Originally Published: Wednesday, 5 April 2000 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Microsoft Monopoly Musings

The verdict is out. The government has shown that Microsoft did attempt to illegally maintain and leverage their desktop monopoly into the Internet browser market. How does this decision affect Linux?

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The verdict is out. The government has shown that Microsoft did attempt to illegally maintain and leverage their desktop monopoly into the Internet browser market. How does this decision affect Linux?

The first Linux editorial I authored was entitled "Microsoft and the Art of War v1.00." I analyzed possible business strategies that Microsoft could use to diffuse the Linux movement. In fact, the Buddying Up to BSD series was kicked off after someone commented on the way I mentioned Microsoft was more likely to create a Microsoft BSD rather than a Microsoft Linux.

I'd expected Microsoft to put up a greater fight than it has to date. It seems apparent that Microsoft executives have lost touch with reality. The rank and file seems to be more clued in on trends in the industry. The Halloween documents, written by a former Microsoft engineer, were a brilliant analysis of Linux and open source trends. If upper management had followed through on some of the recommendations, Linux would have had a steeper mountain to climb in the fight for corporate acceptance.

Microsoft probably could have settled this case long ago and eventually weaseled out of it, like they did with previous consent decrees. Unfortunately for their customers, Microsoft had become arrogant. They had their desktop monopoly, and despite claims of innovation they were playing a different game. Microsoft would wait until someone actually innovated, and then would buy the innovators or force them out of business.

The only way to compete with this strategy was for bands of hackers around the globe collaborating to give away a free Unix-like operating system. I really expected Microsoft to start hitting at free software in a major way. Yet this hasn't materialized, and it probably won't ever now. The lawyers are all smelling blood and the lawsuits are already beginning to stack up. No matter what punishment is eventually meted out by the judge, Microsoft will take a public relations beating. The common consumer isn't going to complacently accept that Windows is all there is anymore. Depending on the remedy the Judge comes up with, Windows will probably remain the dominant choice for desktops for the near future. However, more desktop users will search for alternatives, and OEM's will become more bold pre-installing Linux, especially on the server side.

It will be an interesting year for Linux and Microsoft. With Linux already eating away the server side of the equation and GNOME and KDE coming on strong, Microsoft is going to be in trouble. Throw on a couple hundred lawsuits, and Microsoft executives busy dealing with anti-trust appeals, and the future doesn't look bright for Microsoft.

Already Microsoft has become irrelevant to mine and many others' daily computing lives. Hopefully, we can see the trend of standards-based computing continue to come to fruition.

Matt Michie is a Computer Science student living in New Mexico. He maintains a small web page at http://web.nmsu.edu/~mmichie.





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