Part 45. Tonya Harding
To this day, former U.S. Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding denies any prior knowledge
of the assault on a rival skater at the U.S. Nationals just prior to the 1994 Winter
Olympics. Whether that is true or not is known only by a handful of people. But
the goons who carried out this sabotage on a fellow competitor had in mind the success
of Miss Harding by the removal of a superior talent from the contest. This attitude
of winner-by-exclusion is very much the prime motivation of most so-called "innovations"
For example, the original Windows95 release regularly disabled Netscape Navigator
and other non-Microsoft browser software. It was important to make sure that superior
products like Netscape could not co-exist in the same competitive space (the PC).
It was also important to make sure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who signed
up with Microsoft had to implement non-compatible, proprietary website features
so that Netscape users would be unable to view the ISP's homepage effectively. In
this case, Microsoft attempted to remove Netscape from the competitive space of
the Web itself. Similarly, giving away Microsoft's Internet Server software by bundling
it with WindowsNT, as well as dumping a free MSIE into the desktop competitive space,
are examples of Microsoft's using its monopoly money to attempt to drive superior
competitors like Netscape out of business.
But this is not a new practice; Microsoft rigged Windows 3.1 so that DOS competitor
Digital Research would be unable to compete in the market for Windows loaders. Another
case of pushing out superior alternatives so they never get the chance to compete
involved the restrictive Windows-only preload licensing policies with PC manufacturers.
Also, the Windows-only contract policies with many software developers (under the
guise of "trade secret protection") kept superior products like OS/2 and
Unix out of the desktop application competitive space. Microsoft even tried a heavy-handed
announcement that they would refuse to support Novell's powerful NDS directory system
on the WindowsNT platform, a direct attempt to scare off potential users before
they could even try NDS.
Microsoft is now teamed with Intel and Compaq on the bogus "PC98" and
"PC99" specifications, which are designed to limit the appeal of new PCs
to alternative software users by having them "tuned" for Microsoft operating
systems instead of being open and compatible with all systems. This way, hardware
vendors who must spend time and money redesigning their interfaces and driver software
will have to choose between Microsoft and openness.
It's much easier to look like a winner if the top competitors have all had strange
"accidents" or are otherwise unable to compete. That way, Microsoft wins
by default because the consumer never gets the chance to make a direct, fair comparison
in an unbiased competitive space. Someday Mr. Gates may be given the opportunity
to speak out about these practices in court. He will likely claim "no prior
knowledge" much as Tonya Harding has done. Given the long-term nature of Microsoft's
exclusionary practices as opposed to the one-time assault in the Harding case, that
excuse will likely have Mr. Gates skating on thin ice.
Most recent revision: March 28, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.