More on Microsoft Monopolism

Several commenters on my post on Microsoft’s Other Monopoly suggested I was being unreasonable in expecting that Microsoft should not be free to support PDF, since Adobe promotes it as an open document format. I was even accused of wanting it both ways. Well, in a sense I do: I believe Microsoft should support standards such as PDF, and I also believe Microsoft should honor the special obligations that come with being a monopolist, such as not engaging in “tying” practices that leverage a monopoly (Windows or Office) to impinge on another company’s business. Where these concerns are in tension, one solution is obvious: Microsoft could make a business deal that eliminates the “tying” concern.
To clarify my position, here’s another hypothetical example. Suppose Microsoft were to integrate QuickTime generation into Windows Vista. I’m no expert but I believe this would violate the spirit if not the letter of the consent decree Microsoft entered into with the DOJ (gotta love that knife the baby line). Yes QuickTime’s an open standard but that doesn’t give Microsoft license to (ab)use its OS monopoly to trample on Apple’s media encoding business. If that would be impermissable for Microsoft’s Windows monopoly, even under a watered-down consent decree, couldn’t support for PDF in Office be at least as verboten? And in terms of the dollars at stake, Adobe’s revenue stream on Acrobat runs to the hundreds of millions per year, much more than Real or Apple’s businesses in video encoding.
Another commenter took me to task because PDF support in Office will benefit consumers. In the short term, I agree. But, if Microsoft is free to expand Office to the point where no other vendor can profitably market solutions for information workers, I believe consumers will ultimately be harmed, through decreased innovation and ultimately higher prices exacted by Microsoft. These days almost every solution whether for portable documents, or CAD, or accounting, is necessarily built on open standards: that’s what customers demand. IMO that shouldn’t give Microsoft a free pass on monopoly abuse. And would it be a good idea to incent ISVs to employ closed proprietary formats, lest they suffer Microsoft elephant-trampling?
Finally, one commenter questioned whether the definition of “monopoly” applies to Microsoft. Well, uh, one encyclopedia definition of monopoly specifically references Microsoft. I believe most people would agree that Microsoft’s Windows and Office franchises are natural monopolies stemming from network effects. And, several legal jurisdictions have so opined.