February 17, 2019

Editor's Note: Crazy Like a Fox?

Bill Gates and Crew Doth Protest Too Much

  • May 26, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Is Bill Gates crazy like a fox when it comes to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson and the U.S. Justice Department?

I am beginning to think that Bill and crew have snookered the American legal system into giving Microsoft exactly what it wants: a massive restructuring that would boost stock prices while at the same time preserve Microsoft monopolies in the application-software and operating-system areas.

Indeed, the word is today that the Justice Department will not follow the lead of Judge Jackson (who opined that Microsoft should be split into three companies that competed at some level), preferring instead to split Microsoft into two companies: one that produces operating systems and one that produces application software. Stop and think about it: the Justice Department would create two new companies that would not compete with one another on any level. The application side would have no mission to create operating systems, and the OS side would have no mission to create applications. The new MicrosoftOS company would still have no incentive to change its bullying ways, and the MicrosoftApps company would have no reason to support operating systems that don't provide the highest profit margins.

Microsoft doth protest too much regarding this plan: please, please, please don't break us up into two companies. Why, That Would Be the Very Worst Thing You Could Do To Us, Bill and crew proclaim. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink; of course there would be no possibility of collusion between the two new companies that don't compete.

Bill Gates isn't dumb. Splitting the company along those lines would not address the real issue and the remedy in this situation: if the court were to release Windows in source-code form, any company could take that intellectual property and compete with Microsoft in a very real way. Instead, the Justice Department is following a very ill-advised path in its company split--a path that will do nothing to end Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies and will not introduce any more competition in the system. For us in the Linux world, all we want is a level playing field--and the Justice Department is merely adding another playing field to the mix, instead of leveling the existing field. In the end, the biggest beneficiaries will be the Microsoft stockholders who receive stock in the two new companies.

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