International -- Readers Report
MICROSOFT AND THE FREE MARKET (int'l edition)
I disagree with Robert Kuttner's view that Microsoft Corp. is trying to monopolize the market ("Bill Gates, robber baron," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 19). Microsoft is the best example of how a company pursues a business strategy in a fast-paced industry.
Instead of Microsoft-bashing, other companies should take lessons from Microsoft, and the Justice Dept. should let the market give the verdict. I believe that the markets are self-regulating and that consumers will punish the likes of Microsoft if they fail to meet their needs.
I wish the antitrust officials would take their cue from the millions of users who choose Microsoft products ("Microsoft's Future," Cover Story, Jan. 19). Bill Gates's competitors are right to blow their own horns, but they have a powerful motive behind their media gang war on the industry leader and are pushing the underdog card to the hilt.
Microsoft reached its position in a field of untold competing products. Each has had its chance of taking the market. Users who have invested years of learning in software products do not change their allegiances easily, yet Microsoft has won me over many times and doubtless countless others like me. If other products have been sidelined, it is because they didn't meet the ever-moving competitive standard, not because of a rigged market.
I have benefited enormously from the competitive shakeout and enjoy the results, which might have taken decades to evolve had the contest been less fierce. Should Justice officials now condemn me to waste my resources during clashes such as the VHS-Beta wars, to give only one example? I am happy to live with a company's clout and to have its products be the quasi-standard, since I know that I am charged fairly and still have the best possible technical solution.
Manfred W. Resag
Your biased reporting on Microsoft was a disappointment. Many of your quotes and comments can be attributed to a liberal Justice Dept., to a self-serving Ralph Nader, or to companies with no comparable record of growth, innovation, or research and development. Microsoft does not price any of its products the way a true monopoly does. Its products are inexpensive, they enhance productivity, and they never let you down.
You apparently did not think it necessary to speak to the zillions of corporate and individual users of Microsoft products to get a better view of Gates's contribution to making everyday business less taxing than it already is. Your own solar-system graphic points to the wide array of products that Microsoft does not dominate. It's the Justice Dept. that requires more scrutiny. Let Bill do his thing.
Microsoft's establishment of Internet businesses to sell automobiles, airplane tickets, auto financing and insurance, and advertising that previously went into local newspapers should be a wake-up call to every auto dealer, travel agent, insurance agent, bank, newspaper publisher, and every other sales-oriented business in the country.
The money your business spends on Microsoft software today will be used by Microsoft to put you out of business tomorrow.
Nussloch, GermanyReturn to top
ARGENTINA'S ECONOMY IS REALLY SINKING (int'l edition)
I disagree with your article on Argentina's economy, "Plenty of fire left in this tango" (Business Outlook, Jan. 19). On the contrary, I think the fire is extinguishing here because it is a tango danced on the deck of the Titanic. In 1991, the government pegged the peso to the dollar by law at the rate 1 to 1, when the historical real exchange rate was at least two pesos per dollar.
This currency overvaluation artificially halved the burden of Argentina's external debt service and thus facilitated its repayment--but at the cost of incurring more and more debt. According to the World Bank, the external debt of Argentina stood at $62 billion in early 1991. In the interim, the government sold state assets for $27 billion, and thus the debt should have been reduced to $35 billion. But by the end of 1997, the country's total external debt had doubled, to $120 billion.
The recent devaluations in Asia worsened Argentina's own currency overvaluation and will generate even more deficits and debt. Isn't this a tango danced on board the Titanic--to the music of the International Monetary Fund's orchestra?
Professor of Economics
University of Buenos AiresReturn to top