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06.25.09

Bill Gates: “We Should Look at Even Patenting the Things That We Do Add to Help Office”

Posted in Antitrust, Bill Gates, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents at 3:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Bill Gates wants not only to make IE ‘extend’ HTML but also to patent Office features that do so

For a little bit of essential background, see what was shown in:

Today we look at Exhibit PX06508 (1998) [PDF], which was probably made famous by the following text it contains:

From: Bill Gates
Sent:. Saturday, December 05, 1998 12:4,t PM
To: Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan; Steven Sinofsky
Cc: Paul Maritz
Subject: Office rendering

One thing we have got to change in our strategy – allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.

We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on
PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.

Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destory Windows,

I would be glad to explain at greater length.

Likewise this love of DAV in Office/Exchange is a huge problem. I would also like to make sure people understand this as well.

It basically shows that Chairman Gates wanted to ‘extend’ the Web with proprietary Microsoft bits, but it actually gets worse. In the same exhibit we find intent to use software patents to limit interoperability/compatibility:

Its right for business reasons because it supports competitive browsers but with a clear benefit for people who use our browser (particularly IE 5),

What I trying to say is that looking forward we should not do heroic things like add new capabilities to the standards to help Office.

We should look at even patenting the things that we do add to help Office.

I need to lean more about this whole DAV thing.

The reply from Steve Sinofsky starts with an admission that Microsoft has proprietary protocols:

I personally think this is an area that has been oversold as a benefit and in terms of interoperability. In essence, this is a proprietary protocol for us anyway since we are re-building MAPI on top of It.

The words “open” and “standard” are thrown out there yet again:

For me, DAV is a case where Microsoft is out there leading with the newly proposed (by Microsoft) but yet to be implemented “open” standard. In contrast, HTML is a case where we are dealing with an installed base and standard that already existed and our conflicts are how to work within that environment.

Another interesting bit says that proprietary IE ‘extensions’ are “are enough to convince people that Office requires IE in a proprietary way and that if you want to exchange documents, the odds are your recipients won’t be happy with anything but IE.”

For all practical purposes, Office 2000 requires Windows and IE. We started the project trying to be great on all browsers, and even greater on lnternet Explorer (from our vision and presentation we did for you), but the momentum inside the company essentially prevents that message from making it through development. Only the most basic rendering works in other browsers-IE is required for:

* PowerPoint (the default output is IE only, and that is essentially IE5)
* Access Data Pages (IE5)
* Web Components (IE5)
* Reasonable performance in Excel (due to big tables and the IE5 support for a predefined table width)
* Word and PowerPoint output tons of stuff that only looks good in IE due to the shared line layout code and bugs in other browsers implementation of CS(which is essentially an IE-specific feature)
* HTML email essentially requires Outlook Express or Outlook
* Vector Graphics (VML which renders using vectors rather than GIFs) requires IE

to name a few. I think these are enough to convince people that Office requires IE in a proprietary way and that if you want to exchange documents, the odds are your recipients won’t be happy with anything but IE.

There is also clear realisation that people loathe this:

If Office documents only render in IE then there is zero chance that anyone will be able to use Office to create documents that will be shared outside an environment with the standardized Window browsers (intranet perhaps, but only perhaps given the time to migrate and the minority of Win 3.1, etc.). Personally I put pictures of a trip out on sinofsky.com that were made with PowerPoint 2000 and got a dozen messages from fdends and family (including a webtv person) saying they could not see the pictures. Everything I’ve posted here at the business school has been “recalled” by me because students were not able to read it (all sorts of combinations of OS/browsers).

No area of the product has received more skepticism and push back than our HTML output-from reviewers, analysts, and beta customers. The other night I attended a 500 person Office 2000 event in Boston (the Team Web Tour”). The whole presentation was in IE and every time the browser was shown hands went up to ask “what about non-IE browsers?”. Finally the demonstration showed powerpoint 2000 in IE which is *awesome* output–then showed the non-IE output and it was just ugly (didn’t scale, fixed size slides, no slide show view, no DHTML, etc.). I thought the audience was either going to get up and walk out in disgust or rush the stage in protest.

All in all, what any person can learn from this 9-year-old antitrust exhibit is that orders come from the very top to add proprietary extensions to Internet Explorer and shield them even further with software patents. Microsoft knows that people would not like this, but being anti-competitive, this may seem like a priority. Had it been just about improvement, then patents would probably not be needed and the issue of breaking interoperability remains.

For people whose work is affected by the ODF/OOXML situation it is an important lesson to always bear in mind.


Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit PX06508, as text


Plaintiff’s Exhibit 6508
Comes V. Microsoft

From: Steven Sinofsky
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 1998 4:39 PM
To: Bill Gates; Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan
Cc: Paul Maritz
Subject: RE: Office rendering

Office does not love DAV. In fact we, I, didn’t want to support it at all, but the Exchange team delivered our abstraction layer (the derivative of OLEDB that works against FrontPage). It was not something we needed, and several times pushed back since it made the FrontPage case we cared most about more complex and inefficient. I personally think this is an area that has been oversold as a benefit and in terms of interoperability. In essence, this is a proprietary protocol for us anyway since we are re-building MAPI on top of It. Nevertheless, Office 2000 will be able to save/load against FTP, FrontPage, SMB, and the Exohange/IIS DAV server. But DAV servers (to the extent they really exist) do not support any of the richness we have with FrontPage 2000’s server extensions such as link fix up, checkin/checkout, page themes, site statistics, etc.

For me, DAV is a case where Microsoft is out there leading with the newly proposed (by Microsoft) but yet to be implemented “open” standard. In contrast, HTML is a case where we are dealing with an installed base and standard that already existed and our conflicts are how to work within that environment.

For all practical purposes, Office 2000 requires Windows and IE. We started the project trying to be great on all browsers, and even greater on lnternet Explorer (from our vision and presentation we did for you), but the momentum inside the company essentially prevents that message from making it through development. Only the most basic rendering works in other browsers-IE is required for:

* PowerPoint (the default output is IE only, and that is essentially IE5)
* Access Data Pages (IE5)
* Web Components (IE5)
* Reasonable performance in Excel (due to big tables and the IE5 support for a predefined table width)
* Word and PowerPoint output tons of stuff that only looks good in IE due to the shared line layout code and bugs in other browsers implementation of CS(which is essentially an IE-specific feature)
* HTML email essentially requires Outlook Express or Outlook
* Vector Graphics (VML which renders using vectors rather than GIFs) requires IE

to name a few. I think these are enough to convince people that Office requires IE in a proprietary way and that if you want to exchange documents, the odds are your recipients won’t be happy with anything but IE.

I totally understand where you’re coming from, but in trying to decide what to do it isn’t that black and white for me based on the experiences i’ve had personally with people. We have talked about this a lot and I really do need your help. If Office documents can only be rendered in it is a complete non-starter with customers. This is not a religious issue, but just a practical one.

If Office documents only render in IE then there is zero chance that anyone will be able to use Office to create documents that will be shared outside an environment with the standardized Window browsers (intranet perhaps, but only perhaps given the time to migrate and the minority of Win 3.1, etc.). Personally I put pictures of a trip out on sinofsky.com that were made with PowerPoint 2000 and got a dozen messages from fdends and family (including a webtv person) saying they could not see the pictures. Everything I’ve posted here at the business school has been “recalled” by me because students were not able to read it (all sorts of combinations of OS/browsers).

No area of the product has received more skepticism and push back than our HTML output-from reviewers, analysts, and beta customers. The other night I attended a 500 person Office 2000 event in Boston (the Team Web Tour”). The whole presentation was in IE and every time the browser was shown hands went up to ask “what about non-IE browsers?”. Finally the demonstration showed powerpoint 2000 in IE which is *awesome* output–then showed the non-IE output and it was just ugly (didn’t scale, fixed size slides, no slide show view, no DHTML, etc.). I thought the audience was either going to get up and walk out in disgust or rush the stage in protest.

Again, I really understand the business issues and strategic issues. I think we’re just faced with the reality that if we require IE for rendering as an explicit choice (that is when you load a page it just says ’You’re not running IE”) then we are just saying that Office’s HTML is a demo feature and not for practical use. If we didn’t have HTML support in Office 2000.

HIGHLY
CONFIDENTIAL

MS/CR 0017808
CONFIDENTIAL

then I’m still convinced we would have been working on a release that customers would have viewed as utterly irrelevant–creating web documents is what people need/want to do: with Office or without Office. That’s the catch-22 I feel we’re in. Unless things change a lot, my feeling is that an upgrade to Office 2000 is already in jeapardy with customers that do not use IE and any higher level of requirements will drive our upgrade changes way down.

I think this knob will continue to turn even more towards IE over time as Windows/IE continues to achieve success. I suspect that each release of Office will continue to require more and more of IE. But in order to even be in the consideration set we will have to have some amount of downlevel support that customers will tolerate if they want to exchange information in a professional manner.

—–Original Message—–

From: Bill Gates
Sent:. Saturday, December 05, 1998 12:4,t PM
To: Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan; Steven Sinofsky
Cc: Paul Maritz
Subject: Office rendering

One thing we have got to change in our strategy – allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.

We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on
PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.

Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destory Windows,

I would be glad to explain at greater length.

Likewise this love of DAV in Office/Exchange is a huge problem. I would also like to make sure people understand this as well.

HIGHLY
CONFIDENTIAL

MS/CR 0017809
CONFIDENTIAL

From: Bill Gates
Sent:. Saturday, December 05, 1998 5:09 PM
To: Steven Sinofsky; Bob Muglia; Jon DeVaan
Cc: Paul Maritz; Eric Rudder
Subject: Office rendering

I think the current support we have is just right for both technical and business reasons. Its right for technical reasons because the team worked hard to support old browsers as much as they could.

Its right for business reasons because it supports competitive browsers but with a clear benefit for people who use our browser (particularly IE 5),

What I trying to say is that looking forward we should not do heroic things like add new capabilities to the standards to help Office.

We should look at even patenting the things that we do add to help Office.

I need to lean more about this whole DAV thing.

—–Original Message—–
From: Steven Sinofsky
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 1998 4:39 PM
To: Bill Gates; Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan
Cc: Paul Maritz
Subject: RE: Office rendering

Office does not love DAV. In fact we, I, didn’t want to support it at all, but the Exchange team delivered our abstraction layer (the derivative of OLEDB that works against FrontPage). It was not something we needed, and several times pushed back since it made the FrontPage case we cared most about more complex and inefficient. I personally think this is an area that has been oversold as a benefit and in terms of interoperability. In essence, this is a proprietary protocol for us anyway since we are re-building MAPI on top of it. Nevertheless, Office 2000 will be able to save/load against FTP, FrontPage, SMB, and the Exchange/IIS DAV server. But DAV servers (to the extent they really exist) do not support any of the richness we have with FrontPage 2000’s server extensions such as link fix up, checkin/checkout, page themes, site statistics, etc.

For me, DAV is a case where Microsoft is out there leading with the newly proposed (by Microsoft) but yet to be implemented “open” standard. In contrast, HTML is a case where we are dealing with an installed base and standard that already existed and our conflicts are how to work within that environment.

For all practical purposes, Office 2000 requires Windows and IE. We started the project trying to be great on all browsers, and even greater on Internet Explorer (from our vision and presentation we did for you), but the momentum inside the company essentially prevents that message from making it through development. Only the most basic rendering works in other browsers-IE is required for:

* PowerPoint (the default output is IE onty, and that is essentially IE5)
* Access Data Pages (IE5)
* Web Components (IE5)
* Reasonable performance in Excel (due to big tables and the IE5 support for a predefined table width)
* Word and PowerPoint output tons of stuff that only looks good in IE due to the shared line layout code and bugs in other browsers implementation of CSS (which is essentially an IE-specific feature)
* HTML email essentially requires Outlook Express or Outlook
* Vector Graphics (VML which renders using vectors rather than GIFs) requires IE

to name a few. I think these are enough to convince people that Office requires IE in a proprietary way and that if you
want to exchange documents, the odds are your recipients won’t be happy with anything but IE.

On top of that, we have dozens of features in the product that require IE4 and many that require IE5 – this is in order for them to run at document creation time.

I totally understand where you’re coming from, but in trying to decide what to do it isn’t that black and white for me based on the experiences I’ve had personally with people. We have talked about this a lot and I really do need your

HIGHLY
CONFIDENTIAL

MS/CR 0017810
CONFIDENTIAL

help. If Office documents can only be rendered in it is a complete non-starter with customers. This is not a religious issue, but just a practical one.

If Office documents only render in IE then there is zero chance that anyone will be able to use Office to create documents that will be shared outside an environment with the standardized Window browsers (intranet perhaps, but only perhaps given the time to migrate and the minority of Win 3.1, etc.) Personally I put pictures of a trip out on sinofsky.com that were made with PowerPoint 2000 and got a dozen messages from friends and family (including a webtv person) saying they could not see the pictures. Everything I’ve posted here at the business school has been “recalled” by me because students were not able to read it (all sorts of combinations of OS/browsers),

No area of the product has received more skepticism and push back than our HTML output–from reviewers, analysts, and beta customers. The other night I attended a 500 person Office 2000 event in Boston (the “Team Web Tour”). The whole presentation was in IE and every time the browser was shown hands went up to ask “what about non-lE browsers?”. Finally the demonstration showed powerpoint 2000 in IE which is *awesome* output-then showed the non-IE output and it was just ugly (didn’t scale, fixed size slides, no slide show view, no DHTML, etc.). I thought the audience was either going to get up and walk out in disgust or rush the stage in protest.

Again, I really understand the business issues and strategic issues. I think we’re just faced with the reality that if we require IE for rendering as an explicit choice (that is when you load a page it just says “You’re not running IE”) then we are just saying that Office’s HTML is a demo feature and not for practical use. If we didn’t have HTML support in Office 2000, then I’m still convinced we would have been working on a release that customers would have viewed as utterly irrelevant-creating web documents is what people need/want to do: with Office or without Office. That’s the catch-22 I feel we’re in. Unless things change a lot, my feeling is that an upgrade to Office 2000 is already in jeapordy with customers that do not use IE and any higher level of requirements will drive our upgrade changes way down.

I think this knob will continue to turn ever more towards IE over time as Windows/lE continues to achieve success. I suspect that each release of Office will continue to require more and more of IE. But in order to even be in the consideration set we will have to have some amount of downlevel support that customers will tolerate if they want to exchange information in a professional manner.

—–Original Message—–
From: Bill Gates
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 1998 12:44 PM
To: Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan; Steven Sinofsky
Cc: Paul Maritz
Subject: Office rendering

One thing we have got to change in our strategy – allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.

We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.

Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destory Windows.

I would be glad to explain at greater length.

Likewise this love of DAV in Office/Exchange is a huge problem. I would also like to make sure people understand this as well.

HIGHLY
CONFIDENTIAL

MS/CR 0017811
CONFIDENTIAL

Credit: wallclimber

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12 Comments

  1. eet said,

    June 25, 2009 at 4:45 am

    Gravatar

    Not that I like IE, but a lot has changed since 1998; namely a turnaround in its adherence to the 3WC standards…

    Thumbs down for another unneccessary article.

    aeshna23 Reply:

    Dude,

    The point is that the article says a lot of Microsoft’s attitude today. And that attitude is directly related to the issue of Mono.

    Anon Reply:

    And your comment might held water if not for examples like the OOXML fiasco that show that Microsoft’s attitudes toward standards and lock-in have changed very little since then.

    Jose_X Reply:

    Microsoft’s stack is much larger today; IE is a much smaller part of the total today than it was then. We find evidence all over the place today of the same approach described in these old emails but applied to different parts of their stack. They also abandoned IE development to some degree to focus on other areas once they knocked off the competition (until open source Mozilla got some traction just years ago).

    Recently, Microsoft started a marketing program where they claim that whatever browser you use cannot read websites as well as can their IE8 http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2009-06-18-001-35-NW-MS&tbovrmode=3#talkback_area .

    The emails show it is not just about adherence to W3C standards, but that there are many more *extensions* beyond the standards that create problems.

    Plus, their source is closed. That, conveniently and almost unavoidably, creates some barriers to interop even where standards are involved (subjective acid tests can help mitigate this problem).

    Further, as Rob Weir showed recently with ODF formulas, Microsoft appears wholly unable or unwilling to fix their interop issues even when many other much smaller groups get it right. They even manage this failure while using the excuse that they follow the outdated standard fairly closely (which apparently they do).

    Microsoft’s business model has not changed too much. Though it has become even more dependent on patents. The patent strategy and focus is revealed partially through their increased filings and other internal emails. They are still a monopolist trying to leverage monopolies to preserve their control and profits. They still use opaque closed software because closed source provides a clear barrier to interop.

    A major Microsoft sell of their partnership with Novell is the alleged improved interop. This implies they are not making public the information necessary for interop but instead rely on specific partners/avenues. They still add a huge amount beyond the core standards, and even the core standards are implemented with their own set of bugs which are not published openly.

    Since Microsoft appears unwilling or unable to travel the same number of miles much smaller competitors travel for the sake of interop, I think antitrust authorities should consider requiring Microsoft to open source at least the parts of their software stack that have been commoditized. They would have to reveal, for example, the details of their core OS features and the details to the old Win32 API (their functions are old and common, if perhaps the interop details still remain obscured). Ditto should go for the vast majority of IE and most other software, especially where Microsoft software does not offer improved performance or any other significant benefit beyond interop.

    I think it’s safe to say that interop failures with competing products, and not innovation, is responsible for Microsoft’s dominance today to a very large extent. They are under-priced by open source and by many other vendors, don’t offer the same level of transparency as open source, and sometimes lag in features, yet a major reason for Microsoft being chosen over others today is still the fear of and substantiated interop issues. Microsoft does not mix well with competitors.

    reece Reply:

    Microsoft only supported CSS 2.1 because everyone was telling them to support it.

    What about SVG and MathML support (these are already published standards)?

    What about HTML 5, XSL:T 2, Canvas, CSS 3 and other in-develoment standards that other web browsers are standardising on/implementing?

    Microsoft only started caring about IE after they started losing market share due to better browsers. The other browsers are innovating and pushing forward.

    Microsoft *has* done a good job supporting CSS 2.1 and WAI-ARIA, but they still have a long way to go.

  2. Cam said,

    June 25, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Gravatar

    Great post! This is the kind of thing people need to know about. I can’t believe they’d be talking like this today, after the flap over Outlook yesterday. Will Microsoft never learn???

    Roy Bixler Reply:

    I can’t believe they’d be talking like this today

    Today? These are e-mails from years ago. In fact, they are so old that they could just as well have been exhibits in the US DoJ vs. Microsoft.

    after the flap over Outlook yesterday

    Could you elaborate on that?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Today? These are e-mails from years ago.

    Some of those same people still work for Microsoft (directly). Some work for it from the outside.

    eet Reply:

    You should make it clear that your comment is only based on conjecture.

    If there was any evidence, we’d be reading about today’s e-mails here, not about those from 10 years ago.

  3. DiamondWakizashi said,

    June 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Gravatar

    Here is a funny article that explains why Internet Explorer is terrible:

    http://www.creativestable.com/blog/stop-lying-yourself-internet-explorer-you-bag-shit-motherfucker

  4. twitter said,

    June 26, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Gravatar

    Nothing at all has changed in the last ten years for those idiots at M$. Despite protests they continue to tie Office to email and html bastardization:

    Dave Greiner, a member of the Email Standards Project, was distressed in 2007 when Microsoft decided to use Microsoft Word’s relatively rudimentary technology to display HTML-encoded email in Outlook. Facing the extension of that choice in the forthcoming Office 2010, he is shouting louder for change. Greiner set up FixOutlook.org …
    Microsoft previously used Internet Explorer’s HTML rendering engine to display emails formatted with HTML, which was developed to describe web pages to browsers.

    The rest of us can look forward to lots of broken html email. The victims include the users who mistakenly think M$ is using web standards. The only thing less secure than IE, Outlook or Office is using all three at the same time. Idiots.

  5. The Mad Hatter said,

    June 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s classical Microsoft. It’s why the company is going downhill, fast. Apple concentrates on producing a product that people are willing to buy. They sell a hell of a lot of product that way, and it’s not because it’s cheap.

    Microsoft tries to force you to buy, and what they end up with is a customer base that at best thinks the product is OK.

    There’s a great book out by Jeffrey Gitomar called “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless”, and someone at Microsoft needs to read it, before they become the next General Motors.

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