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November 11, 2004

We Fought the Law...

...and I guess the law won. This is what Dan Gillmor points out in this column. Quote: "One of the major reasons Microsoft achieved its browser dominance is that it repeatedly broke the law by abusing its monopoly."

My initial reaction to that kind of statement is "Wait! Broke the law? But...ummm...geeba geeba." I don't agree with the rest of his article, which is that Microsoft has not changed its business practices in any meaningful way. Microsoft has changed its business practices in many many meaningful ways.

While I think almost every employee would agree that the company is pretty open and friendly, many employees would feel that it hasn't changed much because they didn't think it was evil to being with. I always felt this huge disconnect between the public perception of Microsoft as evil, and what I (and everyone I knew) came to work trying to do, which was make better software for people.

During my New Employee Orientation when I restarted here (a year ago), we were treated to a talk from a Vice President. They said they were going to have time for questions at the end, and I thought of a pretty good, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question, which was: "Do you think the ruling against Microsoft in the DOJ case was justified, or was the company treated unfairly?"

I wasn't really planning to ask it, but during question time nobody else was raising their hands, and I figured heck, I'm a shareholder and he's a VP, he's rockin' on my dime, might as well ask it. His response was to hem and haw a bit and then say that he personally had never seen any malfeasance. Which I guess is the response I expected (what's he gonna say, "Yeah we got hosed? We were guilty as sin?" Dream on).

BUT we employees do have to keep in mind that Gillmor, in this particular case is right: the company WAS found guilty of antitrust violations, and arguably hit the "double inside straight draw" of an egotistical judge and a partisan Secretary of State to get the settlement we did (I should point out that I think the settlement, based on what Microsoft actually did, was fair, to say the least; but based on how the trial had proceeded, it was a good result for Microsoft).

So whether employees have internalized it or not, the law says we were guilty guilty guilty guilty, and we should remember that.

Posted by AdamBa at November 11, 2004 01:26 PM

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I reckon we'll shortly see - indeed, are seeing - the Justice Department's case thoroughly disproved by Firefox. Software markets - particularly ones which have very few user customisations or user data such as web browsers - shift to perceived better products quickly.

I myself will not be shifting in the near future as I see Firefox's security record as 'case unproven'.

Posted by: Mike Dimmick at November 11, 2004 04:06 PM