PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 21

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

June 7, 1999

25th Reunion Time

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Cambridge at Reunion Time

Computer Industry News

  • Memo to Microsoft

Web Site of the Week

  • Virtual Cow Tipping


  • Paul Makes Top 5 Again: Prom Themes


  • Phantom Menace: Racist? No


  • Joe Brancatelli, Craig Reynolds on Microsoft

General News

Cambridge At Reunion Time

Most of you who know me (which is most of you) realize I am a 1974 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., the first male and only the second person (after my mother) ever to graduate from college in either line of my direct ancestors.

Thus it was with great pride that my parents, Mari and Paul, and my grandmother Gertrude Schindler sweltered in Rockwell Cage on that warm June day 25 years ago as Dr. Jerome Wiesner, the president of MIT, handed me (and a thousand other people) an MIT diploma.

I went to my 10th reunion with an infant Marlow and a pregnant Vicki in June 1984, but to date that was the only reunion I attended. I had been steadfastly ignoring the 25th reunion mailings until April, when they sent a list of expected attendees. I recognize more than a dozen names on the list. It was at that moment that I realized I might actually enjoy going. The weekend of June 5-6 turned out to be remarkably clear, and Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, of NPR fame (MIT graduates of the class of 1959 and 1972) were going to give the commencement address on the morning of June 4.

So I finished up my work on Thursday (barely), and took the red-eye to Boston, arriving at 6:30 a.m. I grabbed an hour's nap on a coach at MIT's MacGregor House dormitory (my room wasn't available, even though I paid for it for Thursday night),. Then I went to the Killian Court in front of Building 10 for an hilarious and yet also strangely inspirational commencement address by the two entertainers. It was among the best such addresses I've ever heard.

I had signed up for a number of Alumni events, but they paled by comparison with the opportunity to get together with Boston-area friends. And so it was that I lunched on Friday with Dan Dern, spent Saturday with Glen Speckert ('75, met in adult life), Saturday night with Barb Moore '75, Jack VanWoerkom '75 and John Kavazanjian '72, and Sunday afternoon with Kevin Sullivan '73.

The official reunion events I attended included commencement (although I did not sit in the class of 1974 section because none of the smiling, helpful people who were helping seat people knew where it was). I also went to the '74 dinner at 100 Memorial Drive, the breakfast on Sunday at the President's House (where I posed with my classmates for a panoramic picture), the Tech Games (mostly mind games, I hasten to add) and the TechSas Barbeque in front of the Athletic Center.

Why does anyone go to a reunion, particularly one of the big ones? After all, my classmates were so fat and bald they didn't recognize me (rim shot). Well, I went because there were people I knew, whose company I enjoyed, and I wanted to see how they turned out. Also, I'm proud of what I've made of my life. And one of the biggest draws for me was Sherry Grobstein, the first woman to whom I was engaged. I haven't seen her since 1974.

Many of my classmates have exactly the same personalities they had 25 years ago. I guess this shouldn't have been much of a surprise. A few of them looked the same, which was a surprise. As Paul Mailman said when he saw me, "You look just like Paul Schindler only older and wider."

Much has changed at MIT in 25 years. There are many new buildings, Many old trees got Dutch Elm disease and have been removed. Some things have gotten worse. Most things have gotten better. Since my complaint or praise won't change either of these situations, I simply wallowed in nostalgia at as many of my old familiar haunts as still exist.

If you go for your 50th reunion at MIT, you get a bright red (MIT's colors are red and gray) sports coat to wear and you get to march in the Academic Procession. Of course, you also have to show up on Thursday instead of Friday. If I'm lucky, I won't be working when I'm 71, and I can come early and stay late. Frankly, I'll be lucky to be upright and breathing at 71. But I had a good time at my 25th--so look for me at the big 5-0, as I arise and raise my stein on high, for tonight shall ever be, a mystery that will never die, ye sons of MIT.

A final light note, Bill Hecht, a friend of mine and now head of the Alumni Association, loaned me a big-guy joke. "I have to be careful not to get to close to Renton when I go to Seattle; if I do, the Boeing guys try to paint a number on me." I really like Bill.

Computer Industry News

Memo to Microsoft

Length Warning: This memo is quite long. If you're not really interested in the Microsoft case, skip on ahead to the next section, where we discuss virtual cow tipping.

One of the great things about the web is that you can see pure, raw, unmediated propaganda and decide for yourself on the merits. This comes from an anti-Microsoft group called Procomp. You didn't get it because you're not a reporter, and no one (but me) will print it in full. Well, I guess you could find it on their website.





DATE: JUNE 1, 1999

Having watched the last seven months of the trial, witnessing your deft legal arguments swept away by the actions of your client outside the courtroom, one is reminded of those words immortalized by Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." At times, it has been hard to explain who is doing a better job of rebutting the legal arguments you have been so aggressively pressing in the courtroom - the government or Bill Gates. Look at how Microsoft has so assiduously undercut its own defense.
1. The Internet Explorer browser is not an integrated feature of Windows.
Your client apparently has convinced you that consumers benefit from the integration by Microsoft of its Explorer browser into Windows. I suppose it's possible that you found James Allchin's videos touting the benefits of integration more convincing than did Judge Jackson. In any event, we thought that you should know that while trial was at recess, your client issued a new version of Explorer (IE 5.0) that is sold as a free-standing (i.e., non-integrated) product. Consumers can purchase this browser application on a CD-ROM and install it onto their Windows PC themselves. In a related development since the lawsuit was filed, it turns out that your client has represented to the U.S. Patent Office that "anyone with ordinary skill in the art would know that a browser and operating system are separate products." So much for integration. We suggest you not waste any more of the court's time with this argument.
2. The growing interest in handheld devices and other non-PC-based means of accessing the Internet are not a threat to your client's PC operating system monopoly after all.
Your client has obviously tried hard to convince you that it faces threats to its monopoly position from every front, and therefore has no monopoly power. Surprise! Based on a recent Newsweek editorial by Bill Gates ("Why the PC Will Not Die"), your client now appears to believe that its monopoly position will be preserved for years to come because it turns out that handheld devices are compliments for PCs, not substitutes. Therefore, sales of PCs loaded with their Windows operating system will continue to grow because, "the PC will also work in tandem with other cool devices" and no doubt these other devices will be loaded with Windows CE.
3. It turns out that your client does have monopoly power.
Your client's 90 percent plus market share in the PC operating systems market has not been enough to convince you that it has monopoly power. However, you should know that one sure sign of a monopolist is that it can abuse its customers with abandon because those customers have no place else to go. Anyone who has paid a visit to their local DMV is familiar with this fundamental truth. Based on Microsoft's treatment of IBM-one of its largest customers-it appears that Microsoft is not much different than the local DMV when it comes to customer relations. Garry Norris, an IBM executive who handled negotiations with Microsoft, will testify in detail to the threats made by Microsoft executive Joachim Kempin in response to IBM's promotion of applications that competed with Microsoft's office suite. Microsoft consistently charged IBM higher prices than more complacent OEMs because IBM competed against Microsoft products, and at one point Kempin told Norris that if he didn't like the terms he could, "buy it at retail." Sounds like customer service only a monopolist could deliver.
4. Lack of knowledge about accounting methods.
Remember when poor Dr. Schmalensee had to argue Windows sales and profits were recorded on slips of paper? While that was great entertainment for courthouse observers, you should probably know Mr. Gates released a book when the trial was in recess that indicated that, in fact, your client does use sophisticated state-of-the-art software to record and monitor every financial matter affecting the company. We recommend you provide the necessary information to Dr. Schmalensee so he can correct this matter during his rebuttal testimony.
5. Freedom to Acquire.
Your client has suggested that U.S. v. Microsoft is an affront to their right to innovate. Microsoft's recent acquisitions activity underscores that when you say "innovate," you mean "acquire." Microsoft's strength lies in its ability to purchase technology it cannot produce and destroy competition. Some of Microsoft's most famous products such as PowerPoint and Internet Explorer were developed by others and bought by Microsoft. We recommend you commission new polls and focus group activity so you can adopt new themes that may be supported by reality.
6. Bad news travels fast.
Last, we wanted you to know you have developed the wrong impression of Mr. Gates. The legal team seems to be intimidated by Mr. Gates and other top executives. Or perhaps there is another reason why there is almost a total lack of coordination between Microsoft business executives and Microsoft lawyers. The truth is that Mr. Gates actually wants you to tell him the unvarnished truth about how Microsoft is faring in the courtroom. And he wants you to tell him as soon as possible. At least that is what he says in Chapter 10 of his new book.
So reserve your flight to Redmond immediately. Tell Mr. Gates that the old arguments from the first playbook didn't work. (Examples: Microsoft is not a monopoly, Microsoft was "set-up" by Netscape, Microsoft can do anything it wants with its products regardless of the law, the browser is not a separate product, the industry is dynamic and competitive so antitrust laws are not needed, etc., etc.) Tell Mr. Gates that in order to gain any goodwill with the Judge prior to the remedies phase of the trial, he will have to conduct a factually-based defense rather than a campaign of diversion.
We remain hopeful that competition and innovation will flourish in the software industry, that Microsoft will develop innovative new products, and that Microsoft's success or failure in the 21st Century will depend on the quality of its products, not whether it can illegally maintain, abuse and extend its monopoly.
--ProComp Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age

Web Site of the Week

Virtual Cow Tipping

My daughter Marlow had an idea for economics class: to start a virtual cow tipping page.

You know cow tipping; you've seen it in movies if you didn't grow up in the country. Cows are easy to tip over when they're asleep, and it is hard for them to get back up. The appeal of doing it (especially versus the risk of an angry farmer) has never been obvious to me, but the idea of doing it in cyberspace seemed cool and appealing.

Imagine Marlow's surprise when she went to Yahoo and found there's a whole section for virtual cow tipping (which you can see if you click on the URL above).

The best of the bunch, by the way, is VRML cow tipping, if you have that add-in installed. It takes a while to get used to the controls, but once you do, it's the best virtual cow-tipping there is.

A tip o' the Schindler chapeau to my older daughter Marlow.


Paul Makes Top 5 Again

This time I ranked fourth, with an entry of which I am very proud.

May 24, 1999

The Top 12 Worst Prom Themes

12> "Hasta La Vista, Virginity!"

11> "It's 1999 -- So That's How Many Times in a Row We'll Be Playing That Damn Prince Song!"

10> "Trailer Parks 'n' Rainbows"

9> "Whitehead Wonderland"

8> "The Future is Ours! (As Long As You're Popular, Rich and Attractive -- Otherwise, Dream On)"

7> "The Blue Ball"

6> "Fun With Heroin Chic"

5> "The Final Confirmation Of The Absolute Stupidity Of Our Jock-Dominated Social Microcosm '99!"

4> "Balloons, Schmalloons -- It's Still the Gym"

3> "Bulimia on Parade"

2> "A Night of Peach Schnapps Vomit"

and's Number 1 Worst Prom Theme...

1> "Night of 1000 Premature Ejaculations"

[ This list copyright 1999 by Chris White ]
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Do not forward, publish, broadcast, or use in any manner ]
[ without crediting "The Top 5 List at" ]

Selected from 107 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Larry G. Hollister, Concord, CA -- 1, 9, 12 (22nd #1/Hat Trick!)
Jeff Scherer, Brooklyn, NY -- 2
Tom Bestor, Oakland, CA -- 3
Jon Litfin, Columbus, OH -- 4
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4
Brian Jones, Atlanta, GA -- 5
Mark Weiss, Austin, TX -- 6
Tristan Fabriani, Passaic, NJ -- 6
Gene Markins-Dieden, New Haven, CT -- 7
Peg Warner, Exeter, NH -- 8
Patrick Major, Dallas, OR -- 10
Ann Bartow, Dayton, OH -- 11
Jim Rosenberg, Greensboro, NC -- Topic
Dave Henry, Slidell, LA -- Banner Tag
Alan Smithee, Sugar Land, TX -- Runner Up list name
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- Honorable Mention name
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Julie Brown, whereabouts unimportant -- Ambience


Phantom Menace Racist? No.

I know this is just going to reinforce the opinion of those of you who think I am spectacularly non observant, but I just don't think Phantom Menace is filled with racist stereotypes. These are aliens, folks!

The review of the movie at Slate, a full-scale slam, by the way, was brought to my attention by Barry Surman, who I think agrees.

Let's just take one example. Is Waddo, the flying junk dealer, Jewish? I say no. I believe he is middle-eastern, perhaps Lenbanese or Palestinian, if you want to assign an earthly race to the portrayal. That accent doesn't sound Yiddish to me.

But still, I think the whole thing's ridiculous. Lighten up. It's just a movie. And, thank God, a critic-proof movie at that. 

No Other Movies

I didn't go to any other movies this week. If I had, I would give you just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).


Microsoft: Villain or Victim

In response to me editorial suggesting that the market death of Microsoft competitors may have been suicide rather than murder, Joe Brancatelli wrote:

Just a thought about bonehead moves, monopolies and Dr. Pournelle's theory that IBM's screw-up on OS/2 immunizes Microsoft on Windows.

The SPECIFIC case, as least as far as I understand it, is not about Windows monopolizing operating systems. It's about Microsoft using Windows' monopoly to drive competitors out of the browser market. Netscape DIDN'T make the bonehead moves IBM made, yet Microsoft used its monopoly position in operating systems to try to destroy the company.

See, the problem with Microsoft is the same as it has been for years. Let's stipulate that Gates got his operating system monopoly fairly. A company can't then be allowed to use that monopoly to drive other competitors in other fields out of the business.

What if, tomorrow, some killer word-processing app appears that makes Word look like crap. The market starts moving to this new killer word-processing app. Then Microsoft reacts by bundling Microsoft Word into Windows and claims its just part of the operating system. Wouldn't that make you nervous?

What is unique about Microsoft and software that makes it different than any other anti-trust suit is the mutability of the product. Oil is oil. Cars are Cars. Airlines are airlines. But operating systems? It's whatever the operating system maker says it is, which is exactly what Microsoft is doing: changing the OS whenever a new killer app appears challenge its dominance.

There is only one solution--and it's been the only solution for five years: the OS side of Microsoft has to be hived from the apps side of Microsoft. The cross-fertilization of a monopoly OS and apps is a terrible danger.

In the "other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln" department comes this note from Craig Reynolds, also about last week's Microsoft musings.

OK Paul. At your suggestion I've reexamined my assumptions, and I come to the same conclusion: Microsoft is a criminal enterprise. The government should hunt it down and drive a stake through its heart.

Consider that competence/fatuity ratio you say you've observed in the computer industry over the last 20 years. That supports the notion that everyone in the industry is an idiot, or perhaps more charitably, that it is next to impossible to make sound business decisions for a industry based on a technology that is changing so fast it has no long term predictability. But your observation provides no evidence for the thesis that everyone is an idiot EXCEPT FOR MICROSOFT. And it is that rather far-fetched notion that one would have to believe in order to accept that Microsoft's monopoly is the result of winning in the marketplace fair and square.

I've always thought that Microsoft's own products provided the most concrete and obvious proof of the company's unfair business practices. Since its inception Microsoft has been selling shoddy, inferior software, not just "bad" in some abstract academic sense, but worse than preexisting commercially available alternatives. (Short list: Windows vs Mac, Internet Explorer versus Netscape Navigator, ActiveX versus Java, ...) The mere fact that Microsoft has risen to its current dominance provides pretty strong evidence that forces are at work other than open competition in a free market.

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