A decision in the antitrust case keeps us all in limbo.

Back in Your Court

A decision in the antitrust case keeps us all in limbo.

We began the year 2000 with fingers crossed that no system or code we were responsible for would hang, crash, implode, spontaneously combust, or short out the power grid. As we close out 2000, things are, well, the same. As is so true in our industry, uncertainty is the only constant.

Auntie would like to add one item to that list. Can we please get to the end of the Microsoft antitrust case? Auntie and Fabio are sick of that case. Fabio’s even stopped crocheting a little shawl for Justice Scalia.

The Supreme Court’s decision to duck and cover rather than accept the Justice Department’s request for a fast-track hearing added months, if not years, to the process. Redmond got what it wanted, or thought it wanted. In 1998, the same Court of Appeals (the D.C. Circuit Court) overturned Judge Jackson’s ruling that Microsoft violated its earlier consent decree about extending the OS when it incorporated Internet Explorer. When the Supreme Court punted, I bet the triple-decaf soy lattes on the Redmond campus were pouring like, well, triple-decaf soy lattes.

Auntie has no hope that this case will conclude before we land an MCSE on Mars. The Court of Appeals could easily take a year to rule. Then the loser will appeal to the Supreme Court, and it could take a full term to make a final decision. In that, too, Microsoft got what it wanted. The more time it buys, the more the landscape of the IT marketplace evolves and the less relevant the original decision becomes. The only certainty is that the circuit court’s 1998 decision was a much more narrow action than is required of it now.

You, I, and all our colleagues in IT didn’t get what we wanted. Barring any sudden, shocking changes of heart in Redmond or at the DOJ, we’re stuck with the posturing, the spin, and the uncertainty about what’s going to happen.

Columnists and pundits saw the punt to the appeals court as a victory for Microsoft. Auntie can understand that but, truth be told, Auntie’s not sure how she wants this one to turn out. As MCPs, it’s clearly in our self-interest to hope that Jackson is overturned, and stays overturned if the Supreme Court does eventually decide to hear the case as the court of final resort.

But we’re not just MCPs. We’re also consumers and citizens, and—at least in theory—the Department of Justice is supposed to be our advocate in antitrust cases. If you dismiss the government’s position solely because Bill’s product line paid off the 30-year mortgage on your four-bedroom Colonial in five years, you’re practicing good business, but crappy citizenship.

Words like citizenship aren’t exactly in vogue these days, but Auntie doesn’t read that mag anyway (TechnoBiker Monthly’s another matter entirely). Look at the case from the perspective of someone who’s not in the IT business.

Balance your feelings as an IT professional against your opinion as a consumer when you ponder the MS case. It may leave you with even more uncertainty. But then, we’re used to uncertainty, aren’t we?

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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