Sure, the ACCC can take on Dick Pratt, but
what about the company that appears to be the world’s biggest trade practices

Events overnight again raise the question
of how Microsoft can have a squeaky clean record with the ACCC when it seems to
be constantly falling foul of competition watchdogs in either Europe or the US,
never mind the billions it pays out to settle various anti-trust and
intellectual property theft cases with individual companies.

Last night the European Commission
threatened to fine Microsoft $3.3 million a day until it gives rivals greater
access to its server programs
– just the latest instalment in a long-running battle between the Bill Gates
Empire and Europe.

In March last year Microsoft was found
guilty of abusing its position, heavily fined and ordered to open up its
operating systems, but the authorities believe the company has been dragging
the chain on compliance. For its part, Microsoft says it has been doing what
it’s supposed to be doing and will fight any new fine etc. etc.

And then there’s the announcement that
Microsoft will pay a bit more than a
billion dollars to RealNetworks to end another anti-competition suit. RealNetworks alleged that Microsoft forced
PC makers to use Windows Media Player to the disadvantage of Real Player. The BBC story mentions just a couple of the
many other Microsoft payouts, such as another billion-plus to IBM in July.

Microsoft has an extraordinary record –
its critics would say the whole company has been based on other people’s
ideas, sometimes legally acquired, sometimes not.

The bottom line is that the software
giant’s astounding profit margins can only be sustained in a monopoly or
near-monopoly environment – a bit like Telstra I suppose. Given that imperative, fines and
settlements become just part of the cost of doing business.