Windows is now officially irrelevant. Here’s why that makes Microsoft happy.

Windows is now officially irrelevant. Here’s why that makes Microsoft happy.

The feds have big tech in their crosshairs. The Justice Department announced in late July that it had begun an antitrust review of whether big tech companies have accumulated market power unfairly and whether they’ve been using that power to quash competition. It didn’t name which companies it was investigating, but it said it was looking into search, social media and online retail — categories virtually synonymous with Google, Facebook and Amazon.

And the Justice Department isn’t alone. Congress has similar concerns and held hearings in the middle of July in which executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were excoriated by members of Congress from both parties, including conservative Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and liberal Democratic Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Missing from that big tech Gang of Four, though, is the biggest of the big tech companies — in fact, the company with the biggest market cap in the world — Microsoft. Why is it that the company that was once the fiercest of fierce sharks is now seen as such a sweet and cuddly lamb that even the men and women of Congress, never ones to shy away from taking cheap shots, don’t bother to try to land a punch against it?

The answer, in a word: Windows. If Google is search and Facebook is social media, Microsoft remains Windows, even though its balance sheet might tell a different story. But these two federal entities, Justice and Congress, apparently have decided that, when it comes to technological influence, Windows is now officially irrelevant. And that makes Microsoft very happy, because it means the feds are staying away from mucking about in the company’s business.

And Microsoft knows how uncomfortable that sort of mucking about can be.

To understand why Microsoft has managed to avoid the current scrutiny that regulators and Congress are directing at the tech giants, let’s look at why Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have attracted it. For Facebook, it’s not just due to the multiple privacy problems it’s been embroiled in, including the privacy breaches that led to the recent $5 billion fine by the Federal Trade Commission. It’s also that the company owns not just Facebook, but also the social networking behemoths Instagram and WhatsApp. By investigating Facebook’s dominance of social media, the feds make clear that the technology is one of the most influential on the planet.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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