# [Beowulf] Microsoft Rants, Gorification...

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Mon Jan 29 07:00:44 PST 2007

On Wed, 24 Jan 2007, Cannon, Andrew wrote:

> The text of this message should be posted on every forum we can.  It was a
> fascinating read and needs publishing far and wide.  Robert, do we have your
> permission to post this on any forums/bbs/mailing lists that we read
> (subject to proper notification that it belongs to you)?

Sure, feel free.  Mind you, it isn't beyond criticism or reproach --
some very valid counterpoints have been raised both on and off list by
various people.  You might want to splice this reply onto the bottom of
those reposts both to record the blanket permission to republish with
attribution and to serve as an "addendum" to some of the subsequent
discussion.

There are a number of things that I left out of the original post.  For
example, I didn't talk much about MS's current tendency to try to lock
in the market by means of software patents as software copyrights have
proven ineffective in protecting a supermonopoly's interest in remaining
a supermonopoly.  It is just too easy for people to reverse engineer
software, clone software, or write brand new software that goes beyond
software.

Unsurprisingly, as a few links that were posted clearly show, MS's
patent reach has already gone far beyond their legal or ethical grasp,
and they are trying to patent other people's inventions or ideas that
have long been in the public domain, counting on their ability to be
able to spend more money on lawsuits than the original inventors or any
who might challenge their right to own other people's ideas.  Honestly
one can see this tendency repeatedly expressed in their takeover of the
"Turbo" IDE idea, the integrated office suite idea, the internet, java,
and so on, but previously they've exploited the ease of legally cloning
clever software ideas mixed with their ability to manipulate the
development environment to their advantage.  Now they're turning around
and exploiting things the other way -- stealing the ideas and legally
cloning successful products and THEN patenting them as their own so
nobody else can clone or use them, including the original inventors.

Way cool, actually.  Ar, matey.  Take no prisoners.  Into the briney
deep with them.  At least we now know where the distant descendants of
Captain Jack Sparrow ended up...

Also, I probably overemphasized the economic influence of pension funds
on decision makers, as MS has already undergone one major correction
(along with the general dotcom collapse) where it lost half its value.
I personally think it has another half or three quarters to give, and
still think that heavy investments on the part of pension funds etc give
them an unnatural influence in the political and business arena, but
sure, their collapse probably wouldn't trigger an actual depression,
just some heavy relative impoverishment of the mostly very rich.

Some people noted that the IT business is so fast paced and cutthroat
competitive that they expect that a paradigm shift, perhaps to cell
phone based devices or something else entirely, will sooner or later
cause even MS's empire to come tumbling down.  I'm not so optimistic
about that -- if the invention of the web wasn't enough of a paradigm
shift to do it (noting that the web came out of the UNIX world and the
internet) what could possibly be?  Microsoft has just as good a chance
as any to hop on any new bandwagons as they appear in the IT landscape,
and they have the legal clout and unassailable position on the desktop
to co-opt it, patent it, and send the actual inventors down to Davey
Jones' Locker as they have so many times before.

Where is Borland today?  Oh, sure, it's big enough that Phillipe Kahn
probably isn't starving.  But it is surviving on the dregs, literally,
of MS's software development business.  Lotus?  That would be a
subsidiary of IBM.  Corel?  Hey, WordPerfect Office actually still
exists!  I'll bet they sell a bunch of it, too.  Not.  They'd "own" Java
if it weren't for the fact that Sun Microsystems still has a few billion
of its own that they can spend on lawsuits.  Netscape won their
antitrust lawsuit, and lost the war -- I've struggled with installing
Netscape in place of Explorer on XP boxes, and let me assure you, it
just breaks things all over the place, I'm sure by design.  Most people
who try it are forced to reselect Explorer as their default browser and
in some cases just plain uninstall Netscape (something that seems to
work perfectly, even where the install does not).  .NET is clearly more
of the same -- html is too open, php and friends ditto, java belongs to
Sun, so we damn sure maybe want a development environment and integrated
browser stuff that we can patent, copyright, and use to gorify* the
active application aspects of the Internet.

[* Gorify:  verb, meaning to "assert the invention of when one really
didn't, honest", as in one "gorifies" the Internet by asserting that one
invented it, one "gorifies" Global Warming by asserting that one
invented THAT.  Here's a nice example of contemporary usage:

"Steven Ballmer recently gorified XML as the core component of .NET by
asserting that only Microsoft has had the vision of extending XML across
both client and server."

(See e.g.

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-961877.html

-- which has some really juicy quotes "There has yet to be any
innovation, new features or new capabilities out of the Linux platform",
for example -- and

http://www.itwriting.com/dotnet1.php

for a critique of .NET that is remarkably well done.)

Well, shoot, I've got this little application, y'see, called xmlsysd (a
server) and wulfstat (a client) that was released in early 2002, when I
hadn't every HEARD of .NET.  And the idea of languages that are
converted into executable form at runtime, gee, didn't Borland invent
that on the compiler side?  Isn't that pretty much what the scripting
language of your choice does, or Java, or even some of my programmable
graphics UIs do?  Hey, they're gorifying again, but this time in the
patent office -- be very scared...]

Finally, it was pointed out that they are just one medium sized iceberg
in a sea of giant multinational corporations that exercise soullessly
evil influence on government, business, money, and human lives, with
e.g. oil companies, car companies, banking and holding companies, and
some major manufacturing companies all bigger than and potentially
eviller that MS.  Here I agree that there are plenty of other big evil
supergiant companies (large enough to serve as shadow governments in
their own right) that we as citizens should be concerned about, although
those companies also do much good in the sense that they are the
backbone of the US/World economy and for better or worse provide a
living and many comforts and amenities to people all over the world.

However I disagree as well.  The difference between, say, WalMart and
Microsoft, or Ford and Microsoft, is that WalMart is far from being a
supermonopoly.  It has competition from Roses, from K-Mart, from Target,
from Sears, from many other large stores with similar merchandise and
targeted consumers.  Ford has competition from many other car companies,
and is perfectly capable of losing billions of dollars in relative
market share to them if their management does a poor job.  Consumers
have real, stable, economically viable choices that they can make
according to their whim, their pocketbook, and their political or
environmental preferences.  I know a lot of people who refuse to shop at
WalMart, for example, BECAUSE they are destroying competition and choice
and exploiting labor forces at home and abroad to achieve their
low-price edge.  Those people can do this because they HAVE choices --
local merchants, other chains with prices that are nearly as good or
that carry better quality merchandise with less of an exploitative price
tag, owners that are less butt-headed that Sam Walton's children
apparently are.

Adam Smith's good old invisible hand still works for these companies,
even though their size makes them seem invulnerable.  After all, I
remember days when K-Mart WAS the "WalMart" of today, when Roses was
still a great place to shop instead of surviving at the edge of
extinction.  In a way, WalMart's success (and their current
difficulties) are competition in action.  We "vote" in retail with our
choices.

This is not true for Microsoft.  There are few examples even in history
of market dominance like Microsoft's.  95% of the GLOBAL consumer
desktop market, most of that via locked in hardware agreements that
never even present the ILLUSION of choice to the consumer.  The
remaining market divided up between: a software company that has never
quite realized that this is what they are and that persists on
representing itself as a hardware company, with management that is so
quixotic and ego-tonic that in spite of its occasional brilliance and
appeal to the rebels and artists out there, it could never be viewed as
a serious threat; and Linux, which is if anything even more quixotic and
unpredictable even though it has proven to be a threat to take seriously
because it is so difficult to control and so cost effective in certain
contexts.

I would be very, very worried if 95% of the oil in the world were
controlled by a single, basically unregulated company.  I would be very,
very worried if 95% of the cars being driven were Fords and the
remaining "cars" were either somewhat pricey SUVs made by a single
manufacturer or homemade from a build-your-own-car kit.  I would be
absolutely terrified if WalMart controlled 95% of all consumer retail of
any sort, with what is left of Sears controlling 4% of the remainder and
1% consisting of small family businesses struggling to hold on.

So should we all be concerned about a market that controls the flow of
>>information<< that has a major sector where 95% of all business is
controlled by a single company, a company that also controls the lion's
share (by a healthy, although less overwhelming margin) of the other
major sector?  Damn sure you betcha.  When that company has a clear
history of and several "convictions" on record for anticompetitive
business practices, when that company makes side deals with major
foreign countries that more or less enable "thought control" via topdown
management (something that our own government has on more than one
occasion tried to mandate), when that company has cleverly arranged
things so that it makes MORE money in actual marginal profit than the
hardware and software alike -- well, forgive me for think of them as an
unwelcome hand reaching into my purse and a potential threat to my
political liberty combined.

rgb

P.S. -- to the rest of the beowulf list, that's it for this thread, I
quit, I'm done, got work to do gorifying cluster monitoring tools like
xmlsysd and working on my newly gorified dieharder application, not to
mention gorifying Maxwell-- I mean "Brown's Equations" for my physics
class.  I just reinvent the notation a bit, that's all that one really
needs to do, right?  Suppose I use \vec{F} for the (electric )F(ield)
instead of \vec{E}, that ought to do it...hmmmm.

So, anybody can use my immortal prose -- without gorifying it -- and we
can let this thread die die die.  I'm sure some of you already wish I
would die die die as it is...;-)

--
Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu