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Illegal behavior by Companies

He mentions MS in this, but I see a lot of companies taking this approach.  No one admits it, and when they do we (Americans) say "I see.  I don't like it but I can see why."

Are we the problem?  We tolerate illegal (forget immoral that is another thread) behavior because we built the system to say that a company can act illegally but the people running it are not criminals?

Friday, April 2, 2004

Better link:

Friday, April 2, 2004

Wow, Cringely knows as little about law as he does about computers!

Friday, April 2, 2004

There are two Cringelys.  The one for PBS is the original and I think that he gets to use that pseudonym because of a court settlement.  The other Cringely for Infoworld is where the original got started and was later fired.

Friday, April 2, 2004

"Are we the problem?  We tolerate illegal (forget immoral that is another thread) behavior because we built the system to say that a company can act illegally but the people running it are not criminals?"

We are definitely the problem.

We tolerate illegal behaviour, and not just from companies. When was the last time you saw someone step into a mugging, and risk his life to help the victim?

We're getting used to not caring. We can't solve the problem, so why bother trying?

This week, the portuguese Ministery of Finance released the tax figures for 2002. Approx. 51% of the companies didn't pay taxes. They didn't turn a profit. A bit strange that almost half of the companies in a country don't turn a profit, wouldn't you think?

Couple this with all the news stories about companies that go bankrupt, thein their owners load everything that has a value (machinery, etc) and take it to a new company they just started. And, they get to hire everyone they just layed off from the other company - with a large salary reduction, obviously.

Does anybody care? No. We all have a similar mentality - as long as it doesn't happen to me...

The funny thing is that the other half of the companies, along with the non-self-employed workers, are financing the lifestyle of these 50% leeches.

Paulo Caetano
Friday, April 2, 2004

Thomas Jefferson, among others, feared the joint stock company (corporations) because they allowed bad behavior without any effective way to punish the people who perpetrated it.

Next time you read of Fortune 50 company being fined ten million dollars, when their profits are five billion dollars, remember  that is 0.2%. Like if you earn $75,000 a year, it is like being you being fined $150. Annoying, but not too likely to change your behavior.

And $10,000,000 fines are rare. A million dollar fine is like $15 to you, and a $100,000 fine is like $1.50.

Anonymous for this one
Friday, April 2, 2004

This is like those companies that continued to sell unsafe products after calculating that the profits from selling the products would be greater than the cost of the lawsuits and fines.

Unless the corporate decision makers can be personally given jail time or have their personal assets confiscated, things like this will continue.

T. Norman
Friday, April 2, 2004

I should have said "can *readily* be given jail time".  Jail time already does happen in some extreme cases, but it is so rare that most don't bother to think about it.

T. Norman
Friday, April 2, 2004

The analysis is reasonable, it leaves out the other two possibilities, one quite reasonably possible with a different administration and one hardly likely in the USA.

The first is that someone actually breaks Microsoft up dividing operating system and infrastructure products from application products, that had better be done soon though because the dividing line between application and operating system is becoming increasingly blurred.

The second is nationalisation of Microsoft as a national resource, much like nationalising an oil company.  In this current epoch that isn't likely.

Is there any market driven alternative to ineffectual legal remedies? 

There may be, in the past there have been a couple of times when Microsoft have dropped the ball, both times they picked it up and changed the nature of the game; initially, in networking. their products were so awful and they cared so little about them that Novell became a billion dollar company (it remains so solely because of acquisition and asset base), they addressed that, on the way ditching OS/2; the second ball they dropped and nearly didn't retrieve was the Internet, they were completely taken by surprise by it and first tried to productise it by creating their own AOL/Compuserve and failing and then learned their lesson by leveraging the purchase of Spyglass.

In the first instance, Novell could have maintained its advantage but it decided to divert itself into acquiring products to make itself into a Microsoft instead of concentrating on what it was good at which was stuffing a distribution channel with product.

In the second Netscape simply wasn't a well run enough company and no one else seriously produced a browser until Opera and that was too late to make a difference.

There's a fallacy that in order for market forces to take place you just need two reasonably equal competitors, one will have the advantage in features the other in price.  You need a minimum of three, and the third has to be large enough to cause its acquisition by the other two to trigger anti-monopoly laws.

At the moment there is no market and it will continue to be so until someone comes along and creates an entirely new market that makes the existing one irrelevant.  The chances are though, that Microsoft would not drop the ball a third time.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, April 3, 2004

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