Microsoft Versus
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Microsoft Against Free and Fair Competition

"Enterprise search is our business, it's our house and Google is not going to take that business. Those people are not going to be allowed to take food off of our plate, because that is what they are intending to do." - Kevin Turner, Microsoft COO, July 2006

It's well known that a U.S. federal court has declared the Microsoft Corporation to be abusive of its desktop monopoly. While the case itself was limited primarily to the integration of Internet Explorer into Windows, there are many other actions it continues to take to prevent competition in the software market.

From Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft from the Inside by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller (New York: Henry Holt, 1998), p. 117. Eller was Microsoft's lead developer for graphics on Windows from 1982 to 1995:

Microsoft didn't want a lot of other companies writing code that could compete. It wanted to keep the barriers to entry very high. The idea, in fact, was to keep raising the bar, putting in more layers of software and APIs, which developers would then have to support. Microsoft wanted to make it so gnarly that anybody who couldn't devote a team of one hundred programmers to every Windows application would be out of the game.

Making Protocols Proprietary

Public standards conformance is a cornerstone to interoperability. Very often lack of conformance would spell doom to a project. A heavyweight can, however, take a standard and implement it with seemingly small changes, claiming support for an "enhanced" version of the standard, while effectively breaking compatibility with other software truely implementing the standard. This is one tactic implemented by Microsoft to break interoperability between its software and that of its competitors. An internal Microsoft memo explains, [open source] software (OSS) "projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market." To "de-commoditized" is to help vendors gain while customers lose.

Hiding APIs

According to a Windows API expert, "Microsoft allegedly opened up Windows APIs last year [(2002)]... [However,] Microsoft's disclosures remain sufficiently inaccurate and incomplete... Whirling Dervishes has discovered hidden Windows interfaces that are crucial for the development of [some] applications, but whose existence is denied by Microsoft. Not much change there then, post-lawsuit."

See also: Secrets & Lies


From a article published October 29, 2002:

Richard Lang is suing Microsoft because, he says, the company violated's patents covering video delivery on the Internet and engaged in "unfair competition" to prevent Burst from gaining a foothold in the market. Lang says that in the late 1990s, as software companies battled each other for dominance in the emerging world of digital media on the Internet, Microsoft colluded with its main competitor, RealNetworks, in an effort to prevent Burst and other firms from entering the market. And then, after it had sufficiently weakened Burst, Microsoft "stole" its intellectual property, says Lang, incorporating in its latest Windows Media Player the video-streaming technology that Burst had developed -- and had shared with Microsoft under nondisclosure agreements -- during more than a decade of research.

For more information, see patents.

Sponsoring Lawsuits

As a final survival strategy the SCO Group has tried to sue IBM and Red Hat for improperly using their intellectual property. While the details of this legal action are beyond the scope of this document, SCO is basically claiming their intellectual property has been added to the GNU/[Linux] operating system without proper licensing. Their long term goal is probably to charge a fee for every use of Linux, which they've proven by suing two large corporations who use Linux. SCO's success will come at Linux's (and possibly open source's) expense.

Open source, and especially GNU/Linux, is considered a major threat to Microsoft. Since Microsoft can't undermine the spread of open source by undercutting prices or buying companies they think they've found a way around the problem by helping SCO sue it out of existance. Even if the lawsuits do not hurt Linux on a technical level they may damage its reputation if successful. Microsoft has already given SCO $82 to $86 million, with much more expected. SCO is staying afloat with the money provided by Microsoft. This is just another angle from which Microsoft attacks its competitors.

Requiring Authorized Accessories

"Only accessory makers that get Microsoft's blessing and fork over a slice of their sales to the software maker will be able to produce Xbox 360 game pads, steering wheels, joysticks and other controllers. In addition, in order to ensure that only authorized products connect to the new console, Microsoft is adding a security mechanism that will be available exclusively to those who sign a deal with the company." (Fried, Ina. "Digging profits out of Xbox." CNet 10 Aug 2005)

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Copyright © 2004-2007 Matthew Schwartz