Home Page -> Commentary -> 30 April 2000 (Microsoft Breakup)

Comment of the Fortnight
30 April 2000
Don't Break Up Microsoft

No, I haven't lost my mind. No, I'm not worshipping at the shrine of Big Bad Bill. I just don't think that breaking Microsoft into multiple corporations is a good idea.

Do you honestly think that having a separate Office Products company and Operating System company will stop the people who are producing the word processor from calling up the operating system people and saying, “Our company wants to make a deal with your company. You put in a special API into the operating system that will make our word processor work really well. In return, we'll give you the internal structure of our word processing documents, and part of the deal is that nobody else gets to know this information.”

No, the best solution is keeping Microsoft as one company and requiring them to publish the full API (Application Programmer Interface) for the operating system, as well as the full specification for how MSOffice files are stored. Why this second stipulation? As things currently stand, you could have a revolutionary new way of doing, say, word processing. However, if you can't read a Microsoft Word document reliably (and you can't, because nobody except Microsoft knows everything about the internal structure), you can't sell your innovative new product, because customers can't convert their existing documents to use it.

By the way, let's get rid of one nonsense issue right away. Microsoft claims that breaking up the company would harm their ability to innovate. Do you honestly believe that, if the office products group is split off as a separate company, they will no longer be able to come up with new features or ideas for how to do spreadsheets? That they won't be able to implement any of the latest database technology into Access? All because they aren't in the same company as the operating system group? I don't think so.

Other News

Most of my writing the past couple of weeks has been devoted to an exploration of the Document Object Model with the latest version of Netscape. The article has been reprinted in A List Apart, or you may see the article here.

Let me know what you think.

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