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PBS: Let a Billion Computers Crash

Jul 12, 1999, 08:51 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robert X. Cringely)

"Why Microsoft's Success Makes Us Even More Vulnerable to Y2K Craziness"

"All of our computers are planted with the same software. This is not software that is functionally the same, but software that is genetically identical. The data structures and application programming interfaces (APIs) of Windows or Word or Excel or a hundred other Microsoft products are absolutely identical on more than 100 million computers in the U.S. alone. Microsoft's carefully crafted upgrade programs have guaranteed that this is the case. And twice this year, we've seen major data security problems caused by this cloning. Both the Melissa and Explore.zip viruses were specific to Microsoft software, requiring not only Windows, but also Microsoft Word. No problemo, since that's what everyone seems to be running. The folks at Corel or Lotus can feel very smug about this -- poor, but smug."

"Microsoft's incredible commercial success has created a system that is very fragile -- not only because the company has such market dominance, but also because its APIs nearly all have extensive undocumented features. That's why Microsoft software works better on Windows than does similar software from other vendors, because Microsoft knows all the little tricks. But viruses and worms love tricks, too. They prey on undocumented features to do their dirty work."

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