My intention is to show that the case against Microsoft asa monopoly is weak and that the government is wasting its time. As thegovernment jumps to the defense of the “all-too-often” taken advantage ofconsumer, they have accomplished very little. They tried to prevent the releaseof Windows 98 (a much anticipated and highly demanded program that was and isavailable at reasonable prices) but didnt even phase the consumers secondthoughts. The government is costing taxpayers millions of dollars to pursue thissuit against Microsoft. Microsofts operating system near monopoly is probablygood for us. It is much better to have one operating system than 20 or even 2.
Software compatibility, technical support, and setup are much more simplifiedwith one operating system. Programs today are specifically designed to be”Windows compatible. ” Would you rather have 20 (local) phonecompanies, each with a different line and number running into your house or one,as is the case now? Also, Internet Explorer brings browser competition to amarket that is essentially monopolistic itself (at least if you apply JanetReno’s definitions of monopoly). Internet Explorer gives Netscape a competitiveproduct where before virtually none existed.
The purpose of antitrust laws is toprevent only harmful monopoly. Microsofts operating system near monopoly isharmful in very few ways. Nor is Intel’s chip near monopoly harmful, nor isNetscapes browser near monopoly. Other reasons easily explain how Microsoftcame about to its size and how new companies constantly spring up in thecomputer industry. Computer software is a very volatile industry. To succeed inthis industry all you basically need is a good program and a way to offer it forsale.
When Microsoft, or any other software company, makes a program they onlyhave to write it once. When this is done, reproduction of this program is verysimple. All they have to do is copy it on a disk. Since making an extra diskcontaining the program costs all of 2 cents, it is more costly for the softwarecompany to print the box and manuals than it is to make one extra disk.
Withthis situation occurring, a good program, once written, can be produced marketedat virtually no additional cost. Well you say, “if disks only cost 2 cents,why can’t windows sell for 2 cents?” Remember that it costs Microsoft todevelop a new program. No matter how cheap a disk is, other costs such assalaries, factories, storage, and programmers always exist. Even thoughdevelopment costs are sunk and additional production costs are nonexistent,other costs are incurred. Besides, supply and demand determines where a pricewill fall. Another thing about the computer market is its ever-changing programmarket.
As I said earlier, anyone with a good program can be successful in thecomputer industry. Programs come about all the time. For example, the mostpopular finance program is Quicken. Microsofts version, Money, is includedwith many of its programs yet Microsoft, the multibillion dollar a year company,has considerably less users than Quicken, with mere tenths and hundredths insales than the annual income of Microsoft. Another example is Accessories Paintcompared to Print shop or EXPLORER compared to NAVIGATOR. Microsoft offers itsown products as complements to Windows, often for FREE, but consumers stillprefer others.
For all we know, anyone literate in programming may develop abetter program than Windows. If consumers like it, we may soon find anotherbrowser monopolist. For reasons similar to this, computer industry leaders havevastly changed in just a few years. At times Apple, IBM, Intel, Netscape,AT;T and even Commodore, have or had large, sometimes monopolist-likemarkets. Characteristics of monopolies that cause trouble are (1) restriction ofoutput, (2) higher prices along with this restriction, (3) restriction of entryto a particular market and, in a few cases, (4) lack of innovation due to lackof competition.
Not a single one of these problems is experience with Microsoft. These problems are only drastic when an item is in a secluded market with noclose substitutes. Computers are definitely not necessities and there are fewbarriers to entry in the computer market (the only noticeable being computerliteracy). Microsoft certainly does not restrict output and hold prices atextreme levels. If they did, nobody would buy Windows 95 or 98 when it came out. There is no reason to buy an upgrade except that people are looking forsomething new or something bigger and better.
New versions of Windows do notsell because consumers arent forced to buy them. They sell because consumerswant them. Many of Microsofts major products are included with Windows. Giving products away at no monetary cost is certainly not restricting output. Even more, it is the lowest price the company can sell at.
The only cost ofgetting Internet Explorer, or Netscape Navigator for that matter, is a tied upmodem for about 45 minutes. This is even avoided when Explorer or Navigator areincluded free with another piece of software such as Windows or, in Netscapescase, the software you get when you sign up with an online service. Netscape hadan almost full monopoly (90%) and still has a semi-monopoly at 65-70% of thebrowser market. So what they are worried about? They use the same methods ofdistribution of their software by offering it for free and having Internetproviders include it with their registration software.
Before Internet Explorercame along, we sat for long periods waiting for browser upgrades. There wasessentially one browser – Netscape two point something. Upgrades have beenalmost constant since the introduction of Explorer. The result: two companieswith advanced browsers competing to build a better browser. Microsoft is not theonly operating system to choose from.
While very practical and well suited forthe current computer industry, Windows is not alone. Many other operatingsystems, some even FREE, are available. There are around nine in the US alone:Linux, Caldera, Solaris by Sun, BSDI, Unix for the PC by Digital, BeOS by Be,Rhapsody by Apple, OS/2 by IBM, and the Macintosh OS. Globally there are biggercompanies that have more of the global market. So how is Microsoft a monopoly ifthere are nine other substitutes in the US alone? Once again though we are notreally talking about the operating system market but I just had to make a bigpoint.
Finally and most importantly, what right is it of the government to tellMicrosoft how it can and cannot configure its own software? Once Windows isinstalled, consumers have the option of disabling as much of Windows as theylike. If you don’t like Explorer, disable it and get Netscape (for FREE). Wedon’t need Janet Reno to decide this for us. Just remember that Microsoft is afree company- able to write its own programs the way it wants to just as you cando if you so desire! Don’t let Washington liberals fool you with their chargeswhen Microsoft shows hardly any characteristics that make a monopoly dangerous. We are facing a great abuse of the governments anti-trust laws for their onlypurpose is to stop dangerous (and ONLY dangerous) monopoly.
Washington shouldnot be able to get in the way of a successful company over Microsofts rightto include their FREE software with their own program.