I just finished reading Free the Market, a fascinating book by Gary Reback, the lawyer who was probably most instrumental in the government's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. Turns out he's had a ring-side seat for most of the important antitrust litigation involving technology companies for the past 20+ years. If you are a lawyer you'll really enjoy this book because he provides wonderful behind the scenes explanations of the formulation of strategy in the cases he was involved with. Case such as the Oracle lawsuit involving the acquisition of Peoplesoft, and of course the Microsoft case.
But, even if you're not a lawyer, you should read this book. At least if you care about technology issues. The legal system has a profound effect on emerging technology, especially in the area of antitrust law. Okay, I know. Many of you are rolling your eyes and saying "antitrust law is too complicated and boring." Well, you're wrong about that. Antitrust law is about preserving competition, which means it's about economics more than anything. (Don't roll your eyes again — it's about practical economics).
The key question posed by the book is this: do we need better government regulation of the tech sector? Also: is the current state of technology development such that we need to re-examine how we use antitrust law to regulate it? These are important questions, and Reback does a great job of laying the groundwork for understanding these questions. Theory is great, but eventually it has to be put to test in the real world. The lawsuits that Reback was involved in were acid tests of our antitrust policy. And –just as our financial regulation turned out to be deficient– it appears that our policy needs to be re-examined. But that won't happen if people don't take note.
If you have even a passing interest in current affairs you should read this book. It's engaging and lively, and most of all: important. I picked it up thinking I'd just read a few chapters, and found that I literally could not put it down. I'm glad I didn't because I now finally understand how antitrust law has shaped the development of technology in the past 20 years. I hope that we do a better job going forward.