The impact of Microsoft monopoly ruling underestimated
Many people are speculating as to what the Microsoft monopoly decision
and findings of fact by federal Judge Thomas P. Jackson really means. Is
this something years off? Will it be overturned on appeal? Will Bill
Gates be able to buy his way out? Will the justice department break up
Microsoft? What impact will this have on pending lawsuits? These are
questions on everyone's mind as people try to understand the
implications of the decision against Microsoft. The opinion contained
herein is my own. I am a programmer with a strong legal background.
First of all, for those who haven't read the judgement, you should read it. If you've formed an opinion just listening to the news then you only have a very small piece of the story. This judgement is beyond the mental bandwith of the press to cover. It's a very long document so if you don't want to read the whole thing, just start in the middle and read some of it. If you don't read some of it you won't appreciate or understand the issues involved.
I would like to say that after reading the judgement, that the depth of understanding of the judge is way beyond expectations. In fact, this judge is a serious nerd. His level of technical understanding of the issues is beyond anything I would have thought a judge capable of. It certianly is in contrast with the federal judges here in Missouri who aren't even smart enough to read this judges opinion. After reading it, I would say that it was an education, and that I learned a lot from it. And one thing I learned is that Microsoft is in big trouble. Much more than anyone realizes.
Everyone says Microsoft will just appeal it forever. This is not true.
Must people don't understand the appeals process. This stage is just
"findings of facts". The judge was so detailed in his judgement that it
is doubtful that any of the findings of fact will be overturned on
appeal. An appeal is not a new trial. The only correct gross errors and
abuse of discretion. So if a trial judge rules that 2+2=5, the appeals
court will uphold it. If he rules that 2+2=7, that's abuse of
In this case the appeals court is hardly going to review all the evidence can come to a new conclusion. That's not what the appeals court does. Thus, the findings are going to stand. When the judge makes findings of law, they too will probably stand. Then the judge will make an order of what to do. The "what to do" part is jubjective but based on the findings of fact and law. But the penalty or solution is the one place where Microsoft might get things changed at the appeal level. Or, they might not.
This trial isn't the only legal process against Microsoft. The judge has
already found that Microsoft is a monopoly, and that it abused it's
monopoly powers, and that a number of named companies and all windows
users, and the public, were damaged. Based on these finding, a lot of
other people can sue Microsoft and not have to prove anything but
damages. This makes it a lot easier for Microsoft to be sued, especially
by Sun Microsystems, Netscape, Real Networks, Intel, and a class action
representing windows 98 users.
I also believe that there are a lot of other companies who were holding
out on developing products or could not get investment money because
they and their investors were afraid to compete directly with Microsoft.
It was no secret in the computer industry what Microsoft would do to you
if they wanted you out of the way. I think now these competitors will be
emboldened to produce products that they would have been afraid to and
that Microsoft will be restricted from using it's monopolistic powers to
crush competition and will have to compete on the merrits of it's
products. Microsoft is still a good company with talented programmers
and will do well in a competitive market. But it will be a competitive
market and they are less likely to do as well without monopoly powers
and other companies will do better.
What should be done about Microsoft
The way the decision of the judge looks, I'd say he's thinking about
splitting up the company. And I think that would be the best solution.
What's clear is that Microsoft manipulated the operating system to give
thier applications an advantage over everyone elses applications. They
could make windows frienly to their apps and hostile towards their
competitors, which they actually did according to the judge. The best
way in my opinion to fix that is to split Microsoft up.
If they were split up then the applications company couldn't get access to any system services that everyone else didn't have access to. This would give all developers a fair shot. Microsoft also couldn't use its windows monopoly to force computer makers not to carry competing products. Such a split would level the playing field and prevent Microsoft from running everyone else out of business and become the only software company in the world.
A split isn't necessarilly bad for Microsoft in the long run. I think that all the little companies might end up becoming worth more than Microsoft as a whole. So if Microsoft is forced to split up, it doesn't necessarilly mean they lose. As separate companies baby Microsoft's would be under less federal regulation as it would be if it weren't split.
If I were to split them up, I split them five ways. One company would be the operating system. Then you would have and applications copmany for Microsoft Office and other end user apps. I would make the browser a separate company so it would have to make it on it's own without being subsidized by other software. I would also separate the development languages into a new company so that other conputer software language companies could create cross platform tools without Microsoft undermining their efforts. And finally, the MSN internet products should stand alone and compete fairly with everyone else. With this level of separation, the government wouldn't need to become a nanny to Microsoft and the job would be done.
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