Originally created 11/09/99

Microsoft performed better than expected



Microsoft Corp., stung by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling that the company wielded monopolistic power to stifle competition and innovation, says it wants to settle.

The buzz, now, concerns what will happen next.

The Justice Department, elated by the judge's decision, has said it is considering several options and has not ruled out asking for the breakup of the company.

As the case stands now, settlement talks could resolve the dispute.

Microsoft chiefs say that despite what the judge or the government has said, consumers like the company's products. And consumers are waiting to see what will happen.

Locally, the reaction is mixed.

Retailers say the ruling has not kept customers from buying Microsoft products, because as the Justice Department argued, they don't have much choice.

"Your choice is not to use your computer," CompUSA General Manager Keith Campbell said. "So many things need Windows (the Microsoft operating system)."

CompUSA Technical Manager Deon Nelson said he agrees with Microsoft. He said he believes the company makes the best products on the market. A corporate breakup, he fears, could mess that up.

"It concerns me," he said.

Richard Baker, product development director of Computer Masters of Augusta, goes a step further. He says "all Americans should be alarmed," about this and that the government is punishing a company for being too successful.

Retailers are saying it is too early to tell what will happen.

But Lynx Computer Systems owner Larry Rechedy said he believes the judge's ruling is good. Microsoft has been monopolizing the operating system and computer applications industry for years.

"This is the United States," he said. "We're based on competition."

Throwing off Microsoft's stranglehold on the industry is going to be great for consumers, Thomas Gaines with Computer Exchange said. It should offer them more choice and better products, he said.

It also might confuse consumers faced with more choices. Companies such as Computer Exchange will have to spend more time and money on training their sales representatives and technicians.

There already are rival systems, Linux and Sun's Java, for example. But they are not widely used yet, IntelliSystems President Kevin Wade said. Technology is so dynamic that other companies could replace Microsoft's dominance regardless of the lawsuit's outcome.

Jurgen Brauer, an associate professor of economics at Augusta State University, said he agrees with the Justice Department and the judge's ruling and that the sensible outcome is for both sides to settle.

Microsoft's argument that it is simply doing what consumers want does not fly with Dr. Brauer. He does not like Microsoft's products, he points out, but he uses them anyway.

"I have to," he said. "That's exactly the point."

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.