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Linux Journal: Guilty! What's Next for Linux?

Apr 05, 2000, 01:55 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bryan Pfaffenberger)

"Microsoft's tactics are too risky. What's a would-be monopolist to do? Why not use copyrights and patents instead? After all, they're state-guaranteed, legal monopolies. Now if we can just get over this silly idea that they should be limited..."

"Microsoft's guilty, says Judge Jackson. Is this good news for Linux? Here's the short answer: Yes and no. Here's the "yes" part: Microsoft's adversaries now have a potent weapon -- Jackson's decision -- and they'll use it the minute the Redmondians step out of line. Whatever happens in the appeal process, Microsoft will need to be nice for a while. That means Linux can do what superior technologies ought to do: gain market share. Actually, there's nothing new here. According to industry observers, Microsoft has been playing more nicely for some time now. With the spotlight trained on the firm's every action, they'd darned well better. As long as Microsoft's muzzled, it seems, Linux can look to a Halloween-free future. (The so-called "Halloween" documents disclose internal Microsoft musings about various nasty things the company could do to ward off the Linux threat.)"

"But there's a "no" part, too. Basically, Judge Jackson's decision sends a very powerful signal to the industry's attack dogs: Microsoft's game plan is too darned risky. It involves strong-arming suppliers and customers to obtain a commanding market share, a de facto monopoly, which you maintain using tactics that may cross the line separating legal and illegal behavior. The whole thing could blow up in your face. It happened to IBM. It happened to Microsoft, which emulated and perfected IBM's tactics. (Apparently, Microsoft isn't much more innovative in business strategy than it is in technology.) What worries me is that the attack dogs will switch wholeheartedly to a game they've only toyed with until now: using copyrights and patents for the same, anticompetitive purposes. The result could well be a world in which companies that have created absolutely nothing are able to obtain exclusive control of their markets--and it will all be perfectly legal."

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