Microsoft blinks in antitrust case
Wednesday, July 18, 2001 by Dave Winer.
Earlier today Microsoft petitioned the Court of Appeals to reconsider its conclusion that Microsoft had improperly commingled code between Windows and their Web browser.
This "commingling" formed the basis for Microsoft's argument that the Web browser should be integrated with the operating system. However with a little more effort they could have made it so that the HTML renderer was integrated through a programming interface, allowing the OEM or user to specify Netscape or some other browser as the system-level renderer.
It would have been the natural thing to do. Creating those kinds of interfaces is exactly what an operating system vendor does, that's what an operating system is, a collection of such interfaces. Had Microsoft been acting as an ethical operating system vendor, it would have gone out of its way to maintain the competitive market that existed at the time of their integration of the browser with the operating system. Then their claims that they made a better browser and won the competition fairly would have some credibility.
It appears that Microsoft was expecting the court to be confused, and perhaps still does, but this is not a confusing issue. That Microsoft focused on this aspect of the judgment shows that this is where the juice is. Can Microsoft continue to control the Web through the browser or will they end up losing their monopoly in this key area? If so, my previously stated roadmap is the right way to go, imho.
The correct remedy is to immediately force an API on Microsoft by removing the browser from the operating system by removing it from the company that makes the operating system. That will motivate Microsoft to quickly add the necessary interfaces, and will free the browser to compete with Microsoft's operating system and application suite.
Others have expressed doubt that such competition would result from such a split, but as an expert in Web technology, I have no doubt that a stronger Web environment would immediately result. That MSIE has only rudimentary writing capabilities is clear evidence to me that Microsoft has been protecting Office by keeping the browser weak as a writing tool. The technology is well-known, and the potential of this combination was well-known before Microsoft took control of the browser market. It wouldn't be hard to make MSIE a serious competitor to Microsoft Word, and other elements of the Office suite, and if all is well, that will happen, as a natural consequence of new competition in the browser space.
I've outlined a roadmap for this split, in a DaveNet piece posted on July 12.
This solution cuts to the core of the issue with Microsoft's illegal competition in the browser market, provides a fair remedy, allowing the browser to become a market independent of Microsoft, and creates a template for future remedies for illegal competition in software markets. I ask that this roadmap be given serious consideration by Microsoft and the government as a settlement plan. I think the proper remedy is totally clear.