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Re: Your Microsoft Alternative to Antitrust
Routing note from: Edmond Jane <firstname.lastname@example.org> 11/16/97 10:45pm
** Reply to note from email@example.com Sun, 16 Nov 1997 18:21:26 -0500 (EST)
Five or six years ago, Linus Torvalds, a university graduate student in
Helsinki was involved with a project that required him to use the
operating system called Minix, which is a UNIX-derived mainframe
computer operating system. It is my understanding that there was no
flavor of UNIX that could run on a PC at that time. Linus Torvalds was
frustrated with that situation, so he developed a spin-off operating
system from Minix, that he could run on his home PC, which was a 386SX.
He did it in the spirit of a genuine computer hacker, which is a type
of person who solves problems and then shares his solutions with
others. Thus, when he got his new operating system working on his 386SX
at home, he posted its source code on the internet, for all to use free
of charge, and thought nothing more of it.
He saw to it that Linux is not public domain software, when he had the
forsight to register its copyright under the GNU Public License.
Uuder that license the source code for Linux must always remain freely
available. People can charge money for Linux if they wish, so long as
they do not attempt to limit the redistribution of Linux. Since
then, many people around the world have worked together to create and
advance Linux, under the direction of Linus Torvalds, the original
author, and each holds the copyright to the code he or she has written.
Linux is FREE software-- it costs nothing if you want to take the time
to download it from the internet. If you want to save that downloading
time, which can be several hours, you can buy a distribution of Linux
from one of many companies who package it, generally for little more
than the cost of the media it is copied on. Such distributions
generally come with a browser, internet access applications, utilities,
games, and production applications such as a text editor, a word
processor, and a spreadsheet. And most of them cost anywhere from
as little as $5.00 to as much as $400.00 with $40.00 to $60.00 being
the norm, depending on the amount of CD-ROMS and the heft of the
printed manual, if there is one, and depending on whether there are
commercial Linux programs bundled with it or not. The distributions
that run into the hundreds of dollars generally come bundled with more
commercial software for setting up more sophisticated servers, and also
software development programs.
Linux is a very powerful, incredibly stable operating system that can
be run on many different platforms, and there are 32-bit and 64-bit
versions available. It is very UNIX-like in its appearance, but
there are also several GUI desktops that have been developed for
it, all FREE, which make it a lot easier for non-technical people
to use. There is a large library of powerful software that will run on
Linux, that includes word processors, spreadsheets, browsers, desktops,
internet utilities, development utilities, games, etc, and most of it
is free for the taking from the internet. Linux can also run Windows
and DOS programs.
Since Linus Torvalds first posted the source code for Linux on the
internet some five years ago, Linux has grown until it now has more
than five million users. There are some estimates that put the user
base at more than eight million. It is really difficult to know the
actual number of users of Linux because of the way it is distributed.
But even the smallest estimate of the Linux user base is considerably
larger than the user base for Microsoft's NT, even if you believe the
overinflated hype that comes from Microsoft's wonderfully imaginative
marketing people about how many copies of NT are in use. And the
user base for Linux is growing now at a phenomenal rate, particularly
since it has gotten much easier to install. Once Linux is installed,
you can virtually forget about it, unlike NT, which requires continuous
maintenance and lots of reinstallations.
Linux is used all over the internet for servers. It is very stable
and there are many documented cases of Linux servers being continuously
on line for hundreds of days without a crash. Microsoft claims such
stability for NT, but the stability of NT is actually nowhere
near that of Linux. Microsoft would like to replace FREE Linux
everywhere it is used with costly NT.
Linux is very superior to NT, and it can be had for zero cost to the
public, as I have explained. And a group of users have been found to
develop and support Linux through its many iterations. These are
programmers and hackers in virtually every country in the world, and
they all contribute their improvements to the Linux community free.
There are many more of these programmers and hackers working on Linux
than Microsoft could ever hope to buy, even with all of their
billions, because Linux is kept running by the very people that make
up its user base.
Linux is alive, and its user base worldwide is growing at a good clip.
I cannot imagine that any antitrust suit against Linux could survive.
It has grown out of traditions which began with the origins of the
internet, long before Microsoft was ever heard of.
> The idea of defeating monopoly by making an equal or superior
> substitute product available at zero cost to the public is certainly
> an appealing one. But can a group of users really be found that would
> put up the development money and then give away the fruits of its
> investment? None of the software companies would have an incentive to
> do so nor would, say, the general consumer (the home user and the
> smaller businessman). The Fortune 500, though, the big companies who
> currently have large yearly expenditures for software? Even if it was
> clear that their individual cost savings via the consortium would
> exceed their contributions to it, there would still be the so-called
> "free-rider" problem: Each would have a powerful incentive to "let
> the other guy" to bear the load of funding the development of your
> free software--and then helping themselves to it at zero cost, i.e.,
> reaping where they had never sown.
> Secondly, would your proposal be legal under the antitrust laws? You
> can be sure that, if your consortium should be successfully organized
> and begin to offer an effective substitute for Microsoft's Windows,
> for example, at a zero price, Bill Gates' lawyers would promptly file
> a multi-billion lawsuit under the antitrust laws against its members
> charging, for starters, (a) conspiracy and (b) predatory (below-cost)
> pricing. And he might have a winnable case: A zero price is about as
> "predatory" as it can get. And if the product's quality was equal to
> or better than Windows--and should be accepted as such by the
> consuming public--his market share would of course start sinking like
> a stone, his price would collapse to near zero, and Microsoft's STOCK
> price would similarly hit the skids. Bill's $40 billion fortune would
> be promptly wiped out--which is to say he would be able to
> demonstrate to the courts that he had been "damaged" in an
> unprecedented amount.