Microsoft ruling a victory for consumers

Top antitrust fighter Joel Klein says a Microsoft breakup would spur competition and innovation -- and be a boon for computer users
Written by Matthew Rothenberg, Contributor

The US Department of Justice was quick to declare Wednesday's ruling in Microsoft's antitrust case a victory for consumers. It also used the occasion to argue that the mandated Microsoft breakup will be a boon for high-tech innovation, despite the company's arguments to the contrary.

"Your efforts will protect competition and ensure consumers have more choice in the marketplace," attorney general Janet Reno told DoJ officials gathered at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Assistant attorney general Joel Klein said the ruling is a victory for technology users.

"Consumers in a free and competitive marketplace will decide for themselves what products they want," Klein said. "The remedy ... is fair; it's measured; and indeed, directly flows from the findings."

After the divestiture, both Microsoft companies -- one focusing on operating systems, the other on developing applications and running Internet services -- will be "vital, strong and successful firms," Klein said. "That competition will benefit America's consumers and the entire economy." Iowa attorney general Tom Miller characterized the decision as "strong, fair and measured." Microsoft "resorted to monopoly in an illegal way," Miller said. "It was not reaching for a better product or for innovation; it was reaching for that crutch, that illegal crutch."

The company "could have been broken up into Baby Bills. This is the least of the remedies."

Citing the precedent of the AT&T split, Miller predicted the move would benefit investors as well as consumers.

Rupert Goodwins thinks the split may yet turn out to be the best thing that's happened to Microsoft. In the most optimistic scenario, the software will be better, more reliable, more flexible and cheaper. But as rivals and Microsoft partners cackle happily what does it actually mean to us users? Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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