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1/29/2007
01:02 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
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Strange Anti-Microsoft Bedfellows

What do Brussels and Des Moines have in common? An apparent determination to keep Microsoft's competitive instincts under control that goes far beyond what Washington had the belly for.

What do Brussels and Des Moines have in common? An apparent determination to keep Microsoft's competitive instincts under control that goes far beyond what Washington had the belly for.The here-we-go-again saga of whether Microsoft is violating the European Commission's 2004 decision that its bundling of operating system and applications is anticompetitive was news again last week. A group called the European Committee for Interoperable Standards demanded that the European Commission make a rapid decision on its complaint--filed in February 2006--that Microsoft is trying to expand, not pull back, on its monopolistic practices.

Meanwhile, things continue to heat up on the Great Plains, as last week thousands of pieces of evidence that purport to show the world that Microsoft deserves to pay Iowa consumers for overcharging were posted to the Web. The Iowa lawsuit was filed on behalf of all state citizens who bought Microsoft software between 1994 and 2006, and claims that those purchases resulted in a cumulative $300 million overpayment.

Although a different kind of lawsuit--as Microsoft's Jack Evans helpfully points out, the suit in Iowa is a private lawsuit--the European Commission has also been extremely aggressive in its attempts to restrain Microsoft from what it says is blatant anti-competitive behavior. In July, the commission fined Microsoft $1.9 million a day retroactive from December 2005 through June 2006. Microsoft has appealed, of course.

Still, what these on-going actions have in common is a desire to take aggressive action against a perceived abuse of power. Whether they are fighting the good fight or are gadflies that could impede market dynamics that reward innovation continues to be a matter of global debate.

The market doesn't appear to be taking these actions terribly seriously, as Microsoft stock increased by 31 cents on Friday. The most probable reason for this: People are so accustomed to these accusations--and so mesmerized, for good or for ill--by Vista that they just dismiss it all as white noise.

What do you think? Do these legal actions against Microsoft matter? How likely is it that Microsoft will cease in its aggressive stance? Let us know what you think by responding below.

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