Microsoft Ruling

April 10, 2000

Much has been written about the recent ruling against Microsoft concerning its actions and the government's involvement. And even though there are strong feelings on both sides, something that seems lost in all of the rhetoric is the facts that led to the government filing of the 1998 antitrust case.

In the mid-1990s, a number of companies tried to break the Windows monopoly by building better web browsers. The leader of this group was Netscape. The company hoped to develop its improved web browser into an operating platform which could compete with Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft responded by influencing, pressuring, strong-arming (pick the word you would use) computer manufacturers. Microsoft withheld technical information from companies that did not comply and even charged them higher prices. This wasn't done to improve customer choices or improve the existing product. It apparently was done merely to hold on to market share.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said in his opinion that these actions were meant solely to "augment and prolong" Microsoft's Windows monopoly. Thus, consumers were denied the opportunity to buy less confusing computers and operating systems. Consumers were denied easy access to Netscape's browser because Microsoft pressured computer makers, Internet providers, and Web sites into blocking easy access to Netscape's browser.

Settlement talks broke down when Microsoft rejected various demands. These included the demand that a version of Windows be marketed without Microsoft's web browser and a demand that personal computer makers be allowed to display their own first screen on computers they manufacture. These don't sound like such outrageous demands, but they were sufficient to be a deal breaker. Now it appears that this case will continue on with protracted appeals and legal wrangling. In the end, it seems like the consumer is the real loser.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.