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Microsoft Government The Courts News

Developers As Pawns and One-Night Stands 268

jcatcw writes "At the Comes vs. Microsoft antitrust case, last Friday's testimony included evidence that James Plamondon, a Microsoft technical evangelist, in a 1996 speech referred to independent software developers as 'pawns' and compared wooing them to trying to win over a one-night stand. Last week's proceedings also included testimony by Ronald Alepin, a former CTO at Fujitsu Software Corp. and currently an adviser to the law firm Morrison Foerster LLP. He said that Lotus 1-2-3 was killed, in part, by Microsoft encouraging Lotus's programmers to use the Windows API even though Microsoft's own developers found it too complicated to use." The plaintiffs have created a site that includes transcripts of testimony presented in the case.
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Developers As Pawns and One-Night Stands

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  • Witness for yourself the l33t powers of Microsoft's wooing []. Not exactly worrying, is it?
    • by Fred_A ( 10934 )
      No wonder they're getting Pwned...
    • [...]
      try {
      while (true) {
      audience << "Developers! ";
      catch (...) {
      throw (new Chair());

      By the way, /. really needs <pre> support in user comments. <ecode> just doesn't cut it. (Alternatively, make the latter use the former or come up with another way to preserve indentation.)
  • Interesting stuff... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by a_karbon_devel_005 ( 733886 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:11AM (#17521304)
    The agreement even states that Apple will encourage its employees to use Microsoft Internet Explorer for Macintosh for all Apple-sponsored events and will not promote another browser to its employees. I had no idea Apple had agreements like this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I dont know if you remember, but at one point microsoft owned a substantial share of apples stock, there are a lot of left over agremments from that time. Apple has since able to buy back the stock. Even though there is a big seperation between the users of the two platforms, you will not evade the fact that apples board of directors will allways play to microsofts needs for two big reasons. first, If apple should fall on hard times agian, they now the only place they can go for help. second, they are sym
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:12AM (#17521310)
    Were Java developers any better off until the recent open sourcing of Java? Not really. Neither were most independent developers. When you do that work, you are tying part of your future to another company's good will. That's all there is to it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by biz0r ( 656300 )
      Correct and thats one of the big reasons OSS is so appealing and works removes that 'tie in'.
    • by MaggieL ( 10193 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:26AM (#17521400)
      Were Java developers any better off until the recent open sourcing of Java? Not really. Neither were most independent developers. When you do that work, you are tying part of your future to another company's good will....

      Some companies' good will was somewhat more credible than a "one-night stand" even before Java was open-sourced.
    • With all the legal issues involved with hiring and firing employees, I think we will see employment contracts move closer to sports contracts (for more senior level employees) and you will see year or two or five contracts for employees that other companies can buy out if they want to....
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Were Java developers any better off until the recent open sourcing of

      Well yes, in a Word. For one thing Java has never really been controlled by a single vendor and the JCP, for all its faults, has worked pretty well for around 10 years now.For another the source for much of Java has always been visible and available and clearly specified. And finally whilst Microsoft deliberately keeps parts of the Windows API hidden from developers to give it an edge, the same has never

  • tagged as Duh! (Score:4, Informative)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:12AM (#17521314)
    <sacarasm>Well I am shock and surprised . </sacarasm> Have you noticed that Microsoft products tend to have features that you can't easily program yourself. Say back in the late 1990s where Office had icons next to the menu options and Microsofts Own development tools didn't allow you to do so. Or crappy grid controls or page controls (in which Microsoft FoxPro had much superior ones that didn't appear until .net) MS Developers tools force use to stay 10 years behind the times.
    • Re:tagged as Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

      by tfinniga ( 555989 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:25AM (#17521392)
      While some of your complaints are valid, like there not being easy-to-find hooks in the UI that are used by Microsoft products, others are specious. Specifically, complaining about the grid controls in MFC not being as good as the ones in, say, FoxPro.

      FoxPro was initially developed in a cross-platform manner, by a different company. Also, the team inside Microsoft that eventually took it over was separate from the MFC team. There's really no reason why you should expect that all of their custom controls should be made available as part of a library. It's not like they wrote to some hidden high-quality grid control in the MFC that wasn't exposed to non-Microsoft developers - they just built a better grid control using the same interface that was exposed to everyone, the same way you'd have to if you wanted the same functionality. I've seen some code for the grid control of another MS product, and it is pretty much straight to Win32 drawing calls, event handling, etc. It looked like it was very painful to get right.

      Of course, I'm personally of the opinion that MFC is total crap, but then again I've been spoiled by well-designed libraries like Qt.
    • The Office team rolls its own UI widgets, and have done so for years. You refer to Office having icons next to the menu options; well the Office team did that on its own. They haven't used the OS-provided menus since at least Office 97 (their menus are simply toolbars, which is why they can be moved, detached, docked to any border, etc; they are just like any other of Office's toolbars). At the time Office 97 was made, the neither the system nor MS devtools provided toolbars (of the kind that Office uses
  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:15AM (#17521336)
    If you're writing an app for Windows, what is the alternative to using the Windows API? How could Microsoft develop Windows applications without using the Windows API? Was Lotus seriously considering developing Lotus 1-2-3 in Java? (Although that might explain the trainwreck called Lotus Notes.)
    • by Eivind ( 15695 )
      I dunno. But one alternative is to use the API of some toolkit, and let the toolkit deal with the specifics of any one platform.

      For example, you could program your app using the API provided by QT, and have QT deal with the rest. This would give you the added benefit that your application would work cross-platform.

    • by sqlrob ( 173498 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:23AM (#17521378)
      There the Windows API that's published, and then functions that no one other than Microsoft (and reverse engineers) know about. That's what they're talking about.

      The original example from Win 3.1 that's always talked about is a certain timer function. The function that would provide timers to programmers could fail with insufficient resources, and you had to code around that. MS had an API, not in the documentation, used in Office, that would return a timer no matter what. They never had to code the error condition, where everyone else did.

      • Uh, ok. That doesn't sound like that much of a burden on developers, if that's the most important undocumented function in the Windows API. Really, the most amazing part is that Microsoft in the late 80s/early 90s could code a function *guaranteed* to return a timer no matter what else was happening in the computer... what did it do when there was no memory? Just randomly remove another program from RAM?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:43AM (#17521526)
          You missed his point, and got caught by the simple, common example.

          Microsoft actually had two layers of API. There was an internal API used by other Microsoft employees, and the public API advertised and documented for other devleopers to use.

          There were several articles in Dr. Dobb's Journal detailing diferences between the APIs, written by people who were trying to tear under the hood in ways Microsoft STILL describes as criminal.

          Some of the public API structures did nothing but rearrange the arguments, call a delay timer, and then call the internal API. Seriously.

          The material described in these articles was part of the first big push about Microsoft abusing it's monopoly position. After all, people were builidng proof that Micorsoft was specifically making it impossible for anyone to write applications that could finction as cleanly, quickly, smoothly as Microsoft's own, or that could even be as small as Microsoft's own. They used the natural OS monopoly to make it impossible to compete fairly in the application market for that OS.

          I wonder why Microsoft calls the efforts to uncover the API differences criminal?

          And for those who want to call this blatant Microsoft bashing, go check Dr. Dobb's Journals from the early Windows 3.1 era for yourself. I don't have to make this up. The facts do more bashing than anything I could make up.
          • by arivanov ( 12034 )
            10 years ago there was a rumour going the rounds that in the run up to the release of OS2 4.0 IBM did a Windows reverse engineering effort outside the US which found something like more 10000 undocumented API calls in Windows 95 which were essential for the full implementation of an emulation environment. There was no way they could ship without exposing themselves to a serious legal liability (as you note, MSFT regards some of these activities as criminal). As a result they abandoned the emulation effort a
        • by sqlrob ( 173498 )
          That's far from the most important. There's undocumented IPC that's faster than others, functions for getting system information and more. There's several books on this, this [] is the gold standard for one set of the APIs. Note that this book *alone* covers several hundred calls, and it's not complete.

          And Office (as of at least 2003, don't know about 2007) uses undocumented functions. Compare the import tables of the executable and DLLs to the libraries provided with the SDK and the export tables of the syste
      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:45AM (#17521544) Homepage
        Reverse engineers? Are those like the reverse vampires who only go out in the day?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joshsnow ( 551754 )
      How could Microsoft develop Windows applications without using the Windows API?

      Well, AFAIK, Microsofts own apps do use the windows API, but the published Windows API (available and recommended for use by third party devs) is only a subset of all that's available.

      People are crying foul because some of the hidden stuff is quicker/easier to use/more reliable than the published stuff thereby giving MS an advantage when developing its own apps over a 3rd party doing the same (1-2-3 vs Excel for instance) AN
    • by SAN1701 ( 537455 )
      By that time there was already Delphi [], which wraps most Windows API in a beautiful, well organized OO library called the VCL, and generates single-file executables (no DLL Hell) with C-like speed.

      I use Delphi since then, already did dozens of small and medium apps with it, and, altough sometimes necessary, it's pretty rare to use direct Windows API calls. AFAIK, one of today's most famous application made with Delphi is the Win32 client for Skype, but many shareware and corporate apps uses it too.
    • by vdboor ( 827057 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:26AM (#17521904) Homepage

      If you're writing an app for Windows, what is the alternative to using the Windows API? How could Microsoft develop Windows applications without using the Windows API?
      Well consider reading about Windows NT, Secret APIs and the Consequences [] (Google Cache []). There is a private hidden API under the Win32 API calls. For example, NtCreateProcess is the internal function used by the CreateProcess function. The Win32 API only exposes a small subset of the available API functions in Windows. From the article:

      (..) when Microsoft released Internet Information Server (IIS), it significantly outperformed Netscape Server on the NT Platform. Microsoft insisted that its developers had not had any additional acceess to information than had Netscape developers. Yet after careful review, Netscape developers were able to utilize previously undisclosed information about NT in their own products. Future releases of Netscape Server were competitive with IIS in subsequent testing.
      If you write programs using a documented API, the programs run slower. The second quote illustrates that Microsoft uses the hidden APIs to make their applications the best in any particular market:

      Microsoft can write application code that can run optimally on an operating system, has advance knowledge about future releases, knows which programming method to choose over another, and can tweak the OS code prior to final relase to advantage3 its own applications.
      If you perform the costly task of reverse-engineering the hidden APIs in order to compete with Microsoft, they change those hidden APIs to favor their products.

      If the product becomes popular or makes money, Microsoft can make a faster competing product using the real system calls, or they can change the real NT system calls out from under your product at the next release of NT. In either case, Microsoft can cause their competing product to inherit your market.
    • The Microsoft software team probably used internal hooks or direct calls to memory that other programmers did not know about. I think he means other teams were encouraged to use documented Windows APIs instead of software hacks. There was a good reason Microsoft should have been broken up into an application and an OS group.
    • by wrook ( 134116 )
      Even if you don't have another API to use, you always have the option of rolling your own. Even now Windows developers have to make these choices. Do we stick with the unbelievably stupid grid controls and look like a "Windows App", or do we make our own? The problem with making your own is that Microsoft keeps threatening to change the look and feel of everything meaning that you either play catch up with them, or use their API. Personally, I'd rather play catchup. But edicts tend to be handed down fr
    • If you're writing an app for Windows, what is the alternative to using the Windows API?

      Use wxWidgets, QT, GTK or a different GUI toolkit.

      How could Microsoft develop Windows applications without using the Windows API?

      The same way, but they buy it and call it "Visual name.NET 2007 Professional Edition".
  • Is it really news that contractors are considered nothing more than replaceable parts? Whenever we've staffed programs with contractors, it's always been understood (by my company and the contractors) that they are essentially mercenaries and not really part of our company and culture. (If they WANTED to be part of our (or any) company and culture, they wouldn't be contractors, right?) When things (i.e., money) get tight, who's the first to go? The contractors, of course. No surprises to anyone. We're
    • by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:10AM (#17521736)
      I would disagree. Contractors can play a very distinct role: to fill a void (in skills) at a company. If this isn't the case, then they are contracted to fill a void in manpower. Most of the time, however, a contractor is brought on board to lend their expertise to a project.

      Many organizations work with contractors because it's easier to hire and release a contractor than it is to hire and release a full-time employee with positional power. With contracting, there's typically a trial period during which the organization has made no guarantee of your employment with them. So the contractor benefits from higher wages, and the organization benefits from one less salary commitment.
      • by mutterc ( 828335 )

        easier to hire and release a contractor

        I've never understood this. I'm a U.S. programmer in a company who has more engineers in its India office than here. As a result, I live like the sword of Damocles is hanging over my head all the time. (It's pretty liberating, as this means termination is no threat. "Yes, I know we have a no-moonlighting policy. If I give it up, that means I can keep my job for what? One more day?")

        Everyplace I've ever worked has an application you sign stating you accept at-will employment. And then a handbook that doe

    • In many large companies, even well-managed ones, the demands of the stock analysts force the companies to lay off employees, while retaining contractors.

      And yes, this is a terrible idea, but itis involuntary (;-))

      Been there, done that, as employee, contractor and employee-became-contractor-three-days-later


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You are simply deluding yourself, to your employers delight, that you as a permanent employee, have any more job security, or value to the company, than a contract programmer.

      I have survived several RIFs in some large banks as a contractor, while FTEs I sat and worked with were let go.

      Contracting is a much more honest relationship between employer and employee. I don't work, they don't pay. They don't owe me anything, I don't expect anything from them. I don't put up with the corporate bullshit, they don'
  • by Lord_Slepnir ( 585350 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:41AM (#17521514) Journal
    Alright, I'm not a lawyer. I don't even play one on slashdot. But can someone please tell me how one Microsoft rep referring to developers as a cheap date is in any way shape or form relevant in an anti-trust case.

    Also, does anyone else get an image of the robot preacher from Futurerama when they hear the words "Tech Evangelist"?

    • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:16AM (#17521786) Homepage
      Probbably because tricking developers into using the Windows API, (which Microsoft knew to be problematic) is a part of Microsoft's anti-competitive behaviour. Anti-competitive behaviour isn't illegal unless you're a monopoly like Microsoft is. The article references Microsoft encouraging Lotus to use the Windows API, and claims that contributed to the decline of Lotus 1-2-3.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      I's a sensational quote pulled for media. That reference alone means nothing. It needs to be taken into context wtha larger and mure complex case.

      I am begining to think that slashdot is trolled with the most stupid quotes in order to gain support for the other side of cases.

  • "You can't cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump." - W.C. Fields.

    Really, there's a remarkable number of sheeple out there.

  • [...] James Plamondon, a Microsoft technical evangelist, in a 1996 speech referred to independent software developers as 'pawns' [...]

    There's nothing wrong with this statement:

    1) More than one chess match has been won with proper use of pawns. More than one independant dev has made a product really work.
    2) Short of the one you start with, the only way to get the most powerful piece on the board is... A PAWN. Some of the best developers come from the independant pool...
    3) And yes, a lot of independant devs a

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Except the term 'Pawns' Refers to somethingnyou use and through away. Calling someone a pawn is considered derogatory.

      1) Chess matches are often won by sacrificing pawns. I, for one, have no desired to be sacrificed for someone elses aggenda.

      2) do you relizes that what you are saying boils down to "WHen a pawn does occasionally succeed, it is sacrificed as a matter of course for somoen of a high 'class'?" Having been on a team that created a piece of software that saved a financial institution 100 Million a
      • do you look at things in the worst possible light because you enjoy making nasty comments to people, or just because you are horribly pessimistic.

        I was trying to turn a nasty comment into something pleasant and more motivational to independant developers rather than the "you are scum of the earth" type comment the person I quoted said.

        Finally, yes, I do know of such a person, who is a "top star" coder, does maintenance, QA and documentation, but so what? You won't believe it and I'm certainly not giving out
  • by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:58AM (#17521636)
    I have high standards, you insensitive clod!

    You must be a daemon in the sack.
    You must be agile.
    No time for debugging your problems.
    I will not use a trojan horse.
    Time slicing with others is not okay.
    Don't ever call my thing a widget.
  • by mysqlrocks ( 783488 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:18AM (#17521802) Homepage Journal
    Anybody else get the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 ad on this Slashdot article (screen shot below)? /slashdot_ms.jpg []
  • "applications barrier to entry". Dvorak wrote about this last year. He thinks Microsoft should spend thier cash before they loose it.

    Read more about it here:,1759,2070989, p []

  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:00AM (#17522344)
    Of course, the whole point of a one-night-stand is to get fucked.

  • Unbelieveable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by t'mbert ( 301531 )
    None of these API's just fell out of the sky and landed in Microsoft's lap; they were built tediously and at great expense. And let's not forget that these are not the types of functions that are really making Microsoft top dog. Microsoft is top dog due to social and business factors, not API's and technical ones.

    Funny that there are endless discussions about the poor technical quality of Microsoft's products, and at the same time rants that Microsoft is gaining an unfair advantage via technical means. Eith
  • But isn't the real question, "Will Microsoft respect me in the morning?"

    In seriousness, I think most ISVs know the pitfalls of working with Microsoft. At the end of the day, you've still gotta sell your stuff and so far at least, Microsoft platforms have proven to be a good place to sell stuff. I think I like the wooing analogy better than a ticks on the dog alternative!
  • This is a warning to be passed along to all developers.

    This crime appears to be occurring in large cities and apparently is well known to the police community. Here's what's happened so far in Redmond.

    Software developer goes to a seminar and meets meets a fairly attractive young woman and they hit it off.

    Next thing he knows, he wakes up in a strange cubicle, with his hard drive in a tub full of ice. Written in lipstick on the mirror is a note: "use Windows APIs, or you will die".

    He calls tech support on the
  • by mmmmbeer ( 107215 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:34PM (#17526560)
    Sounds like a perfect way to get a virus.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984