Microsoft vows to play fair

It’s nice to see a win/win situation. I applaud the decision of Microsoft to have all of its future operating systems, including Windows Vista, following self-imposed rules aimed at bolstering choice and competition. Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft, explained this to a luncheon meeting of the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank that counts Google CEO Eric Schmidt as a board member. That’s not surprising since the New America Foundation claims to include the Brightest Thinkers Under 40. These Microsoft rules set out the freedoms that users, manufacturers and developers can expect in Windows Vista and its successors.

Some Microsoft ‘old timers’ might see this as giving away ‘market control‘, but that this had to be accepted given the current legal pressures. The move comes as the expiration deadline approaches on antitrust provisions imposed on Microsoft by a U.S. federal court. The company also recently was hit by a massive antitrust-related fine by the EU. However ‘market control’ is often illusory now in the Internet age. It’s the Permission Marketing era and customers are much more in control. Suppliers may try to limit that control at their peril. If there are competitors, then customers may well decide to show their independence by going with the competition. Undoubtedly the growth of Mozilla Firefox is fuelled to an extent by the resentment of some to the previous Microsoft quasi-monopoly.

Perhaps the way in which this situation is being handled is an indicator how the new management team, including Ray Ozzie, will steer the company. Rather than seeing this as a grudging response to legal pressures, it can be seen as a new way of opening up market opportunities.

Tags: Microsoft, anti-trust

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