Special Report The government's current position in the Microsoft antitrust case is that any settlement, whether imposed or negotiated, will have to address all of the problems identified by Judge Jackson in his findings of fact last week.
Probably the central problem, as far as the judge is concerned, is the monopoly he says Microsoft holds in the desktop operating system market; this will clearly have to be addressed, and opening up and/or giving away Windows source code is starting to look like a hot option.
But who would want it? We touched on this yesterday, and as the DoJ, the states and the judge start to investigate the options in greater depth the issue is going to come to greater prominence. Four years ago there were maybe three obvious companies who would have been willing to take the ball and run with it in a way that would address Judge Jackson's problems, but life has moved on since then, and they're not likely to want to roll the clock back.
There are plenty of other outfits and communities that would like and could use access to Windows source, but the judge clearly doesn't know a great deal about them, and probably doesn't think they're strong enough to inject real competition. Nor is he likely to see them as being a good-fitting solution to what he defines as the problem. In any event, just making Windows open source then standing back to see what happens is probably too much like flipping a coin for the judge and the legal process to bear. But we'll take the conventional companies first, and get back to the revolutionaries later.
Microsoft's real dominance of the client OS was established in 1995-96. Up until the merger of the base OS and the GUI it had credible competition from DR-DOS, which was then flying under the Novell banner, but once the OS took the form of a single, "integrated" system in the shape of Windows 95, DR-DOS was out of the frame. Caldera, now the keeper of the DR-DOS conch, is currently busting Microsoft for antitrust over this tying together of Dos and Windows, but we'll be getting on to the ins and outs of that lawsuit later, so the only thing we need to note here is that DR-DOS business largely disappeared when it could no longer be used as a base OS in competition with MS-DOS. ®