I would like to propose a solution to Bill Gates's problems with the Justice Dept. that would both strengthen his company and, judging from its past behavior, be welcomed by Washington ("Does predatory pricing make a predator?" Economics, Nov. 23; and "A pattern of predatory behavior?" American News, Nov. 30).
Microsoft's giveaways are viewed as predatory pricing or equivalent to taking losses to drive competitors out of a business. In addition, Microsoft is accused of strong-arm tactics: threatening to harm Intel's new microprocessor if it didn't shelve its own software efforts, swearing retribution if Netscape didn't cede most of the Internet browser market, and encouraging distributors to shun competitors who ignore Microsoft's threats. The result is that few PC company executives will criticize Microsoft on the record, but anonymously they unload ample frustrations.
All of these aspects of Microsoft's "culture" and its predictable results have been documented to be characteristic of Japanese business "culture" in numerous articles by BUSINESS WEEK and others on Japan over the past 15 years. My suggestion: Mr. Gates should move his company to Japan.
Justice would drop its case out of political and security concerns. Microsoft would gain instant approval and immense support from the Japanese government in selling its products to the U.S. The U.S. Trade Representative would exert pressure on Europe to buy Microsoft's Japanese products. And Wall Street would reward Microsoft's stock price for reducing its American work force and moving offshore.
Even Seattle would benefit. The ex-Microsoft workers could join the ex-Boeing workers in their downsizing support groups. Their shared experiences would magnify their sense of being part of the new American community spirit, which seems to be: Level our playing fields, throw out all the guys and girls on our teams, and slash and burn any advantages our teams might have--while letting the other teams play the game by their own rules.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia