21st Century Fox Hunt - US vs. Microsoft
Washington DC - 20 June 2000 Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued an order
certifying the Microsoft case for direct review by the Supreme Court.
Microsoft has argued for taking the case initially to the Federal Appeals
Court in Washington, D.C.
There's been a lot of recent scholarship regarding the Microsoft antitrust
case, and what each new development means ("Judge orders breakup!" "Supreme
Court to review case.") We'd like to assemble some of the most likely
scenarios into a possible map of how the next few years will unfold for
the Redmond software titan.
2000: US Supreme Court receives case on direct appeal from the United
States District Court.
2000: Vice President Albert Gore wins the Presidential election.
In his first post victory press conference, he announces that he "sees
no reason to interrupt the process now." Microsoft stock tumbles 10%
on the announcement.
2001: Oral arguments are heard before the Supreme Court. Bill Gates
triumphantly announces, in a hastily called press conference that "Microsoft
has restored liberty and freedom here in the home of our nation." Only
four newspapers in the country use headline "Judgment Day for Microsoft".
2001: Microsoft files motions for Judge Jackson to recuse himself.
2001: U.S. Court of Appeals hears recusal motion. Motion is denied
later in the month.
2001: Testimony begins late in the month regarding remedies. Also,
Microsoft releases Windows 2001 - the "Whistler" release that unifies
its 95/98/ME and NT/2000 kernels. Win2001 includes optional subscription
components that interface with Internet providers. Microsoft ships components
for Amazon.com purchases, the newly merged Yahoo/eBay auctions, a "camera
locator" for the new CBS-Big Brother 24 hour real-time cable channel,
and a voice recognition telephony component that locates callers anywhere
on the PacBell or MCI WorldCom voice networks. Microsoft stock closes
unchanged on release day.
2001: Gates testifies. As a side note, Gates and Oracle CEO Larry
Ellison engage in a heated yelling match outside the courthouse. Microsoft
stock drops 4 on the news. Testimony ends.
2002: Judge Jackson orders a three-way breakup of Microsoft - applications,
operating systems, and Internet companies. Appeals are immediately filed
with the Court of Appeals.
2002: Appellate arguments for US v. Microsoft.
2002: Citing the "arduous road" which this case has taken, U.S.
Court of Appeals issues a decision, reversing the conduct decrees proposed
by Judge Jackson but leaving the breakup order intact. Case reappealed
to Supreme Court, which grants certiorari.
2002: Oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
2003: In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that.
at that point, it's almost immaterial isn't it?
is facing a nearly three-year delay in the remainder of the antitrust
action. In the meantime, it's facing a market that is increasingly looking
to non-PC centric computing. The Microsoft.NET initiative purports to
change this - it's a mix of server-centric, subscription-based Windows/Internet
components. But it's a major shift in direction.
1995, Bill Gates launched his now famous "100 Days" initiative to get
Microsoft in tune with the Internet. At the time, developers had little
risk in developing applications for a 32-bit Windows platform.
now? Who's going to bet the farm on a "platform" that may be torn asunder
at any point? The best-case assessment of Microsoft.NET is that it's a
great enabling technology but one that will evolve with Microsoft's legal
position. Gates & CEO Steve Ballmer have positioned NGWS/Microsoft.Net
as a "bet the company strategy", but that moniker is, perhaps, better
affixed to the appeal.
understand management fiduciary responsibility to defer or prevent Microsoft's
breakup. Microsoft can wait for the decision, but developers won't. In
three more years, Java/Linux application servers will be even more entrenched
than they are now, unless Microsoft can reassure the public about its
the breakup scenarios proposed by the Court would keep server applications
- not just Office - away from the OS group. This reminds us of the old
riddle about roosters laying eggs on the peak of a roof - which way do
they roll? A server-hosted COM object that provides application services
- is it an application or an OS component? Until that's clear, the Windows
development roadmap will remain mired.
Microsoft CEO Ballmer has said that Microsoft.NET is a product, a service,
and a strategy. Unfortunately, Steve, it's none of those yet. We recommend
planning around the initiative until it acquires crisper focus and a clear
patron in a post-antitrust "Baby Bill".