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by Victor Wetterberg

English Comp I

Thursday, April 9, 1998



The biggest mayhem in the past twelve months has been the Justice Department’s antitrust case verus Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft is a high-tech computer company in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle. "Microsoft, run by gazillionaire Bill Gates and staffed by 20,000 overmotivated light-bulb-heads who aspire to Gates’s genius, drive, and cunning. (Levy, 58)" Microsoft is famous for creating OS (operating systems) for Windows 3.1, 95, and 98. In fact Windows98 will be released sometime after Thanksgiving, 1998. However, the following quotation is the basis of the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft. "Microsoft has been forcing its Windows licensees (computer makers like Compaq) to also carry its Explorer browser. According to Janet Reno’s trustbuster Joel Klein, this practice gave Microsoft an unfair advantage over Netscape and other browser creators. (Levy, 59)" Therefore, the Justice Department is trying to force Bill Gates to let other PC Computer companies such as IBM, Compaq, and others to run Windows 95 or 98 without Microsoft Internet Explorer. In fact this case not only will affect Microsoft, but on the rest of society who uses a computer or the Internet to talk with the rest of the world.

The following is a quotation when Microsoft President Bill Gates faced the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. "We need to explore today whether you and your company have cross the line," Sen. Herbert Kohl D-Wis., said to Gates in opening remarks. "Or on the other hand, whether this is just the carping of disgrunted rivals. (Maney, n.pag)" "More than 90% of PCs worldwide run on Windows. In one clever move, Barksdale turned to the audience and asked all PC users to raise their hands. Then he said, "Of that group who use PCs, how many of you use a PC without Microsoft’s operating system?" All hands went down. "Gentlemen, that’s a monopoly," Barksdale said to chuckles from the senators. (Maney, n.pag)" To summarize Congress is trying to see if Microsoft has violated any federal antitrust laws, and if Microsoft had then it would have grave affects on society because it would limit Microsoft’s production of Windows operating system with Microsoft Internet Explorer already installed.

The following is a case between International Business Machines verus the Justice Department in the 1960s and 70s when IBM was the computer giant like Microsoft today. "The parallel is IBM in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By then, IBM and Justice already had a long-running duel. In 1956, IBM signed a consent decree to settle an antitrust lawsuit over IBM’s dominance of punch-card machines. In the ’60s, Justice was investigating IBM’s hold on the computer industry, which was even stronger than Microsoft’s grip on software today. IBM had about 70% market share. In 1969, Justice filed another antitrust lawsuit. (Maney, n.pag)" "The effect on IBM ran deep. In 1968, the fear of impending antitrust action forced IBM to abandon one of its dearest practices — the one most devastating to rivals. It was a practice that runs to the heart of Justice concerns about Microsoft: bundling. Until 1968, IBM was a one-stop shop. Customers bought a system from IBM and included in the price was software, peripherals and maintenance. Customers generally liked it that way — an argument Microsoft makes today about bundling lots of different functions, including the Internet Explorer browser, into Microsoft’s Windows operating system. (Maney, n.pag)" Below is a hypothetical situation where a family buys a computer in the 1960s and 1990s.

A hypothetical situation is a family back in the 1960s bought a computer for five hundred dollars. This computer included everything from software to maintenance. Now the same family buys an IBM Pentium computer with a fourteen-inch monitor, four point six gigabytes (GB) hard drive with a fifty-six-point six modem included. However, this computer would cost about two thousand to twenty-five hundred dollars, a four to five times more costly, then a computer bought in the 1960s. However, computers are starting to be cheaper less than a thousand dollars, because computer companies are aiming for families that don’t have a couple thousand dollars to spend on a high-power computer.

However, Microsoft Corporation antitrust problems began in August 1997, when Microsoft and Apple Computers decided to become partners in the Macintosh industry. "By propping up Apple, Microsoft keeps a market of about 20 million Mac users healthy. The deal also makes sure Microsoft’s Internet Explorer gets favored by Mac users, who otherwise tend to favor Netscape’s Navigator simply because it isn’t Microsoft. (Maney, n.pag)" Another reason the Justice Department is investigating Microsoft Internet Explorer. "That creates some fears that competition and innovation in the industry will fade. President Clinton was even asked about it Wednesday. (He said he’ll wait to hear from the Justice Department before deciding whether to worry.) (Maney, n.pag)" All of this is good news for Mac users, however, the Justice Department looks at Microsoft have eliminated one of its chief rivals by becoming partners with Apple Computers.

"Microsoft is a small but important player in that very large industry. (Levy, 60)" "Though Microsoft executives will not admit this under torture, it’s obvious to computer users and federal judges alike that the Windows operating system (OS) is a monopoly. And Microsoft is also the dominant force in applications software: its Office suite of products trounces the competition. (Levy, 60)" For instance, most of the computers probably have Microsoft office 97 installed on their computers. In fact, "Microsoft’s entire strategy is built around this Internet-based OS, and if the government stops this, it’s apocalypse time in Redmond. (Levy, 61)" "That’s Microsoft’s worst nightmare. "If the U.S. government is going to decide what features go into software," says Myhrvold, "it means the end of the software business." It certainly means the end of Microsoft’s business plan. (Levy, 61)" Therefore if the U.S. government decides what goes into Microsoft’s software program, then it will end Microsoft from a computer powerhouse to a tiny company like IBM was thirty years ago if the U.S. government have it their way by regulating software produced by Microsoft gazillionaire Bill Gates.

So to summerize the following: the Senate Judiciary Committee looking to see if Microsoft has violated any federal antitrust laws, the IBM case with the Justice Department back in the 1950s to 1970s, Microsoft and Apple being partners together for the first time, and Microsoft as a company. However, Microsoft will have to prove to the Justice Department that Microsoft Internet Explorer, is not a monopoly to other computer or Internet-related companies. In the future, the Justice Department will force Bill Gates and Microsoft to allow PC computer companies to use Windows as there operating system, however, having an option to use Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, or other Internet web browser to access the Internet. "Bill Gates might well be wondering if the Force is indeed with him. (Levy. 61)"





Levy, Steve. "A Blow To the Empire" Newsweek 29 Dec 1997/5 Jan 1998: 58-61.

Maney, Kevin. "Microsoft case mirrors IBM’s history." USA Today. 3 Feb. 1998. N.pag. USA Today Online. Online. Microsoft Internet Explorer. 3 Apr. 1998.

Maney, Kevin. "Bill Gates takes on Congress." USA Today. 4 Mar. 1998. N.pag. USA Today

Online. Microsoft Internet Explorer. 3 Apr. 1998.

Maney, Kevin. "David shakes ands with Goliath." USA Today. 3 Sept. 1997. N.pag. USA Today Online. Online. Microsoft Internet Explorer. 3 Apr. 1998.

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