Microsoft’s Sour Grapes of Wrath

Recently, Microsoft Corp. quit the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) after the computer trade organization sided with the U.S. government’s antitrust suit against the software giant and urged enforcers to consider breaking the company up.

Microsoft claims that it made its sudden exit stage left after 14 years in the association because the group lacks leadership among other inadequacies.

“We believe SIIA is no longer playing an effective leadership role on the issues where the software and information industries have shared a united interest,” said Microsoft executive vice president and COO Robert J. Herbold in a letter to SIIA president Ken Wasch. Herbold also resigned as a director of the group.

Sour Grapes

Herbold added that SIIA’s top officials “have worked directly against Microsoft on competition issues,” and that the organization has experienced a “sharp decline in attendance” at conferences and meetings. He added that this “sagging membership” makes the organization less effective than such trade associations as the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), Computing Technology Industry Association and Business Software Alliance.

SIIA’s Side of the Story

Wasch responded by pointing out that Microsoft ceased to be a fully participating member of the organization some time ago.

“Despite our consistent outreach, Microsoft has refused to be engaged on the issues they claim to be most important, instead focusing solely on the issue of competition,” he said. “This singular focus has undoubtedly clouded their appreciation of the value of SIIA’s programs and services.”

Wasch also disputed Herbold’s characterization of SIIA as a waning organization, citing an annual budget of $8 million (US$) and 1,200 members — which include such heavyweights as America Online, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Oracle Corp. and Reed Elsevier Plc.

Microsoft’s Bully Pulpit

Herbold, who was elected to the group’s board of directors last year, has used the post to urge the organization to drop its support for the antitrust lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and 19 states.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who has already found that Microsoft has a monopoly over personal computer operating software, is likely to rule in the coming weeks on whether the software giant broke antitrust laws. SIIA filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the judge to rule against Microsoft.

SIIA Credibility Stands

In this writer’s opinion, the fact that SIIA refused to cave in to Microsoft’s bullying and declined to be a shill for Bill Gates makes it a strong and credible organization.

After all, isn’t it supposed to be representing all 1,200 of its members and not just one?

Once again, Gates and Company come off looking like spoiled brats who take their toys home whenever anyone else in the world has the audacity to not play by their rules.

So, the real loser in this latest melodrama is one very conspicuous software giant. The SIIA comes out a true winner, because it can now more effectively represent the concerns of the majority of its membership instead of being distracted by one rich, bratty kid.

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