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Thursday, April 6, 2000 Missoulian Editorial U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is a very smart man, and we're not questioning what he found.

Microsoft had put its "oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune," the judge writes this week in his final verdict, finding the megacompany guilty of violating antitrust laws.

Microsoft's conduct reflects "a single well-coordinated course of action" that does "violence" to the competitive process. It mounted a "deliberate assault upon entrepreneurial efforts" of other companies.

Jackson's words are tough and unambiguous: He found a relentless, ruthless, ferocious, single-minded company.

So, while the anti-Microsofties dance, others wonder: Why isn't everyone celebrating?

Because many average folk who use computers at work, at school and at home for the tasks of everyday living and working had no big complaint about the company or its products. Microsoft gave consumers what they wanted  products that were conveniently packaged, dependable, relatively easy to use and reasonably priced, at a time when average consumers knew next to nothing about computers and software.

In the best of all worlds, choice and competition mean empowerment and personal control. We want that. But they can also means headache, hassle and work, which can be burdensome. Today consumers track personal 401(k)s and IRAs, compare and contrast multiple health-care plans, chose among five or six telephone companies, decide on and monitor flex accounts, know who's an "approved" provider and who is not, and soon, will juggle information from a deregulated market for electricity and gas.

Egad.

Jackson is a whole lot smarter about the law, about Microsoft's bad deeds and about 100-year antitrust laws than most of us.

But we can't help it. Opening the box was so easy when the computer was "bundled" with everything just the way average consumers needed and wanted it.

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