Miner Thoughts
My Mac Magazine #39, July ’98

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to crush other software companies with a single stroke! Look! Up in Washington! It’s a czar! It’s a megalomaniac! No, it’s Supernerd! … Who, disguised as Bill Gates, fights the never ending battle for profit, superiority, and the Microsoft way!

During the last few months we found Supernerd attempting to placate the concerns of the U.S. Justice Department which is claiming that his “Kingdom of Microsoft” is in violation of government antitrust laws. A committee was formed and Senate hearings convened. Supernerd was called on the judiciary carpet to answer questions about his highly profitable software company, and Nosy, In-Your-Face Senators, who apparently know nothing about running a successful business tried to force Supernerd to include one of his major competitors products in the next release of his highly popular operating system. The ever cordial and polite Supernerd, wearing his Bill Gates disguise, calmly responded with that now famous quote, “What you are asking is unreasonable and tantamount to telling the Coca-Cola company that it has to include three cans of Pepsi with every six pack of Coke they sell.”

The committee leaders had a quick huddle among themselves, thinking that Supernerd had a pretty good idea and decided to form another committee to see if maybe they could get Coke to do just that. Go figure!

The Microsoft hearings broke up with no resolutions or agreements struck. The whole mess will now be laid into the hands of corporate and governmental lawyers and spend the next several years tied up in court. Not exactly what Supernerd had hoped for, but still, it will allow him to keep right on earning billions of dollars a year and keep a whole slew of lawyers out of the unemployment line.

I now read that Microsoft is not the only company the government is accusing of antitrust practices. It seems that Intel is also getting the evil eye from Uncle Sam.

Intel is being accused of withholding their intellectual property rights from other smaller companies that don’t want to suck up to, or play by Intel’s rules.

To this I say, “So what?”

When I was a kid and the only place in the neighborhood that was big enough to play baseball was in Johnny Turnipseed’s backyard, it was an unwritten law that he got to make up the ground rules of the game. Nobody argued when Johnny told us that a foul ball hit into his mothers squash and tomato garden was an automatic out, or that if you hit the house it was two outs, and hitting a window in the house was three outs. Strange rules maybe, but hell, it was his yard! We either played by his rules or we went home.

So if Intel wants to make up its own rules while these other companies are playing in Intel’s yard and using Intel properties, so be it. You either play by the rules or pick up your balls and go home.

I was flabbergasted when one William Baer, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, said at a news conference. “As a monopolist, Intel can compete by producing better, cheaper and more attractive products. It cannot use its monopoly power like a club.”

Oh! Excuuuuse me! How dare Intel use its power to produce better, cheaper and more attractive products. We can’t be having any of that now, can we?

Maybe we should enact a law that only allows Intel and Microsoft to earn, ummm…, let’s say 3 billion dollars profit per year. Any profits over that amount we can confiscate and give to these other less fortunate, less innovative, smaller companies. Sure, that may reek of communism and it would surely stifle the technological advancements of the whole computer industry, but hey, it’ll give the smaller guy a better chance to catch up, right? While we’re at it maybe we should restrict the earnings of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler too, and give their excess profits to the Yugo company so they can have another go at it with their piece of a sorry excuse for a car.

Wrong. The day we let the government start punishing companies for being “too successful” will be the day we see the end of our free market economy. Haven’t any of these idiot politicians ever heard of supply and demand?

If the people don’t like what Microsoft or Intel are doing, they don’t have to buy their products. And I don’t concede to the argument that the whole world is already so financially committed to these products that they need to be protected from the likes of Supernerd and Intel. In fact, I don’t hear much whining at all coming from the computing masses. The real crybabies are Microsoft’s and Intel’s competitors.

I realize that when Supernerd started giving away his browser for free, it put a big hurt on the Netscape company who until that time had pretty much owned the browser market and made huge profits from it. But hey, if people want to use a slightly inferior browser because it’s free or because it’s conveniently packaged in every box of Windoze, that’s their prerogative. If Supernerd wants to integrate his browser so deeply into his operating system that people don’t have a choice but to use it, that’s also his prerogative. (Which, by the way, he has not yet done. You can still use other browsers besides Internet Explorer.) But if he did, and the masses of Windows users decided they didn’t like not having a choice, don’t you think they would eventually start looking elsewhere for a system that did give them a choice? The Mac, for instance?

Of course by that time there may not be any other browsers to choose from. But if the demand is there, someone will come along and fill it.

My reasoning to defend the business practices of Supernerd and Intel may be somewhat naive and simplistic but that’s because I’m a naive and simplistic kind of guy. So please don’t deluge me (I consider more than two emails a deluge) with letters pointing out the flaws and idiocy of my reasoning. I am already well aware of my limited abilities to think things out rationally and communicate those thoughts to you, the reader. That’s why you’re not being charged anything to read this column.

As much as I hate to see the Justice Department trying to handcuff the advancements and innovations of Microsoft and Intel, I can’t help but wonder what effect a broken-up Microsoft would have on the rest of the industry, Apple in particular. Would Supernerd get so frustrated that he would abandon Microsoft, take over Apple and propel it to the forefront of the industry where it belongs? Only time will tell.

Pete Miner

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