Subject: Re: the .NET battle ends
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 13:31:44 -0400

Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> >>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:
>     Ben> And finally I don't think that Microsoft has ceded the
>     Ben> principle one bit.  It is convenient for them to act in
>     Ben> accord with the principle on one occasion.
> No.  Microsoft insists that open source is the work of the devil, that
> open standards guarantee a perpetual neolithic lifestyle for all of
> us.  That is the principle that they have ceded.


It seems to me that Microsoft's strategy has consistently tried to
separate and divide that which they like about openness from that
which they dislike.  For instance they have praised the BSD license,
they are promoting a diluted form of Open Source that they call
Shared Source, they have participated in many standards organizations
over the years and documented many of their internally developed
standards.  In fact even while Microsoft has been aiming at Open
Source, they have made strategic investments through ActiveState to
help make Perl and Python run better on Windows platforms, and help
make them run under .NET.

On the other hand they maintain that many open source licenses (eg
the GPL) place your intellectual property at risk, they think it is
stupid to release source-code without specific reason, and they are
very strong supporters of being able to have trade secrets.  But they
are also clever enough to be selective in what they do.

Indeed were they stupid enough to have a neolithic policy that
amounted to, "Ugh, open bad.  Hide all knowledge under rock." then
they would not be a serious threat.  But they are not that stupid.
Do you want to learn how to use Microsoft software?  Go to MSDN!
They offer a tremendous amount of documentation, along with search
engines, code examples, and so on.  They give away a tremendous
amount of useful information for free.  And nobody doubts that they
will continue to do so as long as it is useful for them.

> Of course they're not going to climb in bed with rms.  Since that's
> apparently the way you define "cede the principle" I conclude you're
> as absolutist as Gates is.

I think you are caricaturing me as much as you were just caricaturing
Gates.  Rhetoric notwithstanding, he has never made an absolute
stand against Open Source.  And so I don't consider moves made on his
part in accord with existing strategies and principles to be major
concessions on his part.

If he made moves indicating that Microsoft will actually make an
attempt to avoid future anti-trust violations, I would consider that
a concession.  Is it too much to ask that he make an honest attempt to
operate inside of the (existing) laws?  Apparently so...

>     >> What else is new?
>     Ben> For Microsoft?  Not much.
> No, for non-technical people.  After all, aren't they the same ones
> who think that Microsoft products actually make their lives easier and
> help them accomplish the work _they_ need to do?
Talk to an analyst about how Excel compares with competing
spreadsheets.  Talk to one who has been working for more than a decade
and has worked with multiple products.

I have done so.  I have talked with people who have been crunching
numbers since the 70's.  Without exception they tell me that Excel is
the best of breed in its class.  Including the guy who dislikes
Microsoft as much as I do, they admit that using Microsoft software
has made their lives eaier and help them accomplish the work that
_they_ need to do.  Even with the hassles, crashes, viruses, etc.

Given that they know their own jobs better than I do, they are
probably right.

Now that doesn't apply to all Microsoft software or all users.  But
for at least one class of user that I have occasion to know, I believe
that Microsoft has made their life easier.