It seems that Bill Gates, being such a hugely successful entrepreneur, has now somehow excited the jealous attentions of the politicians. The attitude of certain Senators during the hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear how much animosity exists. If a Microsoft monopoly exists then it is surely more of a benefit to mankind than the monopoly exercised by the US government.
I do not hold any particular brief for Microsoft, having had my share of problems dealing with some of their arrogant employees; but on this issue I am squarely behind them. It is a blatant political manoeuvre, probably engineered by some jealous competitor of whom there must be an entire army. The Internet browser offered by Microsoft, according to reviews by competent authorities, contains more desirable features than its nearest rival but not having been around quite as long may not be as reliable in operation.
Microsoft is also being sued by the Attorneys General of twenty one states, seemingly about its alleged monopoly in the office productivity marketplace. I listened to one Attorney General who ought to be embarrassed by his lack of knowledge of the computer field. If that is typical of the level of understanding in this debate, then we should not be surprised if they succeed in ruining the computer business.
What jealousy can do
Isn't it surprising what problems jealousy can cause? The Department of Justice in the USA, under the influence of Microsoft's competitors, is again trying to claim that the company is stifling the market. Microsoft is very dominant as we all know; their operating system being widespread throughout the world of personal computing, even though its system has many flaws. The latest assault has to do with the fact that it is allegedly trying to use this monopoly position to integrate its browser and e-mail systems into its operating system, thus obliging others to use it instead of buying a competing product. How making people pay for something is monopolistic compared to acquiring it free is quite beyond this chronicler's comprehension.
The essence of a monopoly is that it requires the use of force to maintain it. Governments are the acknowledged experts in creating monopolies. Just look around Quebec, we can all think of at least one government created monopoly, a monopoly whose shortcomings were quite evident last winter. If you tried to set up a competing facility there would soon be large, armed, and generally unpleasant men knocking at your door. Viewed in this light Microsoft does not have a monopoly.
There is plenty of competition in the computing field for all kinds of products and Microsoft does not have 100% of the operating system market. Nobody obliges me to use all the free software that it supplies. You can use some of their products or choose to use others where there is clear cost benefit to you if you do so. The US government seems to feel that most people using computer software are as ignorant as they are and will not make any changes but just use the stuff which Microsoft provides. Naturally, this is by far the easiest course of action, and the least costly, even if you could afford to buy other products.
While Microsoft has the money to fight back effectively, the real issue is that the effort will certainly slow down the rate of development because people will be waiting for the judgement.
The situation is not without its humourous aspect. As short a time ago as 1995, Bill Gates publicly disparaged the Internet, thinking it a passing fad. He has obviously revised this opinion considering the tremendous amount of software he is now directing towards it.
This government law suit will tie up resources at Microsoft and could well affect their forward momentum; which may well be exactly what their competitors want to happen.