- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Unfortunately, Microsoft is probably more powerful than the US government.

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on November 15, 1999 at 14:33:06:

In Reply to: Making Microsoft Safe for Capitalism posted by Quincunx on November 15, 1999 at 12:07:49:

: The decision has come down and Bill Gates isn't too happy nowadays. A judge has decided what most people knew all along- Microsoft is a monopoly. MSNBC has decided to cover the story and why not? Their asses are on the line despite the claims of pundits on CNN and other business shows.

If only it were so; however, Wall St needs the reassuring presence of Microsoft; witness the general dip in IT shares at the beginning of last week - the collapse of Microsoft shares would probably result in a knockon collapse in the NASDAQ.

They may well argue about how competition is necessary to innovate, but they rely on the financial performance of Microsoft as a monopoly; and Wall St. dictates to the elected government of the US; thus it suits Wall St. that MS remain intact.

I don't think the US government are going to be able to land a convincing blow on Microsoft; I'd be among the loudest cheerers if they did, but I reckon that MS's lawyers can delay matters until after the next election.

If the Republicans win the next election (as I think they will), we can expect to see the case dropped pronto anyway. If the Democrats win the case will either be dropped or not. If the case isn't dropped, I think Microsoft will just up sticks and leave the US; probably shifting a lot of the coding to Bangalore, the packaging to China and the general admin and research to the UK.

(Bill Gates has been cosying up to Tony Blair recently. This means that he wants something from the UK Government; it doesn't take a genius to see that he may well be planning an escape route to a more favourable political climate.)

So I don't think that legislation is really going to stop Microsoft, unfortunately; Microsoft can use its vast capital to overrule any one national government; even the government of the USA; and no American economist really wants Microsoft to leave the USA.

Microsoft is part of the power elite and can laugh any elected body off; its power is greater than any national boundary.

The thing that will kill Microsoft is not a single point of attack from a centralized government; it will take a mass opposition from the grass roots; a community action.

The threat to Microsoft from Linux is not that it can compete with Microsoft on face-to-face terms; after all, that would just replace one monopoly with another. The threat to Microsoft is that Microsoft is effectively a Death Star; a very big single entity with awesome power that takes forever to respond.

Against GNU/Linux (which is an alliance formed largely from the remnants of the Unix community), Microsoft can't score a hit; Linux is evolving fast enough to outpace and outsmart Microsoft.

The Hallowe'en documents you mentioned below were MS's first salvoes against Linux; they were actually pretty intelligent tactics and a break from MS's usual FUD-assault. The author (Vinod Valloppillil) has since left Microsoft and gone to work with a company that runs Unix...and MS has gone back to its old tactics, despite their uselessness against the Open Source community. On October the 6th, they released a document called "Linux Myths" (see here - although much of it is simply untrue; and the studies they cite to back up their claims come from Microsoft themselves!).

One telling blow they did land was that Linux didn't have a "journalling file system" (JFS); which meant that data recovery in the event of failure would be more difficult. The first Linux JFS was announced a couple of weeks ago; another one was announced this week; which means that, six weeks after Microsoft made the charge, it's no longer the case; and the Linux user already has a greater choice of JFS than the Windows NT user.

Another blow that did connect was that Linux wouldn't handle more than 2 GB of RAM (as opposed to 4 GB on Windows NT). However, the Linux kernel is freely modifiable by anyone who wants to experiment; the result, announced last week is that kernel 2.3.23 now supports up to 64 GB of RAM; Microsoft's telling blow was rendered redundant in less than a month; and Linux is now capable of using 14 times as much RAM as NT.

(If you actually have a server large enough to need 64 gigabytes of RAM; that's one heck of a lot of processes running!)

Every time Microsoft comes out with a comment that actually draws blood, the Linux community renders it ineffective within a couple of months; whereas major fixes from Microsoft take six months to be dealt with; most of the variants of Linux have gone through five or six major revisions in the time it takes Microsoft to release two service packs for NT; and MS's fixes are themselves so buggy that a service pack frequently introduces as many bugs as it fixes; since the core parts of Linux are subject to peer review, Linux isn't half as buggy as NT.

Linux is just too fast-moving for Microsoft to hit; and as the word spread, so does the usage of Linux; as I mentioned elsewhere, India and China and Mexico are all major users of Linux; the idea of a community-produced operating system that doesn't come from a corporate empire is also spreading; a rebel alliance, if you like ;)

And we all know what happens when a rebel alliance meets a death star...

So while the US Government doesn't have the power to oppose Microsoft, the Linux rebellion does; and the rebellion is formed of small groups co-operating to produce something adaptive, smart and reliable.


(Gleefully hijacking Star Wars metaphors right, left and centre to illustrate a point.)

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