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Re: interface based monopolies
Thank you for this thoughtful piece.
There is more than one Microsoft issue. Some of these issues should be
handled by the DOJ, and others, I think you are right, should be handled by
the FCC. The category of issues described as "bullying tactics" should be
handled by the DOJ, don't you think? They may or may not have merit.
As many have written, the Internet is the result of a large public
investment. It is public property and the public is benefitting. One
example of this is the Center for Responsive Politics, at www.crp.org,
where it is possible for citizens to see campaign contribution profiles
for various members of congress.
The danger is that the public may lose this bright light that is shining
on the government. What steps can we citizens take to ensure that
the FCC does not regulate the Internet into the mess that television
networks are in?
My concern is that the Internet
Jordan Pollack wrote:
> 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: firstname.lastname@example.org