Government Wants Two Microsofts

Friday April 28th, 2000

The U.S. Government has issued what it feels is the best remedy to keep Microsoft from leveraging it's monopoly any further. Microsoft part 1 would be just the operating system, and part 2 would take control of applications like IE and Office. Microsoft has until May 10 to submit their comments on this.

This bodes well for the Web developer community. Up to the present day, the IE development team has worked to support Microsoft's developer customer base, not Web developers in general or standards compliance goals. This is clear in the posts from Microsoft representatives on the WSP Standards mailing list.

With no guarantee that their browser will be included on any PC distribution, would the IE team not be forced to deal with standards compliance and interoperability? If they had to compete at the same level as their competitors, would it not bring about a change in attitude? And with no OS monopoly revenues to support browser development, I wonder if Microsoft would be forced to act as Netscape did -- turning to Open Source and the developer community for assistance.

Microsoft's IE development team has created a de facto platform built on numerous proprietary extensions and tight OS integration. With the loss of this tight integration, and with new platform competition from Mozilla's XUL, would the IE team acknowledge the necessity of cross-platform interoperability? Or would they stay a Windows-and-Mac-only development team that lacks interoperability across even those two platforms?

What do you think?

#1 RE: pressuring IE browser for standards

by guyh

Saturday April 29th, 2000 2:27 PM

Regardless of the outcome of the MSFT antitrust trial (and it may be years in coming), the best way to hold the Seattle gang's feet to the fire is the existence of an alternative which IS standards compliant. On top of that, if this browser runs on multiple platforms, is embeddable for applications to customize, and has a small enough footprint for cell phones and handheld devices to use, you've got a winner!! I cannot emphasize this last point enough, since we are on the cusp of the 4th revolution: communications for the masses. MSFT may well "win" most of its case on appeal, but lose the war as the ego of Mr. Bill relegates the desktop to a smaller and smaller part of the information society. The world needs a real alternative to IE for the wireless internet, to avoid a MSFT dominated universe. As it becomes clearer that the Evil Empire has such grand designs, Mozilla will attract tremendous sponsorship from everyone else, if only to champion the underdog and preserve freedom of choice. No man is God, and this includes John Rockefeller and Bill Gates. Their sin is pride, and his ego ultimately will be his own undoing...

#14 Re: RE: pressuring IE browser for standards

by Webslave2

Monday May 1st, 2000 5:31 AM

On wireless internet etc Mozilla has a major competitor - none other than Mosiac, the browser that gave birth to IE and Netscape. There is a degree of irony here.

Device Mosiac is small, lean, mean and shuns XML for interactive TV standards support.


#2 Coming soon to a desktop near you!

by Stromgol

Saturday April 29th, 2000 2:31 PM

Office 200x featuring unique browsing technology because of its tight integration with IE of course </fake ad>

I'm pretty sure they will find some way to ignore the standards (;P) even if I like your, somewhat idealistic, representation of the breakup very much.

#3 It'll work

by Kovu

Saturday April 29th, 2000 6:40 PM

If you read the actual document the government turned in, it restricts Microsoft from doing anything that they've done for about 4 years, at least. It even forces them to allow OEMs to customize Windows however the hell they want to. And Office will be on Linux in no time flat, and would hopefully be redone from the ground up for quality and software modularity/less dependency on Windows, etc. I think this deal would be perfect. Woohoo! Go Justice! Woohoo!

#13 Oh please, no !!! no Office for Linux >-(

by RvR

Monday May 1st, 2000 3:26 AM

MS file formats are the poorest ever (remember "fast save" ?) so i hope there won't ever be an Office for Linux...

XML is the way to go, not Office...

#15 XML

by Hard_Code

Monday May 1st, 2000 11:28 AM

Apparently you didn't already know, but Office is already moving to XML.

As a side note, Microsoft has been the open source movement's foil since its existence. If we force Microsoft to behave, we also have to be ready to accept it, as any other vendor. If Microsoft (legally!) makes a better mousetrap because of the breakup, then we have to recognize that. No sense beating a behaving horse.

#16 what do you want really ?

by RvR

Monday May 1st, 2000 3:50 PM

how many different versions of Word, Excel, PPt files with small incompatibilities each time a new version comes out, and lame "hidden" options such as "fast save", and more and more bloat (how many times can a .doc file be bigger than an html file containing the same amount of text ? please try this) and so on and so on... if people want to see the same mistakes happen on Linux as on Windows, then it's not worth using Linux...

please take a look at AbiWord for a really new word processor and GNUmeric for a new spreadsheet.

#4 What's the motivation behind IE without the OS?

by astrosmash

Saturday April 29th, 2000 10:21 PM

Thus far, Microsoft's motivation for developing their web browser has been to maintain it's desktop monopoly; to require you to use MSWindows to take full advantage of the internet. That is the motivation behind all of their "innovative" software, after all.

If the development of IE is moved away from the company controlling the OS, what would be the motivation to continue development of a free IE? Separating M$ OS from the rest of the M$ software (with the exception of Office, perhaps) eliminates the current development goal behind most of this software.

MS didn't develop Visual J++ because they thought they could make some money selling a nifty Java development tool. They developed Visual J++ so that they could tie Java developers, and their software, to Windows.

Likewise with IE, and most of their software. IE wasn't developed so that they could give away a really nifty Web Browser to the world, IE was developed to tie Internet users to Windows. MacIE and MacOffice exist as a bargaining chip, for when Apple does somthing that might threaten Windows. The current MS will never develop software for an OS that they cannot manipulate.

What's worse is that the initial risk of developing all of this software is next to zero, as funding is generated by the OS tax collected from the sale of nearly every PC sold in the world.

If development of IE is moved away from Microsoft (the OS company) there's no reason for the other MS to develop a non-standards compliant browser, however, there's no reason for them to develop a standards compliant browser, either.

#5 P.S.

by astrosmash

Saturday April 29th, 2000 10:26 PM

Everybody stop and think for a moment about how dead we'd all be without Linux and Mozilla.

#17 Re: What's the motivation behind IE without the OS

by sicking

Tuesday May 2nd, 2000 12:29 AM

Yes there still is reasons for MS to develop an free IE even if the OS-development is in another company. If you have a product that has millions of users you have a great channel for spreading your message. Why do you think AOL bought Netscape?

Application-MS can use IE for integration with office (Save as word document) They can also integrate with their websites. Heck even just installing a default homepage for a browser used by millions of customers is proboly worth a few million $$.

I don't think we will see IE dieing in quite some time. Application-Microsoft will do just fine without OS-Microsoft, they have proven that on the Mac where thy produce much higher quality softwhere then they ever has done on the PC...

#6 What will this change?

by jonde

Sunday April 30th, 2000 2:24 AM

And how's this breakup supposed to avoid microsofts to develop their products just like yesterday? And it's only a matter of time when there will be only one monopoly-microsoft again. I quess they didn't consider all the options here, this is very stupid conclusion.

#7 To the last poster.

by mrpalomar

Sunday April 30th, 2000 6:20 AM

It isn't the "conclusion" that's stupid. Broken up, with company officers unable to own shares in both entities, the company not only won't even be in a position to tie programs to the OS to lock in customers, there simply won't be the motivation to do so.

#8 Things will change

by balram

Sunday April 30th, 2000 6:41 AM

First thing i'd like to say is, "How Many Microsofts Do You Want Today?"

Anyway, something like Windows going open source will be very bad in the short term; computing will be even more confusing to newbies than it is now, there will no longer be this all powerful base for the software industry. But in the long term it would be great, as it would start of another era of tremendous innovation, growth in technology and so on. It will also inevitably create a void on the OS shell front, a void that Mozilla can fill up. A Mozilla desktop from which you can run your Mozilla and native OS programs. Sounds great.

IE going open source will be great too. Mozilla would have real, fair competition. At least for a while, the browser battles will be fought on grounds of better software, not on monopolistic marketing strategies.

#9 2 Monopolies

by knollc

Sunday April 30th, 2000 11:17 AM

Breaking up MS into 2 companies: 1 for OS and one for apps is just making 2 monopolies out of 1.


#10 What keeps them from working together???

by Dan6992

Sunday April 30th, 2000 4:53 PM

What would prevent MS2 from just licensing the source of IE to MS1 so they could build their OS around it? This way the IE team would get sufficient revenue from their product to continue development and the IE/Windows combo would still rein as king of all electronic media! This could also have the side effect of making IE an even more integrated part of Windows, making the two indistinguishable from one another. Obviously they would be forced to offer the licensing to other companies to so they wouldn't break any more laws, but who would want to pay for the license to the IE source when they can simply use the free ActiveX control to integrate it into a product (or better yet get the Mozilla source for free). Even if they break the company into two I don't see anything changing except that we will have two giant Microsofts to rule the business.

#11 Re: What keeps them from working together???

by mozineAdmin

Sunday April 30th, 2000 7:10 PM

They are precluded from engaging in deals between the two companies.

#12 Actually it doesn't!!!

by Dan6992

Sunday April 30th, 2000 9:15 PM

Actually it says...

"the Operating Systems Business and the Applications Business shall be prohibited from:"...

"licensing, selling or otherwise providing to the other Business any product or service on terms more favorable than those available to any similarly situated third party."

Which means the Applications Business could license IE's source to the Operating Systems Business for integration as long as they provide an equal and no-bios option to other businesses. But like I said who would want it? There is also another section that says...

"Microsoft shall not, in any Operating System Product distributed six or more months after the effective date of this Final Judgment, Bind any Middleware Product to a Windows Operating System unless:

i.Microsoft also offers an otherwise identical version of that Operating System Product in which all means of End-User Access to that Middleware Product can readily be removed (a) by OEMs as part of standard OEM preinstallation kits and (b) by end users using add-remove utilities readily accessible in the initial boot process and from the Windows desktop; and

ii.when an OEM removes End-User Access to a Middleware Product from any Personal Computer on which Windows is preinstalled, the royalty paid by that OEM for that copy of Windows is reduced in an amount not less than the product of the otherwise applicable royalty and the ratio of the number of amount in bytes of binary code of (a) the Middleware Product as distributed separately from a Windows Operating System Product to (b) the applicable version of Windows."

Which means there are restrictions but not complete prevention of the integration of IE!