DOJ decision: the bunk stops here

The biggest piece of bunk that pundits were peddling in the wake of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s Microsoft Corp. verdict was the idea that the decision simply wouldn’t have any immediate impact. That notion didn’t last long.

Inside of 24 hours, the Dow and Nasdaq had dropped 500 points each. Soon after, Microsoft’s stock had lost 20 per cent of its value and was still drifting lower. Wall Street analysts were saying Microsoft had finally burst the tech-stock bubble.

Now that’s impact.

But the spinheads and blowhards are slicing lots more baloney – and many of ’em clearly haven’t even read the decision. How much of it turns out to be true? Not much …

“This case will be tied up in appeals for the next 10 years.” Bunk. Jackson said he wants to decide Microsoft’s punishment in 60 days and expedite all appeals straight to the Supreme Court. If the Supremes agree, they could be ruling on U.S. vs. Microsoft less than a year from now. Ten years? Try 10 months.

“The appeals court will be much easier on Microsoft than the trial court.” Nonsense. Nobody on either the Supreme Court or the D.C. circuit court of appeals has suggested they’ll give Microsoft a break. The D.C. circuit did rule in Microsoft’s favour on one point of a consent decree. But most of the new verdict against Microsoft is independent of that ruling. A free ride? Forget it.

“If George W. Bush is elected president, he’ll tell the Justice Department to leave Microsoft alone and that’ll be the end of it.” Baloney. Even without Justice, the 19 state attorneys general aren’t likely to quit. They discovered they could win without the feds in the tobacco case, and they already smell blood with the Microsoft verdict. Oh, and more than 100 other civil suits have already been filed. This one ain’t going away.

“Punishing Microsoft will destroy our high-tech-driven prosperity.” Get a life. Users, corporate IT shops and thousands of vendors are all generating the boom. Microsoft is one of them – and after any penalties in this case, Microsoft will still be one of them. Or maybe three of them.

“Consumers weren’t harmed. No harm, no foul.” Read the decision, spinheads. It says Microsoft broke the law by forcing consumers to pay for the “free” Internet Explorer browser whether they wanted it or not and arm-twisting other vendors to block new products. If you loved Internet Explorer and didn’t want new products from other vendors, you weren’t harmed. A lot of other people think they were – and they’ve filed lawsuits to prove it.

“The judge admitted Netscape wasn’t blocked from competing, so there’s no case.” Yeah, right. Jackson cleared Microsoft’s marketing tactics of wrongdoing because Netscape was still able to distribute Navigator. Just the marketing tactics got his OK. It’s the rest of what Microsoft did that was judged illegal.

“The judge ignored specific instructions from the appeals court, so his whole decision will be thrown out.” Hogwash. The appeals court threw out one preliminary injunction, based on a single point in a consent decree. Most of the new verdict doesn’t depend on that decision. Read it yourself and see.

“The judge just got mad at Bill Gates for lying to him.” Wishful thinking. Read the decision.

“Microsoft hasn’t really been found guilty until all appeals are exhausted.” Are these people on drugs? Microsoft has been found guilty. Now Microsoft will try to convince higher courts that the verdict should be reversed. But unless and until Microsoft can do that, Microsoft is guilty.

Any other claim is just bunk.

Hayes, staff columnist for Framingham, Mass.-based Computerworld (U.S.), has covered IT for more than 20 years. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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