Kearns' column: Microsoft should get what it deserves

A lot has been written in the aftermath of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case. Today, we'll look at what Microsoft has said. Keep in mind, though, a classic propaganda tenet: If you repeat something often enough, people will accept it as fact, without questioning its truth or falsity.

Microsoft President Steve Ballmer said in an op-ed piece in the November 9 edition of the Wall Street Journal, "... We cannot compromise on the government's demands that Microsoft essentially stop listening to the marketplace and cease innovating its products."

Paul Maritz, vice president of Microsoft's Developer Group, wrote in the November 10 San Jose Mercury News: "Our company is built on very clear values: innovation, integrity, service to customers, partnership, quality and giving to the community."

On the Microsoft Web site, Bill Gates is quoted as saying: "We have a responsibility to protect the principle that has made America a leader in technology -- the freedom to innovate on behalf of our consumers."

The only thing wrong with these quotes is that Microsoft has never innovated anything -- with the possible exception of Microsoft Bob. To lay claim to innovation you have to be able to demonstrate that you thought up a new way of doing things and then implemented your idea.

From the very beginning, Microsoft has grown on the back of other, non-Microsoft developers and software companies. The road from DOS 1.0 to Windows 2000 is paved with failed or diminished software vendors who created innovative applications only to see them co-opted or bought out by the behemoth of Redmond.

There are a number of principles at issue in the antitrust trial, but the ability of Microsoft to innovate is not one of them. Rather, the ability of other, non-Microsoft companies to innovate and profit from their innovation in the software industry is central to the case.

Microsoft has, time and time again, trampled on thousands of smaller software vendors' right to innovate.

It is not simply disingenuous, it is propaganda on the grandest of scales for Microsoft to claim the banner of innovation as its defense against the overwhelming facts in the antitrust case.

Many are urging Microsoft and the Department of Justice to reach a settlement. But the arrogance shown by Bill Gates and his henchmen during the trial and in their reaction to the findings of fact leads me to hope that there is no settlement, and instead that Microsoft is found guilty and receives the punishment they so richly deserve.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.

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