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With friends like these… MS amici file their briefs

Denouncing... George III?

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MS on Trial Microsoft has few firm friends, and the Amici Microsoftae who form a rather small pro-Microsoft faction have either a financial relationship with Microsoft or some rather offbeat ideological kink that compels them to side with Microsoft. This strange conglomeration is the source of the 'friends of court' briefs filed this week on the company's behalf.

The Association for Competitive Technology is a Microsoft-support group funded largely by Microsoft, while its co-amicus is the Computing Technology Industry Association, whose members mostly profit from selling Microsoft software and related services. These amici make the claim that slapping Microsoft will help competitors and not competition, but that's a rather circular argument since competition requires competitors.

The amici do not go along with Microsoft's phoney argument that it is surrounded by Windows competitors, since Windows is labelled "the de facto operating system standard" and the amici like the fact that network effects and economies of scale make "the emergence of a single operating system standard both inevitable and desirable". Whether the Court of Appeals will pick this up remains to be seen.

Another Microsoft myth is undermined when the amici state that "creating software is risky, requiring large up-front investment with no assurance of success". Oh dear, here's Microsoft's chums saying that there is a very considerable entry barrier, which is not how Microsoft likes to tell the story.

The brief makes two points. The first is that fragmenting Windows if Microsoft is broken up would "hinder future product development". The second is that Judge Jackson's judgement would chill both competition and innovation - although many would say that the decision does the exact opposite of this. The brief is technologically misleading by claiming that without Windows as-is, it would be more expensive for developers to reach customers at the lowest cost: Java is not mentioned as a solution to this. Nor is there any mention of the possibility of Linux being pre-loaded instead of Windows if Microsoft were broken up. The amici' argument that improving products would be potentially illegal is just plain silly, as is the suggestion that the district court ruling could bring a "highly-competitive industry to a standstill".

Meanwhile on the ideological front a libertarian Ayn-Rand acolyte - the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism - filed a brief, but it was not supported by its sister libertarian, the Association for Objective Law (TAFOL). It turns out that the libertarians squabbled and a joint brief could not be agreed, so CMDC has filed a motion with the court of appeals for leave to file a separate brief. It seems unlikely that the court will be willing to consider two briefs when it had ordered that they be combined. TAFOL has not updated its website since mid-1998, and the text of its brief is not available there. The CMDC brief is esoteric stuff, castigating as it does King George III for his tyrrany, but not getting to grips with the guts of the case. Even Microsoft deserves better friends than these. ®

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