October 1, 2005

Is Microsoft capable of honesty?

Author: Joe Barr


Well, they've done it again. In prime-time. With malice aforethought. The duplicitous droogs, the denizens of deep-doodoo, I'm
talking about Bill Gates' Microsoft: caught in a bald-faced lie about HD
DVD-ROM discs
This is news? Not any more than the fact it's hot in Texas this
summer or that Katrina caused a lot of damage. It is, after all, the
Microsoft way: dishonesty in all things.This particular fabrication follows Microsoft's favorite formula for
deception: quote a valid fact or statistic out of context in an attempt
to deceive the public about something else. It's the same type of
dishonesty that Richard Shupak of Microsoft Research has used for years.
Here's one example of his duplicity from the bad old days, and strangely
enough, the same two players, the evil twins of Wintel, were involved
then, just as they are in this most recent episode of braggadocio.

Microsoft touted the coming of its "all new, all 32-bit" operating
system -- Windows 95 -- for years. But when Chicago finally appeared,
it was neither all new nor all 32-bit. A few high-tech journalists of
the day -- but only a few -- were clueful and caring enough to call them
on it. Most of the trade press were not competent or brave enough to
say otherwise.

Brave enough? Yes, gentle readers, there was a time when it was
downright dangerous for scribes to write something which wasn't aligned
with the MS view. That's what got one of the more popular PC Magazine
writers fired, and the editor of InfoWorld a personal call from Bill
Gates, and me the threat of
legal action
if I dared to publish a story
on the online shenanigans of MS employees.

So it was safer not to rock the boat. There was simply a tacit
agreement between the mainstream press and Microsoft to ignore the
inconvenient aspects of reality that sometimes intruded into their
marketing space.

But then came Intel and the Pentium Pro. The new powerhouse CPU chip
was designed to reward 32-bitness, and as a consequence, was slightly
slower when running 16-bit code. Imagine Microsoft's face the morning
the news broke that Windows 95 ran slower on a Pentium Pro than on a
regular Pentium running at the same clock rate.

Even worse, Windows arch-enemy at the time, the dreaded OS/2, showed
major performance gains when running on the Pentium Pro. Not to worry,
in one tiny corner of cyberspace, a corner thick with journalists and
analysts alike, Richard Shupak of MS Research stepped up to do battle
with the truth.

Shupak claimed that Windows 95 was no less 32-bit than OS/2, and
therefore there had to be some other explanation as to why Windows 95
ran slower on a Pentium Pro while OS/2 ran faster. As evidence, he
cited the total lines of code in each OS, and the total lines of code
that were 16 bit. Indeed, these figures showed Windows 95 to be more of
a 32-bit OS than OS/2. Left at that, it was a perfect deception, with
facts to back it up, while the truth of the situation was left harpooned
on the beach like a dying whale.

As shrewd and cunning as Shupak's lies were, they were not quite good
enough. IBM's
Colin Powell
pointed out the fallacy in the tale. Since
the entire OS is never loaded in memory at any one time, the statistics
quipped by Shupak were meaningless. What mattered, Powell noted, was
the mix of 16-bit versus 32-bit code actually running in the machine at
any given moment. And on that basis, it was the Pentium Pro who was the
final arbiter, the blind justice, the even-handed Solomon: and it
decreed time after time, application after application, that OS/2 rocked
and Windows 95 sucked. Ergo, not only had MS been lying for years about
its "all new, all 32-bit" OS, they were piling on more lies to cover up
their previous disconnects with the truth.

Now fast forward ten years. Let's talk about the new DVD formats, and
the wrestling match for mind-share between the Blu-Ray Disc (BD)
preferred by Sony and Toshiba's HD DVD. MS and Intel back HD DVD, and
they recently stepped up to explain why. As The
points out in a recent story on the subject, the fact that
Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 will be making use of
their choice makes it all a little bit more personal.

Nestled deep within the jointly-issued MS/Intel HD DVD pronouncement
on the subject, was this classic little jewel:

Superior capacity. HD DVD-ROM discs will offer dual-layer 30GB
discs at launch, compared with BD-ROM discs, which will be limited to

Sounds great. Except for one thing. It's not true. Just as happened ten
years ago, someone has stepped up to point that out. This time it's Dell and HP -- both longtime MS partners -- who clarify the situation. In a press release
entitled "Microsoft/Intel
Announcement Cites Inaccuracies Regarding Blu-ray Disc Format
," they
point out that:

Capacity: Blu-ray Disc's capacity is 50GB. This will be
available at
launch for BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE. This is 67% more than HD-DVD's
ROM capacity and 150% more than its recordable storage capacity --
critical issue for computer users.

As The Register had pointed in the story noted above, the MS/Intel
comparison was based on the smallest BD format available and the largest
HD DVD. So their claim that HD DVD has more capacity than BD is not
simply inaccurate, it is a total and complete misrepresentation of the

See the pattern? A tiny bit of truth abandoned in a neighborhood where
it doesn't live, slyly used by one of those high-Q types MS is so fond
of hiring who -- like their employer -- lack the ethics of a rabid wharf
rat. And you don't have to look very hard to find the same trick being
used in Microsoft's funded TCO studies, or in their sponsored
benchmarks, or just about anywhere in their Get the Facts ad campaign.

So the question is not "Is Microsoft lying?" It's deeper than that.
The real question is, "Is Microsoft capable of honesty?" And if you
decide -- as I have -- that they are not, the next question becomes,
"Do I really want to do business with, to trust my business to, a
company like that?"

I made my decision in 1999. What about you?

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