Those who fail to learn from history invent their own

Dan Gillmor’s eJournal journals How History Gets Twisted. “A short way into this review of a new book about Microsoft, a Boston Globe correspondent writes:

“A
guilty finding was overturned on appeal, and the government settled
with the company, imposing restrictions on its business practices. The
resulting introspection persuaded Gates to stand aside as chief
executive in favor of Steve Ballmer, who would be his partner in
remaking the company.”

“The number of misstatements in just these two sentences is fairly amazing.

  • The judge’s ruling that Microsoft had repeatedly violated the law
    was not overturned. (And there are no “guilty” or “not guilty” findings
    in civil antitrust cases to start with; this wasn’t a criminal matter,
    though it probably should have been.) The appeals court specifically
    agreed with Judge Jackson that Microsoft was a serial offender, though
    it did back Microsoft’s position in a small portion of the charges.
  • The Bush administration’s “settlement” was a cave-in, giving back what it had already won in court.
  • The “impositions” on Microsoft’s business practices are widely
    seen outside the company (and probably inside) as next to meaningless,
    and certainly haven’t had any visible effect on competition in an
    industry that Microsoft still controls.
  • Ballmer became CEO in 2000, before Judge Jackson
    ordered the breakup of the company, and long before the appeals court
    overruled him.
    I bring all this up mainly to point back to the first item — the
    notion that the company was cleared of wrongdoing. This has become
    popular “wisdom,” and it’s incorrect. Every judge that has had to rule
    on this has agreed that Microsoft broke the law to maintain its
    monopoly.
    Let’s at least remember that much. “
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