Let the market rule
Microsoft Corp. has been sending feelers to the Justice Department
about settling its antitrust case. No one knows where this will lead.
From the perspective of GCN, its been a curious case, given that the federal
government is one of Microsofts biggest customers.
I wont comment on either sides position. Thats for the judge to
decidepurely, one hopes, on the legal merits. But a few observations spring to mind.
Considering the sales, profits and stock market performance of computer companies
lately, to say nothing of the torrid pace of more and more product introductions, it is
difficult to see just how the industry has materially suffered because of Microsoft.
Then, too, Bill Gates probably gives his company a bit too much credit for the
industrys wave of wealth-building and innovation.
As a rule, I dislike pile-ons and the mass demonization of a company or an industry,
even if the target is tempting. In any industry, companies abilities, motivations
and tactics vary widely. Microsoft didnt achieve its dominant position solely
through bullying and unfair marketing tactics. Surely, it also made something people
wanted to buy.
Its better if the power of the market, rather than the government, reins in
overly dominant companies. In technologically driven industries, such dominance is nearly
always fleeting. Just ask Digital Equipment Corp.
Besides, success in one niche often doesnt map to others. Anyone remember when
General Electric made computers? Often, companies stumble under their own weight.
Microsofts inability to finish Windows 2000 is a golden opportunity for companies
such as Novell Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Red Hat Software Inc.
Gates decision to reorganize the company into multiple operating divisions is a
wise one. A voluntary breakup might dispel many of the allegations charging that Microsoft
More important, from the customers point of view, is that each division might
serve its users better than did the Microsoft behemoth.
Thomas R. Temin