Is It Too Late?

Friday, 2007-October-05 at 15:40

Background

After over a decade of legally-questionable dirty tricks, Microsoft was recently given a punishment from the European Community.  James Robertson believes that it is so late as to be useless:

You admit that government actions (US and EU) are very late – late enough to be useless. You fail to notice that the market is taking care of MS the same way that it handled IBM. MS has gotten big, fat, and stupid, and the Vista screwup is the first step in a long downhill run in front of the company. You can keep asking for useless, late, and ineffective (not to mention costly) government action, or you can just let time do its job.

James is one of about a dozen people whose blogs I read almost daily.  Among other things, he has a daily screencast that shows short examples of how to accomplish particular tasks using Cincom's VisualWorks Smalltalk product.

I agree that it is very late.  However, the abuses are still continuing and MSFT is still the monopoly vendor in key markets. Imagine that one your kid's friends gets his MP3 player taken from him by force.  Later, the same group takes your kid's MP3 player.  One of the group members gets caught with the friend's MP3 player just as the group is starting to break up several months after the robberies.  Do you grumble because the police waited until the crime wave was about to stop anyway, saying "this is so late that we should just let them go"?

Given such a scenario, wouldn't you want the little hoodlum to spend a few months in the care of the county?

When AT&T continued to abuse its local monopolies to block out competition in the long-distance service market, DOJ remedied it by splitting AT&T into several regional companies to operate the local services, and a separate long-distance service.  It is easy to say that the phone company was on a downhill slide.  Thanks in part to the song "Convoy", all the excitement in communication was in two-way radio and the soon-coming cellular market.

The AT&T breakup was not without its problems, of course, but no matter how you feel about the present duopoly (AT&T and Verizon), it would be worse if there were only one real choice.  Do you remember when your house phone was rented and you could not just pick up a new phone at Best Buy to connect to your line?  Remember when a short call to your relatives out of state could easily be $20 or more?

Microsoft may be in decline, but that might take twenty years or more.  Meanwhile, the anti-competitive behavior continues.  Cincom could easily be the next targeted victim, if someone in Redmond decided that Smalltalk was threatening to their dominance.  Yes, I agree that it is pretty unlikely to happen.

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