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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Has Microsoft stifled innovation?
Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy
Sun and Oracle say Microsoft has stifled innovation
By BBC News Online internet reporter
Mark Ward

Throughout the trial Microsoft has claimed that computer innovation would be stifled if it was broken up.

The Microsoft Trial
Only this week Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive, said that the pace of innovation in the computer industry would be slowed if the break-up went ahead.

He made his comments to representatives of the Norwegian computer industry during a European tour.

The trip was cut short when it was announced that the ruling in the case would be made on Wednesday.

Microsoft is the
Borg of the high tech industry

Ed Black,
President CACIA
But the history of the PC shows that very few innovations originated within Microsoft.

All the software giant has done is roll them into its operating systems and drive their popularity - often to the detriment of the companies that did invent them.

"We're convinced that innovation will be greatly enhanced and improved if Microsoft's heavy hand of monopoly is removed from the industry," said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

The CCIA is a 26-year-old group representing companies such as Oracle and Sun Microsystems - some of Microsoft's largest opponents.

"Microsoft is the Borg of the high-tech industry," said Mr Black referring to the rapacious race from Star Trek that tries to assimilate every culture it encounters. The history of computers shows that it has cherry picked technologies that have proved popular.

Mr Black said that in all the areas where Microsoft is not dominant, such as the internet, innovation is rampant.

The most popular program for web servers is called Apache and is available for free. It is maintained and developed by a community of users on the internet.

He added that many venture capitalists only advance funds to new companies if the technology being developed will not impinge on the Microsoft empire.

Microsoft has rolled together technologies from many different sources to bolster the position of Windows.

Inovations Microsoft has adopted

  • The mouse was first invented by Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute in the late 1960s. He took the device with him when he moved to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre.

    Apple Founder Steve Jobs saw it when he took a tour of the lab in the 1979 and used it for the Lisa computer.

    computer mouse
    The mouse was born long before Microsoft

  • The Graphical User Interface, which Microsoft later turned into Windows, was also first developed at Xerox Parc.

  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the founders of Microsoft, got started by writing a version of the BASIC computer language for the Altair 8800.

  • Gates and Allen bought the software that would later become the DOS operating system from Seattle Computer Products.

    Even this software was based on the CP/M operating system developed by Gary Kildall working at a company called Digital Research.

  • Microsoft had a long running legal dispute with Stac Electronics over technology that effectively increases the capacity of a computers' hard disk.

    Stac alleged that Microsoft tried to take its technology without giving sufficient compensation and a US court agreed. Microsoft was forced to pay $120 million in damages.

  • The first popular spreadsheet was called Visicalc and was written by Dan Bricklin of Software Arts in 1979.

    Mitch Kapor of Lotus then created a version for the IBM PC which was only late eclipsed by Microsoft's Excel.

  • The Toolbars that float around the edges of programs were invented for a program called MacPaint in 1984. They only turned up in Microsoft Office in 1991.

  • Even Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser was heavily based on the one developed by Spyglass software. In 1994 Microsoft signed a deal with Spyglass which at that time had the second most popular internet browser program.

    Now few people have even heard of Spyglass.

  • See also:

    08 Jun 99 | Business
    06 Nov 99 | Americas
    25 May 00 | Business
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