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Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards
Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:22 AM EST

When Eric Raymond published the first Halloween Memo, "Open Source Software: A (New?) Development Methodology", some wondered if it was authentic.

Later, Microsoft sort of confirmed the authenticity in its own style ("Although Microsoft has not attempted to perform a line-for-line review of the posted documents, they do appear to be confidential Microsoft documents with annotation, sent internally to select staff and management on Aug. 11, 1998").

We need wonder no more. Vinod Valloppillil's paper, "Open Source Software: A (New?) Development Methodology, v. 1.00" has appeared as an exhibit [PDF] in Comes v. Microsoft. I'd say that authenticates it once and for all.

By the way, if you are by any chance trying to figure out Microsoft's policy toward standards, particularly in the context of ODF-EOXML, that same Microsoft page is revelatory, Microsoft's answer to what the memo meant when it said that Microsoft could extend standard protocols so as to deny Linux "entry into the market":

Q: The first document talked about extending standard protocols as a way to "deny OSS projects entry into the market." What does this mean?

A: To better serve customers, Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users. An example of this is adding transactional support for DTC over HTTP. This would be a value-add and would in no way break the standard or undermine the concept of standards, of which Microsoft is a significant supporter. Yet it would allow us to solve a class of problems in value chain integration for our Web-based customers that are not solved by any public standard today. Microsoft recognizes that customers are not served by implementations that are different without adding value; we therefore support standards as the foundation on which further innovation can be based.

Um, what? They "need" to do it? Surely there is no technical need, unless you wish your own customers to have a superior experience and shut out all others, which is fine, but not in a standard. Standards are supposed to be for everyone.

Microsoft's "value add" to HTML resulted in browsers like Opera having difficulty displaying web sites, something I've written about before. Here's a snip from the Valloppillil memo, including some suggestions on how to beat Linux:

Open Source Software (OSS) is a development process which promotes rapid creation and deployment of incremental features and bug fixes in an existing code / knowledge base. In recent years, corresponding to the growth of Internet, OSS projects have acquired the depth & complexity traditionally associated with commercial projects such as Operating Systems and mission critical servers.

Consequently, OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft -- particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat. ...

OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market....

* Fold extended functionality into commodity protocols / services and create new protocols

Linux's homebase is currently commodity network and server infrastructure. By folding extended functionality (e.g. Storage+ in file systems, DAV/POD for networking) into today's commodity services, we raise the bar & change the rules of the game.

Now think about Ecma 376 and proprietary extensions, please. Remember Bob Sutor's warning? standardizing its formats in ECMA, Microsoft should be giving up the right to include proprietary extensions of the spec when it creates its implementations. Repeat after me: NO PROPRIETARY EXTENSIONS

What might "value add" features written "above the standard" do to a standard? Is it still a "standard" if only Microsoft can fully implement it? This time, it's actually worse than writing above the standard. Microsoft is offering a competing "standard" instead of just writing above the standard ODF. Is that going to increase interoperability? Or will it shut people out? Yet the whole point of XML is interoperability, is it not? -- and isn't the goal of Massachusetts and others to ensure that everyone can access documents with full fidelity, not just certain customers of a certain vendor? How can proprietary extensions in a competing standard *not* clash with such a goal, unless someone insists at a minimum on guaranteed 100% full fidelity interoperability in both directions? And frankly, if you can guarantee that, what, pray tell, is the point of having two standards?

If that doesn't convince you, here's another exhibit from Comes v. Microsoft, Exhibit PX01413.pdf, a 1992 memo from bradsi to cameronm, jonl, mikemap and paulma:

we can doc the api's we know the apps group (and other isv's) use. this is a good practice. though it's not as straightforward as it appears, since some of the calls depend on context and an understanding of the source....

the biggest advantage our apps group has is access to the operating systems source. as long as this continues, the issue will never go away.

And here's another, Exhibit PX01614 [PDF], a memo from 1992, Dennis Adler to bradsi and davidcol:

You never address the issues Schulman raised in his mail. You continue to say, "There was no advantage to MS in using these APIs." Get real. You mean to tell me that the Word & Excel teams put in a bunch of API calls that they do not think would help them in a particular area? I hope not!

There is even one case (QCWin) where the "documented" use for the API SetMessageQueue enables QCWin to wait until the app it is debugging has a msg queue in place before sending it messages; this is clearly advantageous....

Stop trying to pretend that we did not do this to gain a competitive advantage, however slight. If that is not why these programmers used the undoc'd APIs in there [sic] code, then give me a plausable explanation for why they did.... truthful would be nice too.

More than a decade later, APIs are still the issue.

As I mentioned, I've written earlier about HTML and what Microsoft's value add did to the Internet, in an article "Reactions to MS's "Glimmer of Openness" & a Little Water Under that Bridge", but I'd like to repeat part of it here, the water-under-the-bridge part, so Groklaw's many new readers who are here specifically to read about ODF-EOXML can read it too in this context. After all, Microsoft defended the Halloween Memo I as being merely a hypothetical suggested strategy, not Microsoft's actual position or strategy. But what does the history show? Remember that this article is from 2005, so some things are included as history. For example, if you try to validate the HTML on the Microsoft page cited in the artilce today, by clicking on the link, there are now 32 HTML errors listed, not 68, and Ray Ozzie's page has 93, not 98. Why can't Microsoft just apply the standards so there aren't any HTML errors? As I asked in 2005, is it because they don't know how to write HTML according to the standard? Here you go, so you can make up your own mind about Microsoft's history with standards and whether it bears on the current discussion about ODF/EOXML:


Microsoft must be puzzled. Why is it almost no one trusts them, even when they do something that on its face looks good? Here they've announced a patent covenant for their XML, and we're all out here with our magnifying glasses looking for gotchas. But let's face it. There's a lot of water under this bridge. The burnt child dreads the fire and all that. We remember Netscape and Java and everything, all those tricky Microsoft gotchas. It's hardly irrational to look for more. *Not* looking for them would be irrational, given the history. In fact, let's review a little Microsoft history.

We remember when Microsoft joined the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international consortium which develops Web standards and guidelines, to build consensus around Web technologies such as for HTML. Despite being a member, Microsoft developed their own proprietary HTML extensions anyway, their own little tweaks and twists, on the specification, which degrades the display of a good deal of the web by other browsers, simply because Microsoft won't follow the standard themselves, or maybe worse. They hold a dominant position in terms of numbers of users. You know, that old monopoly thing. So it's a meaningful negative effect. So just joining a standards group doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft will play fair. Remember this little incident in 2001?

Last week, people who tried to visit with a non-Microsoft browser found themselves locked out. Although Microsoft's own Internet Explorer easily accessed the popular site, other browsers--such as Opera, Mozilla, Amaya and some versions of Netscape--received error messages and recommended that people "upgrade" to Internet Explorer.

The purpose of standards is so that everyone can speak the same "language," so to speak. Remember when that airplane crashed, because the air traffic controller and the pilot didn't speak the same language? The Web is international. It's just a lot of computers all over the world trying to interact. Without an agreement on how to meaningfully and seamlessly do that, the value of it goes down, which means that by doing what it did with HTML, Microsoft devalued the Web for everyone else, while enhancing its own market position. Just a few little extensions, and gotcha.

Think that's ancient history? W3C has a validation service, where you can go this very day and check your HTML for errors. Here's the W3C's validation report on "Failed validation, 68 errors....This page is not valid HTML 4.0 Transitional". There are more than 68 errors, but some are duplicative. Is it because Microsoft doesn't know how to write HTML? They joined W3C. They know how. They don't care.

Here's another example, the report on another Microsoft page, one from their XML Development Center ("The language of information interchange"), with Ray Ozzie's name on it, on their RSS specification "Simple Sharing Extensions for RSS and OPML," at "Failed validation, 97 errors. . . . This page is not valid HTML 4.0 Transitional." Well, W3C should know.

By the way Microsoft's copyrights in this specification were licensed with fanfare under a liberal Creative Commons license, which drew praise from some, but skepticism from others.

So, ironically enough, Microsoft presents information on its RSS "sharing extensions" using HTML that can't pass W3C's HTML validation. That worries some people, as do the "extensions" to RSS.

Why does it matter? What happens if your HTML doesn't validate properly? I'll let W3C explain:

What is Markup Validation?

Most pages on the World Wide Web are written in computer languages (such as HTML) that allow Web authors to structure text, add multimedia content, and specify what appearance, or style, the result should have.

As for every language, these have their own grammar, vocabulary and syntax, and every document written with these computer languages are supposed to follow these rules. The (X)HTML languages, for all versions up to XHTML 1.1, are using machine-readable grammars called DTDs, a mechanism inherited from SGML.

However, just as texts in a natural language can include spelling or grammar errors, documents using Markup languages may (for various reasons) not be following these rules. The process of verifying whether a document actually follows the rules for the language(s) it uses is called validation, and the tool used for that is a validator. A document that passes this process with success is called valid.

With these concepts in mind, we can define "markup validation" as the process of checking a Web document against the grammar (generally a DTD) it claims to be using....

Is validity the same thing as conformance?

No, they are different concepts.

Markup languages are defined in technical specifications, which generally include a formal grammar. A document is valid when it is correctly written in accordance to the formal grammar, whereas conformance relates to the specification itself. The two might be equivalent, but in most cases, some conformance requirements can not be expressed in the grammar, making validity only a part of the conformance....

Why should I validate my HTML pages?

One of the important maxims of computer programming is: Be conservative in what you produce; be liberal in what you accept.

Browsers follow the second half of this maxim by accepting Web pages and trying to display them even if they're not legal HTML. Usually this means that the browser will try to make educated guesses about what you probably meant. The problem is that different browsers (or even different versions of the same browser) will make different guesses about the same illegal construct; worse, if your HTML is really pathological, the browser could get hopelessly confused and produce a mangled mess, or even crash.

That is, of course, what happens to browsers that compete with Microsoft when they try to display pages written in Microsoft's proprietarily-twisted HTML. Users who don't know that it is Microsoft's HTML causing the problem are likely to think it's their browswer's fault, and switch to IE, imagining it's "better". You think it is deliberate?

Or remember what happened to WordPerfect? You can read about it in the current Novell v. Microsoft antitrust litigation. Here's Novell's complaint, and here's just a small part of what they are alleging:

55. A top Microsoft executive wrote that Microsoft should "smile" at Novell, falsely signifying Microsoft's willingness to help the two companies' common customers integrate their various products, while actuaIly "pulling the trigger" and killing Novell. Indeed, Microsoft's Chairman and CEO, Bill Gates, instructed his executives to develop plans to retaliate against Novell for its cooperation with the government authorities investigating Microsoft. As explained below, Microsoft fulfilled these instructions by withholding technical information about the ever-changing functions of Windows, including the integrated browsing functions in Windows 95, and by excluding Novell's office productivity applications from the major channels of distribution and other potential platforms....

71. During the development of Windows 95, Microsoft's executives schemed to integrate the browsing functions into Windows 95 in a manner designed to cause the maximum possible damage to competitors. ... For instance, Microsoft intentionally made the use of any browsing technology other than Microsoft's browser a "jolting experience" for its own Windows customers, solely to create the false impression that other browsers were not effective. ...

72. As a result of Microsoft's integration of the browsing functions into Windows, ISVs needed documentation of the browsing extensions to design their applications to perform the most basic file management functions. Microsoft initially documented the browsing extensions in the beta releases of Windows 95 and otherwise appeared to cooperate with ISVs in developing applications for release with Windows 95....

73. Microsoft "evangelized" the benefits of using the browsing extensions. In the early stages of developing WordPerfect for Windows 95, Novell thus devoted significant resources to ensuring compatibility with and otherwise exploiting the benefits of Windows' integrated browsing functions. Further, as encouraged by Microsoft, Novell expended additional resources to expand upon the extensions, providing still greater functionality for its own customers and potentially for other ISVs and their customers. ....

74. In an e-mail dated October 3, 1994, however, Bill Gates ordered his top executives to retract the documentation of the browsing extensions, but only until Microsoft's own developers of the Office suite of applications had sufficient time to work with the hidden extensions to build an insurmountable advantage over competitors such as WordPerfect. Gates further explained that without this advantage, Office could not compete with the major ISVs.

75. In public test versions of Windows 95 released a few months before the final product shipped to consumers, ripped out these programming interfaces without warning to Novell. After Microsoft withdrew the documentation of the browsing extensions, Novell was suddenly unable to provide basic file management functions in WordPerfect; in many instances, a user literally could not open a document he previously created and saved. Indeed, WordPerfect could no longer use the functions that Novell had innovated atop the extensions, while Microsoft Word could still take advantage of such innovations.

76. When Novell asked Microsoft why it removed the Explorer interfaces and browsing extensions, Microsoft claimed that it did not have the time and resources to complete their development. But in fact, the Explorer interfaces and browsing extensions had been complete and functional before Microsoft removed them. ...

77. Thereafter, when Microsoft released Windows 95 and Office 95, at virtually the same time, Microsoft suddenly reversed course and documented the programming interfaces. Doing so voided the alternatives that Microsoft previously forced Novell to expend an entire year developing and, at the precise moment when WordPerfect needed to enter the market, forced Novell to spend additional time designing basic functions of WordPerfect all over again. . . .

83. In addition to withholding technical information, Microsoft created and controlled new "industry" standards and established unjustified certification requirements to delay the release of Novell's applications and to impair their performance for Novell's customers.

84. First, as discussed above, Microsoft excluded from the markets the "OpenDoc" technology for sharing information among applications, by using its monopoly power to force a different standard upon the industry. . . .

85. Microsoft responded to this competitive threat by preventing CIL from making OpenDoc compatible with Windows 95. For example, Microsoft routinely required all ISVs to execute nondisclosure agreements as a condition of receiving the information they needed to develop their applications. These agreements, however, contained terms that uniquely targeted ISVs who were members of CIL, by preventing their employees who worked on OpenDoc from receiving Windows 95 betas or specifications, which effectively prevented CIL from initially developing OpenDoc for Windows 95. In addition, Microsoft required ISVs working with a Windows 95 beta to agree that they would not work on OpenDoc for two years. While Microsoft eventually dropped this requirement, its impact had immediate anticompetitive effects on OpenDoc's development.

86. Further, Microsoft unilaterally announced that OLE would be incorporated directly into Windows, instead of existing independently of the operating system as a technology to be adopted or rejected by ISVs, depending on their assessments of its technical merit. Microsoft then required OLE-compatibility as a condition of Microsoft's certification of an application's compatibility with Windows 95. This certification requirement was a significant barrier to entry into the applications markets, because Microsoft represented to the industry that any application lacking the certification could not be trusted to run on Windows 95. By exploiting this barrier to entry, Microsoft forced ISVs to make their applications OLE-compatible. Furthermore, Microsoft ensured that only applications using its tools, and not those of its competitors, would reach customers. This anticompetitive behavior by Microsoft is similar to the behavior described in the Government Suit with respect to Microsoft's efforts to force ISVs to use Microsoft's implementation of Java. "Specifically, in the First Wave agreements that it signed with dozens of ISVs in 1997 and 1998, Microsoft conditioned early Windows 98 and Windows NT betas, other technical information, and the right to use certain Microsoft seals of approval on the agreement of those ISVs to use Microsoft's version of the Windows [Java virtual machines] as the 'default.'" Findings of Fact ¶401.

87. There was no valid technical or business reason for requiring OLE- compatibility as a condition of the Windows 95 certification; OpenDoc was even more capable of providing the same linking and embedding functions, and in the absence of the certification requirement and other anticompetitive acts, OpenDoc and OLE would have continued to compete on their technical merits. Indeed, Microsoft initially announced that applications using OpenDoc would be deemed OLE-compatible, and would receive Microsoft's certification for Windows 95, because OpenDoc was a "superset" of OLE, meaning it provided every function of OLE, and more. Later, after Novell, other ISVs and CIL were far advanced in their efforts to develop and use OpenDoc, Microsoft announced that applications using OpenDoc would not receive automatic certification, and might not receive certification at all.

88. Seeing that Microsoft's anticompetitive acts would ensure the demise of OpenDoc, ISVs were left with no choice but to adopt Microsoft's proprietary OLE protocol as the de facto industry standard for linking and embedding. Even after making OLE the industry standard, however, Microsoft still withheld specifications and final, debugged versions of OLE until after Microsoft released its competing applications. Microsoft's anticompetitive acts concerning OLE further increased the "time-to-market" lead that Microsoft's office productivity applications unlawfully achieved over Novell's applications.

89. Second, Microsoft required office productivity applications seeking Windows 95 certification to be compatible with the very different Windows NT, which is an operating system for larger and more powerful computers that are used as "servers" to link numerous PCs (and peripherals) across an organization into a network. There was no justification for this requirement. Further, Windows 95 and Windows NT were so dissimilar that an application running on one system could not run on the other without substantial modification. Novell expended significant development resources to make its applications compatible with Windows NT, resulting in further delay in the release of Novell's applications for Windows 95.

90. Third, Microsoft unilaterally made the proprietary Rich Text Format ("RTF") of Microsoft Word the standard file format for text-based documents in applications developed for Windows. Upon capturing the standard, Microsoft strategically withheld the specification to injure competitors, including Novell.

So, as you can see, any announcement from Microsoft about standards comes in a context. Do you see why some are saying that there must be no proprietary extensions in Microsoft's XML?

Or let's go back in time a bit and read the Caldera Statement of Facts in the DR DOS case, the section called FUD Drip Feed. That case settled prior to a court ruling, so keep that in mind as you read, but it was settled with money from Microsoft going to Caldera. A lot of money. You can read in the document numerous allegations of tricks Microsoft employed to make sure its competition was always a dollar short and a day late, such as by not providing them betas to work with in a timely manner. And here's one of my favorite paragraphs:

32. The "death spiral" is somewhat of a term of art at Microsoft. On October 18, 1991, Mike Maples enquired of several executives: "I would like to ask you to invest half a day with me following Comdex. What I would like to brainstorm is how to push Excel over the top and Lotus out of business." To which Silverberg replied: "I'd be glad to help tilt lotus into the death spiral. I could do it friday afternoon but not saturday."... At a management conference in June 1992, one of the "6 Core Strategies to build share" included "Drive competitors into a death spiral," complete with objectives and tactics. ... Ironically, other discussion there focused on "Our Image" and how to overcome the industry perception of "Microslop," "Microshaft," and "Microsleaze."

Microsoft is not known for peaceful coexistence. So, you will have to forgive us if some of us are allergic to Microsoft promises of cooperation and openness. There is some history here.

Let's end with Tim Bray, who asks the obvious question ("Why Should There Be Two?") and has a very sensible suggestion:

The ideal outcome would be a common shared office-XML dialect for the basics -- and it should be ODF (or a subset), since that’s been designed and debugged -- then another extended vocabulary to support Microsoft features, whether they’re cool new whizzy features or mouldy old legacy features (XML Namespaces are designed to support exactly this kind of thing). That way, if you stayed with the basic stuff you’d never need to worry about software lock-in; the difference between portable and proprietary would be crystal-clear. And, for the basic stuff that everybody uses, there’d be only one set of tags.

This outcome is technically feasible. Who could possibly be against it?


Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards | 298 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: ankylosaurus on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:45 AM EST
If any are needed. Please identify the problem in the title. For simple ones,
a note such as "mitsake --> mistake" in the title works wonders.

The Dinosaur with a Club at the End of its Tail

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Thread
Authored by: MathFox on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:49 AM EST
Other Legal and Open Source news here.

If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In defense of Microsoft
Authored by: MathFox on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:53 AM EST
Please state your affiliation with Microsoft, no chair throwing!

If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Agreement Violation
Authored by: Jeff on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:58 AM EST
It seems to me that Microsoft is violating their antitrust agreement with the
government. It will be interesting to see if anything is done about it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Groklaw encoding
Authored by: jiri on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 11:10 AM EST
Speaking of Microsoft extensions, Groklaw webpages are labelled as using the
standard ISO-8859-1 encoding - but frequently (particularly in quoted text) use
Microsoft's extensions. In this article, for instance, this afflicts the
penultimate paragraph ("The ideal outcome ...") - the apostrophes and
em-dashes are shown as "invalid character" in standards-compliant
browsers (or, worse still, disappear altogether, leaving behind mis-punctuated

Microsoft calls the feature that inserts these invalid characters "smart

Could groklaw either (a) stick with the ISO standard without extensions :-) or
(b) label its pages as having the windows-1252 encoding, please?


Please e-mail me if you reply, I usually read with "No comments".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Split Microsoft now!
Authored by: lordshipmayhem on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 11:17 AM EST
In most industries, the companies involved have to try to offer more value than
the competition. The result is lower prices and/or higher quality for the
consumer. Think cars, or vacuum cleaners.

In the computer industry, Microsoft has managed to create a situation where they
do not try to make products that work better, they try to make products that
refuse to allow you to work with the competition. They have succeeded so far
only because there is an economic "tie" for them between the operating
system they produce and the applications they put on top of that. It is as if
Ford owned the road. Ford vehicles would be compatible with Ford roads, why
would you want to buy another company's less-compliant, more-crash-prone

It is well past time when Microsoft was forced to break into at least two
companies by hiving off the operating system from everything else: Explorer,
Office, hardware, games. The OS division would no longer be able to produce
application software, and the application division remaining in the old company
would no longer be able to count on being tied to the Windows OS. That would be
the best solution for all consumers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Look at Grodoc for more examples
Authored by: Winter on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 11:49 AM EST

Look at the GrokDoc pages Microsof t's Standards History and Dirty Tricks history for more examples. Also a lot on EO OXML.

Please add your peronal experiences/knowledge.


Some say the sun rises in the east, some say it rises in the west; the truth lies probably somewhere in between.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Validation report on Groklaw home page
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 11:52 AM EST
Here's the W3C's validation report on "Failed validation, 68 errors....This page is not valid HTML 4.0 Transitional".

Here's the W3C's validation report on "Failed validation, 216 errors....This page is not valid HTML 4.0 Transitional"

I know, Groklaw isn't a member of the W3C, but you'll rarely find an HTML page that passes validation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This part doesn't make sense
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 12:12 PM EST
This part doesn't make sense:
75. In public test versions of Windows 95 released a few months before the final product shipped to consumers, ripped out these programming interfaces without warning to Novell. After Microsoft withdrew the documentation of the browsing extensions, Novell was suddenly unable to provide basic file management functions in WordPerfect; [...]
Did Microsoft withdraw the interfaces or the documentation? Withdrawing documentation has no effect on the use of the documented software, except to make it more difficult to write more software to the interface. This implies that Microsoft actually withdrew the interfaces themselves. But, later, the text again states that it was the documentation at stake:
77. Thereafter, when Microsoft released Windows 95 and Office 95, at virtually the same time, Microsoft suddenly reversed course and documented the programming interfaces.
I really think that lawyers should get technical people to review what they write, if they want to make any sense about technical matters.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This sounds familiar.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 02:26 PM EST
"To grow their featurebase, Linux has also liberally stolen features of
other UNIX's (shell features, file systems,
graphics,CPU ports)

From page 16. PX06501.pdf

It would seem from this that they do not understand even the concept of open

[ Reply to This | # ]

They defeat their own IP argument
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 03:05 PM EST
"...Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS
has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and
therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat..."

Despite M$ constantly complaining that software patents and strong 'patent
protection' (read 'legal extortion') are essential to fostering innovation,
doesn't that line say exactly the opposite?

I read it as "OSS can innovate faster, which is attractive to developers,
and our locked-down proprietary model cannot compete."

[ Reply to This | # ]

For those who still don't believe
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 04:16 PM EST

I know a guy who designs compilers for a living. He was working for a Microsoft
competitor in 94-95 and told me about the problems his company had with Windows
95 - the biggest problem was that not only could they not get documentation on
it, they couldn't even get a Beta copy to test on!

It wasn't just Novell that suffered, and no I won't name the company, I'd rather
leave Microsoft confused.

And for those who don't know - Microsoft considers Groklaw subversive, and
several Microsoft employees are charged with monitoring Groklaw for
objectionable content. I suspect that some of the trolling we've seen recently
is from them.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards
Authored by: billposer on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 04:34 PM EST

I don't have time to go through all the files, but I do have a little program that could help. AscifyMSLatin is a little Python program that converts the non-ASCII punctuation from MS Codepages 1250 and 1252 to ASCII equivalents and strips any other non-ASCII characters.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards
Authored by: gbl on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 05:16 PM EST
We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company.

We don't care. We don't have to. We're Microsoft.

Microsoft is the AT&T of the 21st century. The company is now so big and powerful they believe that the normal business rules no longer apply. They are wrong. Historically, huge free market monopolies fail. Either because they ignore outside events, or spend so much energy dealing with internal wars that the company just dies from neglect. MS suffers from both problems.

A group of people are attempting to get a new open computer architecture off the ground using the openSPARC cpu design. Because they will have a clean slate they will not have to license anything from anybody and a basic motherboard might cost as little as $200 using standard off-the-shelf components. Open hardware could be the disruptive technology that upsets a company like MS which is apparently unable to deal with any computer architecture other than the traditional PC.

This may seem to be a pointless project, but when Microsoft is making a bid to control PC hardware via their DRM schemes and "accidently" lock out other operating systems, it is important that alternatives are available. For years open developers have concentrated on software because it is cheap and easy, hopefully now developers will have a chance to do the same with hardware.

If you love some code, set it free.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"death spiral"
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 08:02 PM EST
The term "death spiral" is commonly used to describe a product which
has lost its market position and cannot recover from the increasing costs of
smaller market share.

I first encountered it in insurance, related to risk pools where increased
premiums caused by loses lead those insured able to do so to seek other
coverage, leaving behind a smaller pool of high risk insured unable to find
other coverage, causing even greater increases in premiums.

This is very common in health insurance.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards
Authored by: jsusanka on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 09:57 PM EST
I truly believe that microsoft has held the computer age back years because of
their shenanigans - I hope corporations start to realize this when they chose
microosft as the desktop standard. there is nothing standard about their
and anybody who writes internet explorer only web pages or recommends the
writing of internet explorer web pages should seriously consider a career

[ Reply to This | # ]

At least two MS employees I'd hire
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:06 PM EST
If you look at one email exchange, Dennis Adler looks like he understands the
situation, and does not appreciate lies. It is nice to be around people like
that. Bill Miller looks pretty good as well.

It sure does look as though the corruption starts at the top. I hope the Bill
and M foundation better do a lot of good... but it will never cover up the sins
of Bill(and lives that he has destroyed). (Kinda like a Mafia Don giving a
thousand to the RC Church)

John Jamieson

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... intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange ... long term developer mindshare threat
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:35 PM EST

"Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has
benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore
present a long term developer mindshare threat."

There are people who really talk like this ... and worse there are other people
who actually understand what they're saying.

Be afraid for the human race. Be very very afraid! [grin]

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Halloween Memo I Confirmed and Microsoft's History on Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 10:40 PM EST
That's not what the MS example was about.

As I said, it's a valid criticism of MS, just not against the example given.

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Illegal, immoral and it makes 'em fat
Authored by: Ian Al on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:23 AM EST
There was another comment to which I almost replied which said that it was the
role of business to make as much money for their shareholders as they can whilst
staying just the right side of the law (or, not getting caught on the wrong

I don't think that's true. There are people who follow those same general
guidelines for their own enrichment rather than the benefit of those who
contributed to their lives. Most people want to do well in financial and
lifestyle terms, but also want to care for the environment, the next person, the
folk who provide their goods and services, other peoples' childrens' futures and
the wellbeing of life on earth.

I seem to remember that, in America, a company is considered to have some of the
attributes of a citizen under the law. A good business is a good citizen.
Microsoft represents the unacceptable face of business citizenship.

Ian Al

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In (minor) defense of Microsoft...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:46 PM EST
Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users.

I don't believe that this is as bad as PJ says it is.

For example, Microsoft could come up with some new service that their OS could run. It would use a proprietary protocol to do some shiny new thing, listening on some port. Well, if they use standard TCP/IP to carry the bits, and they don't use an already-used port, what's the problem? (And if they don't bundle it with the OS, and if there isn't already a standard for what they are doing that they corrupt, and a bunch of other ifs...)

The example given later in the paragraph I quoted is an instance of this. They are talking implementing something new with HTTP as the transport, and not corrupting HTTP to do it. I know, it's Microsoft, they say that they won't corrupt HTTP, and they won't, right up until they do. But if they really do what they say in this paragraph, what's the harm? They didn't embrace and extend. They didn't follow a standard because there isn't one for what they're trying to do. (They probably would still bundle it, but for purposes of this discussion, that's not the point.)

So why do they need to do this? Because they're a pretty expensive company, and to pay for all of it, they need to make a lot of money, and they can see that (monopoly tricks aside) they need to find new, non-commodity things to do in order to keep the money coming in. Standards make for commodity software. That's a win for consumers. For a software company that's used to high margins, it's a problem. So, the paragraph says, Microsoft needs to not just do standardized things. They need to build new things on top of the standards. And I think that's fine. It's one of the things that standards are for - to give you a set of parts that you can use to build new things.

In my view, Microsoft behaves in horribly anticompetitive ways. But this paragraph, taken by itself, doesn't call for such behavior.


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"above" as in OSI model
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 09:54 PM EST
I think to understand Microsoft's quoted explanation about extending standard protocols, one needs to think of the abstract layer model for computer networking. The favorite theoretical model, though not a terribly good fit for how the internet actually works, is the OSI model. In this model, there are seven different layers, each of which builds upon the previous one. At the bottom, there is the "physical layer", describing raw electrical interconnections. Above this is the "data link layer", defining low level form of network device communication. Above this layer is "network layer", defining data packets and routing. It goes on this way, with each layer utilising the lower layers as a sort of black box providing certain needed features -- read the linked wikipedia article for details.

I think it is clear that when Microsoft says

Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users.

the word "above" is intended to be in the context of such a layered architecture. What they are claiming is that when they talk about "extending" the standard protocols, they mean adding a proprietary layer on top of the standardized lower levels. As such, this is not an attack on the standardized layers. This is just making use of the standardized layers to carry out a novel activity at a higher level.

That said, I think Microsoft's claimed explanation is false -- what they meant in the Halloween memo is the nefarious "embrace and extend" that PJ discusses. Their later explanation is a prevarication to try to give a more innocent meaning to the original statement.

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It is obvious the remedy hasn't worked.
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 09:47 AM EST
The problem is Microsoft is still abusing it's monopoly. If the remedy didn't
work, why can't DOJ break up Microsoft, or is Microsoft free to continue
abusing it's monopoly for life?

Break up Microsoft into an OS company, an applications company, and a games and
TV company and that will stop Microsoft imposing it's Microsoft tax on it's
monopoly areas and using them to extend the monopoly to other areas like
leveraging the OS to sell MS Office and IE, or using it's MSOffice and MS
Windows tax to subsidise it's loss making gaming, phone and CE devices and
Internet/search divisions, or leveraging bundled client applications like IE to
extend it's monopoly to it's server division.

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HTML validation
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 10:24 AM EST
Last week, people who tried to visit with a non-Microsoft browser found themselves locked out. Although Microsoft's own Internet Explorer easily accessed the popular site, other browsers--such as Opera, Mozilla, Amaya and some versions of Netscape--received error messages and recommended that people "upgrade" to Internet Explorer.

I was just wondering - instead of allowing Microsoft to simply tell browser users to update to IE and mislead users into thinking that the browser is faulty when it is the site that is faulty, wouldn't it be better to give a more accurate feedback. For example the browser could explain that the website author has set up the site to reject your browser with the following message: "We recommend that you upgrade to Internet Explorer".

Similarly, if the site has non-conforming HTML, the browser should "this site has faulty HTML code which does not comply with W3C Internet standard HTML - you may wish to report this to the webmaster." scrolling in the bottom panel.

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  • OK here - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 03:45 PM EST
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