Frank McPherson, who writes an interesting weblog, says he’s stopped reading me due to boredom with my “constant Microsoft bashing.” Sorry hear that, but his reaction is exactly what Microsoft wants.
Frank may be bored, but the facts are still the facts. Namely, Microsoft is a bigger and more dangerous threat to a free marketplace than it’s ever been.
Frank doesn’t see how consumers have been harmed, so he thinks the antitrust case is a dud. He’s missing the point on both counts. First, antitrust laws are designed to protect competition, which ultimately protects consumers. That’s a crucial distinction, and it’s often misunderstood.
Protecting competition means protecting innovators from predatory behavior by monopolists. It’s impossible to say how much innovation has been lost in the software industry due to this particular monopolist, but by any standard Microsoft has held back progress in at least several key areas. The Web browser is only one. Venture capitalists routinely dismiss proposals from software startups that even might reach the Microsoft radar screen.
One of Microsoft’s most effective tactics is to outlast its opponents. The typically American short attention span helps the company keep critics at bay. People really would rather move on.
We can’t just move on, because Microsoft not only doesn’t change its behavior but consistently ups the ante. I hope Frank doesn’t find himself on the receiving end of one of Microsoft’s missiles one of these days. His boredom is a monopolist’s best weapon right now.
Frank also thinks it’s lame for anyone to connect the antitrust settlement with Sept. 11. Get real. Every major decision in the federal government today has a connection. Even the judge in the case referred to the attacks in saying she wanted a prompt settlement.
He also thinks that Microsoft issues are “petty compared to the human suffering caused by the events on September 11.” Who says otherwise?
That doesn’t mean we should retreat into our caves, or think about nothing but terrorism and its consequences. The world is still turning. People are still living and working and struggling. And Microsoft isn’t quitting its pursuit of an increasingly scary agenda to control the choke points of commerce and communications.
I’m weary of Microsoft and its unsavory practices. But I won’t stop talking about them until those practices change.