October 17, 2003

A Letter to Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell's recent column The War Against Success is largely spot on but he makes the mistake of including Microsoft in his list of persecuted entities who are undeservedly pursued. He's wrong to do so. Microsoft is an odd case because it is both villain and victim simultaneously. The anti-trust case is a travesty of justice but Microsoft is a bad actor who violated criminal laws to get to where they are, most conspicuously criminal conspiracy and fraud statutes.

Below is the letter I sent to Thomas Sowell:

Microsoft, aside from being a successful corporation that provides a great deal of useful software and some hardware to the world is also a company with a history of illegal dealings that nobody should support.

The entire point of an operating system (OS) is to provide a base, a platform upon which application programs can run with a reasonable set of well documented facilities to take care of the basics that all applications need.

Microsoft is guilty (as has been documented in court) of altering its OS in order that competitors products would break. The DR-DOS case is a treasure chest of evidence of Microsoft's legitimate bad guy status.

Another basic requirement of a modern OS is that the tools used to develop applications are made available. Now one of Microsoft's big selling points to the independent programmer community was that, unlike many of its competitors, Microsoft did not hold back any part of these tools. Microsoft application programmers used the same tools and documentation as the independents and there was an even playing field. Microsoft sold programming toolkits in the billions based on that promise and became the premier choice for a generation of programmers because of it.

It was a lie. Microsoft has now admitted that not all tools available to Microsoft application programmers are released in their development kits which cost thousands of dollars yearly. Most would call this criminal conspiracy and fraud but prosecution on anti-trust grounds is oh so much sexier (if ultimately far less effective).

The list could go on with the number of small independents who have been steamrolled, crushed, and otherwise abused but these two documented points suffice, I think. Please take Microsoft off your list of good guys. Even with their unarguable success, they don't deserve to be there.

Unfortunately, all too many people find it very difficult to separate Microsoft's dual role as the unjustly persecuted black hat. It's a sad testament to the West's flagging commitment to justice for all that the too simplistic assignment of Microsoft to the category of all guilty or all innocent is so common.

Posted by TMLutas at October 17, 2003 12:49 PM