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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Has Microsoft got away with it?

A US appeals court has overturned a ruling that software giant Microsoft must be broken up.

It agreed in part with the lower court's finding that Microsoft had engaged in illegal anti-competitive behaviour.

They said that the company had improperly monopolised the computer operating system market.

But the punishment, to split the firm in two, was overturned with the Appeals Court saying that comments from original trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson suggested he may have been biased against Microsoft.

Do you think that Microsoft's punishment should have been overturned? Have they got away with it?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

"I hope they split this monster up into two parts", whoever put this down as a argument clearly doesn't see what he is saying - you will only be creating two monsters then with the capacity to grow bigger than when the monster was just one, doesn't the saying go "divide and conquer"?
Richard, Canada

I agree with Tom Sedge, UK. Microsoft has in the past designed their applications to blatantly stop competing companies running their applications on their operating system. That is like having two competing food factories where one of the factories contaminates the products of the other factory.
Lau Gainpaulsingh, UK

We are just seeing jealousy in its worst form

Richard, Canada
I'm amazed to read that some are just mudslinging because they favour another OS, why? Bill made his fortune by working hard, for one thing it shows that one can be successful without a degree, he proved that much, and he's right the whole trial is put on because other billionaires see Microsoft as a threat. In the end we are just seeing jealousy in its worst form.
Richard, Canada

As a user of an Apple computer I am probably naturally biased. I have heard it said that Bill Gates has never had an original thought in his life, but he possess the ability to successfully utilise others' ideas. Windows may well be the most frequently used OS but is it any good? Technology history is littered with products that have proved hugely successful, but in reality are rubbish. Windows is popular not because it is any good, but because of Microsoft's ability to arm-twist computer manufacturers into bundling the system on to the machines. Competition is fine and should be encouraged, but if Joe Public wants a computer and they all run the same OS, where is the compitition? Microsoft is a spoilt child, sometimes you need to chastise that child.
Mark McCulloch, UK

To Jason Highfield. Did it occur to you that Microsoft OS products show a remarkable similarily to Mac OS from a few years earlier? It was the standing joke that Win95 = Mac87
Karl Peters, UK

I think the judgement should not have been overturned not because the Microsoft programmes are bad but because Microsoft has introduced monoculture to the world of computer software with all the risks that go along with it
EC, Germany

You need a level playing field

Tom Sedge, UK
Most people seem to be saying here that "Microsoft is successful because they write good software and are good at marketing it - others should just shut up and compete with better software". That would be fine were it true, but it is not. I'm all for beating Microsoft by competing, but for that you need a level playing field where Microsoft isn't using every tactic including legal attack, intimidation, forcing OEMs not to bundle your product, changing interfaces and abridging standards to prevent competition. This is what I object to and why I think they should be broken up. Microsoft are a barrier to innovation, like IBM was in the seventies. We need to break their stranglehold on the market to allow us all to benefit from better software.
Tom Sedge, UK

I cannot be the only user of a PC and the Internet who is disturbed at the idea that only one company is going to supply the PC operating system and access to the Internet through their browser. I have used Windows throughout all its variations both as a user and as a provider of technical support to others. I am not a fan of Microsoft, everybody uses Windows not because its the best but because it is the only mass market OS available. Monopolies are not in the interest of the consumer. Microsoft products are inefficient in their use of a PC's resources and overpriced. As users become more computer literate, Microsoft will find it harder to fob consumers off with their products.
Brian, UK

A new administration and now Microsoft walk fee. Strange that isn't it? Not that I'm suggesting it's companies like Microsoft who are really running America.
Andy, England

Microsoft, as a company is doing nothing wrong to be the best. It is the responsibility of the DOJ and the government to make sure that it does not go far. Any company, be it Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or to that matter, a small scale company will try to make huge profits and try to be the best in the market. If the Judge had handled the case, in a manner it is supposed to be handled, things would have been different. It is not Microsoft's fault in any manner whatsoever. With the appeal court ruling in MS' favour, justice will be done with the new trial and new bench. I hope this time, the case is handled better.
Srimal, USA

As always when Microsoft is mentioned. We get lots of comments about Linux and the GNU Free software. Sorry guys. When you have an operating system that has three or four user interfaces one of which apes windows(KDE), and one that requires in depth knowledge of the Kernal to configure. You are not going persuade people to move from Windows. Linux is a fine Server OS. It is not and never will be a general consumer OS. By the way I am a UNIX system administrator so I do not make my money from Microsoft.
Mike, UK

The USA has no other system but capitalism. It busted the trusts a century ago, and will have to do so again.
Rowland Morgan, UK

The sooner they go out of business the better. It's time we all started supporting alternatives such as Linux.
Andy MacDonald, UK

Microsoft are being punished for being successful. I don't buy into this monopoly rubbish. They simply have good products and market them well. Put your self in Gates' shoes and I wonder how you would feel if the government got involved in your business just because you were successful. It makes no sense. Obviously certain people are annoyed that no "back-handers" are being dished. Get over it or get an Apple Mac.
Alex McGowan, South Korea

It's funny how people have become so blinded with getting things for free. They willingly follow the Linux, Sun and Netscape views that Microsoft is bad for the computer world. It's time you open your eyes and see that they are even worse then Microsoft when it comes to business conduct. Did anyone notice that they are competitors of Microsoft? Of course they are going to want to bring MS down. How are they going to make any money if someone else is making a better product for a reasonable price?
Jeff Miles, USA

Microsoft's abuse of monopoly power hasn't really kicked off yet, it'll really start to bite when their plan to lease products kicks in. Expect prices to increase massively along with Microsoft's share price.
Mark S, UK

I disagree with Jason Highfield - many Linux GUI's look nothing like Windows. The browser is also not an integral part of the OS. Microsoft has bullied and cajoled the market for years. Many firms are locked into their products and can't escape without spending a lot of effort.
Scott Baldry, England

Microsoft does not innovate! It purchases innovation then wraps it up in Microsoft packaging; e.g. Word, Excel, Media Player, Hotmail, the lot , were never original Microsoft innovations. Changes to the IT world are being developed by smaller companies. Microsoft will financially destroy these companies if we simply let it grow exponentially larger.
M.Vallance, Singapore

The longer they can keep this case going the more chance of a fait accompli. They will simply continue to use there market position to destroy any innovation that they do not own. Windows XP shows all the signs of killing off most of the media based products.
H MacD, Scotland

There is no other punishment for Bill Gate$ and Window$ than to publish their source code under the GPL free software license.
Salvatore Sasegui, Spain

Microsoft has not really "gotten-away" with anything. They were found to have used abusive tactics that are inconsistent with normal US business practices, however the excessive and ridiculous penalty that the first judge imposed has been set aside and the judge properly chastised for his un-judicial behaviour. Now a normal penalty will be imposed and the company will be monitored for potential future infractions.
George Milton, USA and Italy

I never fail to be amazed at American 'justice'. Their legal system seems even more arbitrary and perverse than ours.
Bob Harvey, Lincs, UK

Microsoft is not a philanthropic organisation, and surely it will always try to get away with as much as it can. But the part of the industry that has been attacking it - Apple, Oracle, Sun, etc - is not better; it is worse. They did and still want to exert even more control over people's computers than Microsoft does. Gates & co have at least cut the tie between hardware and software and created a system that can easily run other people's applications. And let's be fair: Microsoft, despite frequent claims to the contrary, does deliver some excellent software.
Manu, Belgium

Nobody wants to decry the marvellous achievements of Microsoft and Bill Gates. It's just that when total market dominance occurs we then start hearing that "What's good for Microsoft is good for America". Bell Telephone had to be split up in the end and so must Microsoft if the competitive market is to function effectively.
Dave Smith, New Zealand

Will Microsoft write better code if diversification happens?

Jeff Wisch, USA
United States productivity has been helped by Microsoft more than by any other company. Will breaking the operating system kernel from the explorer and browser increase the number and cost to the consumer? Will it make the disk space used by the OS smaller? Will Microsoft write better code if diversification happens? I feel more affirmative.
Jeff Wisch, USA

I think whether we like it or not the internet needs Microsoft. The internet is moving towards a services model, which will require a lot of software usually referred to as middleware, essentially an operating system for the internet. Right now there is no other organization capable of leading a software project of this size. Just as Cisco lead the IP revolution, Microsoft will have to lead the software and services revolution for the net.
Ross MacGillivray, Canada

I hope they split this monster up into two parts

Stevie White, Wales
I hope they split this monster up into two parts, operating systems and applications. For too long, Bill Gates has flagrantly abused American and European laws - it's about time he allowed others to compete on a level playing field.
Stevie White, Wales

Yet again we see American "justice" being steered by cash. Obviously in America, money will buy you power, influence, and now immunity. It's disgusting.
Alex White, UK

This case highlights the two fundamental tenets of capitalism that are in conflict - competition and the free-market. If the market was free then Microsoft would be allowed to continue to run its business on highly profitable but anti-competitive lines. It takes state intervention to ensure competition and the consequential benefit for consumers and, subsequently, the economy. So, net result of this judgement is good for Microsoft and bad for the rest of us.
Jon B, UK

There is power in controlling the desktops and servers of companies around the globe. That power isn't just with Microsoft - it's also with the US government. Splitting Microsoft would also split that control - something the US government probably doesn't want.
Tim Duckworth, US

I don't think anyone is complaining about Microsoft climbing to the top of the pile - good for them. They have broken the law and none of these rulings have said they haven't - the question is what should be done about it. Personally, I don't like bullies and so have made a pledge to move to Linux wherever possible - which looks more and more like it will be for everything.
Roger, Scotland

Microsoft turned the industry from an amateur affair to a global, multi-billion pound business

Stephen Lynch, Wales, UK
Of course the punishment should've been overruled. Microsoft turned the industry from an amateur affair to a global, multi-billion pound business. Microsoft have introduced standards which have made it possible to be where we are today in the IT field.
It amazes me that the Americans who worship the almighty dollar seem to want to cause Gates and Microsoft so much bother.
Stephen Lynch, Wales, UK

At the end of the day if Microsoft was to broken up then we the public would lose out. We don't have to use their products, we could easily download Netscape and the likes, but there is no point they just haven't done enough to be on a equal or better standing and now they realise this they are lashing out.
Mike Eddington, England

Strange Jason Highfield - the Linux GUI is currently miles ahead of Windows 2000 professional (nearly on service pack 3 already). Ever tried using Linux?
Ian Dunn, UK

Most of the comments so far sound like they came from either deluded or at least misinformed individuals. First off, NOTHING HAS BEEN DECIDED YET. Microsoft could still be broken up, as the case has been delegated to the lower court, the appeals court acknowledged Microsoft violated Sherman Anti-Trust laws. This sets a precedent for other lawsuits, either on state or private level (e.g. AOL announced recently it can sue Microsoft).
Michael, US

Last time I checked being successful is not a crime

Richard S, Scotland
"Once again, it shows how corrupt the US justice system is. Let the rich off with their crimes.... Geoff Cowden, UK" What crimes? Last time I checked being successful is not a crime.
Richard S, Scotland

I agreed with Bill Gates when he stated that this trial was in the interests of a few Silicon Valley billionaires: Scott McNealy of Sun, Larry Ellison of Oracle and their silent partner and non-billionaire, Steve Jobs. What harm has been done to consumers? The fact that the US is such a PC nation with tech entrepreneurs is due, in part, to the penetration of Windows.
Michael Dundon, USA

The only thing that's stopping us giving all our money to Bill Gates right now? Pride!
Niall Gavin, UK

At last justice prevails. I want to echo the response of all those before who believe this is a just decision. There is a choice out there, Microsoft is guilty of nothing other than good marketing.
Stuart Carruthers, UK

Microsoft should not be broken up, and the court decision is correct. They, as does any other company, have the right to improve their products with new features to keep in-line with customer demands, and the fast-paced nature of the IT industry. They must be doing something right, just look at how many of the linux distributions mimic the look-and-feel of windows, as well as their integration of a web browser.
Jason Highfield, England

Law and democracy is a figment of imagination, money and power is the worlds driving force

Fraser Heath, UK
Of course, the more delays that Microsoft can get the better for them, and (assuming that the out of court settlement is indeed money) does anyone actually have enough faith in the law to think that their offer of god knows how many millions will not change the courts mind? Law and democracy is a figment of imagination, money and power is the worlds driving force. With the average computer user being too ignorant to think about the implications that can arise from Microsoft's monopoly, and business being too frigid in its way of thinking, Microsoft can only grow stronger.
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK

Looks like they've got away with it. This is not good news for consumers. There's no doubt that Microsoft produce some great applications, albeit 'bloatware' Office suite etc. Microsoft seem hell bent in forcing their standards on everyone else without consultation or compromise. The price is not measures in terms of money alone, but what is best for the future progress of computing systems.
Rob Hancox, United Kingdom

Hard work cannot be termed as maipulation. Others should also endeavour to reach the excellence.
Aamir Ayub, Pakistan

Gates may have won this battle, but the real war is yet to start

Felix Warwick, UK
Gates may have won this battle, but the real war is yet to start. Independent Industry Analysts, IDC, state that Linux will be the dominant operating system by 2005. Microsoft charge a fortune for its products. Linux is free and downloadable from the internet. I suggest that Bill Gates sells his company before he loses it.
Felix Warwick, UK

As with every high profile decision the US court finds in favour of the rich and famous. Did anyone seriously think that justice might prevail?
Jay, Wales

I hope so. I am a systems developer who uses Microsoft products for development. It is a fact that MS has a monopoly, but the question has to be - why? All I can say is that they are very clever and shrewed, otherwise they would not have been in this position. Long may they last and prosper. I own their shares too by the way.
Richard Gossow, RSA/England

The split should have gone ahead. It would introduce more and better competition into the marketplace

John B, UK
I think the split should have gone ahead. It would introduce more and better competition into the marketplace as application developers would no longer have the luxury of exclusive access to the heart of the operating system. It would also more than likely prove profitable for the shareholders of Microsoft, as it did when Rockefeller's oil empire was broken up early last century.
John B, UK

This event is unfortunate but entirely predictable. Microsoft have been, and continue to be, a very aggressive company and the OS market is only the first of several in which they will hold a monopoly. With the arrogant attitude they show toward both their customers and their own government this is cause for grave concern.
Andrew, UK

Is it not a case of have Microsoft got away with it. They are the best at what they do for this the US Government have bought this case against them. They dominate the market because people want their products. If their competitors are upset about this then they should produce better products than Microsoft do. It called competition! Leave them alone
Gary Bridle, England

Once again, it shows how corrupt the US justice system is. Let the rich off with their crimes....
Geoff Cowden, UK

Got away with what? All Bill Gates did was live the American dream and produce a product that everybody wanted. Hard luck Wordperfect and the others who lost out to Office - why don't you guys make something that we want more and try and be competitive!
Andrew Davis, UK in USA

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29 Jun 01 | Business
Microsoft break-up ruling overturned
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