Where Would You Be Without Microsoft?

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - Some pundits have speculated that Bill Gates' abdication of the Microsoft Corp. throne to Steve Ballmer was a belated effort to distance himself from the painful consequences of the Department of Justice settlement. Others disagree. As with all things Microsoft, public opinion is divided.

In a Sound Off column that asked, "Should Judge Jackson let Microsoft off the hook?" about half of 100 readers who responded argued that only the market should sit in judgment of a company operating in a free market economy. One respondent said, "Let Microsoft alone and allow free enterprise to run its course." The other half argued that Microsoft, guilty of abuses against businesses, consumers and the legal system, should be split into several companies or in some other way prevented from continuing its reign of terror.

"Microsoft's antitrust practices have been bad for business," argued a reader.

Bad for business? We are in the midst of what is perhaps the most prosperous era in U.S. history, and we are complaining about Microsoft's damaging impact on business? Isn't it possible that the practices that allowed Microsoft to assume its monopolistic position were actually good for business, even on the national level?

Would a world without Microsoft be as prosperous as the one we currently enjoy?

If Bill Gates played fair, would we be riding the wave of the e-revolution and watching our national, corporate and individual wealth increase? As we anticipate the next wave of IT innovation and speculate as to how Microsoft will fare in a brave new world where AOL-Time Warner, Linux and a potentially debilitating legal settlement may knock Microsoft off its throne, let's ponder the question: Where would you be without Microsoft?

This thread began on Jan. 12, 2000, and, as is the case with most Microsoft matters, respondents were extremely passionate on both sides of the issue. Here is a sampling of the responses that Web Writer Martha Heller received. You can respond to her by e-mail at mheller@cio.com or via the web at comment.cio.com.

I am so tired of the talk about microsoft. big deal if it has 80 percent of the market share. The reason it controls so much of the market is because no other company can come out with a more reliable product. What other software products can you trust? Lotus? Give me a break.

If people want Microsoft to give up its control over the market, I suggest that some of these computer brains get off their rumps and develop a product worth purchasing.

Until then, I say leave Microsoft alone. Where would business be without Microsoft's software? A few steps behind where we are now, I guarantee that.

Shane Lehnst Information Analyst EDS slehnst21@hotmail.com I have been in the computer field for 39 years. Remember Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? If you acquired vendor A's computer, you were locked in to their proprietary hardware, software and code compilers. It was not uncommon to pay $15,000 for an operating system and $10,000 for a compiler, after which you were restricted to their platform only. Stop and look at the market today and reflect how it would be to buy a Compaq computer and be committed to it for the rest of the system life. No way! Windows set a platform standard that is a blessing for the business community and a ban for Sun, Apple and the like. Each had a shot at the compatibility business, and each flopped.

Standards now, standards forever. Start mixing Windows, Unix, Apple and Linux in a company and you have a prescription for chaos. I say, No thanks. I prefer a stable and competitive platform. Dannis L. Robinson IS Manager Gulfco danr@gulfco.com It seems a great many people hate microsoft, but one must ask oneself why. The bottom line is plain old jealousy. Isn't there someone out there smart enough to create a better operating system? With the internet, isn't there a distribution system that can avoid the channels Microsoft dominates? A lot of people mention Linux as a savior. Well, remember where Linux came from--it's one of the "many millions" of Unix derivatives! Without the Microsoft thread do you think there would have been such a cohesive front to keep Linux static?

America used to be a country where success was rewarded, not torn apart by a bunch of politicians who are being led by the string their contributors have attached to their nose! For good or bad, Microsoft has actually created competition through the hatred that has developed against it. John Sestak MIS Manager Interstate Chemical jsestak@pathway.net I'm an advocate of free market dynamics. let the best product at the best price win. There is no better way to protect free market efficiencies.

However, there are two threats to a free market: one, inappropriate, inept governmental intervention; and two, abusive private monopolies. Only the former is ever discussed.

But before reaching a judgment in this instance, I'd like everyone to consider the possibility that the Department of Justice has actually acted as the free market champion, not Microsoft--a company that has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to undermine the free market's ability to make decisions on price and performance considerations alone. Louis A. Palena President Immortal Enterprises lpalena@wn.net Although there are days that the ms os simply provokes my anger (unexplained crashes, memory leaks and so on), I will most emphatically admit that the whole Microsoft phenomenon has carried IS a long way in the past 20 years. By making Windows a commodity product, computing power has been brought to even the most neophyte user.

As a website developer and administrator, I may be able to do all aspects of my job without a single Microsoft product (I develop on Unix and Linux servers).

However, I am certainly not so naive as to believe that I would even have a job like this if it were not for the user-side advances that put the PCs in the hands of the consumers.

So, yes, I have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft. But sometimes those relationships are the most passionate ones. Debra McCusker Chief Analyst Needak deb_mccusker@yahoo.com WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON MICROSOFT? Want to sound off on this or other topics? Join the ongoing debates at comment.cio.com.

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