| A recent survey found that 67% of the Americans
polled had a favorable view of Microsoft. It's too bad the question
was so vague, I'd like to know if that same percentage trusts Microsoft
without any reservations. In general, the coverage of the court
findings in the Microsoft case have not mentioned any of the facts that
led Judge Jackson to rule against Microsoft. So I thought it might
be a good idea to go over some of the specific allegations against
Microsoft that have been ignored in most discussions. Rather than going
through them all, and there are plenty, I'll concentrate most on
Microsoft's campaign to squash an one of their competitors in the early
1990's, Digital Research Inc.
To set the scene, I'd like to take a stroll down memory
lane. As someone who lived through this seemingly early phase in
computer history, I am recalling this from memory, so bear with me.
Back in the days when computers were not rated solely by MHz, but also by
which Intel processor they had in them, a single office might have
"286", "386" and "486" computers in them all
at the same time. Windows 2.something was out, and it ran on top of DOS
4. At that time, basically the early 1990's, Windows was not a clear
standard operating system. However, it was a step in the right
direction, and it ran neatly on top of DOS (disk operating system), which
was the operating system that all PCs used back then. IBM had
a faltering version of DOS (IBM DOS), Microsoft has it's version (MS DOS),
and a new star on the scene, Digital Research Inc., had come up with a new
and improved version of DOS, known as DR DOS.
The problem with DOS back then was the infamous 640Kb memory
barrier, and how to use extended or expanded memory for applications
larger than 640Kb. There was a heck of a lot of idle memory in PCs at that
time, and people were looking for ways to use that extra memory, other
than setting up a "RAM-drive". Digital Research was about
to release a new version of DOS, "DR DOS 6", and Microsoft was
According to Microsoft's own documents and internal email
messages, DR DOS 5 was a superior product to their own upcoming "MS
DOS 5", it was cheaper, and it would be out first. At that
point, they began a campaign to flood the information channels with hype
about MS DOS 5, and how it had advanced memory management, and was
superior to all other products. This is standard business practice,
but what followed, as outlined in Microsoft's own internal documents and
memos, went far beyond that.
Microsoft released MS DOS 5 in 1991 and Windows
3.1 in 1992. They were
both big hits. DR DOS 6 was coming out, and was considered a superior product by many
power users, and sold well. Then owners of DR DOS started getting error
messages when they tried to install Windows 3.1 on their systems. It turns
out that the developers of Windows were instructed to "make sure DR
DOS has problems with Windows".
The following are selected Microsoft emails that were entered into
evidence in the trial.
David Cole emailed Phil Barrett on September 30 1991: "It's pretty
clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an
OEM version of it," and "The approach we will take is to detect
DR DOS 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like
'Invalid device driver interface."
had several methods of detecting and sabotaging DR-DOS with Windows. One
was to have Smartdrive detect DR-DOS and refused to load it for Windows
3.1. There was also a version check in XMS in the Windows 3.1 setup
program which produced the message: "The XMS driver you have
installed is not compatible with Windows. You must remove it before setup
can successfully install Windows." This was not true, but rather, was
an attempt to undermine the competition.
Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who had been responsible for Windows 95,
emailed Jim Allchin (now Senior Vice President of MS) on September 27th
1991: "after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it's a small
step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe
sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don't know precisely what
ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as
the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably
continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems
running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the
Allchin replied: "You should make sure it has problems in the future.
Andy Hill emailed
David Cole, Windows group manager: "Janine has brought up some good
questions on how we handle the error messages that the users will get if
they aren't using MS-DOS. The beta testers will ask questions. How should
the techs respond: Ignorance, the truth, other? This will no doubt raise a
stir on Compuserve. We should either be proactive and post something up
there now, or have a response already constructed so we can flash it up
there as soon as the issue arises so we can nip it in the bud before we
have a typical CIS snow-ball mutiny."
replied to Hill: "Let's plead ignorance for a while. We need to
figure out our overall strategy for this. I'm surprised people aren't
flaming yet, maybe they won't." Cole also sent an email to Silverberg
suggesting a less severe message be used when DR DOS was detected: "A
kind-gentle message in setup would probably not offend anyone and probably
won't get the press up in arms, but I don't think it serves much of a
warning. BillP made an excellent point, what is the guy supposed to do?
With a TSR, the solution is to just remove it. With DR-DOS, or any others,
I doubt the user is in a position of changing. He will no doubt continue
to install. When he finds problems, he will call PSS. We will get a lot of
calls from DR-DOS users."
"Perhaps a message in the phone system for
Windows. It would say something like 'if you are not using MS-DOS or an
OEM version of MS-DOS, then press ##'. Then give them the message."
Silverberg replied: "What the guy is supposed to do is feel
uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos
and then go out to buy ms-dos. or decide to not take the risk for the
other machines he has to buy for in the office."
These interoffice emails indicate that Microsoft has nothing but disdain
for their customers. Market share is everything.
By the way, I pulled out my old copy of Windows 3.1 just to see what is
says on the box. Sure enough, under "system requirements"
it says right at the top of the list, and I quote: "MS-DOS
operating system 3.1 or later (MS-DOS
5.0 or later recommended)." The emphasis is mine.
The campaign against all competitors continued with the integration of
Windows 4 and DOS 7 into a single Operating system in the mid
1990's. Thus, Windows 95 was born, not because it was what Microsoft
wanted to do, but because it would insure that MS DOS was the only viable
product left on the market. Everyone who ever checked the
designation of their Operating System after loading Windows 95 knows that
it said DOS 7 was running under the new Window's interface.
Microsoft continued this tradition when they bundled Internet Explorer 4.0
for free with Windows 98, to crush Netscape. They made the excuse
that it improved functionality, when all reviews of the situation have
shown that IE was not part of the Operating System, that it slowed system
performance, made using other browsers difficult, and made the system less
secure from web-based intrusion. Clearly the only
"improvement" was that customers got a free Browser, whether
they wanted it or not.
The number of
examples of Microsoft's poor business practices is enormous.
Microsoft threatened the makers of a new web authoring tool "Front
Page" that if they would not sell the company to Microsoft, then
Microsoft would make a competing product and bundle it with MS
Office. Front Page was sold to Microsoft. We all know that
Microsoft has been trying to sabotage Java from Sun Microsystems for some
Bill Gates just can't seem to
stop saying he just wants the "Freedom to Innovate". But
the reason the Department of Justice brought this anti-trust case is that
Microsoft is a monopoly, and they used their position in the market to
unfairly harm competitors and consumers. It's clear that making fake
error messages appear when a competitors product is detected is not a good
thing for consumers.
Gates and Microsoft are still in denial. They are not used to
loosing any kind of fight, and I don't think they realize yet that they
got found out, and they won't dodge this bullet. The blame for Microsoft's
behavior as a company can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Bill
Gates. The entire company's mind set is directed from the top, and
Bill Gates has shown time and again that he will do anything to anyone to
gain more power and wealth. It's too bad we don't have a
mature-minded person running the world's largest software company.
The court should announce by February what it intends to do. If
Microsoft's more rational inhabitants rule out, they will settle quickly
to stop the bad press ASAP.
To learn more about the rulings against Microsoft,
go here: FINDING