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interface based monopolies

  I have always felt that microsoft was an issue for the FCC, not the DOJ.
  The common operating system is a "communications interface standard"
  like an electric plug or phone outlet or broadcast standard.
  Its rules of operation are published, so that companies can make
  appliances which plug into to standard. We expect competition to
  drive down the price of the utilities which operate the
  appliances through the interface.
  Because an "Interface based monopoly" (an IBM) can change the
  interface at will, without national consent, lots of abuse is
  possible. The interface is changed arbitrarily, generally not to
  provide any new services, but to generate windfall revenue, or
  to kill competition.
  The real problem with Intl Business Machines (an IBM) was its
  ownership of the 360 instruction set architecture, a language which
  was taught to every computer programmer, and was the standard
  architecture for all software of its day.  There was a software
  industry, but whenever a competitor, such as amdahl, built hardware
  which would run IBM's code, IBM would issue a new machine with a few
  new, provable unnecessary, instructions, and software which assumed
  them, so Amdahl's machine would not run the new software.
  If one company owned the electric outlet, and could issue new
  outlets "EO 98" -and the new home builders installed them because
  they got them cheap, and the appliance builders stopped building
  appliances for the old standard, when you needed to replace
  an appliance, you would be forced to rewire your home!
  The government does not allow the phone company or television
  companies to force everyone to buy new appliances every few years.
  Yet Office97 doesnt run under windows 3.1.
  One could argue that microsoft Dos and Windows do not constitute
  a public communications interface standard since they were privately
  developed.  Of course, TV and Telephone standards also arose through
  competition before being made national.
  The nation should avoid looking at Netscape or Sun as "white knights"
  either.  Netscape's monopoly is based on the theft of a public
  standard - HTML, through one-sided tweaks of that language coupled
  with exploitingthe public info highway for zero distribution
  costs. Sun's Java, while now offered as a semi-public standard which
  rides on network browsers, is still a privately owned language which
  only Sun can tweak whenever it feels it isnt selling enough
  Once a public interface standard is established so that all consumers
  and businesses are dependent on that interface, the SPECIFICATION (not
  the copyrighted code itself) should be declared a national standard
  and HELD STILL unless essential new services arise and are introduced
  in a non-competitive fashion, through patches rather than 90/clip
  upgrade windfalls. Thus we should be able to hold windows/pentium
  still long enough for makers of operating systems, such as APPLE, IBM,
  and DEC, SGI, and GNU, to get their systems support standard wintel
  plug-in appliances without fear of immediate investment loss. HTML is
  another candidate for a public standard.
  Professor Jordan B. Pollack   DEMO Laboratory, Volen Center for Complex Systems
  Computer Science Dept, MS018  Phone (617) 736-2713/Lab x3366/Fax x2741
  Brandeis University           website: http://www.demo.cs.brandeis.edu
  Waltham, MA 02254             email: pollack@cs.brandeis.edu