Microsoft And Free Choice
A few words on "Microsoft is the victim of a legal mugging," (Economic Viewpoint, Apr. 13). I am an experienced PC user, and it wasn't easy to install Netscape Navigator on a brand-new Compaq with the latest Windows 95. This is enough, in my opinion, for an antitrust case.
Think about a nonexperienced person who buys a $999 PC for the kids and tries to install Netscape. Chances are 100% that he will give up. He will use the "free" (and preinstalled) Internet Explorer. His kids will use Microsoft Corp. products. This is happening in thousands of houses and offices every day.
"Free market" and "freedom of choice" are just empty formulas in this context. They resemble the "free elections" that we have seen in Bulgaria or in Albania for decades: Everybody can vote, but you have just one candidate. What writer Paul Craig Roberts ignores is that software (and operating systems in particular) is different from other products: You can make your car run with any brand of gasoline, but very few have knowledge, time, and patience enough to install non-Microsoft software.
Roberts provided a voice of reason amid the hype. Microsoft, however big today, started as a humble software company when others (IBM, Digital Equipment Corp., etc.) were already monsters. To a great extent, Microsoft grew big thanks to the blatant failures of its competitors. No, it does not offer top products that are failure-free. But then, who does in the software industry?
Microsoft uses business tactics its competitors use. Let the customer decide what he wants. Over 90 million Windows users could not have been forced by Microsoft to buy its products.
The Justice Dept. sends a bad signal: If you are successful, at some point we will break your spine to do your competition a favor.