Operating Systems and Microsoft

Since the 1960's operating systems have been defined as the software that controls the hardware. Hardware provides the raw computing power and operating systems make this power conveniently available to users.

"An operating system is primarily a resource manager, and the primary resource it manages is computer hardware. It provides many features including defining the user interface; sharing the hardware among users; allowing users to share data among themselves; scheduling resources among users; facilitating input/output; recovering from errors. The key resources an operating system manages are processors; storage; input/output devices; data. The operating system interfaces with computer operators; applications programmers; systems programmers; administrative personnel; programs; hardware; and users."

Page 5 An introduction to Operating Systems Revised First Edition by Harvey M. Deitel, 1984

From the above, browser software would not appear to fit within an operating system because it does not primarily manage computer hardware. A preliminary injunction issued on December 11 1997, by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson barred Microsoft from requiring computer makers to install its Internet Explorer browser as a condition for licensing operating system software "including Windows 95 or any successor version thereof."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in a page one article the next day pointed out that "Jackson wrote that he was denying the government's motion to find Microsoft in contempt, but that he might change his mind based the report of the special master. In fact, he wrote that he 'is preliminarily inclined to agree' with the government that the consent decree bars Microsoft from packaging Windows with Internet Explorer, and he wrote that "the government appears to have a substantial likelihood of success' in the final court case."

"Contrary to Microsoft's claim to absolute discretion to dictate the composition of its operating system software, it appears not unlikely, as a matter of contract, that Microsoft's unfettered liberty to impose its idea of what has been integrated into its operating system stops at least at the point at which it would violate established antitrust law." Jackson wrote.

Issuing a preliminary injunction generally means the plaintiff in all likelihood will prevail. Some of the language in Jackson's ruling -- such as pointing out that the ruling applies to future OSes and "any Microsoft Internet browsing software" -- should have had ramifications on Windows 98, Microsoft's operating system that included Internet Explorer. For related information see:

Microsoft seeks Justice Department definition of consent-decree language

Microsoft trys to make distiction between Operating Systems on PCs and Servers

If a decision is defined as a commitment of resources that can not be reversed, then it appeared in 1997 that Microsoft executives made bad decisions regarding the future of its OSes.

Microsoft was able to avoid the 1997 ruling through an appeals court and was able to avoid contempt charges by successfully challenging Jacksons's authority to use a specal master. Today Microsoft is hoping for a favorable appeal. Its current situation is analysed below.

Because Microsoft stock is widely held and its products are widely used, the need for a quality decision is great. There is sufficient information to make a high quality decision in the court record. But there are also a great many shareholders and other Microsoft supporters including politicians, who may object to and make ineffective any remedy.

Members of the Appeals court cannot be trusted to make a high quality decision given their prior dealings with Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson (who now orders a Microsoft break up), because three of the members admit to conflicts of interest, and because the remaining members have taken extraordinary steps to bypass normal procedure. At this point in time Members of the Appeals court are likely to band together and come up with decisions that lesson the damage done when it created an appearance of impropriety by agreeing to consider Microsoft's motion for a stay of breakup related maters before it had clear jurisdiction, and indeed before it could have reasonably drafted an agreement. The timing of the agreement created the appearance that Microsoft lawyers either coached the Appeals court or drafted the court document.

The normative models of decision making do not support a group decision, such as one from the Appeals court. Only a single Justice can be expected to render a quality decision in this situation. Judge Jackson should recommend that the case be forwarded to the Supreme Court. Microsoft believes Justice William Rehnquist would decide the matter. The above analysis was done using Decision Maker. The expert system software asseses a CI or CII decision style at 96 and no possibility whatsoever of a group decision yeilding a quality decision. The decision tree (see link below) yeilds similar results.






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http://www.eskimo.com/~mighetto/lsopsys.htm - last update October 25, 2000.