Microsoft — or Macrotough?

Do you think Microsoft’s business practices are detrimental to the software industry?

December 19, 2001

Do you think Microsoft's business practices are detrimental to the software industry?

Microsoft is celebrating its 25th year in business. From its humble beginnings in a Seattle garage, Microsoft has turned into the mightiest software company on earth. With a virtual monopoly on what might be considered any PC’s soul — the operating system — it can be argued that Microsoft ultimately controls the very nuts and bolts of global communication and business. That was, and is, what the antitrust case of the U.S. government is all about. TheGlobalist explores what Microsoft and its competitors have to say.

Would Microsoft have succeeded anywhere else but in the United States?

“Bill Gates couldn’t have made it in Germany: using a garage to run a business is prohibited by many laws and regulations.”

(Bolko von Oettinger, Boston Consulting Group, January 1998)

How did Microsoft’s competitors contribute to Microsoft’s dominance?

“If IBM and Apple had been smarter, Bill Gates might be a nobody.”

(Newsweek columnist Bob Samuelson, March 1999)

Why do IT professionals want to work for Microsoft?

“What bright young engineer or technician wants to work for a defense company — whose stock is nearly worthless — when he could go to Microsoft?”

(Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, February 2000)

What type of people does Microsoft hire?

“It’s hard to be a social misfit in Microsoft, because we’re filled with social misfits.”

(Microsoft manager, October 1998)

What makes software production so challenging?

“The software industry is so different than most other industries because the products shipping today will be obsolete in two years. The only question is, who will make them obsolete?”

(Bill Gates, August 1998)

What is the software industry’s main objection about Microsoft?

“The reality of the software business today is that if you find something that can make you ridiculously rich, then that’s something Microsoft is going to want to take from you. All we can do is meet with them — and try to see what they’re going to do to us when they feel like doing it. If they want to kill you, they’ll kill you.”

(Chief of technology at a small Internet software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 1997)

What sacrifices are Microsoft’s competitors willing to make?

“I have young kids, and I’m not going to see them as much. I can’t leave the world to anarchy.”

(Scott McNealy, chief executive of Sun Microsystems, November 2001)

How was the antitrust deal between Microsoft and the U.S. government received by the software industry?

“This agreement allows a declared illegal monopolist to determine, at its sole discretion, what goes into the monopoly operating system.”

(Kelly Jo MacArthur, general counsel for RealNetworks Inc., November 2001)

Would you care to elaborate?

“It was a complete victory for Microsoft — and a complete defeat for the government. It was like a bank robber was caught on tape and the judge let him off.” (Larry Ellis, CEO of Oracle, November 2001)

(Larry Ellis, CEO of Oracle, November 2001)

How do others view this?

“They’ve gone from break-up to suck-up.”

(Scott McNealy, chief executive of Sun Microsystems, November 2001)

What could be the results of this agreement?

“It will subject an entire industry to dominance by an unconstrained monopolist.”

(James Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape Communications)

So, has Microsoft won the battle — or the war?

“The fact that the U.S. government entered into an incredible sweetheart deal is not going to impress Mr. Monti [the EU Competition Commissioner, were an antitrust case is still pending]. He has shown he is willing to be tougher.”

(Robert H. Lande, University of Baltimore Law professor, on the pending antitrust review before the European Commission, November 2001)

Were other issues at stake besides the monopoly question?

“With a crisis at home, the last thing the Justice Department wanted was a drawn-out legal battle against one of the icons of American economic power.”

(David B. Yoffie, professor at Harvard Business School, on the impact of September 11 on the case against Microsoft, November 2001)

Finally, is everyone equally impressed with Microsoft?

“Where do I want to go today? I think I’d like to go somewhere that doesn’t rely on Microsoft Windows.”

(Washington Post technology columnist, October 1998)