Ganging up on Microsoft
See also TBTF for 1999-08-16, 07-19, 02-15, 02-01, 01-13, 01-04, 1998-12-23, 12-15, 12-07, 11-11, 10-19, more...
Where do you want to get sued today?
On Monday the federal and state lawsuits had barely been filed before Microsoft foes began clamoring for more . Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley attorney with a long ABM (anybody but Microsoft) pedigree, mused that breaking up Microsoft AT&T-style would be a good idea. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican from the state of Novell, predicted at a press conference that the lawsuit would become even broader. Netscape called the filings welcome but only a first step.
Writing in Slate , William Saletan points out that Joel Klein, the lead Justice Department investigator, may have made a crucial blunder in the federal filing. The DoJ suit (unlike the states') singles out Netscape Navigator for inclusion with Windows 98, opening Klein to the charge that he's serving a particular company rather than the public interest. Saletan says Microsoft "foolishly frames this as an assault on its own freedom, welfare, and dignity"; he doubts whether the company can rise above its own wounded pride sufficiently to exploit this weakness in the DoJ case.
On Friday Microsoft met the Department of Justice and 20 states in the federal court of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge who heard last year's case  . The company requested that the two lawsuits be consolidated, and this Jackson granted , with the priviso that they may be separated again at a later date. The company asked for seven months to prepare its case and to interview witnesses; Jackson instead scheduled the start of the proceedings for September 8.
The (now consolidated) cases filed by the Justice Department and the states drew heavily on internal Microsoft strategy and planning documents and email messages. All the online news organizations feature pull-quotes from this rich trove    . Microsoft's head lawyer William H. ("Don't Call Me 'Duke'") Neukom refers to this practice as "trial by excerpt" and promises to explain all when the company makes its case in September. Statements such as these will take a mort of explaining.
Strategic Objective: Kill cross-platform Java by growing the polluted Java market.
NEC and Gateway offer Wintel computers without Internet Explorer pre-installed
Exactly what NEC and Gateway are offering is a bit hard to construe from the news stories. Infoworld says  that NEC is planning to ship computers with no browser installed at all -- with both IE and Netscape Communicator available on a separate CD-ROM -- and that Gateway is interested in doing likewise. C|net claims  that both NEC and Gateway are already configuring systems pre-installed with whichever browser the customer wants, at least for large customers.
Most PC makers ship a number of models with IE only, including Acer, AST, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Micron, and Toshiba.
Open source software and the Linux OS
See also TBTF for 1999-08-16, 05-22, 03-26, 02-15, 02-01, 1998-11-17, 11-11, 11-03, 10-27, 10-12, 08-31, more...
Java was once the rallying point of the companies opposing Microsoft; now increasingly it's Linux
The Linux movement towards world domination got a huge boost last week after Sun joined the board of Linux International . Sun doesn't plan to bundle Linux with its workstations -- the old Solinux  April Fool's gag isn't being realized -- but the company will support commercial Linux vendors such as Red Hat and Caldera. Sun will also provide assistance to the people porting Linux to its UltraSparc processors.
A venture-backed consolidator swings into action
Sage Networks  of Cambridge, MA was formed late in 1997 with the goal of consolidating Web hosting worldwide. It is the first would-be consolidator operating in the field of 10,000 Web-hosting companies. The business of Web development began consolidating more than a year ago with the advent of US Web. On the ISP side of the business, consolidators include MindSpring and Verio, Inc., which went public last week. Verio in particular is said to be mostly responsible for the price inflation now settling over ISP deals .
Bradley Feld, Sage co-chairman, previously built a consolidator of system integrators called AmeriData Technologies, which was sold to GE Capital in 1996. Sage plans to acquire on average three to six Web-hosting providers per month. So far Sage has bought:
TriStar had been listed on The Ultimate Web Host List . Clever Internet, for its part, hosts over 15,000 domains.
Last week Teledesic  acquired a couple of partners with global reach and lost a significant competitor . The news increases the likelihood that broadband Internet access from low-earth-orbit satellites will become a reality early in the next century. Motorola's Celestri  project will fold its efforts into Teledesic's competing scheme. Motorola will become the global team leader for the effort -- replacing Boeing in that capacity. Motorola brings into the project its erstwhile partner Matra Marconi Space, Europe's largest satellite manufacturer. Some cash will change hands but Motorola's main contribution is the value of design and development work redirected from Celestri. Motorola's total investment is valued at $750M, which buys them 26% of Teledesic. Wired's coverage  stresses the tie-in with Iridium, a 66-satellite LEO cellular-phone system that Motorola conceived and launched -- all birds now flying, lights on this fall -- and notes that Motorola's Arizona production facility may be the only place in the world with a prayer of manufacturing satellites fast enough to satisfy Teledesic's prodigious appetite.
A painless way to try out style sheets on your site
Modern browsers (v4.0+) support Cascading Style Sheets in some form, CSS1  or CSS2 . Most browser users rarely if ever encounter style sheets, as they are not yet in widespread use. (One reason is that Netscape's and Microsoft's implementations are divergent and still somewhat unpredictable.) The World Wide Web Consortium has put up eight sample style sheets  -- the Core Styles -- that you can invoke remotely from your Web pages to get an idea how they work and how your users react to them. Any visitor without a CSS-capable browser will see your pages as normally. Just add this line inside themarkup:
Chocolate Steely Midnight Swiss Modernist Traditional Oldstyle Ultramarine
First of a series of reviews of works on dead trees
From time to time TBTF will review current books of interest to its readers. Please write me if you have a review to propose or if you're willing to entertain a reviewing assignment. (I can't offer any remuneration besides net.fame, and this offer is strictly BYOB -- buy your own books.)
Barbarians Led by Bill Gates
Microsoft from the Inside:
How the World's Richest Corporation Wields its Power
by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller
reviewed by Keith Dawson
Barbarians  arrived Friday from amazon.com -- fortunately I had ordered it a month ago. It's a fascinating read. The book is a little wooden in spots and is laced with grammatical errors (and a few technical bloopers) of a kind you don't expect to see under a Henry Holt imprint. The authors clearly have some old axes to grind. Oh, and the Windows 95 screen shot on the dust jacket is flipped left-to-right. All that said, "Barbarians" rings plausible to the ears of one who has spent years doing software development in companies large and small. The portrait of Microsoft that emerges is one more appropriate to the pen of a Scott Adams -- or a Joseph Heller -- than of a Machievelli.
The book is causing quite a stir. The timing of its publication could hardly be more felicitous; one might almost believe its launch campaign had been orchestrated by a particularly devious PR agency. Such as Microsoft's own Waggener Edstrom, co-founded by Pam Edstrom, mother of one of the authors. (In the book she's called "Gates's Keeper.") But I guarantee you Pam had nothing to do with this book. Press reports say that mother and daughter are not at the moment on speaking terms. In her forward Jennifer Edstrom thanks her mother, "who always encouraged me to write -- even if this wasn't particularly what she had in mind."
TBTF book reviews
See also TBTF for 2000-03-31, 02-06, 1999-11-21, 1998-12-15, 05-25
The other author is a Microsoft insider of a different sort. Marlin Eller was a lead developer at The Soft from 1982 to 1995 (no, I don't know if they really call it "The Soft," the way MIT denizens refer to "The 'Tute," but Eller implies that they do) where he worked on Windows, Pen Windows, home automation, and advanced graphics.
The book paints an unflattering portrait of Bill Gates that is jarringly at odds with the public persona carefully crafted over the years by Pam Edstrom. While this look from the inside alludes to sharp dealing and anti-competitive practices, it will give little comfort to those who picture Gates as an evil genius of business strategy. For example Eller and Edstrom describe Microsoft's decision to go it alone with Windows and NT -- abandoning long-time partner IBM's OS/2, on which the two companies had worked together for years -- as almost a spur-of-the-moment call, primed by the unsanctioned and after-hours efforts of one lonely engineer to make Windows run in protected mode. If you credit this book, then it's hard to argue that Microsoft had planned from the beginning to dump OS/2.
Here are some areas in which Barbarians Led by Bill Gates illuminates the current antitrust case.
Finally, some quotes with light to shed on Microsoft's attitudes toward competition and the legal process.
It became clear that legal actions were like forest fires, random and raging; they burn out, and win or lose, they cost many years and dollars. The developers were getting the message: you build a tall steeple, it attracts lightning. Hire a few more lawyers, nail on a few more lightning rods, and keep on trucking. [p.220]
The issue of bundling applications into the operating system was just getting going, and it would not easily go away, the technical equivalent of Bill Clinton's "bimbo eruptions." [p.202]
Year 2000 straws in the wind
See also TBTF for 2000-02-06, 1999-12-16, 08-23, 01-26, 01-13, 1998-11-11, 10-12, 07-27, 05-25, 05-11, 04-20
Time to head for the hills? Opinions vary
A topic you will begin seeing more of shortly is the "safe haven" debate: is it ethical for Y2K workers who fear the worst to remove themselves from the problem by moving their families out of cities? Long-time systems and methodology guru Ed Yourden, author with his daughter Jennifer of a non-technical Y2K preparedness book aimed at families , has been interviewed recently for articles in preparation by Wired magazine (August issue), TechWeek, and Forbes. Yourden has talked publicly about his upcoming move to New Mexico. An "empty nester," Yourden had been planning a move away from New York City for several years; he is frank about the degree to which Y2K concerns influenced the destination and the timing. (He plans to stay involved with Y2K remediation work.) This discussion will become shrill. Here is the first article I've seen on the subject in the online media ; it notes that cross-posts between Y2K discussions and the misc.survival newsgroup have been on the rise.
For a higher-level discussion of the possible effects of Y2K on the economy, see this roundtable  convened by CIO magazine among economists Garth Saloner, Stephen S. Roach, and Edward Yardeni. The magazine carefully explains the methodology behind the virtual roundtable and posts transcripts  of interviews with the participants.
A modest book proposal, or at least its cover
Kevin McCurley, "Thief Scientist" at the DigiCrime  site profiled in TBTF for 1995-12-31 , brings us a new bit of inspired lunacy: a parody of an O'Reilly "Nutshell" book on Java, as written by Microsoft. Here's the cover  of this "O'Really" book -- which, as far as I know, is all that exists of it. This "desktop quick irreverence to Microsoft Java," 2nd edition, "ignores Java 1.1." After the success of Mr. Bunny's Guide to ActiveX , I advise McCurley to actually write this book. He'd make out like a thief.
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