Thursday, April 11, 2013

Through a BIG Straw

by Dietrich Schmitz

I think we are seeing a major turning point with Microsoft.  Windows 8 sales have tanked.  Are PC sales slow because of Windows 8 or is it something else--the 'post-PC' era?  I wrote The PC is Here to Stay last week, so, I'd say it's because of Windows 8 more than anything else.

The Nokia joint venture to develop a Windows-based smartphone has yielded lackluster sales.

The return on investment simply is not there.

What can a proprietary software-driven monopolistic company do?  The obvious answer might be to 'innovate', but Microsoft has been relatively slow on the uptake, so much so that they have fallen behind the competition, their biggest opponent being Google.

It's not exactly a surprise.  Google succeeded in doing much more software innovation than I ever imagined and all in such a short span of time.  It's been only a few short years since their Android acquisition and two short years to bring the Chromebook to market.  You see, most of what they do is open source. Google's site for development of Chrome and ChromeOS puts all of their code in clear sight for anyone to download, compile, contribute to--even the fork of Webkit to Blink is open to all comers to develop and enhance along side Google's team.

Nobody questions the overall success of Android at this point.  The OEMs are perfectly happy being members of the Open Handset Alliance and follow the terms for selling devices laden with Android.

It's a pretty sweet deal.  They can take the code, brand it, put their own shell on it even and Google doesn't charge for it.  Better yet, they can exercise full control over their own production release schedules, unlike with Microsoft who hold the proprietary source code to their mobile Windows operating system.

So, instead of finding ways to innovate, Microsoft has chosen to set up a proxy corporate entity called which is taking legal action with the European Union Commission on the basis of Antitrust allegations against Google and their Android product.  How so?

Well, we can thank our lucky stars for the wonderful work done by the esteemed Pamela Jones of who is able to take complicated legal concepts and put them into understandable terms most anyone will understand.  She is just superb and has a long-standing track record as a legal analyst paralegal in keeping the score on major lawsuits through the years gone by.  Let's take her most recent post (which is a great read by the way) concerning this specific litigation and see if we can sift the nuggets as to what is going on in this newest litigation against Google.

The Complaint

FairSearch’s complaint is that “Google uses deceptive conduct to lockout competition in mobile” — by, specifically, requiring OEMs that use Android to pre-load a suite of Google services and give them “prominent default placement” on the device in order to also get access to ”must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play”. By doing this, FairSearch argues that Google “disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today”, adding that this “predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform”.... 
“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition, in a statement. “We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system.”
 Pamela's take:

That is preposterous, and I'll tell you why. But what I do want the EU Commission to think about is this: is this constant attack on Google itself a result of antitrust schemes by the old guard to destroy the new kid on the block? What? Microsoft would never do anything mean or underhanded? Puh lease.
Here's why the new complaint is ludicrous to me. If you don't with to be in any kind of "partnership" with Google or just don't want to prominently display anything, just don't. Do what Amazon did and opt out and *still use Android* -- as Amazon has with its Kindle, building a business on the code it freely took from Google, and doing whatever it wants with it. There are no consequences to Amazon. None. It uses whatever defaults it likes. It pays Google nothing, not in money, not in displaying its search engine, nothing.
If these complaints were true, Facebook couldn't do Facebook Home. Really. Think about it. The Guardian calls its article about Facebook Home, "Lockpicking Android for Fun and Profit".

For that matter, so too is Amazon's use of Android source a 'lockpick'.  Amazon has forked Android and reconfigured it to their own specific branding needs.  And, you don't see Google getting in Facebook's or Amazon's way to stop them from doing so.

More nuggets from Pamela:

Here's the thing I'd like to highlight: Microsoft and Nokia are both free to use the free Android code and wrap a shell around it and compete that way too. Presto. No antitrust nonsense about not being able to compete with free, as Fairsearch, like the SCO Group before it, claims.

They *can* compete with free. Just take the free code and make it look like your brand and make it do what you want it to do. There is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing that, except pride and stubbornness  Nokia was already selling phones based on free code, and it *chose* to use Windows instead and is tanking the company. I have no sympathy, and neither should the EU Commission. Build a more sensible business.

File that under Duh

Pamela is not at a loss for words and, having a memory like a 'steel trap', recalls yet another case involving Antitrust claims and the Free Software Foundation:

Wallace v. FSF litigation, where the claim was that it was unfair, indeed an antitrust issue, to have to compete with free code licensed under the GPL, the license on Linux? Here's what the judge said about that, "[T]he GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation." 

This is not looking good for FairSearch.

Pamela now takes out a ball peen hammer and delivers this blow:

And maybe Microsoft has forgotten, but I haven't, that it spent years telling  the world that using the free Linux code actually cost more than using Microsoft products. They can't have it both ways, can they? I also don't forget that Microsoft got Motorola to put Bing  as the default search engine on its phones in 2010. How was that possible if the current whining were fact-based?

Pamela is only warming up and then recalls this bit of history that some would just rather forget, but she hasn't:

And who can forget the SCO Group, funded in part by Microsoft and Sun, which is now part of Oracle? Its then-CEO gave an unforgettable , There's No Free Lunch, on how there is no way to have a software industry if folks don't have to pay for software. That company went so far as to  (briefly, but hilariously -- it's my favorite SCO moment by far, and the list is long) that the GPL is unConstitutional. It's unConstitutional to give things away, no less. That was the argument. Darl even sent Congress a letter about how unfair and dangerous free code under the GPL is. I called it at the time Darl's Greed is Good manifesto. SCO, of course, is no more, which leads me to believe that greed isn't *always* good, but then my brain defaults to logical, but the link takes you to the UnXis page, who bought SCO's business, and which has preserved this wonderful writing of Darl's for posterity, which tells you something about UnXis, methinks.


Pamela puts the icing on the cake with:

You, as an individual can do pretty much the same thing Facebook and Amazon did, minus making a profit. Buy an Android phone and modify it any way you want. Here's 50 apps and resources to help you modify the homescreen alone. There's even an app called Android Tweaker to help you. Here's Pimp My ROM, the app that lets you tweak everything. There are no consequences. Put Linux on it instead, pure Linux, minus Android anything, if you want to. Millions of people do that. Go to Google Search, or whatever you use, and search for
Android modify
Yes. As you can see if you used Google Search, you can find zillions of ways to modify Android or get rid of it entirely, using Google's own search engine.

How far from anticompetitive is that?
I'm tired of Microsoft throwing tacks in the every competitor's roadway. They've been doing this as long as I can remember. You want to know why hardly anyone buys their mobile products? I can tell you. I went to see them at BestBuy over the weekend and tried out the laptops with Windows 8 on them and looked at the phones, Nokia's. People don't like them because they are annoying. They are hard to figure out, the laptops especially, and they are ugly. Yes. I said it. They are. And, to me, it's unbearable to have the tiles constantly changing. I'd never, ever buy them. Microsoft's chief advantage was familiarity. And they went and designed it away.
Here's what I believe their plot is really about: killing off Linux, Android, anything free and open, and then gouging customers like the goode olde dayes of proprietary monopoly on the desktop. There is nothing new under this sun, just new weapons of choice. And that is exactly what the EU Commission should investigate to see if it is, indeed, the real antitrust plot.

Killing off Linux and Android, by proxy.  Oh, I am making a note to stock up on the popcorn.  This case will be short-lived but quite entertaining particularly with Pamela Jones sorting things out and letting everyone understand the 'truth'.

Microsoft is utterly transparent and avoid direct 'liability' with a paper tiger corporation doing their misdeeds in the name of 'FairSearch'.   In the name of 'Fair'?  Here's a straw Microsoft.

-- Dietrich
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Fascinating how you are so eager to drop the hammer. Not that I'm Microsoft's guardian either, but your article reads a lot like a fanboy rant against teh evil Micro$oft. Yes, they've made poor decisions. Who hasn't? And, they're ridiculously proprietary, yet without them we wouldn't have the widespread industry we do now. Big always makes for an easy target. Microsoft today. Google tomorrow.

  2. Fanboy? Now now. This is a Linux Advocacy. You seem to be waving the MS flag here. There is so much I could say to you but I know it will provoke another rude comment. Then I'll have no choice but to delete you.

  3. I say, Nonsense. Microsoft has probably been more responsible than any for holding back innovation. I speculate that we would have been light years ahead without them.

  4. Microsoft produced almost nothing of value to the personal computer industry. Commodore Business Machines was the first company to ship 1 million computers. WordStar and WordPerfect were the trailblazers in word processing. VisiCalc and Lotus 123 were highly successful spreadsheet products before the company produced Excel. Bill Gates was simply a monopolist, using ideas developed by others.

    Douglas Adams once wrote:

    The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.

  5. No, Microsoft has very little todo with how this industry is widespread, affordable hardware and software are the main factors. And they don't have a monopoly on that...