Antitrust & Tech 2: The Sequel?

10 June 2009

The editors at “Tech & The District” are always striving to bring you the best thinking from a variety of perspectives at Hill & Knowlton.  Thus, we are proud to present the second of what we hope to be many guest blog posts from our colleagues in the DC office.  This perspective comes from H&K’s Mitchell Derman, a vice president in the Corporate Practice.  As always, we welcome your comments.  Enjoy! -Vanessa

Antitrust & Tech 2:  The Sequel?

By Mitchell Derman

 The year was 1995.  We were probably in a Web .50 world when the Internet was just starting to become a platform for day-to-day communications and information.  Microsoft was about to launch its most anticipated operating system with Windows 95.  At the same time, Microsoft was drawn into a legal and perception battle related to antitrust issues.  Microsoft was consistently chastised by competitors, media and the government for alleged monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior. 

The large issue centered primarily on the integration of the Internet Explorer browser with the operating system. Remember Netscape.  At the time, that company probably had about 95 percent of the browser market.  My oh my, have times changed.  When it came to antitrust, the pundits questioned the validity of laws and regulations created during the industrial age. 

Flash forward to 2009.  Google is now perceived by many as the monopolist and Microsoft is on the other side of the argument.  How ironic is that?  Interestingly, Google often makes the claim that they are one click away from obsolescence.  That may be a stretch; however, with Facebook having 200 million members, this certainly is not far from reality.  But it also begs the same question as 14 years ago. Are the current antitrust laws modern enough to deal with the challenges of a Web 2.0 world?  Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and others are certainly being tested as the Department of Justice has started an inquiry about collusion related to recruiting talent.  See Washington Post article.

The pundits certainly can debate the legalities of this policy debate. In the meantime some lessons learned from Microsoft’s experience in the 1990s:

  • Engage key stakeholders across the policy spectrum – locally and in Washington
  • Be more modest about how you message your business objectives – being too aggressive could be perceived negatively
  • Educate your employees about what is said in e-mail; I believe the Microsoft case was one of the first instances where e-mails proved to be a smoking gun
  • Educate consumers about the benefits you are delivering with lower prices and more innovation.
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2 Responses to “Antitrust & Tech 2: The Sequel?”

  1. Paul Derman

    That’s my son.

  2. Collective Conversation » Tech & The District » Blog Archive » Antitrust in a Web 2.0 World

    [...] Here is a follow up post on antitrust from our guest blogger Mitchell Derman, vice president in H&K’s Corporate Practice.  If you need a refresher, you can read Mitch’s original blog post by clicking here. [...]

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