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Stop picking on Microsoft and get to work

Many people in the technology business have enjoyed watching incumbent IT bully Microsoft take body blows from the courts in recent years. But as this article points out, when the dust settles, standard business principles will decide the IT champions.


By Rich Castagna

Okay, everybody, raise your right hand and repeat after me: "I'm not going to pick on Microsoft anymore." I'm not asking you to do this because we should give Microsoft a break and let it off the hook. It's just time to let go of this preoccupation and get back to work.

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We've had our fun watching legions of lawyers reacting indignantly to each insensitive salvo lobbed from the other side. It was a gas to see the top legal gunslingers from more than a third of the states form a posse, saddle up, and ride into the sunset with their sights set on big companies that have the nerve to act like, well, big companies. And who will ever forget the priceless moment when Judge Jackson declared that this really big company should be split into two and uttered those famous words: "That'll teach Bill Gates not to show up in my courtroom in business casual clothes!" Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the picture.

We know that Microsoft is a monopoly. The lawyers said it, the judges said it, even Sam Donaldson said it. But as was pointed out in the proceedings, being a monopoly isn't bad, but using your monopoly status to treat the competition unfairly is. (I'm not sure what else a company would do with its monopoly-ness except use it to crush the competition, but I guess that's the difference between nice monopolies and mean monopolies.)

But the daily Microsoft slam-a-rama is getting tiresome. Maybe some enterprising entrepreneur will capture all these highlights in a three-hour video. Then you could sit back and relish the show whenever your malice for Microsoft becomes irresistible.

For two or three years now, CEO after CEO has lashed out at Bill and his buddies in Redmond. They've described how Microsoft has rigged the rules, ruined the industry, and virtually put the brakes on innovation. We've heard indignation, self-righteousness, and moral sermonizing from companies that have tried to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft and took it on the chin, as well as from companies that dream of being even bigger than Microsoft. It all made for a bunch of tasty little sound bites for the cable news programs—and not much else.

In fact, it seems that the Morally Opposed to Microsoft (MOM?) companies have spent more time churning up anti-Microsoft sentiment than they have creating products. The whole thing has become a huge distraction, and it's hurting the accusers as much or more than the accused. What happened to the good old days when the wars were fought with products, when the meanest-spirited thing you could say to another company was "My product's better than yours"?

With our fragile economy, battling for IT bucks is tougher than ever, and the big wins will go to the best products. Follow the lead of the likes of Oracle, which just announced a major new release. Or learn a lesson or two from the open source folks who, until recently baited into joining the fray by a few foolish remarks from Microsoft officials, have managed to put up some stiff competition on the corporate server turf.

Don't worry, Microsoft will be punished, and those penalties will hurt its business. But it's not about to quit putting the heat on the competition. When all the legal dust settles, it'll be back to basics, and the best products and services will win.

Which companies will give Microsoft a run for their money?
We look forward to getting your input and hearing your opinions on this popular topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.

 

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