How To Grease Palms (11/7/99)

By now, you've obviously heard about Judge Jackson's findings of fact. If you haven't, it's time to wake up and smell the ozone-- from the lawyers that Bill Gates had vaporized when the word came out Friday night. Yes, Microsoft has legally been found to be a monopoly, despite the company's constant claims to the contrary during the trial. And yes, the judge also determined that Microsoft has abused that monopoly power in order to stifle competition and harm consumers. While these are "just" the facts as Jackson sees them and not a final ruling, it's pretty obvious which way the wind is blowing. So the question that remains is this: other than trying to carve up the browser market with Netscape and then trying to kill the company later, plus trying to poison Java before it rendered Windows obsolete, plus threatening to eliminate Mac support for Office unless Apple ceased development of QuickTime, and then behaving like a pack of lobotomized weasels in court while all these details came out-- where did Microsoft go wrong?

The answer, friends, is simple-- they just didn't play the Washington Game very well. Bill Gates is the richest man on the planet; no matter how upstanding and ethical Judge Jackson may be, we bet if Bill's lackeys dumped a couple billion dollars on his lawn, his findings of fact would have turned out quite differently. Heck, at least maybe that stuff about Microsoft's arguments being "specious" might have been left out. But no; instead, according to a New York Times article, Microsoft decided to spread a paltry $470,000 when shopping for Republican politicians to lobby on its behalf in 1998. Granted, that's up from only $60,000 the year before, but we're talking about the Department of Justice, here. These are the big boys. And Microsoft's less-than-subtle lobbying effort to cut the DoJ's budget while the case was in progress? Well, all that did was make people laugh. As an unnamed DoJ official put it, "even the mob doesn't try to whack a prosecutor during a trial."

So Microsoft didn't spend nearly enough money, and it appears they didn't grease nearly enough people. Because of that oversight, Judge Jackson called them as he saw them, and the imminent end of "Redmond Justice" seems utterly predictable at this point. Meanwhile, we've just noticed that Apple's stock price has overtaken Microsoft's. Sure, that really doesn't mean a darn thing in financial terms (other than the fact that Microsoft is taking a Wall Street drubbing following Judge Jackson's legal smiting), but it's still kinda neat to see. Poor Microsoft; they spent half a million dollars in Washington and what did it get them? A big "M" for "monopoly" legally branded on their collective forehead, an imminent ruling against them likely to carry significant penalties, and a dwindling stock price as investors try to distance themselves from the falling Redmond Giant. Are they "beleaguered" yet?

SceneLink (1894)
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The above scene was taken from the 11/7/99 episode:

November 7, 1999: Microsoft's taking a beating in court and on Wall Street; who taught these guys how to bribe, anyway? Meanwhile, Apple scores a big smack in the head for iMac cloners Future Power and Daewoo, and Motorola claims that Apple's G4 drought may soon come to a close...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1895: The Copycat Beatdown (11/7/99)   And the courtroom gods continue to smile upon Apple. We don't know if all the planets were aligned or what, but Friday must have been Happy Legal Jig day in Cupertino. First of all, there's Judge Jackson's momentous antitrust smack-down of Microsoft, which is likely to make it just that much tougher for goons from Redmond to try to kill QuickTime by threatening to fit Mac Office with a custom pair of concrete shoes...

  • 1896: The End Of The Drought (11/7/99)   One of the few really dark stains on Apple's otherwise gleaming performance this year was the earnings warning lowering expectations of its fourth-quarter profits due to G4 availability problems-- remember the resulting stock dip?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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