Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/20/ms_history/
Birth of the Evil Empire? Snapshots from billg's early days
Court archive tells of how the Win was won
Microsoft's settlement (on terms which have yet to be specified) of the Minnesota overcharging lawsuit means that some very interesting evidence that was to be presented at the trial will now, as we say in the Wonderful World of Disney, go back into the vaults for another generation. We'd be the last to suggest that Microsoft is the kind of company that would cut a deal simply to avoid having its senior execs forced to take the stand and have embarrassing emails waved at them, but a deal has, provisionally, been cut, and Hennepin County District Court tells us: "The trial exhibits will remain on the website until Monday, April 26, 2004."
It does not share with us information on where one might find them from Tuesday 27th on, but perhaps it's best to get it while it's still hot. If you haven't got it already, of course. Currently, there is a very large pile of documentation in the plaintiff exhibits folder, much of it of considerable interest to IT history junkies. The Reg is particularly taken with number 0570, a heartfelt ten page letter from Jim Cannavino of IBM to Bill Gates. This sheds much light on the difficulties OS/2 was in by November 1989, and on the breach between IBM and Microsoft. This one incidentally, is stamped Defendant's Exhibit, so we're not sure what it's doing in the plaintiff folder.
But a Bill Gates email of May of that year, Plaintiff's Exhibit 0108, sheds even more light, and gives us an intriguing picture of the Bill of the time. It's intriguing because it's not really evil, conniving sonofabitch or all-seeing visionary, but something you can recognise as a human being, trying to figure out how to stop revenues stalling, but getting himself into tangles in the process. Not that we're suggesting it makes him likable, or anything, just a bit understandable. The Bill of these days has to make OS/2 work because he's allied with IBM and making OS/2 work is the objective. But the numbers from this don't really stack up for Microsoft, so although IBM wants Dos and Windows to be confined to a jumping off point for OS/2, and Bill kind of agrees, he needs to make money from Windows. So he kind of doesn't. And he's got this deal with Compaq over Windows 386 that IBM doesn't know about yet, and what's going to happen when they find out?
You can see how you could just get kind of sucked into evil, conniving sonofabitch, can't you?
We at The Reg trust that there is much more fascinating stuff of major historical significance in the big pile, and look forward to being able to share it with you. And if anybody's a little less hazy than we are about the legal status of the exhibits once the judge puts the lid back on, we'd be grateful if you'd enlighten us. What are the penalties for warezing defunct trial exhibits?
On the basis that the old gags are the best gags, here's one to be going on with. Email from billg, subject DR Dos, September 1988:
"You never sent me a response on the question of what things an app would do that would make it run with MSDOS and not run with DR-DOS. Is there any version check or api that they fail to have? Is ther feature they have that might get in our way? I am not looking for something they cant get around. I am looking for something that their current binary fails on.
"This is a fairly urgent question for me and I have received nothing."
Related link: Your exhibits till Monday