Getting away with it!

What we have seen in the Microsoft court fiasco is probably best described as an ongoing criminal enterprise, addicted to the euphoria of decades of unpunished bullying, being enabled by a legalistic system that cannot see the forest for the trees. To a career criminal, the most exhilirating part of a crime is getting away with it. There is a distinct chemical response in the brain, a "rush" similar to a drug-induced euphoria, that a career criminal becomes addicted to during his/her rampages through society. Crime addiction, like any other addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex), has a biochemical as well as a psychological component. So there is the potential for successful treatment of a properly restrained, properly instructed member of the class of the "ethically challenged."

The most dangerous and counterproductive course is for someone to act as an "enabler" for the sick person or the sick company. An enabler is anyone whose permissive, overly helpful assistance allows the twisted individual to continue on their ruinous and decadent path. The enabler is someone who provides liquor to the drunkard (along with a place to sleep off the hangovers), or who helps cover for the dope-addicted person who regularly misses work. Even the police or the courts could act as enablers by allowing career criminals to continue to victimize society without fear of significant punishment.

What we have seen in the Microsoft court fiasco is probably best described as an ongoing criminal enterprise, addicted to the euphoria of decades of unpunished bullying, being enabled by a legalistic system that cannot see the forest for the trees. The same government that pretends to apply punishment on the one hand, acts as an enabler on the other hand by doling out billions of taxpayer dollars to Microsoft in the form of scholastic software contracts, military defense deals, and bureaucratic rubber-stamping of monopoly product purchases. This practice of enabling the criminal enterprise cannot be overcome by anything short of draconian court sanctions, such as total dismemberment or confiscation of the illegally-obtained and illegally-maintained intellectual property and facilities.

There is simply no way that a rational person can expect a company that has destroyed the innovative process in market after market to suddenly reform because of a slap on the wrist in a federal court. This expectation would be as unreasonable and as illogical as to think that a crime syndicate will "go straight" if you just leave it alone to fester. In the real world -- not the dream world of philosophical idealists -- companies that deceive, bully, and threaten rivals to prevent the success of superior technologies do not suddenly become soft teddy bears in the jungle of corporate commerce, just because they have experienced the embarassment of getting caught. They simply find new, more subtle ways to cheat.

Those who imagine that Microsoft will only threaten "adjacent markets" (such as other software companies) are making a huge mistake. Name a market that is not adjacent to information services. You cannot, because every form of human endeavor is dependent on information. I can foresee the day, perhaps ten years from now, when Microsoft has not only locked up the markets for maps, telephones, and calculators, but they have moved into information-based enterprises such as the gambling industry, the tobacco industry, and the prostitution industry. Every industry is dependent on lists of suppliers, lists of customers, lists of contacts and the ability to generate and track communication and cash flow between them. Any judge who fails to recognize this all-encompassing nature of information systems will fail to recognize the threat of an all-encompassing monopoly.

For Microsoft to hypocritically accuse the remaining States of "starting a new trial" or "expanding the scope of the case" is a distraction from the main issue. The scope of information services is absolute. Would you really like to see Microsoft control the content of church services, wedding routines, and funeral activities? There is no logical reason why an information monopolist would hold back from attempting to commoditize and monopolize these highly lucrative enterprises. As Mr. Gates' longtime venture-capital associate Ann Winblad once said, "Wedding services are very fragmented. There is no one source for these activities yet."

I hope the new judge thinks about that statement when Microsofties testify about the importance of "not increasing the scope of the case." Microsoft has no intent to limit the scope of their monopoly. The punishment that fits the crime is to prevent Microsoft from extending that monopoly to any product beyond operating systems, and then to break their stranglehold on the operating system market. This proper and fair punishment could best be implemented by correctly declaring Microsoft an "ongoing criminal enterprise" under the RICO statute, and confiscating the entire corrupt institution before the cancer can spread. If the judge fails to punish Microsoft sufficiently, she will merely be acting as yet another "enabler" for the company.

The result of such enablement will eventually involve you. You may someday have to consider attending the Church of Microsoft to marry your Microsoft-approved partner.

Tom Nadeau
OS/2 Headquarters


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