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Keeping an Eye on Microsoft's Ambitions

Manufacturers of computer hardware and software have borne the brunt of Microsoft Corp.'s sometimes predatory practices. The end user has been affected only indirectly ("Microsoft: How it became stronger than ever," Cover Story, June 4). Microsoft now appears eager to get into the software rental business. Any company that agrees to place the captive control of its crown jewel corporate accounting data under Microsoft's rental-price arrangements is as dumb as a box of rocks. It will quickly come to long for the good old days when the only companies accused of price-gouging a captive audience were the cable-TV companies.

John Graybill

Boca Raton, Fla.

Microsoft's Passport is seen as a repository of all our credit-card numbers, log-on IDs, and passwords, while Hailstorm is seen as a database of all of our contact lists, calendars, electronic mail, and a lot of other things.

The hackers and crackers of the world will see this as the ultimate target. Law-enforcement agencies will demand access. And if we all come to rely on it, Microsoft will eventually want to charge us a lot for its use.

Charles J. Wertz


It seems appropriate that Microsoft calls its software Passport--since issuing passports is the exclusive province of sovereign governments. And while Congress frets about Internet taxes, Microsoft moves aggressively ahead talking "about collecting fees for every e-commerce transaction"--another province of sovereign governments.

Alan MacDonald

Sanford, Me. Sandy Weill might want to investigate how his customers really feel about the service Citigroup provides if they are not big business customers in the U.S. ("Sandy Weill wants the world," Finance, June 4).

The individual customer who does banking here has had quite a hard time ferreting out the ever-changing policies. Let's get our home markets up to par, please.

Jerry C. Getman

Monterey Park, Calif. One problem with mandating high wages is that employers then tend to hire workers with more skills ("What exactly is a living wage?" Social Issues, May 28). This forces those with marginal skills into poverty because they cannot compete. Even living-wage activists agree. David Reynolds, who wrote the handbook on how to organize a living-wage movement, said that employers "should attract and retain the best workers" following the implementation of living-wage mandates. The laws, he said, "will likely result in a higher caliber of worker." What is to become of the low-skilled employees who have lost their jobs? A better alternative is a state or local Earned Income Tax Credit. Such credits reward work, target benefits to families in need, and do not discourage employers from hiring low-skilled workers.

Thomas K. Dilworth

Employment Policies Institute

Washington "Fuel standards: How to plug the leaks" (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 28) stated that flexible-fuel vehicles get 30 to 40 mpg on ethanol and 20 mpg on gasoline. This is absurd. Because ethanol is already partially oxygenated, the energy derived from combustion is only about 65% of that of a hydrocarbon per unit weight. But since ethanol is 12% denser, the figure rises to 75%. Thus we would expect the mpg from ethanol to be 25% less than that of gasoline, not 50% to 100% greater.

J. Thomas Denison

Orange, Tex.

Editor's note: The story should have stated that, in figuring corporate average fuel economy (CAFE), makers of flexible-fuel vehicles may claim credit for 30 to 40 mpg, even though actual mileage is roughly 25% less. For years, investors relied on the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to set generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Then came the Net, and dot-coms rushed in with analytical data ("The numbers game," Cover Story, May 14). But no one stepped forward to fill the gap in generally accepted analytical techniques (GAAT).

The Securities & Exchange Commission must recognize the importance of the Net, address the convergence of accounting with analytics, and maybe even appoint a GAAT-maker. My vote would be FASB. The U.S. has the best accounting standards in the world. It's time for a new series for the Information Age.

Rosemary Schlank

Rye Brook, N.Y.

Many stakeholders are concerned with the future, not the past as reflected in GAAP financial statements. Pro forma (Latin for "as if") statements report the impact of a planned transaction as if it had occurred, and this information is useful. Stakeholders must be aware that the location of "real earnings" is in the financial statements that are attested for by an independent auditor, not in the ones presented by management that may show a possible future.

Todd Transue

Riverside, Calif. I have lived in Santa Clara, Calif., my whole life. The natives here have seen the likes of dot-commers come and go before ("California, here I go," Working Life, May 28). They won't all disappear: The smart, tough ones will stay. Sorry, but the real talent is knowing how to deal with the good times and the bad. Those who have it have made this valley strong.

Thomas Zizzo

San Jose, Calif.

So I guess asking the last person leaving Silicon Valley to turn off the lights would be redundant.

David Wineberg

New York

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