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. You guys should just ignore these right wing comments. It’s not worth your energy. These sort of people won’t learn anytime soon. And you surely aren’t going to change their minds.

  2. Ah yes. Potshots at the press. Charming. The most naive and dangerous attitude is that “my news source, political party, president, etc., etc. is pure and noble and yours is eil incarnate.”

    I recommend a book titled “Tell the Truth and Run” by journalist George Seldes. It reveals why we should always distrust people in places of power and authority be they politician, pundit, or pope.

    I think it pays to be cynical and skeptical. History is replete with reason to be so.

    MW: take. They are all on the take.

  3. You guys should just ignore these left wing comments. It’s not worth your energy. These sort of people won’t learn anytime soon. And you surely aren’t going to change their minds.

    Back to the real topic of Cringely: It doesn’t make too much sense why he wrote this article. If it was intended to be a scoop regarding upcoming events, it was certainly not too clear on how this was going to bring MS down. If he was holding back more info while awaiting the case to begin, then why write it? If he wasn’t holding back, then there doesn’t seem to be enough here to bring MS down.

  4. RE: RE-Progeny

    “‘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.”

    Just because people believe a thing does not make it true.

    Regarding Cringely, I must say that, while I definitely hope he’s correct, I don’t believe for one minute that MS is “going down” just because of some soap-operatic discussion Gates and Ballmer had over a decade and a-half ago. It’ll take a lot more than defamation of character to take down MS, and it’ll take a lot more than an Iowa legal team, and you can go to the bank on that. Worst case for MS from the great state of IA is, a healthy fine that will barely set MS back in any measurable way.

    Cringely’s comments did come as a bit of a surprise to me with the recent large underwriting given to PBS/NPR from MS – so rumor has it.

    I want MS nominalized in the software market place as badly as any-everybody, but there are no magic bullets here. MS is going to have to be beaten over and over and over again before they come anywhere near a fatal blow.

  5. >Multiple surveys show that Americans trust PBS and NPR more than any other TV and radio news sources. >

    Americans also trust Microsoft more than any other software company.

    PBS and NPR are sooo left wing that they think San-Fran-Freako is conservative.

    I rest my case.

  6. 1- The Current Head of PBS is a Republican Appointee.
    2- The Current Head of CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) is also a Republican Appointee.
    3- The National Endowment for the Arts, US Department of Education, National Academy of Sciences and other major channels for public money into PBS & NPR are all under the appointment of ‘W’ and his Republican cronies on the hill.

    Now if the people in charge and those who hold the purse strings are all serving courtesy of ‘W’, Frist and Hastert, how would/could/should they be leftist? Only NeoCons eat their own.

    BTW FNC Fans, what you gonna do when Shepard Smith comes out of the closet

  7. ok children, here’s the view from the center.

    Npr is left and pbs is left of center. Fox is right of center. CBS and NBC are left. MSNBC is left of center.

    All news shows are slanted one way or another, the comment above about getting your news from more that one source is the best mode of getting the truth.

    Interesting in the above quote by Progeny that he never mentioned that he listened to Fox news, just that his opinion of NPR and PBS wasn’t that good.

    So then Re-Progeny and the rest jump on Fox news. Listen… here’s a news flash for the left. FOX NEWS IS NOT THE FAR RIGHT! The sooner the left learns this and understands this, they will have a chance at winning back the country. Fox news is right of center, but not as much as the left likes to go on and on about. Rush Limbaugh is far right, but fox is left of him. Hannity and Colmes is the best left vs right show on tv today. The country has shifted right in the past decade, and the left has stayed left. The center is more conservative than it was 10 – 20 years ago and the only reason the left is on the outs is because they refused to moderate their far left wing and appeal to the reality of the new paradigm.

    It’s my observation that the far left hates fox news, and the far right hates CBS, NPR, and PBS. Telling a lefty that he’s being spoon fed his mantra is impossible, because their culture prides itself on being intelligent and informed. Telling a righty that he’s being programed by spin and graphics doesn’t work because they see themselves as the new conservatives. Smart, informed, real.

    Listen to both. Learn to think for yourself people.

    Finally – at least be adult and post your real handle when you’re gonna disagree with someone. Hiding behind a pseudo name, or one that makes fun of someone who’s posted before is proof of your lack of commitment to what you’re getting ready to say.

    let the flames begin

  8. People who think that because a Republican appointee is in charge of PBS, that the guys in the trenches who have been shoveling leftist garbage for years immediately change their stripes! Hello, you moron! The biggest problem with Washington is the UNELECTED bureacracy that persists no matter who is in charge. These folks are interested in growing their power at the expense of the electorate. That makes them big-government activists, which means they are…ta da…liberals. And they will do anything (leaks especially) to remove a leader they don’t like.

    As for news, want to prove liberal bias? Take this five-minute test. The next newspaper you read, count how many times a liberal group or position is identified as “liberal” “left” “far-left” and so forth. Then count how many times the opposite side is identified. Only the “out group” will be identified — and no, Fox News doesn’t count, statistically, when matched up against NBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, Washington Post, LA Times, New York Times, and so on.

  9. Everyone with an opinion has a bias and it follows quite naturally that everyone who doesn’t agree with that opinion is wrong.

    Except for a few blonde talking heads, almost every reporter on TV or Radio lets their bias shine trough.

    It just strikes me as odd that most reporters lean towards the left. Do they learn that in journalism school or do right leaning reporters just get weeded out during the hiring process?

  10. Moron,

    The reason that most reporters lean toward the left is quite basic: It is a tenet of politics for the left to snitch on the right. It is the very job of the Democratic Party to not let the Republican Party get too fat (read: hoard all the wealth) or too religious. That’s the “checks and balances” of a two-party system.

  11. Jim – the independent voter:

    I laughed. Not at your summation, but at your suggestion that NPR is left, Rush Limbaugh is “far right” and Hannity & Colmes is the best left vs. right show on TV today. Far right…? Hah!

    I read ‘Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting’ [ ] regularly, who routinely dispel the myth of ‘Hannity/Colmes, Left/Right; Fox news being merely right of centre, etc, etc. It’s only brief as a printed and online magazine is to report the bias [real or imagined].

    For example – and despite your claim – CBS and NBC are not ‘left-wing’…. far, far from it. The statistics belie that assumption. However, this is not the forum for a breakdown or analysis of those statistics, all I’d say [to anyone who wants to have their eyes opened about the media], they should check out FAIR, even if only online. It’s non-hysterical, non-conspiratorial, level-headed journalism, that if it has an axe to grind, it’s to get the bare facts out there – without spin or hyperbole from left or right. It provides statistics and analysis [backed-up with sources], for all US media.

    Before making assumptions about the media that are plainly not true [sorry, but your’s simply aren’t], I’d suggest trying more than one source for your analysis as a poster previously commented.

  12. Wow, didn’t realize so many people disliked Cringely. I love his musings and his connect-the-dot ramblings. When you write a weekly, where you make regular out-on-a-limb predictions, you’re bound to get a few wrong. I’d wager none of his critics here, would do any better.

    Having said that, I like listening to NPR, but I dislike their editorializing. The constant subtle digs at the President is just disrespectful. It’s “President Bush”, not Mr. Bush. Heck, one doesn’t even refer to his dad as Mr. Bush, but the NPRers constantly do it. Shows a lack of respect and courtesy. I mean, people can disagree, but let’s do it with respectful discourse.

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