Cringely: ‘I confidently predict that Microsoft is going down’ in Iowa anti-trust action

“There was a time when Paul Allen, not Bill Gates, was the boss at Microsoft,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS. “These roles changed over time, of course, and what clearly precipitated the change was Paul Allen’s health. He contracted Hodgkins Disease, a form of cancer, in 1982 when Allen was in charge of the development of MS-DOS 2.0, a complete rewrite of PC-DOS 1, which was itself mainly derived from Seattle Computer Products’ Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) that Microsoft had acquired when Digital Research was unable to come to terms with IBM about using CP/M for the original PC. QDOS was simply not a very good product, and DOS 2.0 was intended to overcome the earlier products’ many problems. It would also eliminate that nascent rumor that QDOS was riddled with code ‘borrowed’ from CP/M.”

“So DOS 2.0 was the most important Microsoft product to date and vital to cementing the company’s relationship with its biggest customer, IBM. It was also by far the most complex product in Microsoft’s young history, which again is why Paul Allen was put in charge. As development continued, Allen’s health began to deteriorate, so much so that the IBM team was worried that Allen might not survive. ‘He looked like death,’ Sams told me. ‘But still they pushed him,'” Cringely writes. “In the Boys’ Club that was Microsoft in those days, maybe the concept of mortality was too abstract, maybe Allen’s poor health wasn’t as obvious to those around him every day as it was to the IBM team that visited from time to time. To his credit, Allen stayed long enough to finish the job, delivering DOS 2.0 then leaving the company forever, eventually to have a bone marrow transplant that cured him completely.”

“But during one of those last long nights of working to finish-up DOS 2.0, something happened. I have heard this story from two people, each of whom was a friend of Allen’s and in a position to know. Each told me the same story the same way. I am not staking my reputation on the accuracy of the story, but I am saying I have it from two good sources. Paul Allen certainly won’t confirm or deny it, so I’ll just throw it out for you to consider,” Cringely writes. “During one of those last long nights working to deliver DOS 2.0 in early 1983, I am told that Paul Allen heard Gates and Ballmer discussing his health and talking about how to get his Microsoft shares back if Allen were to die.”

“My reason for bringing up this topic at this time is because it will all shortly be back in the news as Microsoft goes to court later this year in what might well be its last-ever anti-trust trial. Remember those 19 states and the District of Columbia that settled over time for software vouchers and promises from Microsoft to no longer do evil? Well only Iowa remains, represented by a lady lawyer from Des Moines named Roxanne Conlin whom I have met. Roxanne is not in any way impressed with Microsoft vouchers, no matter how many there are. Looking for real money for the people of Iowa, Ms. Conlin is about to dredge-up all this old news and put a new spin on it,” Cringely writes. “Based purely on character (or lack of it), I confidently predict that Microsoft is going down. It should be interesting.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Pogo” for the heads up.]

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Related article:
Mac users should not buy Microsoft software (or hardware) – May 16, 2003


  1. Ah, Cringely and PBS… where innuendo and hearsay is news.

    This will surely be red meat for the fans, but I doubt that Allen overheard any such thing. Cringely has a habit of smearing someone and then saying, “I’m not staking my reputation on this, but…”

    I would, however, like to see M$’s feet held to the fire on this anti-trust case. They have been getting away with strong-arm tactics for many a year now.

  2. he still didn’t explain why paul allen and his self-removal from microsoft should make us believe that microsoft will loose this next court case.

    “My reason for bringing up this topic at this time is because it will all shortly be back in the news as Microsoft goes to court later this year in what might well be its last-ever anti-trust trial.”

    The only reason he brought this up is because other people are going to bring it up too?

  3. If what he says is true, those are some pretty low-brow, if not irrelevant, tactics the legal team wants to use. What Gates might have said in some back room somewhere unfortunately does not have any bearing on anticompetitive policies. The proof is in the company’s actions (which is pretty good proof).

  4. Come onnnn . . . this is utter garbage. People talk all de time. You just gotta be careful, that’s all. I mean, if Richter ever knew the crap I said about him while he was at Late Night . . .

    Ooooh, wait a minute . . . that’s right: That’s why he left.

    Never mind.

  5. Cringley is often more or less correct in his predictions, but it is speculation based on very loose hearsay. It’s fun reading nonetheless and surely has to be taken as a bit tongue-in-cheek…

  6. “PBS… where innuendo and hearsay is news”

    Multiple surveys show that Americans trust PBS and NPR more than any other TV and radio news sources. Maybe if you actually spent time watching PBS instead of getting the anti-PBS spin from FNC and the rest of the right wing spin machine, you would know that. Instead of cheesy, garish graphics and swooshing SFX under every graphic you actually get the news and in greater depth.

    When the 2006 remedy to the current Republican Congress happens this November, maybe FNC can get out the sound of a broom. That’s right, the GOP is going to lose the House. At the rate ‘W’, Hastert, and Frist are going the Senate may be in reach. You heard it here first.

    The sad thing is that the cleanup behind ‘W’ and his cronies will take a generation.

  7. I love how people say things aren’t biased. Wait, people don’t, idiots do. I grew up in a house where the breadwinner was a news editor. Hence the overabundance of Macs in my life. I know that all news, no matter the source, is bent towards somebody’s agenda. Best thing to do? Don’t get your news from one source. Get it from many, and you’ll have a much clearer picture. Look murkier? That’s because it’s the truth, and sometimes it’s just too hard to believe.

  8. the problem is that the world is filled with lazy journo’s who copy press reports and each others work, so you never get the truth because nobody digs deep enough or wants to.

  9. Who cares if it’s true? Truth is stranger than fiction. The smell from Redmond is everywhere, even if you ain’t seen the smoking pile. Never mind, a call to you know who and they’ll get a favorite judge.

  10. Actually the problem is that truth is seldom black and white while people not only want it to be, but either don’t have the capacity to see otherwise or an over capacity to see it the way their prejudice prefers.

  11. “And I love how NPR/PBS viewers claim that everything from FOX News is “biased” “hearsay” and “opinion”. Ummm…hello? Pot? Kettle?”

    Perhaps it is impossible to completely eliminate a person’s point of view from his or her reporting. And maybe NPR tends to have relatively liberal reporters and hosts. But there is no way NPR has a liberal *agenda* in the way Fox News has a conservative one. When do NPR hosts–not guests–ever push a point of view a la Brit Hume?

    Oh, and to “progeny”: I, Cringely is commentary, not “news.” Are you one of those idiots who writes to the newspaper complaining about bias in the editorials?

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