Microsoft Case Ends in a Different World

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-11-11 Print this article Print

What's worth our attention is the early release of these important rulings.

Its ironic that Microsofts antitrust victory, as this month began, was not first disclosed by a well-timed, after-hours announcement; it became public knowledge through Internet newsgroups reporting that the documents were online.

Attorneys in the case were supposed to receive the decisions at 4 p.m., with Web publication at 4:30 EST. A dutiful technician had the files in place at 2:40; less than an hour later, Slashdot was telling people where they could be found.

And Microsoft stock promptly rose. Not a lot—because, after all, was anyone really surprised?—but enough to suggest a connection.

Too much of my time in these last several years has gone into covering this case; too many hours into reading documents that turn out not to have mattered. My own conscience is clear: My reviews of products such as Microsofts Visual J++ clearly stated the trade-off they offered—platform neutrality versus superior capability for Windows-only development. If you cared, you adopted Borlands JBuilder years ago, and youre still using it today.

Developers choices were deliberately tilted in the marketplace by tactics that the highest court involved in this case has declared to be unlawful—but it was still a choice, made by buyers whose job it was to be well-informed. That information was offered time and again ... and again. I find that pretty frustrating, but thats water over the dam.

Whats worth our present attention is the early release of these important rulings—most likely the last rulings that will matter in this case, regardless of brave noises by attorneys general or lawyers for injured parties. The former lack political impetus to pursue this; the latter lack the resources.

This incident illuminates the connectedness, and the velocity, of information in the world that exists at the end of the Microsoft case, compared with that in the world in which the case began. That change enables open-source development, worldwide network defense and other vital forces for change.

Those forces must give future IT efforts the innovative freedom, the engineering rigor, and the adaptive strength and flexibility that conventional markets—even aided by the majesty of the law—have badly failed to achieve.

Whats your take on the world at the end of the Microsoft case? Write to me at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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