Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Principles of Monopoly

I saw that Microsoft have published a self-imposed set of "Windows principles". No, there is no mention of security, performance, or other irrelevancies. But the language is a little foggy at times, so I've taken the liberty of translating it...

Microsoft Corp. recognizes the important role its Windows® desktop operating system products play in the information economy and the responsibilities that come with that role.

Translation: We are being unfairly attacked in the EU and US for abusing our monopolistic position. The confusing part to us is why we'd invest so much money and effort in becoming a monopoly if people won't let us abuse that afterwards. What's this world coming to?

To promote competitive opportunities and otherwise enhance the appeal of Windows to developers and users, Microsoft is committed to running its Windows business in accordance with the following principles that address computer manufacturer and user choice, opportunities for developers, and interoperability for users.

Translation: We believe in promoting our opportunities to compete with the few firms that still dare to tread in our space. Google and Blackberry, be warned!

These principles will apply to Windows desktop development projects going forward.

Translation: If you think we're going to make a single concession to those lousy Linux free software hippy freaks, think again.

Principle I: Choice for Computer Manufacturers and Customers

Microsoft is committed to designing Windows and licensing it on contractual terms so as to make it easy to install non-Microsoft® programs and to configure Windows-based PCs to use non-Microsoft programs instead of or in addition to Windows features.

Translation: In case there's any doubt here: Microsoft is going to make and sell Windows. Yes, we had to state this because our shareholders keep asking, "is Microsoft actually writing software with all that money, or is Vista simply the Orwellian endless war translated into software management theory?"

What this means:

1. Installation of any software. Computer manufacturers and customers are free to add any software to PCs that run Windows. More broadly, every computer manufacturer and customer is free to install and promote any operating system, any application, and any Web service on PCs that run Windows. Ultimately, end users are free to choose which software they prefer to use.

Translation: "Prefer" is such a nice word. Ultimately, our job is to convince users that they prefer our software and to be honest, we'll ensure they have the right to run it, despite those antitrust rulings. People *like* media player! Removing it would go against our own self-defined principles.

2. Easy access. Computer manufacturers are free to add icons, shortcuts and the like to the Windows Start menu and other places used to access software programs so that customers can easily find them.

Translation: Computer manufacturers who do this will of course lose their preferential licensing terms, but we're sure they'll easily make up the lost revenue by promoting Firefox! Lol. We *own* the computer manufacturers, fools!

3. Defaults. Microsoft will design Windows so as to enable computer manufacturers and users to set non-Microsoft programs to operate by default in key categories, such as Web browsing and media playback, in lieu of corresponding end-user functionality in Windows. Computer manufacturers are free to set these defaults as they please when building new PCs.

Translation: Computer manufacturers need the freedom to set these defaults as they please. Commissioner, are you listening? It's all about freedom! And, of course, our ability to tell computer manufacturers exactly what pleases them most.

4. Exclusive promotion of non-Microsoft programs. In order to provide competitors with the opportunity to attain essentially exclusive end-user promotion on new PCs, computer manufacturers will have the right to remove the means by which end users access key Windows features, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media® Player. The Set Program Access and Defaults utility developed as part of the U.S. antitrust ruling makes it easy for users and computer manufacturers to exercise these options.

Translation: Yes, we're going to make it even more complex to remove unwanted junk from your system, but it's all part of giving you more choice. Don't complain if you have to bend over backwards to remove Media Player, it's the fault of those antitrust people.

5. Business terms. Microsoft will not retaliate against any computer manufacturer that supports non-Microsoft software. To provide transparency on this point, Microsoft will post a standard volume-based price list to a Web site that is accessible to computer manufacturers, as it has under the U.S. antitrust ruling. Windows royalties will be determined based on that price list, without regard to any decisions the computer manufacturer makes concerning the promotion of non-Microsoft software. More broadly, Microsoft will offer Windows for license on standard terms and conditions so that a computer manufacturer knows that it will be offered the same licensing terms regardless of its decision to promote or not promote software from competitors. Microsoft will consider modifications to the standard license terms to reasonably accommodate computer manufacturers with individual business-model or operational requests, but these variances will never be based on the extent to which the computer manufacturer promotes non-Microsoft software.

Translation: Wow, that was a mouthful. Sounds good, doesn't it? Did you catch the part where we in fact commit to nothing at all, and leave all our options open to modify pricing as we like? Like the part where we're not committed to publishing the actual license terms we apply to, for example, Dell or HP?

Principle II: Opportunities for Developers

Microsoft is committed to designing and licensing Windows (and all the parts of the Windows platform) on terms that create and preserve opportunities for application developers and Web site creators to build innovative products on the Windows platform — including products that directly compete with Microsoft’s own products.

Translation: We love products that compete with us, so long as they run on Windows, because it just means you're doing the R&D work for us. Hey, that's how we got to be so large, by taking ideas from other people, so why stop now?

What this means:

6. APIs. Microsoft provides the developer community with a broad range of innovative operating system services, via documented application programming interfaces (APIs), for use in developing state-of-the-art applications. The U.S. antitrust ruling requires that Microsoft disclose all of the interfaces internal to Windows called by “middleware” within the operating system, such as the browser, the media player and so forth. In this way, competitors in these categories will know that they can plug into Windows to get services in the same way that these built-in Windows features do. This has worked well, and we will continue to disclose these interfaces even after the U.S. antitrust ruling expires. In fact, we will go further, extending our API commitment to the benefit of all software developers. Going forward, Microsoft will ensure that all the interfaces within Windows called by any other Microsoft product, such as the Microsoft Office system or Windows Live™, will be disclosed for use by the developer community generally. That means that anything that Microsoft’s products can do in terms of how they plug into Windows, competing products will be able to do as well.

Translation: Despite our tendency to using secret APIs, we've discovered how much more profitable documented APIs can be for everyone, not to mention that we just *love* competitors who use our technology. We'd like to thank the Dept. of Justice for teaching us good software design. Maybe some of you Justice Dept. folks want a job at Microsoft?

7. Internet services. Microsoft is contributing to innovation in the area of Internet services with services that we call Windows Live. Microsoft will design Windows Live as a product that is separate from Windows. Customers will be free to choose Windows with or without Windows Live.

Translation: Now available for the low, low price of just $19.95 per month. What, you thought Windows Live would be part of the core package? Lol, we're not giving you anything for free. Hey, don't cry on our shoulders, go see the Dept. of Justice, it was their brilliant idea!

8. Open Internet access. Microsoft will design and license Windows so that it does not block access to any lawful Web site or impose any fee for reaching any non-Microsoft Web site or using any non-Microsoft Web service.

Translation: Another Microsoft innovation. No, not the "open internet access" part, but the part where we plan to charge for Microsoft web services by embedding payment systems directly in the operating system! Yes, it's a brilliant idea because if you try to use Linux or Firefox or Mac to access our online service, well, dude, you're baked. The cool part is that thanks to our policy of "open internet access", we will actually make it impossible for our payments system to work with non-Microsoft web sites and non-Microsoft web services. It's for your own good.

9. No exclusivity. The U.S. antitrust ruling generally provides that Microsoft may not enter into contracts that require any third party to promote Windows or any “middleware” in Windows on an exclusive basis. We will maintain this practice going forward, and in fact broaden it to apply to Windows or any part of Windows, whether or not it would qualify as “middleware” under the U.S. antitrust ruling. We will apply the concept of “exclusivity” broadly too, so that our contracts ensure that a third party can use non-Microsoft software in amounts equal to or greater than its use of Windows. More generally, we want the developer community to know that it is free to develop, support and promote products that compete with any part of Windows. Consistent with the U.S. antitrust ruling, Microsoft will not retaliate against any third party for exercising this freedom.

Translation: Did you like the way we repeated point 6 using a completely different language? Our lawyers are the bestest. Look, here's our problem: despite owning huge numbers of the smartest software people on the planet, we can't produce software any more. I mean, it's a joke, right? So we need you to go out and write software for us. If it's any good, we'll buy you out just before you start to get market traction. Cheap and effective, our shareholders will love us!

Principle III: Interoperability for Users

Microsoft is committed to meeting customer interoperability needs and will do so in ways that enable customers to control their data and exchange information securely and reliably across diverse computer systems and applications.

Translation: We know what 'interoperability' means, here at Microsoft. The other day we saw a Windows XP box talking to a Vista box. I kid you not! We're committed to making this kind of miracle happening more and more often in the future. Seriously.

What this means:

10. Communications protocols. Microsoft will make available, on commercially reasonable terms, all of the communications protocols that it has built into Windows and that are used to facilitate communication with server versions of Windows. To facilitate this, Microsoft will document protocols supported in Windows as part of the product design process. We will also work closely with firms with particular needs to address interoperability scenarios that may require licensing of other protocols.

Translation: Protocols are cool. They're like APIs except we can own them, using copyrights and patents. That means we can get you to write software for us, and at the same time pay us good money for the privilege!! It's so sweet we're almost in a faint. Oh, sure, we're write some docs if you really insist.

11. Availability of Microsoft patents. Microsoft will generally license patents on its operating system inventions (other than those that differentiate the appearance of Microsoft’s products) on fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft’s intellectual property rights.

Translation: We think "an arm and a leg" is very reasonable. Alternatively, 10% of your gross revenue. Look, let's be honest. We've spent years trying to collect patents and make some kind of business based on that. It's time you try to help us. Sure, our patents are usually frivolous, and there's no guarantee that someone else won't sue you, but Microsoft needs your cash now. Please, think of the Children!

12. Standards. Microsoft is committed to supporting a wide range of industry standards in Windows that developers can use to build interoperable products. Microsoft is committed to contributing to industry standard bodies as well as working to establish standards via ad hoc relationships with others in the industry.

Translation: The best way, in our experience, to corrupt a dangerous standard is through ad-hoc relationships. It's so nice because we can get our "patented technology" into standards (what a laugh, I mean we can start to file patents on key technologies in standards) without signing anything that would compromise our position. But aside from that, we love interoperability, for sure.

Microsoft will post these principles to its Web site so that they will be readily accessible to the computer industry and customers. We will review these principles from time to time, and at least once every three years, to determine whether we should adopt additional principles or modify existing principles to reflect technological, business or legal developments.

Translation: Note, however, that we have signed nothing, and if you would decide to take us to court because we flagrantly violated any of these principles, despite our elegant use of teflon language, you would rapidly find yourself the object of such mockery that you would creep back into the hole from whence you came. This is not a contract. It's not even a click-through license. This document is 100% marketing and if you can't understand that, then I have a lovely Vista system for you, right here...

Microsoft Corporation

"Setting the Standard For Monopoly for Over 20 Years" (tm)


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