States Off-Target With Modular Windows Demand

Tester's Choice: The government in its antitrust actions against Microsoft has placed way too much emphasis on bundling and integration; instead it should make sure Microsoft doesn't prevent OEMs from offering their customers platform choice.

The Microsoft antitrust saga stretches onward, and in our latest thrilling installment, the attorneys general from the states rejecting the settlement proposed by the Department of Justice and Microsoft are demanding that Microsoft produce a modular version of Windows—free of applications deemed (by whom Im not sure) as extraneous to the operation of the OS.

The idea is that a stripped-down version of Windows would work to counteract Microsofts software bundling practices. You know those pesky bundling practices—the ones without which wed now be conducting all of our computing across the Netscape Navigator "platform."

Ive always felt that the governments antitrust actions against Microsoft have placed way too much emphasis on bundling and integration. First off, no self-respecting OS would step out the door without a Web browser. The sort of computing we do today cannot be divorced from the Web. In fact, I wish Microsoft would toss a decent FTP client in with Windows as well.

Second, I like integration. The thing I like best about KDE is the extent to which Konqueror, its browser/file manager/viewer application, is integrated into the desktop environment. Desktop computer users—even those of us who enjoy tweaking around with our systems—appreciate a degree of out-of-the-box elegance, for which integration is just the ticket.

However, what bothers me most about the preoccupation with unfair bundling and integration is that it steals attention away from what I view as Microsofts much more diabolical efforts.

Take Be Inc., which blazed new trails (some of which have yet gone unfollowed) with an excellent and innovative OS. But now, having sold off all of its technology to Palm, Be exists as a mere husk of a company. In an antitrust suit (the full story is at that Be recently filed against Microsoft, the company alleges that Microsoft kept BeOS from being preloaded on OEM systems—even in dual-boot configurations—by threatening to revoke Windows license discounts.

As I mentioned above, computer users are drawn to a smooth out-of-the-box experience. For a desktop OS, this means shipping inside the box, preloaded on the machines that consumers take home with them.

People dont buy OSes, they buy computers. Be got killed, in large part, because it couldnt secure a foothold on OEM machines.

When Palm was starting out, it was able to introduce a new OS into a field with no established competitors chiefly because its new OS arrived in users hands preinstalled on desirable hardware.