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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"?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The USA has no other system but capitalism. It busted the trusts a century ago, and will have to do so again.
The sooner they go out of business the better. It's time we all started supporting alternatives such as Linux.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is no other punishment for Bill Gate$ and Window$ than to publish their source code under the GPL free software license.
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.
I never fail to be amazed at American 'justice'. Their legal system seems even more arbitrary and perverse than ours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Strange Jason Highfield - the Linux GUI is currently miles ahead of Windows 2000 professional (nearly on service pack 3 already). Ever tried using Linux?
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).
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.
The only thing that's stopping us giving all our money to Bill Gates right now? Pride!
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.
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.
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.
Hard work cannot be termed as maipulation. Others should also endeavour to reach the excellence.
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?
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.
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.
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
Once again, it shows how corrupt the
US justice system is. Let the rich off
with their crimes....
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!
29 Jun 01 | Business
Microsoft break-up ruling overturned
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