Times Article 012
Microsoft Pros and Cons
is a very popular pastime today, and as in every battle, there are two
sides to this story. For
those of you who aren't aware of it (so why are you bothering to read
this computer newspaper?), on May 18th the U.S. Justice Department
filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft on bundling its Internet
Explorer (IE) Web browser with Windows. The DOJ alleges that Microsoft is forcing other Web browser
vendors, notably Netscape Navigator, out of existence by making IE an
integral part of its operating systems (O/S).
me start off this discussion by admitting that I've been a Microsoft
dealer since Windows 1.0, and a developer for the past decade.
Microsoft's products have definitely improved over the years,
and I use a lot of them in my business -- but not all of them by any
means: I'm an inveterate user of Navigator, based on some 30 factors
that are highly important to me.
here's what I perceive as the good side of Microsoft.
was not that many years ago when I had to buy memory management
software, task-switching, and a graphical user interface from three
different companies, not all of whose products appreciated each other.
And who can forget those wonderful times of trying to get our
video board driver to work correctly with our mouse, network, and
scanner drivers? You
would have to be either a real masochist or own a lot of stock in UNIX
to argue that we should all go back to those days!
So from this, you may conclude that it makes some sense to
bundle IE from a customer standpoint, not just from Microsoft's
continues to provide performance enhancements (usually) and
quality-control improvements (usually) that make my job a lot easier
and faster. As an
engineer with 35-plus years of using computers as tools, I firmly
believe that the operating system is the real key to making computing
user-friendly, accessing the maximum amount of raw processing-power in
our hardware, and providing time-saving integrated features like
multi-tasking and networking that were only a gleam in the far
distance just a few short years ago.
Microsoft has done an admirable job of providing these
capabilities for all of us who use the Intel platform.
antitrust laws exist to protect us consumers, at least according to my
lawyer, and this protection usually applies to monopolistic price
increases in a non-competitive market.
Unless I blinked, though, there have been zero price increases
for Windows 95 and NT. And
one of my clients gave me what may be the best reason for including IE
with Windows 95: "How else could I have downloaded Netscape
what I call the "gray area," Microsoft claims that their
Internet Explorer is free because it is bundled with Windows 95, 98,
and NT. But IE is also
free for those who want to download it for the Macintosh O/S and UNIX;
this tends to badly dilute Microsoft's allegations that IE is solely a
part and parcel of their operating system.
Ed Black, president of the 25-year-old Computer &
Communications Industry Association, claimed in a brief to the DOJ
that "Windows and IE are two distinct products and that a browser
is not part of a computer's operating system,"
the downright nasty side, we have IE as the only initial doorway to
the Internet's World-Wide Web for Windows 98.
Web access is a major component of millions of people's work,
entertainment, and even education (mine included).
In fact, studies show that in many industries, Internet access
accounts for more of the time people spend on their computers than
back just a few years, Bill Gates admits that he was completely
blindsided by the instant success of the Internet.
But, never the slow learner, Bill put the original IE on
fast-track development, and today it's estimated that 38-42 percent of
all end-users have IE as their interface. And Bill was obviously not satisfied with the number-two spot
behind Netscape (47-53%). His
IE team started throwing all kinds of new resources (and mucho money)
into the fray.
last October, Sun Microsystems pulled their Java programming tools
from IE because Microsoft had started advertising their own version of
Java. Then when Bill
announced that Windows 98 and Windows 95 OSR2.5 would have IE tightly
integrated as their browser, the U.S. government decided to step in.
On October 22, 1997, Janet Reno proclaimed, "Microsoft is
unlawfully taking advantage of its Windows monopoly to protect and
extend that monopoly and undermine consumer choice."
And consumer advocate Ralph Nader said in an article in
Microsoft's own e‑zine, Slate, "Not content with its
enormous market share in PC software, Microsoft wants to hold our hand
as we navigate the information superhighway, and to push us ‑
not so subtly ‑ toward its own partners or subsidiaries."
it is this target that the DOJ should have attacked, in
my humble opinion. Stop
and think: Why is Microsoft so adamant that everyone use Internet
Explorer instead of Netscape navigator?
They're giving it away, so Microsoft certainly isn't making any
sales revenues from IE. I
contend that Bill Gates has his sights set on IE's predetermined site
links and Active Desktop channels as the main reason.
built-in, unchangeable links and channels unfairly influence consumers
- you and me - to use Web sites and services owned by Microsoft and
its business partners! Just
look at Microsoft's MNBC television site (and don't forget all the
paid advertisers there), Expedia.com travel service, and CarPoint
car-buying services, if you don't believe me.
I personally do not think it's at all fair or right to push
consumers to the Web sites that Microsoft chooses: What does this have
to do with operating systems technologies?
met with one of my clients last week who had just upgraded to Windows
98 (against my recommendations), and had also just started browsing
the Internet. He really
believed that the links on his Active Desktop were the
Internet!! It took me
nearly an hour to convince him that he had the freedom to go to any of
the other millions of Web sites, rather than just what IE offered.
And when an experienced businessman (who happens to be a Net
novice) reacts like this, you can be sure that there millions of other
novices out there who are similarly unfairly misinformed.
anyone besides me tried to install a copy of Netscape Navigator on an
originally-equipped (non-upgraded) Windows 98 computer?
If you've succeeded, please e-mail me privately at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. If you are using IE 3.0 or above, I highly recommend that you
visit the Web site for "Luckman's Anonymous Cookie for Internet
Privacy" utility. Check out http://www.luckman.com for this
completely free utility, and some fine links to material on cookies.
Says Brent Luckman, "Cookie files are the key issue in the
Internet privacy controversy because they allow companies to invade your
privacy and access your personal information and preferences." The
"Anonymous Cookie" utility allows for a slick way around the
closing, I believe that the DOJ has missed its mark in the landmark
legal case against Microsoft. The
real issue here isn't the money to be made by Microsoft or Netscape on
their browser sales; rather, it's the dominance of Microsoft to leverage
promotion of its products, services, and friends to the exclusion of
anyone else. And isn't that
what antitrust legislation is supposed to protect consumers - and
competitors - against?