Microsoft must pay the price for its tactics

LOS ANGELES (U-WIRE) — Bill Gates has more huevos than a chicken farm on steroids. It is no wonder why he fails to, if not refuses to, comprehend the problem at issue with himself and his company’s practices.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s findings of fact, issued last Friday, offer a peek into what can be expected in the final judgment to be handed down sometime next year. The more than 200 pages on the facts of the landmark case, United States of America vs. Microsoft Corporation, outline certain instances and examples where Gates’ company engaged in activities considered prohibitive to what Gates is fighting for — the freedom to innovate.
Gates’ response, given soon after the document was issued, clearly illustrates his inability to come to terms with what is really at issue here — Microsoft is bullying its competitors into submission.
Since the inception of Microsoft more than two decades ago, one thing continues to drive the company ahead of the rest of its peers. Microsoft has always been and continues to be able to acquire technologies that it deems useful to the consumer. While this is a common practice in any competitive battlefield, Microsoft uses its leverage as the overwhelmingly predominant software maker to guarantee that its products are successful in the marketplace.
Examples of such predatory practices can be seen in its acquisition of, most likely because of Microsoft Network’s failed venture into the ISP arena, and its attempt to acquire Intuit because of the less-than-viable Microsoft Money line of personal financial management software.
It goes without saying, however, that other companies practice the same business ventures. Apple Computer, for one, recently acquired 3-D graphics-chip maker Raycer Graphics in an attempt to truly be the only company that still makes the “entire widget,” as CEO Steve Jobs proclaims.
But there is a difference between the practices of Apple and those of Microsoft. The latter dominates the operating systems market for computers, perhaps the most important part of the machine itself. Documents entered into court records show Microsoft’s intention to use its control of the operating system market to undermine the advancement of its competitors.
The end-user is not the only victim of Microsoft’s strong-arming in the industry. Seventy-six days of testimony showed time and time again that Microsoft not only badgered its consumers but its distribution channels and software vendors as well. With licensing prices of its products dependent on the manufacturer’s cooperation in the Microsoft game, a win-win situation for Microsoft equated to live-or-die situation for companies dependent upon its products.
Such practices surely cannot be regarded as being within the realm of the “freedom to innovate,” as Gates would like to have us all believe. Rather, they ought to be deemed Microsoft’s freedom to annihilate.
Innovation is a good thing; it is what drives the technology industry. Without innovation, we wouldn’t be blessed with the many virtues of Internet or high-paying jobs for programmers and other tech-savvy teenagers out there.
The bottom line is Bill Gates. His board and company need to be awakened from their fantasy world of global dominance and return to the purpose Gates outlined himself in his statement on Friday. The problem is not the prohibition of the freedom to innovate in an ever-so rapid industry but the prohibition of others to do the same. Quit trying to force technology upon the underlings, and allow them to follow the yellow glow at the end of the tunnel.
Hang Long’s column originally appeared in Tuesday’s University of Southern California paper, the Daily Trojan.