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

Posted by tadelste on Jan 12, 2006 4:36 PM EDT
LXer.com Special Features Section; By Tom Adelstein
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Someone has started rearranging content on the Internet to suit their own purposes and the culprit might be a convicted monopolist. This article examines some compelling evidence and asks Congress to investigate.

On October 1, 2004, at an appearance at the Computer History Museum in northern California, someone asked Bill Gates about a possible threat from Linux and Gates replied: "Microsoft has had competitors in the past. It's a good thing we have museums to document this stuff."

But during the frantic days of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant, Mr. Gate's employees at Microsoft corporation put together an argument for the court that made a tiny group of companies look like a threat - even a competitor. Here's a list of exhibits demonstrating the enormous competitive threat of Linux to Microsoft:

194 Advertisement for Caldera OpenLinux
1846, C|Net story: "Lining up for Linux"
1871 Inter@ctive Week story: "Caldera Subsidiary Sets Sights on Linux"
1872, C|Net story: "Corel ports WordPerfect to Linux"
1901, Packaging for Linux 5.1
2092: Corel press release: "Corel WordPerfect 8 for Linux Download Now Available"
2338 Wall Street Journal article: "Linux Operating System Gets Big Boost From Supporters of H-P, Silicon Graphics"
2393: Raleigh News & Observer story: "Big Blue Will Throw its Blanket Over Linux"
2403: ZDNet story: "Linux Takes Aim at the Desktop"
2404: ZDNet story: "Linux Preps for Desktop Assault"
2405: Corel press release: "Corel to Bring Linux to the Desktop"
2478: Promotional brochure for Linux Conference and Expo

The defense presented these exhibits at trial to explain the imminent threat of the Linux operating system to Microsoft. In fact, under cross examination, one prominent witness who had calculated the economic consequences of Microsoft's monopolistic behavior found himself discredited because he was unaware of the Linux competitive threat demonstrated by exhibit 1901 under cross examination by Microsoft's attorneys.

Dr. Warren-Boulton discussed extensively the applications barrier to entry into the OS market. This barrier, which Dr. Warren-Boulton claimed would make it difficult for an entering firm to compete in that market, appears to have already been overcome by commercially available versions of Linux, such as Red Hat. The potential viability of Red Hat, which include not only a Windows-like operating system, but also copies of WordPerfect 7, Netscape, CAD, and various other popular computing programs as shown by plaintiff's exhibits exhibits 1901 A and B, as a competitor to Microsoft Windows had not been considered by Dr. Warren-Boulton when he performed his analysis of Microsoft's market position, as Dr. Warren-Boulton admitted to being unaware of the various features included as standard with Red Hat.

Of course Dr. Warren-Boulton had not calculated the competitive threat because Microsoft simply invented it. At the time of the trial, estimated global users of Linux numbered approximately two million compared to 400 million Microsoft desktops. Three years before the trial in 1995, Linus Torvalds estimated Linux users at 30,000.

In 1999, D.H. Martin & Associates evaluated Linux and said it was a good platform for file and print services but could not compete with UNIX. If UNIX didn't compete with Microsoft in terms of Microsoft's monopoly standing, people might question the reasoning that Linux posed any threat whatsoever. At the time of the testimony, Linux didn't even have a supported graphical web browser or an Office productivity suite.

To further demonstrate the ridiculousness of Microsoft's argument, Linux's top distribution didn't even have a retail agreement with a single recognizable reseller. You could buy Linux over the Internet and after Microsoft mentioned Linux in testimony a few random retail stores stocked a few retail boxes.

But anyone could easily see that the $39.95 retail version of Red Hat couldn't compete with Windows. If you needed technical support, you could email Red Hat. You could look on their mailing list archives or read the book they provided in their box. But Red Hat and the other tiny Linux companies had no claim to the status of a commercial operating system at the time.

Additionally, the DoJ didn't challenge the claims of Microsoft that Linux competed with them. Six years later, Linux still doesn't compete with Microsoft on the desktop as we're so frequently reminded. Gates even believed that Linux would wind up in the museum so a record of Linux could exist.

Let us not forget that the US v Microsoft action centered around harm Microsoft did to the market for Internet Browsers by using its power to exclude competing products, primarily Netscape. Linux didn't even have a supported browser. So, how did Linux's existence prove that Microsoft was not really a monopoly? Microsoft invented Linux as a competitive threat to counter the DoJ's argument that:

Microsoft possesses (and for several years has possessed) monopoly power in the market for personal computer operating systems. Microsoft’s “Windows” operating systems are used on over 80% of Intel-based PCs, the dominant type of PC in the United States. More than 90% of new Intel-based PCs are shipped with a version of Windows pre-installed. PC manufacturers (often referred to as Original Equipment Manufacturers, or “OEMs”) have no commercially reasonable alternative to Microsoft operating systems for the PCs that they distribute.

The Evidence Disappears

Much of the evidence of Microsoft's arguments has disappeared from the Internet. Links which I have collected in my research lead to either "HTTP 404 Not Found" pages or interesting redirects to pages that alter the original reports. We'll show you examples of the code used to do that so you can judge for yourself if you believe a conspiracy might exist. First let's look at some examples.

On October 19, 1999, a group of individuals rebutted a Microsoft document called The Five Linux Myths. They published their paper as did many. Unfortunately, Microsoft's document no longer resides on the Internet.

If you visit Hardvard's Cyber Law Center and look at the documentation of the US v Microsoft trial make your way to the links to the trial exhibits. You can find the links by clicking here. Once you arrive at this page attempt to find any of the Linux exhibits and you will discover you've reached a page that states:

We’re sorry, but there is no Microsoft.com Web page that matches your entry. It is possible you typed the address incorrectly, or the page may no longer exist. You may wish to try another entry or choose from the links below, which we hope will help you find what you’re looking for.

If I were at Microsoft, I wouldn't want a record of those exhibits to exist in the event anyone ever questioned Microsoft's testimony or used their trial transcripts in the event of another challenge. I would cleanse the world of any record of that trial. I wouldn't want anyone to know anything about that trial including things such as the prosecutors discovering I had doctored video tapes - not once but twice.

But what about the Press

Something about altering history disturbs scholars. We spend so much of our taxpayer dollars to preserve records of the past. Now ask yourself, do you want records of the Internet and the World Wide Web to vanish? Well, they have.

Let's start to look at a few examples. As you do your own searches, you will discover not only have articles disappeared, but archives have been altered and blocked using robots.txt files. Coincidently, many of those articles which have disappeared and changed existed in the Washington Post archives. Bill's wife, Melinda, and his good friend Warren Buffet sit on the Board of the Washington Post.

Phony Grass Roots Support

Linux advocates believe Microsoft employees and contractors disrupt forums and discussion groups. They believe that Microsoft advocates use fictitious names to post unfavorable comments about Linux. They refer to people who may do that as "astroturfers".

An archive site called Silly Dog 701 has documented questionable issues about Microsoft. In one area of their site they write:

Microsoft's fierce competitive nature has alienated everybody in the industry to the point where voluntary supporters are virtually nonexistent. For quite some time Microsoft has resorted to buying public endorsements and there have been documented incidents of Microsoft employees posing as normal software users in public settings without revealing their true identities. And these are just the incidents that the public has found out about - who knows how many cases have never been exposed for the false endorsements that they actually are? So when you see that rare instance of Microsoft support you need to seriously question whether it is genuine.

Microsoft's recent "astroturf" campaign fortunately blew up in its face. The astroturf campaign was Microsoft's attempt to create a grassroots movement in its legal battle against the DOJ by paying people to show public support. It was referred to as astroturf rather than grassroots because the support was completely fake.

In the above, a link exists to a Los Angeles Times Story that no longer exists on the web site. Click it and you will get a message that says: "Error - Sorry, the page you requested is not available."

Fortunately, we found the article and discovered an embarrassing report. Click here and you will see something very close to the original. In the event this link also disappears the article is entitled, Microsoft Plans Stealth Blitz to Mend Its Image, By GREG MILLER and LESLIE HELM, Times Staff Writers.

Friday, April 10, 1998, Stung by the public relations fallout from antitrust investigations of its business practices, Microsoft Corp. has secretly been planning a massive media campaign designed to influence state investigators by creating the appearance of a groundswell of public support for the company.

The elaborate plan, outlined in confidential documents obtained by The Times, hinges on a number of unusual—and some say unethical—tactics, including the planting of articles, letters to the editor and opinion pieces to be commissioned by Microsoft's top media handlers but presented by local firms as spontaneous testimonials.

My Favorite - The case of the redirected news articles

One of the links I found while doing research into the US v Microsoft case lead me to an article which supposedly held information about the original verdict. The article was entitled: Judge Issues Verdict and went on to state:

Saying that Microsoft put "an oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune," Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled Monday that Microsoft broke antitrust laws when it acted to protect its monopoly in the Windows operating system.

Instead the article that responds to the link is entitled: Microsoft Ruling Overturned and states:

A federal appeals court reversed parts of a $521 million patent ruling against Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday, giving the world's largest software maker another chance to prove that its Web browser didn't illegally copy a key piece of technology.

I have seen this happen on other news sites and have demonstrated it to members of the press. I believe people have rearranged web archives on a widespread basis. If so, it seems to serve the purpose of purging history.

The manner in which some of these articles disappear involve adding meta data to the file. In the case of the Washington Post article, someone doctored the original document by adding this code:

META http-equiv= **REFRESH** CONTENT="0;URL=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/business/specials/microsofttrial/index.html"

I altered the tags because even in this document, the REFRESH directive forces the web page to change. The original document at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/longterm/microsoft/micro.htm changes to a document at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/business/specials/microsofttrial/index.html .

I have also had my own investigative articles disappear. For example, I wrote an article entitled, Did Microsoft Try to Kill UNIX. It has disappeared from the Internet. It once existed at 32BitsOnline.com. Evidence of the article exists here. But if you click on the link, the article is long gone. One of the major references in that article involved Unisys Corp. winning a five-year, $188 million contract to supply workstations to more than 40,000 Coast Guard personnel in 1995 using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT.

To win the contract, a procurement arbitrator declared NT an Open System. Dr. Heinz Lycklama represented the Microsoft/Unysis consortium. The major protest issue analyzed, and on which Lycklama provided an expert opinion was that of POSIX compliance. Dr. Lycklama was admitted as an expert in operating systems in this case.

That case allowed Microsoft to sell NT in favor of POSIX compliant UNIX to the US Government. The article explaining the case and offering substantial information why NT did not meet the acquisition regulations has disappeared. In 1999, you could find the article in the archives of the Open Group.

Microsoft's Search Technology

In September 2004, I began to notice a change in certain Google search results. As I managed a number of news sites, I discovered MSN's search bot repeatedly hitting URL's with little to no value. That resulted in moving non-sense higher in the results of Google searches while moving more relevant materials further out of the Google's data base.

In a recent interview in InfoWorld, Steve Ballmer mentioned that Microsoft's search technology had started to provide a better experience than Google over the past year. I immediately began to wonder if Microsoft had actually used their search technology to change the relevance of any data they pleased. The more I watch web statistics, the more I wonder if someone should investigate Microsoft's procedures in the search arena. Only by monitoring Microsoft's practices can we know.

Some not so final thoughts

Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made an observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. He's quoted as saying, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Is that a true statement for all people or does it tend to generalize? I don't really know the answer. It somehow feels right.

I have a lack of trust in our current Administration's ability to regulate Microsoft. In fact, I'm concerned that a lack of motivation and/or interest exists to protect us from Microsoft's monopolistic grip. I don't know from where the resources would come to investigate them in the civil sector. Microsoft just doesn't appear as a priority in the administration's agenda.

I believe that the US has slipped technologically in the last five years as investment in start-ups has slowed and our technologist have migrated to other professions. I lay the blame on our government's inability to show the fortitude to stop monopolies from thwarting innovation. Hopefully this article will provide some incentive for someone to take a look at how one company could change the internal landscape of the Internet and distort history.

Respectfully submitted.

Related Articles:

Following Bill Gates' Linux Attack Money

Microsoft Getting Closer to the Fire

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial, LXer Features; Groups: Intel, Microsoft, Red Hat

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