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It may be un-American and all but I’m beginning to really like European justice.
First of all, they were right – almost entirely – about Iraq, about the so-called weapons of mass destruction and about the blood thirty, hasty Bush Administration. More and more, as I watch the testimony in Washington before the 9/11 Commission, I am convinced Europeans’ decision to treat terrorism as a crime is the proper course of action since it calls for vigilance, awareness and smart police work instead of military intervention, chest thumping and threats.

Today’s news of a (roughly converted) $611 million fine that the European Commission – Europe’s regulating body — is forcing Microsoft to pay as a penalty for its attempts to block competitors is almost as encouraging. The Bush Administration dismissed a reluctance to go to war as the “old Europe.” But how come they’ve got a better take on the new technology than almost anyone in federal government here?
Take a look at what the U.S. government – under the Clinton and Bush administrations – didn’t do when it came time to try the company on similar charges here. John Markoff, writing from his unique historical perspective, dredges up the facts of Microsoft’s war with Go Computing. Go was the pen computing idea hatched by venture capitalist John Doerr and company, an adventure that almost everyone involved views with a mix of frustration and outrage. Microsoft cheated, it seems. And they didn’t care and that attitude carried the company, almost unscathed through its 1999 anti-trust trail.
The Euros have laid down a not-so-big fine; the NYTimes say it’ll take the company a month to earn the cash to pay it back. But the money isn’t all. The EC has told Microsoft to separate the Windows Media Player from the computer operating system and they’ve told the company to tell competitors – Sun, Apple, Oracle, et al – just how that operating system communicates with desktop computers when they are linked to server networks. So, the Apple PowerBook that I use with pride (and contempt for Microsoft’s software, tech support and customer service) won’t burp and grumble as much when it encounters Microsoft’s software and servers. It’s a little thing but for Rob Glaser at Real Networks, it means a lot. It means a lot for beleagered Sun Microsystems. It means a lot for me and other Apple owners and users. Oh, and most of these companies are in Silicon Valley, something that’s worth contemplating in this election year.
It’s probably a coincidence, of course, but just like the attempt to find and police those once-scary now elusive weapons of mass destruction, the EC decision has decided that vigilence is a good thing. It’s assigning Microsoft a special monitor – someone to keep an eye on what the company does and how they do it – to make sure there’s no funny business.
Now that may be the “old” Europe talking – and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Redmond) made like a protectionist American in less time that it took for me to type these few paragraphs — but you gotta like the sound of global policing in a global economy.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:50 AM | Permalink

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