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March 30, 1999

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Subject: Re: Effects of a breakup.
Author: dhduvall

If MS is broken up into different product companies, competitors to MS will not gain any relief. MS's dominance in Office systems does not depend upon owning Windows (see Mac).

There's a point here I think you're missing. MS's dominance or attempted dominance in applications software (Office, MSIE, Money) is strongly helped by their ownership of the operating system as well.

In fact, the case the DOJ originally brought against MS on behalf of Netscape would never have been an issue.

Consider:

Microsoft feels a need to enter the browser market. This is good, because Netscape has a virtual stranglehold, and has gotten a bit arrogant in its position. Consumers benefit from the extra choice, MS and its investors benefit from the increase in revenue (had MS decided to sell it).

"In fact, MS does such a hurried and hackish job of the integration that they cement it in. One of the tenets of good programming is modularity, something that is definitely lacking here."

Now, because MS owns the OS on which MSIE runs (forgetting the later-conceived ports to MacOS and Linux), it can do some nifty things that Netscape can't -- namely, `integration' with the desktop. Because the programming interface to the desktop is propietary, Netscape can't rewrite their browser to be a `Desktop Navigator' in the same way that MSIE can be -- MS won't let them.

In fact, MS does such a hurried and hackish job of the integration that they cement it in. One of the tenets of good programming is modularity, something that is definitely lacking here. Windows is now unable to function well without MSIE because much of MSIE's code was stuck directly into the core OS (or windowing system), rather than interfacing to it through a properly abstracted API layer.

Had the integration been done properly, an API would have been developed for other programmers to do something similar. Netscape would then have been able to license the API (I don't expect MS to do anything as Foolish as making their APIs either open or free) and write the appropriate extensions to Navigator.

"Why didn't MS abstract out a Desktop navigation API? Well, if they don't, then they can claim that the browser is an integral part of the OS (superglue an oak branch onto a maple tree and say it's part of the same tree 'cause you can't get it off), and be completely unable to offer the ability to competitors to produce fully competing products."

Why didn't MS abstract out a Desktop navigation API? Well, if they don't, then they can claim that the browser is an integral part of the OS (superglue an oak branch onto a maple tree and say it's part of the same tree 'cause you can't get it off), and be completely unable to offer the ability to competitors to produce fully competing products. Which is pretty much what happened, and they got caught.

Now ... if Microsoft were multiple companies divided along technical lines, the story would probably be a bit different. No longer does the browser division have the internal details of the OS, nor does it have the ability to change them to suit their needs. Now, like any other company would, they have to go to the OS division and present their idea.

Of course, you could still end up with the two separate companies in bed with each other, studying and modifying each other's private parts. But the more efficient way would be to work together to define a programming interface. An API that others could also use.

You get a product which is better designed and thus less prone to crashing and more easily enhanced. Consumers start to buy the product, not because they have to, but because they actually like it. MS does more business by selling more units and by charging licensing fees to companies who want to use their APIs. Investors go along for the ride.

There are similar stories with many of MS's applications products, though this is by far the most blatant example.

I hope that addresses your concerns, at least in that section of your posting (assuming anyone can actually get all the way to the end ;-).