Whose Ox Gets Gored?
Recently, Denis Bider reacted negatively to the European Court of the First Instance’s denial of Microsoft’s appeal. Microsoft had been charged with continuing violations of competition laws (what we Americans would recognize as antitrust laws) and given a fine approaching one billion dollars (600 million euros). I wrote about the US Department of Justice’s refusal to enforce similar laws in our country. We exchanged comments, in which Denis repeatedly charged that I do not use Windows, and that therefore, my concern for those who do use Windows was actually a desire to hurt Microsoft and benefit GNU/Linux.
I disagree with his impression of my motivations, but it occurred to me that his belief in Microsoft’s cause is partially based on his company’s dependence on the Windows platform for its secure remote access products. If Microsoft continued its historical pattern, it would come out with its own secure remote access library, bundle it into Visual Studio, and bundle server and client applications built on that library with the appropriate versions of their operating systems.
POOF! Just like that, Bitvise just gets its "air supply" cut off, just like the old Netscape did.Now, to make it more accurate, the Microsoft product would algorithms just slightly altered from the published specifications, and would reject connections from standard products. Hmmm, that sounds just like what they have been doing against Samba.
You see, it is not about my favorite products against yours. It is about the time-honored and well-proven concepts of fair competition. Fairness in competition sounds pretty wimpy, until you recognize that famous cyclists and baseball players are being scrutinized right now for their presumed use of performance enhancing substances recognized as unfair competitive advantages. Bundling enables unknown, inferior, and undesired products to leapfrog over competitors whose products may be better known, better liked, and better performing / better looking.
Just as bundling IE4 with Windows 95 OSR2 enabledIE to nearly kill Netscape and control of the Windows APIs enabled Word to nearly kill WordPerfect, bundling a proprietary-ized Windows SSH/SCP/SFTP tunneling would nearly kill Bitvise.
Markets only work effectively to benefit most of us (via the famous "invisible hand") when there are multiple independent buyers and multiple independent sellers with products that are almost completely "drop in" replacements for one another. As soon as artificial barriers (e.g., patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and groups of thugs that harass buyers) are put in place, the effect of the market is distorted and manipulated to produce increased profits for one group at the expense of others.
In a case where market power of a dominant supplierenables them to set terms for purchase (which may include accepting "Genuine Advantage" snoopware to tell them what software you have installed), it is easy enough for that supplier to say "you have to accept our [insert product here] with the operating system." At that point, the competitors of that product get to find out what unfair competition means to them, their employees, and their suppliers and distributors. I sincerely hope that Denis does not find himself in that position.
Have a read of Sam Hiser’s comments, then head over to your nearby Barnes & Noble or to Amazon.com to buy Adam Smith’s masterpiece of reason, "The Wealth of Nations".
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