How MS played the incompatibility card against DR-DOS

Real bear-traps, and spurious errors


MS on Trial One of the claims by Caldera that Microsoft wanted dismissed concerned intentional incompatibilities between Windows and DR-DOS. David Cole and Phil Barrett exchanged emails on 30 September 1991: " "It's pretty clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an OEM version of it," and "The approach we will take is to detect dr 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like 'Invalid device driver interface.'" Microsoft had several methods of detecting and sabotaging the use of DR-DOS with Windows, one incorporated into "Bambi", the code name that Microsoft used for its disk cache utility (SMARTDRV) that detected DR-DOS and refused to load it for Windows 3.1. The AARD code trickery is well-known, but Caldera is now pursuing four other deliberate incompatibilities. One of them was a version check in XMS in the Windows 3.1 setup program which produced the message: "The XMS driver you have installed is not compatible with Windows. You must remove it before setup can successfully install Windows." Of course there was no reason for this. Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who finally left the company last week, but who in an earlier life had been responsible for Windows 95, emailed Allchin on 27 September 1991: "after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it's a small step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don't know precisely what ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the future." Allchin replied: "You should make sure it has problems in the future. :-)", which is clear enough, and it should be noted that the pair were both high level Microsoft executives. Fake errors: should we tell the techies? Microsoft had a separate motion for dismissal of the AARD-related perceived incompatibilities. The message generated if DR DOS was used with Windows 3.1 betas was: "Non-fatal error detected: Error number [varied]. Please contact Windows 3.1 beta support. Press enter to exit or C to continue." Caldera said that the error message was false. Microsoft's defence was not that it hadn't done it (which it had previously argued), but that it was just jolly old product disparagement. Andy Hill emailed David Cole, Windows group manager: "Janine has brought up some good questions on how we handle the error messages that the users will get if they aren't using MS-DOS. The beta testers will ask questions. How should the techs respond: Ignorance, the truth, other? This will no doubt raise a stir on Compuserve. We should either be proactive and post something up there now, or have a response already constructed so we can flash it up there as soon as the issue arises so we can nip it in the bud before we have a typical CIS snow-ball mutiny." Cole replied: "Let's plead ignorance for a while. We need to figure out our overall strategy for this. I'm surprised people aren't flaming yet, maybe they won't." Cole also sent an email to Silverberg suggesting a less severe message be used when DR DOS was detected: "A kind-gentle message in setup would probably not offend anyone and probably won't get the press up in arms, but I don't think it serves much of a warning. BillP made an excellent point, what is the guy supposed to do? With a TSR, the solution is to just remove it. With DR-DOS, or any others, I doubt the user is in a position of changing. He will no doubt continue to install. When he finds problems, he will call PSS. We will get a lot of calls from DR-DOS users. "Perhaps a message in the phone system for Windows. It would say something like 'if you are not using MS-DOS or an OEM version of MS-DOS, then press ##'. Then give them the message." Silverberg replied: "What the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out to buy ms-dos. or decide to not take the risk for the other machines he has to buy for in the office." Motion denied, said Judge Benson. On whether Microsoft should have made a beta of Windows 3.1 available (called "predisclosed" in the jargon) to enable DR-DOS to be tested for compatibility, Judge Benson said that "the question currently before the Court is not whether Microsoft was under a duty to include DRI in beta testing, but rather whether excluding DRI from beta testing, in which it had previously been included, was predatory conduct under the attenuating circumstances" and went on to confirm that "the Court does intend to uphold the basic antitrust principle that a monopolist may not eradicate its competitors through anticompetitive means." The judge gave his conclusion on the motion: "When viewed in context with Caldera's other anticompetitive allegations the fact that DRI was blacklisted may be considered by the fact finder along with other alleged predatory conduct to determine if a 2 violation has occurred." Motion relating to plaintiff's predisclosure claims is denied. ® Next section: Win95 - is it Dos 7 plus Windows 4? Back to start


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