Jun. 22 1998
"Microsoft Tax," MSN Enters the Black Hole, New Names for NT
Holding Microsoft's feet to the fire, consumer advocate Ralph Nader sent a letter to Joel Klein of the US Justice Department asking for an investigation into "barriers to entry faced by alternative operating systems" due to Microsoft. "Today it is impossible to buy a nationally branded personal computer without buying Microsoft Windows, and consumers cannot even return Windows for refunds," Nader said in the letter. "No nationally branded computer vendor sells PCs without non-Microsoft operating systems pre-installed, even as a dual boot option." Nader then pointed to alternative OSes such as FreeBSD, BeOS or freeware Linux, calling Windows the "Microsoft tax."
To back up his claims, Nader cited a study from his Consumer Project on Technology. The study, performed by UCLA student David Chun, polled 12 top computer assemblers about buying computer systems with a non-Microsoft operating system. The DOJ has not publically commented on the letter or CPT's study.
In a statement earlier this year, Bill Gates called spam a "maddening waste of time." Apparently they feel differently at MSN, last week the online service was targeted by anti-spam activists as one of the worst enablers of junk e-mail. Tuesday, following months of warnings, MSN was placed on the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) Realtime Blackhole List, a mass boycott tool aimed at Internet service providers and other companies that aid spammers. Most MSN customers were unable to send e-mail from that time until late Thursday, when MSN was removed from the RBL list after Microsoft promised to make its servers less accessable to spammers.
After being added to the list, Microsoft moved its mail relays to different network addresses in an effort to evade the blockage, but that plan was foiled when members of MAPS were spammed from the new addresses. So MSN then informed its customers that MAPS was responsible for the outage, without mentioning that the problem related to spam on their systems. A MAPS spokesman said that the actual adjustments have not yet been made, but that MSN management had told them when to expect it to be done, "so we've removed them from the RBL until at least that time."
As was expected, Microsoft closed a deal last week to buy part of Timewarner's Road Runner cable internet service. Microsoft and Compaq will invest $212.5 million each in Road Runner for preferred stock that gives both companies a 10 percent stake of the business. Microsoft will also be providing software for the system while Compaq promotes Road Runner through its retail distribution networks. Road Runner currently serves 90,000 homes, but can expand to handle as many as 27 million US customers.
A federal judge will decide this week whether to dismiss or send to trial a civil lawsuit brought against Microsoft by a former employee for age discrimination and wrongful termination. The lawsuit, filed last year by Mukilteo City Councilman Charles Pancerzewski, alleges that he was forced to resign as Microsoft's general auditor in January 1996 after working for the company's internal auditing department for more than four years. The suit claims that a "significantly younger man" with little auditing experience was picked to replace Pancerzewski, who was finally forced out because he discovered Microsoft might have been violating government regulations. Once Pancerzewski left the company he was replaced by the younger man, who his attorneys believe was "less prone to raise issues of possible legal improprieties which could threaten or embarrass Microsoft or its management.
According to Windows Magazine, Microsoft is seriously considering changing the name of Windows NT. The company is reportedly looking at calling the operating system Windows Professional, Windows Pro, Windows 2000 or some other combination of those names. The changes are expected to take effect, if they do, as soon as NT 5. This would be a wise change, as Microsoft never made clear exactly what NT stands for. Since NT 6 is scheduled to replace Windows 98, we expect NT 5 to become Windows 99 or 2000.
Last Thursday Microsoft released a "developer preview" of Internet Explorer 5. The next version of IE, which Microsoft officials hope to ship this fall, will include XML support, new HTML features and other modifications that will water down the HTML standards. The first beta of Internet Explorer 5 is expected to be released early next month with the second beta of NT5.
A beta of IE4 for HP-UX Unix was also released last week. IE HP-UX has the standard IE interface and bugs, plus support for HP-UX specific features. The final product is promised to ship in the third quarter of 1998.
At a hearing in Washington last week, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson set September 8 as the beginning of Microsoft's antitrust trial. Jackson also ordered them not to "plow old ground" and limited both sides to 12 witnesses each.
In related news, the US Department of Justice is expanding its antitrust probe to include Windows CE. Microsoft is giving away coupons for free copies of Windows 98 to everyone who buys a Wince computer between now and June 30. Courts usually allow companies to give away one product with another in the first few months of production, but Microsoft is a special case because of its monopoly status.
A year from now Microsoft will break ground for a new computer museum on its main Redmond Washington campus. The multi-level invitation-only museum will be about Microsoft and the development of computers (which didn't begin until the company was founded).
Win98 Rescue Disk Lacks Important Component
Microsoft Prepares For Day in E-court
Firm finds big security holes in Windows NT
Europe scrutinizes deals between Ms, ISPs
Ma Bell sues Mr. Bill over NT license
Microsoft sells Softimage to Avid Technology