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Microsoft Is Held To A Different Standard

InformationWeek is talking about Microsoft’s giving in to Google’s plea to the Justice Department and analysts who say Microsoft is now being hindered and its ability to innovate will suffer. Microsoft gave in due to fear of endless litigation, not because it was wrong (and despite that, Google is still demanding more), and that means Microsoft is now no longer able to produce the best product it can because of this fear.

Microsoft was a very bad company ten years ago, no one denies that, but right now it is a company struggling to make good software, with tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of the economy resting on it. Microsoft does produce good software, no doubt about that, but Google has now forced the company to pull back on a feature that improves its operating system because Microsoft must apparently ensure that its competitors are able to innovate.

It’s a bad precedent, not just for Microsoft, but for the entire software industry. It says that Microsoft can’t innovate if it stops other companies from competing of competitively innovating, that Microsoft can’t add new features to Windows if similar products exist elsewhere. It means Microsoft can’t fix problems in their operating system if utility makers have fixed them, even if Microsoft does a better job. It means Microsoft can’t add features that Mac OS X has, if they already exist in any other company’s product line.

It’s a shame, but Microsoft is held to a different standard. At what point do the sins of the past stop hurting Microsoft like this? Will anyone in the federal government come out and fight for Microsoft? Probably not. Microsoft will just have to work as hard as it can, then cower in fear everytime a Google comes out and does this.

Does anyone think this is good for the industry?

Keith Hylton, professor of law at Boston University and author of a textbook on antitrust law, sees Microsoft’s decision to cooperate primarily as a calculated compromise to avoid costly litigation. “Google is a deep-pocketed firm and is capable of going into court and sticking it out as long as Microsoft is willing to keep litigating,” he said. “And there are still a few state attorneys general who want to bring a case, too.”

While a compromise may benefit Microsoft in the short term, “there’s a long-term cost,” Hylton said. “Microsoft’s Vista search function is an improvement on its own product. And if you say to a dominant firm like Microsoft, when you make an improvement to your product, you have to now protect the interests of rival firms, that’s going to reduce the incentives to make those improvements.”

“Traditional antitrust law hasn’t imposed a duty on firms to protect their rivals when they innovate on their own products,” said Hylton, acknowledging that what a company calls “innovation” may really be anticompetitive behavior.

June 25th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, Google, Law, Vista, Windows | 3 comments

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  1. I guess this goes with the territory of being a convicted monopolist. Microsoft made a lot of enemies amd got offside with the public with what they did in the 90′s and as a result now they are getting the treatment handed back to them and there isnt a lot of sympathy. I guess they just have to keep taking the kicks until the 90′s are well and truely forgotten.

    Comment by Aaron | June 26, 2007

  2. I completely agree. Now, any company that can’t compete will complain.

    I won’t use google products and am only useing their search when the others don’t get me what I need.

    Comment by David | June 26, 2007

  3. No it simply means that microsoft should focus on building a simple easy to use OS, and less on cramming everything and the kitchen sink into the OS. Why can’t they have a clean OS and then include a desktop search that installs and can be uninstalled, just like any other program.

    The sooner MS wakes up to the idea that everyone does not fall into their market research molds and let the user use what works for them the better for us all. This is not feel good utopian speak, this is Economics. The more people that can build programs that hook to windows the better it is for MS and the better and cheaper it is for the end user. Saying that having MS open up the OS and document the API’s is limiting to them is like saying that aftermarket exhaust manufactures are killing General Motors.

    Comment by Mike | June 27, 2007

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