|GETTING TOUGH WITH MICROSOFT
Is the Justice Department stifling or protecting innovation?
May 26, 1998
in this forum:
Should the Justice Department consider "vaporware" an unfair practice? Why hasn't a similar suit come about earlier? What occupies the 10 percent of the market Microsoft doesn't control? What innovations is Microsoft responsible for? Is there less public resentment towards Microsoft than other monopolies? Mark Hunt of London, Canada asks: Should the Department of Justice consider "vaporware" techniques used by Microsoft to be unfair practices?
Paul Gillin responds:Certainly the practice of preannouncing products in an effort to freeze competitors can be anticompetitive. In fact, IBM's practice of doing this was one of the key issues in the Justice Department's prosecution of IBM in the 1970s. The question would be whether the preannouncements were intentionally anticompetitive or simply a part of the normal process of keeping customers informed. The tough part about software is that it's so complex that it's very difficult to predict with much confidence when products will be "done." So the courts would have to hash out whether there was malice against competitors in any Microsoft preannouncement activity.