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Legislating software standards

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1 Author(s)
Petrie, C. ; Center for Design Res., Stanford, CA, USA

The author has never owned a PC. He has only worked on mainframes, minis, Lisp machines, and Unix boxes. Now that PCs have become ubiquitous, he has to work on them too. It is hard to understand how such a sorry substitute for an operating system has become so widely accepted that the US government feels compelled to intercede in an attempt to prevent Microsoft from extending the “Windows monopoly” to the Internet. Why DOS and Windows 95 became the de facto standard in the face of better alternatives is a marketing economic phenomenon discussed at length elsewhere. But we all understand that application developers spend their precious resources on the perceived winner in a self-fulfilling prophecy. What's really funny is government intervention. Two years ago, many in Silicon Valley were saying that the government was irrelevant-the Internet was the extreme free trade zone and it was clear that the government would always be behind the technology curve anyway. Their legislation would always be late and unenforceable. Now the US Department of Justice is the great hope of Silicon Valley, and everyone has hired professional lobbyists in DC. But is this a good thing? Forget for the moment that the current action is succeeding in impeding Microsoft's success. What's more important is that the government is deciding for industry what an application is and what an operating system is and whether software is “integrated” or “bundled”. Should the government be involved in regulating software systems in order to promote competition, and if so, what else might the government do?

Published in:

Internet Computing, IEEE  (Volume:2 ,  Issue: 1 )