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Operating System Definition NOT!
This question has been sufficiently and constructively
answered by Prof. POLLACK on this list. He has proposed that
DOS/Windows code be treated as a ...
PUBLIC COMMUNICATION INTERFACE.
This is dead-right and on-target. Stick to it, damn you all.
It means we can look at DOS/Windows, VMS/Windows, NetWare,
OS/2, MacOS, and flavors of UNIX as residing in 7-layer
ISO-type or RFC-type "stacks".
WindowsNT sort of adheres to such a scheme. That is a start.
Moreover, MS Internet Explorer is being deployed as
Session/Presentation layer code across most of the platforms
above. Give MS credit for doing something right, for Pete's
sake, and torpedo their flimsy case for doing something else
wrong -- selling sub-standard, Windows95, technology to
little people with just government and tort lawyers, not
high-paid engineering staff and insurance lawyers, to
protect their interests.
The People, especially the government lawyers, should
completely avoid taking a "meets and bounds" approach to
defining an OS. That plays into MS hands.
Microsoft's mischief lies in how they subvert others'
(ANSI and IETF) and violate their own published
specifications. In a steam boiler, gas burner, or jet
engine, their conduct would be called a "tort" or even
Their folly lies in how they allocate development and
overhead costs to arrive at "net" costs and
discriminatory prices for code packaged for "retail",
namely upgrades, for "wholesale", namely OEM shipments,
as well as for export as distinct from domestic sale.
These are, or were once, commonplace matters of
codification and enforcement at the SEC and FTC, the
first of which actually had a pretty good reputation
The FCC or ITC could be brought in, but these have always
been agencies for the legal distribution of monopoly or
Haitian-type export/import concessions to wealthy political
patrons. The whole point of resolving the matters through
civil government is to keep the army and navy out before all
that fertilizer blows up.
Microsoft's conduct involves plain, old justiciable issues,
nothing exotic at all. They are also matters that lend
themselve to simple, uniform government regulation. Any
"meets and bounds" definition of an operating system based
on the extent of its functionality, "usufruct", is just the
sort of bogus "property right" that non-traditional
copyright and patent lawyers like to conjure up.
There are two problems with this very modern sort of
economic expansionism and imperialism.
First, inventing and extending novel rights at home
devalues popular property rights and existing patent or
copyright law. It often drives people nuts, as both
Lotus and Borland learned. Moreover, it leads to
"wars", like old disputes over the West's water and
grazing land, farmers and ranchers, cowboys and
indians. We have seen this all before and have a long
history of governments both failing, usually the
damnyankee federal government, and succeeding, in some
states from time to time, in dealing with it.
Second, trying to push our novel schemes overseas takes
"gunboat diplomacy" and "land wars in Asia". We have
seen all that too. Do geeks and nerds know about these
There are civilized ways to handle public communication
interface standards despite all the potentials for war and
commerce out there on the high seas or cyber-space.
The whole nation is at risk, the states of Texas,
California, and Massachusetts more than the others, if we do
not handle this in a civilized way, more particularly, if
what passes for a ruling elite in the Great State of
Washington, D.C., subjects all this to the ususal lawyerized
"negotiated settlements" and lobbyized "bidding wars". Then,
like the South American junta they are, our bipartisan,
coalition government will have to resort to war in order to
cover up their high crimes and misdemeanors.
Do I exaggerate? I think not. CINPAC intelligence estimates
point to the potential for war in that theater arising out
of our, mostly Microsoft's, huge "intellectual property"
claims against the Chinese army's publishing houses, and the
regional naval arms race based on the PRC's counter-claims
to territory and concession rights in the China Sea.
There is ample majoritarian (legislative) and authoritative
(executive) means to deal with the present matters. But, if
our Tory/Whig Bench and the rest of the Anglo-American
overclass march in and improvise with this, Judicial
Activism, Yale Clerico-Legalism, call it what you will, we
will all pay, once again, in blood and treasure for the
negligence and corruption of our ruling elite.
Let me be clear: The "meets and bounds approach" is
fundamentally wrong regardless of where the fence-line runs:
Picture angry farmers on one side, ranchers on the other,
with shotguns and carbines. Now, picture both sides with
horse artillery and boys in blue or gray coats. Disputes
over "innovative marketing practices" (MACHAN) lead to range
wars and piracy. Disputes over "new forms of property"
(GILDER) such as black slaves or opium concessions leads to
even bigger wars.
This is a simple, sometimes lurid, old matter we are
discussing. Make no mistake, the technical details are
important, even decisive, "for want of a nail" and so on.
But, they are confusing, "fog of war", if not seen for what
they mainly are, more of the noise in a long-running dispute
between China Trade Imperialists, on the one hand, and
Agrarian Populists and Industrial Progressives, on the
Bill GATES is of the class and on the side he was born to,
no surprise there. I am of and on mine for pretty much the
same reason with no more or less shame. We both know a lot
of bond and patent lawyers as elegant as NEUKOM. I know some
just like heros in GRISHAM's agrarian legal romances and
like Jewish labor-lawyer romances, too. But, what we really,
really need here now is a quaint, old admiralty lawyer.
So, what side are you on?
fn: John Robert BEHRMAN
n: BEHRMAN;John Robert
org: TETRA ENGINEERING, Inc.
adr: 1436 West Gray, Nbr 298;;;HOUSTON;Texas;77019;USA
title: Chief Analyst
tel;work: 713 610 1162
tel;fax: 713 610 1161
tel;home: 713 524 4154