How Microsoft Got its OS Declared an "Open System" and wound up in Government

Posted by tadelste on Nov 2, 2005 4:00 PM; By Tom Adelstein

Six years ago, one of the most incriminating articles I had read about "dirty tricks" disappeared from the Internet. I made the article the center piece of an investigative piece I wrote concerning how I thought Microsoft attempted to destroy UNIX and would go after Linux.

By a stroke of luck, I saw a link to it while doing research in the Way Back Machine.

I found a link to the article on the cover of an archived front page of "" dated March 2, 2001. But the link didn't work. I keep searching and finally found Steve Walli's article entitled "Open Systems, POSIX and NT".

If you read this article, you will recognize the players even though ten years have passed. These games have not stopped and may never stop. History repeats itself. Monopolists are almost impossible to unseat without the will of Congress, the Administration and the Courts and ultimately each and every one of us.

Related Story: Did Bill Gates Invent Linux and Has He Erased the Evidence?

This article appeared in the USENIX Association newsletter ;login: (Volume 20, Number 6, December 1995)

"Feds declare NT `open system'; Unix takes a hit" (ComputerWorld news headline, July 31, 1995)

That headline in ComputerWorld appeared, along with similar ones in other trade publications, after a U.S. federal government bid-protest judgement was handed down in June 1995. These news articles all claimed, more or less, that the Federal government had somehow declared Microsoft Windows NT to be an "open system"; that this action was somehow "not right" or "unfair"; that customers would not be able to tell sheep from wolves anymore; and that UNIX vendors had better watch out.

In September, Uniforum entered the fray with a UniNews editorial (Volume IX, Number 15) that was also forwarded to ComputerWorld to "correct" their original article. Unfortunately, this editorial was equally full of speculation and religion, and it got a few facts wrong.

My biggest concern is that a public relying only on trade publications with attention-grabbing headlines might not understand the real issues and might blame or lose faith in well-developed, implemented portability standards such as the ISO C-standard, and POSIX.1, and specifications based upon them such as the X/Open Single UNIX Specification.

I was directly involved in the bid protest trial as an expert witness on POSIX related issues for the Defence Department (yes, I worked for that side.) I have been a long-time member of the IEEE POSIX community and care a great deal about its implementation and use. My involvement in that effort began as an application developer in the commercial world, caring about software portability, and platform independence.

In this article I will present the facts about the bid and its protests, describe the judgement based on those facts, and finish with a few opinions and observations on ``open systems", POSIX, and NT. The information about the RFP, the proposals, the protests and the judgement is taken from the decision document. While you may not agree with my opinions expressed in the conclusion, hopefully the facts will clear up some of the confusion brought about by the sound and fury that passed for news regarding this case.

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Is this for real? No way. avenger 21 2,353 Nov 4, 2005 4:58 AM

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