My car stereo died this week. It's showed signs of illness
for a month or two, but this week it became apparent that
if I want to listen to cassettes or the radio while I drive
anymore, I'm going to have to replace it.
At least, I'm pretty sure it's something in the radio.
I supposed it could be something in the electrical
system... the battery, the alternator, a short in
some wiring somewhere. I don't think the problem's
outside of the stereo, though, because the rest
of the car seems to run fine. The headlights shine,
the dashboard is lit, and everything goes well when
it's time to start things up and drive.
In other words, I understand that the operation of my
car radio is dependant upon certain other components of
the car. If any of these components isn't there, my
car radio won't work properly. In fact, if these
other components are missing or fail to operate properly,
my entire car might too.
But if anyone suggested to me that removing my car
stereo would render my car inoperable, I would think
they were misinformed, if not dishonest. Perhaps
akin to a crooked mechanic who tries to sell you
repairs you don't need.
Really, it'd be quite an outlandish statement to
make. Sure, it's true that there are components
of the car that the stereo depends on in order
to function. But that doesn't mean the relationship
works the other way. It doesn't make them part of
To many people, this immediately makes sense.
To others... well, they need a way to decide
what constitutes a separate component of these
complex vehicles we drive around in. One could
learn to distinguish these components from
one another by sight -- you can look and see
that they battery is not part of the stereo. And
one could also learn to distinguish them by function:
an alternator transforms a vehicle's motion
a battery stores charge, and a stereo transforms radio
waves into sounds you can hear. Since they perform
different functions, they're different objects.
Now I know what you're thinking: if it's so easy
to separate the components of a car in this way,
making it obvious the operation of the rest of
the car isn't dependant on the operation of the
stereo, why would anyone claim that it is? Honestly
folks, I don't think I've ever seen anyone do this
with a car and a stereo. Even if they could get
away with it, there are few dealers that would even
benefit from the claim.
But I have heard a similar claim from a software
As most of America has heard (and as much of
the technical world is tired of hearing),
Microsoft is attempting to defend itself from
allegations of wide array of anti-competitive
behavior. In defiance of a recent court order,
stating that Microsoft must refrain from
distributing Internet Explorer Web Browser
with its Windows operating system, the Redmond
WA software company stated that removing Internet
Explorer would render Windows inoperable.
Translation: Microsoft wants everyone to believe
that some vehicle of computing (their operating system)
will cease to function without a communications
device that can be included with it.
Now, the lines in the computing world actually are
a little more blurry here than they are in the
automotive world. It's not so easy to just look
and see what separates one software component
from another. But Microsoft's argument bears
quite a bit of resemblance to a weak attempt
to justify calling a car stereo an integral part
of an automobile.
It essentially revolves around the idea that
the Internet Explorer Browser consists of an application
that controls a user interface. However, for much of
its actual functionality, IE relies on several
other software components. Some of these software
components are also used by other applications --
in fact, some are system wide resources, available
to any application that wants to use them. As
such, Microsoft reasons, these components are part
of the operating system.
They're right. Where the argument takes a decidedly
fishy turn is the part where they continue to argue
that these software components are still part of
Internet Explorer. Because you can't have it both
ways. Once something is part of the operating
system, it's really not part of the application
anymore. Once a battery starts supplying power
to parts of the car other than the stereo, it's no
longer part of the stereo, but rather, a part of the
overall car system.
understanding, removing Internet Explorer could not
possibly render Windows inoperative, because you'd
have to leave those software components other applications
rely upon. Just as you can't argue that to remove a car
stereo means removing the battery, you can't argue
that removing such an application -- even one such
as Internet Explorer -- involves removing all
the software components it depends on.
I'm not really sure why Microsoft expects anyone
to believe this. Maybe they really believe it
themselves. Perhaps this strange attempt to
confuse their browser with their operating system
comes because with the era of the Internet already
here, a clear separation of computing and
communication may never happen again. It's true
that from now on, having a computer without a
communications software for email, web browsing
and the like will be even less fun than having
a car without a stereo.
But even so, the argument about the separation between
the application and operating system stands. Perhaps
Microsoft should be regarded with the same suspicion
one might regard a mechanic who suggests repairs you
© 1998 OS News