Microsoft: karmic payback and the software industry

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It is hard to explain to anyone younger than 20, the power and fear that Microsoft wielded in the computer industry right up to the early noughties.

To give you just a small example of how that power was misused: back in 1991, Microsoft introduced into a pre-release version of Windows 3.11 a number of executable files including an installer and a file to load Windows from DOS. These files collectively known as AARD code utilised a number of undocumented attributes of MS-DOS to determine whether a computer was running Microsoft’s DOS or someone else’s.

When the AARD code came across DR-DOS it would provide an error message rather than functioning like it should. It was encoded incompatibility that was eventually left dormant in the shipped version of Windows 3.11 and just one small example of Microsoft’s competitive nature.

Now many of the people involved in some of these practices have probably moved on, but these developments remain fresh in the minds of many software developers.

So the recent debacle about Windows 8 not being allowed access to YouTube APIs by Google and the search giant’s lack of support for Windows Phone seemed to be steeped in layers of irony for the student of technology history.

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