Microsoft inhibits software competition

To resolve Microsoft’s antitrust trial, the government recently decided to divide Microsoft into two distinct companies. During the court case, the government presented strong allegations against the company, suggesting that it purposely and unfairly stifled its competition. This behavior is harmful to a free market, which relies on innovation, often from smaller companies that lack the capital to wage war against giants. If the allegations are true, then in the interests of consumers and free enterprise, limitations must be placed on Microsoft.
Despite Microsoft’s stronghold, some innovators still manage to develop competitive software. The small but growing support for the Linux operating system demonstrates that Microsoft cannot horde every niche of the market. The problem, however, is when a competitor grabs a market share large enough to get the attention of the mighty Microsoft. When Microsoft wants to market Internet Explorer as an alternative to Netscape, they merely package it with their operating system. This gives the company an undeserved advantage over its competitors. While the software industry thrives on grass-roots innovation, the software titan can overcome contenders without developing a technically superior product simply because it already developed the dominant operating system on the market. A company that can so easily defeat its rivals without providing a superior product only harms its customers.
In court, Gates seemed unable to remember the details of an alleged plan to join forces with Apple to undermine Sun Microsystems, despite strong evidence suggesting there was such a plan. Microsoft cannot be allowed to unfairly compromise its competitors in any case. Additionally, a government filing cites an e-mail by Chairman Bill Gates in which he allegedly told employees to redesign software to function better with Microsoft’s own products than its rivals.
Critics argue that Microsoft’s monopoly helps ensure compatibility between software packages. The theory is since Microsoft manufactures the most commonly used software, more applications will be compatible with each other. A fundamental characteristic of the technology industry is its ongoing effort to establish standards and compatibility among its many disparate parts, with or without a single monopoly governing the whole of the industry. All companies that want to stay in business must manufacture technology and software that is compatible with the current standards. In fact, if Microsoft made any effort to harm the competition by redesigning software to function less well with rival products, the Microsoft monopoly would actually be damaging what compatibility does exist. Maintaining compatibility and industrywide standards should be a priority. The software industry requires both competition and cooperation.
The decision to break up Microsoft might resemble a punishment for being too successful, but the government is not punishing success, despite the claims of critics. It is defending consumers and the free market. A successful company like Microsoft cannot stand in the way of creativity and invention simply to protect its own assets. To defend itself, Microsoft must prove that it did not intend to directly harm competitors, regardless of the mounting evidence to the contrary.