Why worry? They'll never catch up.
Posted by aogSaturday, 05 July 2003 at 15:33 TrackBack Ping URL
I recently got a new corporate laptop running Windows 2000 and it had even more cruft in the menu system than normal. Now I find out that it's not even the fault of the Dark Empire. According to the Guardian the presence of the "Set Program Access and Defaults" someone else's fault:
In response to concerns raised by its rivals, Microsoft has changed the way PC makers and computer users can access a tool - known as set program access and default or SPA&D
Great. I spend way too much time removing cruft and here's even more.

I also noted this bit:

This [licensing change] was seen at the time as playing a key role in loosening Microsoft's grip on the computer market. It was designed to ensure that rival's software would work on computer systems running Microsoft's operating system.
Why is loosening the Dark Empire's market power an instrinsic good? Is that a priori pure evil, no further explanation required? Should there be more concern about actual harm? Oh wait, that would discredit pretty much the entire Leftist mindscape. Forget that!

What really sets me off is that I'm in the middle of porting some Win32 based code to a UNIX™ variant. I last used that variant over 12 years ago. When I started using it again, nothing had changed! It was as if the entire Internet boom and the rapid advance of programming tools had simply not happened. Back in those days, UNIX™ based programming support was generally better than anything on Windows. Windows was better in a few places but overall UNIX™ was clearly superior. Not any more. I am painfully shocked at how primitive it all seems now. One notes that this is exactly what the Dark Empire has done in so many areas, built up incremental improvements over the years while competitors sit tight.

P.S. I'm sure someone will say "you're an idiot, what about package X?". Fire away! I'd be happy to hear about anything that compares to Visual Studio. I work for a large technology firm that does most of its development on that particular UNIX™ variant and no one here seems to know of anything like that.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
scott Friday, 11 July 2003 at 17:02

First, who said anything about inrinsic good? It is legally appropriate because Microsoft was found to have done something illegal and this was a part of the agreement to stop doing the illegal thing they were doing. in other words, there was concern about “actual harm” during the court proceedings. You may disagree with the court’s decision, but the agreement you are referring to was only put in place because the harm part had only been decided and to revisit whether there was “actual harm” during the settlement discussions doesn’t make sense.

Second, I’m not sure the lack of Visual Studio competitors helps your case or hurts it. Maybe Microsoft has the best IDE around because they are the best tool builders and are the only ones with the guts to innovate. But maybe they have the best one because they have used their unfair advantages to make sure they had no competitors. (I have limited proof of the latter, but it seems at least as likely as the former to me.)

Finally, the SGI development environment was overall comparable to VS (better in some ways, worse in others). Though they have been largely pushed out of the workstation/desktop market at this point..

aog Friday, 11 July 2003 at 22:41

Let me state at the beginnign that I consider all of anti-trust law to be illegitimate. But moving on from there, part of the claim of illegality is harm to consumers. It’s the fundamental basis of anti-trust law. Absent that anti-trust is simply rent seeking, to obtain by force what could not be done by trade. Reducing market power is a means, not an end. But it’s treated as a means here.

The Dark Empire does (or relatively recently did) have competitors on Windows for IDE’s. Symantec, for instance. However, I think that the Dark Empire will end up owning the market because it’s a dieing one and its competitors are abandoning C++ for Java and other languages. In that space the Dark Empire is struggling (internally we use Borland’s Java IDE and not Dev Studio).

The larger point is that the effort to reduce the market power of the Dark Empire is about helping consumers (in this case, developers). Yet the market (Windows platform) that has been “stifled” by Microsoft’s dominance has in fact come much further over the last decade than the relatively free and undominated UNIX™ market. Doesn’t that make a mockery of the very basis of the anti-trust suit against Microsoft?

scott Monday, 14 July 2003 at 13:38

Again, I’m not sure your example really makes your point. Does the lack of Unix IDEs compared to Windows demonstrate the openness of the Windows platform or does it demonstrate that the miniscule size of the Unix market relative to the Windows market has lead to stifling of Unix tools? You obviously believe the former, while I believe the latter is more likely.

FWIW, I think the near-universality of the Windows platform is a good thing in the sense that it creates a standard where application-builders are able to focus, instead of having to create cross-platform applications or choose one platform over another. On the other hand it is bad in that it can lead to stifling on the OS front (other good OS’s are unable to gain traction despite being good products, Windows bogs down from lack of legitimate competition, etc.).

On the Windows application front, the stifling comes from Microsoft using their advantage of having control of the OS to make their products better in ways their competitors cannot (or by using their near-monopoly to make it impossible for competitors’ products to compete on merit, though that’s not where I want to go in this point). For this reason, once we start with Microsoft being found guilty of wrongdoing, I don’t think the breakup of Microsoft was such a bad idea. It seems likely both MS-OS and MS-Applications would be able to do fine on their own and compete more fairly. The solution that was actually implemented, however, and which you are critisizing here, was to allow competitors better access to the OS so as so make their products also better able to take advantage of Windows. This seems even better to me as it will likely result in better products from both a competition standpoint and a technical integration standpoint. Hence the consumer wins and you’re happy! Happier? Willing to crack just a wee bitty smile for me?

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 15 July 2003 at 09:25

No, not really.

First, my base point is that we have one software / application market without the Dark Empire and one with. Looking at those two in broad strokes, it’s the non-dominated market that’s been stifled. I think therefore that the burden of proof must be on the anti-trust forces, not the lassiez-faire side and really no evidence has been forthcoming.

Second, if the effects of the decision against Microsoft were limited to what you state, then I’d be OK with it. However, as I’ve mentioned before that’s not the only effect. The decision itself sets up the federal government as being a reasonable arbiter of what’s an OS and what’s an application and concedes that the feds should manage the fine grained structure of the software industry. In addition we now have the Dark Empire buying law in the nation’s capital. Given the miniscule (if any) harm caused by the Dark Empire’s market dominance, this is surely a cure far worse than the disease.

My meta point is not that I think a Dark Empire dominated software market is good, but that is far less bad than one run by the federal government (which is where anti-trust decisions like this lead).

scott Tuesday, 15 July 2003 at 10:46

Annoying, old and cranky, huh?

FWIW, I agree with your meta point and point 2(b). (In point 2(a) you are agreeing with me, so what’s to argue with?

I still disagree that Windows and Unix are unrelated platforms that can be analyzed independently. I think the dominance of Windows has had a substantial impact on the lack of Unix OS and application development. Also, while I agree that the burden of proof must be on the anti-trust side, that was the standard for the trial which Microsoft lost. So, you may disagree with the court’s ruling, but to say “no evidence has been forthcoming” doesn’t seem quite fair either.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 15 July 2003 at 11:41

Yeah, it’s not been a good week. But hey, truth in advertising!

By evidence I meant evidence that stifling (i.e. harm to consumers) had occurred. Harm to competitors is part and parcel of a free market. I suppose I’m thinking more of justifications offered by those supporting the case rather than the technical legal details of the case.

I agree that there is really one overall software market and while there are some significant barriers between UNIX™ and Windows™ those barriers are hardly insurmountable. That’s why I said “broad strokes”.

scott Thursday, 17 July 2003 at 09:28

Sorry you’re not having a good week.

Maybe this will get a smile out of you?

End of Discussion