| Dan VanCamp over at BetaOS.com
wrote a nice article
on the Microsoft trial. He used an analogy with a company that sells
beans, to make his point. I thought he left out a few important
points, so I decided to fill in the missing details.
Mr. Beans: "Lets say that ACME Bean company one day discovered the
main ingredients to one of its competitors baked beans, its competitor was
planning to launch the new recipe to its customers shortly and it was sure
to be a success. ACME wanting to beat its competitor to the punch used the
recipe and added some of their own flavors to it to make it even
better. They then launched the recipe a month before their
competitor, and sure enough it was a huge hit! Everyone loved ACME beans,
so much so that over the next year most of the consumers had switched to
ACME Beans or had at least tried them and contemplated changing. "
Dr. John: Behind the scenes, ACME was spreading rumors that the
competition's beans were tainted with bacteria, and you might get sick if
you eat them. They also put warning labels on their cans that
clearly stated that if you mixed ACME beans with franks from the
competition, that you also might get sick. Of course, this was
nonsense, but it worked. Fearing illness, most people switched solely to
ACME products, not because they were better, but because customers thought
they were safer.
Mr. Beans: "ACME decided that they would begin to produce their own
franks and sell them separately so that consumers could add their franks
to ACME beans. This worked out great and over time people even began to
prefer their franks even when they liked a different brand of beans,
because of this ACME decided to start putting their franks in their bean
recipe before they were ever shipped to the grocers."
Dr. John: No company could actually do this, because real franks cost more
than beans, and could not be bundled with beans for free. Indeed, a
strong argument could be made here that ACME was willing to loose money
temporarily for the sole purpose of driving the competition out of
business, (both beans and franks makers are affected now, as ACME tries to
expand their influence). Eventually, ACME could charge whatever they
franks and beans.
Mr. Beans: "A class action law suit was filed against ACME by their
major competitors, saying that they were manipulating the market by
offering their franks in the beans, and squelching anyone who tried to
compete with their product. While by design ACME was trying to keep up
with consumer demand, they at the same time had alienated the other
manufacturers in to a position where they felt compromised."
Dr. John: In fact, the competition was filing suit against ACME because
they had unfairly used their near-monopoly of the bean industry to hurt
the competition, and had bundled beans and franks and sold them for the
price of beans in a way that the smaller companies could not afford to do.
If foreign companies had done this to US companies, it would be called
dumping, and it would have been stopped with tariffs faster than you can
say "franks and beans".
Further, ACME, once it had become the worlds major supplier
of baked beans, threatened TV dinner makers with bean shortages, or higher
priced beans, in order to force them to use ACME products exclusively for
their beans and franks dinners.