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.comment: Can Microsoft Hurt Linux? In a Word, No.

Appeal Not, Lest Ye Be Appealed

February 28, 2001

Microsoft Corporation and the U.S. Department of Justice are back in court this week, as the monopolist maker of mediocre software seeks to have overturned the ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that if upheld could see the company divided.

And there are lots of people in the general computing community who act as if they think the outcome somehow matters. It doesn't.

The only judicial ruling that would restore anything resembling a level playing field would be for the Court of Appeals to enjoin Microsoft from allowing the shipment of any of its software preloaded for a period of nine years. (It was in 1992 that the company established its monopoly through its iron-clad preload agreements.) With such a ruling, people who wanted Microsoft products would have to go out and buy them, or download them. They would not be able to buy them pre-installed. And people who wanted something else would be able to buy computers without paying the Microsoft tax.

That's not going to happen, either.

There is also concern over the new administration and whether its generally more business-friendly philosophy will cause it to, in effect, take a dive in the Microsoft appeal. In that there are some pretty pro-business, conservative folks arguing against Microsoft and in behalf of Microsoft's competitors, that concern is probably unfounded. And in that the remedy ordered by Judge Jackson isn't good for much anyway, it's of little importance.

This anything-but-exciting courtroom drama comes just as the Redmond leviathan is firing its first shots in its full assault on Linux.

I propose that that doesn't much matter, either.