On the Microsoft Verdict
users think of the system as competition for Microsoft.
But the Free Software Movement aims to solve a problem that is much
bigger than Microsoft: proprietary, nonfree software, designed to
keep users helpless and prohibit cooperation. Microsoft is the
largest developer of such software, but many other companies treat the
users' freedom just as badly; if they have not shackled as many users
as Microsoft, it is not for lack of trying.
Since Microsoft is just a part of the problem, its defeat in the
anti-trust lawsuit is not necessarily a victory for free software.
Whether the outcome of this suit helps free software and promotes
users' freedom depends of the specific remedies imposed on Microsoft
by the judge.
If the remedies are designed to enable other companies compete in
offering proprietary, nonfree software, that will do the Free World
no particular good. Alternative possible masters is not freedom. And
competition could lead them to do a “better” job, better
in a narrow technical sense; then it could be harder for us to
“compete” with them technically. We will continue to
offer the user one thing those companies do
not—freedom—and users who value freedom will continue to
choose free software for that reason. But users who do not value
freedom, and choose a system based on mere convenience, might be
enticed away to “improved” proprietary systems.
Splitting Microsoft into separate companies could also endanger free
software, because these smaller companies, no longer held in check by
the public readiness to condemn Microsoft, might see fit to attack
free software more harshly than the present unified Microsoft does.
for this case that would help free software compete with Microsoft:
for example, requiring Microsoft to publish documentation for all
interfaces, and to use patents only for defense, not for aggression.
These remedies would block the use of the weapons that Microsoft plans
to use against us (according to the “Halloween documents”
leaked from within Microsoft which spelled out how they plan to impede
development of the GNU/Linux system).
When we see what remedies the judge chooses, we will get an idea of
whether the case has been helpful or harmful to the Free Software