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Cultivating corporate schizophrenia

Judge Motz, chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, narrowed the scope of Novell's ongoing antitrust case, throwing out four of the six claims on technicalities (they weren't filed within proper timeframes). The last two were allowed to continue, and all the news reports -- including Ina Fried reporting for News.

Judge Motz, chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, narrowed the scope of Novell's ongoing antitrust case, throwing out four of the six claims on technicalities (they weren't filed within proper timeframes).

The last two were allowed to continue, and all the news reports -- including Ina Fried reporting for News.com -- say it was because of an Aug. 17, 1997 e-mail from Jeff Raikes to billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

"If we own the key 'franchises' built on top of the operating system, we dramatically widen the 'moat' that protects the operating system business" ... "We hope to make a lot of money off these franchises, but even more important is that they should protect our Windows royalty per PC....And success in those businesses will help increase the opportunity for future pricing discretion."

Why this is supposed to be a smoking gun is beyond me. If Apple gets Apple users hooked on Safari, they are less likely to want to move to computers which don't support Safari (which is, consequently, NONE OF THEM, as Safari is Apple-only software, whereas Office, interestingly enough, is not). In other words, it's a simple fact that owning the products which are considered "must-haves" in your market segment (which Microsoft Office clearly is) means you shore up support for the platform for which those applications are primarily written. That would be true whether Microsoft writes software for Windows or Mother Theresa writes  software for Linux.

The only "solution" to the "problem" posed by Jeff Raikes e-mail would be for Microsoft not to shore up Windows marketshare by creating products that people like. Given that companies are organized solely around profit, Motz is encouraging an odd sort of schizophrenia among companies that reach a large marketshare, one where companies paradoxically pursue profit while slitting their own throats with new software initiatives.

I have trouble seeing how that jives with Judge Kollar-Kotelly's antitrust ruling, which defended the notion that companies, even convicted monopolies, have the right to continue to act as companies.

As a side note, consider the date of the e-mail: August, 1997. At that time, WordPerfect was only available for Windows and the Mac...just like Microsoft Word. That makes me wonder how useful that e-mail really will be, given that Microsoft executives weren't doing anything different than WordPerfect execs from the standpoint of market positioning.

As another side note, perhaps some would suggest that Microsoft should be forced to roll out its market-beating products on non-Windows platforms (that is, beyond the Mac). Should we also require them to roll out good applications for non-Microsoft platforms? I'll consider it if everyone who responds in Talkback translates their post to French, German, and Japanese...and make sure it is good French, German and Japanese (not some babelfish machine translation).