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Re: AM-INFO digest 38

  Martin Gruber has a good mach 1 plan. The government POSIX and free UNIX
  could have public GUI interfaces, and OSI compliance for federal
  contracts. Our tax dollars have already paid for POSIX, why not similar
  standards for telco and internet software?
  "I am not a number. I am a human being," said Number Six.
  am-info@essential.org wrote:
  snipped for brevity
  > The paper is part 1 of a proposal for how to counter the emerging
  > Microsoft hegemony. It analyses the situation and the standard responses
  > to it (Java and the network computer) and proposes another approach.
  > This approach is termed the Open Operating System Initiative (OOSI).
  > Although the paper may seem long, I've tried to be as concise as
  > possible; it covers a lot of ground.
  > Please forward this widely among the conference participants. I hope and
  > believe I have something constructive to contribute to this discussion.
  > *******************************************************************
  > The Open Operating System Initiative (OOSI): How to Undermine the
  > Emerging Microsoft Monopoly
  > Outline:
  >         Summary
  >         Why Microsoft is Gaining a General Sofware Monopoly
  >         Why Neither Java nor the Network Computer are Adequate Responses
  >         How to Counter the Windows Hegemony
  > Summary:
  >         This paper offers a brief analysis of why Microsoft is gaining a
  > general software monopoly and proposes a counter-strategy. The key point
  > of the analysis is that, above and beyond any unfair competitive
  > practices, market forces are driving the industry towards a hegemonic
  > OS, and Windows is positioned to be that OS. The two prevailing
  > strategies for countering this state of affairs - Java and the Network
  > Computer - are examined and found insufficient to the task.
  >         The counter-strategy rests on the following premises:
  >                 The OS cannot be made irrelevant in the time frame
  > necessary to
  > counter Microsoft. Therefore, a counter-strategy must show the courage
  > not to shrink from challenging Microsoft on its own turf: the OS.
  >                 Open systems generally defeat proprietary ones because
  > improvements
  > can come from any source.
  >         Therefore, the proposed solution is that the industry converge
  > on a
  > public domain OS, as such would constitute an "open system" to whose
  > improvement all could contribute, as opposed to Windows, which can only
  > be improved by Microsoft. The industry should select a public domain
  > Unix from the several available versions and support it. This Unix
  > (which we shall call FreeUnix, as a generic term covering Linux, the
  > various BSD's, etc.) can be made more competitive to Windows by
  > incorporating various enhancements. In addition to the obvious ones, we
  > proprose that it should incorporate a web server and have a native Java
  > compiler. Java's chief obstacle to general usage is the serious
  > inefficiencies introduced by going through a virtual machine.
  >         Who is going to spend the money to make these enhancements to
  > software
  > from whose sale they cannot directly profit? Improvements can be sold,
  > but they should retain compatibility with the basic free OS. Discussion
  > of what should be sold and what free is included.
  >         Other Unix vendors should emulate FreeUnix, so it will have a
  > user-base
  > to challenge Windows. Emulating an existing system is easier than
  > creating and implementing a standard.
  > Why Microsoft is Gaining a General Sofware Monopoly
  > The Proposed Approaches: Java and the Network Computer
  > How to Counter the Windows Hegemony: Take the Battle to Microsoft's Home
  > Turf
  > We therefore submit that the software industry has been too cowardly in
  > trying to counter Microsoft. The battle to open the software industry
  > must be taken to Microsoft's home turf: the OS.
  > No doubt many industry players would love to do this: IBM, Sun, HP, DEC,
  > SGI, Apple, and Be, among others, all have OS's to sell. While some of
  > these are established on other, basically proprietary, platforms, it is
  > hard to see how any can compete with Windows on Intel or cross-platform.
  > And Microsoft is leveraging the software and user base of its Intel
  > hegemony to move onto the other platforms.
  > Let's start by admitting this: no one else is going to approach
  > Microsoft sales on Intel in the short run. Therefore, any competing OS
  > would have to reap a much greater per-unit profit to generate enough
  > revenue to stay competitive. But it is not clear that any OS has enough
  > to offer a large number of users to get away with a significantly higher
  > price tag than Windows, which is usually bundled with the computer and
  > thus appears free. This is what has made the industry despair of
  > challenging Microsoft on the desktop.
  > What can compete with Windows is an OS that actually is free. Yes, we
  > are proposing the public domain Unix model, ala Linux and the various
  > BSD's (hereafter FreeUnix), but with considerable enhancements to its
  > practicality. First, let's outline some of the advantages for an average
  > user of a free, public domain OS over a proprietary one, keeping in mind
  > that the OS under discussion is Unix, arguably the most mature and
  > widely deployed (in the sense of a variety of platforms) OS we have.
  > There are two, closely related, problems with establishing any OS:
  > getting a large base of computers that run it and getting a large base
  > of applications that run on it. Consider the following:
  >         An OS whose source code is in the public domain is an open
  > system.
  > Anyone who sees a way to improve it can do so, either giving the result
  > away or charging for it. This is probably the most important factor, as
  > this is how open systems generally beat out proprietary ones. Consider
  > the Internet: prior to its widespread acceptance, there were several
  > attempts to create something similar as proprietary systems: CompuServe,
  > Prodigy, the Microsoft Network, the WELL, America Online, and eWorld,
  > among others. Some of these had some success, but all that remain viable
  > have become adjuncts to the Internet. Something like the Web would not
  > have emerged on CompuServe unless Berners-Lee happened to work there,
  > but, since the Internet was a public entity whose inner workings were
  > public knowledge, he could go off and create HTTP. Being public, the
  > Internet can draw on a well of creativity for its development that no
  > company, even Microsoft, can rival. In fact, it is heartening that the
  > Microsoft Network was such a spectacular failure, and it points to where
  > their true vulnerability lies.
  >         It is any software developer's long-term interest not to be in
  > the
  > business of supplying software that runs exclusively on Windows. Any
  > software developer who is writing for Windows is frankly a fool if he
  > does not look at Microsoft as a potentially deadly long-term enemy -
  > even if he is currently a Microsoft partner (look at IBM and Sybase).
  > Wordperfect and Lotus established their software niches on Microsoft's
  > platforms and were moved right out of the way when MS decided it wanted
  > their action. Can Adobe be far behind as they move more to Windows
  > (regardless of whether Mac survives)?
  >         A free OS can be bundled with any application that runs on it.
  > This
  > means applications written for that OS need not be sold only to people
  > who already use the OS. This is not true of any proprietary OS, all of
  > which have to be judged by developers in terms of the installed base
  > they can offer. It is true that this means the user will have to install
  > another OS and probably reboot when they want to use applications on
  > that OS. This feature in itself would not suffice to establish the OS
  > because of this inconvenience. However, as soon as advantages to the
  > other OS become visible, this inconvenience becomes minor. We will
  > suggest some OS improvements below, and some marketing strategies in
  > Part 2 of this paper.
  >         People love choice, even when it's just between Coke and Pepsi.
  > The
  > notion of a single company being the only choice is deeply offensive to
  > many, but a single OS that is public-domain and can be customized by
  > anyone is vastly less threatening. It becomes simple infrastructure like
  > the Internet. No one is currently clamoring for a competitor to the
  > Internet. Infrastructure generally works best as a public project.
  >         In the cutthroat competition of PC sales, a box with a free OS
  > can be
  > sold cheaper than a Windows box. This alone will not make the
  > difference, but it is a selling point. It also means Windows users need
  > make no investment to investigate the other side, or to play both sides,
  > of the fence.
  >         Although right now it may be easier to develop for Windows than
  > Unix,
  > developing for an OS in the public domain means you can view the source
  > itself, so you really know how the OS works and can do a much better
  > job. It also means there will be no hidden "functionality" of the sort
  > for which Microsoft is famous. On the other hand, this situation creates
  > a market for people to provide usability and programming tools for Unix.
  > They are already many such on various versions on Unix, so, in part,
  > this is simply a porting problem.
  > OK, given all this, why hasn't FreeUnix conquered the world already?
  > There are a variety of reasons, among those commonly cited are:
  >           Most software developers have their eyes on the vastly larger
  > Windows
  > market. While obviously this is not a market that can be ignored, we
  > suggest such developers ask themselves whether they would like to be
  > competing with Microsoft exclusively on its platform in a few years.
  >           Being nonprofit, FreeUnix is not professionally marketed.
  > Hence most
  > users have not heard of it.
  >           Being Unix, FreeUnix is not as easy to use as Windows.
  > While all this is true, and we will respond to it all shortly, we think
  > a greater reason is a prejudice on the part of those who develop
  > software for sale against software that is given away free.  There is
  > the notion that the latter is by definition an amateur enterprise, and
  > that the result must therefore be "amateurish". The underlying feeling
  > is that if free software is held to be valuable, it could call into
  > question why other valuable software merits payment. Without getting
  > into too detailed an analysis of the merit or causes of this prejudice
  > in general, we submit that, in this case, it is suicidal and therefore
  > must be abandoned.
  > Another aspect of the situation to consider is that most major OS's
  > below the mainframe level are now variants of Unix. Of course, Windows
  > is not; that is the point. Also, OS/2 is not, but IBM does have a mature
  > version of Unix in its arsernal and the resources to port a lot of its
  > existing OS/2 technology over to it.  Other than that, Rhapsody, the
  > next Mac OS, is Unix, as are OS's used by Sun, SGI, HP, DEC, Novell, and
  > IBM. Any application that can function across a large number of these
  > systems has a huge and generally affluent base to sell to.  It is a base
  > that could soon be lost to NT, but not if it has better applications
  > (including programming and usability tools).
  > All versions of Unix are not, of course, the same, and application
  > portability (we're talking source code portability, of course) is not an
  > easy problem. The industry has attempted to standardize Unix before and
  > failed. True, paper standards exist, but application portability does
  > not. Without getting into details and recriminations, we think the basic
  > reason for the failure was the  complexity of getting a large number of
  > vendors to collaborate on a standard and implement it. Therefore, we
  > say, skip all that. Pick a freeware Unix and emulate it. Let it be the
  > standard to which everyone writes. This creates a well-defined and
  > limited goal that can be obtained relatively quickly. In fact, only a
  > freeware Unix from which no one can directly get an advantage could fill
  > this role without creating a political struggle of the sort that has
  > plagued attempts to standardize Unix in the past.
  > In other words, we propose that the Unix players accept FreeUnix as a
  > least common denominator (LCD) standard and adjust their systems to run
  > applications developed for Linux or one of the BSD's (which of these
  > systems would best suit the purpose is beyond our scope here). Of
  > course, their systems could also run private applications. The advantage
  > of this is that there would be one platform besides Windows with a large
  > enough base to be worth developing for. And it would be in the interest
  > of every company not looking forward to a future as Microsoft's next
  > lunch to develop for it and promote it.
  > This is not to say companies have to sacrifice the strengths they have
  > built up in their own Unix systems just for the sake of a least common
  > denominator standard. Sun is still driving Java development and has a
  > large application base that possibly could be ported, SGI has top-flight
  > graphics capabilities, and Rhapsody has a superb application development
  > framework. The Unix base is public domain, but companies can still add
  > value. But now Microsoft has to compete with a free OS that is actually
  > much more mature than NT, and that people can trust as they cannot trust
  > Microsoft.
  > FreeUnix will only catch on in a big way, however, if the following
  > occur:
  >         Major Software vendors show its credibility by porting to it.
  > Some,
  > like Netscape, have ported to Linux. But we need IBM, Oracle, and Adobe
  > to throw their weight behind FreeUnix as well. This requires looking
  > beyond the immediate balance sheet. Business users will take FreeUnix
  > seriously if IBM and Oracle do. And, in fact, DEC and Oracle are using
  > freeware Unix for the client-side OS in their network computer systems,
  > which shows that the majors can take seriously and rely on a freeware
  > Unix platform. This is a start, but the standalone and server
  > applications need to move over as well.
  >         A consortium needs to form to support the chosen FreeUnix with
  > the
  > following services:
  >                 Funding to make improvements to the OS that will remain
  > in the public
  > domain.
  >                 Professional marketing to get the word out.
  >                 A standards certification process supported by a test
  > suite. The
  > purpose of this is to certify that customizations made to the OS do not
  > create incompatibilities.
  >         The OS needs to start on Intel, but should not stay there. Other
  > systems should either port or emulate it. Linux, of course, already has
  > several such ports.
  >         Major improvements need to be made to the OS itself. Not all of
  > these
  > can be expected to come from a non-profit industry consortium.  We
  > address these under How to Improve FreeUnix below.
  > How to Improve FreeUnix
  > There are some improvements to FreeUnix that would greatly help it
  > against Microsoft. Among these are the following:
  > A Built-In Web Server
  >         The OS should be extended to include an HTTPD that can invoke
  > applications through an open API, such as the NSAPI. This has the
  > following advantages:
  >                 One of the great problems in generic Unix applications
  > is easily
  > creating a user interface as attractive and usable as you can on Mac or
  > Windows. With a built-in web server, many applications could have a
  > series of Web pages, possibly including Java applets and other embedded
  > technology, as the user interface. This gives them automatic access to
  > the state of the art in user-interface technology, because the Web is
  > where all the development is taking place. Also, dynamic Web pages are
  > comparatively easy to generate.
  >                 Developers writing to FreeUnix need not decide whether
  > they want to
  > write a standalone or an Internet/Intranet application. They can have
  > their cake and eat it too. An application runs behind the OS web server
  > and is interfaced to through a Web browser. Whether that browser is on
  > the same machine and communicating through a pipe or on a different one
  > and communicating through TCP/IP can be transparent to the application,
  > save where it must be specifically addressed for security reasons.
  >         How can we argue that a web server belongs in the OS when we do
  > not
  > agree with Microsoft that a browser does? The basic purpose of an OS is
  > to be a platform for applications, and, because of the second item
  > above, incorporating a web server significantly enhances the
  > functionality of the OS for this purpose. It is not clear that a
  > built-in browser does this.
  > Native Java Support
  >         A compiler should be made available that compiles Java source to
  > FreeUnix executable rather than bytecode. If this happens, Java
  > applications can have a platform where they will be more or less as
  > efficient as C and still be portable to other platforms. Since Java has
  > been shown to cut development periods by something like 2/3's compared
  > to C, this would create a serious problem for Microsoft. I, as a
  > developer, could write a program in Java that would run as quickly (or
  > in the ballpark, anyway) as a C program, but get it out the door much
  > more quickly. I don't have to worry about the fact that I'm not writing
  > for Windows, since I can carry the OS with me, i.e., I can include it on
  > the CD.  And the app will run on Windows, if I cross-compile to
  > bytecode, just not nearly as efficiently (which will make Windows look
  > bad). Why, then, would I develop for Windows?
  > Java: It's not just for network computers anymore
  >         This brings up a problem with how Java has been positioned. It
  > is our
  > opinion that Java is being held back by the fact that most of its
  > backers, including Sun, are in love with the network computer. Java is
  > well-suited to network computing, but it also would be a much better
  > standalone development language than C is, if it could overcome its
  > performance problems. Time is of the essence, and establishing a new
  > software standard can happen much more quickly than a new hardware
  > standard, much less a whole new hardware infrastructure, which is what
  > the network computer entails. Give Java a free native platform, and
  > there will be a huge body of professional-level applications for it
  > within six months. It is hard to know how far the network computer will
  > go and how quickly, but it will not match the speed that Java can
  > muster. Java on a free (initially) Pentium-based OS requires no
  > investment at all from users and offers great ground floor opportunities
  > for developers. In all likelihood, Microsoft will take over the server
  > before the network computer displaces the PC much. Ignoring Java's
  > potential to displace C on standalone applications for the sake of
  > network computers that will take time to prove themselves is foolish.