In a Nov. 17 op-ed piece, Robert J. Samuelson said that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's opinion in the Microsoft case "doesn't show how Microsoft's brutal competitive behavior has hurt consumers." He argued that "Microsoft gave away Explorer" and concludes that "standardization around Windows creates benefits." He dismisses the judge's findings as "more rhetoric than reason."
To the contrary, Judge Jackson presents a clear and unequivocal case that Microsoft's defense of its monopoly harmed competition and hurt consumers.
Microsoft's browser was not free; consumers paid for it in the rising price of the operating system. Microsoft used its monopoly profits from operating systems to subsidize its anti-competitive tactics. It used substantial resources and imposed significant monetary and non-monetary (time and inconvenience) costs on the public.
Judge Jackson cites at least five products, other than the browser, that Microsoft delayed or prevented from coming to market by leveraging its market power in the operating system market.
In his legal conclusions and remedy, Judge Jackson will need to address the actions that Microsoft repeatedly has used to prevent threats to its hegemony in the past. Under the Sherman Act, because Microsoft continues to possess monopoly power that was illegally abused, the judge cannot sit by and hope that the next threat to Microsoft's dominance will be able to overcome the anti-competitive force that Microsoft will throw at it. He must ensure that the anti-competitive actions cease.
The most important lesson of the careful consideration of the multiple forms of harm to competition and consumers provided by Judge Jackson comes in what it tells us about the "benefits" of Microsoft-managed standardization. Claims that taking stern action against Microsoft will undermine the standardization that has been beneficial are dubious. Microsoft has attacked and driven products out of the market because they would increase compatibility, not undermine it.
If Microsoft were prevented from abusing its market power, a competitive market would produce compatible products. Portability would be highly valued and nondominant firms would strive for enhanced compatibility.
Director of Research
Consumer Federation of America
All one needs to make his own determination as to whether Microsoft is a monopoly is to compare prices of similar products (that is the prices of one of the few survivors):
The "Upgrade" Microsoft 2000 is $379.99 with a $60 rebate at my Best Buy and Office Depot outlets. The "Upgrade" for Word Perfect 2000 is $79.99. Both programs offer essentially the same thing.
ALLEN Y. DE LANEY