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Opening Windows II: DR-Dos and IBM could have been contenders

But that was then, not now...

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Special Report In 1995-96 a forced unbundling of OS and GUI, together with some form of source licence, would have been welcome to Novell, because it could then have continued development of DR-DOS as a desktop OS in the Intel space. Instead of this, the DR-DOS team have moved the OS into the low-resource and embedded arena. DR-DOS still exists, but it's running set-top boxes and the like, while the Intel space desktop OS from the stable is now Caldera's implementation of Linux. In an ideal world the judge's problems would be solved by the sudden emergence/construction of the kind of competitor Novell DR-DOS could have been four years ago, but that wouldn't work now. Caldera would no doubt still relish access to source today, but would want to use it to allow its Linux distribution to run Windows apps, and it would want to contribute it to the WINE project to allow Windows apps to run on Linux in general. So if the judge nominated Caldera for source access he'd be second-guessing the outcome of the Caldera antitrust suit, and quite possibly unleashing a considerably bigger dragon that he intends to. The punishment could turn out to be a lot greater than the crime, despite the fact that the judge's stated view is that Linux doesn't have the capability to overthrow Windows within the next few years. Of the other two candidates from the class of 96, IBM is the most obvious. It launched its last major offensive for OS/2 in the run-up to the Windows 95 launch, and at that point IBM would have loved to be able to offer the ability to run Win32 applications with OS/2, which it was then positioning as a consumer OS. We at The Register are incidentally of the opinion that it was IBM's own failures and incompetences that finished OS/2, and that even if IBM had source access in 1995 it would still have managed to blow it. There's certainly clear trial evidence that Microsoft set out to damage OS/2 in 1995, but by that time it was largely a case of jumping up and down on the bits. If IBM had been given access to Windows source in 1995 the company would still probably have got nowhere with OS/2. But today even the willingness to use the source to compete with Windows has vanished. In 1995 IBM would have wanted the ability to compete with Windows directly in the OEM market, but in 2000 it won't. If IBM were given source access today it would quite possibly take it, as would other major PC OEMs, but it would use the code to make relatively minor revisions and adjustments to its own OEM version of Windows, for its own purposes, and that's probably what the other big OEMs would do as well. ® Next part: Would promoting the OEMs fix it, or break it more? Back to first part: Special report: If the judge opened Windows source, would anybody come? Complete Register Trial coverage

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