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Re: Microsoft Beat Lotus: An Answer
just to add my 2 cents worth to this discussion.
I am 33 years old, that means that I was 18 in 82 and
as a computer hobbyist first, a computer scientist later,
I had the leisure to follow the evolution of all this
PC market in the critical days when MicroSoft turned from
a minor player in the market to the gigantic monopolyst it
Unfortunately, I had not foreseen such a mean future, and
such a ridiculously enslaved press (I used to buy regularly
Byte in 1984... I stopped quite a while ago when this pile
of sheets turned into a gigantic PC/MS advertising tool), so
I did not always take note of the relevant unfair practices
of MicroSoft. Nevertheless, I can remember something about
these issues, including Excel.
To make a long story short, Excel was NOT a nice product,
actually it was an early product on Windows 3.0, which
was an early product itself (I know, we installed a network
of PCs at the time and many basic tasks like printing on a
networked printer were impossible to perform due to severe
bugs in the system).
Excel 1.0 contained a lot of design errors that I see in
the projects of first year students all the time: for example,
if you put something in an entry far down right in the sheet,
all the (empty) rectangle gets allocated (and recalculated).
International versions of the product used a macro language which
was not tokenized, so a spreadheet created with Franch Excel
contained french-language macros which turned into error on an
Italian or US version.
And so on.
This is a HARD FACT. I still have buried somewhere the pile of disks
of that program (but I wonder who still has a PC able to run it :-().
On the gossip side, though, I vaguely remember something that I'd be glad
to see confirmed or disproved here... The various competing spreadsheets
were regularly submitted to benchmarks by BYTE, PC Magazine etc.
which included access to disk speed, recalculation etc. etc.
Now, I recall that Excel turned out extremely superior in one of
these tasks (this is a FACT) because it used to its advantage an
undocumented system call that was unavailable to competitors and
gave rise to a lawsuit somewhere, where MS dismissed the charge
as a minor documentation problem (they "forgot" to document this function)
(this is the UNSURE part I would like to see confirmed or disproved).
Anyway, after seeing another "accident" preventing the Netscape Commerce server
from answering more than 10 request at the time on NT (there is a lawsuit around)
I do not have difficulty believing the version which is not favorable
I am not an expert in US legal issues, but in Europe (yes, you got an overseas
opinion above :-)) we largely use the "cui prodest" rule (from old Latin:
"who benefits from this?") which means, for example, that if a software
company holding a monopoly steadily makes "errors" in documentation/programs/compatibility
issues (Lotus/JDK etc.) or "forgets" to recognize copyrights when "borrowing" other
company's products (Stacker vs. Dos 6.22), all facts that have as a neat effect
to damage competitors, then you consider that they are doing it *on purpose*
and they can and must be pursued.
Also, let me add as a side remark that I am pretty tired to have to explain
over and over again to every non-expert person why being "the owner"
of a market does not automatically mean producing "the best" products,
and actually very often coincides with selling worst-quality goods
especially in the information technology extremely volatile market.
Such a simple remark has generally been considered blasphemy in United
States and this is one of the reasons my esteem for your country is so
low now: once you start considering wealth as a proof of intelligence,
(with its contrapositive assumption that beign poor is the fault of the poor),
market share as a proof of quality, and antitrust suits as marginal
annoyances spawned by battered competitors, you are also building a
very unfair world I do not whish to live in.
So please, go ahead with your discussion, it is one of the few
occasions I found to rejoyce reading non-scientific material
coming from the US :-)
--Roberto Di Cosmo
LIENS-DMI E-mail: email@example.com
Ecole Normale Superieure WWW : http://www.ens.fr/~dicosmo
45, Rue d'Ulm Tel : ++33-(0)1-44 32 20 40
75230 Paris CEDEX 05 Fax : ++33-(0)1-44 32 20 80
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