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At Large: All in the casting

At Large: All in the casting

Given what's at stake, Matthew JC. Powell is glad he's just a columnist . . .

If I were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I wanted to hide Anakin Skywalker's son from him, there are two things I wouldn't do. First, I doubt that I would hide the kid on Anakin's home planet of Tatooine - just seems a bit obvious. Second, I don't think I'd let the kid keep his own name - it's gonna be pretty easy to find him if Anakin only has to look under "Skywalker" in the White Pages.

Come to think of it, if I were Obi-Wan Kenobi and I wanted to hide myself from Anakin, I think I'd do more than change my first name to "Ben". How many Kenobis do you think there are on Tatooine? My theory is not many.

Of course, Obi-Wan's plan is that eventually father and son should find each other, because he knows it is ultimately Luke's destiny to confront and either redeem or destroy Anakin. That's why the flimsy attempt at subterfuge. That's why he allows Anakin to kill him with Luke watching - he wants Luke angry towards Anakin at a higher level than just the usual abandonment issues. If I were Obi-Wan, I doubt that I'd be able to bring myself to welcome a lightsaber with open defences, even if it was for a good cause like saving the galaxy.

So it's a good job I'm not Obi-Wan, eh? The Empire would have won long ago, and I'd be living as a hermit someplace (under a less obvious assumed name like, say, Matthew JC. Powell) while steel-booted stormtroopers crushed any semblance of rebellion.

Likewise, it's a good job I'm not Bill Gates, or that Empire would have lost months ago. Believe it or not, the antitrust whatsit is still a going concern. Don't worry, though: I keep up with it so you don't have to.

If I were Bill Gates, I'd have settled out of court by now, probably at the last recess in February. By then, we'd seen falsified video evidence, clumsy cross-examination of witnesses, and numerous bits of uncomfortably hilarious depositions from Gates himself. Watching him pretend that he doesn't properly understand the meaning of the term "market share" made me cringe - I didn't want to feel sorry for him, but I couldn't help myself. Likewise difficult to watch were his explorations of the exact semantic connotations of the word "is" and his schoolboyish sadness at being confronted with damning evidence bearing his signature. It simply is not fair to make me feel sympathy for a billionaire tyrant.

After what Gates and his company had been through by February this year, I would have settled the matter out of court and accepted whatever terms the DoJ asked for, just to prevent any further embarrassment. Microsoft would be broken up and wouldn't be allowed to develop a Web browser, computer manufacturers who license Windows wouldn't have to acknowledge that licence at all on their startup screens. I'd have to donate all my money to charities supporting cats whose owners didn't leave them anything in their wills.

Whatever it took to stop the pain, I'd have done it - if I were Bill Gates.

Gates, however, has shown he's prepared to stick this through regardless of a few embarrassing moments. And you know what? I'm starting to think he might win. Yes, I hear what you're saying: "Everyone knows Microsoft has grossly abused its monopoly power and needs to be curtailed." I'd say the same thing. At the start of this trial I was using the "everyone knows" argument myself, to great effect.

But it's different in a courtroom, and going to a judge with a wink and "everyone knows" cuts little but cheese.

I read an interview recently with David Boies, the Government's lead attorney, in which he stated categorically that he would win, because (and I quote) "we've managed to establish Microsoft has monopoly power . . . we've managed to establish they've used that monopoly power to harm consumers by charging higher prices for the operating system, by offering consumers less choice than they would have had under competition and by precluding consumer choice in a variety of areas including browsers".

Just a reminder: the issues in the case are that the integration of IE into Windows constitutes illegal "tying" of products, that Microsoft has coerced its partners into promoting IE ahead of other browsers, and that Microsoft has stopped computer manufacturers from customising their products. Boies' proud claims are equivalent to the prosecutor in a murder trial beaming that he has proved the defendant was robbing a liquor store at the time. Unless he proves facts that are actually relevant to the charges the DoJ has brought against Microsoft, he will lose.

If I were David Boies, I wouldn't be so cocky.


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