Editor 7-June-00

Microsoft - Tried, Guilty, Sentenced

Microsoft is to be broken up and severely restricted. Now, on to the appeals - as the sharks close in.

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The court has ordered Microsoft broken up. Why did it come to this? Why didn't Microsoft put up a credible defense?

Face it - when you're as guilty as Microsoft is, it's hard to put up much of a defense without perjury charges being filed against your witnesses. As it is, Microsoft:

  • Presented a fake video as evidence. When found out, they couldn't duplicate the results shown in the video.
  • Lied in court to the extent the judge had to remind witnesses they were under oath.
  • Bill Gates, famed for his smarts and faultless memory, claimed he couldn't remember anything whatever, and pretended he couldn't understand simple English words and phrases.
  • Other Microsoft executives displayed an amazing inability to comprehend simple English words and phrases.
  • Paid witnesses couldn't explain why their testimony was contradicted by their own writings ("What could I have been thinking?").
  • Testimony by Microsoft executives was contradicted by their own memos and e-mail.
Will this all be overturned on appeal? For months now Microsoft has been playing more to the appeals court than to the court that was handling their case. The DC appeals court has a reputation for handing Microsoft anything they ask for. They have excused this by saying they are not competent to make judgments on technology matters, if you can believe that.

The way Judge Jackson has crafted the case, appeal has been guarded against. It would be nearly impossible to get the guilty verdict overturned. Microsoft might get some relief on the sentence if everything goes their way.

Will Dubya get this all dropped when he's elected president? Microsoft has been pouring money into the coffers of politicians and playing a big public PR campaign to pressure politicians into favoring the Microsoft position - that they should be allowed to break the law because breaking it has made them rich.

Well, Dubya can't do anything about the guilty verdict. If he really wants to take the political risk he could command the DOJ to go soft on the verdict in appeal. If this happens, the Attorneys General of 19 states have stated they will press the case themselves - but it may be all over before then anyway.

A clause in anti-trust law allows either the Department of Justice or Microsoft to ask that the case be sent directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the normal appeals process. There is a good chance the DOJ will ask for this path.

If the Supreme Court gets the case immediately, they can take one of several actions:

  • Refuse to hear the case: game over - DOJ win.
  • Uphold the district court: game over - DOJ win.
  • Craft their own sentence (highly unlikely).
  • Send the case down to the appeals court for review - worst case.
  • Send the case back to the district court for review - Judge Jackson would have to spend a lot more time on the sentence.

Meanwhile the gravy train has started to roll. Over 100 private anti-trust suits have already been filed against Microsoft. That Microsoft is a monopoly and has violated anti-trust law is already proven in court, so they all start with a leg up - they only need to prove damages.

Microsoft has done so many bad things to so many people some of these cases are bound to have merit. Those that do are expected to be bought off by Microsoft just as they bought off the Caldera suit. Microsoft will pay extra to get a gag order on each one, as they always do, to keep the truth from coming out.

So how is all this going to affect the business user? I'm not going to predict that, and anyone who does is a fool. There are too many powerful forces at play right now, and too many smart people trying to manipulate them. We're just going to have to stay awake and alert for awhile.

One thing is almost certain though. Microsoft's loss of control will be accelerated. The world is changing and they are now the legacy provider. The PC is being replaced by the network, just as the PC replaced the minicomputer, and as the mini replaced the mainframe. There will still be PCs, just like there are still minis and mainframes, but they aren't where the action is. Windows is tied to the PC and can't go beyond that.

With the judgment against them, Microsoft will no longer be able to leverage their monopoly to hold off the future, nor will they be able to leverage their monopoly to take over the future. NGWS (Next Generation Windows Services), Microsoft's plan to make the Internet a "Windows only" environment is almost certainly stopped in its tracks.

While "nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft" has never actually been true (a lot of people have been fired for buying Microsoft - just ask National Westminster Bank, or Commonwealth Bank of Australia), it won't even be a saying any more. Corporate PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses - see Dilbert) will have to start taking technology risks again, poor babies.

Andrew Grygus

©Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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