Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Microsoft unchained

Silicon Valley - Dan Gillmor's eJournal - Microsoft Buys 'Peace'
... When the Bush administration made its odious deal to let Microsoft off the legal hook in 2001, it was giving the company a free pass to do whatever it wishes in the future. Everyone understood this. Today, no one with any serious knowledge of the industry believes the company has changed its business practices in any meaningful way; a few modest noodlings at the edges don't even rise to the level of window dressing. Microsoft continues to run roughshod over its customers, 'partners' and competitors.

Nobody much cares, it seems. Journalists, taking a lead from governments, have moved onto other things. Microsoft counts on our short attention spans.

The European Union's helpful refusal to give the monopolist everything it wants may also run out of steam. Only in China is there a government with anything like the clout to stand up to Microsoft. Our government is in bed with a company that effectively wants to charge taxes in the rest of the world; as China's world economic standing rises, it surely will continue to regard that situation with some concern.

Linux and other open-source software remain the best hope for actual competition, in part because of China's moves to support it. Here again Microsoft is getting the U.S. government's assistance, via policy and inaction in dealing with a badly broken patent system. It's clear that Microsoft is getting ready to use patents to make life hard for the open source community.

So the future of software depends on ... China. In particular , it depends on the security considerations of China's military rulers.

I've been overdosing on irony lately. This doesn't help.

It's nice, though, that someone remembers Bush's payback for Microsoft's support in 2000 [1]. I'd love to know how much money Microsoft funneled into Bush's reelection.

Microsoft's a very aggressive company that's played plenty dirty in the past. It's their unrestrained power, however, that has made them capitalism's shame. With adequate competition they'd probably play a somewhat positive role in the evolution of information technology. Heck, I do like Excel.

[1] Almost no-one, however, remembers the role Ziff-Davis played in Microsoft's ascent to power.

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