Page Two

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-03-23 Print this article Print

Un-friggin-believable. But this is the approach I expect the EU to take, for a number of reasons. First, as stupid as it may be, what else are you going to do? There is no rational basis for pricing individual features. Second, it sets a framework, as envisioned by the DOJ, for pricing other features the EU may order Microsoft to remove. Third, it reinforces the precedent set by the vacated Jackson ruling, which Im sure Microsofts competitors would like to set as a model for future rulings. The mind boggles when considering the implications of such a ruling. Microsoft would be rational, for example, to change the nature of the programs in question in response. Windows Media Player comes with sample videos and numerous bitmaps included in the executable. Time to trim that excess fat. They might change their compiler settings in the future to pack files more tightly, use compression on executables and so on. Incidentally, as far as I could tell from reading the judgment, it is unclear whether the calculations were based on the number of bits on the installation media or the number of bits in the installed system; these numbers could differ greatly, so that needs to be worked out.
And its hard to say that theres even any fairness basis for valuing software by the number of bits it occupies. Big, fat programs are often the worst written and small, tightly written the fastest and most valuable. The number of bits in them is at best a random proxy for value, at worst a direct opposite reading of the work that went into them.
Back during the DOJ case I actually read the proposed judgment and actual judgment, so these provisions caught my eye, but I never saw them discussed anywhere else. Perhaps they will get more attention this time if they are adopted by the EU. Or maybe theyll think of something even more irrational; dont put it past the minds of Microsofts competitors and their partners in government regulation. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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