The Justice Department announced last week that it is seeking to fine Microsoft $1 million a day for violating a 1995 agreement aimed to restrain some of the company’s business practices. The decision has provoked debate about whether Microsoft is a monopoly and violates federal anti-trust laws. Does Microsoft ensure its firm grip on the $102 billion a year software industry because its products are the best on the market, or because it bullies computer companies dependent on its software in order to sabotage and stifle the competition? Is Bill Gates the real Mr. Burns?
Microsoft is accused of threatening Compaq Computers after its decision to continue using the Netscape Navigator icon on the computer screen desktop, and not the Microsoft Explorer icon. Microsoft threatened to prohibit Compaq from using Windows software if Explorer was not given a desktop icon. Since more than 90 percent of personal computers use Windows software, the financial threat to Compaq was extremely significant.
But is Microsoft proof of the excesses of unrestrained capitalism? Though it is possibly a monopolistic entity, corporate gigantism is the recent trend among big business. In Microsoft’s case, however, proof exists of its stronghanded, and possibly illegal, business approach. Microsoft has come up with an amazing array of ways to establish and ensure its dominance. But competition, especially in the technology sector, ensures innovation – which results in the best products being produced and gives consumers the widest range of choices and lowest prices possible. This is one of the cornerstones of American free trade.
The Justice Department allowed Microsoft to use profits from Windows to develop related products as long as it did not require its operating systems customers to adopt its Internet browser. Now it is using its software dominance to try to take over the Internet browser business. Microsoft’s greedy monopolistic practices should not be allowed to continue. Bill Gates has shown us all that it is not possible to have a benevolent monopoly; greed takes over. The Justice Department must stop the personification of Mr. Burns from global software domination.