Opinion

Microsoft break-up will not benefit the users

Microsoft, which the US Department of Justice wants broken up, now has to tell District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson what he should do. And it's probably safe to assume that two words ("Up yours") won't do.

Jack Schofield

Opinion

It's hard to deal with Jackson because so far he's followed the DoJ's line. He has even stuck to the view that Microsoft is guilty of monopolistically tying Internet Explorer to Windows even though his opinion has already been reversed once by an appeals court.

Jackson's strong anti-Microsoft line has enabled the DoJ to propose extreme measures, presumably to strengthen its bargaining position (I'm being kind here).

The DoJ must believe that the nastier it makes things look for Microsoft, the more ground it is likely to give. But it could be wrong. Bill Gates is both an astute businessman and a poker player, while Steve Ballmer is as belligerent as they come.

Microsoft's current rhetoric still involves proclamations of innocence. It can fight the DoJ all the way to the Supreme Court, and it could well win.

Microsoft also has the overwhelming support of the American public - 80% think it has been good for the computer industry, and 69% think it should be left alone, according to a Gallup poll published on 12 April - plus numerous academics, business tycoons (Bill's mate Warren Buffett) and even some politicians. It certainly has more support than the government.

But however it all pans out, we can look forward to two things: Windows will not be displaced on PCs any time soon, and you will pay more for less functional software.

Currently one of the worst things about Windows is having to cope with multiple versions from Windows 3 to 2000, not to mention the multiple different versions of each version, plus all those damned NT service packs.

If the US government gets its way, you'll have the added problems of dealing with multiple versions of multiple versions of Windows, depending on the whims of PC suppliers, who will be able to add and subtract bits as they see fit.

I do hope you are looking forward to it.

Jack Schofield is computer editor of the Guardian

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This was first published in May 2000

 

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