In hindsight, the finding of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case was too obvious. What's next is the real surprise.

Playing by the Rules

In hindsight, the finding of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case was too obvious. What's next is the real surprise.

4 p.m.: It's an unusually slow Friday afternoon in techie land, sorta like the calm before the storm, sans the anxiety of seeing swirling clouds approach from the distant horizon. So, being the gadget freak I am, I proceed to log all my year 2000 hair coloring appointments, ginger rubs, and that big Windows 2000 rollout into my nifty new Palm VII, when my pearl bracelet accidentally raises the antenna, which automatically dials and gets a Bloomberg financial Web clipping on the Microsoft antitrust case.

Well, duh! For those of you waiting for Auntie's take on Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the Microsoft case, the pronouncement that Microsoft is a monopoly can hardly be news to anyone who's ever been within 500 miles of a CompUSA.

Even though we MCPs make our living off Microsoft products, it's hard to deny this outcome, no? Microsoft plays hardball, and when you throw high and inside for long enough (Fabio's been teaching me about baseball--isn't he sweet?), eventually the umpire's going to give you a warning, and then you'll get tossed from the game. The warning is much like the consent decree of several years ago. Right now, it seems like Jackson's ready to boot Bill's gang out of the stadium. And the lawsuits keep piling up.

It's hard to feel outraged. Anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex has to groan whenever Microsoft trots out the old "we're victims of our own success" spin. For all that Redmond's products are hellishly complex, its attempts at public relations, lobbying, and doublespeak have been as slick as a poorly run campaign for high school class president.

Look, you and I know that any large and powerful corporation will do all it can to crush competitors (if you believe otherwise, I have a bridge you may be interested in). And I'm close to tossing my cookies as I see some of the way-down-the-evolutionary-scale CEOs of Microsoft's competition crowing over the Jackson ruling. You know, I know, and even Our Boy Bill knows that Microsoft has crossed over--too many times for the Feds to ignore-- that fuzzy line that delineates fair business practices, even if it hadn't been egged on by competitors with their own none-too-noble agendas.

Don't just take my word for it; read the decision online at www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f3800/msjudgex.htm.

Now, my editor has confirmed that you'll be reading this in the middle of January, which means we'll have to wait a few more weeks or months before Jackson decides on what he considers to be an appropriate remedy. The findings of fact don't read like he's going to impose a weak slap on the wrist. We all can have endless fun guessing, and technology pundits will be in full punditry, but all we can do is wait and see. Microsoft's making the predictable noises about how it would like to settle the matter before the next ruling, and the Justice Department appears willing to listen, but it seems clear that Bill's going to have to put something substantial on the table. Otherwise this will not go away. As we write this, Microsoft is making some management moves that might point to an anticipated break up, but who knows?

Gotta go. Fabio's got the catcher's mask on.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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