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osOpinion: Answering the Monopoly Apologists

Mar 02, 2000, 22:52 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Nadeau)

"When some people hear that the U.S. government is pushing for severe penalties -- including a possible breakup -- against Microsoft Corporation, they are shocked and dismayed. They believe that there is a true 'free market' at work in America, and that any government intervention in the current marketplace is misguided and dangerous. They believe that all success springs from innovation and hard work (but never from corruption), and that the current economic conditions are the robust result of this 'free market' at work. In other words, they believe Microsoft."

Q: 'But there are economies of scale involved here. Just like pharmaceutical companies, the software industry needs powerful, gigantic companies in order to innovate. That's the only way to generate the huge amounts of capital necessary to innovate in software.'
A: 'That assertion is false; little companies and individual software developers can innovate without the need for huge infusions of capital. Ever hear of Linux?' "

Q: 'It's better than chaos. Without Microsoft, there would be no standardization in the PC industry.'
A: 'Linux has many flavors, yet they are mutually compatible. Standardization can arise from many sources -- governments, monopolies, trade associations (the IEEE, for example), or even voluntary cooperation by participants.
Q: 'But Microsoft's monopoly guarantees that standards initiatives will not fall apart. Linux might someday become as disorderly as the Unix market is.'
A: 'Who says that Microsoft is not disorderly? Do you know how many different flavors of Windows there are? How many different versions of .DLL files have shipped in the last ten years?' "

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