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Biff Gates - page 2

Jackson to Gates: Back Down, Bully

  • November 8, 1999
  • By Kevin Reichard
They should, although not necessarily for legal reasons, which in many ways I'm not qualified to address. The findings of fact, no matter how much of it is thrown out on appeal (and it appears that little of it will), strip away Microsoft's mystique, showing it to be a money-grubbing and nasty little (big) company using the same sorts of bullying sales techniques that low-rent regional sales managers use on mom-and-pop grocery stores to make sure that their Cheesy Poofs are given a better shelf space than their competitors' brands.

There's no way that middling products like Internet Information Server, SQL Server, Microsoft Office and Visual J++ garner any sizeable market share without the market muscling of Microsoft and there's no way Windows NT gets taken seriously in the Fortune 500 without a Microsoft brand name. And without that leverage, duds like Windows CE would have died a deserved death years ago. Without the Windows monopoly to rely upon, Bill Gates is more Biff Loman than Henry Ford.

We in the Linux community knew this. We saw how Microsoft saw fit to spread lies and disinformation about Linux, fraudulently posing Windows NT as a far superior solution when in fact it's not. We saw that U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the case confirm what we've known all along: that Microsoft was so scared of competition that it resorted to illegal tactics.

What will this mean for Linux in the long run? Not as much as you might think. The world is waking up to what Linux offers, in any case. The world has already noted how a seemingly chaotic development model actually works, and works better than development by swollen monopolies like Microsoft. The world has already seen the future...and the future is Linux and products developed like Linux (including Apache, sendmail, and FreeBSD). The best products don't always win--the computer world isn't a pure meritocracy--but in the case of Linux, many knowledgeable people have concluded that Linux has a lot going for it and is worth further investigation. We shouldn't mind competition, and so for Linux users the best thing that can come out of Judge Jackson's findings of fact should be a level playing field: one where Linux, the BSDs, BeOS, MacOS, UNIX and--yes--Windows NT be able to compete without threats of coercion.

Plus, there's a seductive danger in the Microsoft lawsuit. Linux advocates can't safely rest on their laurels, assuming that they've won the war--they haven't. No matter how Judge Jackson remedies Microsoft's monopoly--and don't expect anything as drastic as breaking up the company or establishing a China Wall between applications and OS development, but something more on the lines of a rebate to existing Windows users or a credit toward future purchases--we can�t forget that this is merely one step in the evolution of operating-software development. (Trouble is, there's no remedy that can really address what happened, short of having the government dictate software design. Ada, anyone?) Microsoft's bad business practices don't make Linux a better operating system.

So consider Judge Jackson's findings of fact to be one more nail in Microsoft's coffin on the operating-system front. But don't underestimate Microsoft's ability to bounce back from this setbacks, and don't stop making Linux the best operating system it can be.

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