Microsoft’s ‘peace offensive’

Microsoft’s ‘peace offensive’

You may have noticed that Gates & Co have been shelling out cash to companies that had complained about its monopolistic practices. Dan Gillmor has written an acute analysis of this phoney amicability. Quote:

“Microsoft’s $536 million settlement with Novell, which had sued on antitrust claims, was big money for Novell. It was less than pocket change for Microsoft, which at last count had nearly $65 billion in cash and short-term investments — and not a dime of debt.

In a slew of financial settlements with companies Microsoft has trampled over the years, the payout for wrongdoing is roughly $3 billion to date. That represents about three months of profit for a company that literally can’t spend its cash fast enough, and is giving shareholders a one-time bonus of $3 a share early next month. That payout will put only a temporary dent in the cash hoard.

What does all this mean? Simple. When governments fail to enforce the rules of capitalism, monopoly profits can buy one’s way out of almost any kind of trouble.

When the Bush administration made its odious deal to let Microsoft off the legal hook in 2001, it was giving the company an essentially free pass to do whatever it wishes in the future. There was no other way to look at it.

The administration’s cave-in was a relatively clear statement. Under this president, competition policy is industry’s job, not government’s, even if that means a dominant lawbreaker can buy itself out of antitrust troubles with a small dollop of profits recycled from its monopoly.

Promises to the contrary, there’s precious little evidence that Microsoft has made truly meaningful changes in its business practices — or that its leaders see their legal battles as anything but the frustrations of competitors defeated in a tough marketplace. The company continues to dominate almost all of its customers, ‘partners’ and competitors, while the government is at best indifferent, at worst a cheerleader.”