back to article Microsoft's 'M' treads on US veterans' toes

Microsoft is in hot water again for again taking the name of someone else's software for one of its fledgling products It's emerged Microsoft's M programming language shares the same name as a 30-year-old open language used by the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) along with tens of thousands of users in medicine and …


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  1. Davide Inglima
    Gates Halo

    A difficult battle.

    In this battle you may choose to stay on the pro-microsoft or anti-microsoft side, but in the end you are still telling people that "Vista and M" must die. :D

  2. Eddie Edwards

    This is like IPv4

    We're simply running out of acronyms. We need an IPv6 acronym space perhaps enforcing an ETLA rule.

    The WWF has no right to software trademarks (or wrestling trademarks ...) Microsoft can call their code WWF if they like.

    As for Palladium, wasn't that just a codename? I don't recall the officials of Cairo or Chicago ever having a problem with Microsoft's codenames.

    But the meat of the article - the programming language 'M' - well, Microsoft are just being a little unimaginative there, aren't they? If they want single-letter abbreviations they have the whole Unicode space to choose from. I suggest codepoint 0x2639.

  3. Robajob

    Perhaps they're not trying to trade on MUMPS' success

    At least if this is accurate:

  4. frymaster

    oh for gods sake

    ....some of these people must really have to work hard at getting upset by this sort of thing. I really really _REALLY_ doubt microsoft's codenamed their latest research project as M as part of some kind of master marketing plan to fool users of MUMPS into accidentally buying microsoft products. Though come to think of it, from what I hear MUMPS is an absolute pig to use, so maybe they should ;)

  5. Pierre


    OK, so MS stepped down to avoid The Green Giant's wrath. But that leaves a problem. A problem that needs to be solved in an epic -scripted- bloodbath: airing tomorrow, don't miss the historic WWF vs WWF tagteam battle!

    To my left, in green, Pandy the Panda bear, Elfie the elephant and various critters. To my right, in pink, 739 tons of fake muscle freshly dipped in wrestling oil. Wrestlers... wrestle!

  6. Pierre

    I tried to resist. Honest.

    Instead of skipping a word in the acronym -which is highly inelegant-, why did they not turn "Windows Workflow Foundation" into "Windows Trackback Foundation"? Two birds with one stone: the WWF is happy and the new acronym does have the exact same signification as the full-lenght name.

  7. Shane Sturrock
    Gates Horns

    Nothing new here

    Microsoft doesn't care if a name or acronym is already in use. I remember when they started talking about DNS back in the late 90's and what they meant was their "Digital Nervous System" and not DNS as everyone else knows it. See the following article for example:

  8. Chris C

    Don't forget the other Vista

    Let's not forget there was another Vista that Microsoft ignored (or overlooked):

  9. Anonymous Coward


    We at ms, with our gazillions of dollars, were too busy wallpapering our homes with the money to focus on trivial little things like which organization we needed to stomp out before the next stage of our conquest.

    Sheep, don't question us at MS, if you paid for a license to run windows, even back in '94, we own you and you have no right to question our further actions.

    Smiley face, because all the MS marketers think we're supposed to pretend there are only virtues, and drink the cool-aid.

  10. dervheid


    If anyone had dared to do that to a Microshaft product name, they'd have set the legal hounds on them.

    The VA should sue the shit out of them.

  11. Michael


    What about MaCdonalds??

    (Im lovin' it )

  12. An ominous cow herd


    Ah! I don't see the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) 'heavily phoning' the WWF (World Wrestling Federation)... Are they afraid of measly body slams and assorted movements?

  13. Frederick D. S. Marshall

    About Microsoft

    I enjoyed Mr. Clarke's article and am glad to see someone paying attention to this issue, which most of us assumed would pass without notice by anyone but us. Thank you, Gavin.

    I'd like to take this opportunity to expand on my characterization of Microsoft's action here. I believe the arrogance of their decision to use the name Vista for their latest version of Windows when it was already the name of our software, and then to use the name M for their latest modeling language when it was already the name of our programming language, I think does not reflect deliberate ill intent. I think it results largely from partly unconscious, partly helpless rudeness.

    Microsoft knew full well about VISTA and M before they chose those names. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, principal creator of VISTA, is a major consumer of Microsoft products, including Microsoft Windows, big enough that a special deal has long been negotiated between the two organizations. Further, when Microsoft chose to begin dabbling in medical software, they will obviously have explored the field first to see who their competitors would be. Microsoft understands very well how to enter new markets competitively, and any serious exploration of the medical software market will have turned up both VISTA and MUMPS, along with a lot of other MUMPS-based medical software and a few non-MUMPS-based systems.

    Hence, they knew they were taking established names, but they also knew no existing organization was likely to complain. VISTA is public domain, and M is the name of a programming-language standard created by a nonprofit organization for public consumption; neither is the intellectual property of a private organization. They obviously figured no one who counts would mind, and if they did complain things could be worked out later. This had to be a case of being easier to seek forgiveness or remedy than permission, and why wouldn't they choose this approach? Vista is an excellent choice of names for a version of Windows, a very logical name that follows from their chosen metaphor, so why not just take it? As for M, I suppose it stands for "modeling" just as readily as it stands for "medicine."

    Yet, I think their arrogance and rudeness in simply taking what they want is more innocent even than my comments here may imply. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is famous for encouraging a rough-and-tumble culture among his upper managers in which they are expected to compete fiercely over their corporate strategy. There is some logic to this approach, since it shakes up complacency.

    However, anyone who has worked within a strong culture and then interacted with others will understand the problem—it is all too easy to forget that the rules by which you play internally are not the same as the rules by which everyone else plays.

    So yeah taking someone else's product names without asking or apologizing is objectively rude and arrogant, but so are so many things that so many of us do in life. Many VISTA users and developers were offended and hurt when Microsoft trampled them in marketing its latest version of Windows, but it was hardly a cardinal sin. Likewise, most M programmers' reactions to this latest trampling is disappointed resignation, that Microsoft is doing it to them again.

    I know that Microsoft has many wonderful and creative employees, most of whom are individually polite and considerate. Likewise, Microsoft generally treats its employees very well; I will always be grateful to them for how they took care of my friend David Ice when he grew too ill to continue working for them. I have become an addict of their XBox 360 platform, and have begun to suspect that some of their most talented programmers and designers are working in their games division. Besides, there are implementations of M that run on Windows, and VISTA runs on M, so Vista and VISTA will be partners for years to come, as will M and VistA, and maybe someday even M and M. My comments are hence in no way any kind of indictment of Microsoft, but yes, their taking my community's names twice now is inconsiderate.

    When people are inconsiderate to each other, they can often mend their fences with something as simple as an apology, or prevent problems in advance by asking, or explaining what they're about to do and why and expressing a little simple regret that it is necessary.

    Unfortunately, although U.S. law pretends that corporations are people, they are not. For example, if a corporation formally apologizes for anything, they are inviting hordes of lawyers to descend on them like locusts to extract money in compensation, even if none of the parties directly involved want anything of the sort to happen. That's why none of us ever expects Microsoft to be polite about these things—how can they without being punished by the law?

    Yes, the need for apologies could be obviated if they simply wouldn't take our names, but clearly they can't help themselves. I take that as a compliment.

    Besides, although it's not up to me, I would like to abandon the name M and move back to our language's original name of MUMPS. Microsoft taking M for their own product strengthens my argument for switching back to MUMPS. So they're doing me a favor. Thanks, guys!

    --Rick Marshall

    Seattle, Washington

    PS: Other members of our community do not feel nearly as sanguine about all this as I do, but they will have to speak for themselves.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the upside... might kill off MUMPS.

  15. Big_Boomer


    Can you copyright a letter now?

    If I copyright them all I'll be Rich, RICH I TELL YOU! <LOL>

    Who cares about some obscure programming language.

    Who cares what MS call their new language.

    These people need a life if that is all they have to get riled over.

  16. D@v3

    @ An ominous cow herd

    Infact they did, some time ago, which is why the WWF (wrestling) is now WWE

  17. Peyton

    the Department of Veterans Affairs

    has its own programming language?!?! wtf?!

    If I had been paying taxes back when this thing was written I would be feeling seriously ripped off right now lol

  18. Adrian Midgley

    Massachusets general hospital, not VA, developed it.

    Peyton above... no.

    MUMPS is the first and only language and database management system designed for medical records.

    The MGH clearly had some interest in such things, and back then people who needed to solve problems were writing such things, as they didn't largely exist.

    It continues to be good at the things that we doctors want from medical record software, although less good at the things that vendors want from health service managers (££££, lockin and opportuities to reimplement wheels) .

    GT.M has particular virtues in addition to those characteristic of the language.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    And I can remember

    When Cialis was first called PETA (Penile Erecting Todger Assistant)

    Paris picks M for Molest.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Microsoft's picked M because the VA housing was already known as D-flat.

  21. Jon Kale
    Gates Halo

    re: MUMPS is the first and only language and database management system designed for medical records

    Having had, in the course of things, reasons to deal with MUMPS (or rather "the M programming system", as it was by the late 90s), I suspect the reason why it was the *only* system designed for medical records was because everyone since has looked at it, thought "OMFG" and run a mile back to saner environs like COBOL, RPG-II or RPG-400 or one of the various 4GLs. Admittedly, my exposure to it was in a unit trust pricing system and it may be the dog's danglies when dealing with sick people (sick person looks at MUMPS programmer, immediately feels better) but I'd be surprised.

    And as has been pointed out elsewhere, the VA should get the rod out their asses (anyway, didn't they steal their acronym from a state on the eastern seaboard? Or was it from the metallurgists?). Channelling Laslow in his V-Rock incarnation, "Damn, vets are so cranky"

  22. Daniel B.

    MUMPS ... as pleasant as the disease

    Somebody already beat me to the Daily WTF article!

    Whatever, I'd like to see M revert to the original MUMPS name. Also, MUMPS describes perfectly how someone using this would feel. I'd like that thing to disappear, but then again, I also would like VB to go away and it doesn't seem like it will.

    In the meanwhile, it'd be interesting to see Microsoft getting slammed for this, even if it is only wishful thinking. Nothing came out from VistA anyway, did it?

  23. Mark
    Gates Horns

    re: oh for gods sake

    Hey, MS went court shopping INTERNATIONALLY because Lindows was too close to Windows for their liking.

    Talk about being a prissy little fuck, they take the biscuit.

  24. Nordrick Framelhammer

    @Eddie Edwards

    Actually the World Wildlife Fund do own the WWF trademark. The World Wrestling Federation was forced to change it's name to WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment way back in 2002.

    So yes, they do have the legal backing to force M$ to use a different TLA.

  25. John Savard

    Maybe A Lawsuit from Britain

    First Windows Vista, and now the language M. Even so, I'll have to admit that I don't really think there's a danger of confusion. (Perhaps they could change the language's name to MEASLES?)

    However, the successor to Windows Vista is going to be called Windows 7. The association of this and a language called M might be considered too much of a coincidence!

    Yes. Why should Veterans' Affairs have all the fun? The Fleming estate should be talking to their solicitors!

  26. Dr Andrew A. Adams

    WorldWide Fund for nature

    Interestingly, no one else here has noticed that even though they forced the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) to change their name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), they had already changed their name, though not their acronym, from the World Wildlife Fund to the WorldWide Fund for nature, and then just wen the ICI route and are now known just as the WWF.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually the THIRD time, for God's sake

    Before VistA, before the Internet, the VA called its clinical software suite the 'Decentralized Computer Hospital Program' - DHCP. ("Decentralized" because it was open source before open source was cool: IT shops at the VA hospitals around the country could edit the code as they saw fit.)

    I don't think anyone at the VA is upset or taking this personal but after *three* times now wouldn't you be asking "wtf"?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A single letter of the alphabet is not a name?

    There should be no cause to complain when idiots choose a single alpha-char as a product name.

    Just gives the impression they have no creative imagination.

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