Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Making the Rules Redmond Style

According to a recent story in Wired magazine, "Microsoft supported bills in the New York and Connecticut legislatures to impose strict regulations on businesses that gather personal information online for marketing purposes." Given that this is the sort of activity that Microsoft would like to undertake, it seems strange that the company would support these bills.

Why would a company sponsor legislation that would increase its costs of operation (leaving aside any sort of altruistic motive like saving the planet)? It might make sense if, in the absence of the legislation being sponsored, different legislation might be passed that would make the cost increase even greater. How about another explanation if that's not the case?

Thinking about a business in isolation makes it a bit difficult to understand a case like this. But, businesses don't operate in isolation. Sponsoring legislation like this might make sense if it imposes a greater cost on rivals than it does on the business in question. Given that the title of the Wired story is "The Plot to Kill Google," you can probably guess the punch line: the proposed legislation would be more costly to Google than to Microsoft. Remember: make the rules or your rivals will.

HT: Jesse Walker via Peter Klein at O&M

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