There is nothing like a deadline to make things happen. That is true not only in the publishing business but also apparently in the antitrust business. Faced with a court-imposed deadline, a stagnant economy and a war on terrorism, Microsoft and the feds appear on the verge of patching up their differences.
The Microsoft antitrust case, the findings of monopoly and the final settlement that does not seem to change much at all will surely be the subject of much punditry and analysis, but I believe there are a couple of points that even punditry wont overpower.
One, the government was correct to pursue the anti-monopoly charges. Microsoft, through a combination of hard work, technical and marketing acumen, and strong-arm tactics, was abusing its position in the market, and the feds were correct in bringing it to account.
The findings of monopoly tactics were not sufficiently severe to require that Microsoft be broken into bits. Microsoft is not the railroad industry or the steel mills. Regardless of the strained attempts to compare the Microsoft case with past anti-monopoly cases, the speed of technology change in the digital world outpaces anything in the physical world. There may not be a whole lot of desktop operating system competitors today, but there are plenty of competitors both large and small for the Web services, handheld devices and application servers that will mark the technology leaders of tomorrow.
Second, settling the case made all the sense in the world. There are simply bigger tasks ahead for the government and the high-tech industry. This is a time for clearing the decks and developing a focus on building a secure physical and cyber-world rather than a time for flogging this case through the court system for 10 more years.
If we needed examples of the vibrant technology market and topics of far greater import than continued monopoly proceedings, you have no further to look than this weeks issue.
Peter Gallis story on the virtual memory manager in the Linux operating system shows just how vibrant that business remains. Linux continues to be bolstered on several fronts, including massive investment and development from IBM and a worldwide development community ready to argue for days on the virtues of which virtual memory manager is the best.
Jeff Moads exclusive on the Department of Defense using technology to push the speed of acquiring and deploying needed materials is a great example of how one of the slowest-moving bureaucracies around can become a nimble player when the need arises. The promise of Web-based supply chain management has always been a far less expensive, faster and more efficient way to do business. And when that business involves getting needed supplies to troops in the field, you can see why all those millions of dollars lost by the failed supply chain dot-coms were well worth the investment if they help the United States find success in the military challenges it faces in Afghanistan.