|[Analysis] Forget Microsoft's Competitors, It's Planet Earth That Can No Longer Afford The Windows Monopoly
by Wes George
I am not a crook -- Richard M. Nixon
Yesterday Microsoft was found guilty of violating federal law -- the Sherman Antitrust Act. The penalty imposed is nothing less than the dismemberment of the shameless software monopoly. Judge Jackson made it clear in his Memorandum And Order document that such severe measures are warranted because Microsoft is a repeat offender. This time, the good judge is fed up with Microsoft's career criminal ways.
The crooks got the book thrown at them.
Angrily, Judge Jackson called Microsoft's leadership "untrustworthy" and their defense "disingenuous." A more respectful perp would have acknowledged that at least some of its actions in the past had been designed with anti-competitive and anti-innovative tendencies in mind. Judge Jackson indicated that a more penitent Microsoft could have found the court disposed to a lighter sentence.
Instead of cooperating with authorities, Microsoft completely dissed the US district court's decision. Even now the chief crooks, Messrs. Gates and Ballmer, claim -- in contempt for the rule of law -- complete innocence. Microsoft, now a convicted felon, has never once apologized to its victims nor offered restitution. Nor has the company ever indicated that it plans to obey the law in the future.
The judge knows this is a hardened criminal organization that will attempt to thwart the government's implementation of interim restrictions on the monopoly's business activities while Microsoft's lawyers will drag the appeals process out for years in order to delay punishment.
Microsoft's pitbull, all-or-nothing style of doing business is unconsciously revealed in their actions regarding this case. These are people who have never lost anything and are psychologically unable to grasp the depth of their depravity or the untold damage that their actions have inflicted on the global economy and the advance of technological innovations. The folks on the Redmond campus are so in denial over their criminal conviction that no strategic planning for the event of a possible breakup has been considered.
A sedate (or sedated) Bill Gates appeared on multiple television interviews blathering platitudes about Microsoft's innovations after the conviction. He argued that Microsoft's criminal conviction and dismemberment would damage the engine of global prosperity. Like Napoleon exiled to the island of Elba, Mr. Gates is losing his grip on reality.
Microsoft's Apologists Argue that...
C. Boyden Gray of Wilmer, Cutler and Dickering defended Microsoft on CNBC by pointing out that many of the original details of the case are moot today. He disingenuously claims Netscape won the browser wars -- even though they lost their company -- because AOL has recently adopted Netscape's browser, thus guaranteeing its place on millions of PCs worldwide. Mr. Gray's irrelevant observations suggests the company's likely defense on appeal will be to nitpick details in an attempt to get Microsoft released on some obscure legal technicality, while tiptoeing around the big picture of systematic abuses which scream out for a remedy.
Another Microsoft apologist (I didn't catch his name) appeared on PBS's News Hour with an even less ingenious defense of Microsoft than Mr. Gray's diversions. He didn't deny Microsoft's anti-competitive practices, but claimed that in the Information Age monopolies are good because they create standardization, which in his opinion, is more important than fairness and unconstrained innovation. John D. Rockefeller argued along the same lines in defense of Standard Oil early in the 20th century. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Monopolies in the Information Age, as in the Industrial Age, represent stasis, decadence and the concentration of absolute power and wealth in the hands of a small clique.
In today's rapidly evolving global networked economy, monopolies are even more dangerous than in the past since their potential for lowering levels of productivity, innovation and opportunity are exponentially greater than ever before.
History Beyond Microsoft
Ultimately, the world's economy is in a life or death race to advance technology -- through the rapid adoption of new innovations -- to a level of sophistication where human life on this planet attains a happy equilibrium with the Earth's biosphere. Anything less will mean a seriously degraded future for our grandchildren, if not outright extinction!
Monopolies by their nature are designed to slow innovations and concentrate power in the hands of those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Monopolies, where ever they exist, must not be allowed to slow humanity's mad dash to reach a sustainable ecology. Even Bill Gate's future heirs may live to curse his unwitting legacy to the world.
Nothing less than the future of civilization may hang on Microsoft's appeal of their conviction. Let's hope for the good of humanity they lose.