No surprise that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found Microsoft
Corp. guilty of antitrust violations, ruling that the software
giant sought to illegally protect its Windows monopoly in an effort
to thwart competition. The company did so in two ways: by illegally
integrating Microsoft Internet Explorer into Windows (an attempt to
wipe out Netscape Navigator and create a browser monopoly) and by
using contract restrictions that punished computer manufacturers
for offering other operating systems.
It was expected by the stock market: earlier today traders wiped
$79 billion from Microsoft's market value while dropping the stock
price by 15 3/8 to 90 7/8. The impact was also felt in the wider
Nasdaq, where tech stocks were battered in the largest NASDAQ point
This is merely the start of the legal process: Jackson still
must issue his sanctions (which could involve breaking up the
company), which will undoubtedly be followed by years of appeals
from Microsoft. The firm has felt all along that an appeals court
would be more sympathetic than the hard-nosed Jackson, so don't be
surprised if Microsoft asks for the appeals court to review this on
an expedited basis.
Short term, this won't affect the operating-system wars. Windows
2000 has already established itself has a player in the server
world, although probably not to the extent that Microsoft
anticipated years ago when initially mapping out its
operating-system plans. Windows in all its forms is still a
remarkable cash cow.
Long term, this marks the beginning of the end of Microsoft--a
remarkable story in the annals of business history. We're on the
verge of the new paradigm in computing devices: everything is
getting smaller and faster in terms of both hardware and software.
We're seeing amazing new technologies from the likes of Nokia,
Qualcomm, and Transmeta that will give us new definitions of
exactly what constitutes a computing device. And we're looking at
new ways of doing business: the openness in Open Source will be
felt in the open market, where everything Microsoft will be
scrutinized to the max. Can Microsoft operate without the bully
club of monopolies? That remains to be seen.
And where is Microsoft in the midst of this computing
revolution? On the sidelines. The very attributes that are
essential in tomorrow's Internet device--small footprint, high
reliability, open architecture--are all present in Linux and
lacking in anything offered by Microsoft. And instead of devoting
its resources to developing an operating system for this market,
Microsoft will be focused on the plethora of civil lawsuits that
are already filed.
Yes, in the short term there will be some anguish in the court's
decision: my personal stock portfolio was hit by the general
battering in the NASDAQ, and although I don't own any Microsoft
stock, I'm sure that my mutual funds will take a hit today as well.
But long term the hit is well worth it: Microsoft has
single-handedly stifled innovation in the personal-computing world,
and it's about time Microsoft paid for its bad karma.
-- Kevin Reichard Managing Editor, Linux/Open-Source Channel
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