OT - Re: Microsoft Hatred FAQ

Steven D'Aprano steve at REMOVETHIScyber.com.au
Thu Nov 3 13:25:45 CET 2005

On Thu, 03 Nov 2005 04:34:20 -0500, Tim Daneliuk wrote:

> A) I don't much care if people wander off topic from time to time -
>     that's what filters are for.  But as a matter of general courtesy
>     is it too much to ask that the subject line be so marked?

Fair enough.

> B) Rhetoric is not Reality.  "Crime" has a very specific definition.
>     It always has one or more of Fraud, Force, or Threat.


Jaywalking is a crime. So is littering. So is merely belonging to certain
organisations, such as the German Nazi party or any number of allegedly
terrorist groups. Walking around naked in public is a crime, and in many
places in the world, including the USA, you then become a "registered sex
offender" for the rest of your life. (So much for doing time and wiping
the slate clean.)

Possession of many substances is a crime in the USA, and not just drugs
of addiction. There is no Fraud, Force or Threat involved in growing
cannabis in your backyard, or selling pornography to teenagers, or driving
without a licence.

Possession of banned books is a crime in many countries, and yes even in
the 21st century there are many, many banned books. If legislation being
urged on the US Senate by the MPAA is passed, manufacturing, selling and
possibly even possession of analog to digital devices will become a crime
-- not just a civil offense, or a misdemeanor, but a felony.

Even *accidents* can be crimes, if the circumstances are right (or perhaps
I should say wrong). The act of manslaughter is still a crime, even if it
does not include Fraud, Force or Threat. "Failing to do you job" can land
you in jail, if people die because of your negligence.

> No such
>     case against Microsoft has ever been levied.

That is, if you ignore all the dozens of times Microsoft has either
settled out of court or been found guilty of crimes by juries.

> Just because *you*
>     don't like market outcomes doesn't make it a "crime".

In civilizations that believe in freedom for human beings, freedom is not
unlimited. There are actions which remain forbidden, even though that
limits individual freedom. Bill Gates is not permitted to lock you up
against your will: his freedom to restrict others' freedoms is severely

In civilizations that believe in free markets, freedom is also not
unlimited. There are actions which are forbidden, because those actions
restrict the freedom of others. Microsoft has been found guilty of
deliberately committing those illegal acts, in Japan, Europe and even the
USA. Just as Bill Gates can't legally hire henchmen to drag you away and
lock you up in his basement, so he can't legally use economic punishment
against anyone who would buy your goods or services, and for the same
reason: his actions will infringe your freedoms.

Those who believe in free markets understand that unrestricted freedom
leads to the biggest bully limiting the freedoms of others. But then there
are those that defend the right of bullies to limit the freedom of others.

> C) Hate Microsoft all you want.  But those of us old enough to have
>     actually done this for than 10 minutes recall the days where every single
>     hardware vendor was also a unique software and systems vendor.
>     Absent a Microsoft/Intel-style de facto standard, you'd never have
>     seen the ascent of Linux or Open Source as it exists today.

Nonsense again.

Real standards, like TCP/IP which is the backbone of the Internet, aren't
controlled by any one company. Anyone can create a TCP stack. Nobody but
Microsoft can create a competing version of Windows. TCP/IP became a
standard long before Microsoft even acknowledged it's existence. So did
ASCII, the IBM BIOS, and serial ports, to name just a few. Does the term
"ISO standard" mean anything to you?

Intel-compatible hardware is a true de facto standard, because there are
actual competitors to Intel who product compatible but different hardware.
AMD CPUs are different from Intel, but you can run the same copy of
Windows on either and get the same results. The same can't be said of the
Windows "standard" -- there is Microsoft Windows, and there is nothing
else. While OS X or Linux or Solaris might do much the same sort of things
as Windows, they aren't Windows-compatible in the same way that AMD and
Intel CPUs are compatible. At best they can interoperate with Windows, or
share data with Windows.

You do your argument no favours by trying to confabulate the Microsoft
monopoly in software with Intel's lack of monopoly. Intel has to compete
in a free market, and hardware costs have fallen hugely: my first PC cost
me AUD$4000 in 1986. Today I can get a machine a thousand times more
powerful for $800. The first time I bought Microsoft Word and Excel, I
paid around $100 each for them. MS Office retails at over $800 today, and
you get very little extra functionality that didn't exist in 1986, lots
more meaningless bells and whistles, and no printed documentation.

In the same time that hardware has fallen in price by 80%, Microsoft's
software has increased in price by 300%. Even if you argue that nobody
pays full retail price, and use the OEM price, the software has increased
in price by 50% in the same time that hardware has fallen by 80%.

>  Drivers
>     are painful to write, so oddball or vendor-specific systems don't
>     get them very rapidly.  Microsoft/Intel commoditized the space whether
>     you like it or not.  They (perhaps unintentionally) created the
>     computer equivalent of "standard connectors" as found in audio systems.

In any mass market, hardware always becomes a commodity. It happened in
automobiles, it happened in consumer electronics, it happened in audio and
video systems. Trying to give Microsoft credit for something that had
already started before Microsoft Corporation even existed is either
dishonest or ignorant -- and in any case, if you were going to give credit
to any single vendor, it should be IBM. Some of us remember when PCs were
called IBM Compatible, not "Microsoft Compatible" and not "Intel

> F) There are *more* choices than ever today for both systems and applications
>     software.  Stop foaming, and go do something useful with them ...

Really? In 1990 or thereabouts, on the Macintosh alone, I had bought or
trialled WriteNow, MacWrite, WordPerfect, FullWrite, Nisus, as well as
Microsoft Word and Works. For spreadsheets, there was Excel, Works, Wingz,
FullImpact, and Lotus Jazz. They varied in marketshare, of course, but
none of them controlled the market. And that was just the Macintosh.

Today, there is... Microsoft Word and Excel. Perhaps a few percent of the
market uses WordPerfect or StarOffice on Windows, OpenOffice on Linux,
ClarisWorks on Macintosh, maybe a handful of other niche products.

Now Microsoft can't be entirely blamed for that, companies like
Ashton-Tate have to shoulder a goodly share of the blame for their own
misfortune. But Microsoft's criminal behaviour is directly to blame for
the lack of competition in the desktop PC operating system market. I say
"criminal behaviour" advisedly: they have been found guilty of breaking
laws in Japan, Europe and the USA. It might be argued by some that they
broke bad laws, but it is dishonest and factually wrong to argue that they
did not break laws.

Perhaps it is true that there is more PC software *in total* today than 20
years ago. That would hardly come as a surprise: the PC market is at least
an order of magnitude bigger today than it was in 1985. There may even be
markets where Microsoft has *not* been able -- or cared to -- capture a
monopoly. Accounting software comes to mind. But just because Microsoft
did not, or was unable to, illegally squelch competition in one market
does not excuse them for doing so in another.


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