This is a rough draft

Design features and decisions which adversely impact Windows/NT reliability and ease of use 

This white paper is an analysis of some design features and design decisions  which Microsoft's software engineers made while building Windows/NT 4.0.  These design decisions adversely affect the reliability of Windows/NT 4.0: they make it an unreliable operating system.  I will argue that an unreliable operating system is fundementally hard to use.  Until many of the fundemental design decisions are changed, Windows/NT is doomed to crashes, hangs, and blue screens of death (BSOD).

My objective is to give Information Technology (IT) workers the information they need to help make an informed decision when it comes time to select a system to implement.  I am trying to answer the question that so many non-IT managers ask me: "Why not Microsoft?"

I am a certified Microsoft professional - I have been trained on Windows/95, Windows/NT 3.51 and Windows/NT 4.0.  I use Microsoft systems daily in my work and at home.  I'm also a shareholder of Microsoft's, because my wife thinks that they will continue to make money (and I am inclined to agree - remember VHS and Beta?).  However, I also use UNIX and Linux and VMS - all of these operating systems are better than Windows/95 and Windows/NT.

I am interested in a dialog on these issues - please contact me at jeff@www.commercialventvac.com.

Reliability and ease of use

Any system (and here I am talking about any system not just computer systems) which is unreliable is by definition hard to use.  Why?  For several reasons:
  1. Users have to take the system out of service and either make repairs themselves or hire somebody to make repairs for them
  2. Users have to figure out work arounds to deal with the failures
  3. Unreliable systems frequently require redundancy - each additional redundant system increases the administration label
  4. Unreliable systems frequently adversely affect other systems around them - the effects of failure propogate unless measures are taken to contain the effects of the failure.
Consider an unreliable luxury car - example 1.  Now software is not a car.  But try getting warranty service on your software!

Reliability is a worthwhile design goal.  We know how to make software reliable - see if Microsoft does any of these things:

Design Decisions

This section discusses some of the design decisions that Microsoft made in the design of Windows/NT 4.0.  In many respects Windows/NT 4.0 actually represents a step backwards from Windows/NT 3.51, and I know of several shops which are still using NT 3.51 in 1998.

Spaces in file names

The problem

The traditional Microsoft microcomputer file name rules, also known as 8.3 filenames, was perfectly adequate for small microcomputers.  Other microcomputer systems that debuted in the late 1970s and early 1980s (RT-11, RSX-11, CP/M, TRS-80) also had restrictive file name rules.  However, modern languages (Java and Ada) require the use of long files with mixed upper and lower case.

One solution

The UNIX filesystem stores file names as arbitrary length (up to some limit, UNIX variant dependent) ASCII strings.  The VMS filesystem stores file name as arbitrary length (up to 39 characters with a 39 character file type) strings; and uses a hash algorithm to deal with mixed case issues.  Both file systems allow any character which is also a delimiter to appear in a filename, if suitably escaped, however, nobody in their right mind does this: it's too confusing and it breaks scripts.

Advantages

These schemes support the needs of modern languages such as Java and Ada, and also make it easier for humans to identify the contents of files.  For example, WH981110.DAT is a lot more cryptic than WareHouse_1998_11_10.DATA (and also the latter scheme is Y2K compliant).

Disadvantages

These schemes are less efficient.  The savings in ease of use make the performance penalty acceptable.  The VMS filesystem solution has virtually no penalty because the filenames are already hashed using a 16 bit code called Radix50.

The Microsoft solution

The Microsoft solution not only allows long names, which I have no problem with, it also forces spaces in filenames (e.g. program files and my documents), which is my objection.  It poses fits for software which take arguments through the command line.  To see some programs that do that, just look at the file type menu.  In Windows Explorer, go to the view menu, select Options.... select file types.  Your machine is different than my machine, so you may have to poke at a file type or two, but eventually, you will come to something that has open("%1") in it.  The double quotes are required syntax to protect the line parser from spaces in the filenames.

Advantages

This is easier for human beings, (compare
WareHouse_1998_11_10.DATA
with
WareHouse 1998 11 10.DATA
).  If you are a normal human being (I suspect that only geeks like me are reading this far) the spaces are much easier to understand than the underscores.

Disadvantages

If you have a utility that runs in line mode (from command.com ) then filenames with spaces may break it.  For example, if you have a script that compares two files, say,
diff %1% %2%
That script will break if the first file, %1%, is C:/program files/test.exe or C:/my documents/test.txt .  The workaround is to enclose those in quotes:
diff "%1%" "%2%"
but it's a feature that makes it more difficult to test scripts and has a tendency to break a lot of existing software.  It also makes it more difficult to test your scripts.  Your script may run fine with a file called MyFile.txt but may break with a file called My File.txt.  This is an example of a data dependent error.  Data dependent errors are hard to identify and find.  Programmers who worry about such things try to code in ways that do not generate data dependent errors.  Operating system designers who worry about such things come up with names that are guaranteed to be safe, such as program_files and my_documents.

The registry

The problem

The registry is a database of the configuration of the operating system and any software that wants to use it.  As implemented, it is a binary flat database.  Although generally not done, there are interactive applications to modify the database, and applications to backup and restore the registry, and applications to repair the registry.

One solution

In UNIX, configuration files are stored as ASCII text, generally as lists of variable=value pairs interspersed with comments.  They can be changed with a simple editor (vi) or with a script; in some cases, the configuration files are scripts themselves, and do things like loop or make decisions.  Generally, programs can't modify their own configuration files.

Advantages

The text file approach is actually very easy to use.  Because the files are generally read-only, the program can't change its own configuration and get itself into trouble.  The comments are important, too; they can give a history of the file, discuss what problems the different settings caused and how they got cured, and provide tutorial information.
It is very hard to mess up a UNIX configuration file in such a way that the system is unbootable (it can be done - but you have to have privileges and you really have to know what you're doing to even find the file you have to mess up).

Disadvantages

Text files suggests a low level of automation - it is harder to write a wizard program that generates a configuration (although wizards are appearing - they are written in Perl and frequently, they emit comments along with the configuration details.  A good example of a wizard is h2n, the hosts to named converted).

Because the files are generally read-only, the program can't change its own configuration and get itself out of trouble.

The Microsoft solution

The registry has all of configuration information in one place (well, actually two places, but that's hidden) - the registry.

Advantages

Under Windows/NT 3.51 and Windows/3.1, the .ini files were limited to 64Kbytes in size - about 32 pages of text.  The registry gets around this limitation.
Because the file is binary, it is compact and parsing it is trivial.
Because there are only two files, it is easy to find them.

Disadvantages

64 Kbytes is a lot of configuration information, so the 64 Kbyte limit is not much of a limit.

There are cautions all over the registry editor application which say that changing some settings (they never say which ones) will cause the machine to become unbootable.  Those cautions are correct, by the way - it is possible to break Windows/NT by changing the registry.  It is possible to set off a series of cascading failures in the .DLL files.  Further, it is possible for one application to break another application.  Both Microsoft and Netscape, for example, offer to change registry settings to make their browser the default browser.  This offer carries with it the risk of breaking applications which rely on the default browser.   I do not fault Netscape for doing this because they are competing with their operating system vendor and that can't be much fun.

Another disadvantage is that it is difficult to deal with parts of the registry.  See the DHCP story, below. For example, if you want to backup and restore just part of the registry, you have to use the registry editor; you can't use the backup software.

Why the disadvantages are unimportant

Moving the Video device drivers into the Kernel (NT only)

For purposes of this discussion, the microprocessor runs in 2 modes: user mode and kernel mode.  Kernel (not Kernal) mode is more privileged and is used by the operating system and only the operating system to do critical functions.  User mode is less privileged and is used by both the operating system and the applications.  The microprocessor enters Kernel mode when an interrupt occurs or when an application calls a system service.  The microprocessor leaves Kernel mode on return from an interrupt or system service call.  It takes some time, a few milliseconds, to make the transition from user mode to Kernel mode and back again.
Device drivers are programs that drive devices.  Depending on the system, the device driver might be part of the Kernel or part of the user space.

The problem

One of the criticisms leveled at Windows/NT 3.51 is that it is slow.  One of the reasons why it is slow is that the video device drivers, which are made by the video card manufacturers, were in the user space.  So each time the video device driver wanted to do something, it had to call the operating system, incurring the transition delay twice each call.  Doing a context switch (going from User mode to Kernel mode or back) is relatively slow on CISC (Complicated Instruction Set Computers) machines.

One solution

Three acceptable solutions present themselves:

Advantages

Moving the driver code into the hardware itself would require more sophisticated and more expensive hardware.  Most people don't think graphics performance is so key an issue that they are willing to spend the extra bucks to get the additional pixels/second or triangles/second.  For those people who do, they are of course at liberty to do so.  In either case, operating system mediates between the drivers and hardware.
Redesigning the OS to make the interface more efficient would result in a better operating system.  Direct3D was a system which would do that, but then microsoft enveloped and killed it, replacing it with ActiveX.

Disadvantages

Moving functionality from the software to the hardware changes graphics performance from an OS issue into a system issue.  With faster hardware, NT graphics will be faster.  But so would Linux graphics, and by a comparable amount.
Developing new faster OS primitives would require a major R&D effort, and there are limits as to how fast you can make a graphics primitive.
Why the disadvantages are unimportant
Graphical performance is of greatest concern to gamers.  Windows/NT is not intended as a gamer OS - Windows/95 is.  Games do strange and wonderful things with the hardware that the operating system doesn't like.  In a home machine where the object is to have fun, that's fine.  In a business machine, fun is not an issue.

The Microsoft solution

Microsoft required that the device driver become part of the kernel.

Advantages

It's faster because the CPU  doesn't have to do lots of context switches when doing graphical I/O.  Since the kernel is required to be in 32 bit mode, you don't have the overhead of thunking between 16 bit and 32 bit modes (although at this late date, that's kinda moot - nobody writes 16 bit code anymore).

Disadvantages

This required all of the vendors who were selling into the Windows/NT market to rewrite their drivers.  If the driver had an error, it had the potential of crashing the machine .  Microsoft's response to complaints was that it wasn't their (Microsoft's) responsibility, that the source of the problem was the buggy driver.  The problem with the response is that, by opening up the OS to code written by others, Microsoft sacrificed reliability.

Using the GUI for everything

Every application has to have some way of communicating with whatever started it, in order to find out what it needs to do.  There are four kinds of interfaces:

The problem

Every one of the interfaces described above has its advantages and disadvantages.  Ordinary, computer phobic people, for example, prefer GUIs.  Most modern text processors use GUIs, so that people can see what they are going to get as they work.  The command line interface lends itself to incorporation into scripts; so that clever users can develop their own automated techniques for dealing with problems.  The termiinal interface is good for applications which require a lot of fast, interactive data entry (for example, airline reservation terminals, bank teller stations).  Note that X-terminals use this approach, and the window manager provides a cut and paste capability; but the programs that run under the window manager are unaware of the cutting and pasting going on.  The API is important because it is a different way of accomplishing automation goals, this time by software engineers.

One solution

The UNIX solution uses a combination of interface techniques.  Sure there is a CLI, and there is also a GUI based on X.  Or, you can use curses or assume X3.64 (VT-100 or xterm) capabilities and build a text mode application but which still has screen layout capabilities.

Advantages

The CLI is useful for remote management, for scripting, and for systems which are cost sensitive.  You can run linux on a machine with a CGA video card and a wildly cheap CGA monitor; you can run linux on a machine with no video at all (although this requires some tricks to LILO).

Disadvantages

Sometimes, there is something you just can't do through the GUI but you can do through the CLI; less often, there is something you can't do through the CLI but you can do through the GUI.
X-windows has multiple window managers and the window managers provide a different "look and feel" for how the windowing system works.  Consequently, different UNIXes feel different to their users, which makes training more difficult.
Why the disadvantages are unimportant
The different levels of capabilities through the different UIs is a function of the vendor commitment to be able to do everything using any method.  There might be a good (although perhaps unstated) reason for not implementing something in one of the UIs.
The different window managers is a problem.  Part of the flexibility of UNIX comes at the price of having to learn more.

The Microsoft solution

Just about everything is done using a GUI.

Advantages

It's easy for first time users to do small, simple things.

Disadvantages

The GUI interface doesn't scale well to do big things.
This was driven home to me one day when the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server database became corrupted, and we could not uncorrupt it because it was part of the registry instead of a separate database.
The GUI interface doesn't work well in a crisis
Suppose that your server is chugging along busily serving and the video card fails.  If you replace the video card with an incompatible video card, your machine might not boot.  You can work around the problem by booting into VGA 640x480 mode, but that gives you limited functionality; and of course, once you fix your little problem, you have to reboot to get into full blown operational mode.  What is really ironic is that you don't (or shouldn't) need a video card in a server machine!!!!
 The GUI doesn't work well remotely
"A picture is worth a thousand words".  That's true, but if it takes a million words to transmit a picture, is that effective?  No, especially if the picture of the dynamic sort and you spend a lot of time waiting for non-functional animation to transmit (for example, the animation when you copy files or when you are searching for something - that's a killer when done over the 'net).  Remember: you want to administer your servers both when things are going well and when things are malfunctioning.  So, for example, if some hacker has broken into your server and is dumping your critical data files as fast as the router will route them, then will you want to wait while those pretty screen displays update?
Microsoft's response is that you can you use their remote management software to manage your servers remotely, so that you don't have to send a lot bandwidth.
My response to Microsoft's response is that yes, you can do that, but if and only if your servers implement the Microsoft proprietary remote management controls.  Otherwise, you have to use something like Symantec PCanywhere or Microsoft Terminal Server.  By way of contrast, in the UNIX world, any application that uses the command line or uses a VT-100 style (ANSI X3.64) interface is a candidate for remote administration.  That's just about everything.

DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries)

One of the innovations Microsoft developed during the development of windows was the Dynamic Link Library, or DLL. A DLL file allows a programmer to share code, data, and other information between several programs.

The problem

Much has been written about the high cost of software and the need to share software so that it only gets written once and then reused over and over again. Examples of shared code include such plebian things as the sine and square root subroutines.

The next step, of course, is to share the routines in such a way that only one copy of the code need be in physical RAM at anytime. With virtual memory machines, that's easy to do: all you have to do is tell the linker that this code is going in a specific spot in virtual memory and that it is shared. The linker then passes that information to the image activator, which remembers where the shared pages are.

One solution

In the UNIX world, shared memory is implemented but only for executable code. They are read-only.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Why the disadvantages are unimportant

The Microsoft solution

The DLLs not only contain read only code, but they contain read only data and read/write data.  There is this complicated intertwining scheme using indexes to get from the entry points to the actual information.  So finding the symbols that the DLL defines or references is a hassle.

Advantages

One of the hot topics in computer science, for the past 20 years or so, has been the ideal of reusable code.  We look at how productive EEs are, and we'd like our software development to be just as productive.  It is an inferiority complex.
Well, guess what: the reason why EEs are so productive is that whenever they come to something complicated, they implement it in software!
Unfortunately, the kids at Microsoft had only been exposed to software - they generally get hired right out of school and they haven't had any exposure to the real world, yet.  So they know how, but they don't know why.  So they implemented DLLs as a way to handle anything that needs to be shared.

Disadvantages

Some things shouldn't be shared.  Sometimes, if take something that's shared, and change it, you break things for somebody else.  For example, suppose you and your S.O. share a car.  The transmission needs replacing and you decide to replace the automatic trany with a stick shift.  Now, the car is perfectly good for you, but your S.O. finds it unusable.  Oops.
Now, suppose you did that without telling your S.O.  Does that sound like something Microsoft would do?
 
 

A Response to Microsoft's UNIX services for Windows/NT

See http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/compare/singleDesktop/default.asp for more details.

Price/performance: the great red herring

Everybody talks about price/performance as if dollars spent on CPU cycles were the be all and end all of all thinigs computing; even though we all know that this isn't so.  There are other factors to consider:
  1. Reliability - which is both Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
  2. Ease of use
  3. Scalability
  4. Ability to remotely manage
  5. interoperability
  6. Maturity of people and systems

Ponder this anecdote

My son has a 200 MHz Pentium II MMX with 48 Mbytes of RAM.  I have a 75 MHz 80486 with 24 Mbytes of RAM.  His machine takes about 3 minutes to boot, and my machine takes about 3.5 minutes to boot.  Both of us run the same version of Windows/95 and have about the same number of items in our startups.  Even though his machine is demonstably faster at tasks like simulation, VRML, and games; the boot times for our machines are roughly similar.  Why?
Both our machines have the same IDE disk drives, and the boot process is I/O driven.  If he upgraded his 200 MHz Pentium II to a 400 MHz Pentium II, his boot time would probably decrease by perhaps 10%, even though his machine is now twice as fast.  The problem is that the CPU isn't the rate determining step: disk I/O is.

Conclusion:

Studies of price performance ratios that only look at CPU power will miss the point and allow one to draw erroneous conclusions

Reliability

Windows/NT, while more reliable than Windows/95, is not as reliable as UNIX.  It can't be because of the design decisions that got in the way of a reliable system.

Ease of use

Under ideal conditions, which is most of the time, a GUI is easier to use than a command line interface.  Even in the UNIX world, vi has been more popular than ed or teco.

Interoperability

You'll notice that the Microsoft sales literature says that NT accounts are exportable to UNIX; but the reverse isn't available.  In particular, they could have elected to include a Kerberos authentication client (the code is publicly available) or an NIS client, but didn't.  Instead, they have some software which exports out the NT security database on the PDC to /etc/passwd.
The fact that you can export accounts from NT to UNIX but not import accounts from UNIX to NT suggests that Microsoft is much more interested in migrating  to NT rather than interoperating with NT.  They want you to migrate control of the UNIX systems to NT.  They aren't interested in controlling the NT systems from UNIX.  In my mind, interoperability means peaceful coexistance.  When Microsoft asks me where I want to go today, I always ask for an NIS client for NT and Windows/95 and Windows/98.

Scalability

UNIX scales.  NT doesn't.  NT will only run on an Intel microprocessor or a DEC alpha chip.  Very few people run NT on Alphas, because if you have a chip that hot, you wouldn't want to cripple it with a high overhead low reliability OS.  By way of contrast, UNIX (Linux) will run quite nicely on an Intel 80486 with 16 Mbytes of RAM.  UNIX will run on a PDP-11 with 16 Kwords of RAM - because it was written on a PDP-11 with 16 Kwords of RAM!  Try running Windows/NT 4 on a 80486 - it can be done, eventually.  So UNIX scales better on the low end.  But UNIX also scales nicely at the high end.  Since UNIX is written in C, if you invent a new chip that is faster than a B-2 bomber, then all you need to run UNIX on it is a "C" compiler.  The "C" compiler is written in "C", of course, and you can even cross compile.  Do you have a Cray supercomputer?  There's a UNIX for it.
It gets more interesting.  Part of scalability is the ability to move large amounts of data through I/O pipes.  Suppose you invent a new kind of I/O device.  It is far, far, easier to write a UNIX device driver then an NT device driver.  Even Microsoft admits that, in the Halloween memo http://www.opensource.org/halloween2.html.: Why?  In part, the UNIX designers wanted to keep it simple, because they new device drivers would be written by volunteers.

Examples

Example 1: the Unreliable Luxury Car

Consider an unreliable luxury car.  Supposing that the seat heater breaks while the car is under warranty.  So you take the car into the shop and they tell you that they can fix it at no cost to you and they will have the parts FedEx'd overnight and the car will be ready tomorrow.  But is this really at no cost to you?  Your car has been out of commission for 2 days for a minor repair.  Assuming your luxury car cost $36500 and you amortize it over 5 years, that will still cost you $40 just for the value of the car that you didn't get to take advantage of.  3 weeks later, the tape deck breaks.  Again, the car is still under warranty, and of course, the tape deck is a completely different subsystem from the seat heater.  Again, you lose 2 days worth of value of the car.  Your car may be fun to drive, easy to park, have lots of legroom in the backseat, plenty of power - but you can't take advantage of it because the car is constantly breaking.   In fact, if you need your car, you might buy a second car just to have one when your luxury car breaks.  But now you need a friend to drive to the garage to drop off and retreive the car.

Compare and contrast the experience of owning a luxury car with owning a Volkswagen or a bicycle.  The Volkswagen, at least the old ones, were deliberately kept lightweight and simple.  That means that VW could use a smaller engine, which didn't need a radiator.  Which means that you don't need to worry about freezing, antifreeze, leaks, maintenance of the radiator and water pump, etc.  VWs are very popular in Mexico because of their simplicity - they don't require a lot of expensive infrastructure to maintain them.  In the United States, we have been unable to perceive the true costs of luxurious, sophisticated cars.

Bicycles represent an even more extreme solution to the problem of urban transportation.  Bicycles are even cheaper to maintain and operate than a Volkswagen.  Most repairs can be done by the owner with relatively simple tools in a modest shop (no electronic tools).  In an urban setting with heavy traffic, it is frequently as fast to bicycle as it is to drive (have you noticed the large number of bicycle messengers?) and it is easier and faster to fix a bike than a car.
 

Example 2: name service

The name service consists of two parts: a name resolver, and a name server.  The name resolver is part of the operating system and it translates names into IP addresses and other minor chores of similar nature (Email addresses, hardware configuration details, serivce ports, that sort of thing).  The name resolver is very simple.
The name server, by way of contrast, is more complicated.  It gets queried by the name resolvers and does the actual translation work.  It also deals with the issues of not knowing everything by organizing recursive inquiries far and wide across the net to learn what the resolver is asking.  It caches the information for speedy retreival in the future.  The name server is complicated, so it is not part of the operating system, but rather a task which runs under the operating system.  The name server can fail, and the name service protocols have a mechanism for dealing with that failure.
Name service is an abject lesson in system design - keep the system critical functions small and minimal, and move the complexity to user space.
 

So how did Microsoft become so successful anyway?

Given that so much of their software is so bad, how did Microsoft become one of the most valuable companies and how did Bill Gates and Paul Allen become the richest men in the world?
 

Bill Gates had a truly brilliant idea

Bill Gates is a very intelligent man and was a gifted coder back in the days when he wrote code.  He had a genuinely brilliant idea: sell the operating system at a deep discount in exchange for the customer (the computer manufacturer) buying a copy for every machine built.  Remember that the cost per copy of software is almost zero, especially because Gates either allowed or required each manufacturer to provide the documentation, which was a rehash of Microsoft's documentation.  Once Gates had assembled a large user base, he provided an upgrade path with new Microsoft operating systems that were (more or less) compatible with what had gone on before.
The situation became ugly when Microsoft deliberately put code in Windows 3.1 which would break Digital Research's DR-DOS.  DR-DOS was a compatible operating system that would do everything MS-DOS would, and more.  It cost less, and it passed every validation suite and ran every application as fast and as well as MS-DOS did.  Until Windows 3.1 came out.  It turns out that Microsoft deliberately put code in Windows 3.1 to break DR-DOS.  At the time, everybody thought that DR-DOS an done a poor job of emulating MS-DOS.  Now, it has come out under subpoena that Microsoft deliberately subverted a competitor by technical means (See PC Week, August 31st 1998 page 3).

The situation is not unprecedented

Believe it or not, the situation is not unique.  Unfortunately, most computer jocks are too busy studying computers (like I am supposed to be, I'm actually engaging in avoidance behavior) to study history.  So let me give you some examples

The railroad story

When railroads first became big businesses in the 1860s, there was a period from about 1870 until about 1900 or so when their wealth and power and ability to control were greatly feared.  The railroads could (and did) punish their enemies and help their friends through all sorts of tricks.  For example, here in Washington state, the first railroad line to Puget Sound went from Portland to Tacoma.  A branch line was built from Tacoma to Seattle, which was the largest town in the state then as well as now.  However, the train to Seattle from Tacoma was scheduled to leave about an hour before the train to Tacoma from back east was due to arrive.  Thus, it took an extra 24 hours to get to Seattle than to Tacoma, even though Seattle was only 30 miles away.  This kind of hanky panky was the direct cause of the Granger movement, which is the foremost political effort of American farmers even today.  In response, the federal government created the Interstate Commerce Commission, or ICC, which regulated railroads and later trucking and later airlines.
The problem with the ICC of course, is that it went too far in the other direction.  Railroads were not allowed to innovate, were not allowed to drop unprofitable services, were not allowed to branch into new markets.  Since the end of government regulation in the early 1980s, the railroads have had a renaissance, with more traffic than ever before. They know that if they become too pernicious, the government will step in again and mess everything up.

The airline story

In the late 1920s, The Boeing Company became part of a corporation that made airplanes (Boeing), engines for airplanes (Pratt and Whitney), trained pilots and then used those pilots to fly airplanes (United Airlines).  In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration forced the company to split into the airline, engine manufacturer and airframe manufacturer.  For a while, it seemed like outrageous interference in private enterprise, especially by a bunch of liberal democrats.
In turned out to be a Good Thing.  Boeing became free to sell airplanes to other airlines besides United, and it sold clippers, for example, to Pan Am.  Pratt and Whitney became free to sell engines to other airframe makers and it became the foremost aeroengine manufacturer in the world.  United became free to buy airplanes from other builders, especially Douglas.  Boeing, Pratt and United became dominant companies in their fields even without being married to one another; perhaps because they divorced one another.

Your point being....

A split Microsoft might be a stronger group of independent companies than an integrated Microsoft.

Other people feel the same way

See, for example,

Summary and conclusion

The current situation, where Microsoft has the planet by the scrotum is clearly untenable and will end soon, either by Government fiat or simply because IS managers will start looking for Anybody But Microsoft solutions (this has already begun).  The trade press keeps reporting on the death of the Network Computer and the death of Java; in fact, reports of the demise of these Microsoft alternatives are vastly exaggerated. Even the Redmondians are worried about Linux, as well they should: Linux is better.

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