The first editor to stand up to Microsoft was over at InfoWorld. Nick Petreley checked out a claim Microsoft made of Windows NT Server [version of NT for server computers] and Workstation [for desktop computers]. (Windows 2000 and XP are based on NT.)
Microsoft claimed the two products were different: "...the source code for the kernel has embedded statements -- #ifdef statements. These cause the compiler to produce different executables depending on whether the target is a server or a workstation."
Petreley revealed the lie: the core of the two products was identical -- "...Windows NT's own file-compare program will show that Workstation and Server kernels are identical," he wrote. Andrew Schulman of O'Reilly & Associates found that the only difference was settings in the registry.
Why was this important? Windows NT Workstation could be made to perform just like Windows NT Server just by tweaking the registry. Yet Microsoft charged a lot more for the Server version, claiming there was a difference between the two products.
Petreley relates a second story of Microsoft revealing the then-new Plug'n'Play APIs to select hardware vendors, but publicly Microsoft denied the API existed. Who do you believe? "The predisposition to lie also draws suspicion in every questionable situation." As a result, we now automatically disbelieve Microsoft based on past patterns of its behavior. I am of the opinion that this behaviour goes all the way back to the earliest employees of Microsoft telling IBM they already had an operating system available for the not-yet-released IBM PC -- but then had to buy one, because Microsoft didn't have any OS.
You get a sense of the rationalization at work: we have an OS [once we buy one]. NT Server costs more than Workstation because they are different [in their registry settings]. There is no Plug'nPlay API [because we haven't made it public yet].
You need to understand that Petreley's column in that issue of InfoWorld was stunningly brave. For the first time, a journalist got past being cowed by Microsoft's marketing and PR people, and called Microsoft on its bluff.
Until then, journalists knew stuff was rotten, but didn't dare cross the Most Important Software Company in the World. In part, because they didn't want to lose the perks they got, such as free software, invites to Important Events, and access to Microsoft executives. Why spit in the gravy train?
Petreley broke the taboo, allowing other journalists to speak freely about Microsoftian marketing tactics. To criticize Microsoft was no longer the domain of the insane. Later, when Microsoft was found guilty of monopolistic behaviour, some the mainstream press also became more critical, although some, like the CBC, continue to fawn.