|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: When guests on [the NewsHour] talk about the government stifling innovation, why don't you ask them what innovations they have in mind that Microsoft was responsible for?
Paul Gillin responds:
My position is that Microsoft has been very innovative in its business practices but less so in technology. The technologies that have contributed the most to its success - PC operating systems, graphical user interfaces and office suites - were invented by other people. But Microsoft's ability to package and sell them creatively to build market share has been unparalleled. The company also does a remarkable job at recruiting third party developers to write for Microsoft platforms. Remember that as late as 1990, Windows was given only a slim chance of becoming a mainstream operating system vs. IBM's OS/2. Microsoft's ability to recruit developers and sign up hardware makers to commit to Windows turned that around completely. The company is a marketing steamroller.
As you can probably guess, I don't take seriously Microsoft's position that the government is stifling innovation. The government seems to be quite focused on stifling behavior that appears to be predatory. The net effect of this should be more innovation, not less.