Subject: RE: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: "Gerald P. Dwyer, Jr." <>
Date: Sun, 06 Jan 2002 08:51:39 -0500

At 06:02 PM 1/5/02 -0800, Josh wrote:
> >  Bill Gates has become very very wealthy by
> > selling relatively shoddy software. This
> > happened because his revenue was based on license
> > rather than on quality developer time, and that
> > happened because society granted him a property
> > right in something which is not obviously property.
>I have to disagree here. From being a Microsoft fan since the 1980's, as a
>kid who came to know DOS quite well, I watched Microsoft get to where they
>are, and I honestly believe it's their marketing / mindshare that got them
>there. I believe the licensing issues were not a factor at all, nor any
>other IP issues. It was all marketing, and some backstabbing. The fact is,
>Microsoft knows their customers quite well (doesn't always listen to them).
>They know them a lot better than IBM did at that time.

It is fun to bash Microsoft. I also think that it misses some things that 
MS has done right technically.

The PC world is standardized on software, not hardware. That's the big 
difference between MS and Sun. MS software will run on almost anything. 
This is hard to accomplish and I think that MS does a pretty decent job of 
it. OS/2 was better software and there were installation problems there too.

IBM and MS are largely responsible for the standardization on software. IBM 
gave away the source for the BIOS. I got a hard copy of the source for the 
BIOS with my first PC (an AT&T in 1984). MS did not give away the source 
for DOS, although it was trivial to disassemble -- with the debugger that 
came with MS-DOS. MS sold MS-DOS, which worked on lots of hardware, not 
just IBM-DOS. This was to MS's advantage, of course. It also was to 
everybody else's advantage. There are PCs all over the place now, but not 
Suns. This common software platform is why a friend of mine can think about 
getting a pretty good notebook for $2000+ instead of around $5000. That's 
why the Net is so big, which helps free software.

The fact that it was to MS's advantage is a not a negative. I would not 
want to rely on MS's benevolence. Or IBM's or Sun's or Oracle's or Red Hat's.

This is not to say that Bill Gates is a nice person. You don't have to read 
much to know that's not true in certain dimensions. This does not mean that 
MS always follows the law. That's not true either.

MS used to take care of programmers. There was a continual battle between 
MS and Borland. Now, there hasn't been an upgrade to the C/C++ compiler in 
several years. Nobody wants to write anything that'll be widely distributed 
on Windows unless it's a niche product. As Karsten Self said, they've eaten 
their seed corn.

Personally, I think that MS is in the same position that Lotus was when 
they decided to use 123 as a "cash cow". MS is at its peak in terms of 
operating systems and will collect the economic rents for quite a while.

This is the opening for free software. Ironically enough, MS helped us get