Now that US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has ordered the breakup of Microsoft and "conduct remedies" for its illegal arm-twisting tactics, the question is not "Was the decision right?" but "Will it work?"
The software giant, while not conceding guilt, says the punishment does not the fit the crime. A breakup is too drastic for a bedrock company of the high-tech age. And the penalty will really penalize computer users worldwide.
If Bill Gates and company are right, then they should agree to the case leapfrogging the appeals process for the sake of consumers. The sooner Microsoft can either have the court decision overturned or let it be implemented and shown to be a market disaster, the sooner consumers - in Microsoft's eyes - will benefit.
Fortunately, Congress has created a fast-track ability for the Supreme Court to take up such antitrust cases, bypassing a year or more of deliberation in the lower appeals court.
While a long deliberation of the law in this case might yield some additional insight, a year or more delay in fixing the damage that this monopoly has caused in innovation and competition will only hurt all Americans with PCs. The general economy could be damaged.
If the Supreme Court allows a direct appeal, it could decide the case by early 2001. That would help lift a cloud over Microsoft's ability to innovate and retain key employees - again, all benefits for the consumer.
Speedy justice (but not a "rush to judgment") is also needed to fix Microsoft while its desktop monopoly is still strong.
The two-year-old court case and Internet-related companies have begun to erode Microsoft's market invincibility. To send a signal to other would-be high-tech monopolists, the breakup of Microsoft must be completed while its past illegal practices are fresh in mind.
The sooner the judgment, the sooner PC users will benefit.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society