This week, Microsoft Corp. and the U.S. Justice Department each filed yet another legal brief in this never-ending antitrust saga fought over the software giant’s past marketing activities. In the government’s telephone-book-thick summary, it once again repeated a litany of charges that boil down to this: Microsoft engaged in a “broad pattern” of illegal practices to protect its Windows operating systems monopoly.
In the lawsuit, the Justice Department, joined by 19 states, is asking U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to find Microsoft guilty of wrongfully targeting and stamping out potential competitors — which, they say, ultimately hurt consumers. If Jackson rules their way, Microsoft could end up being sliced into as many pieces as a large pepperoni pizza. In addition, the government could also demand that Bill Gates and Company make its coveted Windows code public.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s team of attorneys — seemingly on cue — vehemently deny it did anything wrong. In fact, they argue that Microsoft was forced to take the actions it did — in order to defend itself against the onslaught of ruthless competitors in the high-stakes technology marketplace.
Tired Of Hearing Point, Counter Point
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of hearing the same rehash of Microsoft being portrayed as either a predator or as a victim. To tell you the truth, this six-month trial has done little to influence me one way or the other.
Because even before I heard all of the testimony, as a computer user since Microsoft came into existence, I’ve experienced first hand its influence on the marketplace.
Bye Bye IBM O/S And Netscape
I remember buying a computer in the 1990s that ran on IBM’s operating system. I really liked it because it was fast and simple to use. But guess what happened? Soon I couldn’t find any software to buy for it because Windows had become the only standard developers would use. That cost me several thousand dollars.
Then, in the mid-1990s — I like so many others — discovered the Internet. I fell in love with my Netscape browser that worked so quickly and connected me with Web sites all over the world. When Microsoft began offering its new browser for free — out of curiosity — I downloaded it. Much to my disappointment, it was sluggish and awkward to use, so I continued to stick with Netscape.
Then the Pentium chip came along and I decided to upgrade my computer again. But this time when I tried to set up my Internet browser, Microsoft was already part of my operating system. If I still wanted to use my Netscape, I had to go out of my way to set it up. Instead I opted for the slower more awkward Microsoft browser. Even subscribers of America Online, which ended up buying a beaten up Netscape, are using a Microsoft browser as default — because of a previous agreement AOL made with the No. 1 software maker.
That brings me to the present. I have just recently purchased yet another computer, which is installed with Windows 98. Even though my computer is very fast, it takes so very long for the system to load. Want to know a secret? There isn’t a day that goes by that my computer doesn’t freeze up or crash for no apparent reason — just like Bill Gates’ computer did a few years ago when he demonstrated the latest version of Windows in front of a packed auditorium.
I’m not a lawyer, nor do I know how many quarks can dance on the head of a pin. But I do know that as a longtime computer user my choice of products over the years has been very limited.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.