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Microsophistry

© John Keith 2007

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Sophistry comes from the Greek, as opposed to the geek, philosophers. It means the use of clever, but faulty or misleading argument.

In a recent ruling in a lower court in Europe, Microsoft Corporation lost its appeal of a 2004 court antitrust decision. The huge computer company must now disclose proprietary data to its competitors, remove its Windows Media Player now bundled with the European version of Windows, and pay an over a half a billion dollar fine.

If you've ever happened to look at computer techie blogs on the Internet or sought help on-line for any anything-but-Microsoft program glitches, you will no doubt have heard a lot of complaining about how Microsoft goes its own way and doesn't play fair with the rest of the computer world. Microsoft has its own version of any kind of program or application you can think of and these work flawlessly (more or less) with Windows Operating Systems, but other developers have a hard time getting information out of Microsoft in order to make their own programs work properly.

Microsoft claims the information is "proprietary data". It says it has developed it and owns it, and it shouldn't have to disclose these secrets to its competitors. Well, 95% of the world's computers work on Windows Operating Systems, and if Microsoft doesn't let other computer companies know how to be compatible, that does seem a bit unfair. At least it seems unfair in Europe.

Back in the U.S., Thomas Barnett, the antitrust Chief in the U.S. State Department actually said that the European ruling will hurt consumers by "chilling innovation and discouraging competition." Come again, you say? "All companies", he said, "including dominant firms, are encouraged to compete vigorously," and then, in an innovative bit of Microsophistry, he went on to say that in the U.S., antitrust laws "protect consumers by protecting competition, not by protecting competitors". It's like the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument. It makes you wonder what sort of operating system the American State Department is on whatever it is, it's definitely Microsoft compatible.

The computer supergiant is pondering whether or not to appeal the decision on the appeal of the 2004 ruling, but it is already selling its operating systems in Europe without its Windows Media Player. And that $689 million dollar fine? Well, for mega Microsoft, it's a virtual drop in the virtual bucket.

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