MONOPOLY HOUNDS OR JUST SMART BUSINESS PEOPLE?
January 21, 1998
Return to this forum's introduction.
in this forum:
What laws are involved in this dispute? Is Microsoft's practices monopolistic? What is an "operating system"? Why doesn't the Justice Department let the market play out? Can competition and integration co-exist? What are the larger issues of this case? Viewer comments.
January 13, 1998
A background report on the Microsoft anti-trust case.
October 21, 1997
The Justice Department formally files its anti-trust complaint against Microsoft.
August 6, 1997
Microsoft takes a bite out of Apple.
June 11, 1997:
Netscape and Microsoft agreed to limit access to private information online.
September 20, 1996:
Tom Bearden reports on the cyber war between Netscape and Microsoft.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of cyberspace and the law.
PBS's Robert Cringley muses about Microsoft. December 25, 1997 and January 15, 1998
U.S. Department of Justice
Microsoft and Netscape
Dan Trullinger of Tigard, OR, asks:
Microsoft has claimed that a word processor is not part of an operating system, but that an Internet browser is part of an operating system. Please define just what constitues the functionality of an operating system.
Mr. Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association responds:
An operating system, as commonly understood by the industry, refers to the underlying software responsible for directly controlling and allocating local computer hardware resources. These local hardware resources can include a computer system's central processing unit ("CPU") and memory, and associated peripheral devices such as disk drives, printers, graphics cards, and network cards.
An operating system moves and transfers data between local hardware devices. In contrast, application programs interpret the meaning of the data delivered to it by the operating system. An application program is a program or software routine that accomplishes a particular task. Examples of such tasks include word processing, database management, and communications such as e-mail and Web browsing. To fulfill its tasks, an application needs to access the computer resources. It does so not by directly accessing those resources, but rather by invoking "services" provided by the operating system. These services perform tasks that an application typically needs in connection with these computer resources, such as moving data from memory to a disk. The use of these services allows an operating system to control and allocate the computer's hardware resources among different applications.
Web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, are application software, a product distinct from the operating system. Indeed, Microsoft's Application and Internet Division is responsible for the new release of Internet Explorer 4.0, which shows that even the next generation of the Internet Explorer is application software and not an operating system program.
A more detailed analysis of these points is available in CCIA's amicus brief which is available from CCIA's Web site at www.ccianet.org
Mr. Rule, attorney for Microsoft, responds:
You are right, Microsoft has not integrated word processing (or a myriad of other applications) into its operating system. However, the current Windows 95 is a much more robust operating system than the original version of MS-DOS (or any of the intervening versions of its operating system). At one time many of the functions that have subsequently been integrated into Windows 95 (without objection from the DoJ one might add) were separate applications or utilities in the past -- e.g., disk compression and the "ADD/REMOVE" utility for example. The most obvious functionality that once was provided separately but now is integrated into Windows 95 is the "graphical user interface" or GUI (the function that allows users to "point and click" rather than type commands). By integrating the GUI into its operating system (in Windows 95), Microsoft provided a product that is easier to use and has made home computing more accessible. The ability to expand and improve the functionality of its operating system requires enormous time and investment, and one slip up could prove disasterous in the marketplace. However, while Microsoft has no doubt been rewarded for its successful efforts, the real beneficiaries have been consumers who as a result have been able to enjoy the wonders of personal computing.
I will leave it to the engineers and marketeers to catalog all the functionality of Windows 95. Suffice it to say, with millions of lines of software code (4x as much code as the software that runs this nation's air traffic control system), the operating system is quite robust. Nevertheless, even as the operating system's functionality has grown, so to have the opportunities for other software developers. It is important to keep in mind that, notwithstanding its impressive success, Microsoft still accounts for only about 4% of all software revenue and that it is not even the largest software company -- that honor goes to IBM.
Next: Why doesn't the Justice Department let the market play out?