back to article Why Microsoft vs Mankind still matters

For all but three of the past 17 years, Microsoft has been involved in antitrust litigation with government agencies. That's enough to wear anyone down. But as Europe's highest appeals court delivered its judgement on Monday, I did notice some ennui - not from dogged old hacks, but from a new generation of pundits. Take this …

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A little mean

I wasn't busy playing on Facebook when I wrote that article on the Microsoft judgement. I was having to juggle the European court case and the Northern Rock Story.

In the end I did manage to explain the court case on News at Noon before analysing the impact of the Northern Rock crisis on the housing market for the evening news.

Thanks for the links though

Ben- btw my nickname is spelt Benjie!

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Anonymous Coward

Average Joe.. @Joe Cooper

If Linux isn't for Joe Average, why the heck do so many of "the community" keep telling everyone that it is?

If it ain't suitable, it ain't suitable, so let it lie as a niche thing rather then keep banging on about security issues, greed and generally how much better things would be if we'd all just see the light and abandon Windows...

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe we need to all agree on the meaning of "works"

I think the problem is, some of us have high standards and others have low standards, and this makes even starting out on a discussion about Windows difficult.

For example... the opinion of most people is that Windows isn't perfect but "it works." Now by working they mean, boots up, only occasionally blue screens, or crashes in a way that causes loss of data.

To me, an OS doesn't work unless it is really reliable. On my latest top of the line Dell laptop with the latest Windows XP and all updates, explorer.exe often takes 99% of my CPU essentially hanging my system. This happens about 40% of the time after to cold boot. Now you can force a restart, or if you can get task manager to appear, can kill explorer.exe, and most Windows users seem to think this is ok and that Windows "works." In my world, however, if something like this happens, it is not working.

So maybe the real question should be, why do people have such low standards and expectations about how an OS "works" and how come people think Windows "works" when by my standards, it simply doesn't?

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@piracy

Which brings us to another point...

Since for a lot of thieving people all software is free anyways, you have to look at it from a their perspective. To invoke the popular car analogy: if your average person is going to be stealing a car anyways, wouldn't they steal the most expensive one they can get away with?

The dependable, efficient, highly functional cheap car (say, a Toyota) or the ridiculously expensive, impractical exotic car that's all flash and with no door-locks (say, a Lamborghini)?

Oooh.. that'll piss some people off. I'll let you decide which is which.

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It's just not got the UI

And yes, I mean the whole UI - NOT pretty special effects and transparent windows - the whole lot. That's the location of stuff, preview panes, intelligence within the GUI so it's like the UI is there to help, not to hinder.

You expect the 'Map network drive' to be in Network - yes, it is in Vista (as it is within computer too). It's not on the distro of Linux that I was refering to (Create New, Link to, NFS - users can't guess WTF NFS can they?!?!?!).

Try getting Grandma to run a Java app on a Linux distro without the JRE installed. It's a fucking nightmare!!!

Yeah, cause Grandma wants to have to drop to bash to open a conf file to type in some environmental variables.

Linux is great, server side, for non-intergrated stuff - I love it. (web, ftp, firewall, maybe DNS etc. Rather use MS for mail, ldap directory, file/print, portal/collab) The core of Linux is rock solid and is awesome. Is the UI anywhere near as good as Windows? Nope - not by a mile.

It'll get there, but until KDE or Gnome become tighter with their intergration onto the platform it's just not gonna kick off - remove any tech reference to the UI and USERS SHOULD NOT NEED TO USE A CLI!!!

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Apple fanboys

Haven't read all the posts up there - but I'm sick to the back teeth of the "Apple zero virus's" comments - do these guys pay no heed to history - what was the first computer virus? Elk Cloner - and the OS - Apple.

I've recently installed Ubuntu on my computer after looking at Vista and being completely underwhelmed only to find both my graphics card and sound card aren't supported so I'm stuck with an ugly resolution on my primary screen, a duplicate screen on my secondary monitor (instead of my preferred span) and can't hear nothing.

Now this really is manufacturers fault not providing drivers you may argue - but to me it means I can't use the OS.

Least Vista did all these out of the box - though it soon went back in it.

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@ Don Mitchell

The first version of Windows NT (3.1) was only released in 1993. That makes it rather easy to surpass the capabilities of Unix back in 1989...

There are many more features in Windows that come from Unix and other OS's than vice versa. E.g. proper multi-user functionality.

Perhaps you'd care to provide some specific examples of ideas that originated at Microsoft rather than somewhere else first. Your list will either be horribly short, contain dubious innovations or be ignoring prior art.

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Anonymous Coward

Have to agree..

'Piracy established the Microsoft platform as the PC standard.'

Im breaking my my personal rule and posting anonomously for this one.

I wouldnt put the 'piracy' argument as the major factor with regards to MS domination but I would say that it eased its path.

A company decides to roll out Office, how soon after that are its employees looking for a copy so they can get up to speed at home ?

The UK has pushed the ECDL for a few years now as a demonstration of a certain level of IT competence for white collar workers, this qualification has a heavy Office bias, students feel they need to practice away from the classroom and are reluctant to pay the the exhorbitant price MS ask .

So they do the obvious, find a dodgy alternative to the PC World shrink wrapped copies, if they are lucky they get it from a clean source and dont get infected by viruses.

On a personal note, the last time I donated to MS's coffers was Windows 3 ( not the poncy 3.11 :) ) and that was because it was bundled with a PC. In the meantime I have used every version of the OS and Office for free ( along with VB and a few other apps).

My point is that its this free availability of the OS that in turn grows the user base to the point that other software houses will develop simply because of the huge installed base.

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"highest appeals court"

The Court of First Instance isn't the highest appeals court in the EU. Hence its name: it's actually the FIRST court you appeal to.

The system is:

1) The European Commission issues a decision.

2) If you don't like the decision, you can appeal to the Court of First Instance.

3) If you don't like their judgement, there is a narrow range of options for further appeal to the European Court of Justice. The ECJ is the highest court (other than the European court of human rights, which doesn't seem relevant in this case!).

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Viruses, and Apple, and the like

Yeah, "Elk Cloner" was the first. Well, actually, it wasn't, Creeper was, which ran on Tanex. But that's as may be.

Elk Cloner ran on Apple DOS, the operating system for the Apple II. No, not OSX. Not the operating system for the older Macs, either, that was Macintosh OS, and before that, System. Nor for the Lisa, the Mac's forerunner. No, the Apple II was a 6502 based machine, much like the Commodore 64 and all those other 8-bit greats. It was actually a very good and capable business machine for its time. But its OS bears about the same resemblance to OSX as CP/M running on an 8080 does to Windows.

In the 80s and 90s, there were a fair number of viruses for System/MacOS. But again, this OS bears little to no resemblance to current-day OSX. You simply can't run those viruses under OSX except under an emulator, and all they could hurt would be the emulated machine.

The first DOS virus, more or less, was "Brain", written for MS-DOS running on an 8086. It can still infect Windows today.

Zero virus is referring to OSX (which, although being released as OSX in 2001, goes back to NeXTStep, of 1991 vintage). It is susceptible to *zero* viruses. None. Nada. Zilch.

This doesn't mean it's immune to viruses, I'm sure that eventually it will be susceptible, it doesn't mean it's super-secure (it has its own litany of security flaws) or bug-free. But, for the moment, it's virus-free.

Makes a big difference, that does.

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Silver badge

The usual morons

Thank you Andrew for another thought provoking article that produced the usual amount of thoughtless invective with people talking technology rather than business.

Microsoft maintains its dominant position by shrewd business practices, not least of which are the massive rebates offered to OEMs if they purchase a licence for MS Windows for *every* machine they sell. This virtually guarantees that the majority of computers sold are sold with MS Windows preinstalled. If PCs could not be sold with an OS preinstalled the market would be much more open.

Apple won't go after more market share. They now seem to have a position similar to IBM's when Windows 95 was announced. IBM did the figures and decided it wasn't economically sensible to go after the desktop OS market, as most of its income was from server applications. For a while IBM was definitely making a lot more money from sales of Notes, et al. for Windows NT than Microsoft was with its clones. Apple is making money from hardward, although the switch to x86 was something they didn't want and cost a lot of money, but the real growth for Apple is in it's closed source and extremely anti-competitive digital media devices. Licensing Mac OS X to other manufacturers would increase software sales but the impact on margins would be considerable. It might come to that if hardware sales fall and the offer is good enough, but who's going to want to jeopardise their relationship with MS (worth $100 for each machine sold) to preinstall Mac OS X? Apart from Microsoft few companies have made a real go of selling a "platform" and the recent delays in the next version of Mac OS X are indicative that Apple is doing "just enough" to stay in the desktop game while most of its development resources are devoted to the iToy range.

So the status quo is likely to stay for a while until the underlying market changes: people stop buying PCs in large numbers. Or regulators do get bold and enforce unbundling.

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Anonymous Coward

Joe Cooper, the problem is *you*

Joe Cooper:

> I couldn't really give a rat's ass about what Average Joe wants. Why do we care? Obviously Windows works for people.

> Remember when Open Source was about scratching your own itch? Since when did it mean being everyone else's bitch?

The Linux crowd appear to be 50% people like Joe, and 50% people who think Linux *is* (or *almost is*) for the mass market desktop. The article itself of course is asking about mass-market OSes. But for as long as there are all these Joe Coopers around, you don't have a prayer.

You're *this close* to doing something wonderful for humanity, but the Joe Coopers are in your way.

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It's all about the paradigm.

The average person who buys their first £400 laptop from Curry's doesn't know what Windows is. They believe that Internet Explorer is 'the Internet'. That is Microsoft's victory in 2007. If that first computer was a Macbook, OS X would be the computer and Safari would be the Internet. As for Linux... well, you can get so far with Ubuntu and there's no reason why an OEMed Ubuntu wouldn't be mostly transparent because it could be made to work on a known range of hardware, which is what Dell *should* have done.

Andrew also ignores a major consideration in the development of Linux on the desktop: for a lot of professionals OS X has superseded it as a desktop Unix that Just Works, which moved the focus away from getting Linux (and indeed Solaris) to prime time. I don't think it's any mystery as to why Ubuntu looks and feels like OS X because that is the inspiration that the developers are drawing on.

As Apple moves away from the computer to the appliance it may well be yet that Steve stands up in a month or so's time, introduces Leopard, and then as that one last thing, announces that for another $50 (and inevitably £50 in the UK) it will be available for all x86 machines. Microsoft would hate that, Google wouldn't care, those that are ideologically bound to 'freedom' would decry the move and Apple's desktop share would probably reach all of 30%, because the people who want it will have it, but to those who are new, Windows is the computer and IE is the Internet.

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About what average Jo thinks, and why the standard is so low

You will be wrong that average Jo thinks Windows = computer and IE = Internet. Many people do think that way, but many also are scared to try anything else because years of FUD + false information given by many so call IT expert who knows nothing about IT.

It is shock for me to learn that many people been told and believe that buy a new PC without buy Vista is illegal. No kidding, even "asking new PC with WINDOWS XP instead of Vista" will be illegal and "get you into serious trouble".

For people who has an idea, this is nothing but laughing bullshit. But think for those people who don't, and have no intention to get into trouble.

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Anonymous Coward

@CrashIO

"I bet if I look at everyone who read this columns system it is either a MS platform or a Mac platform (running MS Office) so that pretty much says it all doesn't it?"

You lose.

Reading (and replying to this) in Firefox on a Gentoo Linux box running KDE desktop.

Been using Linux on the desktop (and for all my servers) at home and work for years.

Never hangs, never crashes, never gets a virus, never costs a penny.

I do use Windows for the important things like playing games or testing how Internet Explorer's bugs and quirks affect display of my standards compliant web sites.

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Why does everyone think Windows is good for Joe Average?

All these criticising Linux for not being suitable for Joe Average fails to realise that neither is Windows. My parents have a Windows PC and every time I visit, I have to fix some problem that they can't solve. And often I (in spite of having used Windows for over a decade and having a Ph.D. in CS) have to give up too because of the arcane ways things work (or not) in Windows. Most recently, they can't use their two-year old printer because they "upgraded" to Vista, which doesn't have a driver pre-installed, doesn't have one on Windows update and the "fix" that I downloaded from the printer vendor's website didn't work.

So is this Microsoft's fault? I think it is, as the structure of Windows is such that each device must have a driver installed before it can work, and upgrades to Windows does not always allow old drivers to continue working. It would make much more sense to require devices to carry their own drivers (written in bytecode or some such) which are loaded from the devices themselves when they are plugged in (_real_ plug-and-play). But that could allow such devices to be used on other systems that recognize the same driver code, so MS would risk losing their dominant status. One reason Windows is dominant is that you can use pretty much any device you buy in a shop, where you with Linux of Mac first have to check on a list of compatible devices. Vendors have no incentive to have devices carry drivers or propose a standard that allows this) as long as 90% of their potential market runs Windows.

As for Linux just copying features off of NT, MS is not any better. Almost all the new and exciting features of Windows 95 came from other places, most notably the Acorn Archimedes mentioned at the start of the article. Half a decade before Win95 it had pop-up menus, central printer management, central management for scalable fonts, drag-and-drop, etc. in a much more intuitive GUI. If you think it is easy to find the disk drives in Windows, it was/is much easier on RISC OS: They are all shown on the icon bar at the bottom of the screen.

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Vista schmista, come on anyone else

Being an IT semi geek that works (supports) on both Vista, Xp and uses linux.

If you are a home user doing nowt but the net and letting the malware MS installs handle updates then you are fine with MS. If you take an interest and like installation of many games or software and use it beyond the day to day. Then there is so much out there that is better, but you wlil never know because it takes effort. The critical decisions to offer a choice have been made for you by the vendors through backhanders and big incentive schemes.

I don't like MS, Vista isn't what they sell it as (anyone shocked), it is overpriced by a huge amount, it doesn't run on the RAM they advertise (it can use 128MB in ultimate (but can't read over 3) ) The security settings are a joke, the help files are worse. (4 hours to share a directory) XP and Vista don't share media libraries in media player 11 (winamp anyone) it crashes playing games because of an unknown error (the reporting error tool crashed twice) all something I discovered at home after installation. Then I started using it at work. (It got far worse)

So you have to ask if MS next offering is Vista how safe is there market share.

They do give massive carrot and stick incentives and they get away with it. Everyone knows they do, legally and otherwise by stopping licences and with holding support if someone dares to go against their wishes but they know there is nothing out there to worry them.

For me windows Xp works but the fact we are facing service pack 3 says it all. There is a Microsoft tuesday for pete's sake. It is that filled with holes and that poorly written that they have to make such regular releases as to have a known time and day to do it.

Linux has too many distro's to be any good (Just pick one or two and go with them). You have the internet, open office and Email with good OSS stuff so now tackle to rest of the bulk home user market. Games, that to me is the key to the future. (Don't even mention games on Vista.)

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Anonymous Coward

personal preferences

Why does everyone always hammer Windows. Every OS has good points and bad points from the point of view of the user. Personally I would take XP over OSX anyday. I have to work with a combination of OSX, XP, Vista and Linux. I am very adept with all these operating systems, but my personal preference is XP. That isn't a crime. No one is forcing you to agree with me. If you don't like it, use Linux or OSX but stop shouting that just because it is best for you, or it is your preference that it makes it right for everybody. I am no MS fanboy, I hate the way they do business and the prices they charge but I like XP. When XP no longer provides the functionality I need, then I will look at another preferred OS and that may or may not be a MS product. I am not going to be grouped into any fanbase (take note Apple and Linux brainwashed fanboys) I use whatever I like the best and at the minute that happens to be MS

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@ Rick Stockton

So who is at fault then? Sears, CompUSA or Microsoft? Who is really at fault? The person selling (MS) or the people buying (CompUSA)?

You know why most stores don't sell Linux (besides the big kickbacks MS offers these resellers) is that Linux has NO SUPPORT beyond the community.

Like my Grandma is gonna get online and look for a solution as to why her printer doesn't work.

Open source cannot compete with commercial apps because the philosophy is completely different.

You fanboys should know that.

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Baseline Normal

<Quote>: "I bet if I look at everyone who read this columns system it is either a MS platform or a Mac platform (running MS Office) so that pretty much says it all doesn't it?"

You lose.

Reading (and replying to this) in Firefox on a Gentoo Linux box running KDE desktop.

Been using Linux on the desktop (and for all my servers) at home and work for years.

Never hangs, never crashes, never gets a virus, never costs a penny.

I do use Windows for the important things like playing games or testing how Internet Explorer's bugs and quirks affect display of my standards compliant web sites.

</Quote>

Yes I am sure you are the standard for all users out there. I must have been mistaken.

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@Sub geeks

"Last week I spent 4 hours installing an application on a fully patched windows server, including several dips into the windows command line,and several trips to the windows download site to update .dll files that didn't work, reinstall broken support frameworks. (note these are Windows support files, not the application.)"

This has never happened to me. Ever. Not once. The only time I have even heard of anything even remotely similar happening was when one of my neophyte developers shipped half of his %windir% as part of a software update that was subsequently loaded on to 150 machines. This is a big ouch, but it was caused by a simple human incompetence, it isn't the fault of the OS or the manufacturer, but of the idiot who shipped the wrong files and the idiot who installed 150 updates without testing any of them.

If your machine is in such a mess, it is almost certainly going to turn out to be your fault.

"Windows never worked, never works, chance are, never will."

Come now, this is simply bullshit. If it never worked, we wouldn't be having this conversation (again) about MS having a monopoly, because they wouldn't have. Millions of businesses around the globe run windows. Clearly it works well enough.

"And often I (in spite of having used Windows for over a decade and having a Ph.D. in CS) have to give up too because of the arcane ways things work (or not) in Windows."

Then I'm sorry, but you should really take your doctorate back to wherever you got it and demand a refund as you were clearly defrauded.

Windows is by no means perfect, but those of you who have this much difficulty with it can rest assured that the problem is indeed between the chair and the keyboard.

I dread to think how much damage you numpties could do on a linux system.

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Anonymous Coward

@crashIO

Glad to see *somebody* round here forgot to put their blinkers on. The end of your original post was the most inciteful and accurate comment I've seen for a while.

Anybody remember Lotus 123? The Borland Quattro restrictive practices by Lotus whine wars? No?

The perfect example of a multi-million dollar, de facto software monopoly disappearing down the tubes faster than you could say "WTF was that?". All they got wrong was backing the wrong horse in the OS wars and sinking all their effort into OS/2 and relying on the semi-gui DOS product to handle Win 3 (supporting that shit was a stressful time).

The same thing could just as easily happen to MS, who knows what the catalyst might be?

Of course the *really* funny circular argument here is that what eventually killed off Lotus was a spreadsheet ubiquitous on the Mac but unheard of on PCs, MS Excel. Oh the irony!

TeeCee

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

Did anyone notice that all of the Linux comments were, "It works if you do ___."

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people are forgetting

I think the main thing people are forgetting here when they talk of innovation is that. if you are the market leader by such a huger percentile and people will still flock to you do you really need to bother changing, theres no real competition in the home and bis pc market. I don't care what people say Linux is not user friendly enough for most people to use at this moment in time it really isnt. if someone said "ey up mate ive got this new version ive self coded" and it was as user friendly as windows you guys wouldnt use it purley on the basis that you like having to do work arounds playing with the terminal etc. the avg bloke or buissness want something thats fast easy to use with good support and thats semi reliable. if i was for example to say hell lets add usb wireless adaptors to all the pcs it would be a snap in windows, in linux it could take days to get a driver that was compatible. It's just not an option at the moment. Don't get me wrong i think linux is brilliant but devs need to focus on one distro get it sorted good and proper. I suppose this is the dissadvantage in open source, too many cooks and that. I have no doubt at one point linux will get up there. As for macs unless they start fighting back its going to be MS forever unless you do something creative. They are focusing far to much on the fasion side of things. they've bled the market dry with Ipoops and they might as well have given up with any thing to do with joeblogs systems.

all in all i think the problem is focus and support. moaning that companis don't offer the drivers of something in linux isnt the awnser i'ts not a supprise they dont support it theres more distros then crappy actors in eastenders Focus people Focus

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