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All Things Considered. Washington, D.C.: Nov 9, 1999.  pg. 1
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Publication title: All Things Considered. Washington, D.C.: Nov 9, 1999.  pg. 1
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ProQuest document ID: 351780981
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Copyright 1999)


This is NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

One definition of monopoly power has to do with whether the power has an adverse effect on consumers. In his findings of fact in the Microsoft case, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson determined that Microsoft was a monopoly and that its practices had harmed software buyers. But people who use Microsoft's programs are divided on that question. And at least one antitrust expert says it's the wrong question to ask. NPR's Elaine Korry reports from San Francisco.


The software aisle of this Bay Area Office Depot displays hundreds of titles; everything from the Windows 98 Office upgrade to a virtual aquarium for children. Most shoppers here are familiar with last week's finding that declared Microsoft a monopoly. Dennis Markham(ph), a financial consultant, says, `Microsoft did bully manufacturers and other software vendors.' But he can see Microsoft's side as well.

MR. DENNIS MARKHAM (FINANCIAL CONSULTANT): There's a lot of people that don't like Microsoft. There's a lot of people that don't like Bill Gates. Just like there's a lot of people that don't like Starbucks. You know, it's like the evil empire. But, you know, they make products that work, so. And people still buy them obviously. And it is good to have competition, but you can't blame the guy for going out and, you know, creating what's he's created.

KORRY: Markham says, `Maybe five years from now, everyone will be better off because of the judge's finding. On the other hand', he says, `it's just as likely that consumers will face different problems.'

MR. MARKHAM: It may turn out like the phone companies, you know, where you have all this choice on long-distance companies and you don't know which one to chose and which one's the best one and people just get confused over it. And that may be the result.

KORRY: Antitrust law can be a double-edge sword for consumers. It's not always clear how they will fair if an old monopoly is broken up. Charles Ardai is the president and CEO of Juno Online Services.

MR. CHARLES ARDAI (PRESIDENT AND CEO, Juno Online Services): It's generally the case of monopolies are bad for consumers, but standardization, by and large, is good, especially with regard to technology products.

KORRY: `For example,' says Ardai, `if video cassettes came in 10 standards rather than one, you couldn't be sure that the one you bought would fit in the machine you have.' According to Ardai, both Windows and Internet Explorer have given consumers certain advantages.

MR. ARDAI: That said, what no consumer can know, is how much he or she was hurt by the fact that entrepreneurs chose not to go into certain lines of business for fear that Microsoft would precede them there or if following them there would crush them.

KORRY: Even though they may never know what they lost, Ardai says, `Reining in Microsoft's aggressive practices will benefit consumers over the long run. But economist Moshe Adler says, `The outcome for consumers is actually beside the point.'

MR. MOSHE ADLER (ECONOMIST, Former Professor at Rutgers University): Once the Sherman Act was passed, it was passed not to protect consumers, but to protect the consumers who wish, one day, to become producers.

KORRY: Adler, a former professor at Rutgers University, says, `The US antitrust laws were passed more than a 100 years ago out of public outrage over Standard Oil, which was gobbling up all the competitors. What's often forgotten,' says Adler, `is that Standard Oil was actually lowering prices to consumers at the time. The true intent of the law,' says Adler, `was not to protect them, but to protect the opportunity for new companies to compete.'

MR. ADLER: What should be protected is a way of life. The ability of people to become entrepreneurs for themselves; to become self-employed, to have an idea and run with it. And before they entered production, they shouldn't be bothered with the question: Will Microsoft use its control of Windows to go after a software application that has absolutely nothing to do with an operating system? But in the case of Netscape, that's exactly what Microsoft did.

KORRY: Adler says, `It is on that criterion alone that Microsoft should be judged. And,' he says, `based on that standard, Microsoft clearly violated the law.' Elaine Korry, NPR News, San Francisco.

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