This week, I present my Down to the Wire awards. Microsoft won the most awards again this year. But the competition was fierce.
We will start with the Beverage Through the Nose award, which once again goes to Microsoft. You can order Internet Explorer 4.0 on CD-ROM from Microsoft. You can buy it from a retailer. You can download it. The beta version for Microsoft Office 2000 comes with Internet Explorer. You can get IE for Macintosh. You can get it for Solaris. You can download a beta release of the latest version, IE 5.0. But according to Microsoft, it's an inextricable part of the Windows OS.
Microsoft also wins the Bloopers and Practical Jokes award for 1998. The documentation for Windows NT 4.0 incorrectly implies that this latest version of NT is C2 certified. Security expert Ed Curry noticed this error and spent most of 1998 trying to alert government customers that they might be purchasing NT 4.0 under the mistaken assumption that it is certified. (Curry was responsible for the C2 certification of NT 3.51.)Ironically, it turns out that the only reason the documentation contains misleading language is because Microsoft deliberately designed security holes into NT 4.0. The author of the NT documentation overheard the Microsoft quality assurance tester say "C2 secure" while pointing to an installation of NT 4.0. Unfortunately, this part-time employee was actually complaining that there still weren't enough holes in the NT security model. The employee pointed to the problem and said, "See? Too secure."
The award for the Most Effective Promotion of Linux goes to Microsoft, too. Microsoft easily qualified for the award when it produced the "Halloween documents" (so named because these internal documents were leaked on Halloween). This in-depth examination of the emerging threat of open-source software contains some of the most eloquently worded arguments for using Linux instead of Windows NT at the server.
Microsoft then went above and beyond the call of duty when its vice president of applications, Paul Maritz, as part of his testimony in the Justice Department's antitrust case against the company, gushed over how easy it is to install and use Red Hat Linux and Caldera OpenLinux. He explained how his son installed Red Hat Linux over the Internet in about 30 minutes, with no manual and no additional help. Maritz also argued that Linux is growing in popularity on the desktop as well as the server, and pointed out that there are plenty of native productivity applications for Linux, such as the full-featured and powerful StarOffice.
Of course, it is not entirely unreasonable to suspect Maritz may have an ulterior motive for promoting Linux. It's possible he's just kissing up to Red Hat or Caldera in the hope that these companies will have a job for him when Windows 2000 implodes.
Steve Jobs walks away with this year's Economic Triage award. Jobs demonstrated that Apple really can turn a profit even if it doesn't deliver Copeland or whatever OS Apple has decided to support this week. All Apple had to do was take a big handout from its competitor Microsoft, cut its expenses, lock its competitors out of the market, and eliminate most of its existing product lines.
Those in the IT community who are passing up Novell Directory Services in order to wait for Microsoft's Active Directory deserve the What, Me Worry? award for 1998.
Cult of the Dead Cow
The Cult of the Dead Cow wins this year's Information at Everyone's Fingertips award. In August 1998, the Cult of the Dead Cow introduced BackOrifice. BackOrifice is a tiny but powerful program that makes all of the information on your Windows machine available to anyone who wants to access it - even if you don't want them to have that access. Best of all, the installation program for BackOrifice is so easy that it practically runs itself. In fact, you may already have BackOrifice installed on your system and not know it.
Finally, the award for the Biggest Technology Flop goes to mobile network computing. I confess I nearly forgot to give this award. Fortunately, I jotted down a reminder in Lotus Organizer and later came across the note on my PalmPilot.