After The Breakup



Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has ruled that Microsoft should be broken up. Now that Assistant Attorney General Joel I. Klein’s dream has comes true, here’s what may very well happen to you when you try to buy software in just a few short years.

“I need some personal finance software.”

“You’ve come to the right place,” says Bob the sales clerk. “Thanks to the breakup of Microsoft, Software Universe carries hundreds of software packages in every single category—including personal finance.”

“Great. For starters, I’d like something that’ll help me with my checking accounts.”

“Could you be more specific?”

“Well, I’d like to be able to balance my checking account automatically.”

“We have the perfect package for that right here in Aisle 179,” says Bob. It’s called Checkbook Balancer. Made by the Baby Bill #46 company.”

“Why is it in a plain brown box?”

“It’s illegal for any of the BB’s to put their company or product names on the box. That could lead to brand loyalty, which everyone knows is the slippery slope to monopoly valley.”

“Well, I guess that’s OK. Is it easy to make entries in the checkbook register?”

Bob glances around quickly and whispers, “I’m afraid that level of software integration is too risky for any of the BB’s. To make entries, you’ll need to buy Checkbook Entry from Baby Bill #27.”

“But how do I reconcile what I’ve entered?”

“Easy,” says Bob. “Just export the check register from Entry to a flat file and then import it into Balancer. Then do the reverse to get info on cleared checks back into Entry.”

“I can live with that. But which product do I use to actually create and print checks?”

Bob sighs. He takes two more software packages off the shelf behind him and stacks them on top of the two you’re already holding.

“Will these all run on Baby Bill #9’s version of Windows?”

Entry and Balancer will. Checkbook Creator and Checkbook Printer currently run only on the Windows versions from Baby Bills #1-5. Most BB users get around that by having one computer for each Baby Bill version of Windows.”

“Isn’t there any way I can get a fully integrated package, like my old copy of Microsoft Money?”

Bob puts his index finger to his lips and leads you to a wall of shelves at the back of Aisle 300. As he pulls on a box containing Baby Bill #2’s version of Windows, the shelf slides silently aside. Inside there are thousands of copies of a product called Money 2003.

“Shortly after the breakup, the Chinese Communist government purchased the rights to Money from Microsoft for $100,000,” Bob explained. “We sell it practically at wholesale—$499.95 each.”

“That’s outrageous! How much would it cost to buy the separate pieces from the BB’s?”

Bob laughs. “That would be over 30 different packages, if you include all of the banking, bill paying, investing, tax and home inventory features. Besides, we can’t tell you how much those will cost until you buy them.”

“Excuse me?”

“Look. If a Baby Bill charged less than a competitor, that would be illegal predatory pricing. If they charged more, that would be illegal gouging. And if they charged the same amount, that would be illegal price collusion. Since pricing is no longer legal for the BB’s, all of our cash registers now have built-in random price generators.”

“Dare I ask which versions of Windows run Money 2003?”

“Good news there. It runs on a free, built-in version of Linux, which for all intents and purposes the Chinese now control.”

“How’d that happen?”

“Basically, no one can match their level of service and support. The Beijing Linux Help Desk alone is manned 24/7 by over one billion support specialists. Some people swear their calls are answered before they’ve finished dialing.”

“OK. OK. I’ll take Money 2003.”

Bob smiles. “I thought you might. Isn’t great to have so many choices?”