It looks as if Microsoft Corp. has won its game of hardball after all. When the U.S. Department of Justice found that Microsoft unlawfully defended its monopoly in late 1999, the remedies that came down from U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson were completely removed from the technical and market realities of today. Microsoft misused its market power, but breaking up a software company a la Standard Oil doesn't make sense in today's economy.
The settlement that the parties worked on last week would give Microsoft the ability to bundle software but place restrictions on its business practices, notably with ISVs, PC manufacturers, and enterprises. In my mind, this approach gives Microsoft customers well-integrated products but should give consumers and businesses more choice in their applications and operating systems.
Particularly in the realm of handheld devices, where hardware manufacturers need to have intimate knowledge of the software, Microsoft needs to give up more information of its crown jewels, particularly around .Net. The goal is to level the playing field so that third parties can take advantage of the ubiquity of Windows.
The devil, as always, is in the details. And in this case, in the enforcement of the details. Because of the arcane and technical nature of these disclosures, it's going to be very difficult to find a body that can objectively and effectively monitor this situation.
Microsoft has never been contrite in any of its legal dealings and has claimed that applications such as a browser are part of the operating system. This case, which should have been settled years ago, leaves Microsoft sticking to its story and its practice of bundling. Now the industry needs the oversight to ensure that years of litigation don't mean business as usual in Redmond.
Do the settlement proposals have enough teeth? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.