Microsoft's Future

A band of powerful foes is determined to slow the Gates juggernaut, but Microsoft's reach already extends further than you may think

In December, Samuel Goodhope stood hunched over an Austin conference-room table eyeing a dismembered personal computer. As a special assistant in the Texas Attorney General's office and point man in its antitrust investigation into Microsoft Corp., he needed a keen understanding of a PC's innards. So a technician painstakingly explained how each of the components is supplied by a different company, but they must all work with the critical Windows operating system made by a single corporation, Microsoft. That's when it hit him: Microsoft owns a key monopoly in the Digital Age, and the software maker is a lot like the Borg. These fictional Star Trek characters--part flesh, part machine--prowl the universe conquering other races. "Resistance is futile," says Goodhope in a mechanical, Borg-like voice. "You will be assimilated."

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