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Devil and Mr Gates
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 07:28:16 -0500 (CDT)
Forwarded by: Mark Bernard <MEBERNAR () mccain ca>
By: Doug Nairne
September 27, 2001
Microsoft vice-president Rick Rashid, the man responsible for research
at the world's most powerful software company, had a troubling thought
the other day.
He wondered aloud how the world would react if his staff turned the
science fiction of Star Trek's "transporter" teleportation machine
"If Microsoft invented a Star Trek transporter, the headlines in the
newspaper the next day would be, 'Microsoft copies again'," he
Mr Rashid is probably correct. This is a company people love to hate.
Geeks around the world fume with anger when they think of the
Microsoft empire that has engulfed the planet's computers during the
Anti-Microsoft Web sites are so plentiful, one Google search of the
phrase "Microsoft sucks" returned 10,700 hits. (By comparison, a
search on "IBM sucks" produced a mere 171 hits for the world's largest
computer maker. Ibmsucks.com is still under development by its
There are a number of sites that half-seriously try to prove that
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is Satan, or at least working alongside
the Dark Prince in an unholy alliance to rule the world. One site
explains that when Mr Gate's name is translated into ASCII programming
code, and the numbers are added together, you get 666 - the number of
But even as the ranks of its enemies swell, Microsoft's products have
become more widely used than ever. Virtually everyone who touches a
computer uses software that Mr Gates' company designed.
According to April statistics from the United States-based Computer
and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Microsoft sells 87 per
cent of the Web browsers, 92 per cent of the operating systems and 96
per cent of business productivity applications such as word processors
and e-mail programs. In Hong Kong, Microsoft says its Office software
suite has captured an overwhelming 99 per cent of the market. These
numbers, and the way Microsoft achieved them, are the reason many
people despise the company and all it stands for.
Critics, including the US Department of Justice, paint Microsoft as a
merciless monopoly that has crushed innovation with its economic
might, and that bought, borrowed or stole most of its best ideas.
The venerable Microsoft DOS operating system: bought from Seattle
Computer Products. The mouse: created at the Stanford Research
Institute in the late 1960s. The Windows Explorer Web browser: based
on software developed by Spyglass. Toolbars on the edges of programs
were used by Mac programs as far back as 1984, and did not show up in
Microsoft Office until 1991.
Critics also complain that Microsoft has used its economic clout to
keep superior products developed by competitors from gaining
The basis of the US Justice Department's legal battle with Microsoft,
for example, is that the company forced the Netscape Web browser into
obscurity by requiring computer makers to include Explorer on new PCs.
The US Justice Department in early September dropped its demand that
Microsoft be broken-up. Instead, remedies such as pricing limits and
source-code disclosures are being sought.
Ed Black, president of the CCIA, which represents some of Microsoft's
greatest adversaries, including Oracle and Sun Microsystems, said the
computer industry could be much more dynamic and produce better
products had one company not become so dominant.
"The very fact that it is impossible to predict the innovation that
would be present had Microsoft not absorbed, destroyed or cut off the
air supply of viable competitors does not diminish the significance of
the harm to innovation," he said. "Consumers are not best served by
upgrades that take years to materialise, are released behind schedule
and require significant bug fixes and patches following their
Mr Black calls Microsoft "the Borg of the hi-tech industry", referring
to the Star Trek creatures who try to assimilate and destroy the
civilisations they come into contact with.
In the face of such criticism, Microsoft has been quick to fight back.
Company executives say they put their money where their mouth is when
it comes to bringing innovation to the struggling technology sector.
Mr Gates said Microsoft puts a staggering US$5 billion into research
each year, making it the largest private research and development
"It's a very stunning number. I never thought I'd stand up and be
proud of spending US$5 billion. Can't we write this software for US$1
billion? Well, no we can't," he said.
Microsoft recently invited more than 200 journalists and analysts from
around the world to its Redmond, Washington, headquarters for a
two-day preview of what the company has planned for the future. A
continuous stream of developers and executives hammered home the same
theme over and over: Microsoft wants to be seen not just as an
innovator, but as THE innovator.
Researchers displayed new products ranging from the PocketPC 2002
operating system to the Stinger software for mobile phones and the
XBox gaming console
Mark E. S. Bernard,
Global Information Security Specialist,
McCain Foods Limited.
e-Mail: mebernar () mccain ca
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- Devil and Mr Gates InfoSec News (Sep 28)