Microsoft battle gets mixed reaction

It is being accused by the US Department of Justice and 20 states of being a monopoly. Competitors have pelted it with a steady volley of lawsuits. A legion of critics refers to its CEO as the antichrist. You'd think the whole world was against big, bad Microsoft , now embroiled in a full-fledged antitrust battle with the federal government. But many IS professionals have mixed emotions over the Justice Department's action against the software giant, even as they acknowledge the dangers of Microsoft's excessive market muscle.

It is being accused by the US Department of Justice and 20 states of being a monopoly.

Competitors have pelted it with a steady volley of lawsuits.

A legion of critics refers to its CEO as the antichrist.

You'd think the whole world was against big, bad Microsoft , now embroiled in a full-fledged antitrust battle with the federal government.

But many IS professionals interviewed by Network World have mixed emotions over the Justice Department's action against the software giant, even as they acknowledge the dangers of Microsoft's excessive market muscle.

"We probably do need help against a company that gains an overbearing advantage," said Joe Greulich, IS manager at Roberts Express, an international courier service basedin Akron, Ohio. "I don't know if Microsoft has reached that point."

Another network manager expressed no such ambivalence about the Justice Department's action.

"It's ridiculous for Microsoft to be in court for this," said Dean Thompson, manager of IT for Cleveland-based IS consultancy Berish and Associates. "When someone starts doing well, everybody else says, 'That's not fair.'

"It's like telling Michael Jordan, 'Hey man, you can only score 15 points a game,' " he said.

Thompson particularly criticised the federal government's demand that Microsoft bundle Netscape Communications Corp.'s browser with the Windows 98 operating system. "That's insane. Any hardware vendor can prebundle whatever it wants," he said. "Let the OEM make that decision."

Phil Emer, associate director for advanced technology development at North Carolina State University, agreed. "I don't know why they want Microsoft to include Netscape as part of the operating system when the manufacturer generally gets every piece of free software he can find and loads it on my PC," he said.

"The DOJ's effort is over-reaching and probably at least in some part politically motivated," said Hal Kuff, systems and network manager at Tesco Technologies, in Hunt Valley, Md.

Another network manager, Scott Davis of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said Microsoft's practice of bundling NT and applications, as well as continually adding major new functions to the operating system in Service Packs, is not good for competition.

"The long-term impact of this is not good," Davis said. Once a monopoly is in place, then generally the quality of service and products goes down and the price goes up. I don't put it past Microsoft to start raising prices."

Meanwhile, some network managers said there are better places to look than Redmond for potential monopolies. "When are they going to grab Cisco or 3Com?" Emer asked. "Those guys are into everything."

"I think Intel is a far bigger threat than Microsoft ever could be," Kuff said.

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