My Opinion on DOJ vs. Microsoft

By Walton Dell
July 7, 1999
Last Updated: June 25, 2006

Microsoft was sued by the Department of Justice for having included Internet technologies (including a web browser) in the Windows 95  operating system, because the DOJ believes this created a monopoly in the web browser market.  Unlike the Post Office and Internic (the registry for Internet domain names), however, Microsoft is not a true monopoly.  They do have competition from other operating systems and web browsers.  They have no control over what consumers will buy or use.  Few people used their first integrated web browser, because it was no good.  But versions 4 and 5 of Microsoft's web browser were far better than what the competition could offer at the time (Netscape and Opera).

It is my strong opinion that Internet functionality is something every operating system should include.  It is obvious to me that most computers will at some point need to display HTML or XML data (the codes used to create web pages).  Even if the computer is never connected to the Internet, it makes perfect sense for programs to have help files that are based on the same technologies used to create web pages.  You can then view help for your software the same way you view web pages, and you can then  have all the advanced (and not-so-advanced, but still better) features of web pages, including animation, sound, tables, smooth scrolling, and much more.  In addition to help files, HTML can be used to enhance many other aspects of the operating system, including enhanced file browsing, hyperlinked dialog boxes, general software presentation through HTML, and much more.

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Another suit against Microsoft was brought on by Sun Microsystems. Sun says Microsoft has ruined the Java language by extending it to support the Windows APIs.  Java, however, currently has weak APIs in comparison to the Windows APIs.  If a Windows developer, such as myself, is to take Java seriously, it must be possible to use the Windows APIs.  Microsoft did not prevent developers from creating Java programs that would work across platforms, Microsoft simply made it possible to access the rich APIs of Windows for those that desired that functionality.  Whether that is truly illegal or not depends on the interpretation of the contract Microsoft has with Sun.  If Sun is able to prevent Microsoft from including these Windows enhancements, then I will not consider Java as the ultimate language of the future, since you can currently do more with C++.  At Arizona State University, many classes are switching to Java as though it is a replacement for C++, but Sun seems to want proprietary control over the Java language just as much as anybody else.  If Sun has that control, then Java can not become the next great programming language for all systems (like the public domain C++).

I do wish that Microsoft had included better support for developing cross-platform applications in Visual J++, though.  Although you can certainly write cross-platform code with Visual J++, you can not use the slick visual design tools to do so.  You must hand code everything.  While it is debatable whether Microsoft had the right to provide Windows extensions at all, few would disagree that Visual J++ would much better if you could use the visual design tools to create cross-platform Java applications.

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