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
Chuck Lynd of Columbus, OH, comments:
As a consumer who wants options, I support judicial and legislative efforts to stop Microsoft's aggressive efforts to monopolize the browser market. By making it almost impossible to avoid Internet Explorer, consumers will not have a fair way to evaluate the benefits of competing browsers like Netscape. Please cast my vote for moving quickly in the public interest to stop Microsoft's bullying strategies and allow vendors who develop software for this important new mode of access to the Internet to compete on a level playing field. Big government is, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, a necessary evil in order to check the power of the evil empires in private industry.
Yasir of Khan, Pakistan, comments:
Netascape and others let microsoft become powerful. Why fight now when Microsft controls everything. It is there Windows and Windows NT. It is their product and is run on every single PC in the market. They can do anything they want with it, intregrate anything they want to. I think Netscape should accept the changes and move on and work with the new Browser intergrated windows.
Bruce Marcile of Springfield, MA, comments:
I have always been a Microsoft user, from the beta versions of Windows to date. I have used a non-Microsoft word processor until recently as I liked it better. I have recently upgraded to Win 95, with Internet explorer included. I use Netscape Communicator for my browser. I purchased Netscape and installed it with no problems. I think that it is great that a new user has a browser included in their new system software, which gives them the ability to get online right away. Internet explorer is very nice too. I use it once in awhile, because I can... but "I" prefer Netscape for now because it is familiar. Why shouldn't Microsoft include it in Windows 95? Yes, it gives Microsoft ("The Giant") a jump up on Netscape... but that is business. As long as Microsoft doesn't contract with OEMs to exclude Netscape. It is still a free country.
Eric Burger of Rockville, MD, comments:
As a professor of Computer Science teaching Software Quality Assurance, I am concerned about the cavalier attitude that components of a software release can be removed on an ad hoc basis. There can be very real unexpected interactions. I would feel comfortable if I knew Microsoft tested the current version of Windows 95 without Internet Explorer. However, if they did not, I would have to agree with Microsoft's position that the user may experience unexpected results. If I were in that position, I would not want that liability.
Disclaimer: I'm no fan of Microsoft: This message is being composed in Netscape Navigator running on an Apple Power Macintosh.
Rob Hughes of Federal Way, WA, comments:
What's good for MS's competition is also good for the consumer. IF MS loses all competition in a particular field it would have no driving business reason to innovate or to keep pricing low. And the same is true for MS's competition. The software market seems to be driven mainly by a form of oneupsmanship to see who can bring in the best price-point as well as the latest gee-whiz features.
Tommy Hannon of Oklahoma City, OK, comments:
As a software developer for almost 10 years and a product of the PC revolution, I have a unique perspective on the subject of antitrust in the software industry. It seems that the only way this dilemma can be solved is to delineate between operating systems and applications. Both of these are software and could arguably and technically be extended in either direction. I think that a definition of what an operating system is would solve this matter. It is no different than defining what local and long distance phone service is. AT&T could have argued that long distance was an enhancement to local service. A simple definition of an OS might go along the lines of any software that directly interfaces with and manages hardware (i.e. keyboard, mouse, video, audio, RAM, disk storage, communication, etc.). I think that ANSI would be more than happy to entertain proposals.
Philip Wheelock of Oklahoma City, OK, comments:
Ultimately, the government's right to control the limits of economic power as defined in the Sherman Act takes precedence over the right of a private company to unfettered practices, including claims of technological innovation. The question of whether the Sherman Act should apply to software as well as steel is moot, since this constitutes a large-scale economic issue.
To the extent that the Web becomes the entertainment center, shopping mall, brokerage house, bank, etc., of the near future, a private entity which, without checks or balances, achieves the position of providing the exclusive and required component for the burgeoning industry of online commerce is neither in the best interests of the consumer nor the nation. Microsoft appears to adhere to an ideology which espouses never taking its foot off the accelerator pedal; government action may be appropriate if its success in the marketplace crosses the line between aggressive competition and hegemony/monopoly since there is a significant component of Microsoft which appears ideologically incapable of saying, "We've done enough to secure our competitive advantage for today."
In this theory of checks and balances, though, neither Microsoft nor the DOJ will be scoring any knockout punches in court; rather, settlement of this issue will be marked by compromise and movement on both sides.
Interestingly, one of the areas where Microsoft is going today involves consumer choice as the biggest developer of applications for the Macintosh platform. At the recent San Francisco MacWorld convention, Microsoft's debut of its Office 98 suite and Internet Explorer/Outlook Express 4.0 was well-received and clearly the top software story. By all accounts, these are quality applications, written from scratch for the Macintosh OS. By visibly supporting a platform/OS where user choice of browser is not an issue (Microsoft has no public plans to integrate its Explorer browser with the Mac OS), Microsoft can make the argument that it is not seeking hegemony in the areas of browsers or online commerce as part of its corporate strategy except by virtue of consumer choice. Since Apple is scrambling to consolidate its presence in specific markets rather than challenge the Windows OS for overall market share, it makes sense for Microsoft is to support the Mac platform, not only to make money, but as a vaccine to ward off future DOJ actions.
Ervin Reiff of Oklahoma City, OK, comments:
lead, follow or get out of the way
I am perfecly satified with the present conditions regarding the Windows 95 along with Microsofts browser. As usuall the Justice Department is falling all over itself trying to do away with a system which has brought more pleasure to users than they ever had.
Right on Microsoft