Editor 23-Feb-03 - rev 12-Oct-03
2003 And Beyond

Technology trends that will affect your business and how you do business.
Warning: very little of the following is speculation.
Most of it has already been announced and is being implemented.

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Index

Services

2-Jun-02
You've got Klez!

13-Apr-02
MS Office .NET

28-Jan-02
The DoJ Settlement

04-Aug-01
Tech Stocks Tank

04-Aug-01
MS Guns for Intuit

04-Aug-01
.Net Gains Speed

15-Jul-01
Court of Appeals: Guilty!

13-Jul-01
Back in Operation

09-Feb-01
Software Licensing

15-Jan-01
Is Linux for Your Business?

1-Jan-01
Predictions

25-Dec-00
Microsoft Invades Accounting

21-Dec-00
.Net Takes Shape

24-Nov-00
The Next Windows

08-Oct-00
Winds of Change

23-Jun-00
Microsoft .Net

10-Jun-00
Microsoft strikes out at Linux

7-Jun-00
Tried, Guilty, Sentenced

28-May-00
OS/2 Finally Dead

11-May-00
The ILOVEYOU Worm

6-Apr-00
What's to be done with Microsoft

25-Mar-00
Our Web comes alive again

Big corporate executives expect to be off pillaging some other company in just months, but you, the small business manager, need to plan 5, even 10 years out - because you'll likely still be managing the same business.

Most small business information systems weren't planned - they just got plugged in to do specific jobs - but in today's increasingly competitive markets, that isn't enough. Carefully planning an information strategy is critical when your competition is worldwide.

This article is a guide to trends already in full motion and well known by technology specialists, but far from obvious to most business managers. I can't tell you what to do about them without studying your particular business, but it will cast some light on what you should be looking at.

Much of this article deals specifically with Microsoft and Microsoft's future. This is inescapable, because Microsoft is a huge part of the information industry - and aspires to being all of it.

Throughout this work are numerous references to substantial articles from major on-line and print sources, so you can see I'm not just blowing smoke - I'm talking about real trends well known in the industry .



The Information Technology Industry

The Technology Industry is currently in a deep slump, and will come back slowly and very selectively. PC manufacturers and most PC software publishers will not be among those recovering.

Corporate technology spending is expected to increase only marginally during 2003. A good part of that increase will be consumed by increased license costs for Microsoft products and will do little for the rest of the industry.

Much of the recovery will be led by the critical small business market (the bulk of business and employment in the U.S.), and that's a problem for big technology companies. Every time the corporate market slumps, the big guys declare their new small business initiatives, which always fall flat and are abandoned the moment the corporate market starts to recover.

Small businesses are adopting technology rapidly, by necessity, but products and services for small businesses become ever more diverse and more customized in response to intense competition. That means companies that successfully serve small business must themselves be small and very flexible. This does not favor the well-known industry leaders.

A big factor dragging down many technology companies is the increasingly tight relationship between computers and the telecomunications industry, as even voice starts being carried as Internet traffic (VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol). The entire telecom industry, from top to bottom, is saturated with fraud, corruption, monopoly politics, heavy debt from unwise mergers and excess capacity. All this contributed to the current collapse, and will continue to affect big name network equipment makers like Lucent and Nortel, and even Cisco, through 2003.
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Investment in Technology

Technology stock prices will stay depressed through 2003, and will not approach the highs of the Dot.com boom any time soon - not until the next tulip craze comes along (oh, maybe 6 or 8 years). There will be solid, though highly selective, investment opportunities, along with significant risks, but for most investors, consumer industries will be less trouble and a lot safer.

Wireless data will be a fast growing field, but with few pure plays. Wireless equipment will mostly be side lines by the same network equipment companies wired network equipment is made by, and you know they're depressed for a while.

Keep in mind that "Telecom = Fraud", so avoid anything that has to do with telephones and phone lines unless you think you're sharp enough to play with the big guys who get paid to invent and perpetrate those frauds. Better to invest in wildcat oil wells.

Internet Technologies, "Web Services", are another major growth area, but this field pretty much already belongs to Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and other giants, as far as the corporate world is concerned.

Technology investors may start finding that participating directly in selected small businesses provides much better return than trading on the stock market, and will be a lot more productive for the economy. This is just about the only way to take advantage of the small business technology market.
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Employment

The technology employment picture has been completely transformed by the Internet. The large number of corporate jobs that used to absorb entry level tech workers are being exported to India, Russia, Poland, and other places with high education and low pay - and those jobs aren't coming back. The bigger the company, the more jobs they'll be exporting. Most manufacturing and assembly work has already been sent to the Orient.

Highly skilled jobs remain, and pay well, because basic design, prototyping and pilot production will still be done here, but even if you have skills, there are problems getting hired. Human Resources departments haven't one clue in Hell how to evaluate skilled technical workers. They try to match exact experience and training to exact job requirements, and demand 3 years experience for specialties that have only existed for 18 months. Thousands of technical jobs go unfilled, while thousands who could do those jobs are asking, "Do you want fries with that?".

If you're over 40, the technology employment picture becomes really grim. You have abilities far beyond a 28 year old's, but he's the one that's going to get hired. For over 40s, there are many opportunities in consulting, especially in small and medium business, but that takes social skills and above all, selling skills, exactly what many chose technical careers to avoid.

So what does all this mean to the small business manager? Simple - whether you're looking for a consultant or an employee, you have a large pool of experienced over 40 technology workers to choose from, and you won't have to compete tooth and nail with corporate employers. Look for a track record of flexibility, and let the corps pay for the young ones' experience.

Oh, if you do want to pursue a technical career - one word: XML. Actually, a bunch of words, because to use XML effectively, you are going to have to learn a lot about business processes and methods too, and that means talking to a lot of non technical people.
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The PC Industry

The PC industry was once thriving, driven by rapid innovation. It's now down and it's not coming back. Microsoft's monopoly enforces the "Uniform Windows Experience" to the extent innovation and product differentiation to attract new computer purchases are simply impossible, even compared to nameless "white box" products.

IBM wisely withdrew from the general desktop PC market, while Hewlett Packard and Compaq merged out of desperation. Dell alone thrives by being just an assembler, well tuned to commodity markets. The other majors are weighted down with design engineers and manufacturing facilities. The few remaining second tier vendors like Gateway are struggling and may fold, as Everex, AST, ALR, Packard Bell and others did in the last big shake-out.

All the major PC brands have moved to low end servers as their profit center, but the same "commoditization" is happening there. They all use the same Intel chips (because Windows won't run on anything else) and the same designs, and they all paint their boxes black. Essentially, they compete on price, which guarantees ever thinner profits. Meanwhile, Sun and IBM manufacture high end (non Windows) servers, which remain profitable.

"White Box" PCs by local builders are now the leading brand, having captured at least half the desktop market worldwide (I16), and now cutting into the low end server market. Declared dead by industry pundits a few years ago "White Box" has continued to grow its market share.

Why such success for the "no names"? To the "Local Brand" builder, PCs aren't a product, they're just part of a service offering, and that service is far beyond what the "Name Brands" could hope to offer. The quality is often higher, product consistency better, and if something does fail, it's usually fixed within hours with minimum hassle, often less time than you'd spend on the phone with HP or Dell..

With little possibility of regaining White Box territory, and unable to differentiate their products due to the "uniform Windows experience", name brand makers are locked in a pricing battle. Ever lower margins have forced them to cut heavily into customer support, and even Dell's once legendary support has been shaved to near worthlessness(I1). This makes them even more vulnerable to high support White Box products.

Competition for the business market may become even more intense, because I expect Microsoft branded "PCs" to take much of home market within a couple of years. There's already XBox, Home Gateway coming soon, and XBox 2 will be much more like a fully functional PC. A lot of other Microsoft branded hardware is appearing. Microsoft will use "security" and "Digital Rights Management" to force competitors out of the home market.

What does this all mean to the small business manager? It means the market has been turned upside down. If you want cheap, buy major brand computers. If you need support and effective service, buy your computers from a local service provider who provides White Box PCs and servers as part of his service offering.

Disclaimer: Automation Access builds servers and PCs as part of our services for customers, but market figures are from major industry publications.
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Peripherals

The peripherals business, led by printers, is in better shape than the PC industry, but there are significant downside risks, especially for HP (formerly Hewlett-Packard (I11)).

Dell, described by Sun's McNealy as a "grocery store that sells bananas as fast as it can", is master of commodity markets. Having already pushed PC giant HP into an ill-considered attempt to imitate Dell's marketing methods, now Dell is after the printer market too. They've signed a major deal with Lexmark to supply Dell branded printers and consumables. HP is very dependent on its profitable "imaging" business unit for income.

The threat to HP is not so much printers as consumables (ink and toner cartridges). Volume market printers are already sold at a loss, and the money is all made on overpriced consumables. Dell has stated they will be competing on the price of consumables (I4). Lexmark, the #2 printer manufacturer won't be impacted as much, as it will "make it up in volume" as Dell's major supplier. Lexmark already manufactures HP compatible toner cartridges, so the competition may go beyond just the Dell printer / consumables value package.

What does this mean to the small business manager? It means careful selection of products may soon yield significant savings in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of printers when consumables are taken into account.
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The Software Industry

The PC software industry is in the final days of being destroyed by Microsoft. Having leveraged a monopoly it was handed by IBM into multiple monopolies, with complete control over the PC manufacturers, and with an "Ethics? We've heard of it" attitude, Microsoft is preparing to drive the few remaining significant software publishers out of the Windows market.

Soon there will be Microsoft, Intuit, and Symantec. While Intuit will put up a strong fight, its popularity is not something Microsoft will tolerate for long. Revenue plans for Microsoft Great Plains do not allow for the existence of accounting software competitors. Microsoft will use Longhorn and .NET to bash and batter Intuit (see below). Symantec will continue because someone has to publish antivirus software, and it isn't going to be Microsoft (liability issues).

[UPDATE: oooops, my bad. On 10-June-03 Microsoft announced it was purchasing Romanian antivirus company GeCAD Software Srl, known for it's RAV anivirus product. GeCAD's RAV antivirus products will be discontinued and the technology will be integrated into the Microsoft Security Business Unit. Microsoft announced the aquisition would "help us support our antivirus partners". You can believe that if you'd like.

A bonus side effect for Microsoft is that RAV is the leading antivirus product for filtering email on Linux email servers. The RAV objective is not to protect Linux, but to protect Windows workstations accessing a Linux mail server, but anything that dings Linux makes Microsoft smile, even if the actual victims are Windows users.

This acquisition gives Microsoft a mature position in a subscription software business already accepted by users. Once it's integrated into their products, Microsoft can easily expand it to include other subscription services. This gives them exactly what they most desire, continuous income without the hassle of convincing you to buy unneeded upgrades.]

A few years ago, venture capitalists wouldn't fund a software startup if its product wasn't for Windows. Now they won't fund anything that runs on Windows either. Making a big splash and going public gave way to making a splash and selling out to Microsoft, but now Microsoft just tells companies, "Sell at our price or die", leaving little room for return on investment,

Ironically, the impossibility of commercial software competing against Microsoft's monopoly has spurred rapid growth in non-commercial software under the banner of open source. While much open source software runs on Windows, the majority runs on Linux, an operating system that is itself open source, thus available for free.

Linux has already taken big bites out of Microsoft's server sales and has blocked Windows from key accounts. Research firm IDC (the same firm Microsoft hired to "prove" Linux cost more than Windows) expects Microsoft's server market share to start to decline by the end of this year. Even more serious is the Linux threat to Microsoft's desktop monopoly, which becomes more credible by the month (I5).

Paradoxically, a strong open source alternative is the best hope for a revived commercial software industry. Much software needed by businesses is simply of no interest to open source developers. As Linux becomes a mainstream business operating system, the market for commercial software running on Linux expands.

The market for commercial software running on Linux is, however, a market for small companies to serve, and will not spawn a "new Microsoft". Microsoft has only two profitable products, Windows and Microsoft Office. open source equivalents of both are already free (Linux and OpenOffice) or very inexpensive (commercial Linux and StarOffice).

Microsoft sees the danger very clearly, and is already spending millions of dollars to fight open source, but their most effective weapons are ineffective against such low cost products that are available from many sources, none of which are dependent on Microsoft for their success.

What does all this mean to the small business manager? It means you need to start preparing now for the "All Microsoft" future - or start preparing now to move away from the Windows environment. This decision may look to you like a "no brainer" right now, but it shouldn't look at all easy by time you've finished this article.
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"The Internet"

The Internet is transport for a number of completely separate services (ftp, email, gopher, newsgroups, chat, dns, etc.), but to businesspeople, the Internet is "the Web" (World Wide Web service). Actually, they do use other services, but these are now integrated into the Web browser, so they appear to be part of the www service.

Web pages are rapidly becoming the essential master communications center for every business. For most businesses, the Web site will never produce income, directly, but will be critically important to generating revenue through established business methods.

A recent Sears study (I7) confirmed for retailers what the Internet industry has known for some time. Customers who use Sears' appliance Web site generally travel to stores to purchase, but when they get there it is to buy, not to shop. They've already used the Web site to research products, compare value and make buying decisions. I'm sure you can see the potential for reducing sales staff this implies.

This trend is solid - people want to buy in the presence of the physical product, or talk to a real sales person on the telephone, but people don't have time to go to stores to shop any more. They can't afford to travel to stores except to buy. Shopping, research and price comparison can be done on the Internet quickly, conveniently, and at any time of day or night.

What does this mean to you, the small business manager? Without an effective, well designed and well promoted Web site, your business, products or services, aren't going to be considered at all. If people can't effectively gather the information they need before visiting your store or picking up the phone to acquire your services, they aren't going to bother, because they can get all that information from your competitors.

This bodes well for consultants, hosting services, and others who prepare and maintain commercial Web sites and Internet strategies, especially those that service small and medium business - in the long term. What's holding it back in the short term is that so many business people have yet to realize the critical importance of the Web site, and many more think they can do a fine job themselves in a couple of hours with Microsoft Front Page.

Increasingly, if the first impression made by a business' Web site is wanting, that will be the last impression that business will get to make. Speed and ease of finding information count for everything, and a slow Web site, or a Web site that offers pizzaz instead of content, will be the death of many businesses. Evolution is a harsh and unforgiving process.

At the other end, once hugely profitable Web consulting firms serving large business will continue their decline. Large businesses can now hire most of the expertise they need in-house at more attractive rates. There's plenty of "Dot.bomb" refugees desperate for jobs.

Profits go to companies that proceed carefully and with due consideration to all traditional business practices. Amazon has lost 2 billion selling books, while Powell's Books (I2) has been profitable all along.

Yes, there will still be room for "Web only" retail businesses, and perhaps Amazon.com will someday recoup its massive losses. Right now, Web sales are working best for highly specialized products and services with a very scattered clientele. If S&M gear is what you sell (I12), for instance, e-commerce could be your best bet for reaching your customers (it took me just a minute to find these WartenbergWheel guys).

The Internet will also be very strong in B2B (Business to Business) commerce, but not the way investors originally presumed. All the high profile customer / product / vendor match making sites and clearing houses went face to pavement, hard, and huge amounts of venture capital evaporated without a trace. Finding the lowest price vendor turned out to be unimportant compared to serving established business relationships.

The Internet will increasingly replace current EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) non-standards, handling document interchange between established business partners using XML and other Internet syntax standards.

Once again, things look good for modest sized consultants, integrators and contractors who can do highly customized work, but there will also be major opportunities for big consultancies like EDS and IBM Global Services. In-house staff can't do your customers' or vendors' systems, so substantial third parties will be essential to integrate larger businesses.
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Internet Technologies

Not long ago, there were three network domains: LAN (Local Area Network), WAN (Wide Area Network) and "The Internet" (a very large peer-to-peer WAN). Today, there is only one: "The Internet". WAN traffic has become largely VPN (Virtual Private Network), encrypted traffic carried over Internet transport. LANs have become just local Internet subnets.

Protocols that were superior for LAN traffic, such as Novell's IPX/SPX have been dropped in favor of the Internet protocol, TCP/IP (except in organizations that want a very sharp demarcation between LAN and Internet for security reasons). The good news is that protocols that were inferior for any traffic, such as Microsoft's NetBEUI, are also being pushed aside.

Given this situation, we can talk of Internet technologies as if they applied equally to the LAN, because they do, even if the LAN isn't actually attached to the Internet (though that is becoming rare).

Not yet under monopoly control, Internet technologies are a seething hotbed of innovation - with one exception. Once Microsoft's Internet Explorer reached 70% market share, the once blazing hot evolution of Web browsers came to a sudden screeching halt. The only features being added to Internet Explorer now are features that allow Microsoft greater remote control of your network and computers.

The biggest things going on in Internet technologies are Web Services and XML. Both of these will deeply change the way your business does business in the future.
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Web Services - XML, Java and .NET

Web Services is becoming a very big thing, with the bulk of new system development within the corporate environment being rapidly moved to Web Services (I10).

Web Services is a system where programs run on Application Servers and are accessed by client Web browsers. Parts of the program may download and run on the local client, but the main program stays running on the server, takes requests from the clients and hands back results.

Web services clients may be PCs, but don't need to be, they just need to support a standards compliant Web browser. Communications is by XML, SOAP and Java. Whether you're running Windows, or OS/2, or OSX, Linux, PalmOS, or what have you, is irrelevant (in theory).

You can access your Web services environment from anywhere you can get a network connection, and from any standards compliant platform. That network connection can be on the local network, or across the Internet (using a VPN, we hope, for security).

While doing any particular task, a client may be accessing Web services from several servers simultaneously, and application servers can even access services on other servers. This makes programming very modular - stuff needs only be written once and needs run only in one place to be accessed everywhere. This makes maintenance, upgrading and control very easy.

Web services can also be offered over the Internet by ASPs (Application Service Providers) for a fee, and these services will appear to be local to the client. Most Web services will be hosted on a company's own high speed network for best performance.

XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language) (I13), a critical key to Web Services, is an open standard syntax by which communication channels between very different computer systems can be established for exchange of documents containing data. For instance, a PC based accounting system could transmit an XML document that described a purchase order to a mainframe system, which could read and interpret the document and enter the information directly into its own order entry system.

XML is similar in principle to the HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) so familiar for presenting and displaying Web pages, but XML is designed to handle data instead of page presentation. Web Services applications will take requests by XML document and return XML documents containing the requested response. Many expect XML to eventually replace EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

XML is not a magic bullet that puts programmers out of work. It allows dissimilar computer systems to communicate with much greater ease than they traditionally have, but it does nothing to simplify the business logic within the system at either end. XML schemas have to be developed and interfaced with the business logic.

Numerous trade groups are developing XML schemas specific to the unique needs of the industries they serve. Interfacing these schemas to the business logic of individual participating companies will be done on a case by case basis by programmers, it'll just be a lot easier than with EDI, and use the Internet as a transport (in most cases, but proprietary networks can still be used with XML).

Java (I14) is a programming language well suited to implementing Web Services, and is actively promoted by three of the major proponents of Web Services, IBM, Bea Systems, and Sun Microsystems. Java programmers are in high demand now, and the language is being used especially on the server side of the Web Services equation.

Interaction among very dissimilar systems is a major goal of Web Services and XML. Java is available for all significant computing systems, so strongly supports this goal.

Obviously, Java, XML and open standards provide too much freedom, flexibility and local control to be at all acceptable to the fourth major proponent of Web Services. We'll cover Microsoft's .NET Initiative (pronounced "DotNet") in detail in the Microsoft section. For now, .NET services may talk to other systems (yet to be demonstrated), but development must be done under Windows using mostly Microsoft tools, and .NET based services will run only on Windows.NET servers.
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Wireless Networking

Wireless networking is the hottest item in the technology press today, and is touted as the savior that will raise technology markets (especially hardware) from the dead. The implication is that if your business is not converting to wireless, it's falling way behind. The truth is a bit different.

Wireless has been around for some time, but only recently has it been able to overcome its traditional value proposition, "We're a lot more expensive, but we're a lot slower". Today, the price and performance differential is still there, but wireless is fast enough and cheap enough for a variety of uses. You use wireless where it is impractical to use wire, and nowhere where it is practical to use wire.

Even those magazines pushing wireless most heavily are replete with articles on wireless security, or more accurately, on the lack of wireless security. Securing a wireless network is possible, but more difficult, and it tends to go insecure if not monitored very carefully. Wireless has already been ordered pulled out of places it has been installed due to security problems, both in business and government.

In many businesses, wireless links are being installed by users for their own convenience, often to connect a laptop computer or to avoid the hassle of stringing a cable to the next room. In their competition to make installation easy, manufactures ship their product with all security features turned off.

The proliferation of uncontrolled wireless access points has spawned the practice of War Driving, cruising the streets with simple detection equipment and marking buildings with graffiti indicating open access points for "free" Internet access. Industrial spies and thieves are doing the same, but without the graffiti.

Wireless in the home is growing quickly in popularity, because homes are relatively difficult to wire neatly, and the security risks are lower. Most home wireless systems are for shared Internet access, and with broadband access methods all less than 1.5-MB per second, low cost 11-MB/sec wireless networking is more than adequate.

For years I have expressed the opinion that sooner or later major problems for wireless networks will come when people with health concerns realize they are flooding the work area with microwave radiation. Whether the concern is scientifically valid or not is beside the point - the impact will limit the growth of wireless networks. This has now begun in the schools (I19).
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Mobile Devices

Accelerating the application of Wireless Networking is the rapidly rising sophistication and falling cost of mobile devices, ranging from cell phones up to Microsoft's "Tablet PC".

Microsoft will be pushing the Tablet PC very hard because its similarity to a full function PC means they can expect a monopoly position with these devices. Tablet PCs will probably find strong early adoption in medical facilities where users move around a lot, but are never far from the electrical power needed to recharge the devices.

Short battery life is the bane of devices that approach full Windows PC function, and also plagues smaller PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) devices running Microsoft's Pocket PC version of Windows. Battery life, and the shortcomings of handwriting recognition, will limit general acceptance of the Tablet PC.

Opposite the move from PC down to Tablet PC is the expansion of cell phones upward, adding text and photographic features as well as computing, data communication and Internet access. Microsoft has entered this market with its SmartPhone version of Windows (formerly code named "Stinger" (and popularly known as "Stinker")), but it faces very tough going.

Most handset manufacturers are highly suspicious of Microsoft's intentions, and those that aren't are idiots, as Sendo has proven so well. Motorola has selected Linux and Java for its phones (A10), while Nokia and Sony Ericsson have selected Symbian and Java (A11, A12), other devices will use Palm OS and Java. Due to misbehavior, Microsoft is forbidden by court order from implementing Java.

Designed from the start for small size and non-mouse operation, Opera is the leading Web browser for Internet access on mobile devices (A13). Microsoft, unable to compete using its bloated Internet Explorer, attempts to sabotage Opera where it can (R11). Opera's entertaining response to the latest attack has become a public relations classic (R12).

Because Microsoft will not be able to gain a dominant position and crush innovation as it has done elsewhere, this will be a very dynamic field, allowing innovative companies both large and small to prosper, but there are dangers to be avoided.

A large number of VARs (Value Added Resellers) will develop specialized applications around devices using Microsoft mobile software, because that's an easy sell to clients so familiar with Windows. These VARs will stay small and specialized as a survival tactic - if their product's success results in a wide market, Microsoft will copy it and put them out of business.

Microsoft has become an extremely dangerous mobile integration partner, since it has acquired major accounting (Microsoft Great Plains), POS (Point of Sale - SMS QuickSell) and CRM (Customer Relations Management (B9) products, and no longer depends on third party business software products for integration. More ambitious (and smarter) VARs will select alternative environments and learn to deal with the selling issues.

Large scale mobile device integration by major vendors will increasingly deploy the Linux operating system, which is not only royalty-free and more flexible, but gives the developer complete control of their own future.
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Security

Since 9/11, network and computer security has become the hot topic of discussion. Other than huge amounts of discussion and thousands of column inches by "experts", formation of high level government committees and papers issued by them, nothing substantial has been done.

Further, nothing substantial is going to be done until there is a major disaster. When that happens, that disaster will be fixed and little more. Columnist Peter Stephenson relates the situation to Y2K ( I8). So much money was spent fixing Y2K problems that no disaster actually happened, so business executives feel they were ripped off (some of my clients weren't fixed in time and learned firsthand how serious the problem could have been). Now they think Network Security is just the latest rip-off.

In truth, the problems are very real, and will result in serious economic loss, and ruin for some businesses. Major avenues for disaster are:

  • Worms, Viruses and Trojans prey on the extreme vulnerability and seamless integration of the Windows monoculture. Business has been lucky that the fast moving worms launched to date have been unarmed, but that luck won't hold forever. There is no defense for the first few days after release of a new worm.

  • Home workers and business executives have access to company networks over secured access links, but their home computers aren't secure, leaving wide open holes through which crackers and industrial spies can access business networks and through which passwords can be stolen. Microsoft's corporate network was raided by Russians this way.

  • Wireless Networking is a severe security problem for business networks everywhere. Employees are adding wireless links to corporate networks for their own convenience, and small businesses owners are using wireless to save the trouble of pulling cable. Manufacturers of wireless gear compete for ease of installation, so they turn security features off by default.

    "War Drivers" are cruising around identifying businesses with insecure wireless links, and even spray paint symbols on the buildings indicating how to access the network. Industrial spies are doing the same, but without the graffiti.

  • Web Services are being deployed before security is worked out, providing many new avenues for invasion. In particular, Microsoft's .NET initiative aims for the same level of tight integration Windows has (it locks out competitors and promotes "ease of use"). This will result in similar security problems - once you're in, all the resources of the system are yours to exploit.

  • "Social Engineering" made Kevin Mitnick the most famous cracker of all, even though his technical skills were admittedly not that great. His new book, "The Art of Deception" (I9) shows both the extent and "ease of use" of this weakness, and presents suggestions on how to mitigate the problem.

  • File Sharing systems like Kazaa, Morpheus and the now defunct Napster, not only bog down your network, but expose your systems to worms, viruses and "spyware", create avenues for outsiders to steal sensitive files, and expose your business to multi-million dollar lawsuits from the entertainment industry.

Once the specialty of a very few highly skilled hackers, data theft and destruction is now an entertaining pastime for thousands of unskilled "script kiddies" and a standard tool for industrial spies, saboteurs, and even law enforcement. Losses will continue to climb out of control.

Spending on data system security will increase as companies try mitigating sharply increasing losses from worms, viruses, espionage, crackers and data theft, but this spending will be ineffective, because top management won't commit to the resources and sweeping changes required to secure their data systems effectively. They'll instead buy "band aid" fixes with big promises and little effectiveness.

The potential for massive destruction is shown by the recent spread of the W32/Klez.H worm (which is still raging out of control). Had Klez.H carried a destructive payload timed to go off about 15 days after release, the economic damages would have been stunning, and many business would have failed. Instead, it's only cost $9 billion to clean up (so far), because the Klez.H perpetrator disarmed it before release.

The potential for espionage is exemplified by the recent conviction of a prominent loan shark based on evidence from a "trojan" program (X9). Such programs are easily available to the public, and conveniently email the information they collect to the perpetrator (X10).

Don't think not being connected to the Internet will protect you either. Multi-gigabyte storage devices with the size and appearance of a key fob are now economically available, and plug into any convenient USB port. Not only can your critical data walk out on a ring of jingling keys, spy programs can be easily injected by anyone with brief access to your internal network.

While all systems have vulnerabilities, as recently demonstrated by the Slapper Worm (X42), the vast breadth and extent of vulnerability is a uniquely Microsoft problem, and for very specific reasons, which we'll cover in detail in the Microsoft section.
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The Microsoft "Road Ahead"

With over 90% of the desktop PC operating system and office suite markets, "proven in court" monopolies yielding 85% and 79% profit margins (R2), $43 billion in the bank, the highest capitalization (stock value) of any company, and having just been let off a major antitrust conviction with no punishment whatever, you might think Microsoft would be worry free.

Actually, Microsoft has something of a siege mentality, and that mindset is increasingly justified as the company fights too many battles on too many fronts. Expansion into new markets is meeting heavy resistance, and the old monopolies face unexpected threats. Open-source software and Internet protocols are leading concerns, as iterated by departing executive, David Stutz (R10).

In a recent shareholder meeting, Microsoft executives stated the company would pay no dividend from its $43 billion because it still faced legal and other challenges, and needed all that money to defend itself (R3). In actuality, Microsoft faces many very real challenges of such magnitude that $43 Billion may be a bit thin.

Other threats proved greater, however, so two months later, Microsoft announced a dividend. It's just 16 cents / share ($850 million) (R6), a token dividend, but it's a dividend just the same, and another step on the path from "high growth" to "granny stock".

Why the dividend? There appear to be several reasons. For one, it served as a distraction from poor earnings projections, and the fact that Windows Desktop (Client) sales actually fell by $10 million vs. the same quarter in 2001 (R8). Microsoft Office (Knowledge Worker) sales rose, but only by 8%, far from the 20%+ growth Microsoft is noted for.

Some have suggested the dividend was to get Bill Gates another $100 million per year, which will be tax sheltered if Bush's "stimulus" plan prevails, but this seems an unlikely consideration for so major a policy change,

Most important was probably Microsoft's stock price, which has trended down for three years. Paying even a tiny dividend allows funds that require dividends to buy Microsoft shares for the first time. Microsoft hopes more buyers will bring the stock price up. Countering this is the growing feeling among investors that Microsoft is badly overvalued at its current price of 25 times earnings (R17). Only rapid growth can sustain this ratio, and that growth isn't happening.

At the same time, Microsoft announced a 2 for 1 stock split. Now this looks really strange. Companies normally split their stock on the way up to make it more affordable by the share. Why is Microsoft splitting a stagnant stock? Apparently it's a desperation move to make the stock look cheaper, so "bottom feeders" will buy and move the price higher.

At the root of Microsoft's problems is its financial structure. Leveraged by stock options and other financial tricks (R7), it depends heavily on rapid revenue growth and increasing stock value. When you've saturated your market (over 90%), and that market is stagnant, rapid revenue growth becomes difficult. Should future growth look poor, holders of stock options are likely to cash out, and much of that $43 Billion evaporates.

By necessity, Microsoft must expand into new markets. Problem is, they've never been particularly successful in entering any markets where they could not leverage their monopolies. As is true of other monopolies, they simply aren't competitive in open markets. While Windows has a profit margin of 85%, and Microsoft Office has a margin of 79%, every other Microsoft division is losing money in reams (R4).

Even where they can leverage their monopolies (corporate data centers, on-line services) Microsoft is meeting unexpectedly heavy resistance. Part results from serious weaknesses in Microsoft's products, part from battle hardened opponents now familiar with all Microsoft's tricks, In markets they already control, customers are becoming very reluctant to upgrade anything, because experience has proven it's a lot of expense for very little gain.

Another really big item is open source software. Open source products like Linux are rapidly locking Microsoft out of the midrange server market and are even becoming a threat to Microsoft's desktop monopoly, especially outside the U.S.. Microsoft's 10K filing with the SEC reflects this with warnings Microsoft could be forced to lower prices (R9).

Outside the PC arena, Microsoft faces entrenched adversaries with management far more astute and aggressive than anything they saw in the PC market. XBox for example, is taking heavy losses on each unit, but still not selling enough of them to create the critical mass needed to generate interest among top game developers and gamers.

In the market for Interactive Television, Microsoft expected to dominate, and invested heavily in potential customers "just to make sure", yet they have been almost completely defeated there. The market has become dominated by companies like Liberate, OpenTV, and TiVo, with mostly Linux based products. Microsoft was unable to deliver an acceptable product, on time, and at competitive cost.

Microsoft's SmartPhone (Stinger) initiative to dominate the high end mobile phone market is on life support now that T-Mobile is said to be canceling or scaling back the program (R16) and Sendo is suing them for unfair business practices, misappropriation of intellectual property and just about everything else. Just about everyone else has signed up with Symbian and Java or Linux and Java.

To compensate, Microsoft is squeezing ever more revenue from current fully saturated markets by raising costs to their customers, mostly by changing licensing terms. This is creating resentment in formerly docile customers, many of whom consider the new terms extortion, and has them seriously looking at alternatives for the first time. It is also generating resistance to Microsoft's .NET initiative, now seen by many as a "vendor tie-in", ripe for exploitation.

Microsoft's public image, carefully crafted through billions (literally) spent with PR firms, continues to erode under the weight of license extortion, anti-trust action, license compliance raids, buying political influence, endless lawsuits over stolen products and patents, insecure and unstable products, obvious astroturf (fake grass roots) media campaigns, and much more

Innovation is another place where Microsoft is under-performing. They are fond of boasting about how much money they are pouring into R&D (Research and Development), yet not much new comes out of R&D. Some suspect the R&D efforts are financed simply to keep talented people away from startups and competitors, but it's probably simpler than that. Any innovation has to be retrofitted back onto the obsolete and hopelessly overcomplex Windows platform. This is highly limiting.

Some expect a combination of Microsoft's financial situation, market difficulties and erosion by open source software to result in an Enron style meltdown. This is highly unlikely. Microsoft management is too smart and not nearly corrupt enough to do an Enron, and they are coming up with many innovative ways to leverage their PC monopolies and squeeze more blood from any handy turnip.

Given a huge company that must grow rapidly, but which is encountering severe limits to growth, you can expect a lot of major changes in both products and policies, and that's what you are going to get.
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Limiting your Choices

Making competing products unavailable is simply a quicker and more reliable method of helping you avoid "wrong" choices than developing a better product, and monopoly power gives Microsoft that option. Threatening software developers with no access to critical Windows information if they also programmed for OS/2 was typical - and concealed for years by an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). Expect the same technique to be used intensively against Linux.

Major PC manufacturers have always been under threat by Microsoft to eliminate products or configurations Redmond does not approve of - to "assure a Uniform Windows Experience". IBM's PC business, for instance, was severely damaged by Microsoft pressure to discontinue supporting OS/2. IBM got Windows 95 much later than other manufacturers, missing the introductory market, and paid more for it. More recently, Dell announced availability of Linux on many of it's desktop PCs, but immediately withdraw the program without explanation.

Microsoft used this method to quickly reduce Netscape's browser share from 80%+ to nearly nothing. They were convicted of multiple and very serious antitrust violations in doing so, but the newly appointed Bush/Ashcroft Department of Justice declined to apply punishment or effective remedy. Microsoft is thus free to use similar methods to remove other products from the market.

Microsoft's current push is to have complete control over hardware design and availability. The practice of issuing joint Intel / Microsoft PC design specifications came to an end with the PC 2001 issue (J2). Microsoft alone now specifies PC design, leaving Intel as only a manufacturer (J3). This control is now made final and all encompasing by the Athens PC design.

Microsoft has three pressing reasons for seizing control of hardware design:

  • DRM (Digital Rights Management): Microsoft is assuring the motion picture and recording industries it will be the "safe" channel for distributing digital content that cannot be pirated. Credibility of this claim requires complete control of the hardware Windows will run on (see also Palladium and Home and Entertainment below).
  • Home Electronics: With XBox, Microsoft has started a move to control household electronics and entertainment. This goes hand in hand with their DRM efforts - Microsoft hardware will be the only means by which much entertainment content will be available, and competing DRM schemes can be blocked. The "Athens" PC extends this control to the telphone system.
  • Open Source: Competition from Open Source products like Linux is being taken very seriously by Microsoft. It is already hindering their expansion in the business market, and they certainly don't want that to happen in the home market. By controlling the hardware platform they can assure that open source products do not have access to important hardware features. They have already stated that Palladium will not be ported to non-Windows platforms.

Athens [Update 9 May 2003]: Microsoft has now specified the "next generation PC", code named "Athens" (R13) in precise detail. The specification ties PC design tightly to Microsoft's Windows initiatives and DRM (Digital Rights Management) plans, leaving no options for differentiation among PC vendors (R14). Athens is a "Microsoft Branded" PC in every detail except the label on the front.

Details of the specification raise questions as to whether any other operating system will be able run on this new machine, which will include Palladium chip based "security" features. As they now do with XBox (R15), Microsoft may be expected to pursue legal action against anyone who modifies Athens PCs to enable use of "unapproved" software.

Of particular concern are open source operating systems like Linux, which publish under the GPL (General Public License). The GPL forbids incorporation of code into a GPL'd product without releasing that code to the public, which would be forbidden by Microsoft's license terms. While the open source and server markets are alredy large enough to support their own hardware industry, "forking" the PC would raise costs for users and prevent use of these inexpensive machines in the consumer market, raising costs to consumers.

In addition, Athens is designed to take control of your telephone communications. Once again, Microsoft will use the highly successful tactic of distributing features to the lower tier users. Once users have deployed the features for their own convenience, they will force another uncontrolled Microsoft centric environment on management. [end update]

Phoenix [Update 30 Oct 2003] Microsoft has signed an agreement with Phoenix Technologies, one of the publishers of BIOS code for PCs, to tie the BIOS tightly to Windows, adding special features to the PC that only Windows can access (J7).

The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is a program built into your PC which translates between the hardware and the operating system software. By this agreement Microsoft can create new PC features availble ony to Windows and control the PC's internal programming to the point of making it a "Windows only" machine.

If AMI (American Megatrends) and other BIOS publishers feel they must make similar deals to compete with Phoenix, the impact on computer users will be stunning. This will establish unprecedented monopoly control over computer hardware and would certainly be grounds for new antitrust action, but this is Microsoft, so our government will take no action.

Microsoft does not limit its control to the hardware itself. Windows XP introduces a program of "signed drivers" and a tightly controled "Designed for Windows XP" logo program (J4). If a hardware manufacturer does not submit drivers for approval by Microsoft (an expensive process), Windows XP pops up a warning message that the drivers are not approved by Microsoft and may cause problems with Windows.

Since Microsoft is the final authority that "signs" drivers and software packages (J5), it's clear they have the power to drag out the approval process if they don't favor a software or hardware product, or don't favor the company (perhaps because they offer Linux drivers too). Approval could even be denied entirely due to mysterious "incompatibilities".

The obvious weakness of these programs is that users can become accustomed to the unsigned driver warning, and products, both hardware and software, can still be sold saying something like "Works with Windows XP". It appears Microsoft is now moving to close this weakness and make unapproved products entirely unavailable to the buying public. Without sales, unapproved products will quickly disappear from the market, giving Microsoft complete control of what you can buy.

Office Depot has already issued a letter to suppliers informing them that products without the Microsoft "Designed for Windows XP" logo will no longer be carried by Office Depot as of May 2003 (J1, J6). Logically, this must be a response to pressure from Microsoft, and if other mass marketers do the same, that will effectively confirm it despite the nondisclosure agreements (more: Office Depot Aids Monopoly).

Expect Microsoft to continue tightening these programs until unapproved products will simply not run at all on Windows. The justification for this, as with almost every anti-consumer and anti-competitive move Microsoft is making,will be to "enhance security".

These programs clearly tighten Microsoft's already powerful control over the availabilty of products that support competing environments, especially the availability of hardware drivers. Even years ago, with much less leverage, they were able to force Epson to drop printer driver support for OS/2.

The danger to Microsoft is that their heavy hand may spawn an alternative hardware industry, just as it spawned an alternative software industry. Large hardware companies are completely under Microsoft's control through dependency on Windows for volume, but new or smaller hardware companies, blocked economically from the Windows market, may chose to support alternativs.

This is most likely to happen in the relative safety of overseas locations, especially as overseas governments adopt Linux and open source. Here again, Microsoft's monopolies threaten to limit U.S. jobs, opportunities and American technology leadership.


Longhorn - Big Changes for Windows

The very disappointing uptake of Windows XP has convinced Microsoft they must force upgrades. License 6 does force customers to upgrade on Microsoft's schedule, whether they want to or not, but a majority of the market has not adopted License 6, despite Microsoft's threats. Clearly drastic changes are needed to Windows to generate renewed upgrade revenue.

The successor to Windows XP (due in 2004, and rapidly slipping to 2005) is currently code named Longhorn, and it will not be compatible with your existing software, hardware or methods. Microsoft has already stated that backward compatibility will not be a design feature.

Some expect the name Windows will be dropped completely. The antitrust agreement with the Bush DoJ specifically states "Microsoft Windows" throughout. By maintaining incompatibility (already planned due to design considerations), making it look different and calling it something else, Microsoft can free itself from antitrust oversight. "It's not Windows, it's a different product - the agreement doesn't apply."

The most important feature of Longhorn is replacement of the familiar DOS/Windows filesystem with an object database (W0). You will no longer copy files to a floppy or CD-ROM or attach them to an email, because there will be no files. Database records will be copied from one database to another, probably through a .NET server. Large organizations will have their own .NET servers, but everyone else will use one of Microsoft's, a service for which you will pay a fee.

The Longhorn filesystem will be based on the technology of a re-thought and expanded SQL Server database (the project coded Yukon) (W8). Obviously, SQL Server being so tightly integrated with the filesystem (W19) will have a negative impact on publishers of other database engines for Windows. Not strange then that market leaders Oracle and IBM are heavily pushing the Linux platform and barely mention their products run on Windows any more.

Current Windows based software will not be compatible with the Longhorn filesystem (W26. Microsoft has already stated that all their own software has to be rewritten for it - so will everyone else's. This will eliminate a huge number of software titles which are useful, but not sufficiently profitable to justify rewriting them. Others will fail because their conversion won't be done in time to compete with Microsoft products.

Coming with Longhorn is a new user interface, code named Sideshow (W5), so if you're currently trying to make sense of the new Windows XP user interface, 2005 is when Billy intends to yank your chain again. If you're a Windows programmer, you get to learn a new API framework named Avalon (W6) too.

Given Microsoft's enthusiasm for "rich data formats", I expect Longhorn is going to eat disk space at an alarming rate. Perhaps this is why Microsoft has suddenly taken a strong interest in storage technology and services (W9). It's also going to be a major backup problem, so watch for Microsoft to start offering .NET backup services (for which you will pay a fee). Others already offer ASP backup service, but expect incompatibilities with them that "assure security and data integrity" (unless, of course, they pay a large license fee to Microsoft).

I find it probable Longhorn will largely end the use of reliable, low cost servers (Linux, NetWare) for Windows users. This will set the stage for serious increases in licensing costs for already costly Windows server software.

Of course, Longhorn is going to be very late, so Microsoft is already hinting, then denying, they'll bridge the revenue gap with a Windows XP "Second Edition" upgrade (W10), or simply redefine "Longhorn" so they can get a partial product out in time. License 6, practically promises a major upgrade every 3 years or so, so I wouldn't even be surprised if they issued another all but unusable "end of the line" screw up like Windows Me.

The biggest risk to Microsoft is that the Longhorn effort falls apart, as did its "universal filesystem" predecessor, Cairo (W22), still an embarassment to Microsoft. Cairo became later and later, was then "repositioned" as a "suite of technologies", and swept under the carpet. Failure of Longhorn would be more serious, because that would severely impact Microsoft's upgrade revenue stream.

Already, "Longhorn Server" has been dropped. The Longhorn filesystem will instead be an update to Windows Server 2003 (formerly Windows.NET Server 2003) and other features have been shoved down to "Blackcomb" (W21), the next scheduled Windows upgrade.

If you find all these Windows codenames confusing, a translation table is available (W20).
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Windows 2003

Windows 2003 has just been released [Update 9-May-03], and has brought with it some surprises, like the extent to which users will have to upgrade to run it. Win2003 is incompatible with all existing Microsoft server applications, except IIS 2003 (Internet Information Server) which was launched simultaneously with Windows 2003 (T9). IIS 2003 is not compatible with previous Windows versions, including Windows 2000 Server

Patches are available to allow the Microsoft SQL Server database engine to run on Windows 2003 Server, but they are said to make the system very unstable (T9). SQL Server 2003 is still months away, and is a very expensive program, so upgrades are unlikely to be cheap.

Microsoft is already pushing Windows 2003 very hard to it's enterprise customers, pointing out that previous versions of Windows are dangerous to run because they're less stable, slower, and are riddled with serious security problems. That's the same thing they told us about Windows NT when 2000 came out, and the same thing they'll tell us about Windows 2003 when Windows 2006 comes out.

Complicating the situation is the fact that Microsoft doesn't consider Windows 2003 as released to be complete. Multiple features are to be released over a period of time (T11). These will have to be installed as available by users who wish to fully utilize this version of Windows

Arrayed against rapid upgrade are the compatibility problems, upgrade expenses, the poor state of the economy, and the fact that many enterprise customers are still in the middle of upgrading to Windows 2000. Analysts consider those still running on Windows NT 4.0 to be better candidates for immediate upgrading (T12). Of course, they're still on NT 4.0 because the upgrade to 2000/2003 is so traumatic.

A small but significant percentage of NT 4.0 / Windows 2000 customers have stated they will never upgrade to Windows 2003 because they are in the process of upgrading to Linux.

Microsoft has released benchmark showing Windows 2003 to be 69% to 89% faster than Linux for file and print services, but this "independent study" is highly suspect, comparing a highly tuned Windows system against an old version of Linux with known performance problems and an old version of Samba (T13). both without optomization, using carefully orchestrated tests. At this point it is impossible to actually know if Windows 2003 is faster and under what circumstances it is.
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Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office, not Windows is Microsoft's true cash cow, and it is Office, much more than Windows, that ties customers to Microsoft's expensive licensing plans. Currently, Office Pro costs about $500 per computer, but some research firms expect it to reach $700 per computer by the end of the decade. This will be combined with tough "one license per machine" enforcement measures.

Microsoft simply cannot allow inroads on Office's market share, yet the high and increasing cost of office, especially in view of License 6 (see below) has many businesses looking very hard at Sun Microsystems' low cost StarOffice and its "no cost" sibling, OpenOffice. Both run on Windows and Linux, and OpenOffice is being ported to Apple Macintosh. Both have excellent compatibility with Microsoft Office files, and native integration with XML.

Microsoft is also having a very hard time getting users to upgrade to the latest Office versions. Office 97 has long been replaced by Office 2000, which in turn has been replaced by Office XP, yet a huge number of Office users are still on Office 97 and show no signs of upgrading.

Microsoft's answer to both these problems is Office 2003 (formerly named Office 11), currently in beta release and scheduled for final release in mid 2003. Office 2003 features a degree of tight integration with other Microsoft products that is impossible for other software vendors to achieve. It is also a degree of tightness Microsoft's customers will find nearly impossible to escape once committed. These features will be required by .NET and other Microsoft initiatives.

Office 2003 and Windows Sever 2003 will include a Rights Management Services feature for document security (W25). If Microsoft can convince businesses to use this feature, Office 2003 documents will be completely unreadable by OpenOffice / StarOffice, WordPerfect Office, Lotus, and by all older versions of Microsoft Office, forcing a total upgrade of Windows, Office and the computers it runs on.

Update: A correspondent has told me that Rights Management interfaces for Office 2000 and Office XP can be downloaded from the Microsoft beta site. We will have to wait for formal release to see if these are available for the shipping product. This does not change the picture for Office 97 or for products that compete with Microsoft's.

Office 2003 will not run on Windows 95, 98, 98SE or Me. Microsoft is very clear that it will run only on Windows XP and Windows 2000 with SP3 (Service Pack 3) applied (W17). Currently over 60% of Microsoft's business customers are still running Windows 95/98, and would have to purchase all new computers for an XP upgrade - new computers soon to be obsoleted by Longhorn and Palladium.

Note that applying SP3 for Windows 2000 requires you to accept a license that allows Microsoft to enter your computer systems, examine their contents and make changes without your knowledge or permission. Some companies are refusing to apply SP3 even though it includes important security patches. The Windows XP license also includes these terms.
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Palladium

Palladium, a chip based "security" initiative, is another major part of Microsoft strategy. Since Microsoft has seized control of PC design from Intel and the PC manufacturers, they are in a position to dictate how PC hardware will integrate with Windows.

Microsoft promotes Palladium as a boon to user privacy, security, and a stopper of worms and viruses. They claim it has nothing at all to do with unpopular DRM (Digital Rights Management), which prevents playing, displaying or copying copyrighted content (music, videos, documents, etc.) on a PC.

That is a lie. Truth is found in Microsoft "help wanted" ads: "Our technology allows content providers, enterprises and consumers to control what others can do with their digital information, such as documents, music, video, ebooks, and software. Become a key leader, providing vision and industry leadership in developing DRM, Palladium and Software Licensing products and Trust Infrastructure Services" (W7).

You can be sure the primary "digital rights" Palladium protects will be Microsoft's. You will find it impossible to run Microsoft software on any computer other than the one to which it was originally registered - or anything else Microsoft doesn't want you to run.

Palladium requires computers to have a special chip, which both Intel and AMD have already agreed to incorporate. "Protected content" will not run on a computer lacking the chip, or with the Palladium features turned off. You will have to buy all new computers to run Palladium enabled software.

Of utmost interest is Microsoft's statement that Palladium will allow creation of content that has an expiration date, and which cannot be used or viewed after that date. We will look at this again in the section on Licensing and Ownership.

Palladium has been highly controversial from the very first announcement (W3), because many, including many security specialists, feel it allows Microsoft excessive control over what software you will be able to run on your PC, and the company has already stated they will not allow it to be ported to non-Windows platforms. Academics fear it will hinder the flow of ideas and destroy the doctrine of "fair use" (W24)

In fact, Palladium has become so controversial, Microsoft has done exactly what they always do when the image of one of their products becomes tarnished, they changed the name. (W32). It's now "Next-generation Secure Computing Base". The name has obviously been chosen to be unsuitable for slogans and titles of articles such as this one. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it's just too cumbersome, so everyone's going to stick with "Palladium".

Palladium is not, of course, technology Microsoft originated. As usual, they have commandeered technology developed by others (W4) and reinterpreted it in a way that gives greater advantage to Microsoft.

The one thing that can slow Palladium is massive consumer resistance to the way it prevents "fair use" (and well as outright theft) of copyrighted entertainment content (videos, music, games). There will be no government resistance to Palladium. Your elected representatives represent money, and their votes have already been counted.

Microsoft is already hard at work candy coating this bitter pill to get you to believe it's "good for you" (W26). Will consumers resist? Some evidence says they will. Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music Group have already bent to consumer demand by putting a lot more titles up as singles, for download, free of "protection" schemes, and at lower prices than they original planned.

On the other hand, consumers have shown they will accept any level of abuse to avoid thinking about alternatives to Windows, so use of Palladium to protect Microsoft software (and repress competing software) is a given. Control of all other software, media and documents will follow, along with the end of free Web content in general.
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Licensing & Ownership

You pay plenty for Microsoft software, but you do not own it - you have a non-transferable license to use the software as Microsoft sees fit. Microsoft owns it and they are not at all shy about exercising their "property rights". Further, the license terms can be changed retroactively (and are) any time Microsoft pleases. It says so right in the license terms.

When Kmart filed to sell their Internet unit, bluelight.com, Microsoft told the bankruptcy court the sale could not proceed because bluelight.com held Microsoft property (software licenses), which could not be transferred to a new owner without Microsoft permission, (L14),

The situation is far worse for others. Bluelight.com had only a dozen licenses and weren't on License 6. Lets say your company is in difficult economic times and wants to sell a division with 6000 Windows workstations and some servers. You've gone with License 6 "Software Assurance" because that's the only support contract Microsoft offers. First, you have to buy out your three year commitment to make your licenses "perpetual". This means paying up to two years more of an exceedingly expensive support contract (25% to 30% per year of the cost of all your Microsoft software).

It gets worse from there - all this money benefits neither your company nor the purchaser, only Microsoft. License 6 Software Assurance is not transferable and your contract is terminated upon payment. The purchaser now needs to negotiate his own License 6 agreement starting from nowhere. To read more about this extortion, see Ed Foster's InfoWorld article (L16).

Microsoft has long chafed under the traditional PC software license, because once they sell a license, they can only keep revenue flowing by releasing "upgrades" and convincing people the upgrades are worth purchasing. Producing these upgrades is a lot of work, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to convince anyone the upgrades are worthwhile.

The solution to this problem is clearly to force users to a subscription basis, because under subscription they can continue to enjoy steady income from products while not needing to upgrade them at all. In the past, Microsoft's lust for the subscription model was held back by competition - but competition has been pretty much eliminated now.

Most new Microsoft licensing schemes push in the subscription direction. For instance, the license for a recent upgrade to Microsoft Instant Messaging (L17) clearly states that Microsoft may charge for future upgrades, and that you are required to purchase the upgrade when it comes out. Your license to use the current version is terminated when an upgrade is released. While this isn't a true subscritpion (Microsoft still has to issue somthing to get paid), it's a big step in that direction, as is License 6.

On August 1st, 2002, Microsoft's volume license agreements (volume = 5 or more) changed dramatically to a "pseudo subscription". Under License 6 (L0) companies can no longer update their Microsoft software when they please, they must run the version Microsoft dictates, and must upgrade when Microsoft says to. This is not a true subscription, but it's now just one short step to a true subscription.

Any business that didn't sign up for License 6 by the end of July 2002 is cut off completely from discounted upgrades. Should a business later decide it needs the upgrade program, it must first purchase all new software at retail price to get current. Higher cost Individual consumer license upgrades for home and very small business are still available until further notice, but volume license upgrades outside of License 6 are a thing of the past.

Coming as it did in the depths of an economic downturn, forcing immediate expenditure and increasing the cost of Microsoft software about 30% on average, License 6 has been unpopular (L1). Nontheless, so many companies felt they had no choice, Microsoft's revenue increased 10% for the quarter. Extortion is a wonderful thing!

A side-effect of License 6 was to further depress the already severely depressed PC market as money had to be diverted from hardware purchase to fattening the coffers of Microsoft.

In June, 2002, surveys by "Microsoft friendly" groups were showing 40% rejecting License 6, and another 30% undecided. Many said they just didn't have the money to comply, even if they wanted to. Many were looking seriously at alternatives for the very first time (L5, L7). About 42% of Microsoft's customers scrambled to get renewed with License 5 before it was discontinued, to put off the License 6 decision for a couple of years.

In early 2003, with less than a third of corporate customers signed up for License 6, Microsoft has been making some concessions (though not big ones) to make the program easier to swallow (L15). License 6 has raised costs for 60% who participated, even double for some, and many who did not participate still don't have free cash available to even qualify. Despite the early outcry, fewer than 4% of Windows shops are actually in the process of moving entirely to competing platforms - it's scary, and immediate costs for many may be higher than License 6.

Oh, yes, one other note: License 6 volume licensing doesn't include any actual Windows licenses. You still have to buy a Windows License with each and every PC you purchase (L10, L9).

License 6 is certainly not the end of the matter. If you run Windows XP, or have downloaded the Windows 2000 SP3 (which includes important security patches), you have legally agreed to a EULA (End User License Agreement) that allows Microsoft to enter your computer systems, examine them, and make changes. including disabling software (L13) without your knowledge or consent, and without liability for any damage that may result from such acts (L6).

If you doubt Microsoft is really serious about these details of license, note that they are the principal financial backer of the push for UCITA, which is intended to codify these points into state law through the Uniform Commercial Code. UCITA includes the right to enter your computer and disable software for any real or imagined violation of license or payment, and to unilaterally change terms of license after the fact, license terms which apply even if you are not allowed to read the license before purchase.

Eventually Palladium is to take over license enforcement. Palladium supports firm cut-off dates, so if you don't pay your subscription fees, you will not get a new Palladium key and will not be able to use Microsoft programs, or the data you created with those programs. In other words, you pay, or you are out of business.

For small business, the real revelation will be discovering just how horrifyingly expensive it is to run Microsoft software legally. Right now, I can count the number of small businesses I know of that are 100% legally licensed on the fingers of one hand, without using any fingers.

The cost of Microsoft software is already so high, they're offering financing plans (L4) to help small businesses comply with License 6. These plans will be just so easy to convert into subscriptions, once businesses become used to the monthly payments.

An ESL (End User Subscription) license for Microsoft Office XP was test marketed, and withdrawn (L11) after a year and a half because (typical for Microsoft licensing) it was too complex for users to understand, and involved dealers as well as customers. Expect ESL to be back in simplified form and with added incentives in conjunction with Office.NET (Microsoft never gives up on something they really want).

Even subscription is not the true objective. Microsoft's long term goal is "Software as a Service", through the .NET Initiative (pronounced "Dot Net"). Software won't be loaded onto your computer at all, it will run "as a service" from Microsoft .NET servers. Your business data will also reside on Microsoft .NET servers somewhere out on the Internet. For access, you will have to be authenticated by a Microsoft Passport server.

Bill Gates was recently asked if Microsoft software might eventually be available only for rent through .NET, and replied "I believe in the long run things will be architected that way" (L3).

Microsoft Office .NET (N5) is far enough along that Microsoft has been doing focus group marketing studies for it (one of which escaped onto the Internet). Why will businesses sign up for Office .NET? Because it will be a lower up-front cost for each workstation, and Office .NET will offer attractive features not available in the boxed version.

So, why is Microsoft messing around with subscription software at all, instead of just going directly to .NET? That's what they wanted to do, but it's now obvious the broadband Internet access required by .NET will not be universally available in the near term.

Meanwhile, just to make sure you can't use copies of Windows you already paid for on the new computers you buy, Microsoft has forbidden computer makers from shipping computers without an operating system, under threat of "renegotiating" their OEM distribution licenses (L8).
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Dot.Net

Microsoft's .NET Initiative (pronounced "DotNet") is Microsoft's take on Web Services, and is being deeply "integrated" into every Microsoft product to assure its wide distribution and wide adoption.

.NET differs very sharply from everyone else's concept of Web Services. While everyone else concentrates on making Web Services platform agnostic, .NET is designed to force the use of Windows to the maximum extent. While Microsoft pays lip service to "multi-platform", they have yet to demonstrate anything of that kind.

Under .NET, Microsoft provides the key services, running on Microsoft servers and accessed over the Internet. Services not provided by Microsoft will run on ASP partner's servers. Access to any and all is cleared through Microsoft's Passport authentication servers.

Clients, of course, must run Microsoft Windows if they expect to be anything like fully functional. Any and all .NET services must run on Windows.NET servers - no "platform agnostic" services here, thank you.

Java, used as the main programming language for Web Services elsewhere, is not used with .NET, because Microsoft was a very bad boy and is forbidden by court order from implementing Java. To replace Java, Microsoft has had to write a new Java-like language named C# (pronounced "C Sharp").

Due to problems implementing Hailstorm services (see below), .NET is now loosely segmented into two domains: business and consumer. The version for larger businesses has moved closer to generic Web services, with more control held by the customer (for now). The small business and consumer domain remains truer to the original "Microsoft controls all" vision.

Software as a Service is Microsoft's holy grail, and they are developing .NET enabled ASP versions of all their software as quickly as possible. Microsoft Great Plains, for instance, is on a crash program rewriting all their accounting software in C# to make it .NET enabled.

The beauty of the ASP model for Microsoft is that all your business data, as well as the software to access it, resides on .NET servers, not on your own machines. This gives them a single choke point, Passport, and tremendous leverage in raising prices (remember their revenue growth imperative). Very large organizations will have their own Passport authentication (a painful concession for Microsoft) but for everyone else, it's Microsoft servers.

Microsoft is pressuring (and sometimes bribing) Windows software publishers to quickly rewrite all their software using Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET programming tools so it will be .NET compatible. Actually, Microsoft means for many of these publishers to perish in the transition, but right now they need a show of support.

Microsoft is also heavily promoting .NET among prospective ASP partners, because there's no way they can provide a full range of services right from the start. Many will be intoxicated by the smell of Microsoft's money and invest in setting up .NET services to tap into that revenue stream. Their eventual fates are exemplified by RealNames.

RealNames came up with a very useful service allowing regular names of companies and agencies to be typed into Internet Explorer instead of the cryptic http://url names. This was particularly important in Asian countries because they could type in names in their native character sets and RealNames would translate and bring up the site.

In 2002, Microsoft abruptly canceled the RealNames contract and removed the essential link from Internet Explorer. completely ignoring loud protests from its Oriental customers. RealNames was forced to close and all its employees were without jobs (N2, N3).

Why did Microsoft kill a company with such a useful product, a company that was showing solid signs of becoming profitable? Several reasons have been given, but are not convincing, Microsoft had already hired several former RealNames employees, so I expect to see them incorporate this technology into their products without paying for it. They just wanted RealNames too thoroughly dead to sue them,

This same fate has befallen numerous Microsoft "partners" in the past, and awaits those that sets up .NET services. Either your service is not successful and you go out of business, or it is successful, Microsoft commandeers it, and you go out of business.

All is not, however, going as smoothly as Microsoft would like. The key .NET services were bundled together into a package called My Services (code named Hailstorm). Unfortunately, My Services had to be withdrawn, because most of the big retailers and financial services refused to sign up because they didn't trust Microsoft (Yes, even corporate executives learn - it just takes longer). In fact, most of these organizations have signed up with the competing Liberty Alliance (N14), recently joined by the U.S. General Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense (N15).

My Services didn't die though. Within a couple of weeks Microsoft had it renamed and the marketing pitch reformulated to present it for in-house use on corporate networks. Now, they're just building it into all their products so you can't escape it (N1).

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has already charged Microsoft with deception, misrepresentation of the security and privacy of the Passport service, and with gathering information that was off limits (N6). Caught with its hand in the cookie jar, Microsoft responded with its usual "We didn't do it but we won't do it again" and agreed to compliance audits every two years (N11). Meanwhile, they are canceling the electronic Wallet attached to Passport and setting it up as a separate service so they can pilfer information free of the privacy and security terms of Passport (N12).

"Well, I'm just not going to be part of that", you say? If you run Windows, you probably already are part of it. Hot Mail, MSN, Microsoft Instant Messaging - they all require a Passport account, and they are all being expanded into key parts of My Services. If you are attached to the Internet, your Windows computer is already chatting with Microsoft's servers, and if your run XP or Win 2000 SP3, you have already given Microsoft permission to examine your computer and make changes as they see fit.

Windows XP is substantially integrated into .NET, and future Windows versions will be completely integrated. You won't be able to tell where your network stops and .NET starts. The licenses you need to use the software you depend on will all be authenticated through Passport and Microsoft license servers on a daily basis.

All this sounds awesome, but there are a number of factors that threaten to seriously limit the success of .NET.

  • Microsoft's .NET vision depends on high speed Internet access. Universal high speed access is a lot farther away than Microsoft thought when .NET was launched, so implementation will be confined much more to in-house networks than Microsoft desires. High speed access is so important to .NET, Microsoft has set up a lobbying office in Washington to encourage legislation that would promote high speed access (N13).

  • Microsoft's ability to deliver viable product in a timely manner is questionable. Interactive television is an example where they have failed, yielding most of the market to competitors, many Linux-based. Two years after the .NET announcement, the Visual Studio.Net programming tools are the only .NET component substantially functional.

  • I expect a severe limiter to be the inability of Windows.NET to run on any but Intel based servers. The huge server farms required will be expensive, failure prone and difficult to administer. Microsoft has been trying for years to migrate HotMail servers from Unix to Windows, and the job is still incomplete. The transition crew found Unix much easier to administer than Windows (A15).

  • Security: .NET will be cracked early and often. It will bleed confidential customer information like a stuck pig (N18), and portions of it will be brought down by DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks every now and then.

  • Antitrust action will be brought by private parties (easier now that Microsoft stands convicted of monopoly abuse), then by the U.S. government soon after the Bush/Ashcroft administration leaves office.

  • Java now has a lot of momentum. It's not going to be easy to convince corporate developers to accept a Web Services platform that isn't compatible with Java, and which ties them to a single company and single class of server.

  • Trust, Trust, and Trust. Just about nobody trusts Microsoft any more, not even after a few drinks. Not even after smelling the money. Particularly after the screwing they got with License 6, businesses are wary of tying themselves tightly to Microsoft products. This is becoming a major and growing problem for the Redmond empire.

Microsoft has recently removed the .NET designation from a number of products and has recently described .NET as "middleware", a serious conceptual downgrading. Industry analysts are becoming impatient with Microsoft's failure to clearly define what .NET is, yet many companies are going ahead and starting major system implementations based on faith in Microsoft. The risks for these companies is substantial and the benefits uncertain (N17).

All told, I expect .NET to be widely implemented, but ever changing and never completely defined. It will not deliver fully on functionality or performance and will suffer "significant" security problems. Many customers who build their business models on .NET will suffer chronic but generally sub-fatal dysfunction. Deliberate incompatibilites with Sun's Sun One and IBM's WebSphere environments will hobble many .NET users.

Consultants, integrators and contractors will make vast amounts of money trying to make .NET work right, but Microsoft will rake in the really big bucks.
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XML

Microsoft is enamored of XML, to the point they try hard to convey the impression that it's a Microsoft protocol, XML is an open standard for communications between systems in a Web Services environment. A subset of SGML, XML is under development by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) (N16).

Microsoft was involved in creation of SOAP, a remote procedure call protocol that works with XML, but David Winer of Userland was the principal architect of SOAP. Microsoft has promised complete compliance with the XML standard and did announce that the Microsoft Office file formats will be transitioned to XML.

Many people rejoiced, saying, "Microsoft is converting even Office formats to standard XML, so soon we will be free of all those problems with proprietary Office formats". This is just silly. "Extensible" fits perfectly with Microsoft's traditional approach for destroying standards: "Embrace, Extend, Exterminate".

Even a casual reading of XML specifications will show that you can define data types that require a special parser to interpret them, which could be a parser only available in a Microsoft product. Microsoft has already stated they will do this, "to protect our intellectual property".

Now it appears even that won't be necessary. Microsoft has backed off its earlier statements and now says Office 2003 will consume standard XML, but won't produce it (N8). It'll still be all proprietary formats. No prediction has been made as to when there might be an Office that saves in standard XML format.

A serious probelem with this strategy is that low cost competitor StarOffice and no cost competitor OpenOffice already use standard XML as their native format and will be much easier to integrate into enterprise systems. Further, OASIS, a leading industry standards organization, is developing an XML standard for office applications, using the OpenOffice formats as the starting point (I6, I17).

If Microsoft can get business to go along with their XML schemas, and many businesses will, then business to business, and even business to consumer activity can easily be diverted through .NET services controlled by Microsoft. For that, you will pay a fee.

Intuit is currently showing the way to do this by hijacking the traffic of QuickBooks users using the built in email invoicing feature (N4). This turns out to be an ASP service for which Intuit intends to start charging a fee. Further, Intuit reserves the right to add third party advertisements to your invoices and gather all the data they want to from those invoices, right down to customer addresses and line item prices, and use it as they please.

Expect Microsoft to be watching Intuit's work very closely, since they share the same cavalier attitude toward their customers (they tried to merge some years ago, but screwed it up).
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Accounting & Business Management

Microsoft promised their business management software development "partners" they would never compete with them. I predicted about a year ahead of the fact that Microsoft would purchase a major Windows accounting software publisher, and predicted it would most likely be Great Plains, and that would be the beginning of the end for everyone else publishing accounting software for Windows.

I further predicted that a low end accounting package would be purchased or developed quickly to take market share away from Intuit (QuickBooks), Sage (Peachtree, Business Works, etc.), and other low range publishers. Finally, I predicted they would tack on Point of Sale and other more specialized modules.

Microsoft bought Great Plains, and six months later, Great Plains announced a low end accounting package, Small Business Manager. Later, in June of 2002 Microsoft purchased Point of Sale software publisher Sales Management Systems. The POS products will be integrated with Small Business Manager.

In announcing Small Business Manager, Microsoft made a point that it was higher priced and did not compete with QuickBooks, Peachtree and the like. This was quietly fixed some months later when a reconfigured and re-priced version of Small Business Manager was issued, moving firmly into QuickBooks territory.

Nor does all this stop with just accounting and Point of Sale. Microsoft has announced its entry into the lucrative CRM (Customer Relationship Management) market in direct competition with former partners. SCM (Supply Chain Management) is sure to follow.

For other business models, Microsoft has announced Professional Services Automation (B5), a software package designed for wall to wall control of professional practices, especially engineering, law and others that are "project" based. PSA integrates Microsoft Project, knowledge management, time, expense and project accounting, financial reports and analysis,

In conjunction with CRM Microsoft makes a lot of noise about concentrating on the "underserved midrange market" ($1 million to $1 billion in their definition) and not competing against "established enterprise partners" like SAP at the high end. Translation: "We aren't ready yet, and we still need you to lay the groundwork by converting all your enterprise clients to Windows and .NET".

When the time comes, the SAPs, People Softs and Baans will be plowed under in short order. As one CRM integrator told me, "This battle is over and Microosft won. If you think Microsoft treats their customers badly, you have no idea how the CRM vendors treat their customers." CRM customers will go with Microsoft out of pure vengence.

The Business Solutions division, including Microsoft Great Plains, has now been consolidated into the main Microsoft marketing machine. Given saturation of their traditional markets, Microsoft can only continue to intensify their efforts in these markets (B10). The announced revenue projections for Great Plains do not allow for surviving competitors.

Caught like deer in the headlights will be midsize customers - companies large enough to use complex systems, not large enough to be confident they can integrate those systems themselves, and fearful competitors will gain advantage over them if they don't use them. Microsoft's promise of easy top to bottom integration will be irresistable.

Microsoft's "development partners" are going through the same three stages we have seen in other markets Microsoft has invaded: denial, desperation, bankruptcy. They'll all get a brief mention on www.fu??ed company.com (you need to fill in those ??s yourself).

Sage (Best Software in the U.S.), publisher of Peachtree, Act!, Business Works, DAC Easy, MAS 90 / 200 / 500, Platinum, Sales Logix and TeleMagic, denied any impact on its business (B11), but has already entered the desperation stage with a joint announcement with IBM that it will be a big supporter of Linux. Way too late - they've already forced their customers to Windows versions of their products, many kicking and screaming all the way. Peachtree, for instance, refuses to install if you have a Linux / Samba server on your network, even though it would work just fine (if you could install it). Peachtree support still refuses to talk to you if you have such a server. Sage / Best is toast.

"But," you say, "how can Microsoft displace Intuit? Everybody's using QuickBooks. Intuit is just too popular." Microsoft's "Triple Terminator" is the transition of Windows software to .NET, Longhorn and Palladium. Microsoft will "help" Intuit make these transitions the same way they "helped" WordPerfect and Lotus make the transition from DOS to Windows. Only Microsoft software will be able to take full advantage of the this future world - Intuit is the WordPerfect of the future.

So what does all this mean to your business? When evaluating your management and accounting options, you need to keep these points in mind:

  • If you stay with Windows for your business management software, you will, sooner or later, be running only Microsoft software.
  • Microsoft will effectively own your business, because all your date will be in proprietary formats readable only with Microsoft products, which will be time limited (see Palladium). If you don't make your payments, you will be out of business.
  • Microsoft intends to move their customers to a .NET / Web Services / ASP model, particularly small business customers. Your software and business data will not reside on your computers, but on Microsoft .NET servers, with access controlled through Microsoft Passport servers.
  • If you bite the bullet and move to an alternative platform, you'll still have to pay for the Microsoft platform, perhaps for years, to access your historical data.
  • Microsoft's economic model requires rapid revenue growth. As their markets saturate, they must squeeze more money out of established customers. The whole purpose of monopoly is to increase profits through unrestriced price increases (new FTC rules have forced revealation that profits for Windows / Office are about 80%).
  • You won't be able to control Microsoft by threatening to go to other vendors. There won't be any, unless you are willing to bite the bullet and abandon Windows. Microsoft's goal is to make that transition so traumatic it is effectively impossible.
  • Even if your established competitors are as stuck with Windows as you are, new entrants into your market may not be so limited . There are mature and capable non-Windows alternatives that already cost much less, offer liberal licensing terms, do not report back to Redmond, and allow perpetual ownership of both software and data.
  • Think about Security
  • Think about The Upgrade Treadmill

By now, it should be pretty obvious you are going to have to raise your prices. 100% license compliance is going to be expensive, and you can't afford not to make your software subscription payments because that would be instant Chapter 7.

To avoid this fate, you need to start moving to alternatives now. It would have been a lot easier to do before you moved from DOS to Windows, but it can still be done if you can summon up the nerve to do it.
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Software Development

Software development may seem out of place in this business discussion, but in actual fact, only a small percentage of programmers are employed by companies that produce software for sale. The great majority work for non-software businesses developing software for internal use. Custom programs often yield huge labor savings compared to "canned" software.

A large amount of in-house developed software for Windows is written in Microsoft Visual Basic. While Visual Basic coders and their chosen language are roundly despised by "real programmers", they have given business a pool of relatively low cost developers capable of handling routine business tasks.

The Visual Basic language is very loose and forgiving. Its easy to use "point and click" structure ("point and drool" to the "real programmers") allows fairly complex programs to be created with very little understanding of programming principles.

All this changes with Visual Basic .NET, which requires much of the same planning and disciplined structure the "socially acceptable" languages have always demanded (D1, D2). This, and the fact that Microsoft is pushing very hard for conversion of everything to .NET, has left Visual Basic programmers feeling confused, disenfranchised and concerned about their futures.

The effect on businesses, as they too feel Microsoft's heavy hand pushing them to .NET, is an increase in software development costs. Either the existing Visual Basic programmers will have to be sent off for expensive training in the new methods (and then paid more for their new skills), or "real programmers", will need to be brought in, and they're going to want to write in "real languages" like Java or C++.

Another expense is that .NET automatically recasts all the software already developed into "legacy code" that needs to be rewritten. Microsoft provides conversion software, but the resulting .NET programs suffer a nasty performance hit and will need a lot of hand tuning to overcome that.

After that, there will be a complete rewrite for Longhorn (see above). All this is threatening to consume the cost advantage Windows development has enjoyed over other development environments (though some maintain this advantage has always been mythical).

These and other factors described in other sectons of this document have resulted in an unexpectedly high rate of defection by software developers from Windows to Linux (D3, D4, D5). Rather than coming mostly from Unix, 52% of Linux developers previously targeted Windows. This is perhaps the most serious threat to Microsoft's continued dominance, because controlling software developers has always been been their most powerful tool for destroying competition.
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Who Do You Call? - Sales & Support

As Microsoft pushes its market toward the enterprise data center, they increasingly encounter IS (Information Systems) departments that have very high expectations of vendor support - expectations born of a long association with IBM. To meet these expectations, Microsoft established MCS (Microsoft Consulting Services).

Very quickly, MCS became as much a problem as a solution. Microsoft's "channel partners", VARs (Value Added Resellers) and integrators, long established in the enterprise market, were finding themselves competing directly with MCS for business from large accounts. These channel partners expressed their concern very clearly.

Now, here's Microsoft's problem - .NET. Microsoft's Web services are still pretty much "vaporware" (often impolitely called .NOT), and .NET has serious competition. Sun Microsystems' Sun One and most especially IBM's WebSphere are more mature, and are backed by companies long established in the data center space. WebSphere is backed by IBM Global Services. a worldwide operation with an estimated 2002 revenue of nearly $40 Billion (after absorbing PWC Consulting).

It would take Microsoft decades to build an organization competitive with IBM Global Services, so they must depend on their channel partners - not only to push .NET, but to convince customers to delay Web services implementations based on competing products available now. An upset channel could easily switch to non-Microsoft products.

"The channel" has indeed always been Microsoft's secret weapon - a huge number of VARs, resellers, consultants and integrators of all sizes and stripes promoting Microsoft products to businesses, and Microsoft has always treated these "channel partners" very well.

Now, in recognition of their intense need for the channel to do the heavy lifting, not just for .NET, but for business management and accounting, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and SCM (Supply Chain Management), Microsoft has had to revamp their channel partnership program (S2).

A major feature of the new program recasts MCS from a profit center to a "satisfaction center" (without, of course, giving up profit). It has been decreed that MCS will always seek to be a subcontractor behind a partner rather than the prime contractor. MCS will also sell support to the partners in substantially discounted lumps of $68,000/year for up to 400 hours ($170/hr) and $20,000 lumps for SMB (Small, Medium Business) partners.

This new program has a number of strategic advantages for Microsoft.

  • It eases the concerns of all-important enterprise partners, preserving the channel.
  • It places no limit on the growth of MCS.
  • It gets customers accustomed to dealing with Microsoft people directly.
  • It gets partners accustomed to Microsoft being directly involved in their deals.

Yes, Microsoft still covets its channel partners' revenues, and grew its direct sales team by 47% in 2002, and account management staff by 15% (S4, S1), and there's still an imperative to grow MCS to satisfy their largest customers, but they must do all this very delicately, lest upset partners bolt to IBM/Linux and Sun alternatives.

The big question is, can they pull it off? Partners will still be running up against MCS to some extent. Revenue for upgrades is a major item, and is already migrating to Microsoft direct, and that will accelerate as Microsoft moves licensing to a subscription basis. I expect established channel partners to remain concerned enough to build significant capability with alternative products, but not concerned enough to jump off the Microsoft ship any time soon.

What does this means to the small business manager? It means you will be dealing with your local service providers. not directly with Microsoft, for some time yet. Yes, "A Microsoft partner is a victim they haven't gotten to yet", but the channel partners still have a while to live. Microsoft just isn't big enough to do without them, and may well never be that big.
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Home and Entertainment

With its business monopolies saturated, the home PC market stagnant, and heavy resistance in the corporate data center, Microsoft sees the huge home entertainment market as its next big revenue generator. Here they expect they can leverage their PC monopoly effectively. As with any market Microsoft enters, "we only want our fair share - all of it".

Microsoft's expressed intent is for all family entertainment to be delivered through Microsoft controlled channels - both hardware and software, and to charge both the content distributor and the content consumer for the privilege.

The XBox game console introduces the concept of Microsoft manufactured and controlled hardware, but is just the first (multi-billion dollar) step. Having seized complete control of hardware design from Intel, Microsoft is setting the stage for taking over the home market entirely - disk, box and content.

Microsoft's next step is piloting now - XBox Live (H3), an on-line gaming system. Unique to Microsoft's system is that Microsoft owns all the servers, thus Microsoft collects all the money and all the personal information about the players. Sony encourages third party businesses to set up and run gaming servers.

Sony is providing an adapter kit supporting both modem and broadband (H4) connections, while Microsoft supports only broadband. Remember how important broadband is to .NET and you see why they discourage modem use. Consider also that Bill Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen have invested heavily in cable companies.

Next up is the XBox Home Gateway through which all family entertainment will filter. It will, for instance, contain the TV schedule (updated daily from Microsoft.NET) and will select the channels for your new digital TV. This will enable Microsoft to sell "positioning" to TV shows the same way they sold icons on the desktop to Internet services. Any content critical of Microsoft will be pretty hard to find.

Following Home Gateway will be XBox 2, which has been described as much more like a full function PC. This will be the beginning of the end for makers of PCs for the home market. They will find it impossible to build machines compatible with Microsoft's content controls.

The Home Gateway will extend, through Universal Plug and Play (already a default setting in Windows XP (and already a severe security problem (H1))) to control your home appliances. At least it'll give you some nifty new excuses: "A hacker broke into the microwave and ruined the turkey", "The refrigerator got a virus and that's why the food spoiled and everyone got sick".

Of course, Microsoft will be selling plenty of information about you and your family to advertisers, market researchers and probably Homeland Security. They've already contracted for profiling software for their current TV set top boxes (H2).

The Home Gateway, coupled with Digital Rights Management software, and eventually Palladium is half the "Trustworthy Computing" picture Microsoft is promoting to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) as an unbreakable distribution method.

The other half of the picture is the servers used to feed digitized content (motion pictures, music, etc.) to PCs and other devices equipped with Microsoft DRM technology (H10). A more advanced DRM Server (H5) is planned for release, and will replace the current Media Rights Manager server. The servers are used by content providers .

To support all this, the Microsoft EULA (End user license agreement) you have "signed" (by the act of using Windows XP or by downloading recent Service Packs and security fixes) specifically states that Microsoft has the right to inspect software on your PC and to change or disable that software as they wish, without notice to you, and without liability to Microsoft, to protect copyrights (including their own). This means Microsoft has complete administrative rights to your PC - home or business.

Every household with children or teenagers will have its computers infected with Microsoft's DRM schemes within a few months. Kids have always received everything free from their parents, and just can't understand that "free stuff" from the outside world must be regarded with suspicion. Microsoft is distributing their DRM system with free "preview" CDs and by similar means (H9, H12).

Of course, advanced DRM requires hardware support at your end, but hardware manufacturers are all perfectly willing to go along ( H11). They see no downside whatever to your need to buy new video and sound cards, or even new PCs to support Microsoft's schemes.

All this has caused considerable unrest among rights and privacy advocates, because it tramples a number of legal rights, such as the "fair use" doctrine, post sale usage of purchased content, privacy, the security of your PC and control of the content you can view and the software you can run - but with lawmakers already bought and paid for, there's not a lot that is likely to get done about it.

So Microsoft's push to control home entertainment seems unstoppable, yet right in the midst of it, they received a stunning setback. It was announced on September 9th, 2002, that Movielink (H8), a joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers would offer movie downloads starting in Q4 of 2002. IBM, not Microsoft, provides hosting, system operation, rights management and network management.

This deal is so big the Department of Justice jumped in before it was even announced. It's now obvious these movie giants never intended to consider Microsoft's delivery plan. Why? Looks like it's that pesky "trust" thing again. You just don't hand a company with Microsoft's ambitions control of your air supply (I told you these guys were smarter than the software industry).

The music industry, on the other hand, is a different matter - all the greed with none of the brains. I expect Hilary Rosen's RIAA to go hook line and sinker for Microsoft's promises. If they had two synapses to rub together they would have seen the power of Napster and turned it to their own advantage, but now, they'll be completely dependent on Microsoft for delivery, and that's going to cost them plenty (H12).
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Security

Security is one of Microsoft's most serious weaknesses. Worm, virus invasions, trojans and now root kits, Web page defacement, credit card theft, data theft, espionage and destruction. These are all major features of Windows systems, costing business tens of billions of dollars per year worldwide.

The vulnerability issue has become so serious a public relations problem it threatens Microsoft's expansion into the enterprise datacenter and acceptance of .NET. Even long time ally Gartner Group has recommended dumping Microsoft's Web software (X34)). This, not your costs, is finally getting Microsoft's attention.

Microsoft claims attacks focus on Windows because Windows is so popular, True, but it's also because Windows is a uniquely soft target. While no system is entirely secure, most at least take some skill to penetrate. Windows provides easy success for neophyte crackers and entertainment for thousands of unskilled "script kiddies". Don't believe me, though, listen to Microsoft.

"... Our products just aren't engineered for security." (X0) - Brian Valentine - Microsoft senior vice president for Windows development. Another Microsoft executive recently explained they never paid attention to security "Because customers wouldn't pay for it until recently" (X23). In other words, customers wouldn't pay extra for something they expected as part of the product.

Windows XP, heavily advertised as "The Most Secure Windows Ever" needed a major security patch within weeks, XP's password security is easily bypassed by even normal users (X58). Computer sophisticates correctly point out that no system is secure if you have physical access, but it just shouldn't be that easy.

The skill level needed to write a successful Windows worm or virus is absurdly low. The people who launched the famous Love Bug (estimated $8 Billion in damage and eradication costs), had only a few weeks of computer training.

Even commercial products take advantage of Windows' weaknesses. Anyone can install a keyboard logger on someone else's Windows PC and have it email all activity (including network passwords) to the perpetrator's mailbox (X10, X9).

Microsoft's .NET Initiative will magnify the current problems, since business systems participating in .NET have to be permanently attached to the Internet, with key services coming from Microsoft servers of questionable security (X28, 57). Key features are "single sign-on" and "tight integration", so when security is broken at one point, it's broken everywhere.

Now that Microsoft's customers are desperate enough to pay extra, Microsoft has opened a Microsoft Security Business Unit, and is exploring ways to charge customers for add-on security products. Of course, Microsoft's existing security product, ISA Server (Internet Security and Acceleration Server) requires occasional security patches (X69).

Microsoft's much hyped firewall software for Windows XP and Windows 2003 isn't doing too well either, and Microsoft itself advises you to acquire some other publisher's software to plug the holes (X78).

What makes Microsoft's environment so uniquely vulnerable to invasion, subversion and security leaks, and why are the vulnerabilities not getting fixed?

  • Single User Roots - Microsoft's software was originally developed to run on a single user computer not attached to a network of any kind, never mind the Internet. Key integration features, such as OLE (renamed COMS, then DCOM (distributed COMS), then Active X) were originally single user code requiring no security.

    You can't just tack security on to a fundamentally insecure structure and have it be effective. Unix (and by extension Linux) and mainframes were designed to be multi-user and networked with prudent built-in security from the very first.

  • Ease of Use - Effective security is always at odds with convenience. Microsoft's main marketing pitch is "ease of use". and "integrated environment". For this reason, what security features there are are often turned off by default.
  • Tight Integration between products allows a rogue process to move freely. Tight integration through secret programming interfaces locks competitors out and is a critical "ease of use" factor as Microsoft products become more complex, so it's here to stay.
  • li>Automation Features - the very features that make it possible for non-programmers to automate business processes and improve ease of use are used by worms and viruses for their own automation needs. Because every Windows computer has these features, worm and virus writers can take full advantage of them.

  • Intentional Vulnerability - Microsoft demands access to your computers and network over the Internet, without your consent and without your knowledge (it's in the license agreement for Windows XP and Windows 2000 SP3). To expect a computer system outfitted with these "features" to be in any way secure is purest fantasy.
  • Deliberate "Back Doors" - It is strongly suspected that Microsoft has provided government agencies with keys and codes allowing secret entry into Windows systems. This is a major reason why China and the German Bundeswehr are dumping Windows. Further, Microsoft developers have hidden whole games within the code of Microsoft Office. It's absurd to think they haven't put in a few convenient entry points.

    Many think the sudden surrender of the Bush Department of Justice to Microsoft, after the antitrust case was decisively won and upheld on appeal, was in return for Microsoft inserting access points into Windows - access points that are probably redundant, but asked for as a result of the now famous lack of communication among U.S. security agencies.

  • Uniformity - (X59) - In agriculture, the "Uniform Windows Experience" would be called a "monoculture". Monoculture crops, all from exactly the same genetic material, maximize ease of marketing, but are vulnerable to complete destruction by pests tuned to that exact crop. Monoculture agriculture makes heavy (and sometimes ineffective) use of expensive pesticides. Monoculture computing makes heavy (and often very ineffective) use of expensive antivirus and invasion detection software.

    A recent report by recognized top security experts emphasized the "monoculture" aspect of Microsoft's monopoly (X97, 98), resulting in the immediate firing of one of the authors (X99). The reoport was, however, immdeiately echoed by long time Microsoft ally Gartner Group (X100).

  • A Corporate Culture of aggressive competitiveness both within the company and without has different groups working on similar projects. They rush their development and do not communicate with others, knowing that one group will survive and the other will not. Adding new features takes precedence over all other work, because that's what wins political battles.
  • Poorly Trained Administrators - Microsoft's constant pitch to business is that with their products you don't need highly trained and experienced administrators (color them expensive), it's all "point and click". Unfortunately, system security is rocket science, so most Microsoft shops do not have the skills to implement effective security.
  • Inexperienced Developers straight out of college are Microsoft's choice, so their employees are vulnerable to indoctrination in Microsoft's cult-like corporate culture (the uniformity of Microsofties in appearance and attitude is startling). These developers have no real experience in business methods and little interest in or understanding of security issues.

What is Microsoft Doing About This

Denial has always been Microsoft's "remedy of choice", blaming "dumb users", "criminal hackers", and "poor administration" for security problems. Apparently Microsoft itself employs plenty of dumb users and poor administrators, because they've had to disconnect their internal systems for major cleanups with every big worm attack, and they got slammed pretty hard by the Slammer worm in JAN 2003 (X51, X48).

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is Microsoft's second line of defense. A large number of articles are now appearing in news and magazines purporting to show that all environments have about the same level of vulnerability (X27), or that Linux has more bugs than Windows. They are typically by "Writers for Hire" (X26), and are simple rewordings of the Microsoft line.

Aberdeen, a market research firm numbering Microsoft among its most important clients, published a "report" with a catchy title claiming that Linux has more security flaws than Windows (X49). Cert , the security clearing house upon whose numbers the "report" was based, immediately declared Aberdeen's interpretation meaningless and invalid, but this hasn't stopped the "report" from being widely quoted.

When a security problem is found Microsoft may do nothing until it becomes a PR problem (X79, X21). Then a patch is issued, which may work, but may cause problems (X25, X56). If it isn't easily fixed, or the fix would violate Microsoft's marketing plans, they deny it's a problem (X7, X3, X4, X13).

Trustwothy Computing

The normal measures having proved inadequate to quiet customer concerns, Bill Gates, in January 2002, issued his famous internal memo (obviously designed to be leaked) proclaiming Trustworthy Computing, and declaring security Microsoft's number one development concern (X74).

Microsoft also created a new vulnerability category, "Important", to reduce the number of "Critical" warnings. Since then, public pressure has forced them to upgrade several "Important" warnings to "Critical", and we're still getting a "Critical" about every two weeks. (X24, X29).

Microsoft announced they were halting development work for the month of February for intensive code review and employee secuirty training. Serious secuity problems continued to be discovered however, and of the first 15 found in 2002, only one was found by Microsoft. Patches have continue to roll out in an incessant stream, (X5, X8, X11, X12, X13, X14, X15, X18, X19, X22, X29, X31, X32, X43, X54, X55, X67, X69, X71, X73, X82, X87, X89, X90, X91, X92, X102, X103, X106) - and many more, but you get the picture. Thousands of system administrators get the picture too, and it's wearing them out.

On the first anniversary of "Trustworthy Computing", Bill Gates boasted of spending over $100 million reviewing code, and an ad campaign was kicked off promoting Microsoft security (X47). The effectiveness of this expenditure immediately came into question due to a series of extrordinary events.

  • The Slammer Worm infected every vulnerable computer in the world within 10 minutes of launch, exploiting a port address carelessly left open by the default installations of Microsoft SQL Server and MSDE (Microsoft Database Embeded). MSDE is installed on PCs by a huge number of 3rd party accounting, business management and data handling programs, so most users are completely unaware it is on their computer.

    In the U.S. most of the damage was contained in the early morning hours, but many found they could not use bank ATM machines (X52) or airline reservation systems for the rest of the day. Unlike Nimda and Code Red, Slammer did not become a chronic problem, simply because it was so severe. If you had an infected machine, you had no choice but to just turn it off (X46). Once again, it could have been much worse, but the worm's designer didn't optimize for damage (this worm was only 376 bytes in size).

    Countries with more centralized Internet structures than the U.S. has, like South Korea, lost Internet access entirely for some hours. In the U.S., access was just deathly slow (I experienced it first hand at about 1:00AM). Had Slammer been designed to do damage, Internet access might have been unavailable for weeks, and the cost astronomical.

    It's just coincidence, but the Department of Homeland Security moved its servers from Windows to Linux on the very day of the Slammer attack (X45). Note also the great improvement in uptime since then.

  • In March, 2003, The U.S. Army was hit by an attack exploiting a vulnerability that had not been previously announced by security researchers (X67). Most attacks exploit well known problems. Microsoft rushed out a patch, but it killed some Windows 2000 servers (X68).
  • Windows NT, XP, 2000 and the "Trustworthy" Windows 2003 Server were all found vulnerable to an exploit giving system level control to an invader(X88).
  • Trustworthy Computing may eventually produce a "better moustrap", but "better mice" are here already. Root kits, are now available for Windows (X66). Implanted by any convenient exploit, a properly written root kit is nearly impossible to detect, but a few have been found in the wild (mainly due to programming errors). Once your machine is "rooted", it's permanently available to the perpetrator.
  • In May 2003, Microsoft's Passport security system was shown vulnerable to a simple to use, yet extremely severe security exploit (X75). Passport is where Microsoft wants you to store all your credit card numbers and stuff for "single sign on" access to financial transactions. All that was needed to seize control of a Passport account and all it contained was to know the owner's email address. A month later, another exploit was found (X86) that would allow hijacking acounts.

    This could go a long way towards explaining how spammers have been hijacking thousands of HotMail accounts to broadcast unsolicited email. That such a major yet easy to find flaw escaped Trustworthy Computing code review casts doubt on the whole process. Gartner Group has advised their corporate clients to shut off any Passport services they may be using (X77).

    HotMail itself has been riddled with problems, such as the "spammer hole" which was unfixed for months (X83). Microsoft finally "fixed" it by limiting HotMail users to 100 emails a day.

    Due to an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission resolving a previous Passport security issue, Microsoft could be subject to fines of up to $2.2 Trillion (FTC figure) (X76). Any other company could expect severe punishment, but this is Microsoft, so everyone expects them to get off without paying a dime.

  • In May 2003, Internet Explorer was shown to shut down instantly, if a user viewes a Web site into which a simple one-line bit of HTML code is embeded (X73). Mozilla, Opera and other competing browsers ignore the bad code.
  • In August 2003, the Blaster worm went wild, crashing computers and disabling entire networks (X90). It then launched a denial of service attack against Microsoft's Windows Update server, but, fortunately for Microsoft, the worm writers used the wrong address so the attack was easily deflected.

    A few days after Blaster launched, the W32/SoBig.F worm was released, displacing W32/Klez.H as the most virilant worm ever (X91), and Microsoft announced two more critical flaws in Internet Explorer (X92).

    More details on these events (and others) can be found in my article Microsoft Hides Behind Linux while Worms Eat Windows.

So widespread and severe were disruptions a full year and a half after the "Trustworthy Computing" launch, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer was forced to issued a "this time we really mean it" proclamation (X93, X94, X95). This time even some of the most pro Microsoft analysts had serious reservations (X96, X101).

Ballmer, being a practical guy, didn't promise to actually fix all the vulnerabilties, but to make patching them easier and strengthen perimiter defenses (firewalls) to make them harder to get to. He promised there would, except in severe cases, be only one patch release per month, on the 11th, which means patches will be coming out an average of 2 weeks later than they used to.

By the first week of November, 2003, the situation had deteriorated so far that Microsoft resorted to setting up a bounty fund of $5 million and posted bounties of $250 Thousand for information leading to the capture of the writers of the Blaster and Sobig.F worms - vastly enhancing their prestige within their peer group (X105).

While "Trustworthy Computing" isn't doing so well on the security front, customers have started complaining that the initiative is being used primarily as a marketing tool to force them into unwanted upgrades to newer, "more secure" versions of Microsoft products (X33). This is certainly the case with the release of Windows 2003 server.

Patches

Why are so many attacks able to exploit flaws long known and for which patches are available? For one thing, Microsoft has worked hard to convince people Windows will save money because it doesn't require skilled administrators, so few businesses have them, and security patches aren't tracked and don't get applied.

The Code Red and Nimda server worms came out long after the patches, but a year later servers all over the world still transmit these infections. When informed of an infection, server owners become very angry at the messenger, but don't fix the problem - most have no idea how.

Companies that do have skilled administrators are swamped by the sheer number of patches, and difficult patching procedures, some taking hours to apply. Microsoft itself has admitted the problem at TechEd (3 June 2003) and promised two new patching programs, one for Windows and one for applications, but those won't be available until the end of 2003 at the earliest (X81).

Many are reluctant to install patches at all because they often break something else, or make the system unstable or nonfunctional (X53, X68, X72, X80, X85). Sometimes the patches simply don't fix the problem anyway (X103). Sometimes they are used by Microsoft to force new license terms customers don't want, as with Windows 2000 SP3, and to install new features that may disrupt operation.

For desktop computers directly attached to the Internet, the situation is infinitely worse. Most will never be patched, and make convenient tools for DDoS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attacks and as entry points into company networks. For this reason, Microsoft is trying to force feed updates using Windows Update every time you attach to the Internet. Anything wanted by Homeland Security will ride along, of course.

Information Gathering

A real concern for many users is just exactly what information is being sent to Microsoft during a Windows Update session. Originally, Windows update sent no information at all, but this has changed. A German organization has recently examined the data stream with special tools and found a lot of information about your computer is now going to Redmond, including the Windows product ID and a listing of its hardware configuration (X60).

The usefullness to Microsoft's licensing efforts of a listing of software on your computer is obvious. It's not currently included in the Windows Update transmission but that capability is already in the product (X70), to be turned on any time Microsoft wants it.

The on-line registration wizard for Windows95 was suspected of sending such a list, but Microsoft denied it. The data stream seemed to show no list, but later analysis revealed numeric codes were assigned to about 100 software packages, and the first 10 found on your computer were included in the header block of the transmission (X61).

Unfortunately, for Windows XP users, the probelem goes far beyond Windows Update. While XP will work without an Internet connection, if it can get one, things change. The Application Layer Gateway process configures your computer so it can be controlled by Micrsoft's computers. XP has at least 16 processes that communicate with Micrsoft and at least 11 processes that update software from Microsoft's servers, all without your knowledge or permission.

A lot of information is sent from your XP computer to Microsoft. For instance, if you watch that DVD of Debbie Does Dallas using Microsoft Media Player, that information is sent to Microsoft, as is various information about user skills and computer usage.

All this can be turned off by rather tedious processes, but as soon as you install a security patch or other update from Microsoft, it'll probably all be turned back on. If you attempt to prevent XP from communicating with Microsoft using Zone Alarm or a similar software firewall, XP will disable features of your computer. If you are not paranoid about this yet, you should read all the details (X84).

Conclusions

All in all, security experts aren't real impressed with Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" efforts (X50). In fact, some programming houses have adopted the phrase "Trustworthy Computing" to mean bugs, as in "Make sure there's no Trustworthy Computing in that code". Some experts feel Windows is broken so severely at such a deep level it simply cannot be repaired (X1, X2).

If your business has data it must keep secure and protected, such as medical records, legal files, or credit card numbers, or your systems must be always available, or if you have something to hide, running Windows leaves you vulnerable to data loss, theft, and possibly to arrest or legal action for failure of due diligence.

If you are a lawyer, why bother with the criminals - charging the victims with negligence is going to be much easier (I am not a lawyer, so this does not constitute legal advice). If you have criminal intent, or antisocial tendencies, I suppose you already know what to do and are probably already doing it.
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Microsoft's Legal Problems

Microsoft's endless legal problems will continue to erode the company's public image and the trust of business partners.

Even the antitrust case, which Microsoft has settled with the Department of Justice, continues to grind on. Microsoft executives have freely admitted the settlement they negotiated with the Bush/Ashcroft administration hands them greater power than they had before the trial began - not surprising since they wrote it and Bush/Ashcroft just retyped and signed it, but others continue to pursue the case,

Microsoft's highly publicized moves to "comply with the DoJ settlement" are PR stunts and are causing adverse publicity. Their high profile release of 272 APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), for example, was in a format completely useless to anyone (Q1). In July 2003, the DoJ have reported serious concers to the Court which may result in further action (as they have done with previous DoJ agreements, judge CKK can pretty much have her way and her way of having it as far as remedies are concerned.

Microsoft's program to license other APIs involves unacceptable terms and unacceptable costs, so only four long time Microsoft partners have signed up (Q15). The DoJ is cites concern, but will try to get Microsoft to ease the terms before taking the matter back to Judge CKK.

Questions have now surfaced about claims Microsoft made during the antitrust settlement hearings. Microsoft argued that exposing the Windows source code would seriously compromise national security. Now they have agreed to open this same source code to the governments of Russia and China (X62). Is Microsoft deliberately compromising American national security to protect its markets, or have they been bending the truth in court (X63)? Either way, they should be held accountable.

Microsoft also told the judge that making a modular version of Windows as desired by the States was all but impossible and would destroy the product, forcing them to withdraw Windows from the market. Now, starting with Windows 2003 Server and particularly future products, Microsoft's primary development thrust is to make their products modular. Did they lie to the judge?

There are currently about 25 patent infringement cases against Microsoft (Q4). Technology innovators tend to be hopelessly naive and do not recognize the smell of Microsoft's money as the smell of death. Microsoft routinely drags out license negotiations until they know everything they need to know about the product. Negotiations are suddenly dropped, and Microsoft issues an infringing product. The next step is to cut off the innovator's cash flow and use Microsoft's massive legal forces to bankrupt him in court. No royalties will be paid.

The list keeps growing. British company Sendo partnered with Microsoft to bring Microsoft's SmartPhone version of Windows to the mobile phone market. Just days before introducing their product, Sendo dropped the relationship and has filed suit against Microsoft. It seems Microsoft's favored contract manufacturers in Asia, who have little software design expertise, started shipping handsets incorporating sophisticated technology identical to that developed by Sendo (Q6).

Microsoft has just lost its appeal of an important patent case brought by Timeline. Microsoft signed a patent license agreement with Timeline, but apparently issued misleading statements about that agreement to their customers to encourage developing for SQL Server. SQL Server developers now face the possibility of having to pay staggering license fees to Timeline. Some are considering suing Microsoft for misleading them (Q11).

Two cases cleared for trial threaten every version of Windows from Windows95 on (Q7, Q8), and if either wins, it will cost Microsoft the big bucks. Microsoft does lose in court pretty regularly, since they're clearly guilty most of the time. When they lose, they negotiate a settlement incorporating a nondisclosure agreement. This costs them extra, but is well worth the cost, because the public never learns the true extent of Microsoft's violation of laws and ethics.

In fact, nearly every Microsoft agreement or contract carries an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), often to hide the extent to which extortion was applied. Facts hidden by the NDA may seep out many years later. The NDA required to get critical Microsoft programming assistance in the transition to Windows, for instance, included an extortion clause requiring software developers to drop all development of software for IBM's OS/2 operating system. By such means, superior products are driven from the market.

Now, with Microsoft battling Linux in the universities, they require NDAs that force public institutions to be in violation of U.S. public records laws (Q5). In other words, "You want our software, you're going to have to break the law a little".

Related legal problems are that Microsoft's licenses for Windows XP and Windows 2000 SP3, which are expected to be expanded in future products, apparently force customers to violate both U.S. Banking law (Q10) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 Q9). Microsoft's demand to be allowed to enter, examine and make changes to systems that are required to be certified and secured is incompatible with U.S. law and regulations.

Microsoft also faces legal problems oversea. Most prominent is action by the European Commission which is investigating Microsoft's business practices in several areas (Q12). If charges are brought, the EU has much less incentive to accept a favorable settlement than Bush/Ashcroft did. The Taiwan FTC (Fair Trade Commission) also has ongoing action concerning Microsoft's business practices (Q13).

For certain, there will be many more legal actions against Microsoft, because the company has never respected the law. Microsoft started out by stealing intellectual property ("dumpster diving" for code) and computer time, and it hasn't changed its attitude one bit since. It is likely new Federal antitrust charges will be filed soon after Bush/Ashcroft leaves office - there is certainly plenty of material for one.

The smiling Bill Gates mug shot from 1977 exemplifies this attitude. Microsoft claims it was for a traffic violation, but the laws of New Mexico say otherwise - mug shots are reserved for more serious offenses. What was the offense? Microsoft's money has caused that to vanish from the record. As long as money buys "justice" Microsoft will respect neither law nor justice.
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Why Choose Microsoft Solutions?

Despite matters discussed above, some of which can be interpreted as detrimental to businesses, most businesses Will choose Microsoft solutions, and many will choose only Microsoft solutions.

A principal factor is that America's business leaders simply don't want to think about complex technology issues - they want to think about golf. Microsoft promises them that, and being a large, and hugely successful corporation, they have high credibility with top business executives.

Microsoft's sales teams waste little time pitching to people who understand and implement technology, they pitch to executive "decision makers" who have the power to dictate what information systems will be used, even though they know little about them. Microsoft has direct access to high level managers, many of whom are strong admirers of Bill Gates' wealth,

So strong is the desire to simplify decision making, many executivs are willing to live with "solutions" that don't actually work. The industry is replete with stories of "Microsoft only" shops where staff replaced Microsoft products that didn't work well with lower cost products that did, only to be ordered to remove them and return the Microsoft "solution" to service. Other shops are reported to have adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude.

Microsoft promises integrated solution packages they assure the customer will all work together seamlessly to implement efficient new business processes resulting in huge contributions to profitability in an amazingly short time. Better yet, this is all pre-packaged and can be implemented and run by cheap, semi skilled labor rather than the expensive administrators required by other systems - it's all "point and click".

Microsoft backs all this up with very well developed product selection tools (M2) to help configure systems that might actually work. If the tools are good enough that semi-skilled managers feel comfortable pointing and clicking their way through the design stage, those expensive and troublesome "experts" won't be brought in at all, and superior alternatives to Microsoft's solutions will not be examined.

That's the pitch: at the top, become a superhero to the stockholders without taking your mind off golf, and for the middle managers, the security that "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft" (not actually true, but widely believed). This two-pronged pitch is difficult for any competitor to counter.

Small businesses don't get wined, dined and golfed by Microsoft sales, but they are still continuously exposed to Microsoft's marketing materials, and are just as vulnerable to the temptation of making easy choices. "Lets just go with the leader - that'll be safe." In some cases small businesses have little choice, since their internal systems are dictated by customers and business partners much larger than they are, and they don't have the skills to get around that.

Most small businesses don't call in a consultant until they have already decided on a course of action - they just expect the consultant to make what they have decided to do work. In truth, most consultants are happy to go along with this, because they can charge full rate for everything, and not get blamed for the choices. A system that "sort of works" generates a lot more consultant dollars than one that works (IBM Global Services favors Windows over IBM's own OS/2, because OS/2 works).

Does Microsoft deliver on its promises? In many ways, yes - but that "bottom line" part - no. Microsoft's solutions have always proven to be very expensive, sometimes absurdly expensive, and often far more expensive than available alternatives. If Microsoft solutions were cheap, Microsoft wouldn't be that rich.

Microsoft's solutions often look inexpensive, and are always claimed to be, but are often cheap by the unit and expensive overall. There is often little economy of scale. One unit, a thousand units, the cost per unit is about the same, and each carries full support costs. There are also often many more units than with competing solutions, especially when it comes to servers.

Some years ago, Microsoft convinced management that moving from Novell NetWare servers to Microsoft Windows NT servers would save them huge amounts of money, because the servers could be administered by people with far less skill - it's all "point and click". Companies following this path found that every NetWare server was replaced not by one, but by three or four NT servers, and the admins were definitely cheaper, but there were four or five times as many of them.

Even Microsoft internal documents admit that, dsspite Windows' "point and click" interface, Windows server administration is more difficult and time consuming than with Unix/Linux (A15). Others have had similar results (C37). Compound this with constant security patches and a platform that crashes much more often and you start to see why you need more administrators.

Why wasn't a big stink raised? For the pointy haired bosses of middle management, the Windows conversion was a godsend. Four or five times as many employees means more power and more pay - and nobody could object or criticise, because it was all dictated by top management. These same conditions apply on the "Road Ahead".

This state of affairs will persist, and be resistant to change. Business leaders simply are too comfortable with the Microsoft solution, and become more comfortable as Microsoft eliminates more competitors - less decisions to be made. Being able to say, "we really had no choice", is something most business "decision makers" are willing to pay any price for.

Alas, this soothing ointment does come with flies in it. There are many applications for which Microsoft solutions are simply not at all suitable, and others where they become way too costly the moment a competitor implements an alternative solution. This has given alternatives staying power, and as the cost and complexity of Microsoft's solutions continue to increase, alternatives increasingly threaten the status quo.
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Microsoft's Competitors

Given that Microsoft makes such a compelling case to business leaders, you would think competing products are at the end of their days, yet many are showing such strength, even the technology press is beginning to notice.

In important areas, competitors have slowed Microsoft's expansion to a crawl, and even threaten to recover lost territory. Deliberately incompatible Windows features now often slow acceptance of Microsoft products rather than demolish competitors as intended. To maintain revenue growth, Microsoft has been forced to increase costs to its current customers, providing yet more incentive to look at alternatives.

What happened? Windows NT was supposed to hit Unix hard (it did - like a bug hitting a windshield), and the last mainframe was to be unplugged before the end of the century - yet Unix and mainframes are still the power houses of business technology. Even Novell, decimated by Microsoft's superior marketing, is showing signs of renewed life.

The problem is simple, superior marketing can take you a long ways, gathering all the low hanging fruit, but eventually you get to a place where you must compete on merit. Microsoft has reached that place, and their products have proven inadequate for many jobs.

  • Business with highly demanding applications requiring outstanding performance, vast storage capacity, and high reliability find Microsoft products do not meet cost / performance and manageability requirements. Embarrassingly, Microsoft's own HotMail service falls within this category (A14, A15). Unix, Linux and mainframes each have established markets here.

  • Specialized workstations - Many organizations have a large number of workstations that don't need Microsoft Office functionality, they just perform one or a very few specialized functions. These stations can be rolled out on thin client systems or Linux workstations at far lower cost, especially for ongoing administration (no - Windows Terminal Services is not equivalent).

  • Supercomputer class performance is needed for oil exploration, movie special effects, weapons research, weather analysis and many other demanding applications. Microsoft has no product at all for this market - Linux clusters now all but own this space and even Microsoft's own researchers have endorsed Linux clusters for supercomputing applications (A20).

  • Cost - Fast growing new businesses with limited financial resources are turning to alternatives, particularly Linux. In years past, cash limited businesses just copied a lot of Microsoft software, but this is becoming difficult and dangerous. Many businesses in highly competitive financial services, volume retail and fast food are running alternatives to Windows.

  • Business Continuation - Some businesses have taken a hard look at issues of data ownership, control, security, and business continuity (see above), and realized their interests and those of Microsoft are on a collision course. Yes, there are a few business executives who don't play golf.

  • Ethics - Organizations that put a premium on ethics (few businesses, but some social organizations) find it impossible to rationalize using Windows. Only our top corporate CEOs (such as they are) could consider Microsoft to be an ethical company.

  • Server Consolidation - Windows NT/2000 server is slow, runs only on relatively weak Intel based platforms, and major Windows server applications are not at all happy to share the same server. On converting to Windows, many companies found they had four or five Windows servers where there had been only one NetWare server, and more were added as needs expanded. With Windows being so high maintenance, this resulted in a huge increase in cost, complexity and staffing. To reverse this, many companies are adding multiple Linux partitions to their IBM zSeries and iSeries servers to get their operations back on a sane number of servers.

  • License Raids - Some who have suffered a BSA / Microsoft license raid have stripped all Microsoft software from their business to make sure it never happens again. A license raid feels like rape, but costs a lot more. A few businesses believe in prevention, and are moving to alternatives, particularly Linux, before getting raided. All you need to get raided is one disgruntled employee (whose identity will be kept secret) (A6).

  • Specialized Devices - Makers of consumer electronics and other specialized devices have turned away from Windows on grounds of cost and flexibility. Despite investing billions in cable companies, Microsoft has lost almost the entire interactive TV market to mostly Linux based alternatives, and Symbian dominates in advanced cell phones (and Linux coming soon to a Motorola phone near you).

  • Security - Some businesses are actually bothered by Microsoft mucking around in their data systems on a regular basis, and that crackers and spies find easy pickings. They may even resent every worm, virus, and trojan having its way and its way of having it with their PCs. Windows security - it is to laugh! There are over 63,000 worms and viruses for Windows, many out of control, under 100 for Linux, and none that amount to much.
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What Alternatives Are There?

  • Linux - Desktop & Server - Now Number One on Microsoft's enemies list, Linux is eating server markets Microsoft expected to be theirs, and increasingly threatens their desktop monopoly. Linux is an updated, more user oriented version of Unix. It scales from wristwatch to supercomputer. We have a lot more to say about Linux below.
    Disadvantage: many specialized business applications don't run on Linux, yet (but many do and more are coming).

  • eComStation (OS/2) - Desktop & Server - IBM's OS/2, offering the most usable desktop environment on PCs, is now updated, enhanced and distributed by Serenity Systems as eComStation (by contract with IBM). It's economical, secure, free of worms, virus, trojans, crackers and license raids. It's easy to use, and plays well with other systems (Windows, Linux, etc.). It can be outfitted to run Microsoft Office for light usage.

    At Automation Access, we run our business on OS/2 (including building this Web site) and have no intention of changing - anything else would be less stable and cost a lot more. eCS / OS/2 also makes a fine client to Linux or DOS based accounting systems.

    Most OS/2 users are larger organizations that depend on critical information systems (banks, insurance companies, airlines, grocery chains, etc.).
    Disadvantages: IBM wishes it would go away because something that doesn't break doesn't generate service revenues (why IBM Global Services loves Windows). Support for the latest cameras, scanners, etc. may be slow coming out, so most OS/2 based offices keep a Windows machine around for that.

  • Thin Clients / Java - Desktop/Server - in many organizations, there are a lot of workstations where a full Windows desktop is not justifiable, where Thin Client is fully adequate and can save big bucks in support and maintenance costs (all the software is in one place, on a Linux, Sun or IBM server). If a Thin Client fails, you unplug it and plug in another - that's all.

    Thin Clients generally have no hard disks and no programs beyond what's needed to find a server to boot from. They may boot a stripped down Linux with X Windows, a minimal Java OS, or some other simple system with a Web browser. The coming era of Web Services will result in massive growth for thin clients.
    Disadvantage: they don't run Microsoft Office (but do run StarOffice / OpenOffice).

    Microsoft's WTS (Windows Terminal Services) will run Microsoft Office, but it's hardly "Thin Client", it's more like "Fat Server". If you have to have Office on Thin Clients, Web based solutions are provided by Citrix and Tarantella.

  • Apple Macintosh - Desktop & Server - Heavily used in publishing and advertising, the Mac also sees use as a general purpose small business system (A5). Apple's OS X (an Apple user interface running on a BSD Unix operating system) has caused renewed interest in Apple computers. Microsoft Office is available for OS X.
    Disadvantages: you are tied to Apple's hardware, and the selection of business software is relatively small (though growing, especially since Linux software is easily ported to OS X).

  • Novell NetWare - Server - Often used to support networks of Windows workstations to provide greater security, better performance and lower costs than with Microsoft servers.
    Disadvantages: no desktop environment, and a shrinking pool of techs who understand NetWare administration.

  • VMS - Host, Server - DEC's (Digital Equipment Corp) VMS dominated the minicomputer field when minicomputers dominated, VMS is still considered by many to be the "One True Operating System", and it is still widely used.
    Disadvantages: DEC was bought and dismantled by Compaq, which preferred to sell Windows. Compaq was bought and dismantled by HP, which would rather sell Windows and Linux.

  • Unix (Commercial) - Host, Server & Engineering Desktop - Whether supporting "green screen" terminals, thin clients, or Networked PCs, Unix is the workhorse of the server room, and runs on Sun, Intel, IBM and many other platforms, Unix is also the platform for thousands of specialized "vertical market" software packages. It runs the McDonalds restaurant chain, your local telephone switching system and most of the entire Internet, as well as many small business accounting systems. After many years of trying, Microsoft is unable to move its HotMail service from Unix to Windows.
    Disadvantage: why run Unix when Linux is a more modern version, costs a lot less and is easier to support?

  • BSD Unix - Server, Host & Development Workstation - BSD Unix is most used by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and by software developers. The several varieties of BSD Unix each serve a different audience and each has a separate development group with unique goals. Several versions of BSD Unix are free and open source.
    Disadvantages: Little known to the general business community - otherwise same disadvantages as Linux

  • QNX - Desktop, Industrial controls, Automobiles - QNX is a Unix like operating system used for applications requiring fast "real time" response and which absolutely must not fail, ever. It is highly modular so no unneeded components have to be installed. IBM has selected QNX for its automobile navigation system. Microsoft likes to think Windows CE competes with QNX, but that's hardly the case (A21, A22).
    Disadvantages: not for the general purpose desktop.

  • IBM iSeries (AS/400) - Host/Server - scaling from small business to major enterprise, iSeries is for businesses that require the highest level of reliability and solid performance. For many years, Microsoft's deepest darkest secret was that their business management and accounting ran on AS/400, not Windows. iSeries is now much more flexible since it can run Linux alongside its regular tasks (or Linux only) for server consolidation and expanded application availability (A7).
    Disadvantages: few small business people are aware of it.

  • IBM zSeries (mainframe) - Host/Server - for system that must support thousands of users, thousands of transactions a second, Terabytes of data storage and NO downtime. Mainframes are now more flexible, since they can run even thousands of instances of Linux alongside their regular tasks (a "Linux only" version is also available).
    Disadvantage: you've got to have some really, really serious transaction and storage demands to justify the cost - this is not a small business platform.

  • Supercomputers - Compute Engine - Once the province of highly specialized computers costing millions, most supercomputers are now large clusters of low cost computers running Linux. A few traditional supers are still made for applications requiring truly linear processing.
    Disadvantage: you have to need a really, really serious compute engine to justify the cost.

The prominence of Linux in every one of our "reasons" categories, and its appearance in many of the "alternatives" as well, has caused Microsoft's management to move it to the top of the "Enemies List", and declare it to be the most serious challenge Microsoft has ever faced.

To date, Linux has displaced Unix to a greater extent than it has Windows, but that is changing. A new report from Forester Research states that Windows servers are increasingly replaced by Linux (C36). Even where Linux replaces Unix, it's a loss for Microsoft, because they expected all those Unix servers to be replaced by Windows.

Linux gained a foothold in server conversions because it's much easier to convert from Unix to Linux than from Unix to Windows. Once Linux is in place, Windows no longer offers a cost benefit. With Linux deployed, many companies found they preferred it's stability and ease of administration to Windows servers. This has seriously stalled Microsoft's expansion in the server market.

To make matters worse, developers are rapidly improving Linux' already capable graphic desktop environment, which can even be configured to look exactly like Microsoft Windows. As Linux starts seeping out of the server room into "line of business" workstations, Microsoft's most jealously guarded monopolies are directly impacted.

If you don't think American business is taking Linux and other open source products seriously, you might check out a recent article in CIO (Chief Information Officer) Magazine, aimed squarely at corporate officers (A17), and a Computerworld article in an issue aimed at helping corporations falling behind the technology curve catch up (A18).

Microsoft's crown jewel has always been control of software developers, enabling them to starve other platforms for software titles, but a recent study by Evans Data, a research group serving the developer market, has found developers abandoning Windows for the Linux platform in unexpected numbers (D3, D4, D5). This is perhaps the worst news yet for Microsoft's future.

Linux is very difficult for Microsoft to fight, because it isn't the product of a single company they can buy out or bankrupt. The Linux code is open source (free and freely available), so anyone who wants to can publish it, and thousands of programmers worldwide contribute to its improvement and maintenance. Destroy one Linux publisher and another would take its place overnight.

Evidence indicates Microsoft's most successful tactic is pressuring manufacturers to supress Linux on their equipment by not providing drivers or marketing support. For instance, Intel, which has always enthusiastically supported Linux in the server market (which Microsoft does not control), withdraws support entirely if the desktop (which Microsoft does control) is involved (A16). While this has antitrust implications, what's actually happening is, as always, concealed by Microsoft's insistence on NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements).

Linux isn't the extent of the problem, though. Other open source products counter Microsoft, often in conjunction with Linux, but often on Windows itself. open source Apache dominates the Web server market with a 60% share, while Microsoft's IIS holds less than half that. Additionally, IBM's Websphere e-commerce suite is also based on Apache. open source OpenOffice and its commercial variant, StarOffice 6, now directly threaten the Microsoft Office monopoly. When our clients balk at $500/workstation for MS Office, we just install OpenOffice for free.

With business management moving to Web Services and Web based applications, the strength of open source Web applications is very worrisome for Microsoft. For instance, both FedEx Freight (C25) and Union Pacific Railroad (C24) have placed their customer interface and traffic management systems on Linux and/or Apache. Neither FedEx Freight nor Union Pacific Railroad are exactly "Mom & Pop" operations.

FedEx Freight moved from Windows NT to Linux / Apache, and intends to dump another 40 or 50 Windows servers, consolidating their functions onto a single 4-processor Intel server running Linux. Union Pacific has a mostly Unix network, and refers to their remaining Windows / IIS applications as "legacy applications".

So powerful is the Linux freight train, even mainline business magazines are getting on board. Business Week (A8 - articles listed to the left of the cover picture) has just published a 9 article cover feature on Linux.
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Cost and Competitiveness Issues

Competitiveness issues are arising from the high and rapidly rising cost of Microsoft solutions. Some years ago, research firms Forester, Gartner and others established the real cost of Windows PCs on a corporate network to be between $8000 and $14,000 per year per PC, and corporations confirmed these figures internally (the bulk of this cost is hidden, consisting of support, administration and upgrades). Multiply this by the number of PCs in the company and it starts to look like real money.

As long as your competitors use similarly costly systems, you can just pass costs on to customers with little loss of business, but once a competitor implements a more cost effective system - you have a problem.

This is now happening in the financial markets of Wall Street. Morgan Stanley (C29), Merrill Lynch (C28) and others have moved their financial reporting systems to Linux, and now everyone else is scrambling to follow suit to bring their costs in line. Some Windows NT/2000 is being replaced, but much of the transition is from Unix. Nonetheless, it's a major loss to Microsoft because they expected to own this territory, and now it's gone.

The same thing happened in the special effects industry. Titanic was rendered on a Linux supercomputer cluster. Lord of the Rings was produced on Linux workstations and rendered on Linux supercomputers. Now the entire industry is either on Linux or scrambling to get there as fast as possible, including Disney and Lucas.

Retail is already starting to slide down the slippery Linux slope, with Sherwin Williams, Papa John's Pizza (C21), Burlington Coat Factory, Boscov Department Stores (C20), Regal Entertainment Group (550 theater concession stands), Hannaford Brothers (119 grocery stores) (C30) and others. It won't be long before this becomes the same sort of landslide the special effects business has experienced. Sending millions upon millions to Microsoft is hard to justify in hardscrabble retail, especially if your competitor isn't.

Other businesses are looking very hard at Linux. Even GiftCertificates.com, founded by a former Microsoft executive, and built entirely on Microsoft software, is now seriously considering a move to Linux. The difference "is hundreds of dollars on the Linux side versus tens of thousands of dollars for Windows." according to its CEO (C14).

Even the U.S. military is concerned with costs these days. A report prepared by MITRE for the U.S. Army (C1) is very favorable toward the use of Linux and open source software for government systems, even though Microsoft was allowed to review the report and request changes before it was published.

Linux appears in every category Microsoft operates in and beyond in both directions (wristwatches to supercomputers). It cooperates well with other threats such as Java, Thin Clients, eComStation and Mainframes, and. since it's a variety of Unix, it merges easily into the high end server environment. On top of this, it's strongly backed by Microsoft's most powerful competitors (IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems) and even Microsoft's leading allies (Hewlett Packard, Dell).

Microsoft's response

Microsoft executives are (bleep)ing bricks over Linux, and using every method they can to fight it, but with limited success - they were tied up getting convicted on antitrust charges at the critical moment, and it's now hard for them to get the genie back into the bottle. How do you undercut an established product that costs as little as nothing, is highly stable, performs better than your products in most situations, and is more scalable? Bummer!

Evidence of just how desperate Microsoft is, is their blatant financing of SCO's sorry and misguided suit against IBM and Linux, thinly disguised as "licensing Unix". My article SCO - Death Without Dignity describes the whole tawdry affair.

Originally, Microsoft called Linux a toy, created by hobbyists for hobbyists. The traumatic end of that line is wonderfully stated in this press conference quote by a top Microsoft executive, "Linux is a toy, well, with IBM backing it, no it's not a toy".

Next was to claim that "Linux is cheap to purchase, but license costs are a very small part of TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)". In truth, other system costs are far greater, making purchase cost almost irrelevant. Microsoft's problem with this line was that many of their customers had already found these other costs to be lower with Linux as well.

In mid-July, 2002, at Microsoft's "partner" conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer made an about face. He explained that Linux was less costly overall, but that Windows provides "better value". This is a more defensible line, since it's impossible to quantify. For some definitions of "value", Windows really can be the better deal, but those definitions are rapidly becoming less numerous.

Then Microsoft launched, through paid writers, Microsoft sponsored lobbying groups, and its own management and sales force, a major disinformation campaign, calling Linux and other open source products "Communist", "Un-American", and "a major threat to intellectual property and American prosperity".

Microsoft claimed open source software is not safe to use because it doesn't protect users from possible patent claims. This argument has less impact since Microsoft itself has been shown to have not only left SQL Server devlopers wide open to patent claims, but to have deliberately misled them about the risks (Q11).

Microsoft claimed open source software is a security risk because the source code is available. Microsoft has argued in court that exposing Windows source code would compromise national security, but they have now agreed to provide that source code to the government of Russia and China (X62). Both are not only considered hostile powers by the U.S. government, but are point of origin for many viruses and cyber attacks.

Of all its arguments, Microsoft's intellectual property claims sound the most reasonable, but are completely false. No one in the world (including entire countries) holds more patents, copyrights and other intellectual property than IBM, yet IBM is a major user and promoter of Linux and other open source products.

Further, any business can incorporate open source code in any way it pleases for its own use without risk and without having to reveal anything, so long as it doesn't distribute the resulting material. The GPL (General Public License) (C32) and other open source licenses limit Microsoft and other software publishers, but not most businesses.

The upshot is, just about nobody (not even technology journalists (C34)) was buying Microsoft's disinformation - as confirmed by a captured internal memo (C23).

Then, in December 2002, Microsoft about faced again, saying Windows has lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) over a 5-year period, and cited an IDC study which Microsoft paid for (C22). Problem with the study is, nobody believes it. It not only contradicts established experience, but has flaws obvious even to the untrained eye. Further, one of the authors is on record saying Microsoft's conditions biased the study.

The study presumes: Linux installations need as many administrators as Windows installations (they certainly do not), and Linux administrators cost a lot more than Windows administrators (they do not). Completely omitted are the cost of major Windows upgrades, which are required by License 6, every 3 years. Windows 2000 Server is the 5-year baseline, and it's only been out 2 years, so figures are just projections.

Microsoft is keeping the full study and its methodology secret and releasing only summary figures. This suggests there are many more questionable assumptions and a lot more twisted logic in there.

Other studies have come up with decidedly different results, as did a quantitative analysis of cost, performance and reliability by David Wheeler (C31), and a cost comparison by Robert Frances Group (C33). These results are confirmed by less rigorous studies (C35).

The upshot of all this is that Microsof is resorting to deep discounts and other financial incentives. Recently captured internal memos give the exact amounts available and where they are alocated (C38). See more on this in the next section.
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The Foreign Threat

There are many reasons why business and governments outside the United States should be taking a hard look at breaking free of Microsoft, and many are doing so. Security, high cost, ownership of data, balance of trade, and developing a local software industry are prime factors. Several countries have ongoing antitrust action against Microsoft which further encourages them to look at alternatives.

For developing countries, cost is a huge factor. Most have been running on stolen Microsoft software, but international pressure to enforce copyright continues to increase. Many are looking at Linux and other open source products as their best bet - in two ways. Not only does Linux itself promise to save huge amounts of money and help build a local software industry, the Mexican experience has shown the way to use Linux to extort free licenses, and even computer equipment and services, out of Microsoft.

If Microsoft lets Linux take over overseas markets, that's sure to spread. If they bow to extortion, as they have been doing, it also depresses their overseas markets. Though "millions of dollars worth of software" costs Microsoft about $15.00 (the millions only show up on their tax deductions), it means no income is derived from those licenses. In addition, computers to run the software and support services do cost, and these are often part of the deal. Here's a bit of what's going on:

  • The German Bundeswehr (armed forces) has banned Microsoft products due to real and "suspected" security problems (like little back doors for the NSA (X64, X17), for instance). Note: some have questioned the extent of this ban, since a current Microsoft contract is still in force.

    Beyond the Bundeswher, the German government has formulated an ambitious program to move the public sector to open source software. Adoption by various agencies has begun (O28).

  • Australia government agencies are investigating and adopting Linux at an accelerating rate (O11). Agencies say they stand to save up to 30% on hardware and software. The Department of Veterans Affairs deployed Linux on an IBM zSeries mainframe as a basis for deploying "thin client" workstations, further reducing costs, especially for administration.

    Also, Microsoft's largest Australian customer, telephone giant Telstra is considering deploying Linux on 48,000 desktop PCs to reduce costs. They've already chosen Java 2 instead of .NET as their Web Services platform and are considering StarOffice instead of Microsoft Office. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has flown to Australia in hopes of slowing the slide to Linux.

  • China promised to suppress intellectual property piracy as a condition of entering the WTO (World Trade Organization). China can't afford to buy licenses for the millions of stolen copies of Microsoft software in use, consequently, Linux (particularly the locally produced Red Flag Linux) has been declared the "official" operating system for China. The government is financing Linux development, and is also using the move to Linux to extort cheap licenses from Microsoft.

    China has the added incentive of security (X16). It is not always on the best of terms with the U.S. government and is quite confident the CIA has easy entrance to any Windows based software systems.

    Now, in August '03, China has announced a formal ban on government agencies buying foreign software (O30), to be effective by the end of 2003. Commercial users are almost sure to follow to maintain compatibility with the government offices they deal with, and it will certainly have an effect on trading partners as well.

  • Japan is currently completely dominated by Windows. This is becoming a concern for the government, which is now investigating open source software for public use (O22) and industry (which includes TRON (O21), a home grown open source operating system). Government officials are strongly emphasizing Linux and TRON development to retain control of its "substantial" consumer electronics industry (O23). Bill Gates has recently flown to Japan in an attempt to disuade government officials from this policy.

  • Mexico declared it was moving its education system to Linux. Microsoft responded immediately with a lot of free software, some free computers, some free tech support, and a little entertainment for Mexican government officials. The Linux move is on hold, but it won't go away.

  • The Peruvian Congress introduced a bill calling for all government systems to be based on open source software (which includes Linux, but not Windows). Microsoft wrote a letter of protest, to which Peruvian congressman Dr. Edgar Villanueva Nunez wrote his now famous (and totally devastating) response.

    Microsoft's reaction was swift. They recruited the U.S. Department of State to apply pressure on Peru, and flew Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to Redmond Washington where he would be far from his own Congress, They gave him the full tour and brainwashing, an audience with Bill Gates, and sent him home with the gift of $550,000 of Microsoft stuff.

    Hmmm . . just $550,000? Other countries have scored a whole lot more. Was some other "consideration" applied to magnify the effectiveness of such a small gift?

  • Venezuela appears to have rejected the extortion path entirely, and is going straight forward with laws requiring open source software for all government systems. Perhaps Bill Gates' buddy G.W.Bush can arrange a Grenada style invasion or some other "regime change"? Looks like they're working on that already.

  • England's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is said to worship Bill Gates as a minor deity. The result has been major contracts handed to Microsoft to develop eGovernment systems. The result has been that only those running the latest Microsoft software have access to government services in England (Duh!).

    This has caused considerable backlash, and resulted in new policy cautiously favoring open source software, use of open interoperability standards, and interest in open source initiatives in the European Union.

  • France has been considering legislation mandating open source software for all government operations. With an economy almost as powerful as California's, France would be difficult for Microsoft to sway with a few software donations, and that would seriously undermine an important revenue stream in any case.

    France was the country where Microsoft Office first achieved a true monopoly. Microsoft rewarded the French by doubling the price of the French version of Office and threatening dire consequences to anyone who dared import the much cheaper French Canadian version.

    On the other hand, the French worship Jerry Lewis as the king of comedy, so we can't expect their actions to be entirely rational (update: I have received missives from France advising me that many French don't like Jerry Lewis. Encouraging, but please don't send him back).

  • Sweden's Agency for Public Management has formulated policy based on the principle that "no-one should be forced to use a vendor-specific product in order to communicate with the public sector" (O26). This means across the board adoption of open standards and open source software in government.

  • Denmark has opted for StarOffice in the schools, and in the homes of students. Both Linux and Windows versions are covered by the agreement with Sun Microsystems (O24).

  • The European Union, aside from separate actions in Germany and France, is strongly considering standardizing all inter-government communications and data systems on open source software. This would seem almost essential to achieve the collaborative goals outlined in the document eEurope 2005: An information society for all (O27).

    The seemingly inevitable move of European government to an open source basis would have a strong spill-over effect for all companies doing business with European governments, and for a great many American companies as well.

  • Republic of South Africa - License 6 was more than the State IT Agency could take, and it's made the decision to convert entirely to open source software (O25). The projected savings is about $333 Million per year. A major consideration was that nearly the entire $333 Million was leaving South Africa every year.

  • India is faced with issues of security, license costs, and building a local software industry. The government of India decided to heavily promote Linux and open source software throughout the government and the schools (O9).

    Microsoft's response was swift. Bill Gates flew to India and anounced a $100 million contribution to fight AIDS (to be paid out over a number of years). While the AIDS contribution generated positive press, Microsoft contributed $450 million (to be paid immediately) to Indian government agencies to fight Linux. Now that they have the money in hand, India is reportedly going with Linux anyway.

    Note: I've recieved an email from a company based in India telling me the $100 million to fight Aids was mostly in Microsoft software to set up Aids information centers, and that the government agencies assistance was also mostly in Microsoft software, so the real cost to Gates / Microsoft was a fraction of the claimed amounts.

  • California was on the verge of making a deal (Deukmegian administration) to sell its entire education system to Microsoft (as Texas already had done) in exchange for cheap software licenses, but the word got out, there was public outcry, and the deal had to be scrapped, despite campaign contributions from Redmond.

    Currently Calfiornia is considering the Digital Software Security Act (O29) which favors open source software in government.

Clearly, Microsoft can't continue bribing all the world to use Windows, the threat will keep coming back with each upgrade cycle. That $43 billion in the bank just won't stretch that far. Even worse, American corporations are starting to learn the extortion game too. Rumors abound that if a company demonstrates a strong Linux pilot program, Microsoft sales is authorized to drop license fees by up to 50%.

Now that whole countries can fulfill their basic software needs at little cost through rapidly improving open source products, and can use the open source platform to develop localized software, Open source threatens to become the standard for international commerce. American import/export business will need to be compatible with their trading partners, and the U.S. military (which already makes use of open source products) will have to be compatible with its allies. The implications for Microsoft's expensive products are clear.
(Top)


Software Industry Support

In the past, Microsoft found it easy to use extortion and threats against software developers to destroy competing platforms, as they did with OS/2. If software developers won't develop for it, even a vastly superior operating environment is dead.

Today, the situation is a little different. It's the software developers themselves who are clearly targeted for Microsoft destruction. When you have already condemned someone to death, additional threats have diminished impact.

The problem many developers face is their total commitment to Windows and the Windows market. They literally know nothing else and fear everything else. They have no choice but to stare into the headlights until impact. Other developers have Unix or Borland Delphi experience, or run their products on standard database engines that have been ported to Linux. These developers have choices for survival, and a few of them will make the right choices to survive.

There are persistent rumors that Microsoft is porting some of its major products to Linux. Microsoft is many things, but suicidal is not one of them. Porting would be difficult (the Apple OS X (Unix) version of Office depends on an OS9 translation layer written by Apple), and they certainly wouldn't release it if they did port it. Such an endorsement of the enemy would clearly signal that their monopolies are smashed, so expect to see the Devil on ice skates first.

  • All the major database engines (and many minor ones), with the exception of Microsoft's SQL Server and Access, have been fully ported to Linux, including Oracle, IBM's DB2, Informix, Sybase, Pervasive SQL (Btrieve), Advantage, MySQL, Postgres SQL and SAP DB. Oracle is, in fact, migrating all their in-house applications to Linux.

  • Sun Microsystems fully supports Linux with all its Java products, and has recently authorized development of an open source version of Java. Java is the primary language for developing Web Services, and is the environment Microsoft's .NET must compete against.

  • Accounting Software is very common for Linux. Many accounting vendors had Unix products which were dead easy to port to Linux. Others were still publishing DOS products, also a very easy Linux conversion. Examples are Vigilant, Appgen and Data Pro. Products coded directly for Windows are difficult to port, so those with a "Windows only" product line are unlikely to make the move.

  • Best's Act! and Intuit's QuickBooks are Microsoft's ace in the hole. Until file compatible equivalents are developed, Linux will have a hard time capturing the small business desktop in the U.S.. Both companies are closely tied to Microsoft, so QuickBooks won't be ported until it's too late to save Intuit from Microsoft Great Plains. Symantec's primary business is Norton "fix-it" and anti-virus products specific to Windows. These products are not needed for operating systems that work, so Symantec will stay committed to the end.

  • Borland is playing both sides of the fence. They offer strong support for .NET, but also produce leading Java tools and Kylix, a rapid development environment for Linux that is largely compatible with their Delphi environment for Windows. So important is Borland in providing a path by which Windows developers can move to Linux, rumors abound that Microsoft intends to buy Borland and discontinue most of its products.

(Top)


Laws and Government

Our "elected representatives" in Washington and State Capitals are elected by the public, but the public is not what they represent - they represent money. Laws recently passed, such as the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) (G10, G11), and laws now under consideration, are not designed to benefit the public, but to benefit specific industries at the expense of the public - industries that contribute heavily to election funds.

Prominent among these contributors are the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and Microsoft. These organizations are all able to "influence" as many Congresscritters as they need out of petty cash, and they have placed plenty of items on the legislative plate.

Several proposed laws are aimed at extending corporate ownership and control of intellectual property (books, movies, popular characters, software, etc.) and to reduce the rights and privacy of individuals. Many have been reworded to include the word "Security", which, since 9/11, has eclipsed "to protect the children" as the all-purpose justification for taking rights away from American citizens.

Several of these acts, both pending and already passed, violate established rights, such as the right of "fair use" (making copies of material you have purchased for your own use, or quoting excerpts for reviews or reference), post-sale rights to use and disposal of property you have paid for, and freedom of speech.

CBDTPA: Not all Congress critters are as outspokenly bought as Fritz Hollings, (D. Disney - oops, I mean South Carolina) and Diane Feinstein (D. California), who are promoting the extremely anti-consumer Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), but you can expect most to "get with the program".

Even Microsoft has objected to the CBDTPA, not because of the rights it takes from you, but because it would legislate matters of technology that Microsoft feels it alone should control (G7). In other words, the law may not choose Palladium as the means of digital rights control, and has clauses aimed at preventing monopoly.

DMCA: Congress has already passed the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act (G10), which makes it illegal to make available or to own any device or software that enables you to bypass any means of limiting access (to enable "fair use" for instance). It does include an exemption for cryptographic research, and for "reverse engineering" (to create compatible products), but that definition is very narrow and only exemnpts software, so a method that includes hardware is off limits,

Many consider the DMCA to be very poorly written (G11) and wide open to abuse. For example, if a consumer activist Web site offers evidence of corporate wrongdoing by posting incriminating documents, the corporation need only inform the Web site's hosting service that "the site is making unauthorized use of our copyrighted material", and the hosting service is required by law (the DMCA) to immediately take down that material.

There is a protest procedure to get material back up, but it requires the complaining party to immediately file a lawsuit if it wants to keep the material removed, which may discourage many from attempting to get material restored. The site Chilling Effect Clearinghouse (G14) documents how the DMCA discourages freedom of speech.

Examples: the Church of Scientology has applied the DMCA in an attempt to force Google not to index a site that criticizes Scientology (G15), printer manufacturer Lexmark is using the DMCA to prevent your access to low cost recycled ink and toner cartridges (G13), and Blackboard, a publisher of school administration software, is using it to supress information about the security of its ID card system.

Super DMCA: Not content with the excesses of the DMCA, the MPAA is actively pushing legislation popularly called "Super DMCA" in state legislatures. Super DMCA was written by the MPAA to it's own advantage with total disregard for its broader impact, which is substantial.(G16, G17).

This legislation makes it illegal to protect your network with a firewall, and makes it illegal to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your communications with business partners, remote offices and teleworkers. Heavy fines and prison terms are mandated for any attempt to protect your business from hackers and script kiddies.

This legislation also prohibits Internet access for the majority of current business users. There aren't enough "public" IP addresses to go around, and all access from "private" addresses (192.168.n.n for example) is made illegal by Super DMCA because such access can only be from behind a NAT (Network Address Translation) firewall.

Passing this legislation is an act of blind ignorance, yet it has already become law in Michigan, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia, and is pending in other states (Maryland and Virginia also passed the infamous UCITA). This is what happens when money comes calling on our legislators, who's average technical expertise apparently extends little beyond operating a light switch.

To avoid legal problems caused by ill-considered laws passed by legislators with no understanding of technology issues, development projects and advocacy Web sites are being moved to other countries, with a net loss of American jobs. It's only going to get worse as "big media" continues to try to solve marketing problems by banning technology.

UCITA: A big Microsoft push is to get UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act) (G2 through G6) passed as an addition to the Uniform Commercial Code all states use as a guide in matters of contract. UCITA makes legally binding "shrink wrap" and "click through" licenses for software, even if you are not allowed to read the license before purchase, and also allows the publisher to change the license terms after acceptance, any time he pleases.

The UCITA "self help" clause gives software publishers a clear legal right to enter your computer systems without your knowledge or permission and disable software for any real or imagined violation of license or payment. UCITA also forbids you to disclose license terms to anyone else - if you got screwed, you're not allowed to warn others. Note the similarty between UCITA and clauses in Microsoft's EULA (End User License Agreement) for recent products.

UCITA is opposed even by the American Bar Association. The American Library Association, several industry associations, and most State attorneys general also oppose it, but it's supported by Microsoft's money, so it returns from the dead every year, and will do so until it passes.

So far UCITA has passed only in Maryland and Virginia, but that is sufficient to use, as in "This contract falls under the jurisdiction of the laws of the state of Maryland". Do not sign any software contracts that specify laws of Maryland or Virginia.

I suggest reading the references, letting others know what's going on, and writing your "representatives" to let them know that you know what they are up to, and that you don't like it.
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- Andrew Grygus


Additional Reading

Industry (Top) Microsoft
  • R1 Public Image - The Inquirer - Microsoft is its own worst enemy
  • R2 Monopoly Profits - ComputerWorld - Microsoft Advice Is Inadmissable
  • R3 No Dividend - Tallahassee Democrat - Microsoft has no plan to pay dividends
  • R4 Microsoft Losses - The Register - Microsoft SEC filing shows hideous losses except for Windows
  • R5 Patent Suit - The Inquirer - Case against Microsoft, Windows goes to court
  • R6 Divident / Split - ComputerWire - Microsoft shells out first dividend
  • R7 Microsoft Finances - Bill Parish - MICROSOFT FINANCIAL PYRAMID
  • R8 Declining Windows Sales - Microsoft - Microsoft Reports Solid Second Quarter Financial Results on Record Quarterly Revenue
  • R9 Microsoft SEC Filing - eWeek - Microsoft Warns SEC of Open-Source Threat
  • R10 Open Source threat - InfoWorld - Company must move past PC-centric roots
  • R11 MSN Attacks Opera - The Register - MSN deliberately breaks Opera's browser, claims company
  • R12 Opera Responds to MSN - Opera - Opera releases "Bork" edition - The Swedish Chef Goes After Microsoft
  • R13 "Athens" Windows PC - The Register - 'Athens' - MS defines the next Windows PC standard
  • R14 "Athens" Lockin - The Register - Gates justifies stronger chains for hardware makers
  • R15 Modifying XBox - The Register - 'Banned' Xbox hacking book selling fast
  • R16 T-Mobile Dumps Microsoft - The Inquirer - T-Mobile ditches Microsoft
  • R17 Microsoft losing grip - Scotland on Sunday - Microsoft losing market grip as rivals go on the offensive
(Top) Limiting Choices
  • J1 Office Depot - The Inquirer - Microsoft logo scheme means Office Depot won't sell non-compliant XP products
  • J2 PC 2001 - The Register - MS XP-Tablet combo cuts Intel out of PC standards biz
  • J3 Design Guide - Microsoft Design Guidelines for PCs Note: This page only works correctly with Internet Explorer
  • J4 Designed for Windows - Microsoft Designed for Windows
  • J5 Digital Signatures - Microsoft Digital Signatures and the Logo Program
  • J6 Vendors protest Logo Program - The Inquirer - Vendors show fury at WinXP Logo plan
  • J7 Phoenix BIOS Deal - TechNewsWorld - Microsoft Deal Ties BIOS Tightly to Windows
(Top) Windows
  • W0 Longhorn - CNet News.Com - New Windows could solve age-old format puzzle--at a price
  • W1 Longhorn - The Inquirer - How Microsoft Plays Monopoly
  • W2 Longhorn - The Inquirer - Microsoft set to use pretext of security to re-invent Windows
  • W5 Longhorn - eWeek - Let the Longhorn Sideshow Begin
  • W6 Longhorn - eWeek - Microsoft Readying 'Avalon' Framework for Longhorn
  • W3 Palladium - eWeek - Palladium Debate Heats Up
  • W4 Palladium - eWeek - 'Palladium' Talk Riles OEMs
  • W7 Palladium - The Register - MS recruits for Palladium microkernel and/or DRM platform
  • W8 Yukon/Longhorn - eWeek - Allchin's Eye on Longhorn
  • W9 Storage - Microsoft - Storage Services
  • W10 Windows XP SE - eWeek - Microsoft Ponders Windows Upgrade for '04
  • W11 Product Retirement - Microsoft - Product Lifecycle Dates - Windows Family
  • W12 XP Deficiencies - Futurepower - Windows XP Shows the Direction Microsoft is Going
  • W14 Mod XBoxes Banned - The Register - MS accused of banning mod chip Xbox from Live service
  • W15 MS Embeded Server - The Inquirer - Microsoft hardware initiative threatens Linux servers
  • W16 MS Wrist Watches - The Register - MS bids for lucrative wristwatch, fridge magnet markets
  • W17 Office 11 - eWeek - Office 11 Snubs Windows 9x, Me
  • W18 BMW & Windows CE - Baseline - Consumer Products: When Software Bugs Bite
  • W19 Yukon SQL SErver - eWeek - 'Yukon' to Add Run-Time, XML Support
  • W20 Windows Codenames - Philippe Majerus - Windows Codenames
  • W21 Longhorn/Blackcomb - ComputerWorld - Next Major Windows Release to Be Client-Only
  • W22 Cairo - ComputerWorld - The Road to Cairo
  • W23 Palaium name change - CNet.com - What's in a name? Not Palladium
  • W24 Palladium in Academe - The Chronicals of Higher Education - Microsoft's plan to improve computer security could set off fight over use of online materials
  • W25 Rights Management Services - ZDNet - Microsoft trusts business-security tool
  • W26 Longhorn filesystem incompatibility - The Inquirer - Microsoft Longhorn, 3GIO to change PC rules
  • W27 DRM is Your Friend - The Register - DRM is your fluffy friend - Ballmer stakes out MS' turf
(Top) Upgrades: The Treadmill
  • T9 - Incompatibilities - The Inquirer - Is Redmond sucking wind with MS Server 2003?
  • T10 - Limits to Revenue - The Inquirer - Of Mice, Men and Microsoft
  • T11 - W2003 Unfinished - CRN/TechWeb - Microsoft Outlines Add-Ons For Windows Server 2003
  • T12 - W2003 Upgrades will be Slow - The Inquirer - Big business can postpone Windows 2003 Server upgrade
  • T13 - W2003 Faster? - Linux World - Is Windows 2003 Server really faster than Linux/Samba?
(Top) Licensing
  • L0 License 6 - Microsoft - Software Assurance & the 6.0 Volume Licensing Programs
  • L1 License 6 - InfoWorld - Microsoft manipulation
  • L3 Subscription - Los Angeles Times Business, 25 July 2002 - Microsoft to Shift .NET Effort to Big Companies
  • L4 License 6 - Microsoft - Microsoft Open License Credit Line Program
  • L5 License 6 - ComputerWire - Microsoft: breaking with licensing tradition
  • L6 "Self Help" - The Register - Microsoft EULA requests root rights - again
  • L7 License 6 - digitalMAS - Microsoft's new software policy leaves many customers fuming
  • L8 OEM License - The Register - Dell mocks MS' mandatory-OS regime
  • L9 Volume License - Linux & Main - New MSFT license provision may force Windows users to buy extra licenses
  • L10 Volume License - Microsoft - The Bare Facts about Microsoft Operating System Licenses
  • L11 Subscription Test - PCWorld - Office subscription trial dumped
  • L12 Free Licenses - The Register - MS fights Open Source with freebies - an eyewitness writes
  • L13 License Danger - RadSoft - Consumer Alert - Microsoft
  • L14 KMart bankruptcy - Seattle Times - Firms claim stake in sale of Kmart ISP
  • L15 License 6 increases - CNet News.com - Microsoft plan raises software costs
  • L16 Pay up to sell out - InfoWorld - Your loss, their gain
  • L17 Forced Upgrades - The Inquirer - Microsoft's IM letter means you agree to pay and upgrade
(Top) Dot Net (Top) Business Management
  • B5 - Products - eWeek - Microsoft Adds to Its Applications Stable
  • B6 - Products - The Register - Microsoft reveals Business Apps roadmap
  • B7 - ACCPAC - NewsForge - Accounting software company sees Linux demand from clients wary of Microsoft
  • B8 - 10 Year Plan - ComputerWire - Microsoft Business Framework: The 10-year plan
  • B9 - Microsoft CRM - InfoWorld - Analysis: Industry prepares for Microsoft CRM
  • B10 - Microsoft Threat Increases - The Register - Microsoft's growing threat to biz app rivals
  • B11 - Sage says "No Problem" - The Register - MS holds no fear for Sage
(Top) Development
  • D1 Development - InfoWorld - A language divided Microsoft: breaking with licensing tradition
  • D2 Development - InfoWorld - Microsoft courts VB faithful
  • D3 Abandoning Windows - ComputerWire - Linux Is Replacing Windows Says Researcher
  • D4 Programmer Mindshare - LinuxWorld.com - Debunking the Linux-Windows market-share myth
  • D5 Developer Survey - Evans Data Corp. - North American Development Survey, Volume 2, 2002
(Top) Sales & Support
  • S1 Sales - CRN - Microsoft to Expand Its U.S. Sales Force
  • S2 Sales - CRN - Microsft Gets Serious - partner program
  • S3 Sales - CRN - Interview: Mike Sinneck - Microsoft Consulting Services
  • S4 Sales - The Register IBM and Linux our biggest threates
  • S5 Sales - CRN - No Competition - MCS vs. Channel
(Top) Home and Entertainment (Top) Security
  • X0 Design - InfoWorld - Lead Windows developer bugged by security
  • X1 Hackers - Chris Paget - Exploiting design flaws in the Win32 API for privilege escalation
  • X2 Hackers - Microsoft - (Response to above)
  • X3 SSL Hole - The Register - MS soft-pedals SSL hole
  • X4 SSL Hole - eWeek - Microsoft Security Under Fire
  • X5 Office, IE Patches - The Inquirer - Microsoft Rustworthy Computing strikes Office, Internet Explorer
  • X6 IE Patches - The Register - Microsoft in summer patch frenzy
  • X7 Banks Hacked - The Inquirer - Microsoft software at three Swedish banks hacked
  • X8 Deception - eWeek - Windows Flaw Leaves Certificates Vulnerable
  • X9 Spyware - PC World - PC Surveillance Tool Helps Win Conviction
  • X10 Spyware - The Register - Spyware Trojan sends Hotmail to your boss
  • X11 Deception - The Register - MS Outlook digital sigs easily forged
  • X12 Hackers - The Inquirer - Microsoft reeling from hack attacks
  • X13 XP Hole - The Register - Win-XP Help Center request wipes your HD
  • X14 Word "feature" - The Register - Word 97 feature spawns no-brainer pilfering exploit
  • X15 Java VM Flaws - eWeek - Microsoft Patches JVM Flaws
  • X16 China Paranoia - CNet News - Who says paranoia doesn't pay off?
  • X17 NSAKey - CNet News - NSA key to Windows: an open question
  • X18 UPP Security Alert - University of Pennsylvania - Security Alert: Universal Plug & Play Security Vulnerability In Windows XP
  • X19 Front Page hole - The Inquirer - Microsoft coughs to new FrontPage vulnerability
  • X20 Gartner Group - The Register - Gartner slams MS security after latest flaw
  • X21 Microsoft Bugs - The Inquirer - Microsoft now serious about bugs, says Ballmer
  • X22 Security Flaws - eWeek - Microsoft Releases Raft of New Patches
  • X23 Pay for Security - ZDNet - Microsoft: Users may have to pay for security
  • X24 "Trustworthy" - ComputerWire - Microsoft outlines 3D progress to Trustworthiness
  • X25 Flawed Patch - eWeek - Microsoft Outlook Express Patch Flawed
  • X26 Hired Gun - Bridge Communications - What Can I Do for You?
  • X27 Linux vs Windows - NewsFactor Network - Is Linux Really More Secure Than Windows?
  • X28 Beta Site Hacked - The Inquirer - Microsoft beta test site hacked
  • X29 IE Vulnerabilities - GreyMagic - Vulnerable cached objects in IE (9 advisories in 1)
  • X30 Windows 2000 Security Certification - Johns Hopkins University - Understanding the Windows EAL4 Evaluation
  • X31 IE Wide Open - eWeek - Flaw Leaves IE Open to Attack
  • X32 IE Wide Open Again - The Register - Your Microsoft critical security patches tonight
  • X33 Forcing Security Updates - eWeek - Microsoft Users Upset With 'Security Updates'
  • X34 Internet Information Server - The Register - Ditch Microsoft IIS now, says Gartner
  • X41 Linux Virus - Libranix - The short life and hard times of a Linux virus
  • X41 Love Bug - Wired News - Find the Cost of (Virus) Freedom
  • X42 Slapper worm - The Register - Slapper worm spanks Apache servers
  • X43 Instant Message Worm - InfoWorld - New worm spreading through MSN Messenger
  • X44 IIS Worm Slows Internet - CNN.com - Electronic attack slows Internet
  • X45 Dept Homeland Security - NetCraft - Homeland Security moves from Windows to Linux.
  • X46 Slammer worm analysis - Robert Graham - Advisory: SQL slammer
  • X47 MS Security Ad Campaign - The Register - 'Secure by design', claims MS op-ed ad
  • X48 Microsoft was Vulnerable - Lycos - Microsoft Was Vulnerable to Worm Virus
  • X49 Aberdeen "study" - Aberdeen - Open Source and Linux: 2002 Poster Children for Security Problems
  • X50 "Trustworthy Computing" - InfoWorld - Experts say Microsoft security effort failing
  • X51 Worm hits Microsoft - The Register - MS struggles to contain the Slammer worm
  • X52 Worm hits bank ATMs - The Register - ATMs, ISPs hit by Slammer worm spread
  • X53 Patch Causes Crashes - InfoWorld - pdate: Microsoft pulls NT patch
  • X54 Internet Explorer Patches - The Register - If it's Thursday it must be IE patching day
  • X55 Internet Explorer Hole - The Inquirer - Dangerous security hole, IE needs patching again
  • X56 IE Patch to fix IE Patch - The Inquirer - Microsoft releases new IE patch to fix old IE patch
  • X57 Microsoft Files Hacker Lawsuit - Los Angeles Times Business 15 Feb 2003 - "Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, filed a lawsuit that claims unnamed users accessed its computer servers and 'harvested' a list of Hotmail e-mail addresses to send spam."
  • X58 XP Passwords useless - ExtremeTech - Windows XP Passwords Rendered Useless
  • X59 Microsoft Milk - Houston Chronicle - Soured on our homogenous cyberworld
  • X60 Information sent to Microsoft - tecCHANEL.DE - Inside Windows-Update
  • X61 Windows95 Registration - OReilly - Inside the Windows 95 Registration Wizard
  • X62 China gets Windows source - eWeek - China Adopts Microsoft Security Program
  • X63 China gets Windows source - The Inquirer - China-Microsoft deal prompts perjury questions
  • X64 NSA key - Cryptogram - NSA Key in Microsoft Crypto API?
  • X65 SSL Security - The Inquirer - Banks under threat from Microsoft SSL software, claim
  • X66 Root Kits - SecurityFocus Online - Windows Root kits a stealthy threat
  • X67 - The Inquirer - Further security problem hits Windows 2000 - U.S. Army server taken out by exploit before vulnerability was announced.
  • X68 Critical Patch Kills Windows - ITWorld.com - Latest Windows 2000 patch can lock system
  • X69 Yet More Patches - The Inquirer - Yet more security problems hit Microsoft Windows products
  • X70 Windows Update - InfoWorld - Windows file updates
  • X71 Critical Flaws IE, Outlook - eWeek - Microsoft Patches IE, Outlook Flaws
  • X72 Patch Slows XP - The Register - MS security patch slows XP systems to a crawl
  • X73 IE Embarassment - The Inquirer - Internet Explorer's dumbest bug ever revealed
  • X74 Trustworthy Computing - Wired News - The Bill Gates Memo
  • X75 Passport Security Breach - InfoWorld - Passport woes point to process problems
  • X76 Passport Penalty? - The Register - $2 trillion fine for Microsoft security snafu?
  • X77 Gartner on Passport - TechWeb - Gartner recommends Temporarily Replace Microsoft Passport
  • X78 Holes in Microsoft Firewall - Microsoft - Internet Connection Firewall and Basic Firewall Do Not Block Internet Protocol Version 6 Traffic
  • X79 IE hole unpatched - The Inquirer - Microsoft leaves IE users "defenceless" to trojan attack
  • X80 XP Security Fix Withdrawn - The Register - MS withdraws XP security update
  • X81 Windows Patch Problems - Information Week - Microsoft Patches Up Its Patch Approach
  • X82 Two more IE holes - eWeek - Microsoft Patches Critical IE Flaws
  • X83 HotMail Spammer Hole - Chip Rosenthal - Hotmail Vulnerability Being Exploited by Spammers
  • X84 XP calls home - Futerpower - Windows XP Shows the Direction Microsoft is Going.
  • X85 XP Patch Slows Pentium IV - The Inquirer - Microsoft warns Pentium 4, Windows XP can slow down your PC
  • X86 Another Passport Exploit - InfoWorld - Vulnerability enables Passport account hijackings
  • X87 IE Patched Again - The Register - IE bugs keep coming
  • X88 Extreme Vulnerability - The Register - Microsoft issues doubleplus critical security fix
  • X89 DirectX hole - The Register - MS alerts users to Windows DirectX vulnerability
  • X90 Blaster Worm - eWeek - Worm Exploits RPC Flaw in Windows
  • X91 W32/SoBig.F - eWeek - SoBig Virus Returns
  • X92 Two more Critical Flaws in IE - eWeek - Microsoft Warns of Two Critical Flaws in IE
  • X93 Ballmer on Security - Computerworld - Microsoft unveils security initiatives
  • X94 Ballmer on Security - InfoWorld - Update: Ballmer calls security 'defining moment' for Microsoft
  • X95 Ballmer on Security - The Register - Ballmer's new MS security fix - same patches, but 'nicer'
  • X96 Analysts doubt Ballmer - CBS Marketwatch - Analysts doubt Microsoft security vow
  • X97 "Monoculture" report - InfoWorld - Report: Widespread use of Microsoft poses security risk
  • X98 "Monoculture" (with link to the report) The Register - Microsoft: a threat to global IT and job security?
  • X99 Geer firing - eWeek - @stake Axes CTO Over Security Claims
  • X100 Gartner Group - ZDNet - Gartner echoes concerns on Microsoft reliance
  • X101Ballmer on Security - ZDNet - Why Ballmer doesn't get it on security
  • X1025 More Patches - Computerworld - Microsoft issues patches for five software flaws
  • X103 Patch for Patch for Patch for Flaw - The Inquirer - Things that are injurious to your computer's health right now
  • X104 Yet More IE Vulnerabilities - Secunia - Microsoft Internet Explorer Local Zone Access
  • X105 Bounties Posted - eWeek - Microsoft Puts Bounty on Virus Writers
  • X106 More Critical Patches - Microsoft - Microsoft Windows Security Bulletin Summary for November, 2003
(Top) Microsoft's Legal Problems
  • Q1 APIs - The Register - Those MS API disclosures - errors, incomplete, useless?
  • Q2 Violation of Agreement - The Register - MS slammed for antitrust deal violations in XP, Win2k SPs
  • Q3 Commentary - ProComp - Industry watchdog group
  • Q4 Patent Suits - Microosft's Other Legal Headache is no longer available free, but can be obtained from The Wall Street Journal - Published 3-Oct-2002.
  • Q5 Non Disclosure - The Inquirer - Microsoft NDAs could contravene public records laws
  • Q6 Sendo Sues Microsoft - Reuters - Sendo sues Microsoft over smartphone platform
  • Q7 Intertrust Suit - The Register - InterTrust sues Microsoft (on just about everything)
  • Q8 Eolas & UC Sue - The Inquirer - Case against Microsoft, Windows goes to court
  • Q9 HIPAA - HIPA Advisory - HIPAA information site
  • Q10 Banking Law - Boston Internet - Is Microsoft Licensing Forcing Banks to Break The Law?
  • Q11 Timeline Patent Case - The Register - SQL Server developers face huge royalty bills. How many, how much?
  • Q12 EU Antitrust Action - CFO Magazine - EU Broadens Antitrust Investigation into Microsoft's Practices
  • Q13 Taiwan FTC - Taiwan government - Talks between Fair Trade Commission, Microsoft break down
  • Q14 No maps for Palm - The Inquirer - Microsoft cuts out more competitors
  • Q15 Microsoft Defys DOJ - TechNews.com - Rivals Say Microsoft Flouts Deal
  • Q16 Microsoft drags feet - The Inquirer - Microsoft fails to act fast enough on DoJ ruling
(Top) Why Microsoft?
  • M1 Marketing - Link http://www.theregus.com/content/4/25943.html has been withdrawn by The Register due to disputed details - Experiences at a Firm Hostile to Free Software - company disputed details and denied being hostile to free software.
  • M2 Microsoft - InfoWorld - Microsoft tempts data center customers
  • M3 Monopoly in Decline - Seattle Times - Nimble edge slowly erodes for Microsoft
(Top) Microsoft's Competitors
  • A5 Apple Macintosh - The Business Mac - Information Web site
  • A6 Ernie Ball Guitar - InfoWorld - Guitar maker plays a Linux tune
  • A7 Bank of Brazil - The Inquirer - Major Brazilian Bank votes for Big Blue, Linux,
  • A8 Cell Phones - ComputerActive - Microsoft puzzled by Sendo pullout
  • A9 Linux in Business - Business Week - The Linux Uprising
  • A10 Motorola Selects Linux, Java - ComputerWorld - New Motorola cell phones ring up Linux, Java
  • A11 Nokia, Symbian and Java - Nokia - Nokia and Symbian
  • A12 Sony Ericsson, Symbian and Java - Mobile Tech News - Java technology plays a big role in new Sony Ericsson handsets
  • A13 Opera for smartphone/PDA - Opera - Products - Opera for Smartphone/PDA
  • A14 HotMail conversion - The Register - MS paper touts Unix in Hotmail's Win2k switch
  • A15 HotMail conversion - Security Office - Converting a UNIX .COM Site to Windows (Microsoft internal paper)
  • A16 Intel Linux Lockout - The Register - Lindows CEO attacks Intel's Centrino Linux lockout
  • A17 Corporate open source - CIO Magazine - Your Open Source Plan
  • A18 Catching up with Linux - Computerworld - Getting Started With Linux
  • A19 License Lock-in - Enterprise Linux News The Wrong Choice: Locked in by license restrictions
  • A20 Microsofties Endorse Linux - The Inquirer - Microsoft researchers endorse Linux clusters
  • A21 QNX - Fortune - Dan Dodge and Gordon Bell: When Software Really, Really Has to Work
  • A22 QNX - QNX - Home Page
(Top) Costs
  • C1 Costs - MITRE / U.S. Army - A Business Case Study of Open Source Software Abstract and link to PDF download.
  • C2 Costs - Linux Today - Cybersource: Linux: 34% Lower TCO than Windows Abstract and link to PDF download.
  • C3 Costs - InfoWorld - Considering TCO - simple description
  • C4 Costs - Brendan Scott - Why Free Software's Long Run TCO must be lower - scholarly exposition
  • C5 Costs - Linux Journal - Linux Saves Money and the Numbers Prove It
  • C6 Costs - Linux Today - Cybersource: Linux: 34% Lower TCO than Windows (has link to .PDF document for above article)
  • C11 Users - ZDNet - Acquisitions bring OS decisions - Pallet One
  • C12 Costs - The Inquirer - Giant Killing: Microsoft and the Money Men
  • C13 Costs - The Age - Long-term Linux half the price of Windows
  • C14 Costs - U.S.News and World Report - Attack of the freebie software
  • C15 TCO - Robert Francis Group - Update: Linux TCO: Less Than Half The Cost of Windows
  • C16 Libraries - Information Today - An Update on Open Source ILS
  • C17 Why Open Source - David A Wheeler - Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers!
  • C18 Windows/Office - iTnews - Microsoft losing on the desktop
  • C19 License Discounts - The Register - MS targets Linux defectors with 'special' price discounts
  • C20 Boscov Department Stores - InfoWorld - Investing in Linux
  • C21 Papa John's, Regal - eWeek - Cashing in on Linux - Linux Point of Sale at Papa John's Pizza, Regal Entertainment and Casas Bahia
  • C22 "Windows costs less" - The Register - Windows costs less than Linux. A bit. Sometimes - MS study
  • C23 Microsoft Memo - Microsoft (through Open Source) - Research E-Bulletin: Attitudes Towards Shared Source and Open Source Research Study
  • C24 Union Pacific - Network Computing - Laying Tracks With Open Source
  • C25 Federal Express Trucking - Network World - FedEx Freight delivers with Linux Web server migration
  • C26 Microsoft cost/performance - Globe News - Is Microsoft courting disaster?
  • C27 Linux for Police - The Register - Secure Linux desktop begins shipping to UK police force
  • C28 Financial Services - InfoWorld - Counting on Linux
  • C29 Morgan Stanley - InfoWorld - New IT model gives Morgan Stanley flexibility
  • C30 Hannaford Brothers Yahoo Finance - Hannaford Bros. Co. Selects Retalix StoreLine Point of Sale Solution on Linux
  • C31 Linux cost study - David A. Wheeler - Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers!
  • C32 GPL (General Public License) - GNU.org - GNU General Public License
  • C33 Cost Comparison - Robert Frances Group - (pdf) Total Cost of Ownership for Linux in the Enterprise
  • C34 Microsoft FUD - ZDNet - Microsoft's new open source mess
  • C35 Cost Experience - Open Enterprise - Open-Source Cost Is Lower, But That's Not All It Offers
  • C36 Forester Research - eWeek - Report: Global Enterprises Turning to Linux Servers
  • C37 Linux vs. Windows - Enterprise Linux - The Wrong Choice: Company rejects Linux, learns a lesson
  • C38 Anti-Linux Slush Fund - The Register - MS 'slush' fund provides big discounts to stop Linux - email
(Top) Overseas (Top) Laws & Government (Top)

Updates since the original release

Minor corrections and additions that don't change a paragraph substantially may not be listed here. Since this document may evolve continuously depending on changing conditions, it will be archived periodically for historical context.

  • U27 - 30-Oct-03 - Added info on Microsoft Phoenix BIOS deal
  • U26 - 10-Oct-03 - Added recent events to MS Security (paragraphs with links X93 to X100).
  • U25 - 14-Jun-03 - Expanded the section on Microsoft gathering information from and controlling your computer.
  • U24 - 10-Jun-03 - Microsoft buys antivirus company
  • U23 - 11-May-03 - Arranged the Security section to flow better, and added information on the Passport and Internet Explorer vulnerabilities.
  • U22 - 11-May-03 - Added Windows 2003 section
  • U21 - 9-May-03 - Updated PC section to include details of "Athens" PC
  • U20 - 19-Apr-03 - Added paragraphs on Super DMCA
  • U19 - 14-Apr-03 - Added paragraphs on transfering Windows licenses under License 6
  • U18 - 23-Mar-03 - Added new section titled "Limiting your Choices"
  • U17 - 21-Mar-03 - Updated 2 paragraphs on cost increase and participation in License 6
  • U16 - 20-Mar-03 - Corrected section on Windows Update - a list of software is not currently sent
  • U15 - 19-Mar-03 - Adjusted text to include latest critical patches
  • U14 - 19-Mar-03 - Added references to Evans Data developer report
  • U13 - 15-Mar-03 - Added note to paragraph on Document Rights Management to note availability for Office 2000, XP
  • Final corrected version of 12-Mar-03 Archived.
  • U12 - 10-Mar-03 - mentioned email on Gates Aids donation
  • U11 - 10-Mar-03 - correction on applicability of OS X Office port to Linux
  • U10 - 9-Mar-03 - Updated and corrected section on the DMCA
  • U9 - 9-Mar-03 - Added paragraph and reference on root kits
  • U8 - 7-Mar-03 - Added note on Liberty Alliance to to .NET section
  • U7 - 2-Mar-03 - Added Sweden in "Foreign Threat" section
  • U6 - 1-Mar-03 - Added mention of EU and Taiwan legal action against Microsoft.
  • U5 - 1-Mar-03 - Added mention of source code and Timeline case to section on Microsoft's response to Linux.
  • U4 - 1-Mar-03 - Added Microsoft exposes Windows source code to Russia and China in Legal section.
  • U3 - 27-Feb-03 - Paragraph modified due to supporting document M1 being disputed, and subsequently withdrawn by The Register.
  • U2 - 25-Feb-03 - Link to quantitative Linux cost study by David Wheeler.
  • U1 - 25-Feb-03 - Information sent to Microsoft by Windows Update
(Top)

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