Open Windows

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2002-03-07 Print this article Print

?"> Open Windows? Much of the commentary surrounding bundling and integration remedies seems to presuppose a future in which some more open version of Windows will enable all companies to play on a level field.
Does Microsoft hold unfair advantages over other software companies that develop applications for Windows? It certainly does—and although the proposed settlement includes measures intended to preserve a share of openness in Windows APIs, there are too many loopholes that will ensure Microsofts unfair advantages remain, as long as Windows retains its immense market share advantage among desktop OSes.
The vision of a better tomorrow through marginally more open Windows APIs and strict new bundling restrictions is over-optimistic almost to the point of disingenuousness. It seems to me that if openness and a level playing field are what were actually after, the only sure path lies in open-source OSes, such as Linux. The GNOME and KDE desktop environments have been progressing rapidly toward desktop-friendliness parity with Windows and Macintosh. The biggest stumbling block for desktop Linux moving forward is the same one that did BeOS in. Where Windows finds its way into ones home preloaded and ready to roll on a piece of hardware, virtually every new Linux installation involves casting aside an OEM-tested and installed copy of Windows that is working and has already been paid for. Linux users embark on a potentially complicated setup routine (for many, any setup routine at all is too complicated), the successful result of which is a copy of Linux that does more or less what Windows had done. Under those circumstances, why should anyone bother? However, if an eventual settlement between Microsoft and the government can keep our favorite unrepentant monopolist from meddling in the OS choices of its OEMs, Id expect that the license savings that a Dell or a Gateway could pass along to its customers would get the ball rolling nicely. After all, to the extent that Microsoft continues to stunt competition among alternative Windows-based software products, the party that stands to lose the most over time is Microsoft. For example, scan the Web sometime for Linux-based vs. Windows-based MP3 creation and management tools. Even though Microsofts grip on the desktop computing market is unquestionably tight, some of the most exciting and useful new applications out there either do not support Windows, or do so as an afterthought. Its silly to expect Microsoft to embrace openness with anything approaching alacrity, and we cant pin our hopes for an open, level playing field on a closed platform. Let Microsoft market the Windows it wants to. The government should focus instead on making sure Microsoft doesnt prevent OEMs from offering their customers platform choice. Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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