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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Rough justice or fair cop?
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has decided that Microsoft has breached competition laws in the US and abused its dominant position in the software market.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
At the end of an 18-month trial, Judge Jackson said: "The court concludes that Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anti-competitive means and attempted to monopolise the web browser market."
Microsoft has said it will appeal.
The decision by Judge Jackson could change the face of the world's computer industry. But is it fair?
At the moment it is quite clear that Microsoft is having to compete pretty hard to stop itself from being marginalised as the emphasis changes. WordPerfect had a monopoly at one point but was too complacent to produce new versions competitive with Word.
The game is not over yet.
Terry Lyons, United Kingdom
When I next buy a PC I would like to see Linux operating system already installed rather than microsoft windows.
Microsoft have demonstrated a need to dominate every aspect of the IT industry to the exclusion of all others, they claim a right to have the "freedom to innovate" but seek at every opportunity to deny the right to any potential competitor however small. The MS motto appears to be buy it or destroy it.
As a consumer, I have always thought that Microsoft is and has been a big bully. It forces
consumers to use its products by forcing other vendors out and by writing codes which make it difficult for consumers to use other software. The court decision is a long time coming.
Adam Parker, US
Microsoft clearly has too much power
but we must not forget who is
responsible for the accessibility of
the PC today. Without Microsoft, few
of us would be contributing to this debate.
Take heed Peter Havens - don't
ignore history because it suits you
to demonise Bill Gates. Microsoft
haven't innovated indeed! What a
Mark Vent, Great Britain
For years Microsoft has run roughshod over the software industry using unfair business practices. They have destroyed companies that produced better products and promoted inefficient codes which has been the main reason for the "need for speed and monstrous storage".
To say the least the decision is fair, in fact, given the history of deliberate abuses by Microsoft, the company should be completely broken up.
Norman Horobin, UK
Most of the remarks here miss the point. The charge is that Microsoft used a (supposedly) legitimate monopoly in one area to create an unlawful one in another. There can be no doubt that this is the case. Only a corporation with such a huge cash cow as Windows can suppress the browser competition by giving the product away.
Guilty as charged.
Yes, Microsoft should be brought to book! The lack of choice wouldn't be quite so bad if Microsoft products weren't full of bugs. I have had more problems with my new PC and the software in the last 6 months than I have ever had with my Apple Macintosh. Perhaps that is why Apple Macs are still the mainstay of the printing and publishing industries - at least they are reliable!
Business is business! If you have an advantage, in business, you use it. We need companies like Microsoft to impose a standard everyone can work to. Just like everyone who uses Microsoft products, I moan and groan from time to time, but I see a lot worse!
Kenny Brunton, England
It is more than time that Microsoft were brought to book for what has been violently bad practices for many. To hide your head in the sand and say that "No one forced you to use..." or "It is an industry standard" basically shows exactly how well Microsoft have done their job. Not the job of writing software, because anyone in the industry would soon disabuse you of that idea, but the one of marketing.
Thank you, Tom Klancer. I was starting to worry that we Americans are living with our eyes closed. Let's make something very clear. This is not a matter of global marketing, this is a violation of the Sherman Antitrust law. This is not a global issue, but an American one. Besides, everyone in the world buys our products, and none of them live here. Guilt as charged!!!
Stuart Carruthers, UK
I'm no great lover of Microsoft, however I think that this ruling is unfair. We cheered them on when they started the race, booed them when they came out the leader and now we want to disqualify them because they run faster than the other kids.
The court's ruling on Microsoft's monopoly appears to be a classic case of the "Dog in the manger" attitude. As the founder of Microsoft Bill did what he had to, to get Microsoft above its competitors. Such a ruling coming from a country that prides itself on capitalism and innovation as the building blocks of business seems not only weird and self-defeating. No one is forced to use IE, so why should Microsoft be punished for providing its software on its native systems?
Christian Tan, Netherlands
Its about time that someone finally stood up to a company who used its size so unfairly to overpower other rivals. It happens so often, now an example is being set.
Ayo Fimusanmi, UK
We are not living in "monopoly time "anymore. We are living in globalisation and global means share things.
Just because he made a operating system, applications and internet content work properly together, doesn't mean that we have to buy everything for the same company.
Microsoft taught the world how to make business grow quickly, but they still have to learn that we have the right to choose what we want to buy.
Microsoft: Freedom to assimilate!
Hell though you've got to admit they do it better than almost every other organisation.
I don't believe Microsoft needed to have acted so selfishly. The quality and depth of their products always shines through. MS should have allowed for healthy competition. Besides it's a bit cheeky making a standard and not telling anybody else the facts. (Windows API etc, etc.) Its copyright ok but surely MS lawyers could have protected it.
Bill Gate cares only about money. He wants to be the emperor of cyberspace. He hates competition from other software companies, so he tries to buy them or make it difficult for them to do business. His Windows system is unstable and lousy. So it is about time that the government stepped in to ensure that competition is still alive in the computer industry.
Richard Prowse, United Kingdom
What a pity the USA has picked up the dreadful British habit of wait until something/one becomes really successful then bash them down. I have worked in various industries including IT for 16 years and have yet to find products as good, quick and reliable (once bugs are removed) as the Microsoft products. Why upset a good thing? Will we be able to expect as good a service level, and as innovative products if a break up should go ahead?
Definitely rough justice.
I think its a very weird decision by the court because Microsoft is the leading software in the industry they have made computers user friendly and now anyone and everyone can use computers without any hesitation.
A bit of perspective will help. MSDOS got a lot of us into the IT business, and there was no real alternative OS at that point in time. Was that monopoly?
Microsoft and it's founding partners have done more to make computers accessible and part of all our working and personal lives than anyone, so it's churlish to now attack them. As for business practice, they have learned them from another giant, IBM.
Andrew Cromwell, UK/Northern Ireland
You can buy computers without the Windows OS and you don't have to use IE because it is there. What everyone objects to is having to go out and find an alternative and then buy Netscape and install it themselves. It is just that people are too lazy to go out and find the right computer for them and then pay the extra for Netscape. Because a few people in the US don't like Microsoft, the rest of the world has to suffer. If I were Bill, I would keep my money and close down Microsoft, then sit back and laugh as the computing world collapse.
Whilst Bill Gates seems to be universally
loathed by nerdy types, the majority
of users are in offices or at home. Sure,
Linux is much more stable, Unix is
lightning fast. But have YOU ever
used them, let alone set up these systems? Try it.... You'll
appreciate BG and Microsoft as never
before. If Windows ceases to exist as
we know and love/hate it, expect to
spiral into nerdy death. Bill, we're not worthy...
In my opinion the judgement against Microsoft is long overdue. Computer users such as myself are given inadequate choice for products largely designed by Microsoft which we only use in a small part. If Microsoft were compelled to release the key codings that enable software developers to more independently develop software compatible with Windows it would be in the interests of everyone, including Microsoft.
On the one hand Microsoft's contribution to society has been incalculably great. But the judgement also highlights the evils inherent in excessive centralisation and accumulation of wealth. The deification of materialistic values is soul-destroying. Computers and the internet were arguably man's greatest triumph in the 20th century. But the mad rush to cash in is taking over our lives and robbing us of our basic humanity.
Microsoft has optimised the PC and the standardisation of desktop applications has made personal computers easy to use for both businesses and home users alike.
Norman Canham, USA
Hopefully this will herald the demise of the fat bloated OS called Windows. Go Linux!
Microsoft do indeed need their wrists slapping. However most of their products are better than rivals, such as Lotus and Netscape. Breakup is very harsh, and is it such a good idea when 90% of computers run on Microsoft Operating Systems? And how can a US Court can make the decision on a transnational corporation?
IE is an integrated part of Windows, but you are not forced to use it just because it's there.
Bill Gates was destroying world commerce just as surely as any communist government would. It is fine to make money and build up a business empire, but only on a level playing ground. Gates was building up a monopoly at the expense of many other entrepreneurs, and once that happens, that's when the consumer is hurt.
Come to the UK Bill, we understand innovation, and don't try and stall it like the US is doing in this case. If it was not for Microsoft's marketing might, in my opinion the internet would probably be half the size it is.
Duncan Ross, UK
The Sherman Anti-Trust Act (of which Microsoft is accused of breaking), should not apply in the global market. What started out as a tool to protect US businesses from each other needs to be reshaped to fit a global format. It's a bad verdict and will be overturned.
Microsoft's position in the market has come about for many reasons, not least of them the failings of the competition. But innovation is assuredly not a feature in their success. Nor is the reliability or stability of their products. In fact, if Microsoft had to pay every user just one cent for each time Windows crashed, Bill would not be the world's richest man but languishing in debtors' gaol.
So, let Microsoft innovate - if they can ever figure out how - but let's ensure others have the opportunity to do so also without forever living in fear of an overgrown bully. If the anti-trust case makes that possible once again then all other issues aside, it will be beneficial to both consumers and the software industry as a whole.
Tim Murray, England
Those of you who slate Microsoft for what they have done are hypocrites. I bet they use Microsoft products all the time.
So what's everyone so excited about?
There are still a couple of years of appeal
to go. In that time, maybe we get a new
administration, and surely, we can get new
software in that time.
So what alternatives are there? Linux? You have to be a programmer just to install it. There's nothing stopping someone writing a superior operating system or office application package but the reason everyone buys Microsoft is because it's the best available - not because they have a monopoly but because no one can come up with anything better.
Kevyn Price, Wales, U.K.
Microsoft has systematically through fudge and intimidation tried to stifle the normal development of the market to forge a market with Microsoft stamped all over it. We can only hope the appeal is quickly thrown out. With better operating alternatives like Linux, why doesn't the industry try real competition and make application producers produce versions that work on Linux as well.
As a Long-time Mac user, I am delighted with the news. Hopefully the Microsoft Empire will be broken up quickly and the source codes revealed. This will open up the market to a new range of dynamic products which will compete fairly on quality and price. This will benefit every business and computer user.
Microsoft has done more harm to the IT industry than good.
Lotus is better than Office, Netscape better than IE and if it was possible could another company could bring out a operating system better than windows?
There is something unnerving and a little scary about the federal government singling out Microsoft. This is another case of the federal government interfering with private enterprise. Who will be next?
Microsoft are the archetypal con men of the modern day.
I mean we have all been suckered by them at some point...
Why can't I buy a PC without Windows? If I already have a license I still am forced to buy a new one. With all the PC's I've purchased over the years I now have six Windows 95 and 98 license certificates and CDs. Never used. Never will be. Microsoft force hardware manufacturers to include their operating systems. This must stop to allow the consumer the right to choose.
Okay. So let's see. The reason the government is after Microsoft is because
they harmed the consumer. Well Judge Jackson, the Justice Department, and the 19 states Attorney's General just wiped out over $150 billion of shareholder equity in NASDAQ stocks. Who's hurting who?
My proposal for the remedy would be to legislate that all software companies have to conform their products to open standards. That way, the consumers are ensured of interoperability, and there can be true competition. After all, this is how the hardware industry has gone and look at what that has done for PC prices.
Richard Kirby, UK
Microsoft had it coming. They have never innovated - they buy-out or copy anything which interests them, or competes with them.
If the IT industry were a nation and Microsoft
a political party, then the outcry against their
behaviour would be deafening. We'd have Nato
threatening Air Strikes.
Anyone who has read the news and used a Mac or a Corel product lately will surely agree that Microsoft has been able to peddle inferior copies of others' products due only to its near-monopoly and ruthless business practices. Once this behemoth is put to rest we may see some real innovation for a change.
Roger L. Sayer, USA
I really do not care much whether Microsoft lost or won, but what I do care about is that any remedy of Judge Jackson's verdict will ensure the compatibility on the PC platform that Microsoft undoubtedly have helped ensure.
Microsoft helped build the PC market that has generated millions in revenue for many companies. Just because some companies could not win the market they have hidden behind the US government in order to attack Microsoft. It is a sad day for consumers who are likely to lose more from a reduced MS than they are likely to gain.
Charles Homme, USA
Judge Jackson is ignorant about the real issues - does he really know how to use a computer? Folks, let me tell you - what's good for Microsoft is good for the US. And if it's good for the US, it's good for the world. We don't want to go back into that Stone Age that existed before Microsoft.
The best move would be to force Microsoft to open up its operating systems to its competitors. This means "open source" agreements and an industry standards committee to police the operating system.
The agreement would mean that if you pay your license fee, you would be able to see all the source code and all the hooks that currently only Microsoft programmers can use.
The committee would prevent Microsoft's practice of taking applications (e.g. internet browser) and making them part of the operating system.
Imagine a future in which you MUST use only a Microsoft web browser, and then only the latest version of it, in order to see 90% of content on the internet. That is what Microsoft has been trying to achieve, and that is why it is good that something might now be done about it.
This case has more to do with the politics of envy than with competition. The message is clear: "If you succeed, we'll eventually get you".
Do we really want to go back to the days of plug-ins for everything and things not working on one browser that do on another? Can we really do without Windows update? I don't think so, and I don't want to.
Krishan Kumar, India
It's unfortunately the case that Microsoft has actually ended up causing more innovation than they even dare to claim. Without the marketing might of Microsoft to help shift so many copies of Windows, the PC market might be an awkward mix of almost-compatible technologies.
It's just a shame that we have spent too much time understanding what Microsoft have done and not enough saving the smaller companies swallowed by this behemoth of Information Technology.
Andrew Ebbatson, UK
It is time someone teaches Microsoft a lesson. The way Concurrent Dos was forced out of the market was inadequately dealt with. Let us hope Microsoft will never get a chance to do another Netscape.
It's fair game - they did the wrong thing, it's been proven. Now they face the consequences of their actions. That's how it is.
Many good things have been realised by Microsoft's dominance. Amongst these are standardised look-and-feel to applications; plug-and-play for easy hardware upgrades; a stable environment for software manufacturers to design to.
However, none of these are the invention of Microsoft; they have occurred because of its position in the market. Microsoft in its current form has served its purpose. It is now time for it to be broken up and asked to compete on technical merit for future business.
For the world's largest capitalist economy, the US sure has a weird attitude ... For us normal computer users with no axe to grind, Microsoft brought us software that was compatible, would print to most printers on paper other than US sizes, and software that worked in the same way whatever it did. Keep it up Bill - you're no worse than any other business.
Subhash Parmar, UK
While you all watch events unfold, remember that most of the significant characters will view this as a career-making case. And decisions will have as much to do with their own futures as that of Microsoft's.
Microsoft has long been known within the technical community as a nearly unbeatable 800-pound gorilla. That reputation was earned not with legal, if rough, tactics, but by leveraging their incredible monopoly power to push their way into new markets and push others out. To most in the technological community (not just tech businesses) who have suffered due to Microsoft's abuses of their monopoly power, this is merely what Microsoft deserves.
03 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft broke anti-trust law
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