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Novell's 2004 Case Against Microsoft Moves Forward 197

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the on-hold-since-2004 dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Novell's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft for destroying the market for WordPerfect and QuattroPro can now move forward. The Supreme Court denied certiorari to Microsoft's appeal of an appeals court ruling, which is the fancy legal way of saying they ignored Microsoft's appeal and let the previous ruling stand. Novell's complaint is an interesting read, because some of this sounds quite familiar, given how Microsoft is now forcing the standardization of OOXML. Statements like, 'As Microsoft knew, a truly standard file format that was open to all ISVs would have enhanced competition in the market for word processing applications, because such a standard allows the exchange of text files between different word processing applications used by different customers,' and 'Microsoft made other inferior features de facto industry standards,' sound a lot more recent."
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Novell's 2004 Case Against Microsoft Moves Forward

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  • Re:A nice interview (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lingerance (1117761) on Monday March 17, 2008 @07:44PM (#22778744)
    Mod parent down. Images of amputations that should not be.
  • WordPerfect rocked (Score:5, Informative)

    by Laebshade (643478) <laebshade@gmail.com> on Monday March 17, 2008 @07:52PM (#22778792)
    I remember using it in high school ('99?) and how the format you saved in, by default, was simply a type of marked up text; in the editor, you could go to a certain mode that would allow you to edit out the markup code itself (a lot like a wysiwyg editor for html, but... well, html isn't really known for any kind of real word processing). This was so powerful, and when I had a class on Word, I hated it didn't have that feature.

    If WordPerfect could read/write ODF, I would go out and buy a legitimate copy (no, I don't even have a pirate copy - it's useless unless you don't need to share your document with others).

    WordPerfect made sense. I'm glad justice is (possibly) on it's way to be served.
  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Monday March 17, 2008 @07:53PM (#22778806)
    Think back to the early 90s, WordPerfect ruled the land. Then Sweet William emailed his minions instructing them to deliberately withhold the knowledge of Windows' inner workings, so that Novell would be left out in the cold. The relevant quote from Ars Technica's front page story-

    "I have decided that we should not publish these extensions," wrote Gates. "We should wait until we have away to do a high level of integration that will be harder for likes of Notes, WordPerfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage... We can't compete with Lotus and WordPerfect/Novell without this."
    Kinda damning.
  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Monday March 17, 2008 @08:04PM (#22778870)
    Part of the reason WordPerfect lost favor was because Microsoft was dumping [wikipedia.org] Office at a price WordPerfect couldn't compete at. It wasn't until after Microsoft established a majority presence that they raised Office's price to the prices we see today.

    At that point, most businesses had already retrained their staff on Word and started saving files in .doc format.

    Before you ask, no, I personally don't have any references to back this up other than my memory.
  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NullProg (70833) on Monday March 17, 2008 @08:14PM (#22778924) Homepage Journal
    The problem is, matter of factly, that nothing competes with Office as it stands. Nothing. Not OpenOffice, not Apple's Keynote/Pages, or anything else.
    OK, this case isn't about OpenOffice or anything else currently available for you to buy. This case isn't about standard file formats. This case is about Microsoft using their Windows Monopoly to kill off competing products.

    Back in the day. they didn't bundle computers with Word Perfect/dBase/Quatro Pro (Which was better than Excel at one point). Microsoft forced Windows Licensees (computer makers) to carry Microsoft Works, which was in fact, Microsoft Office starter edition. Computer makers could not sign deals with software vendors (bundling) such as Borland, Word Perfect Corp. or any other without having their Windows License fees raised.

    If there was any innovations in Spread Sheet/Word Processing technology to make, we will never know. Microsoft killed off all the commercial competition using the Windows License Fee of Death (LFoD?). To see that Google Desktop Search is bundled with a new Dell XP/Vista computer shows you how much Microsoft has been neutered by the DOJ.

    Enjoy,
  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Monday March 17, 2008 @08:14PM (#22778928)
    Link [gigaom.com]

    Translation: It's money.

  • by cmacb (547347) on Monday March 17, 2008 @08:26PM (#22779026) Homepage Journal
    "People were shifting between companies all the time back then. Microsoft weren't some alien group, they were people with exactly the same goals and level of experience as the competition. They just had the superior business model for the day. Back then things were nasty, but they were nasty all round, it's just fashionable to only remember microsofts bad deeds."

    Business model has nothing to do with it. Talking key decision makers within the Federal government to standardize on Windows and Office has everything to do with it. Nobody I worked with at the time was gung-ho to switch to Windows or Office, we did so because our customers (the Feds) mandated that all future submissions had to be in Word or Excel format.

    Microsoft as much as anything is a US Government created monopoly, and the Feds (using taxpayer money) funded a whole new round of spending on PCs and related software for which the existing infrastructure was ill prepared (and still hasn't recovered; witness continuing loss of e-mail and other documents due to conflicting or non-existent internal document standards).

    Hopefully wide adoption of something like ODF (and not OOXML) by Europe and other countries will cause US decision makers to finally get a clue (I'm only cautiously optimistic though as they are a fairly clueless bunch). I remain concerned that some people mistakenly see support of Microsoft as the patriotic thing to do when in fact it has hastened the dumbing down of most of the people exposed to it. I know, you won't believe me anyway.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday March 17, 2008 @08:32PM (#22779056) Homepage
    You misunderstand: WordPerfect stored its files in a proprietary markup language. (It wasn't exactly hard to get the specifications; all you had to do was ask.) There was a special key combination (Alt-F3, if memory serves) that toggled Reveal Codes mode. In that mode, the screen was split into to halves. In the upper, you had the regular display. In the lower, you could see all the markup and edit it. That way, if you'd accidentally entered (let's say) a new margin by accident, you could see exactly were it was and remove it. I've known people who learned the program by having Reveal Codes on at all times so that they could see the effects of what they were doing and learn how the program worked.
  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:2, Informative)

    by KingMotley (944240) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:15PM (#22779310) Journal
    You must have forgotten Word Perfect 6.0. Terrible printer support, couldn't support high resolution monitors without specific WP drivers that noone wrote. It was super slow, a memory pig, and didn't support Truetype fonts (Or any kind of fonts). Everyone hated it. That's what called WP.

    And that was WP's solution to Microsoft Word, where you could drag and drop pictures, screenshots, etc and move them around the document with ease. Sorry, but for anyone trying to do layout at the time WP was a DOG. Word worked. That's when my office switched, it had nothing to do with what came on the computer, or literature from Microsoft. Word was just 200% better than WP.

  • More of the story about why the competitors lost market share:

    1) Microsoft apparently was deliberately allowing piracy of Microsoft Office and other Microsoft products. I know this because I called the Microsoft legal department, accused them of allowing piracy, and forced them to stop some of the local pirate outlets. In response, Microsoft brought one court case. But the other pirates continued. Later Microsoft made it impossible to contact their legal department.

    Legitimate suppliers of alternative products could not compete because computer customers were being offered pirated copies of Microsoft Office for $50 when bought with a computer -- or less.

    2) The people who owned most of the WordPerfect stock did not WANT to compete. You can read the book about this written by the COO of WordPerfect, Almost Perfect, available online [fitnesoft.com].

    My opinion is that Microsoft allowed piracy, and that was the biggest contributing factor toward the failure of competitors.
  • Almost Perfect (Score:5, Informative)

    by westlake (615356) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:34PM (#22779412)
    W.E. Peterson joined WordPerfect in 1980 as a part time office manager and left as Executive V.P of Sales in 1992. Almost Perfect [amazon.com]

    "Listen" would be the theme for 1990.

    In January Microsoft offered to make us a beta test site for Windows 3.0. We accepted their generous offer, but did little more than look Windows over. In hindsight, it is easy to see we should have done much more right away.

    Some of us were ready to postpone OS/2 in favor of Windows, but the programmers in the OS/2 group, who had also been given the assignment of eventually creating the Windows version, were not ready to give up on OS/2. They were making good progress and hated the idea of starting over... They wanted to believe in IBM, as did the rest of us. The failure of OS/2 meant having to play on a field owned and operated by Microsoft, with Microsoft making the rules.

    In May Microsoft shipped Windows 3.0, and our worst fears became a reality. Just at the time we were decisively winning in the DOS word processing market, the personal computing world wanted Windows, bugs and all. To make matters worse, Microsoft Word for Windows was already on dealer shelves and had received good reviews. That little cloud on the horizon, which had looked so harmless in 1986, was all around us, looking ominous and threatening. IBM's strength and size were no protection. Not even an elephant could ignore the impending storm.

    WordPerfect Office was turning into a big problem. The program was useful, but it had a few weaknesses. The directory services, which listed all the people on the mail system with their electronic addresses, could not hold more than one or two thousand people. The schedular, which could be used to put together a meeting, was slow and sometimes unreliable. Installing the program was a very difficult process.

    1991...was our year to "think."

    Our biggest [problem] was the continued delay in the shipment of WordPerfect for Windows. Just one week after Fall COMDEX in 1990, the Windows programmers informed us that the dates we had given...would be impossible to meet. ... We were in deep trouble.

    We...took too long to make our experienced DOS programmers get involved. They could have helped a little more, but we had a hard time convincing them that the Windows project was more important than anything else. With sales still going up, many thought things were going too well to be concerned.

    One big problem was getting all the different Office development groups to work together. By now we had teams for PC networks, for the Macintosh, and for UNIX, DG, and DEC machines. Unfortunately, none of the groups seemed to be willing to work out their differences.

    Our long term success was, I thought, dependent on diversity. If the world was filled only with Windows machines, then Microsoft would have a tremendous advantage. If instead the world was filled with DOS, Windows, OS/2, Macintosh, and UNIX machines, we could maintain our advantage in the personal computer word processing market.

    Our theme for 1992 was "focus."

    We were...disappointed by the lukewarm WPwin reviews. The reviewers complained that the product was a little slow and a little buggy, and they were right. Long gone were the days when I could take a WordPerfect review home and be certain I would enjoy reading it.

    We needed to get a cleaner and faster version of WPwin out the door, but it would take some time. Microsoft was heavily promoting DDE (dynamic data exchange)... In theory, if we wrote our program to support Microsoft's specifications, a WPwin document could give and receive information to and from other programs. Instead of releasing another version of WPwin right away, the programmers wanted to delay the release so the new feature could be included..

    We were in a battle to the death w

  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:11PM (#22779634)
    I personally used to use Quattro Pro back in the day. Then Excel for Windows came out and blew it away. Excel was better and I switched. This is at home, on my own machine with me buying the software myself.

    As far as the "reveal codes", sure that was nice in a sick way (I mean with a sane word processor - which neither WordPerfect nor Word were back then - you wouldn't NEED a feature like that). However, WordPerfect blew it in the business world when they couldn't figure out how to work correctly with standard Windows print drivers and their print dialogs that would take minutes to come up and then throw errors. That blunder cost them a whole lot of switchers. Bottom line may have been that text entry was better in WordPerfect. I'll never know, I didn't use it. But I sure had to support users who did and they liked Word better because it was able to print without barfing.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:24PM (#22779688)

    If WordPerfect could read/write ODF, I would go out and buy a legitimate copy

    Actually, the beta version of WordPerfect does support ODF. You can sign up for the beta test here [corel.com].

  • by Erris (531066) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:34PM (#22779740) Homepage Journal

    What do you think the marginal cost of a copy of Word is? If its $5, I'd be shocked.

    The marginal cost to M$ is next to zero, the cost of the electricity required to make the copy. It would be a rip off for half that price because it costs you your liberty.

    It was dumping Just the same. When there's a market of fixed size and your competitor needs to sell their product at D to make it's operating cost and you offer your competing product at anything from D- to zero, you have dumped your product. If you are able to do this because of some monopoly in another product, you have used something called monopoly rent and you have subsidized the destruction of your competitor. Then, when your competitor is out of business, you raise the price of your competing product to $400, the purpose of your dumping has been revealed.

    There's more than dumping that happened here. M$ engaged in OS level anti-competitive practices unique to software, FUD unique to M$ and selective marketing/bribery that's all too common. It will be interesting to see exactly what kind of filth this new trial will prove.

  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday March 17, 2008 @11:11PM (#22779898)

    This was, in fact, a failing of WordPerfect, because Microsoft made sure you could import them the other way around. The question is, how long did it take the WordPerfect Corporation* and/or Novell to add this to WordPerfect?

    WordPerfect used marked up text that was easily readable, and provided the specification. MS Word used an intentionally obscured binary format that actually included random data from the hard disk (sometimes including "deleted" files that were recoverable using third party tools). Worse, MS Word also read and wrote Rich Text Files, which they made the standard for file transfers on the Windows OS. They intentionally changed both of these formats constantly to keep third parties from accurately reverse engineering them for compatibility.

    Your assertion that this was a problem with WordPerfect is true, but it was an artificial problem Microsoft created using their desktop OS monopoly, which is one of the reasons why MS has been losing their absurdly drawn out case.

    As I recall, Novell was also slow about producing a GUI version of WordPerfect.

    They were only a year and a half behind Word for GUI (WYSIWYG) but they were another year behind in bringing it to Windows.

    When they did make a GUI version, they ran into the problem where "WordPerfect's function-key-centered user interface did not adapt well to the new paradigm of mouse and pull-down menus, especially with many of WordPerfect's standard key combinations pre-empted by incompatible keyboard shortcuts that Windows itself used

    Actually, WordPerfect switched to a tool palette menu that was very highly reviewed and pretty much universally considered superior to Word's later toolbar format, but MS redefined the UI guidelines for Windows such that WordPerfect had to scrap their existing GUI and quickly implement a toolbar. That is, in fact, one of the antitrust complaints.

    I think it is pretty easy to see that MS was unfairly creating artificial problems with WordPerfect that were not problems in Word, using their Windows monopoly. They used secret APIs, constantly changed their formats, and repeatedly made changes to Windows that disadvantaged WordPerfect. In short, they are guilty as hell, but such a ruling comes so late that the market is utterly destroyed and there is no real competition. The biggest competitors left for MS Office are WordPerfect (leftover stronghold niches and alternate platforms), OpenOffice (run as a communal copyleft, nonprofit project to exclude it from traditional market pressures), and iWork (only available on a niche platform that has an entire vertical chain of hardware: OS: end-user apps to bypass MS's desktop monopoly influence). It is pretty clear there is no capitalist free market at work for office suites and any monetary compensation may make Novell shareholders a little happier, but is far too late to help consumers. Hopefully the EU courts will prove to be more efficient, faster, and actually do something to make MS create the best product at the lowest price if they actually want to make sales.

  • Re:Sorry to say... (Score:3, Informative)

    by tsa (15680) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @03:05AM (#22780756) Homepage
    I spend hours at work cursing and shouting just because of the way MS software handles figures. They never are the size you want, the never appear at the place you tell them to appear, and when you edit a bit of text they walk away. And MS never understood that a caption is supposed to stay under or above the figure. It drives me nuts!

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