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Microsoft Flips Lid!

Giant software corporation begins self-destructive, thrashing death-spiral

(May 13, 2000) You will not believe this thread that has started on slashdot and the insane responses Microsoft has had. I've been watching it develop, snowball, explode, and then get seriously insane over the past 10 days or so.

The thread begins with a posting about Microsoft's implementation of a previously open, very well-respected, and robust security standard: Kerberos encryption.

Microsoft has implemented Kerberos in Windows 2000, but just like they did with Java, they're adding in their own little "enhancements" but this time it means instead of (just) needing Windows 2000 at the desktop, they're making it so that you have to use Windows 2000 as the server that runs some pretty damn critical parts of your enterprise. This raised quite a few hackles in the IS/computing world.

Now, Microsoft has publicly posted the innards of their modifications to the encryption scheme and protocols. But they are distributed with a double-click installer-wrap license (click "agree" to install this software) that prohibits you from using the information to design a computer program!

In other words, you are not allowed to consult the publicly published specification if you want to try to create/implement something compatible with MS Kerberos but which can run on other server OS's, such as Linux, Unix, VMS, AS/400, etc., etc. thus not having to run Windows 2000 server.)

You really should read the slashdot community's reaction to this.

But wait! That's not even the half of it! Microsoft has SUED slashdot to make them TAKE DOWN PARTS OF THE DISCUSSION!!! which begins:

You really ought to click on that link to read how the slashdotters react to being sued by Microsoft...over source code, no less! This is a colossal clash between Microsoft and Open Source/Linux, and now, it looks like it has become SERIOUSLY interesting. Stay tuned to your favorite techie news sources as this one develops. We might be in for something different.

And if I haven't gotten you to look at the slashdot links yet, then AT LEAST read The Register's article covering the situation

I can't BELIEVE Microsoft is behaving like this IN THE MIDDLE of their Anti-Trust PENALTY PHASE! They've ALREADY been found guilty, it's sentencing time, with the feds out for blood, and they're STILL running amok! I'm starting to get a little nervous about living so close to Redmond--whatever is going on in there is somehow--not human. With all that money, you think Bill could maybe buy himself a clue?

Can't wait for Mac OS X --it's due out late this summer and it looks like it will be considerably more fantastic than was when Ars Technica wrote about it in February--and that's saying a LOT.


But wait, there's more!

(Update 45 minutes later, at 10:30pm May 13, 2000) I can't believe it. Microsoft has canceled all further development of Internet Explorer for Macintosh. They'll probably never come out with a Linux version. They're retreating into a Windows-only bunker? Looks like I might just be right this time....

According to reports on Macintouch, a very-long-running and well-respected Macintosh website, has posted information that Microsoft canceled Internet Explorer for Macintosh. Microsoft has responded, and does not deny that no more new versions of IE for Mac after the current version will be created.

What can this mean? Is it a portent that even AFTER Microsoft is broken up into two companies, one handling Windows and the other applications, each one will continue to write exclusively for the other?

Evidence: Now, all this is unconfirmed by any other source on the web, but I trust Ric Ford at Macintouch pretty darn far. I've been reading him since 1994 and have never been steered wrong; he hardly ever reports on rumors and when he does they are almost always both true and of major impact.

Important: I can't stress enough how crucial this could be: will Microsoft's non-OS side will continue to support other platforms, or drop all pretense of even trying to interact, much less play nicely with other operating systems at all anymore? I think we're seeing the true stripes come out now that Microsoft thinks they have nothing to lose and no reason to act polite anymore--their reasoning seems to be "it'd be hard to make it much worse than it already is, so let's do all the damage we can and to hell with everybody else."

I would just give you a link to Macintouch, who as far as I know broke this story, but there's no way for me to make a permanent URL that links directly to the relevant news items, so with apologies to Ric Ford I'm going to reproduce them here:

A MacInTouch source reported the dispersal of the Mac OS Internet Explorer development team, saying a number of people had moved to WebTV development and that future Mac MSIE development was questionable. We followed up Microsoft PR representative, who described the situation like this:

"The IE team is working diligently on future versions of Mac IE like IE 5 for Mac OS X. With the recent reorganization at Microsoft, the IE team will now have the additional opportunity to work on developing the next generation of Personal TV offerings at WebTV. The IE team has been applauded for their efforts with the recently released IE 5 and leveraging their great skills in creating the best in web and browsing technologies will be a key benefit in the development of next-generation WebTV products and services."

Two MacInTouch sources offered more confirmation of Microsoft's dissolution of the Mac OS Internet Explorer team

[Source 1] "I have friends who worked on the IE5 team. Despite the protestations of the MS PR flack [see yesterday's report], the team has in fact been broken up, there are no plans for future Mac versions of IE, and many team members are looking for new jobs, both inside and outside MS."

[Source 2] "[The PR statement posted yesterday] directly contradicts what I've heard, but gosh, Microsoft would never deliberately prevaricate (unless it was something like faking a video demo in courtroom testimony), would they?"

Another MacInTouch reader offered more perspective on Microsoft's dissolution of the MSIE development team [see Recent News]:

"I can definitely confirm Mac IE's cancellation. I've got two very close friends who work(ed) on Mac IE for years. In fact, I'm really surprised it took this story so long to break. The Mac IE team actually got the bad news on the very Monday that Mac IE 5 was released to the public this March. They were given two weeks off as a reward, and when they returned they were put on project "Hollywood" in the WebTV division.

The wording in that PR release you got is eerily similar to a message Irving Kwong (MS PR) posted to the MacIE-Talk list earlier. Note the careful wording in that message. Technically it's true that they are still working on Mac IE because there will be at least one more release which uses the Carbon APIs. So, even though it's pretty much done and being held for the OS X release, the team is _technically_ still working on it on the side. That release will also include the media toolbar that got yanked at the last minute due to licensing issues. But that's the end of the line. No 5.5, no 6.0. Glad to finally get this off my chest."


That's it. What do you think? Let me know; send me email at msgoesnuts@fullerbecker.com!

fullerbecker.com - online since April 1999
This page posted May 13, 2000


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