Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's ODF Sabotage is a Case of History Repeating Itself

Oops! Did we break your software? Sorry, we win.

Buried in our stories archive, which now contains nearly 1000 posts, are some antitrust exhibits. Consider this one about Novell. It is a classic example. There are many more and the best way to find them is probably by following cross references.

As I said just hours ago, it would be rather easy fishing for further evidence that Microsoft breaks rival products and/or components. With at least 3000 exhibits at hand, it is only matter of patience. The latest victim of this illegal tactic appears to be the ODF plugin for Microsoft Office. How convenient! Especially now that OOXML fails to gain traction (last updated a couple of days ago).

Let's look closely at some documents and find out how Microsoft operates behind the scenes. I chose the classic "Ain't Done Until DR-DOS Won't Run" scenario as an example (a case study if you like). Many thanks to 'Doug Mentohl' for the text (plenty of manual work, no OCR).

Watch what Steve Ballmer gets told about [PDF] and what we deal with here: a fake DR-DOS error message.

To: davidcol Subject: RE: message Date: Mon, 10 Feb 92 08:51:10 PST

what the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out and buy ms-dos, or decide not to take the risk for the other machines he has to buy for in the office.

..

From bradsi; Mon Feb 10 10:50:05 1992 To: steveb Subject: Re: the message Date: Mon, 10 Feb 92 10:50:05 PST

i am saying that we should either:

b) put a kind gentle message in setup. like an incompatible tsr message, but not everytime the user starts windows.

..

the most sensible thing from a development standpoint is to continue to build dependencies on msdos into windows.


Okay, okay... another one.

Here is where Microsoft starts using FUD tactics against its rival [PDF]. A Microsoft employee suggests "plant[ing] the bug of FUD in their [customers] ears". Sounds like ol' skool "Get the Facts" campaign, doesn't it?

From w-carrin Mon Oct 15 12:18:05 1990 To: bradsi Subject: Getting the word out about DR DOS Cc: kathrynh; russw Date: Mon Oct 15 12:09:08 1990

Concerns have been raised that DR-DOS incompatibilities and flaws are being overlooked by reviewers.

..

We recommend that we *informally* plant the bug of FUD in their ears. "Have you heard about problems with DR DOS?"

"That security feature is a neat idea and, gosh, such a feature would be great, but it's just too easily circumvented"

"Gee, it's unfortunate that DR DOS can't be loaded high all the time. MS-DOS 5.0 can" We'll do this very tactfully.

..

The security features may lead someone to a false sense of security and someone may break into their payroll.

..

* If Digital Research can to Microsoft for help in making DR DOS work with Windows, would Microsoft help them? Maybe not?


Such tactics were apparently effective. Watch an E-mail that explains why Amstrad dropped DR-DOS [PDF.

Friday, Septembeer 22, 1989 Mr. Leonard Liu President Acer Incorporated

I'm sure Alan Sugar would not mind me tellling you about his decision for Amstrad. He decided to stay with MS-DOS (they use the disk version). In 1985 when he first came out with his low end 512k machines, he shipped both DRI's then current product and MS-DOS: his market research showed that virtually all users chose to use the Microsoft product, rathe then risk the compatibility questions thet DRI's operating system products raise. His more recent machines dropped the DRI products entirely .. It only takes a couple of reports about non-compatibility to give the kiss of death to a PC: we've seen that on the hardware side as well as in the operating system area.


The mixture of technical sabotage and FUD had impact elsewhere [PDF].

From: tonyka Thu Sep 19 18:44:04 1991 To: tomle Cc: brentk; dosdev; jefflo; vangard Subject: DR-DOS 6.0 Testing (9/19)

DR DOS beats us on a 386 system by 12,560 bytes conventional; their EMM386 is a combined XMS provider and expanded memory manager. I don't understand why MS DOS only gives 95kb UMB; maybe I need to include some region on emm386 line.

..

1) Please include All bugs in DR-DOS that are not in MS-DOS from Intel TESTMEM test suite Boundary test: Allocating more (expanded memory) pages than available in system EMM did not return the expected results (returned 12 instead of 9A).

DTK 386 cold boot/hang problem: After installing DR 6 on this machine, cold boot always results in a "Cannot load file". Press a key to retry." When press a key, the machine will boot fine. Warm boot always work without this problem.

Also there's intermittent hang after exiting EDITOR. It hung on me twice today. Haven't seen these problems happen on another machine.

Warm boot with HIDOS.SYS installed gives "Warning: Address line A20 already enabled."

..

2) Anything you did not like about DR-DOS

DR DOS reports version as 3.31; no lie table and programs won't run.

Their EDITOR looks antique (compared to ours); haven't used WORDSTAR for ages.

..

3) Anything you like about DR-DOS that we should add to future MS-DOS versions

DR MEM program output looks sharp: layout is clearer and offers more info than ours.

DOSBOOK online help looks pretty fancy and helpful.

DR SETUP lets user tune system after installation. This concept is good but their implementation is not useful enough.

..

Privileged Material Redacted


Then came this [PDF].

From brade Fri Sep 20 17:31:57 1991 To: bradsi Cc: bradc; braddir; dosmktg; lizsi; w-carrin; w-maria Subject: PC Week and DR DOS Date: Fri Sep 20 17:32:48 PDT 1991

Carrine's great work got us the oppurtunity to feed pc week some info on where to look for bugs with dr dos. I have had a couple of conversations with lenny bailes who is helping with the ms-dos 5 versus dr-dos 5 evaluation process.

Today tom and i talked to him. on the negative side i probably brought up one two many things for him to look at. it is difficult to appropriately and professionally try and trash your competitor. also on the negative side, lenny clearly seems to be a dr dos fan. to be fair i think he is sincere and is trying to be balanced.

also on the negative side he did tells us that under 1 meg dr dos 6 was better than ms-dos 5 on 7 out of 10 machines they tested. no real details but i think the differences will be small.

on the positive side they did themselves find some of the setup problems (such as poor updating to config.sys) and he has passed on tp the pc weeks labs some of these configurations we suggested they look at that we uncovered with dr dos 5. he was also intrigued by some of the data from yesterday's dr-dos 6 test, in particular tom's problems when he entered a ton of nested directory names.


In the following brow-raising E-mail, Jim Allchin jokes about making sure DR-DOS will have problems in the future [PDF]. Strange sense of humour.

From bradsi Fri Sep 91 10:01:22 PDT To bradc; jimail; johnlu; mikemur; paulma; russs; steveb; tonya Cc: mackm Subject: dri/novell/ibm

.. drdos has problems running windows today. And I assume will have more problems in the futire.

..

To: bradsi Subject: RE: dri/novell/ibm Date Fri Sep 27 18:26:52 PDT 1991

You should make sure it has problems in the future :)

jim

..

From bradc Fri Sep 27 18:35:22 1991 To: bradsi Cc: bradc; richab; richf; loaya Subject: FW: FYI - Windows message Date Fri Sep 27 18:36:31 PDT 1991

..

I asked to have this forwarded to me.

Two cents from richf and I;

1) The check for dr dos better be perfect, otherwize you could be in a heep of trouble ..

..

4) The PC-DOS statement is problematic if ibm calls dr dos pc dos 6 so we think that we have to not state ms-dos or pc-dos directly

..

we can get the message out that they don't work with windows without seeming so manipulative. We need to say the right thing so that people get the right message - we are helping users by giving them info that windows is only tsted on ms-dos.


I truly hope hope that you can see the resemblance to anti-ODF tactics here (namely FUD and technical sabotage). There is more to come and I'll post this as Part II. I will then also concentrate on use of 'politics' because we continue to see plenty of that in the document formats debate. Microsoft cannot defend the technical merits of OOXML (none exists), so it strikes deals with Linux companies, sets the decks (committees), and threatens (or at least overwhelms) CIOs.

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