Friday, October 24, 2003

Key Microsoft Agreement Clause Criticized
The Judge, the DOJ, and the States Attorney Generals are all surprised that so few companies have signed on and forked over the $50,000 (plus 1-5% royalties) for a Microsoft license permitting them the privilege of competing against Microsoft.
The licensing requirement was considered central since it would prevent Microsoft from locking out rival companies developing products that compete with Microsoft's own. Under the court-approved agreement, which expires in November 2007, Microsoft must offer such licenses under "reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."
What are these clowns thinking? They seem to think they can "level the playing field" by leaving Microsoft in total control of the messaging and integration API's needed by independent developers to connect and develop on the Windows XP STack. They seem to think that the "risk" of challenging Microsoft on a platform where Redmond controls everything is simply a matter of licensing costs!
They've left Microsoft in control of the API's. They've left Microsoft in control of the licensing process, able to set permissions and favored access privileges wherever they see fit. And, they've left Microsoft able to tie, bind, and bolt anything they want to the operating system infrastructure.
Then they wonder why no one wants to invest their time, money and efforts competing against Microsoft!
I have a solution. Let Microsoft do whatever the hell they want with the entire Windows XP platform of XP OS's, XP Applications, XP Developer Tools, XP Middleware, and the XP .NET Framework.
But give users and independent developers a choice.
What kind of choice is that you ask?
The hold Microsoft has on both the user base and the developer community is that of legacy applications locked into the Win32 API, an entanglement of Win32 interdependecies, and Microsoft proprietary file formats that lock up near 70% of mankind's digitally unstructured content.
There are over 400 million Win9x users, affectionately called "The Great Herd". This is the Microsoft monopoly. And Microsoft is now asking them to spend billions migrating everything to the XP Stack.
The truth is that Microsoft is challenging the great herd to either migrate everything at great cost, or be left behind without support, security patches, and without the ability to run next generation collaborative applications or participate in the fourth wave.
The only way the DOJ and States can provide the great herd with a "choice" is to first focus in on the most basic level of choice, the omega point where the decision to migrate to the XP Stack, or hold has to be made. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that the key issues facing the great herd are those of having critical legacy application investments locked into the Win32 API, and the bulk of their information assets locked into a cascading entanglement of proprietary interfaces, protocols, components and file formats.
I say give Microsoft a Hobbsian choice. Either continue support, upgrades, fixes and collaborative computing components to the Win9x installations, or, open up the Win32 API, interfaces. protocols, components and file formats of the abandoned Win9x platform so that users and developers can continue to leverage their heavily vested interests in ways that make economical sense.
If that means finally being able to port things to Linux, so be it. If that means providing the open documentation J2EE frameworks need to integrate with Win9x desktop applications, so be it.
It's insane that a free market DOJ and laissez-faire Judge would think that anyone in their right mind would risk investing in an effort to compete against Microsoft on a platform the courts have said Redmond owns with unrestricted entirety. Companies and independent developers should invest in this "competition" thinking the DOJ and Judge can control Microsoft and guarantee fairness? The very fact that Microsoft is required to "license" access to critical API's and components rather than fully disclose the interfaces speaks volumes! Competing Microsoft applications and services have privileged access to the system level that may or may not be disclosed in a licensed API. And then there's the cost of the license itself which gives Microsoft further competitive advantages. Not to mention that Microsoft continues to own the distribution channel and can shove their "competing applications" through the pipe, at will.
If the DOJ and Judge really want a level playing field, where competitors win or lose based on providing the faster, better, cheaper solutions to users, then they need to concentrate on providing users with unfettered choice. Either unlock the Win32 API and file formats, or, go back to the drawing board and split up Microsoft.
It's that simple.

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