Linux community celebrates end days of Microsoft
(IDG) -- When the antitrust suit waged by the federal government and 19 states against Microsoft culminated in Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's historic, 207-page finding of fact, it was cause for celebration among many in the Linux community. After all, Microsoft had recently begun to bring its heavy guns to bear on Linux.
Over the past year, since the release of the Halloween Documents, Microsoft had attacked Linux with bogus benchmarks, mythology, and reports from GartnerGroup that went over like bad jokes with Linux supporters.
So when the judge's findings came down so heavily in favor of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and so harshly on the behavior of Microsoft, many in the Linux community found it a most a welcome development.
In strong, unequivocal language, Judge Jackson stated that Microsoft is indeed a monopoly. Further, he said that Microsoft has harmed both consumers and the industry with its illegal business practices, practices designed to protect and extend that monopoly by stifling competition.
Here are a few key extracts from Judge Jackson's finding of fact:
"The Court finds the following facts to have been proved by a preponderance of the evidence...
Jackson's summation doesn't mince words either:
"Most harmful of all is the message that Microsoft's actions have conveyed to every enterprise with the potential to innovate in the computer industry. Through its conduct toward Netscape, IBM, Compaq, Intel, and others, Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft's core products. Microsoft's past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and businesses that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft's self-interest."
Keep in mind that this is an ongoing case. Still to come are the findings of law and decisions on remedies. It could then go to an appellate court and, regardless of the decision there, end up before the US Supreme Court.
Fall of the Redmond empire
Microsoft, whose defense and corporate swagger continue to be led by Bill Gates, remains completely unrepentant and continues to protest its innocence. Gates steadfastly proclaims that Microsoft will eventually emerge triumphant in the courts.
But while Gates may feel he is invincible, he most assuredly is not. Judge Jackson's ruling marks the official start of the end days of Microsoft. The only remaining mystery now is the exact manner in which that end will come.
Whether by dismemberment or by slow bleeding, whether by suffocation from the weight of government overseers or by mutual agreement to a consent decree, the method of execution is no more than a popular topic for speculation at this point. But the how doesn't really matter. Judge Jackson has branded Microsoft as a monopoly, and done so in such a way that his finding will not wash off.
The judge's findings are already having some impact. The price of Microsoft stock fell quickly on the Monday morning following the announcement of the findings, though by the end of the day it had nearly recovered on extremely heavy trading. More significant, perhaps, is the fact that the news caused stocks gains for many Microsoft competitors, including Red Hat, BeOS, Sun, and Oracle.
Much of the basis for Microsoft's continued public assurances that everything will be OK in the end, even in the face of the catastrophic ruling, seems to be the notion that whatever happens in Judge Jackson's court can be undone on appeal. That is not a prudent view, no matter what luck Redmond may have had in the past.
While an appeal is very much more likely at this point than a settlement -- because the DOJ is committed to pursuing the measures needed to put an end to Microsoft's tyranny, and Gates is never going to give up that power voluntarily -- Microsoft will learn that reversing Jackson's finding of fact will be a very tough task -- and perhaps an impossible one.
Such reversals are rare, and they require that the finding (that Microsoft is a monopoly, in this case) be "clearly erroneous." While Microsoft can round up "experts" to claim it is not a monopoly, so long as the DOJ is able to produce experts of its own who will say that it is, there is no ground for reversal of the finding. That finding alone will be enough to end the Dark Ages of personal computing.
Microsoft will most likely simply try to delay the inevitable as long as possible. After all, it is good to be an unregulated monopoly, and it is better to be one for a longer period of time rather than a shorter one. But the path to a long appeals process may be blocked as well.
As reported in the New York Law Journal, an obscure law known as the Expediting Act allows the DOJ, should Microsoft appeal rather than settle, to bypass the appellate court completely and take the case immediately to the Supreme Court. (See below for a link to the article.)
A level field
So what impact does this all have on our lives in the Linux camp? In the short term, nothing is likely to change yet. Microsoft will continue to do the same sorts of things it always has. But the findings are of such momentous importance that, in the long run, they change everything.
Here are five ways in which the Judge's findings will have an impact on the Linux community and the Linux industry today, even before the findings of law and the remedies are decided and appealed:
Note that none of this indicates that a sudden burst of growth on the desktop is likely in the short term. But in time, the ruling almost certainly guarantees that the death grip in which Microsoft holds the preload market hostage -- which is the primary source of its monopoly power -- will disappear. No longer will Redmond be able to browbeat the world's largest PC makers into submission by virtue of the leverage predatory pricing gives it today.
While a certain segment of the tres duh press continues to overlook that leverage as the key to Microsoft's power -- and instead occupies itself with questions of whether or not to split Microsoft up or force it to make Windows open source -- Judge Jackson seems cognizant of its import.
In his finding of fact, Jackson writes, "The firm charges different OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] different prices for Windows, depending on the degree to which the individual OEMs comply with Microsoft's wishes. Among the five largest OEMs, Gateway and IBM, which in various ways have resisted Microsoft's efforts to enlist them in its efforts to preserve the applications barrier to entry, pay higher prices than Compaq, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard, which have pursued less contentious relationships with Microsoft."
Even remaking Microsoft from an 800 pound gorilla into a mild-mannered chimp won't make Linux a sure success, let alone guarantee its domination of the desktop market.
It will, however, give Linux (and all the other alternatives out there) something that the industry hasn't seen since IBM first gave Microsoft the corner on the PC operating system market in 1981: a level field on which to compete.
And that's all that's really needed.
Opinion: Microsoft ruling 'left me queasy'
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
What if there were three Microsofts?
Judge Jackson's findings of fact
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.