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Survey Says: "MS OK", but Dr. John is not convinced  by Dr John
  A recent survey found that 67% of the Americans polled had a favorable view of Microsoft.  It's too bad the question was so vague, I'd like to know if that same percentage trusts Microsoft without any reservations.  In general, the coverage of the court findings in the Microsoft case have not mentioned any of the facts that led Judge Jackson to rule against Microsoft.  So I thought it might be a good idea to go over some of the specific allegations against Microsoft that have been ignored in most discussions. Rather than going through them all, and there are plenty, I'll concentrate most on Microsoft's campaign to squash an one of their competitors in the early 1990's, Digital Research Inc.

  To set the scene, I'd like to take a stroll down memory lane.  As someone who lived through this seemingly early phase in computer history, I am recalling this from memory, so bear with me.  Back in the days when computers were not rated solely by MHz, but also by which Intel processor they had in them, a single office might have "286", "386" and "486" computers in them all at the same time.  Windows 2.something was out, and it ran on top of DOS 4.  At that time, basically the early 1990's, Windows was not a clear standard operating system.  However, it was a step in the right direction, and it ran neatly on top of DOS (disk operating system), which was the operating system that all PCs used back then.  IBM had a faltering version of DOS (IBM DOS), Microsoft has it's version (MS DOS), and a new star on the scene, Digital Research Inc., had come up with a new and improved version of DOS, known as DR DOS. 

  The problem with DOS back then was the infamous 640Kb memory barrier, and how to use extended or expanded memory for applications larger than 640Kb. There was a heck of a lot of idle memory in PCs at that time, and people were looking for ways to use that extra memory, other than setting up a "RAM-drive".  Digital Research was about to release a new version of DOS, "DR DOS 6", and Microsoft was very worried.

  According to Microsoft's own documents and internal email messages, DR DOS 5 was a superior product to their own upcoming "MS DOS 5", it was cheaper, and it would be out first.  At that point, they began a campaign to flood the information channels with hype about MS DOS 5, and how it had advanced memory management, and was superior to all other products.  This is standard business practice, but what followed, as outlined in Microsoft's own internal documents and memos, went far beyond that.  

  Microsoft released MS DOS 5 in 1991 and Windows 3.1 in 1992.  They were both big hits.  DR DOS 6 was coming out, and was considered a superior product by many power users, and sold well. Then owners of DR DOS started getting error messages when they tried to install Windows 3.1 on their systems. It turns out that the developers of Windows were instructed to "make sure DR DOS has problems with Windows".  

  The following are selected Microsoft emails that were entered into evidence in the trial.

Microsoft's David Cole emailed Phil Barrett on September 30 1991: "It's pretty clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an OEM version of it," and "The approach we will take is to detect DR DOS 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like 'Invalid device driver interface."

Microsoft had several methods of detecting and sabotaging DR-DOS with Windows. One was to have Smartdrive detect DR-DOS and refused to load it for Windows 3.1.  There was also a version check in XMS in the Windows 3.1 setup program which produced the message: "The XMS driver you have installed is not compatible with Windows. You must remove it before setup can successfully install Windows." This was not true, but rather, was an attempt to undermine the competition.

Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who had been responsible for Windows 95, emailed Jim Allchin (now Senior Vice President of MS) on September 27th 1991: "after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it's a small step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don't know precisely what ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the future." 

Jim Allchin replied: "You should make sure it has problems in the future. :-)".

Andy Hill emailed David Cole, Windows group manager: "Janine has brought up some good questions on how we handle the error messages that the users will get if they aren't using MS-DOS. The beta testers will ask questions. How should the techs respond: Ignorance, the truth, other? This will no doubt raise a stir on Compuserve. We should either be proactive and post something up there now, or have a response already constructed so we can flash it up there as soon as the issue arises so we can nip it in the bud before we have a typical CIS snow-ball mutiny."

Cole replied to Hill: "Let's plead ignorance for a while. We need to figure out our overall strategy for this. I'm surprised people aren't flaming yet, maybe they won't." Cole also sent an email to Silverberg suggesting a less severe message be used when DR DOS was detected: "A kind-gentle message in setup would probably not offend anyone and probably won't get the press up in arms, but I don't think it serves much of a warning. BillP made an excellent point, what is the guy supposed to do? With a TSR, the solution is to just remove it. With DR-DOS, or any others, I doubt the user is in a position of changing. He will no doubt continue to install. When he finds problems, he will call PSS. We will get a lot of calls from DR-DOS users."

"Perhaps a message in the phone system for Windows. It would say something like 'if you are not using MS-DOS or an OEM version of MS-DOS, then press ##'. Then give them the message." Silverberg replied: "What the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out to buy ms-dos. or decide to not take the risk for the other machines he has to buy for in the office." 

  These interoffice emails indicate that Microsoft has nothing but disdain for their customers.  Market share is everything.

  By the way, I pulled out my old copy of Windows 3.1 just to see what is says on the box.  Sure enough, under "system requirements" it says right at the top of the list, and I quote: "MS-DOS operating system 3.1 or later (MS-DOS 5.0 or later recommended)." The emphasis is mine.

  The campaign against all competitors continued with the integration of Windows 4 and DOS 7 into a single Operating system in the mid 1990's.  Thus, Windows 95 was born, not because it was what Microsoft wanted to do, but because it would insure that MS DOS was the only viable product left on the market.  Everyone who ever checked the designation of their Operating System after loading Windows 95 knows that it said DOS 7 was running under the new Window's interface.

  Microsoft continued this tradition when they bundled Internet Explorer 4.0 for free with Windows 98, to crush Netscape.  They made the excuse that it improved functionality, when all reviews of the situation have shown that IE was not part of the Operating System, that it slowed system performance, made using other browsers difficult, and made the system less secure from web-based intrusion.  Clearly the only "improvement" was that customers got a free Browser, whether they wanted it or not.

  The number of examples of Microsoft's poor business practices is enormous.  Microsoft threatened the makers of a new web authoring tool "Front Page" that if they would not sell the company to Microsoft, then Microsoft would make a competing product and bundle it with MS Office.  Front Page was sold to Microsoft.  We all know that Microsoft has been trying to sabotage Java from Sun Microsystems for some time.

  Bill Gates just can't seem to stop saying he just wants the "Freedom to Innovate".  But the reason the Department of Justice brought this anti-trust case is that Microsoft is a monopoly, and they used their position in the market to unfairly harm competitors and consumers.  It's clear that making fake error messages appear when a competitors product is detected is not a good thing for consumers.  

  Bill Gates and Microsoft are still in denial.  They are not used to loosing any kind of fight, and I don't think they realize yet that they got found out, and they won't dodge this bullet. The blame for Microsoft's behavior as a company can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Bill Gates.  The entire company's mind set is directed from the top, and Bill Gates has shown time and again that he will do anything to anyone to gain more power and wealth.  It's too bad we don't have a mature-minded person running the world's largest software company.

  The court should announce by February what it intends to do.  If Microsoft's more rational inhabitants rule out, they will settle quickly to stop the bad press ASAP.

To learn more about the rulings against Microsoft, go here: FINDING OF FACT 

                      Dr. John

copyright 1999 KickAss Gear