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August 01, 2005

DOS Ain't Done til Lotus Won't Run?

In response to the recent kerfuffle over Andrew Orlowski's claim on the Register that IE7 is deliberately disabling Yahoo! and Google's search toolbar, Robert Scoble's response, and the subsequent counter-claims and counter-counter-claims, Ed Bott posted this which included the following: "The implication of Andrew's story is that Microsoft deliberately or negligently blocked IE7 from working with software from two rivals. It's the modern equivalent of the old 'DOS ain't done till Lotus won't run' canard. Which also wasn't true."

If you've listened to the anti-Microsoft crowd, you've probably heard this phrase. A web search returns a wide range of attributions, everything from an alleged battle cry to just short of an official company motto. The rumor being that Microsoft would intentionally break competitors' applications with each release of DOS, to give a competitive advantage to its own applications while the other company scrambled to work around the block that Microsoft had inserted.

Nowadays, I know from personal experience that today Microsoft takes application compatibility very seriously. The company has a lab to test a variety of third-party applications, and also conducts extensive betas partly to shake out any app compat issues in the wild. It sometimes continues to emulate bugs in the OS, or obsolete internal data structures, just to avoid breaking third-party apps that depend on them (in fact, a Well Known Microsoft Blogger used to spend a lot of time on these kinds of tweaks and send amusing email about the foibles of applications, but when I asked, WKMB declined to reveal any of that publicly). When an application can't be made to work with a new OS, Microsoft often works with the other vendor to ensure that a patch is available at the same time the OS ships.

And there was an incident in the early pre-release days of NT where our boot sector code broke multi-boot with OS/2; in that case, despite claims of outrage from the Blue Ninja Clan, it was simply that we had never tested that configuration; once we heard about the bug, we fixed it and added it to our test mix.

Still, was it possible that back in the rough-and-tumble 1980s things were different?

To try to find out the truth, I contacted some old Microsoft hands who were around in the heyday of DOS. The replies were unanimous that Microsoft NEVER attempted to damage 1-2-3's functionality within DOS. Quite the opposite, in fact. Some quotes: "For the version I worked on, we sweated bullets to make it backwards compatible with existing applications." "We had to make changes to DOS to help some very old applications that were doing some very bad things (like writing to files that had already closed their FCB's). DOS had to stand on its head to make every application work from version to version, including Lotus." "There never was a time that anyone in the MS-DOS team said 'it ain't done until Lotus won't run' In point of fact for MSDOS 3.2, 4.0 and OS/2 1.0 (developer release), Lotus 1-2-3 was one of the 'must work' parts of the regression suite."

One old-timer categorically stated: "Nope - actually it was EXACTLY the opposite. Lotus 1-2-3 was ALWAYS the first app we got working on ANY version of DOS."

OK, but those are Microsoft people speaking. What about the view from the Lotus side? Presumably if 1-2-3 was broken by a new version of DOS (intentionally or even just accidentally), there would be war stories about Lotus needing to rush a new version out to fix the problem.

I first asked Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus, and his quote was "I've heard the stories over the years, but I don't have any specific recollection that there was a devious silent break of the kind you mentioned. I also have a bad memory." Kapor was kind enough to put me in touch with some old Lotus people he knew. And they all corroborated the story: "It's an interesting myth, and one I've heard about in general terms, although I've never heard the specific quote before. However, I have no recollection of any instance of its actually happening with 1-2-3 or with any other product I've worked on." And, "My memory of the early days (1984-85) is that we would get early betas of DOS to test with 1-2-3 and any errors that we found were 'bugs' in DOS and fixed by Microsoft."

One former Cantabrigian commented, "I was possibly being naive, but I didn't see any evidence that MS was deliberately putting roadblocks in our way. Actually, during that time, I don't see how they could have considered it to be a benefit to them. To a very high degree, sales of the IBM PC (and Compaq and HP and.Radio Shack.. all MS OEM clients) depended on 1-2-3's availability. Anything that limited that availability would limit MS's expansion. The problems I recall were either clear bugs or design issues that we had to deal with. Personally, I found MS reasonably easy to deal with at the time." Which is really they best argument you can make for debunking this myth. As someone else put it, "This was a long time ago and it was far less clear who was the tail and who was the dog. Would people buy a DOS that did not run 1-2-3 in 1984?"

Try to imagine a customer with a working copy of 1-2-3 who installed a new version of DOS and 1-2-3 stopped working. Would they blame Lotus or Microsoft? Would their reaction be "1-2-3 sucks" or "DOS sucks"? Would their solution be to get rid of 1-2-3, or stop buying DOS upgrades?

Another Lotus veteran summed it up: "MS was cooperative and wanted to be cooperative. They wanted to sell OSs." So if anything, DOS wasn't done until Lotus DID run.

Posted by AdamBa at August 1, 2005 08:51 PM

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"DOS Ain't Done til Lotus Won't Run" - I can't say that I've ever heard that phrase before, but it definitely sounds like something the Slashdot crowd would say. It would be idiotic if a commercial, closed-source company such as Microsoft followed that strategy because nobody just uses Microsoft products and stopping third party apps from working would hurt their income levels. These problems are just bugs and a lot of them are resolved as quickly as possible.

Posted by: Pimp Daddy at August 2, 2005 06:01 AM

Man, I've been wondering how long it would take for this article to reach the light of day :).

And I thought you'd forgotten :)

Posted by: Larry Osterman at August 2, 2005 07:46 AM

Just don't mention that dr. dos stuff.

Posted by: at August 2, 2005 08:27 AM

If my memory is not failing me, Lotus 123 1.0 copy protection failed when moving from DOS 1.1 to DOS 2.0. This was caused by a timing problem (DOS took more time to do some operation), so it was a problem in Lotus's code, not in Microsoft's. Also that was before 1984, at yes people would buy a DOS that would not run their old copy of Lotus 123 but supported hard disks, subdirectory, etc.

Posted by: Daniel at August 2, 2005 09:17 AM

I believe that my first encounter with the phrase 'DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run' was in a column by John Dvorak of PC Magazine. This article makes a good point, and one could be convinced that it is the whole story. One thing that isn't mentioned is that Microsoft had a competing product (actually, more than one) for Lotus 1-2-3 in the 1980s which needed to gain a foothold in the industry. This need for Microsoft's spreadsheet (and other 'office applications') to gain acceptance and adoption in the marketplace is a prime motivator for nefarious action by Microsoft. After all, if Lotus 1-2-3 doesn't work, there IS a product that will work with your copy of DOS 5 Mr. Customer....I'd like to introduce Excel....it has a full emulation of Lotus 1-2-3 functionality - your users won't know the difference, except Excel works perfectly in DOS 5, unlike *ahem* Lotus.

One need only ask the question: "Do you know anyone who uses Lotus 1-2-3 today?" Excel has so completely crushed any and all competition that it is the defacto standard spreadsheet in the computing industry for both the Mac and PC platforms. To be fair, Microsoft gained this position from Lotus because it had a superior product in the version for Windows 3.x - the real point is how Microsoft was able to so quickly produce a superior Windows-based product in comparison to its main competition. Anyone who has paid attention to the antitrust litigation, or read "World War 3.0" is familiar with how Microsoft has used it internal knowledge of OS APIs to develop and deploy new products in the Windows environment in an unfair manner.

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 09:38 AM

On the other hand, it's well documented that MS did put a spurrious error message into Windows just to make DR-DOS look bad.

Posted by: Joe Old Timer at August 2, 2005 09:43 AM

Ron, I'll take some exception to that (Microsoft cripling 1-2-3 in favor of Excel).

We would NEVER have done that in the OS division - it would hurt our ability to sell the OS.

Remember that before DOS 5.0, MS-DOS was an OEM product. And even after DOS 5.0, to my knowledge, we NEVER sold a retail version of MS-DOS, except as an upgrade SKU.

Our OEMs would never purchase a version of MS-DOS that didn't support 1-2-3.

Posted by: Larry Osterman at August 2, 2005 10:25 AM

Larry, Your own comments reveal the gaping hole in your arguement...'before DOS 5.0 MS-DOS was an OEM product' There is no ability for the market (end users) to respond directly to Microsoft's changing of DOS if the product is ONLY available via a purchase of a new computer. As the antitrust investigations have shown, Microsoft forced its OEM licensees to pay Microsoft for a license of DOS for EVERY PC sold, regardless of the actual use of DOS on a machine. This is why customers in the late 1980s and early 1990s were unable to purchase PCs directly from companies with OS/2 installed as the OS of choice. (I know, I tried - Midwest Micro, ZEOS, even Dell.) The license requirements from Microsoft would make an OS/2-based PC price uncompetitive, since the manufacturer would be paying for two OSes, even if only OS/2 was delivered.

Your post implies that there was this real free market of choice out there, where OEMs and consumers could have a real choice. I guess on paper it might seem like they did, but when it comes to cost, the real choice evaporated because of the anti-competitive license that Microsoft issued OEMs to license DOS and Windows.

So, with this situation in place, Microsoft was free to do whatever it liked to disable competitors products. This fact gives great credence to the story of 'DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run'.(current revisionist histories notwithstanding) OEMs couldn't complain, or else they would become uncompetitive due to huge increases in Microsoft OS license fees, and customers were unable to complain because DOS was only sold as a OEM product. The Internet as we know it didn't exist, so the feedback point for customers to Microsoft about its OS remained in the hands of OEMs, who feared angering Bill, and therefore would not say anything.

Eventually the anger of OEMS, large customers and the public reached the DOJ and the investigations began....the rest is history. The damage to the PC realm in terms of true customer options and rewards for innovation were hampered by Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour. Today Microsoft is insanely wealthy and extremely powerful - mostly due to the combination of the timely creation of Windows, a sleepy regulator in the DOJ, and an OEM licensing structure that made the establishment of Microsoft Windows as the default graphical UI inevitable for all new PC sales after 1990.

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 11:51 AM

Let's see...a survey of parties involved at the time at both Microsoft and Lotus turn up no reports of nefarious activity, and in fact indicate a great deal of cooperation. Ron would still prefer to believe in a Microsoft conspiracy, simply because it can't be disproved to his satisfaction. That's the way it goes, I guess.

Someday it will no longer be fashionable to bash Microsoft. I wonder what new cause some people will take up then?

Posted by: Wolf Logan at August 2, 2005 12:51 PM

It's anti-competitive to sell a superior spreadsheet? Heaven forbid a company be allowed to produce something that works.

As a customer, I *want* integration. I *want* my apps to take advantage of every API they can make good use of.

I *don't* care if Company-B doesn't have access to internal hooks. Those hooks are internal and subject to change -- nobody but the company producing them has any business mucking around in there. What matters is that I have a good product, at a price which I consider fair (and I'm the judge of that), from a reputable company able to support it.

Frankly, much of the 3rd party offerings are sub-par, in my opinion. And grandfathering in old tech has its limits.

Posted by: Keith J. Farmer at August 2, 2005 01:06 PM


Your comment 'nobody but the company producing them (internal API hooks) has any business mucking around in there' exposes the primary point in the anti-trust case and much of the anti-Microsoft sentiment out there. Because Microsoft is both the creator of Windows, and a competitor with other companies that build software that runs ON that OS, when Microsoft uses these unpublished APIs, it is seen as an unfair advantage, and is considered to be unfair trade. It is the same as if GM was the only company in the world that made gasoline AND they sold cars. It would be considered unfair to Toyota, Ford, and all other automobile manufacturers if GM used its internal, confidential knowledge of its gasoline to build cars that got 10% better gas mileage. Because gasoline is the common item across all of these products, fair competition could only occur if GM would either A) stop manufacturing automobiles and simply made gasoline, or B) disclose to the world what the internal knowledge is that gives a GM car 10% better gas mileage.

This same approach was used in the Microsoft anti-trust suit, where one of the proposed remedies was to break Microsoft in to 2 or 3 seperate companies; 1) OS Company 2) Applications Company 3) Server Technology Company. By doing this, Microsoft Application Company would be prevented from having inside knowledge and access to the OS Company's technolgy and unpublished information. It baffles me that this remedy wasn't pursued, as the case against Microsoft was won - clearly showing cheating that put companies like Lotus at a comptetitive disadvantage.

One of the cornerstones of captialism is fairness. Processes under which businesses compete must be seen to be fair to all players, allowing the strongest to thrive in an OPEN marketplace. Those who prefer to work in an environment of unfair competition or single choice options should consider relocating to North Korea or Cuba.

Keith, I've been a software developer for over 25 years, I first started using Micro-soft's products in the very early 1980s, and I've made well over a million dollars as a developer, dependent upon Mr. Gate's Company's technology. That said, as an independent software developer, I'm always aware that should one of my products become the target of competition from Microsoft, I want to continue to be the best available because I and my company are better programmers and software designers. I think that you'd agree that it would be highly unfair to have Microsoft come in and *poof* with the wave of a hidden wand, implement some cool unpublished API that improves Microsoft's competing product's speed such that my product is no longer competitive. I can't, as a ISV, wave the same invisible wand, and therefore my market share will decline. This advantage is unfair - don't you agree?

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 01:52 PM

Ron, if Microsoft deliberately broke Lotus, then why did all Lotus (ex-)employees mentioned in the original post deny such a thing ever happened? Morever, how would you explain the success of Excel on the Mac, when Lotus Jazz was released at the same time, and with much more hype and support from Apple?

Mac users bought Excel instead of Jazz because it was better and cheaper, not because Microsoft had some secret access to Mac OS that Lotus lacked. Its success on the Mac gave Microsoft a head start when it later ported its Mac applications to Windows.

An analysis of the spreadsheet market in the 1980s and early 90s, which supports the view that Excel won because it was (far) better, can be found here: http://wwwpub.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/book/sheets/sheet.html.

(Sorry there are no line breaks. I tried to add them, but they were eaten!)

Posted by: Thomas at August 2, 2005 02:15 PM

Oops, I see the line breaks are only eaten in the preview!

Posted by: Thomas at August 2, 2005 02:17 PM

Ron, the key thing here is that Microsoft didn't own OEM's ability to license MS-DOS. You described a scenario where a Microsoft sales rep came to a customer and said "Buy our spreadsheet and our OS because they work better together". But the sales rep didn't control the OS side of the equation - that was in the hands of the OEM. And the OEM wouldn't buy MS-DOS if it didn't run every app perfectly.

Posted by: Larry Osterman at August 2, 2005 02:28 PM

Ron, please show us an example of an undocumented API that makes Microsoft applications run faster than is possible with the documented API's. I can't say that it doesn't exist, but the burden is to prove that it does.

Posted by: Chris Lundie at August 2, 2005 02:49 PM


Even on the PC there were MANY competitors in the spreadsheet market. I've never suggested that Excel hasn't earned its place (I've made a lot of applications that use Excel, and have ported many commercial apps that were originally built to run in Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS, and my compliments to Microsoft for the excellent import capability and functionality emulation!!!) My points in this post have centred around the FACT that Microsoft has been FOUND GUILTY in court of using private APIs, of anti-competitive licensing practices and of general corporate bullying. Did Microsoft actually cook DOS so that 1-2-3 would fail when DOS 3 came out? I don't know, I've never worked for either company, but I've seen enough commentary (including in the book "World War 3.0", a great read) that makes me conclude that where there is smoke there is fire.

What baffles me in this entire thread is that everyone (but me) seems to be content that Microsoft doesn't play fair. I'm amazed that Bill Gates (a fierce competitor, I hear) can rest soundly knowing that he cheated his way to victory. For someone so competitive, I'd think that winning with a cheat would sap the joy of victory.

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 02:51 PM


Isn't that kind of like saying 'tell me what I'm thinking'? If you want proof of the use of undocumented APIs by Microsoft in commercial products, check out the findings of the Anti-trust case against the company. Judge Jackson found Microsoft guilty of doing this, based upon the evidence presented to him. You can also find a good overview of this in the book "World War 3.0", which I've mentioned too many times now.

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 02:53 PM

Someone earlier commented that Microsoft put an error message in Windows just to make DR-DOS look bad. This isn't true. Contrary to popular opinion early versions of DR-DOS were not fully compatible with MS-DOS. In fact, several internal data structures were very different which caused problems with networking software such as LANtastic (first hand knowledge as a developer.) The error detection in Windows was valid during parts of the development stage. During shipment, these issues were resolved and the detection was turned off BUT the message was not removed. (At the time I was working for the owner of DR-DOS and WE had a hard enough time writing work arounds for that piece-o-crap.)

Posted by: Joe at August 2, 2005 02:56 PM

Ron, you asked "Did Microsoft actually cook DOS so that 1-2-3 would fail when DOS 3 came out?" and then say "I don't know." But do you even have any evidence that 1-2-3 would fail on DOS 3? I mean this should be a historical fact, leaving aside the reason, either 1-2-3 worked or it didn't. And from the feedback I got, it always worked. So if DOS didn't ever break 1-2-3 then it can't ever have broken 1-2-3 due to Microsoft malfeasance.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 2, 2005 03:01 PM


I think you are showing my point further...OEMs that sold DOS did not typically sell spreadsheets bundled with the hardware, rather a customer would typically go to Dell to buy x PCs, which came with DOS and then would license with Microsoft directly for office software.

OEMs are concerned with selling hardware boxes, which typically come with an OS - DOS in the 1980s and early 1990s. IF an OEM didn't agree to pay Microsoft a license fee for EVERY PC they sold, the license price for DOS was many times higher per copy. OEM companies made the easy math choice of determining that being free to bundle say 3% of PCs sold with OS/2 instead of DOS wasn't worth the competitive disadvantage of a higher per-PC license cost of DOS. What happened? Well, if you tried to buy a PC from ZEOS in 1992 with OS/2 instead of DOS and / or Windows 3, you ended up paying full price for OS/2 on top of the system that would also come with DOS/Windows. (I know from personal experience).

Larry, You also say that an OEM wouldn't buy DOS if it didn't run every app perfectly....I don't know what OEMs you've dealt with, but for me I've never met an OEM who cares what software I'm planning on running on his hardware...he only cares about selling me the box!

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 03:01 PM


Outside of the 1-2-3 proof, do you believe that Microsoft has ever used undocumented APIs in commercial software, or do you think that Judge Jackson was wrong?

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 03:06 PM

Well, I submitted this to Slashdot. (And even added an Obligatory Stupid Inflammatory Remark at the end!) I have a pretty dismal track record of accepted submissions, though, and this one isn't likely to change it.

Posted by: Otter at August 2, 2005 03:13 PM

The whole "undocumented APIs" thing is a bit of an urban legend.

Consider this: Say Word and Excel used some undocumented API. Just what COULD they do with this undocumented API that would give them a competitive advantage? Do Word and Excel do something magical that can't be done with regular Win32?

Furthermore, you CAN'T really hide "secret" APIs inside an executable. The format of a Windows PE executable is well-known.

It is trivially easy to SEE what APIs a particular EXE calls. Just run DEPENDS (a Visual Studio Utility). People have traced through the code of popular Microsoft applications with debuggers, and found no serious evidence of wrongdoing.

Furthermore, when the Windows source code was leaked onto the 'net, no one found any "secret Office APIs".

Posted by: Myron A. Semack at August 2, 2005 03:14 PM

Ron, what does that have to do with the price of cheese in Norway? We're not here to rehash the whole DOJ case. We're talking about DOS and 1-2-3. You implied that DOS 3 broke 1-2-3 intentionally...my point is let's find some evidence that DOS 3 broke 1-2-3 at all, then we can argue about intent.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 2, 2005 03:14 PM


As an employee of Microsoft your comments (and others in this thread) show a profound disconnection between your opinion of your employer's behaviour and how the world's developer and legal community see Microsoft's behaviour. Such arrorgance about Microsoft's behaviour was cited by Judge Jackson in his findings. Obviously, the attitude continues...which perhaps is understandable considering that while Microsoft was found guilty, it never really suffered any substantive penalty.

I've been in the IT industry long enough to see many transitions, and I believe that we will soon see another profound change. I'm no Linux Bigot (I don't run Linux, I make my living with Microsoft tools) but there is only so long that such attitude and treatment of customers and governments will go on unchecked. History shows that all monopolies eventually fail, usually due to arrogance and a feeling of invincibility. It would seem that the DOJ case has given Microsoft a heady feeling of invincibility.

Hardware and software continues to advance - at some point in the next decade we will see the emergence of systems powerful enough to break Microsoft's monopoly via emulation. Mono is perhaps an early sign of what is to come? I say all this without really wanting it to happen, as my future is built on a Microsoft foundation.

Adam, it is unfortunate to see that you decided to not answer my question. Your dodging of that query makes me wonder why.

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 03:44 PM

Peace, please. There comes a point when you have ridden a horse to death.

Posted by: Hubert Kay at August 2, 2005 03:46 PM


"If you want proof of the use of undocumented APIs by Microsoft in commercial products, check out the findings of the Anti-trust case against the company. Judge Jackson found Microsoft guilty of doing this, based upon the evidence presented to him."

I'm afraid I don't see that in his Findings of Fact. Could you point out the exact paragraph?


"Outside of the 1-2-3 proof, do you believe that Microsoft has ever used undocumented APIs in commercial software, or do you think that Judge Jackson was wrong?"

What 1-2-3 proof? You haven't proved anything.

Posted by: Myron A. Semack at August 2, 2005 04:08 PM


Posted by: LOL at August 2, 2005 04:12 PM

Regarding comments about how DR-DOS was incompatible by Joe.

I don't think this is true. I remember this as it were yesterday, because I spent so much time trying to get around the problem. If I were to try and install Windows 3.1 over DR-DOS (i believe either v5 or v6 at the time), eventually in the course of installation Windows would crash with some printout of register values.

However, if you installed MS-DOS first, then Windows 3.1 and then DR-DOS, Windows 3.1 would function properly with no problems whatsoever. In fact, from my highly unscientific point of view, Win3.1 running over Dr-Dos would run about 20% faster in everyday tasks. It would just feel snappier.

So while, I'll take it on faith that there was no meddling with Lotus products (don't know, didn't use spreadsheets at the time), I am confident that there was meddling with DR-DOS product. And that's where the Caldera lawsuit, lost by MS, also came in.

Posted by: rizzo at August 2, 2005 04:13 PM

Interestingly enough, I interned at Microsoft in Dallas(Las Colinas) during 1996 and I remember my own manager even telling me that the version of IE then had code that when you tried to go to Netscape's website, it looped a few extra times in order to make it seem like Netscape's website was slow.

But this may of been only an internal version.

Posted by: Adam (different one) at August 2, 2005 04:17 PM

Why is all this hard to believe?

One product: Dr-DOS

Posted by: blurp at August 2, 2005 04:18 PM

I have no reason to believe that Microsoft ever tried to break Lotus 1-2-3, but I *do* recall buying a copy of DOS 6, I believe it was, and trying to install it on my multi-boot system which had OS/2 Warp on one partition. The DOS 6 installer very snarkily detected the OS/2 partition and advised me that it would not install, and explicitly recommended that I allow the installer to format that partition in order to 'upgrade' from OS/2 to DOS 6.

It was at exactly that moment that I decided that I didn't care to do business with any company that felt it could treat me in that way.

Posted by: Jonathan Abbey at August 2, 2005 04:20 PM

There was a series of books called "Undocumented Dos", "Undocumented Windows" that were about the hidden APIs that microsoft used for it's own software and it's trusted partners, while competitors were saddled with slow, buggy, and crash prone public APIs. Even if there was no 'dos aint done', they most assuredly did sabotage competitors software.

Posted by: Matt at August 2, 2005 04:24 PM

"However, if you installed MS-DOS first, then Windows 3.1 and then DR-DOS, Windows 3.1 would function properly with no problems whatsoever."

The fact that you saw no problems doesn't mean there weren't any. A program is not bug-free just because you saw no bugs.

"I am confident that there was meddling with DR-DOS product."

Because you saw no problems, you were confident there was meddling? Did you test every possible execution path of Windows 3.1? Did you use every feature? Did you run it under every mode?

"And that's where the Caldera lawsuit, lost by MS, also came in."

Sorry, but no. It was settled out of court. http://news.com.com/2100-1001-235443.html?legacy=cnet

Posted by: Myron A. Semack at August 2, 2005 04:27 PM

Ron, Microsoft's licensing program should be considered largely irrelevant to the question of alternate operating systems. By your words, they charged the fee whether or not their OS was on there - there was no financial punishment to a distributor who left it off half the PCs but paid for it on all of them.
If OS/2 or DR-DOS or PC-DOS or BeOS (and yes, I used all of them) had aggressively priced themselves, they would have been affordable competition. If customers had liked them more than Microsoft's OS, they would have paid the money. Really, when you buy a $1000 computer, the $50 or so for an OS is chump change.
The definition of a good product is that people believe it will meet their needs, a combination of good design, production quality and marketing. Microsoft had an intelligent business strategy and a reasonably decent product, so they succeeded.
Disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever worked for Microsoft. I have, however, cursed the Blue Screen of Death many times.

Posted by: Andy at August 2, 2005 04:30 PM


Have you actually read Undocumented DOS? I have a copy on my desk right now. It does not make any of the accusations you describe.

Posted by: Myron A. Semack at August 2, 2005 04:30 PM

If we're going to be discussing the AARD code, it would seem worthwhile to link to the canonical treatment of it here:


Posted by: Jonathan Abbey at August 2, 2005 04:34 PM

A few things to note:

The AARD code did not function in release versions of Windows. You had to alter the binary to "enable" it. The fact that MS at least considered this option is interesting in and of itself, but the fact that they ultimately did not pursue it says more in my opinion.

Sure, you can say they didn't do it because they were "caught", but I think anyone thinking logically would have known they would get caught eventually and it would be very bad if they did in a real release.

From my recollection of Andrew Schulman's books of Undocumented DOS and Undocumented Windows *DO* mention some undocumented API's that Word and Excel used, but his conclusion was that these were leftovers from the Windows 2.x Era and that equivelent functions existed in Windows 3.x, and that MS gained no advantage by using them over the public versions.

All OS's have "undocumented" functions, which are really just "internal" functions meant for the OS itself, not for user applications. But, since you can't prevent someone from linking into those API's, that makes them "undocumented". Such API's typically are not documented because they are expected to change, or they require a great deal of intimate knowledge of the OS to use effectively, and thus a documented API actually would work better.

There isn't anything in Judge Jackson's findings that talks about undocumented API's. Sorry, you should quit reaching for things you know nothing about.

Finally, it always amazes me that people continue to insist these things. Microsoft goes OUT OF IT'S WAY to help it's developers. It takes code it develops for it's Applications, and makes it available as part of the OS for anyone to use. The whole concept is just plain stupid.

Posted by: Mystere at August 2, 2005 05:04 PM

With DR-DOS, first hand knowledge does not trump recorded court proceedings and evidence, in my book.


Posted by: Franklin at August 2, 2005 05:05 PM

Not all part of microsoft are evil....

Posted by: izmanhaidi at August 2, 2005 05:22 PM

The "it ain't done until Lotus won't run" comment by an unnamed Microsoft executive was reportedly made during the development of MS-DOS 4, not the 3.x or the later version 5.

The truth is that when released onto the market MS-DOS 4 with Microsoft's first attempt at a Character based User Interface (CUI) Shell and switching task manager was *NOT* backwardly compatible with a *LOT* of third party software. This included problems with Lotus 1.2.3 and many Turbo Pascal v3 and v4 programs that used third party CUIs libraries. The MS/IBM-DOS 3.x behaviors used were well document and widely used and their change in MS-DOS 4 were restored back to MS-DOS 3.x usage when Microsoft released MS-DOS 5.

The result was that MS-DOS 4 was an abysmal failure in the market which led a lot of technically minded people to replace it with the older MS-DOS 3.3 or DR-DOS when it became available. MS-DOS 4, like Microsoft BOB, is rarely mentioned by Microsoft because of their utter failure in the market.

However, the choice to release MS-DOS 4 onto the market with the changes in behavior which were incompatable with many DOS 3 applications had to be a conscious decision made by MS-DOS executives.

Posted by: David Mohring at August 2, 2005 05:32 PM


As a former employee of Artisoft, I have to say that LANtastic actually didn't have problems with DR-DOS. Now, Microsoft's LANtastic client code that they wrote might have had problems with DR-DOS, but LANtastic didn't.

Ironically, LANtastic died when Windows 95 started shipping with free peer-to-peer networking, effectively cutting off Artisoft's air. We tried to find different market niches, including a higher performance FS for Windows 95, but we were FUD'ed out of business (our executives believed Microsoft's claims of a higher performance FS for Windows 95 being "just around the corner" and killed the product).

I rememebr attending an "ActiveX Server Design Preview" for Artisoft (back when the framework for threading, COM, and DCOM was still code-named "Viper"). Amazingly, a bunch of Microsoft groups presented what they'd done with the framework, and "where third parties could add value". Each of the groups pointed at some other group's area as "here's where you could add value". Unfortunately, there was no place that wasn't already covered by one of the Microsoft groups presenting.

I have to say that, in my experience, Microsoft has always wanted to own *everything*, even if doing so ended up requiring several bickering groups within Microsoft to do it.

-- Terry

Posted by: Terry at August 2, 2005 05:45 PM


When IBM released OS/2, MS changed the format of some bit images (desktop icons, iirc) just in advance of the release. Net result: Warp could successfully load Win3.0 but not Win3.1

If they'd do it to IBM you can take it to the bank that they'd do it to Lotus.

Posted by: JohnB at August 2, 2005 05:48 PM

This is like saying "The U.S. faked the moon landings."

It is an argument so ridiculous that how do you argue against it? People with experience inside large corporations should already understand how hard it is to get everyone on the same page and do anything, much less trying to work a conspiracy.

On a daily basis there are people working at Microsoft who are trying to make sure everything works correctly, 3rd party apps and all. I find it frustrating that the good work of whole teams gets trumped by a conspiracy theory on the net.

Do you really think it is possible to run a long-term successful business based on sabotaging apps that actually help sell your product? Anyime there is a bug with a product running on Windows and Microsoft has a competing product, it seems like the public is going to hold Microsoft suspect. It turns everything upside down and now you have Microsoft having the burden to prove they didn't do it on purpose.

Posted by: Adam at August 2, 2005 05:48 PM

Microsoft never enjoyed any technical advantages resulting from hidden features. They did enjoy enormous market advantages, which they did (and do) shamelessly exploit. Technically DOS and the rest of the product line was such a piece of cheese that many people and companies grew rich plugging weaknesses...but without gaining critical market share. 1-2-3 (and Lotus) failed because Lotus took almost three years to get 1-2-3 3.0 to market...because Manzi spurned the lead developers' proposal and gave the project over to junior engineers. Gates didnt have to do a thing but plod ahead. Nothing to do with compatibility.
DOS was cake. The market is cruel. Leave off with the engineering conspiracies. Follow the money.

Posted by: Paul Mace at August 2, 2005 05:52 PM

The website also neglects several facts about 1-2-3.
Lotus tried to create an OS/2 version of Lotus 1-2-3
and they were late to market with a Windows version of 1-2-3. So it wasn't as much about not being innovative as not producing a native windows version to compete with Microsoft Excell.

Also, Intuit proved that it is possible to beat Microsoft with Quicken. Intuit has been able to compete with Microsoft Money and hold it's own by coming out with a Windows version. There is no reason to expect that Lotus couldn't have done the same.

Posted by: anonymous at August 2, 2005 05:56 PM

As a former MS employee (1987-1998), I will categorically state (under oath, even) the following: (a) I never used an "undocumented" DOS or Windows function, nor was I ever asked to use one; (b) I never wrote code to attempt to detect a non-MS OS and cause any sort of malfunction.

In fact, I worked on developer tools for much of that time, and I remember quite clearly a meeting I was in where the debugger team lead was bitching about the fact that the Windows team was changing the debugger-support APIs and had gotten buy-in from Borland and a few of the other dev tools vendors but hadn't bother to ask our team! The change was presented as more or less a fait accompli to our team -- like it or leave it. "Oh, right, you guys write dev tools too ... sorry!"

Realistically, I think what happened with the Office apps that DID use undocumented APIs was something like this: "Hey, Joe [from the Windows team], we REALLY need a function that does XYZ." ... "OK, Marv, I can probably do that for you, but I won't be able to publicly document it." ... "Sure, no problem, Joe, just get me some updated bits by next week."

(Remember that at the time, Windows was far from being a mature OS in terms of functionality and features.)

Advantageous to the app developer? Yes. Nefarious? No. This sort of thing happens at any large company where (gasp) people know each other.

Things were much faster and looser back then, which anyone who was programming back then can attest to. Nowadays, you have to go through a very formal process to get a new API approved ... back then, uh, I don't think so...

And yes, I was a developer and lead the whole time I was at MS. I WROTE CODE. If there were nefarious things going on, I guess I just missed them somehow.

Posted by: former_ms_emp at August 2, 2005 06:01 PM

Microsoft could also do more with Microsoft Excel.
It hasn't gotten much better in 5+ years. Excel 2003 is not much better than Excel 97. There could be a lot better functions and Macros. Oh and spare me about Bill Gates fascination with Visual Basic. Visual Basic sucks. Excel isn't the end all spreadsheet there just isn't much competition to pick from. Also large number support in Excell sucks.

Posted by: anonymous at August 2, 2005 06:06 PM

If the AARD code was innocent in intent, why was it encrypted, and written to try to defeat attempts to find it with a debugger? (Someone's already given the link to the DDJ article which gives the details.)

Posted by: James Jones at August 2, 2005 06:08 PM


Posted by: h at August 2, 2005 06:11 PM

"Microsoft never enjoyed any technical advantages resulting from hidden features."

That's ridiculous--of course there were technical advantages to using hidden features. It wasn't until some of the _Undocumented_ books came out that other developers could easily take advantage of them-- just like the "former ms emp" says. It doesn't matter how or why they came about--they DID.

I think that more important than un- or poorly-documented APIs is Microsoft's tendency towards FUD, ruthless buyouts/crushings, and general anti-competetive tactics. Shrewd from a business sense, for sure, but there are other things to consider than the almighty dollar.

BillG's proclivities towards bitch-slapping competitors, even before there WAS competition is legendary.

Posted by: Dave at August 2, 2005 06:15 PM

Joe and Mystere say that MS didn't intentionally put error messages into Windows that caused problems for DR-DOS. From first-hand knowledge I know that they did. I worked at Novell at the time, and I was later involved in the Caldera anti-trust lawsuit. I saw the MS internal memos about the code. The error messages were carefully constructed and intentional. People don't seem to understand how MS got where it is. They didn't do it legally.

Posted by: tbird at August 2, 2005 06:23 PM

This is like "I shot the sheriff ... but I didn't shoot the deputy." Okay, we can't prove that you ran up and down the halls yelling "DOS isn't done til Lotus won't run!"

But I believe that you did. And I believe, as several have mentioned, that it was an idiotic business practice.

And I believe that, given your OS monopoly, you could afford to make several billion-dollar blunders and still win. That's what being a monopoly is all about. You can make every mistake except one that destroys your OS monopoly position. Allowing another OS to exist would be the only fatal mistake.

And once you've won, it's so easy to rewrite history. Most of the posters here don't appear to be familiar with the history and don't even realize we're talking about a pre-Windows era, an era when your competitors WENT AROUND DOS to improve their competitive statistics like "time to read in a file." Most of these people don't realize that one of the major victories for Microsoft was to make all these statistics irrelevant under Windows by forcing everyone to use the same API instead of leaving everything to creative programming. That was a much more effective way to defeat your enemies than any undocumented API could ever be, because the OS was protected from the irrelevance it was previously moving toward. The monopoly was assured.

And yes, you have plenty of employees who will swear they never did anything bad. I'm sure most of your employees at the lower levels never did do anything bad.

And, no, it's not a surprise you can find old enemies to say you're not evil. Even Sauron can get a few vanquished opponents to say he dealt with them fairly.

Posted by: zorg at August 2, 2005 06:30 PM

"Lotus tried to create an OS/2 version of Lotus 1-2-3
and they were late to market with a Windows version of 1-2-3. So it wasn't as much about not being innovative as not producing a native windows version to compete with Microsoft Excell. "

Microsoft told everyone that OS/2 was the future, and that Apps written to the OS/2 api would be compatible with future versions of Windows. Then Microsoft went a different way, and all of their competitors had wasted their time developing for OS/2...

Posted by: at August 2, 2005 06:39 PM

One other factor in the demise of Lotus 1-2-3.
Borland Quattor at $50 a copy....

Posted by: Bill at August 2, 2005 06:43 PM

The fact that you saw no problems doesn't mean there weren't any. A program is not bug-free just because you saw no bugs.
Sorry, but no. It was settled out of court. http://news.com.com/2100-1001-235443.html?legacy=cnet

You know what. If I am not guilty, I ain't paying $150 million. Period.

Posted by: Rizzo at August 2, 2005 06:48 PM

Thank you for posting the article at http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/11/05/how_ms_played_the_incompatibility/

This totally and completely jives with my recollections. After reading this article, while respecting the integrity of MS employees that are defending themselves here, I don't know how they can still deny the treachery.

Posted by: Rizzo at August 2, 2005 07:00 PM

I see Kapor's quote, but who made the rest of the quotes in your article?

I see "One old-timer", "Some quotes", "One former Cantabrigian", "someone else", and " Another Lotus veteran". Who are these people? I see lots of quotes and very few names.

Posted by: Question at August 2, 2005 07:11 PM

Q: I actually exchanged emails about this in early 2003. At the time the former Lotus people generally requested that I not use their names without checking with them first. When I went back to confirm with them (this past weekend after I finally wrote it up, 2 1/2 years later) some of the email addresses were stale and I received no response from the others. So unless they choose to reveal themselves after the recent slashdotting of this article, you'll just have to trust me that they were all real Lotus employees from the early 1980s.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 2, 2005 07:21 PM

Q: I actually exchanged emails about this in early 2003. At the time the former Lotus people generally requested that I not use their names without checking with them first. When I went back to confirm with them (this past weekend after I finally wrote it up, 2 1/2 years later) some of the email addresses were stale and I received no response from the others. So unless they choose to reveal themselves after the recent slashdotting of this article, you'll just have to trust me that they were all real Lotus employees from the early 1980s.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 2, 2005 07:22 PM

There isn't any debate that MSN caused Opera to appear to malfunction, and that Microsoft paid nearly $13 million to end Opera's complaint.


Posted by: Preston McAfee at August 2, 2005 07:23 PM

The same case with DR-DOS is well documented:

Microsoft's David Cole and Microsoft's Phil Barrett exchanged emails on 30 September 1991:

"It's pretty clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an OEM version of it," and "The approach we will take is to detect dr 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like 'Invalid device driver interface.'"

More here:

Posted by: Alex at August 2, 2005 07:25 PM

tbird, You should use more care in attributing things to people that they didn't say. Oh, wait. THAT'S THE POINT OF THIS ENTIRE THREAD.

I did not say Microsoft didn't intetionally put error messages in Windows, like you insist I did. I said, quite specifically, that the code was there but did not function in the release version (which is true). I also said, again quite specifically, that I thought the fact that MS even considered this option is interesting, but that the fact that they disabled it to be even more so.

So please, don't go putting any more words in peoples mouths. This is how these stupid "catch phrases" get started in the first place.

Posted by: Mystere at August 2, 2005 07:37 PM

I looked into this "DOS ain't done 'til 1-2-3 won't run" story some years ago. (I was the main coauthor of the "Undocumented" books from the early 1990s.) I don't think there's anything to the story.

From what I could tell looking through old newsgroup postings, Lotus 1-2-3 used a form of copy protection (Softguard?), and this may have broken with the significant file-system change from MS-DOS 1.x to 2.x.

Such an incompatibility is very different from a _deliberate_ incompatibility. Yes, Microsoft has engaged in deliberate incompatibilities (that's what the so-called AARD code was), but it sure looks like this thing with Lotus 1-2-3 simply wasn't one of them.

It's odd that the story has such long "legs." For what it's worth, the first newsgroup posting with the phrase "dos ain't done" is comp.os.os2.advocacy, in Feb. 1993.

I think those who repeat this story really ought to find copies of MS-DOS 1.x and 2.x, and copies of Lotus 1-2-3 1.x and 2.x, dig out some old hardware, and report back with the results. Surely all this old stuff can be found on eBay or on an old software exchange like the excellent emsps.com. Why keep repeating the story without trying to verify it?


Posted by: Andrew Schulman (Software Litigation Consulting) at August 2, 2005 07:38 PM

Alex, you're completely right that Microsoft did consider this route. Ultimately, though, they didn't. As I said in another message, you can attribute this to getting "caught" if you want, but I think MS would have ultimately decided not to do it anyways simply because it WAS so easy to get caught.

You'll also note that the ddj article DOES say that DR-DOS did have real bugs that caused compatiblity problems as well, so even if MS hadn't been trying to intentionally sabotage it, they would still be within their right to warn the user of compatibility errors.

The whole business of sneaking around was completely unnecessary. There were legitimate reasons for them to use. They didn't have to invent them.

Posted by: Mystere at August 2, 2005 07:44 PM

Having been on the receiving end of the "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run", I remember it vividly. The purposeful breaking was between DOS versions 3.30 and 3.31. 3.31 included a new EMM which aligned memory access on word boundries, not byte boundries. Infoworld did an in depth piece on the controversy, and got a quote from a product manager at Microsoft who stated that yes, they "knew there were problems." (When asked if they tested against Lotus 1-2-3 - the biggest app in the world at that time).

Note that EMM was a memory manager that was developed from the LIM extended memory specification. LIM = Lotus, Intel, Microsoft. You got the distinct idea of 'backstabbing' by Microsoft.

In the Infoworld article, it was reported that many of the Lotus people wanted to sue Microsoft. However, the others pointed out that Microsoft's claim would be "we made the change, because this is better." The counter argument would have to be made that the change was *not* better, and served only to hurt Lotus - an argument Lotus would probably lose. Anyone know of a judge that knows how to program in Assembly?

By the way, Windows 3 on DOS 3.31, upon loading Lotus 1-2-3 would err out, saying 'The program you are running has violated the system integrity. Please reboot the computer and contact the vendor for an updated version.' The dialog box clearly placed the blame on the application vendor, when what changed was DOS.

What was insidious (which Infoworld pointed out) was that Microsoft came out with the new version of DOS, and shipped it directly to PC OEM's who pre-loaded it. It was not an optional upgrade - you bought a new PC, and you were stuck. Hewlett-Packard, after learning how they had been suckered into being an unknowing accomplice, offered all its customers DOS 3.30, if they wanted .

It should also be noted that at the time DOS 3.31 was shipped, Microsoft took out full page advertisements saying 'If you want a crash-proof system, you should get your applications from the same vendor as your operating system'. The advertisements had photos of a jet plane test pilot helment.

And yes, MS Excel was brand new at that time, and (comparatively) dog-slow.

Posted by: David G at August 2, 2005 07:48 PM

" It is the same as if GM was the only company in the world that made gasoline AND they sold cars. It would be considered unfair to Toyota, Ford, and all other automobile manufacturers if GM used its internal, confidential knowledge of its gasoline to build cars that got 10% better gas mileage"


That does happen, moron

Posted by: Extinction at August 2, 2005 08:06 PM

DOS? This practice goes back to the TRS-80, check this interesting link, where Gates left hooks in the ROM version of BASIC to provide Microsoft advantages over other software. This was standard practice.


Here's another interesting article in which there was indeed special code 'if (simcity) then..' so that SimCity would run well on Win 95. Some high minded folks would consider this practice with disdain, others think it's simple marketing and business sense. But obviously if there were 'good' hacks, there could also be 'bad' hacks. If you don't think so, I've got a some swampland to sell..


I'm surprised no one mentioned Borland's Phillipe Khan, he was famous for accusing Microsoft of treachery. Send Khan a note, I'm sure he'll give a different story than the 1-2-3 folks. Besides, as some have pointed out, Lotus made their own mistakes, by not moving to Windows, but obviously it's much simpler if the Windows programmer is sitting next to you ain't it?

But Microsoft is the 800lb gorilla, if they break your stuff, and you're either not important (not a SimCity), or a competitor, tough. For example, in the Novell lawsuit (see link), Microsoft dropped the browser interfaces and extensions, forcing Novell to rewrite their stuff, then Microsoft magically adds them back. I can't imagine writing software when people are playing games like this, it's hard enough as it is.

Some of this is plain better strategy. Some of Microsoft's stuff is great, I like VS, Flight Simulator, Office, and Windows XP is pretty good (hey, competition eh?) Some of this is plain sloppy practices at Microsoft. (For some great reading on the internals at Microsoft, read Steve Macquire's "Writing Solid Code.)
Some of this is being the 800lb gorilla. (Wiping out the Master Boot Record is a great example, as other posters have mentioned).But it is also using every advantage to stay the 800 lb gorilla. And for those posters who wonder why we should care, this is all about innovation. If competitors have to reinvent the wheel, that's so much less functionality they could've added to the product. Or as in the Intel DSP case, that's putting Microsoft's control of the desktop at the expense better performance and user experience. This is why nobody can compete with MSFT on the Wintel platform, however on other platforms it's a different story. Linux is challenging MSFT, and the Java environment is very competitive and thriving, while .NET is years behind, and further, developers have to wait until great open source tools stuff is ported over. Oh yeah, open source - how do you compete, when open source takes away your main price advantage?

Posted by: Robert Jones at August 2, 2005 08:36 PM

>>> It should also be noted that at the time DOS 3.31 was shipped, Microsoft took out full page advertisements saying 'If you want a crash-proof system, you should get your applications from the same vendor as your operating system'. The advertisements had photos of a jet plane test pilot helment. <<<

I would be VERY interesting in seeing copies of such an ad, or learning an exact date it appeared.

MS-DOS 3.31 came out in 1988. A Google Groups search for all messages before 1989 with "applications same operating system", "want applications same vendor operating system", etc. doesn't turn up anything similar to this quotation. I would have thought someone would have found such a statement worth quoting.

Are you sure this isn't maybe an Apple advertisement you're remembering? :-)


Posted by: Andrew Schulman (Software Litigation Consulting) at August 2, 2005 08:45 PM

"...Microsoft takes application compatibility very seriously." Of course they do; XP Service Pack 2 was a shining example...

Posted by: anarmyofnone at August 2, 2005 08:47 PM

I believe whoever mentioned money Vs. conspiracy is spot on. Any decisions made by Microsoft were less likely to be aimed at directly sabotaging and more likely done to ensure the profit margin or market dominance, in this case.

For most, the issue revolves around healthy competition. If you race (we'll say sprint/run) against a familiar competitor regularly, it is too obvious to break their leg to give you an advantage. This would be the case when it comes to directly sabotaging 3rd party code. You would seek less obvious methods. If you were to accidentally (not necesssarily unwittingly), trip up the competitor unnoticed, for the less moral of us, this would be accepted as gaining an advantage.

I believe the issue for developers comes down to source code availability. With two primary operating systems used for development, only one requires you to use IDEs with a cost associated and imposed restrictions.

People generally respond with "You can't compare an open source OS to windows" and for the most part I agree.

You may remember there being lawsuits based on beats/sound being harvested or duplicated in the music industry (vanilla ice - ice ice baby) but that issue quickly subsided due to artistic limitation. A direct copy is still illegal but obviously the source track is still available (until ear encryption is perfected ;) and to some extent nearly all songs now contain a trace of a song previously created.

Anyone with the core of computing close to their heart would probably agree that in the end, it is about advancement (in hardware and software) and interoperability/standardisation. The more generic and standardised, the more people that can collaborate and communicate. The side effect of this model is, to the detrement of Microsft, a fair playing field.

The MS model works exceedingly well within a capitalistic environment but not all organisations or countries embrace capitalism (dare I say the majority).

Computing and predominantly the Internet, should be about the people, not some organisation that is so conditioned that they consider Office the only worth-while product. $$ Vs. people .... who will win?

In summary, I don't believe MS have done anything other than chase the almighty $$ at the expense of the majority of the global population. This is just one of the many grey areas created during their pursuit.

Posted by: roguetr at August 2, 2005 09:38 PM

"Here's another interesting article in which there was indeed special code 'if (simcity) then..' so that SimCity would run well on Win 95. Some high minded folks would consider this practice with disdain, others think it's simple marketing and business sense. But obviously if there were 'good' hacks, there could also be 'bad' hacks. If you don't think so, I've got a some swampland to sell..


LOL. There were a *ton* of those special hooks in W95, all dedicated to ensuring various popular apps and games ran. If anything, this serves as *proof* that Microsoft's assertion of the fallacy of "won't run" is.

Posted by: Derek L. at August 2, 2005 10:14 PM

I remember the LIM/EMM breakage, and the helmet ad.

Posted by: js at August 2, 2005 10:40 PM

Drank the Kool-aid, have we?

Seriously, you are probably one of the 'lay employees' that has good intentions and can't imagine that anyone (nee, Microsoft) would intentionally make things not work, that anyone would choose to be 'evil' as it relates to programming or interoperability.

Sadly, you are wrong. Apparently there are many 'evil' people working at Microsoft who will do whatever it takes to maintain and expand the monopoly. This has been proven time after time in court cases either lost by Microsoft or settled out of court. Sopme examples are; copying Apple code, stealing Stac's Stacker, DR-DOS (INT21 functions were functionally identical, BTW.) There are many more. You'll probably roll your eyes at these examples. Unfortunately, the average Microsoft employee is fed the corporate line and become apologists for bad behaviour.

Do you think SCO employees think (or thought) they are doing anything wrong? Oh wait; Microsoft is involved in funding THAT little fiaSCO too!

Kerberos, anyone? CIFS compatability with Samba? No? "All legit!" the Microsoft apologists rage.

Of course this rant is wasted on the brainwashed. Oh, that's you.



Posted by: Setup at August 2, 2005 10:42 PM

Perhaps the best evidence of Microsoft's behaviour can be given from Judge Jackson's November 5, 1999 Finding of Facts in the Microsoft Antitrust case.

The Judge's written decision was 412 paragraphs long, and this was the ending:

"Most harmful of all is the message that Microsoft's actions have conveyed to every enterprise with the potential to innovate in the computer industry. Through it conduct toward Netscape, IBM, Compaq, Intel, and others, Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft's core products. Microsoft's past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and businesses that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft's self-interest." (Quoted from the book World War 3.0 by Ken Auletta, p. 297)

This ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court by Microsoft and the only thing that prevented the breakup of Microsoft into two companies (one for Applications, another for OSes) was the election of George W. Bush, whose administration chose not to pursue this suit further. Which goes to show the power that a few dollars in contributions to political parties can do for one's fortunes!

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 2, 2005 11:21 PM

Jackson slept through the trial. And he had a proven record of bias and ignorance of basic facts.

His decision carries no weight at all with programmers who now what they are talking about.

Posted by: Bones at August 2, 2005 11:52 PM

Few people outside MS would disagree that MS has used their enormous size and market power to bodyslam competitors and potential competitors. But what's being alleged here is that they technical trickery to gain an advantage, which is something different. Did Judge Jackson mention that in the findings?

Mitch Kapor may have a bad memory but would he really forget if MS had brought 1-2-3 down in that manner?

Lots of rumors, lots of "I heard..." or personal experience, but very little in the way of hard facts to back up this claim.

Posted by: D. Andersen at August 2, 2005 11:57 PM

I go back to the TI994/a then to Osborne Executive running CPM and then on to IBM Compatible Zenith. I've been selling and supporting wintel since January 1986. AT&T Unix 7300 etc. before that. I installed lots of Lotus 123, Supercalc, Quattro Pro, Visicalc, PerfectCalc and CalcStar. I could make the same list for word processors and databases (flat file and relational). Neither I or my clients ever had a problem that was traceable to the OS interfering with the program. I do remember interoperability problems with supercalc and 123 spreadsheets but I can't remember whether that was Computer Associates arrogance or Lotus.
BTW if you want to run a copy of visicalc, which runs under a dos windows in xp just fine. This link http://www.bricklin.com/history/vclicense.htm will take you to Dan Bricklin's download of the original Visicalc for the pc (1981). IBM which owns lotus which owns the rights to visicalc has granted Dan the right to offer the program for a free download. The wonder is that you can drop open a dos box in xp and run a 24 year old dos program no problemo. Let's try running Apple II stuff in MAC OSX or maybe AT&T Unix programs under Linux or ... Connect to http://channel9.msdn.com (channel 9 video) to see who really works at Microsoft and be sure to watch Dave Proberts videos if you want to experience knowledge and integrity in a Microsoft Developer. Lastly why are folks quoting DOJ, judges and lawyers? Like you're going to find some truth there???

Posted by: Harold Bush at August 3, 2005 12:03 AM

In the case of 1-2-3 each minor upgrade to DOS 2.x "broke" the copy protection scheme. This required replacement of the floppy disk used to verify a legit copy of 1-2-3. Lotus eventually abandoned copy protection due to this. In this case MS did us a favor if this problem was on purpose.
In the case of DR-DOS Windows 3.x would issue a warning dialog (well documented and admitted publically by MS) suggesting that there may be compatibility issues. It did not affect reliability running running Windows 3.x on DR-DOS, but it did scare enough end users into dumping DR-DOS in favor of "safe" MS-DOS.

Posted by: Aldo at August 3, 2005 12:20 AM

Just calling out two of the more ridiculous misapprehensions I spotted:

Making sure Sim City runs 'proves' Microsoft didn't harm competitors to it's core monopoly products. (eh?!, where is the logic there?)

"That does happen, moron" posted by Extinction. Sorry chief, but GM does not have a monopoly on gasoline.

One of the best things about MSFT's blogging craze is finding out how out of touch the employees are. You regularly find them whining about how misjudged they are and how they got where they are today simply by being technically superior to rivals. It's hilarious.

Think about a criminal getting out of jail and going straight, how he'd have to go above and beyond to prove himself to people and still be mistrusted by those he hurt. Then reflect that you work for a firm found guilty of various illegal acts, that has paid 100's of millions of dollars to settle the various claims from it's victims (but only the one's that were rich and powerful enough to fight.)

And now consider that Microsoft still refuses (despite being asked by the EU government) to make it interoperation standards public. Yeah, that shows a real commitment to compatability UNLESS IT AFFECTS CORE MONOPOLY PRODUCTS!

Posted by: dave at August 3, 2005 02:46 AM

For evidence that microsoft did indeed use undocumented and hidden calls to make their applications run better one merely needs to look at the Case of Gordon vs Microsoft and plaintiff exhibit 141 which is a email between developers at microsoft explicitly discussing this strategy.

Posted by: Jackson Green at August 3, 2005 03:24 AM

Why is there not a single named source in this article other than Mitch Kapor (who's response is ambiguous?) Former Lotus employees are pretty easy to identify.

I wonder if the former Lotii contacted are currently Microsoft employees? (This happens a lot -- look at Ray Ozzie.)

Posted by: Nathan T. Freeman at August 3, 2005 03:51 AM

I would like to start off by saying that I am no fan of Microsoft. Windows was a nice run-time enviroment for playing "Balance of Power" but otherwise it was a joke. DR-DOS, GeoWorks and DeskView/X where much better products than anything MS was dishing out at the time.

(Oh... and to the supposed MS employee that wrote debuggers but NEVER EVER used any undocumented APIs. I would like to remind you that it was impossible to write a TSR--Terminate and Stay Resident--without using an undocumented API. Just because it became popular through unoffical channels doesn't mean it was ever properily documented.)

On the point of purposily targetting Lotus for break-age, I would like to point out that Lotus did some really evil stuff as part of their copy protection system. I remember some releases not working on true blue IBM PCs because the copy protection method by-passed DOS and attempted to jump directly to BIOS addresses that only existed in Pheonix BIOS. They also purposily created a fake file by writting an invalid entry directly into the File Allocation Table as proof of license. Some versions of MACE Utilities, which did not sell any spreadsheet programs, would correct the FAT entry and cause 1-2-3 to stop working. I doubt Microsoft ever broke Lotus on purpose and Lotus was definately doing some stuff that deserved to break.

I also doubt MS would target any specific company's IE toolbar as it is very clear that MS would like to leverage IE7 to encourage more customers to upgrade from Win98 to XP. Instead, I personally think the whole BHO API should have been completely removed with XP SP2 and to hell with this toolbar crap. At this point the majority of BHOs are Malware (worms, spyware, adware, etc). I have always been disappointed that even in safe mode IE would load BHOs. So, this is another thing that I feel deserves to break (but shame on MS for providing it in the first place).

But... while I doubt Lotus, Yahoo! or Google have been targetted by MS, the ProudlyServing logic of "didn't do it in the past, didn't do it now" is clearly flawed. I could see a drunk driver trying to use that logic with a cop by explaining that since he wasn't drunk the last time he was pulled over that should prove he never has, is or will drive drunk. Microsoft *HAS* definately targetted company's products to make them look bad. The Doctor Dobbs article on Windows 3.1 Beta Vs. DR-DOS has already been discussed. Another clear targeting was the MSN use of User-Agent to switch style sheets as discussed in the article "Why doesn't MSN work with Opera?" at http://deb.opera.com/howcome/2003/2/msn/

Posted by: at August 3, 2005 04:04 AM

A lot of the hot air here is a little on the pathetic side. I don't think MS went out to mess anybody's apps up (and nobody's produced any evidence) - though an alternative OS (Dr-DOS) at least raises a few questions.

But 15 years ago MS were just another software company and they were entitled to compete and they did hard. But when they became an effective monopoly different rules should have applied. They didn't really - I saw Bill Gates make a quite explicit statement that he wanted 100% of the OS market, and that was a big mistake.

Anyway, who cares now? We've got Linux

Posted by: Adrian at August 3, 2005 06:04 AM

The earliest reference I know of to the ``Dos isn't done'' story is in James Wallace and Jim Erickson's _Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire_. On page 233 of the paperback edition they pen:

*** According to one Microsoft programmer, the problems encountered by Lotus were not unexpected. A few of the key people working on DOS 2.0, he claimed, had a saying at the time that ``DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run.'' They managed to code a few hidden bugs into DOS 2.0 that caused Lotus 1-2-3 to break down when it was loaded. ``There were as few as three or four people who knew this was being done,'' he said.***

Posted by: Lee Malatesta at August 3, 2005 06:04 AM

I've never heard the DOS ain't done line before. But everyone know microsoft did everything they could to stop OS2 coexisting happily with win3.11 when they released it.

If you are in competition with a giant blue behemoth who has had full access to your source code it only makes good business sense.

Better business sense would probably have been not entering into the IBM OS/2 partnership in the first place.

Disclaimer - I read slashdot so must be anti MS!

Posted by: Ash at August 3, 2005 07:38 AM

I'd like to add some comments to previous messages.
1) Windows (NT) did run OS/2 programs. I remember running the OS/2 version of SQL Server on Nt 3.51.
2) The version of Windows that didn't run under Warp was 3.11. 3.1 did run under Warp just fine. (And just to confuse things, this was different from Windows for Workgroups 3.11.)
3) Most of the undocumented function calls in Windows were used internally. The DLLs that make up the OS are the same as user process DLLs, so their exports are publically visible. The problem with providing "secret" APIs is having to support them, which can be a pain. (Raymond Chen discusses this on his blog.)
4) Excel included support for OLE before the OS did. I'd say that this would be a better case for an unfair advantage than the undocumented stuff that Andrew found.

Posted by: Mike Swaim at August 3, 2005 07:39 AM

Ok, since so many people are complaining about unnamed sources, I'll come out of the closet and say that some of the quotes from Microsoft people above are from me (Adam asked be back in '03).

I recognise the sources to the other Microsoft quotes from their writing style, but I won't name names.

Posted by: Larry Osterman at August 3, 2005 08:00 AM

" I don't think MS went out to mess anybody's apps up (and nobody's produced any evidence) - though an alternative OS (Dr-DOS) at least raises a few questions. "

You really need a smack round the head until your brain starts working. The distinction you have made between sabotaging another firm's app and sabotaging another firm's OS is utterly irrelevant and bogus, and it doesn't raise questions, it raises answers. The evidence HAS been produced ('AARD'), and the matter is an open-and-shut case: Microsoft is GUILTY AS CHARGED.

Can everyone stop saying the accusation hasn't been proved now? It utterly has. Can everyone stop saying Microsoft doesn't sabotage competitors' software now? They unarguably do.

Posted by: DaveK at August 3, 2005 08:25 AM

Nathan: No, none of the Lotus people were working at Microsoft. One was still at IBM, one was a consultant, one was working at a company whose purpose I can't divine from the name, and one was apparently enjoying the fruits of his years of labor.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 3, 2005 08:58 AM

"And there was an incident in the early pre-release days of NT where our boot sector code broke multi-boot with OS/2"

-- According to Q265003, Windows 2000 also breaks the OS/2 boot manager.

Posted by: John Elliott at August 3, 2005 12:43 PM

The DDJ AARD story, while supporting the idea that someone at MS thought about using technical tricks to hurt a competitor, support the position that in general MS does not regularly do this.

From the article - "In fact, much of Microsoft's practice, far from targeting competitor's applications, points in the opposite direction: Microsoft sometimes goes to extremes to maintain compatibility, even with competitor's mistakes (see, for example, the crazy GetAppCompatFlags() function discussed in Chapter 5 of Undocumented Windows).

Certainly, it's true that DOS workalikes such as DR DOS have to pretend to be an older version of DOS (DOS 3.31, for instance) if they want to run Windows Enhanced mode. This is because of an undocumented interface shared by the Windows Enhanced mode DOSMGR virtual device driver (VxD) inside WIN386.EXE and MS-DOS 5 and 6. To appear as more recent versions of DOS, would-be clones must reverse-engineer and implement this undocumented protocol.

So whenever I've heard accusations that Microsoft practices so-called "cruel coding" to keep Windows from running on DR DOS, I look at the facts: Windows 3.1 Enhanced mode does run on DR DOS. Standard mode does not run, but that's because of a DR DOS bug acknowledged by Novell (see Undocumented DOS, Second Edition)."

Posted by: D. Andersen at August 3, 2005 12:45 PM

[fuzzy memory] MSWord 6.0 or MSWord 95 [/fuzzy memory] used an undocumented API to alter the RTC interrupt rate so as to get a blinking insertion point that blinked faster than the competition. My cooperative multitasking TSR broke *only when Word was loaded* because of this. Feh.

Posted by: Eric Towers at August 3, 2005 02:55 PM

Preston wrote:
There isn't any debate that MSN caused Opera to appear to malfunction, and that Microsoft paid nearly $13 million to end Opera's complaint.



Actually, there is some debate there. MSN didn't recognize the latest version of Opera, so it defaulted to the same stylesheets it used for Netscape 4.7 compatibility. Period. End of story.

And with any legal complaint, there's a cost-benefit analysis to be done - namely, will it cost more to fight this and win than it will just to pay the person bringing the suit to shut up and go away. That's regardless of whether you're in the right or in the wrong. They probably did the math, and figured that it was cheaper to just kill the lawsuit than to fight it.

Posted by: Simon Cooke at August 3, 2005 04:55 PM

It's funny to see the Register quoted here. I have personal experience that the Register lies in its editorial. Outright lies and libels. I have proof.

So, don't use the Register as an accurate arbiter of anything. That makes anyone who uses the Register as evidence look lame. Find a better source.

Here, read this: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/online/archives/2005/07/30/ie7_nukes_the_registers_credibility.html

Or this: http://thomashawk.com/2005/08/more-on-orlowskis-emailgate.html

Or this: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=1653

Or this: http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2005/08/open_letter.cfm

Or this: http://www.edbott.com/weblog/archives/000875.html

Posted by: Robert Scoble at August 3, 2005 06:59 PM

Look - We've all seen first hand how Microsoft works so knock off the MS-defense. How about the changes to the .DOC format to get you to fork over $400 every year so you could type a damn letter? How about the 'fast message retrieval' option in early Exchange that screwed with messages size so alternative POP/IMAP clients wouldnt work? How about IE for crying out loud? What about the ridiculous patents on every simple programming algorithm they can? How about charging $100 for an OS in 2005! How about charging *anything* for their development tools? Microsoft's morality is flawed at the very core - there all about greed, and selfishness, and sucking every last dollar they can from everyone. Business isnt supposed to be like that - there's no reason why people have to get all sicko and try to crush the dreams of their competitiors and invade every other unrelated market they can. Its bulls**t. Its behaviour like this that keeps the world from going forward.

Posted by: Netmonger at August 3, 2005 07:25 PM

It has been proven that MS has undocumented API, and uses it to unfair advantage. So what?

If it is really that bad, why doesn't everyone go to Open Source? Every app that I use has an equivilent or better product on Linux.

So, Why doesn't everyone just go download (Fedora, Mandrake, whatever)?

Posted by: David Souther at August 3, 2005 07:25 PM

Netmonger wrote:
Look - We've all seen first hand how Microsoft works so knock off the MS-defense. How about the changes to the .DOC format to get you to fork over $400 every year so you could type a damn letter?


That would be the doc format that has been backwards compatible since 1997?

Posted by: Simon Cooke at August 3, 2005 07:47 PM

> Actually, there is some debate there. MSN didn't recognize the latest version of Opera, so it defaulted to the same stylesheets it used for Netscape 4.7 compatibility. Period. End of story. -- simon cooke

Really? Maybe you want to go back and read this:


Pay particular attention to the section titled:

"Is this just an accident or is Opera specifically targeted by MSN"

It discusses in technical detail why you don't know what you are talking about.

"Period. End of story"

Posted by: dave at August 4, 2005 02:09 AM

I think that a point of clarification may be in order here. While I have railed against Microsoft's corporate behaviour in regards to unfair competitive practices, I have never argued against Microsoft's right to charge whatever it wants to for its products. Restricting trade in a software license (as was the practice of licensing DOS / Windows to OEMS in the 1980s and 1990s, something that Microsoft has been found guilty of and has promised to stop doing) had the effect of stifiling competition in the bundling of competitive OSes from OEMs. Far too many people take this finding to mean that it is also wrong for Microsoft to charge a fee for its products. This is an incorrect conclusion, pehaps based upon the private wish to legitimize software theft.

I'm a software developer, have been for a quarter of a century. I've always been baffled by the willingness of some developers to steal other coder's software products. (I think that the primary audience here is IT-centric, so I'll focus this comment on 'us' rather than 'mom and pop').

Far too many IT people justify software theft on the basis that 'nobody is deprived of use' when software is stolen (copied without payment to the owner), but again this is only when you ignore the fact that the software developer is deprived of the use of the revenue from the sales of the software. Crying that big software companies (Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, et al) are too rich already doesn't justify theft...if that were so, our society would devolve to banditry.

Many IT people have travelled outside of the 'Western world' and have encountered retail copies of various software products (Windows, Microsoft Office, Oracle, Norton Antivirus, etc.) for sale at the rate of approximately $1 per CD. In the countries where this is an open practice, there is no real software development industry, and skilled developers in these countries don't work for OSS much either because there is no economic incentive to. I don't think that this is a superior way, yet when someone 'copies that floppy' they vote for such a society.

If you really hate paying for software, there is plenty of virtually free software and OSes out there. Chances are that you won't really be deprived of the ability to do almost anything you can do with commercial software. As a software developer, I welcome higher prices from the major software companies like Microsoft. I'm not an investor, but rather I'm someone who sees advantages and opportunities in selling less expensive products in a marketplace that continues to respect my labour through the legal purchase of my creations. At $800 per copy of Office, Microsoft is a sitting duck to any software that can provide the same or better performance at half the cost. The challenge to OSS and other competitors to Microsoft (and the other big guys) is in the creation of compelling, compatible and capable software (easier to do) and the successful marketing of those products to the world (the really hard part).

Perhaps the best recent example of this is in the stampede towards Firefox - and its had such good success mostly due to the positive and wide-spread promotion that it has had in the popular media (along with paid ads).

Posted by: Ron McMahon at August 4, 2005 01:41 PM

Don't know where you picked up the Lotus reference...

What was documented, and proved, in court, was

"DOS isn't done till Novell won't run'

Employee of the evil empire on official apology/misdirection duty ?

Posted by: Bruce McFarland at August 4, 2005 07:40 PM

FYI, for those only reading this article and not the entire blog, I posted a discussion of the comments at:


- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 4, 2005 08:56 PM

I think the debate is pointless. It's well known that you can be unfair without even breaking the law. So those who argue that the court's decision doesn't prove anything and missing the whole point. You don't need an anti-trust lawsuit to decide that MS is guilty or not. Look at the many examples: WebTV anyone? This is a classic textbook example. MS doesn't have to compete with others in the first place! There are other better ways. WebTV is a perfect example (and yes, I know WebTV ex-programmers who could tell you what happened.) Not to repeat this well-documented story, any wealthy corporation can sink another poorer one when they start writing checks to the lawyers. One of them will run out of money, the trick is to do that before the judge reaches to a verdict. Oh, and you run out of time... well, you pay your opponents off.

Those who argue that settle a case out-of-court doesn't prove MS is guilty are burying their heads in the sand. MS paid about 3 BILLION dollars in out-of-court settlements for anti-trust suits ALONE! IBM got 750 Mil, Sun about 600-ish and list goes one. You don't pay that much unless it will save you from something more expensive. And anything at that price is more than what the lawyers cost you... Plain English: The weight of the checks only justify dodging the courts axe.

Also, MS is well known of supporting (selling?) undocumented API to partners. And actually reading Raymond Chen's web-log only proves that much. One reason for their compatibility efforts is genuine (because otherwise they will lose some market share, they have to be backwards compatible), but another reason is that when you need the (early?) support of big names (take Symantec) and you need to partnership with them to provide them with what they need to get going with their porting to Windows, then you have to get in bed with them to satisfy their needs. (as an example, when an anti-virus software uses some undocumented hooks.)

There are other ways to prove MS's wrong doing. Take the requirement of installing IE on Win9x to update windows DLLs, such as common-controls and common-dialogs. I mean one must be blind (and dumb) not to see that as an anti-competitive practice, when clearly Netscape is superior and has a larger market share. Leaving aside the fact that IE was distributed for free, while NS cost about $50. Leaving aside the internal MS memos that prove the policy of crushing NS. And I don't care when IE was a better product than NS (NS's business was hurt, that's what matters) and I don't care that NS practically disappeared because their decision to re-write their code (that's irrelevant, MS had already done wrong.)

As for those who think that if MS developers don't recall any plans/policies to sabotage a competitor's software... well, you don't need to tell your developers to do anything! This doesn't take a genius. If MS changes some API's behavior, or some other aspect of the OS with the knowledge that some other software will have problems, then the developers will never know about it. In fact, you can argue that such a decision had other reasons, and the compatibility issue is just consequential. That's a perfect example of being unfair, yet, you are not breaking any law. Alternatively, MS can woo the users into thinking that a competitors product is not-safe, not-compatible, has issues and so on. This could harm the image of a vendor as much as sabotaging it would. And it's hard to prove wrong doing in the court of law.

Other methods for anti-competitive practices that is hard to prove, but is illegal:

You may ignore a user's wish/settings to use some software and always use another (Outlook, IE and a bunch of software.)
Require some unrelated software to run at all times (MSN, which also runs when Outlook runs.)
Disable a program from unloading/closing to force the user into using it (MSN, when outlook is run.)
Make some product's settings global to the OS (Internet Options.)
Remove any uninstall methods (IE, Media Player and most MS pre-installed software)

All of the above are anti-competitive. It's not even arguable. One needs to have the decency to see them as such.

I know developers (co-worker) who praise such practices, since they see it as some sort of guarantee for the demand of their skills, since they know virtually nothing outside MS technologies/software. They would argue that if people didn't/don't like can go elsewhere... use some other OS/product. Their point is that this is what MS has to offer. They think since it's MS's OS, then it's only fair to use such info to create better products (and they don't expect people to doubt that most MS software is the best!) A colleague once told me that if one thinks this is not fair, may be their ought to create their own OS and then bundle it with all sorts of other products; MS is free to do anything they like with their OS, no one is obliged to use it.

People with this kind of mentality never can or will become an ISV or have their own product. They feel safe; MS is their career and is guaranteeing their job's for them. Once they step outside that place, and imagine competing with MS, then they might know better.

Sorry for the long post.

Posted by: Ashod Nakashian at August 5, 2005 12:50 AM

Yeah, great story. How about you accelerate the timeline by 5 years, to when Microsoft had a product that put them in direct competition with Lotus (ie: excel). I'm sure the recollections wouldn't be so sanguine.

As another poster said: Just don't talk about DR Dos.

It is to Microsoft's advantage to be compatible with 3rd party applications when they are trying to get a lock on the OS market (in 1984 there were actual competing OS's). When they have that market locked up and have their own competing product, they have no reason to be compatible, and every reason to use everything at their disposal to get rid of 123, in favor of excel.

Today, they need to be compatible with Symantec, as long as Symantec has a product that is basically required system software at this point (virus checker). When the next version of their OS ships with their own 'free' version of a virus scanner, let's see how much they care about compatibility.

Posted by: Ronald Smithers at August 5, 2005 01:38 PM

I may have found the reference where I first heard this phrase. It was from an old book about Bill Gates called Hard Drive. There is a reference to it on Amazon:


Posted by: David den Haring at August 26, 2005 12:31 PM

I've never read such unmitigated crap in my life. MS's dealings with DR DOS, OS/2, Stac and, more recently, with the Europeans show that MS will behave in ways that would leave even oil company executives gasping.

Of course, thanks to apologists like you, there is a Fifth Column of uncritical supporters bleating away like the sheep in Animal Farm as they push a revisionist view of history. Wasn't it Goebbles who said that if you tell a lie often enough, it gets believed.

Shame on you.

Posted by: JohnB at March 25, 2006 07:06 AM

I wouldn't be shocked to find that "ain't done till Lotus won't run" is a myth, but your account of the "incident" in the early pre-release days of NT where it was incompatible with OS/2's bootloader is revealing. Because the bad faith, treachery, and sheer animus of MS towards IBM in this whole issue is backed up by strong testimony by many reliable and credible sources. Some of them from certainly pro-MS sources at the time who saw this all as brilliant strategy. Which in a realpolitic sort of way it was; as long as business ethics are not a concern.

So am I to believe that with trade rags reporting daily on build xx and yy of NT and OS/2 to try to see who was ahead in the OS war, and with the importance of OS/2 to important players in the Fortune 500, not to mention IBM, that y'all simply never thought to test it against OS/2? Or that because it was fixed later that it proves no intent to harm or actual harm was done? I just can't believe that.

The Lotus thing may well be a myth. But you've exposed a grand bias (disclaimer not withstanding) by trying to dismiss by implication substantive and damaging charges that do show MS as unethical and craven; and that's no myth. You've simply told a probable falsehood from the black helicopter crowd that serves to invalidate a reputation for unethical behavior and bad faith from MS that we've learned through many credible and relaible witnesses, and also emails, excecutive testimony, and even testimony in court under oath. But you can't rewrite history by revealing one possible myth and then destroying it.

Posted by: Mark at March 25, 2006 10:54 AM

As a former retailer and user of Tandy Computers in the eighties, I had never had any compatibility problem between DOS and any major app. At that time, and from the corporate culture I was from, the competition was all hardware (IBM, COMPAQ, H-P, Apple Computers and Commodore). Tandy flipped a coin and discontinued its proprietary TRS-80 line and went whole hog with its best selling PC-compatible boxes. The big selling point at time was that for the average consumer the Tandy 1000 (and 1000A and its descendents) had everything you needed for the same price or less than a bare bones IBM-PC - no need to buy extra memory, a video card, DOS and even software applications (Deskmate anyone?) to get started. After buying monitor, printer, modem card, cables, ink, paper, joysticks, a couple of games(i.e. Flight Simulator, Ghostbusters) and perhaps some productivity software (Lotus 1-2-3, Word Perfect 2.2) for home professionals, people expected everything to work pefectly and wanted a lot of hand holding. Not only would it piss off the customer if anything didn't work together, it would piss off the retailer who sold the stuff and was invariably the tech support staff in those early days.

Posted by: Kevin Kunreuther at March 25, 2006 09:26 PM

When is ms going to break their own sw, namely office2000? Back when our company bought a volume license, it was a one-shot deal; buy it and if you didn't need the tech supt over the years, that was it. We're still running it now, 6 years or more later. ms isn't getting anything from us at this point regarding office apps; when are they going to break it and have us pony up a bunch of cash EVERY YEAR just for software licensing?

I remember the fud and pressure that ms put on everyone to "upgrade" to new office a few years ago; when will they just make it so that windows (vista maybe?) won't run office2000 and get all of us to either open up the wallets or move to something else? After all, we've all heard (and seen firsthand) how difficult it can be to get an older version of windows to run on new hardware, I'm sure that won't change.

Posted by: ClintE at March 27, 2006 11:05 AM

The quotation "DOS 2 ain't done 'til Lotus won't run" appears in "Hard Drive", the first published (I believe unauthorized) biography of Bill Gates among other areas. I don't know where else it may have appeared.

Microsoft DOS's BACKUP and RESTORE functions weren't compatible between DOS versions until DOS 5 (it was a highly touted feature of DOS 5 that you could actually restore DOS 4 backups). So much for Microsoft's fabulous dedication to backwards compatibility.

As for Microsoft's behavior in this general area, it's well-documented that pre-release betas of Windows 95 were designed to detect programs compiled with Borland compilers and generate error messages having nothing to do with flaws in the program code.

In order, supposedly, to deal with a lawsuit over the implementation of plugins in Internet Explorer, one thing Microsoft is doing seems to be designed to hurt Adobe by breaking Flash SWF embeds.

Posted by: Tonio Loewald at March 28, 2006 10:24 AM