In my Commentary for the March 12, 2002, edition of Windows Web Solutions UPDATE, I speculated about a world without Windows on the desktop. I criticized nine states' rejection of the Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement of antitrust allegations against Microsoft. I suggested that no government entity should be able to demand restrictions on how Microsoft develops and releases software.
I've never received as much feedback from readers as I did in response to that article. The roughly 100 email messages that I received from readers split about equally between those who agreed with me and those who didn't. Surprisingly, I didn't receive feedback from anyone who claimed to see both sides of the issue; no one was on the fence. I received some pretty strong comments too; some readers said they enjoyed reading a column that supported Microsoft, and others said I didn't know what I was writing about.
Interestingly, on the same day my "A World Without Windows" article appeared, a commentary titled "The Case for a Modular Windows" appeared in Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE advocating an opposing view on the same topic. That article's author, Windows & .NET Magazine News Editor Paul Thurrott, and I compared notes a few days later, and he received just as much hate mail as I did. Because so many of the messages I received were so passionate and contained some intelligent and interesting viewpoints, I'll share a few with you.
As the following excerpts show, many readers cited Windows Embedded 2002 (formerly code-named Whistler) as an example that proves Microsoft is capable of making a generic Windows version for the embedded platform.
- "Tim, I hate to say it, but Microsoft already markets a modular version of Windows NT and Windows 2000 known as Windows Embedded. It is mind-boggling to me that the states haven't jumped on it as a solution. The whole product was originally targeted toward devices which required an operating system, but had extreme memory or real-time requirements."
- "The really interesting thing is that Microsoft hasn't identified Embedded Windows to the judge or the states. Seems like (Microsoft) satisfies the suit and moves on if it does. Makes you wonder why they don't propose Embedded Windows. Are they fighting for a principle? They probably don't want the Justice department designing Windows any more than we do."
Many readers asked for a place to express themselves and to learn more about the Microsoft court case. The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), an organization created by IT executives to promote market-driven, rather than regulatory, solutions to problems that the IT industry faces, has a Web page that lets you write to your state attorney general about the Microsoft case. You can find the page at the following URL.
I received many comments questioning the technical capabilities of lawyers involved in the Microsoft case. Typical of these comments is the following excerpt.
- "You correctly point out that lawyers aren't the best at understanding technology of any sort. Think about anything near the cutting edge (cloning, recombinant DNA, etc.) and you will find a place where lawyers have no place being. The really unfortunate part of this is that by and large lawyers are who make up our Congress, and it is they that pass the laws that govern this technology that they simply do not understand."
Many readers' comments, such as the following excerpts, directly related to Microsoft's perceived abuse of its market monopoly.
- "So because not having a standardized desktop would conceivably make your job more difficult justifies Microsoft's abuse of their monopoly? From what I understand, Microsoft would still be able to sell a Web browser, media player, etc.; it's just that they couldn't bundle it with Windows. They'd have to sell it a la the (Microsoft) Plus Pack. Your company would then buy the Plus Pack and you'd be able to standardize your desktops. So you win, and Microsoft still has their technologies on your desktops and has evaded legal action—which means they win, too. I fail to see the problem here."
- "How different is Microsoft's business direction from that of Apple? Seems like the only difference is the market share enjoyed by the former, which results directly from the conscious decision of consumers and businesses. Perhaps that's where the problem is: The DOJ is baffled and doesn't quite know how to handle such a phenomenon where the private, public, and government sectors are unanimously selecting one product over others, thereby enriching that one vendor over the others through no fault of their own."
And last, the following is a reader's viewpoint that will most certainly spark debate.
- "The whole argument may be moot soon anyway. When you consider what (Microsoft) .NET really represents, a true virtual platform, the OS will become marginalized as time goes on anyway. .NET already provides the core services we'd expect from an OS anyway: I/O, security, UI, resource management, and interprocess management and messaging."
The effects that the legal actions against Microsoft have on the computer industry will be interesting for all of us to watch.