Feeds

Microsoft faces its Scopes moment

48 hours that will shape IT

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Europe vs MS Microsoft begins the most important 48 hours in its history on Wednesday in Luxembourg. It's not exaggerating to say that the future shape of enterprise IT hinges on the decision the 13 Judges will make, based on this week's public hearings.

The crucial decision rests on interoperability, and it could lean one of two ways.

A decision to hold Microsoft to its word on server and network interoperability will dramatically enhance the health of the Windows eco-system, with a market of third party add-ons and accelerators based on Windows protocols. Microsoft is at its most productive when it faces vigorous competition, and it's least productive when it has no competition. In addition the company fears the "commodification" of its protocols, superseded by cheap and open internet standards. Creating a flourishing market based on Microsoft protocols, not internet protocols, blesses and enshrines the Microsoft way. By any rational yardstick, all this is good for Microsoft.

But a decision by the judges to throw out the EC decision will affect regulatory interventions for years to come. Microsoft will have proved, by reductio ad absurdum, that it is impossible to effectively police a software monopoly. Microsoft will have won a permanent, government-blessed shield from the rigors of the market. Legislation designed to check an unfair monopoly will have been successfully used to protect the monopolist's business.

This is even better for Microsoft, and you can see why it's fighting so hard to achieve this outcome. It prefers to pay lawyers, and public relations bloggers, rather than give engineers the scope to innovate, because the outcome is so potentially lucrative.

In this light, we need to rethink some assumptions about the case. For years, critics have suggested, Microsoft has regarded its antitrust legal costs as a necessary business expense. Perhaps the critics have had it wrong, and we should jot down the antitrust costs in the capital investment column. For if Microsoft succeeds in nullifying antitrust legislation it'll be able to congratulate itself on one of the best RoIs ever made by a technology company.

The law isn't static, or morally neutral. While this week's arguments are very much about the ethics of regulation, there's an outcome that's the antithesis of whether companies should be "free to innovate." It's really about whether any single company deserves to be protected from competition. Far from taking a moral stand against government meddling, what Microsoft is asking for is special-case pleading: it wants and needs the government's legal umbrella to protect it from competition. If Microsoft prevails in dispatching GPL-based competition in Europe, it will have won the right to a form of corporate welfare in perpetuity.

Let's hear the arguments.

Today, organizations that have invested heavily in Microsoft technology will look in vain for such products as an Active Directory accelerator from Cisco Systems. It doesn't exist. There is no thing as an Hewlett-Packard Exchange Mail accelerator. Network Appliance can't offer a Primary Domain Controller appliance. If you want to speed up mail, directory services or network administration, you need to buy more servers, each with a Windows server license, or buy a faster Windows server.

That's because Microsoft runs a motley collection of unruly and deeply obscure protocols, and it guards them jealously. The issue of building an interoperable product - such as the ones described above - hinges on how well the product works with Windows servers, and these protocols, which have evolved over 20 years in haphazard fashion, dictate how.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
Nimble's latest mutants GORGE themselves on unlucky forerunners
Crossing Sandy Bridges without stopping for breath
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.