osOpinion: Answering the Monopoly Apologists

“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.
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


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
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?’ “