Microsoft Actions

Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Tue, 26 May 1998 18:26:44 -0700

Dear Sirs,
It's been widely reported that the US Department of Justice
is considering the following two actions: 1) forcing Microsoft
to include the Netscape browser on its desktop/in the Windows
operating system, and 2) splitting up Microsoft into "Baby Bills".
As a computer science professional with vast experience
in the software and WWW fields, I would like to advise
the following cautions for these two actions.

First, bundling a competitor's browser with the Microsoft
Operating system is an affirmative obligation on the part
of Microsoft. This falls into the category that two wrongs
do not make a right. While I am of the opinion that, based
on years of following the business practices of the
company Microsoft has engaged in anti-competitive
business practices with repsect to its browser and
other offerings by tying them to licensing of the Windows
operating system, the technical (not business) integration
has been done fairly. Further, the integration of WWW
services with the desktop and operating system is a good
thing. Companies such as AOL have paid significant resources
to obtain real-estate on the Windows desktop as a business
decision. Forcing Microsoft to include Netscape Communicator
a) creates an unfair forfeit of business revenue, and b)
creates a duopoly in which innovation is stifled by fixing
the definition of what a WWW browser is to those two options
at the exclusion of others. The WWW is rapidly changing in that
what users traditionally think of as a WWW browser wll soon
no longer apply. Tradition in 40 years of software shows
that as services become useful, they are spread to all
parts of a system. As an analogy, let me refer you to
the US Joint Chief's remarks aobut GPS: "It's like oxygen,
everyone on the battlefield will have it". The WWW
is like oxygen too. Its ease of adoption and ability
to integrate with almost any software ensures a level
playing field. Like oxygen (or GPS), it is difficult
to limit the use of it by one side. Also,
networking software, graphical user interfaces, and
software suites all have commonality that at one point
started out as a single library or application.
Rather than forcing Microsoft to unbundle their technical integrations,
I propose an alternative below.

Secondly, Microsoft has argued that the integration of the WWW and
WWW protocols and standards is crucial to the innovation of
their operating system. They have made it a number one priority
for their flagship products. As a DOJ official,
I would grant them that, but then I would ensure that their company
can not use this realm of competition to further their interest
in other markets by forcing them to spinoff other parts of
their company. In short, as 10+ years have shown with
the Baby Bells, splitting up of Microsoft could and should be
a legitimate alternative. What scares me about the DOJ actions
and words thus far is the indication that the DOJ would tell
Microsoft how to split their company. For example, the DOJ
is insisting that Microsoft unbundle their WWW offerings from
the Windows Operating System. While this may be a valid decision
based on legalities and business practices, it is a bad decision
based on technical criteria. Microsoft should be able to choose
their own priorities and remove the groups or divisions that
would satisfy antitrust provisions. Also, it has been reported
that the DOJ is considering breaking up Microsoft into equal
parts with equal funds and resources at their own choosing.
Not all parts will need equal capitalization. In addition,
I strongly feel that Microsoft should be allowed to make their
own determinations within broad DOJ antitrust guidelines.
While Microsoft has exhibited some
anti-competitive practices over the years, I think it would
be a mistake to force them to be non-competitive through
dissection of the company along artificial lines.

In this case, it is my opinion that the DOJ needs to exercise
its oversight. However, I would caution the DOJ not to be overzealous
in their intrusion into the commerce of the US software industry
beyond what is necessary to ensure free-enterprise and robust

Gregory Alan Bolcer