Editor 06-Apr-00

What's to be done with Microsoft?


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So what is to be done with Microsoft? The remedial phase of the Department of Justice case is far more difficult than the trial. The trial was easy, Microsoft couldn't even offer a credible defense - that could have lead to perjury charges and jail time. They are guilty, plain and simple. Guilty of far and away more than was brought up in this trial.

Have consumers been harmed? You bet they have. It's not the price (Windows has risen slightly while prices for everything else have plunged) but the fact that a monopoly doesn't have to make a quality product. Consumers have been harmed by the endless hours spent rebooting, reinstalling and dealing with unstable systems. I have been badly hurt by the hundreds of hours I have spent getting Windows to work again for people who couldn't afford to pay me fairly for the effort. Harm to consumers is in the billions.

We must all realize we can't put right the wrongs Microsoft has committed. They have damaged the mainstream PC desktop market far beyond repair. Break Microsoft into 4 companies? Instead of one company with 4 monopolies we would have 4 companies with a monopoly each - and if you think they won't find ways to collude, you really are a babe in the woods. Four companies each with all the products? Maybe what? Two years before one of them has killed the other three? No, lets keep them all together in one lump where we can keep an eye on them.

Restore competitiveness? Who's going to compete? There's nobody left, and no new players will invest the money. Everyone knows Microsoft will start cheating before the ink is dry on the judgement. The risk is far too great.

Even more important, who's going to invest a lot of risk money to compete in a market that is nearing the end of it's life? That is the position of the PC, of Windows and of Microsoft - and that is also the key to a remedy.

Microsoft must be prevented from using their ill gotten desktop power to dominate new markets. Most notable of these is the Internet, which Microsoft is very busy working to seize as its own. If its Web browser, Internet Explorer, gains enough market share, Microsoft can make changes to Internet standards that will make it a "Windows Only" area, and Windows is controlled by Microsoft.

What I propose directly addresses what this whole trial was about - the browser wars, and I'm surprised I haven't seen this proposed elsewhere. Force Microsoft to divest itself of Internet Explorer. It's a product they bought in the first place. Make them sell it off. Make them rework all their products so they support browsers as separate programs, on an equal basis. Prohibit them from acquiring or developing another browser. Prohibit them from favoring one browser publisher.

Make Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera, Mozilla and others all compete on equal ground, and none of them as a Microsoft product. This would block Microsoft's primary leverage in their campaign to seize the Internet, they would have almost no leverage at all.

Now, I am not proposing this should be the only punishment. Microsoft's predation knew no bounds, so we shouldn't reign in the punishments either. I do think it's a good start though.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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