Bill Gates, Pro And Con
If Microsoft Corp. is anywhere near as contentious as its chairman ("Bill Gates, uncensored," Information Processing, Apr. 10), I'm not surprised its competitors are so upset.
Bill Gates helped create a new world of opportunity for millions. If it were not for the advent of the personal computer, I could still be working at a cemetery digging graves for a living. Bill Gates should be appreciated for his contribution to the PC. He is a savvy visionary who, like Henry Ford, gives the average person mobility. Gates has molded a very complex industry from infancy to maturity. He has aided in unlocking the human mind to its greater potential, allowing individuals the independence to work anytime and anywhere.
Let the cynics and critics whine and whimper about Bill Gates's short-term failures. As for me, one who benefited greatly from his long-term successes, I say: Thank you very much, Mr. Gates.
Bill Gates says that everything Microsoft does is for the benefit of the industry, that the company has never knowingly done anything wrong. This sounds like IBM's position in 1969, when it was sued by the Justice Dept. for antitrust violations for the third time.
Today, a new menace dominates the industry in the form of Microsoft. And the tactics it used to dominate today's software industry are identical to those used by IBM. An entire industry--one responsible for much of the innovation and leadership that keeps America at the forefront of technology--is at risk. Here are the things Justice should do to aggressively pursue Microsoft:
1. Bring suit against Microsoft. The suit would bring immediate relief for software companies, since Microsoft will necessarily become more cautious--just as IBM reacted in the 1970s.
2. Openly propose to break Microsoft up. In the past, the courts have applied the principle of maximum separation to prevent the use of economic power in one distinct line of commerce for competitive advantage in another. By dividing Microsoft into an operating systems company, an applications company, a multimedia company, and a network services company, the Justice Dept. can level the playing field and create an environment where innovation and advancement can take place.
3. In the shorter term, the government should seek a preliminary injunction against Microsoft. Some immediate relief is needed by other software companies and by users. Most important, software vendors need to be able to reverse-engineer Microsoft's operating system. The government should also require Microsoft to operate its Network service as a separate subsidiary and force Microsoft to erect "Chinese walls" between its operating system groups and its application groups.
4. Turn down the Intuit acquisition. If this acquisition is approved, it should only be under the condition that it operates as a separate company.
A healthy market for growth and innovation demands that Microsoft be reined in. No one is in a stronger position to do that than the Justice Dept.
Martin A. Goetz
Editor's note: Goetz co-founded and was president of the software company Applied Data Research. In that role, he assisted the Justice Dept. in its suit against IBM, testifying at the trial as a government witness.