Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/07/microsoft_antitrust_letters/

Microsoft, antitrust and blogtards

Beast 2.0

By Andrew Orlowski

Posted in Letters, 7th December 2007 16:55 GMT

Mailbag When Eben Moglen tore Tim 2.0'Reilly to shreds onstage at OSCON in July, it marked a turning point in the Web 2.0 mania.

There were clear differences of principles at stake, and simply blowing some feel-good Californian empowerment rhetoric around couldn't disguise them. Actions have consequences, Moglen seemed to be saying: We have to deal with these consequences which upset the power balance in new and unsettling ways.

Today, Moglen's tiny law centre is suing one of America's biggest companies on a matter of principle: Verizon has been violating the GPL for years by failing to distribute the source code to a utility it uses. Tim 2.0'Reilly once vowed to defeat Amazon's 1-Click patent, flunked his chance, and is now a joint investor with new best bud, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Last week I wrote how Microsoft had cottoned onto the Web 2.0 hype to demonstrate that it no longer needed regulatory oversight. If you take the blog evangelists at their word, it's an entirely new world order of computing - and therefore antitrust oversight isn't needed.

With one bound, our hero escapes.

This provoked some very thoughtful mail.

Real world economics at work, thank you!

They have no place to go with their Web 2.0 technology but into the pocket of one of the old time dominant players which is after all; what Web 2.0 is all about (just like Web 1.0/Dotcom).

That being said; should the government regulate the economic activities of the old timers? No. Eventually the technology will work its way into the offerings of the dominant players who have acquired it. I really believe if Microsoft or Apple look hard over their shoulders they are probably most afraid of Rupert Murdoch. Who knows what he will do?

Rob Belcher

Just get to the point, begs Luc:

Why don't you simply argue that the web 2.0 can't work without an OS and a f*** browser, and that these RIAs can't be richer without the rich client?

RIA here I think means Rich Internet Application. Such as... a privacy statement that shimmers out of view, with a beautiful fade effect.

Rob Mossop asked me who did I have in mind as the audience for this article. I have no idea. But he had loads of good points.

Who *really* cares about the pace of OS development since XP/OSX? It’s still a huge issue for Linux, because that’s so far behind in the usability stakes it’s almost beyond a joke, but for ‘the rest of us’ when, really, was the last time someone said ‘if only my OS did X’? I agree that there is obviously still the ‘remainder’ of how one deals with Microsoft in this context, but if how one deals with them relies upon a whole group of people who couldn’t give a toss suddenly giving one, then you may well be fighting a losing battle (and so might the US govt.)

It looks to me from their submission as though the Ten States representatives are there more as a straw man than anything else. Their arguments will sound to the ‘blogoball (it’s a ball, not a sphere, you can bounce a ball around, throw it at people but then put it back down like the toy it really is, a sphere sounds a bit too grown up) as thought they’re trying to hold back the innovation that they subsist upon and I wouldn’t be surprised that, despite themselves, the bloggers will, as you suggest, flock to pour invective upon the notion that the Internet Platform cannot constitute a viable alternative to the desktop platform. The real kicker is, of course, that companies such as Google will have a vested interest in supporting the MS line of argument, their business model relies upon it, after all.

At the very least they won’t be able to (if called upon to comment) undermine the MS position because the market (which is what this is all really about) wouldn’t stand for it. I rather suspect that the Ten States folks, regardless of the merit of their position, will find themselves somewhat isolated precisely because there is huge money riding on the Microsoft position, money that stretches far beyond Microsoft itself and that is what is really different now as opposed to five years ago when the regulatory oversight was instantiated, they can demonstrate that they are in a shared, participatory, business model (however hallucinatory it is, it is a shared hallucination and that’s what matters) one in which there are other players with close to the same amount of cash at stake as they have. They’re pushing the ‘kill us, kill the market’ line of argument and it will work, especially given the weak situation the US economy currently finds itself in.

I don’t, for one, think that Microsoft is dying or irrelevant but they do now have the advantage of being able to cover up a little of their naked ambition with some of the other players on the field and they did not have that the last time around.

The Power of Hallucianations, indeed.

The redoubtable Brett Brennan gives us some historical context:

There, I've said the one word that no one seems to mention when talking about Microsoft. But the similarities are rampant - and, I believe, the outcome for MS is as inevitable as it was for Big Blue.

Thirty years ago IBM was the dominant monopoly in Computing. It was a simpler time: there was no web, communications were limited to leased lines at 56Kbps, the hot protocol was SNA, RJE was a very real way to connect remote users. And Justice was deep in a lawsuit to try and break up the IBM monolith.

Then something happened that no one could have or did predict, or even suspect: IBM launched a "virus" that destroyed its monopoly in less than a decade and catapulted Microsoft to the forefront of the computing world. The "virus" was the IBM PC.

Now, I'm not going to belabor the point about the PC being a paradigm shift. Everyone knows that - now. What no one observed at the time, and IBM could only try to address from its mainframe-centric view point, was the unfulfilled need that was bubbling - visibly if you knew what to look for (and some of us did - but we were looking the wrong way) - the need for more access to the resources that were trapped in the mainframe. Once the data was freed - by moving it to the PC and using tools like Visicalc or Lotus 123 - the mainframe became less of temple for getting "knowledge", and more of a "grocery store" for picking up the pieces you needed to "cook" your data at your desk.

We're at the brink of a similar paradigm shift today. The "user" community is frothing with unsatisfied needs, yet the mainstream vendors can not deliver the tools to solve these needs in a timely manner. Hence all the "gloop" of Web 2.0, of more and more protocols, tools, languages and forums full of frustration as the "users" begin to see that they can't get there from here.

Unless Microsoft, Apple, Google, and all the rest of the "Big" companies create something that releases the user from having to either become a techie or settle for the frustration of "not quite right" solutions, someone new will arrive on the scene and produce the panacea that is being demanded. The "Blogosphere zombies" are a symptom, as are most of the Web 2.0 applications. The catharsis of blogging (think: group therapy) or the plethora of meaningless applications like Facebook or even Salesforce.com are steam rising off of the boiling pot of pent up frustration with the Web and the world of computing.

And when the "New World Order" of computing arrives, Microsoft, Google and the rest won't recognize it for what it is until it's too late - for them.

George reminds us that "the Freemasons have been the establishment, including US Presidents from Washington to at least Truman. Hell, there are Masonic symbols on the back of the dollar bill."

Indeed.

And finally, aManFromMars adds:

"The 'Internet Platform'... does not even exist, much less constitute for the foreseeable future a practical or viable alternative to the desktop platform," responds Alepin, in a filing made the same day.” ……

Wow, has he got a mountain to climb... to find Microsoft at the summit entertaining allcomers as guests in specially prepared suites.

Which is a lovely metaphor. But I couldn't understand the rest. ®