Welcome to a new section where PC Week will deliver hot columns from our US sister title, PC Week US. Each week we will pick the best column from some of the IT industry's leading pundits. Remember if you agree or disagree with any point of view, let us know at www.pcweek.vnu.co.uk Back off DoJ By Jim Louderback I might as well add my own gallons of ink into the barrels of it that have been wasted on Microsoft and the Department of Justice (DoJ). From where I sit, the DoJ is barking up the wrong feature. The Web browser really should be part of the operating system. What does an operating system do? Well, back in standalone days it provided access to resources, including files, printers, backup units, keyboards and monitors. The OS delivered a standard interface for applications that used those resources. Even classic old OSes such as DOS, CP/M and Unix provided a rudimentary way for users, as well as applications, to access those resources. Remember those arcane commands, like LS, COPY and DELTREE? Those commands, which essentially ran small applications, blossomed over time into graphical environments such as Windows, Desqview and Motif. These windowed environments included their own file management utilities that supplanted the arcane command-line programs of the past. When we started connecting these systems up to networks, those utilities gave us ways to manage files stored on servers and other computers as if they were local. And finally, some OSes included generic file viewers that allowed users to browse the contents of those files as if they had the creating application installed. Then came the Internet, which is essentially a huge network with zillions of HTML-formatted files, accessible to everyone. Our OSes already can access and view multiple file types on local and remote systems. So why is it such a big deal for Microsoft to update its file explorer technology to browse and display the contents of HTML files? Is this any really different from browsing and displaying text files on a network? Not to me. Don't get me wrong. I do think Microsoft needs to be slammed hard by the DoJ, but not in the browser space. Hey, you policy wonks down there in D.C., take another look at Microsoft's application business. Microsoft Office has locked up almost all of the desktop suite market, Publisher is a strong competitor at home and Microsoft's other applications lead in most categories. Why? Well, despite their protests, it's obvious to even the casual observer that the application group gets inside information on upcoming OS features and functions from the OS group. It happens like clockwork. Microsoft releases a new OS and shortly thereafter updates its applications with key features that take advantage of new OS functionality. Other vendors, forced to play catch-up, take six to 12 months longer to capitalise on those new features in their applications. Without those new features, their applications lose market share and development resources and begin to lag further and further behind. Eventually they become marginalised. For proof, just look at Lotus and Corel in the suite space, Borland in the tools market, or Sybase in the database arena. So my message to the DoJ is: Back off from the browser war. File browsing and display have become an integral part of our modern, windowed operating systems. Instead, focus on the unfair advantage the Microsoft applications group has. That's where the truly non-competitive, monopolistic behaviour can be found. Jim Louderback is the editorial director of ZDTV and a contributing editor to PC Week US. He can be reached at [email protected]
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