InfoWorld.com Readers: Break Up Microsoft

SAN MATEO (05/10/2000) - Although readers of InfoWorld.com do not have much faith in the government's ability to regulate the software industry -- or even keep pace and understand it -- most feel that the U.S. Department of Justice has been on track in its prosecution of Microsoft Corp., and a majority favor breaking up the software giant, according to an InfoWorld.com survey.

More than two-thirds of the almost 1,000 readers of InfoWorld.com who responded to the survey said Microsoft should be subject to antitrust actions. Almost 67 percent of respondents said Microsoft should be punished, with 29.5 percent saying the company should not be disciplined; 3.6 percent weren't sure.

More than half of those who support punishment for the company, 56.3 percent, said a breakup is appropriate.

"This depends on how 'public' the two companies talk to each other," one respondent said. "If they continue being a close-shop operation for their API and app file format, then the break-up would be of no value."

"The reason a breakup is a good idea is that the operating system monopoly and the Office suite monopoly are mutually supporting," another reader wrote.

"Breaking up the company will weaken the monopolies, which will, over the long run, make life easier for users because there will be a return to the days when different software had to 'play nice' with competitor's software in order to be accepted by the market."

Others, however, cast a more cynical eye on a possible breakup.

"It will create two monopolies instead of one. This will make my job harder," one respondent said.

Microsoft was set to respond Wednesday to the Justice Department's request that the company be broken into two separate companies, one building Windows operating systems and one taking over all the company's other products. The government made that remedy request last month after U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found Microsoft in violation of federal antitrust laws and declared it an illegal monopoly.

Generally, respondents who opposed a breakup said they were happy with their relationships with Microsoft and that they did not want to see those relationships become more complicated.

"Microsoft should be able to sell whatever to whomever," one respondent wrote.

"A split will make it harder to get software packages that work so well together."

Other endorsed punishments included: requiring Microsoft to provide better access to its APIs; making Microsoft open up its Windows source code; having the government oversee of Microsoft's business practices; and imposing monetary fines.

Despite the hard line users took on Microsoft, most also agreed with many of the Redmond, Washington-based company's contention that the government is overstepping its authority in the high-tech field.

Three-fourths of the respondents said government regulators cannot "keep pace with changing technology," and several voiced concern that a disturbing precedent could be set if the government's hand is too heavy.

"[Department of Justice]: keep away from knowledge workers. We do not manage physical resources, like land, oil, etc. We do not have right-of-ways, or exclusive zones, like utility companies. Our only assets are our imagination and our intellectual talents. We have no tangible assets," one respondent wrote. "Do not become the mind police by telling us what ideas we can implement in a specific product for knowledge workers."

Microsoft's standing with corporate customers seems to have fallen, according to the survey.

Almost 57 percent said the company has become a less strategic supplier over the course of the trial, whereas only 15.5 percent said the company's standing had not suffered; 31.3 percent were undecided.

Also, more than 80 percent of respondents agreed with Microsoft that its product innovation has been, or will be, unduly restrained, while only 16.7 percent disagreed.

"Microsoft never innovated, and this will not change that," one reader wrote.

The poll of 994 self-described IT professionals, IT executives, IT directors, business directors, and business executives was conducted last weekend via a pop-up survey on InfoWorld.com, at www.infoworld.com.

Microsoft Corp, in Redmond, Washington, is at www.microsoft.com. The U.S.

Department of Justice is at www.usdoj.gov.

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