In the wake of the death of Joe Barr, Linux.com's editor, I've been reacquainting myself with his work, and his insights into Microsoft's earlier "dirty tricks". I was vaguely familiar with some of this, but it's worth remembering that Microsoft's racketeering techniques are hardly new ... they've been doing this stuff since day one.
I may end up adding this to the collection at Grokdoc's Dirty Tricks History wiki pages, but for now - here's a sample:
After all, it was IBM who invented FUD. A classic example being the sales call made by IBM on a customer considering another vendor. One of the blue suits, sometime during the visit, would remark "I certainly hope the talk about their (the competitor's) financial difficulties is not true." If the customer asked for more details, the salesman could simply apologize for his "slip of the tongue" and change the topic. But whether the customer asked about it or not, a seed of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" about the possible consequences of doing business with the competitor had been sown.
Microsoft took FUD to a whole 'nother level. Instead of using softly whispered asides during sales calls, they hired shills to blare the FUD over loudspeakers: Journalists, analysts, and astroturfing surfers are all employed to that end. The list of victims of such FUD attacks is too long to relate here. Let's just say that Novell received a rather large settlement recently for the damage done to DrDOS by Microsoft's FUD.
But Canopus is more than just Will Zachmann. More too than his wonderful crew of sysops (Bruce Bierman, John Oellrich, and Ben Sano) who slave to keep the threads in order and the flames to a simmer. Bruce works for Microsoft, John for AT&T. This is not just a place for OS/2 fanatics, Canopus has both Work Place Shills and Microsoft Munchkins, but there are more fans of OS/2 there than you normally find elsewhere.
SLIME 1. Spin, Lies, and Insults by Microsoft Employees. The extension of Microsoft's corporate ethic to online community.
One place that's been SLIME'd is Canopus, the forum on CompuServe that had become my regular online habitat. At one time it was a bastion of independent thought, consisting of contrary but industry-wise regulars who were never afraid to criticize the powerhouses in the industry, be they IBM or Microsoft or anybody else.
I think the change began about the time Win95 debuted. For one thing, honest debate and sincere conversation began to decline with the arrival of Arnold Krueger. Whatever it is that brought him to Canopus, or keeps him there, it is definitely not honest discourse. Arnold is a one-man propaganda machine, boosting Win95 and dis'ing everything else. He is the kind of guy who belongs in one of the comp.os.___.advocacy newsgroups. And no where else. Since the first day he arrived, his message has been simply this: Win95 is it, if you don't use it you are stupid, if you computer won't run it, it's a piece of crap.
One unfortunate reality of Microsoft's reputation for dishonesty is that its employees can immediately gain credibility by claiming not to be MS employees. Steve Barkto and Bill Diamond are two of the best known examples.
And spin he does. He is easily the most gifted liar the forum has seen. He is not a buffoon-like bozo like Arnold Krueger who puts out so much crap that it is laughable. No, Richard Shupak does it with style. He mixes truth, fact, and bullshit in amounts calculated to bring the most believability a spin-doctor can hope for. He uses inuendo like a scalpel. Almost always his goal is to deceive.
Two weeks ago a startling post by a Canadian Canopian claimed that London Drugs, a chain of stores, had an agreement with Microsoft that prohibited them from displaying OS/2 on their shelves. I knew it couldn't be true. Microsoft is hard at work trying to have Sporkin removed as the presiding judge at the hearings on their consent decree. This sort of restraint of trade would blow up in their face at just exactly the wrong time. Still, I decided to track it down.
I got the phone number for the store in Edmonton, Canada, and called and asked for the computer department. Color me surprised when the clerk told me that it was true, that they could not display Warp, although they kept it in the stockroom and sold it on request. I asked to speak to a manager. Said manager repeated the same thing, that for 'certain considerations' from Microsoft, they kept OS/2 off their shelves. This was too hot to hold for the next issue of Tech-Connected, so I passed it on to a well-known and highly respected newspaper man.