to go, they wouldn't need to be locked down. That's a flawed argument, Jimmah. DRM in XP is MS being uberparanoid --- they're in the business to make money, and people pirating their OSes doesn't make them money. So, hell, if they want to sabotage their own work so it doesn't work for people who don't acquire it legally, who cares? It's their product. People who use it lawfully needn't (theoretically) have to worry about the DRM et al., because they've got valid copies.

I know this is not always the case, but I think you get my meaning.

Just because you're a huge Open Source proponent now, instead of the pro-MS guy you used to be, doesn't mean that MS has to suddenly live up to the example set by Open Source. The Win32 standard is their standard, after all. It is in their interest to have applications that people need run on their operating system, since they still have a ~90% share of the world-wide desktop market. If there is suitable demand for said applications on other OSes, they will either be ported or someone will create an equivalent. But all of these software companies are usually in it for the money, too, so it makes sense for them to make a product for which they can charge, and only offer it where they will conceivably make a profit.

Having an open standard that would allow those programs work on other OSes is a nice pipe dream, but is an odd demand coming from someone who claims to be libertarian.


 
[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 05:15 pm
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Re:

Just because you're a huge Open Source proponent now, instead of the pro-MS guy you used to be, doesn't mean that MS has to suddenly live up to the example set by Open Source. The Win32 standard is their standard, after all. It is in their interest to have applications that people need run on their operating system, since they still have a ~90% share of the world-wide desktop market. If there is suitable demand for said applications on other OSes, they will either be ported or someone will create an equivalent. But all of these software companies are usually in it for the money, too, so it makes sense for them to make a product for which they can charge, and only offer it where they will conceivably make a profit.
This is not about Open Source, it's about open standards. The unix world runs on open standards. This allows different unix operating systems to be true competitors. Not all Unix is open source. Solaris is closed source. HP/UX is closed source. God help us all, SCO used to release a closed source product, until they realized that their product sucked ass and it made more sense to repackage Debian.

It's also not about open source applications. Open source applications generally DO get ported to Windows - the talent pool is broad enough and deep enough that somebody somewhere will want to, and they will, and their work gets shared with the community. Which is admirable, but isn't what we're talking about either.

I don't have anything against closed-source application developers... especially not the ones that are innovating. Innovation deserves reward. Closed source is often the easiest way to achieve financial reward. I'm actually thinking OF those developers as much as of the users. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop an application cross-platform - time and effort that a developer may not have, in a closed source environment. So they shouldn't HAVE to. They should be ABLE to develop for the majority platform if they like, and let the burden be on the minority platforms to provide an ABI to allow running those programs on their platforms... but the point is, the minority platforms should be ABLE to write such an ABI for themselves.

They can only really do so if there is an open standard around which to write it.

None of this is new; we've already been through it recently with the Bell deregulation among other things. You cannot allow a single company to choke the infrastructure of an entire industry to death without regulation unless you want to lose innovation and progress. A de facto monopolist doesn't want innovation, he wants to force everything to stay exactly the same. He doesn't want to get *new* customers, he wants to keep the ones he's already got enthralled - and that's the point we've arrived at, with Windows.


 
[User Picture] From: mightymonju
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 06:09 pm
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Re:

Open standards, my bad. But I am still failing to see why there should be an open standard in regards to Win32. Just to make it simpler for Win32 apps to run on other platforms? Just because devs may not have *time* to write something cross-platform? That's weak.

I mean, if that's the case, then what I said originally still stands: if there is a sufficient demand, the app will be ported to another OS, or an equivalent will be created to fill that need for that OS. Basic supply and demand. This is business, which usually does not mean that you make things easier for your competitors.

Just because Unix did it doesn't mean that MS should have to as well. And I think the difference between computers and phones is that MS only controls the software. They do not control the hardware. You said it yourself: with Bell, you were locked down with the hardware they provided, using the phone service they provided, and there were no two ways about it. PCs, though, can be built to your own specs, with whatever software you want running on them. MS does not control hardware, MS does not force consumers to use their software (by which I mean, consumers have vaible options aside from Windows when buying/building a computer). Despite MS' dominance of the PC market, I daresay that there is still a lot of innovation going on in the PC world, mainly thanks to Linux et al. There may not be a lot of innovation going on in the Win32 standard, true, but that is already hurting MS and will continue to do so until they either change their tactics or they collapse.


 
[User Picture] From: ravenword
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 07:31 pm
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I have no comment other than OMG ICON!!!11!


 
[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: February 10th, 2004 - 08:16 pm
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Re:

MS only controls the software. They do not control the hardware.
two words: Palladium Initiative.


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