By Rachel Chalmers Microsoft Corp has launched a new PR campaign to rally consumer support to its defense in the still-undecided antitrust trial brought by the US Department of Justice and 19 states. Where earlier faux-grassroots campaigns – affectionately known as astroturf – sought to conceal their links to the Redmond software giant, the Freedom […]
By Rachel Chalmers
Microsoft Corp has launched a new PR campaign to rally consumer support to its defense in the still-undecided antitrust trial brought by the US Department of Justice and 19 states. Where earlier faux-grassroots campaigns – affectionately known as astroturf – sought to conceal their links to the Redmond software giant, the Freedom to Innovate Network (FIN) wears its Microsoft funding proudly. It also sports a rather startling logo, a US flag where the stars representing the states have been replaced with a PC, presumably representing Microsoft.
The pitch is simple. The government is interfering where it shouldn’t, and the behavior of Microsoft’s that has been called into question was motivated by purest concern for consumer interests. Attack Microsoft and you attack the very underpinnings of modern industrialized democracy. Our success – and that of the information technology industry as a whole – is due in large measure to the entrepreneurial spirit and free market economy that has allowed the entire industry to innovate rapidly, writes executive VP and chief operating officer Robert Herbold.
Unfortunately, he laments, this economic environment cannot be taken for granted. As you know, there have been recent efforts by our competitors to lobby policymakers for more regulation. This, he suggests, is a short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating strategy. They are pushing for more regulation, litigation and government intervention, without recognizing how their actions could choke off innovation and threaten the continued vitality of our industry as a whole.
Of all Microsoft’s enemies, the most vituperative is open source evangelist Eric S. Raymond. The launch of the Freedom to Innovate Network has roused him to characteristic fury. Microsoft would have you believe that the antitrust suit represents a fundamental threat to the freedom to pursue technological innovation and benefit consumers, he says. As a libertarian, Raymond agrees with reduced government intervention in principal. But Microsoft is invoking that principal to defend its own actions, which he maintains are indefensible: Gates & Co has an egregious history of using lies, bullying and covert FUD against its opponents. Their faked-videotape fiasco in the DOJ trial was only the most recent example…
Rather than coming up with ever-more-sophisticated spin, Raymond calls on the Redmond software company to change its objectionable practices once and for all. Microsoft’s call for ‘freedom to innovate’ would be a lot more credible if they published full interoperability documentation for things like the Word file format, the SMB file-sharing service, NTLM [NT LAN Manager] and the Exchange wire protocol, he writes. These proprietary, closed so-called ‘standards’ are the weapons with which Microsoft maintains its stifling monopoly on the PC software market. By all means let’s see more freedom to innovate – not just for Microsoft, but for its competitors as well.