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An Old Idea Comes Back

Way back in the '80s I visited the Redmond campus when it had two buildings -- one for apps and one for the OS. Insiders explained that the cafeteria was set between the two so the groups could talk. Later on, when competitors accused Microsoft of giving its apps folks inside dope, Microsoft rather famously declared there was a "Chinese wall" between the two groups.

As a reporter for Infoworld, I helped bust this thesis by proving that Microsoft apps developers used secret API calls to make the most of Windows. (Major credit here goes to Brian Livingston and Stuart Johnston. I played a minor role verifying ISV claims.)

This became the basis of the federal government's efforts to break Microsoft up into two companies: one focused on operating systems, and the other on programs.

I've long thought that this could be for the better good, as the apps teams could truly go multiplatform, while the OS team could port Windows to any and all viable hardware platforms (exactly as Linux has done).

So when I heard the new call to break up Redmond it sounded either old hat or a publicity stunt. Then I found that Goldman Sachs was making this assertion. Computer historians and savvy investors both probably remember that Sachs took MSFT public at $21 a share. (I was prevented from buying any due my role as a journalist. Were it not for these ethics, I could be writing this from Tahiti.)

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/06/2010 at 1:18 PM


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