I can remember when minicomputers extended the reach of the mainframe and eventually competed with mainframes. Then microcomputers came along and competed with both. Now, Mini v Micro is back in the news another way, software.
The x86 personal computers have long been powerful enough to run the applications of multiple users. I have often run a whole computer lab from a single PC running GNU/Linux. I used the lab’s PCs as thin clients. There is another way to use a PC for multiple users and that is to connect multiple monitors, keyboards and mice to one PC. That is what MiniFrame has been doing from M$’s OS. M$ liked that so much that they revised their EULA for Vista to include a “single-user” requirement.
- M$ has a monopoly on the OS with ~70%+ on clients and servers,
- before 2007 one could legally share one of M$’s PCs with multiple simultaneous users without a server,
- MiniFrames’ SoftXpand PC-sharing software became popular and was used in 30 countries,
- Another company, NComputing did the same,
- In 2009, M$ made an exclusive deal with NComputing to include M$’s server OS in their PC-sharing system,
- Vista EULA:“2.b. Number of Users. Except as provided in the Device Connections (all editions), Remote Access Technologies (Home Basic and Home Premium editions) and other Access Technologies (Ultimate edition) sections below, only one user may use the software at a time. “
- M$ interfered with MiniFrame’s customers and OEMs to prevent them using MiniFrame’s software,
- M$ refused to make a licensing deal with MiniFrame,
- MiniFrame lost tens of $millions of business, and
- MiniFrame demands an injunction against M$’s anti-competitive behaviour, $1 billion, costs and punitive damages.
The important legal issue in all of this is that copyright law is about making copies and MiniFrame is not suggesting or promoting the copying of anything from M$ so M$ is attempting to extend copyright law by its contracts/EULAs. If MiniFrame wins something here, it could have a weakening effect on the cursed EULA which is designed to take away the rights of people to use software and hardware that they have acquired legally. MiniFrame’s SoftXpand software is just an application that runs on a PC. M$ has no right to prevent anyone from running that software, IMHO. They do not copy M$’s OS. They do not violate M$’s copyright at all in doing so.
M$ of course, denies everything, even monopoly, and claims it can put whatever terms it wants in its contracts. Both are false. If it walks and talks like a monopoly, it is one. A contract is not a contract if it attempts to do something illegal like stifle competition. Clearly, M$ is doing that.
Whatever the outcome, the case clearly documents the high costs of using M$’s software. Both M$ and MiniFrame can be cut out of your budget by using Debian GNU/Linux. I was using thin clients with GNU/Linux back in 2003 with great success and similarly used multiseat systems in 2006 all with no licensing fees, just Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). The X Window System has allowed users of GNU/Linux to set up multiple displays or multiple users using multiple displays for years on one or many PCs.
GNU/Linux works for you. There’s no need to sue anyone over using it.