A Bill for Legal Services ?

Using licensing terms as a weapon was crucial to Microsoft.

It all depends on how you remember it, I guess.

Last week, Bill Gates addressed a gathering of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, in Redmond, so you might have expected something to boost morale. Indeed, the chairman and chief software architect evoked victories of the past to instill a will to triumph today against the threat of pervasive Linux.

Gates said, according to a Peter Galli report at eweek.com: "OS/2 for about six years was that [a pervasive threat]. And it wasnt a joke; it was all of IBM that was 10 times the size of Microsoft putting all their energy, their leverage on ISVs, bundling it with their systems, everything they could do to beat Windows, and we as a company had to learn new things, do new things to respond to that competition."

Gates remarks make it sound like IBM was picking on the little guy. In fact, when the rift between the two companies, once partners, broke out in 1989, it was more like Microsoft, despite being much smaller, turning on IBM. As the record from the antitrust trial indicates, when IBM refused to stop promoting OS/2 and SmartSuite, Microsoft raised IBMs license fees, issued IBM a late license for Windows 95, and withheld technical and marketing support.

Using licensing terms as a weapon was crucial to Microsofts business for many years. The consent decree between the DOJ and Microsoft, although some view it as toothless, will mitigate such predatory practices. Without recourse to those tactics, will Microsoft be able to compete?

Maybe thats why Redmond is seeking a patent on its .Net technologies. The monopoly granted by such a patent would go a long way to ensuring the legal clout that has served Microsoft so well in the past.

Is Microsofts expertise in writing software equal to its skill in writing terms and conditions? Tell me at stan_gibson@ziffdavis.com.