Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and writer for Wired Magazine wrote yesterday about the potential impact of the EU ruling against Microsoft, saying that Microsoft needed to “solve its antitrust problems” and implying that the EU’s action had in some way hampered competition.
Even more surprisingly, Prof. Lessig seems to be under the impression that there is a reason for the popularity of Windows Media other than Microsoft’s dominance of the operating system market, citing the availability of Media Player on other platforms including Mac OS X and Solaris. This, it seems to me, is a rather naïve perspective on the situation; as far as I can see, Windows Media is a popular format for content producers because 90% of content consumers already have Media Player installed on their systems—and why is that the case? Well, because they’re running Windows. Yes, Media Player may be available on Mac OS X, Solaris and other platforms, but, oddly enough, sites targetting primarily Mac users tend to pick QuickTime rather than Media Player, and sites targetting UNIX users generally plump for MPEG or Real Media.
The EU ruling is, of course, far too late, and the fine is far too small. In any event, Microsoft will appeal it and attempt to defer paying any fine until the last possible moment—it doesn’t matter to them that this is a dishonorable course of action, because Microsoft, like many large corporations, are more interested in the bottom line than in doing the right thing. They know that they are guilty, that they are attempting to dominate a variety of markets by integrating the required software into Windows or by bundling it with Windows, leveraging the popularity of Windows and the naïvité of their users to ensure that competing products’ markets are destroyed. But they don’t care.
If there were one question that I could ask Bill Gates, it would be “How much money is enough?” I wonder whether Bill and his company have ever stopped to consider the answer to that one.