Do You Have a Choice in Surfboards
Who owns the Internet? If you were to ask this question to any person familiar with the World Wide Web they most likely would say that nobody owns the “Net”, but in the past few years a major player has stepped onto the Internet scene and they don’t want just a piece of it, they want to dominate the whole thing. This ambitious, greed machine is the one and only Microsoft juggernaut. The Microsoft corporation has been known for years as the best operating system manufacturer, having produced the MS-DOS , Windows 3.1 and the incredibly popular Windows 95 operating system platforms and in the past few years have blitzkrieged the Internet scene with their web browser Internet Explorer and their Internet service; The Microsoft Network. The way Microsoft goes about their marketing tactics though could be compared to a craps table using loaded dice: they just do not play fair.
In current issues Microsoft and its president Bill Gates have been at odds with the government over anti-trust laws. In Microsoft’s bid to monopolize the Internet browser market, its marketing strategy has been under heavy fire. Microsoft had been forcing computer manufactures to purchase their operating system that included Internet Explorer, which they were being charged additionally for. This was mainly brought about because Microsoft was very latent on starting in on this market and had to find a way to catch up quickly. In a issue of Mother Jones, G. Pascal Zachary writes “Gates failed to grasp the importance of the Web until Netscape had nearly won the game. Chastened by having to claw his way into Web software, which he now dominates, Gates is unlikely to make this mistake again.” What quite a few people consider to be the reason that Internet Explorer usurped Netscape as the dominate Web browser is the fact that Microsoft pushed its browser on the computer manufactures, in turn pushing it onto the consumer. The government has since forced Microsoft to sign a consent decree that made them discontinue packaging their web browser with their operating system. “The consent decree says that Microsoft can’t require a computer maker or reseller to buy an application as a condition of getting the OS.” writes Jerry Pournelle of Byte. This decree may end up being an example of the clich , a day late and a dollar short.
The Microsoft problem had seemed to come to an end after the government ruling, but it is starting to appear more like a minor inconvenience than a defeat. The masterminds at Microsoft have found a loophole in the consent degree. In a strange approach at a monopoly Microsoft has announced that it will integrate their new Internet Explorer into the new operating system Windows 98 and will cost the computer manufactures nothing extra. This proposal has made a few people happy as Jerry Pournelle writes “Microsoft has a long history of integrating new functions into the OS, and I for one am glad of it.” My own dealings with Microsoft software has me a bit septic on the matter, as I am a supporter of Sun Microsystems Netscape browser and want to choose my own software. This new operating system, if not limited, could very well render all other Web browsers obsolete as Windows 95 has basically done with operating systems.
In another part of the Internet business, Microsoft’s Internet service provider, the Microsoft Network has been taking on customers at a rapid rate. The Microsoft Network was initially limited by the federal government to how many customers it could have, but has since broken this ceiling. In an interview with Economics professor Mr. Fred Ellis, he stated “I believe that the Microsoft Network was limited to five-hundred thousand customers, but has far surpassed that amount.” The reason for the increased popularity in the Microsoft Network could be attributed to the incredible surge of people on the Internet in the last year and the fact that major Internet service providers such as America Online have not been able to keep up with demand. The Microsoft Network is currently the second largest Internet service provider in the country, only America Online beats them in this market. The Microsoft corporation commands immense financial resources and powerful influence in almost every aspect of computing, so I would not be surprised to see them take the number one position in the Internet service provider market if they so choose.
The Microsoft juggernaut continues to steam through the Internet market like a well oiled machine, being all but uncontended. The government is trying to slow the pace at which Microsoft can move, but will it prove to be adequate in order to allow fair competition? I suggest that it may not be enough due to Microsoft being almost a one-stop shop for the computer consumer unless Microsoft’s competitors merge to try and stop the giant in what is the worlds fastest growing industry. Will everyone in the computer industry be forced to deal only with Microsoft applications? This question is a real one and could very well happen if Bill Gates has his way. Where will you have to go tomorrow?
Pournelle, Jerry. “Doing something about Microsoft.” Byte March, 1998: 130.
Zachary, Pascal, G. “Why is this man laughing?” Mother Jones January/February, 1998: