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Oops: NY Times Article

  I have learned that a subscription was necessary to receive that excellent NY
  Times article so here it is in text:
                The Ubiquity of Microsoft
                      The latest attack on Microsoft Corp. by the U.S. Justice
  Department, accusing the software giant of anticompetitive
                      practices, seems to many people like one of those giant
  research projects that boldly proclaims the obvious: "Study
                      proves that mice like cheese!" 
                Everyone knows that Microsoft likes cheese. With ownership of
  more than
                94 percent of the PC market, its taste for toothsome morsels in
  the form of
                competitors and new markets is legendary. 
                But that view of the case is far too narrow. Something more is
                here that demands closer examination. As a society, we have
  chosen to
                remain ignorant about software -- the lingua franca of the
  millennium -- and
                about how the growing ubiquity of these invisible bits of data
                reshapes our approach to almost everything: to art, commerce,
  media and
                communication, and most certainly to business practices. 
                And Microsoft has taken brilliant advantage of that ignorance.
  Many people,
                for example, do not understand how Microsoft's business works
  or how it
                has come to dominate the software industry. 
                The key to Microsoft's success is its strategy of linking its
                operating systems -- the foundation of a PC's operations -- to
  its productivity
                applications, to the Internet, to its consumer products, to its
                tools and to hardware manufacturers in a tight, interdependent
                Whenever it makes a significant modification to Windows -- as
  it did in the
                step from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, for example -- everything
  in the
                chain has to change, too. The entire PC industry is forced to
  bind its product
                development plans to the evolution of Windows to remain
  relevant in the
                And those developing competing software often find themselves a
  half step behind because Microsoft has the advantage of
                being able to create the next generation of its operating
  system while developing the applications that will run on it,
                incorporating new Windows features before competitors know
  about them -- or at least before they fully appreciate their
                nuances and full potential. 
                Customers are also caught in the competitive spiral, being
  constantly pressured to upgrade "obsolete" software -- though
                the definition of obsolescence is debatable. 
                                              And in contrast to
  product-development cycles in old-style manufacturing
                                              businesses like auto making,
  extensive changes to an operating system -- and the
                                              subsequent upgrades they force
  throughout the chain -- require no costly retooling
                                              of assembly lines and no new raw
  materials. The main cost is human capital --
                                              some months of programmers' time.
                                              Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates,
  has denied that this tight linkage of system
                                              software to applications gives
  his company an unfair advantage. Rather, he says, it
                                              is simply a way to keep adding
  value for his customers. 
                In the case brought last month by the Justice Department, Gates
  argued that Microsoft was within its rights to require that
                PC makers who license the operating system include the
  company's World Wide Web browser, Internet Explorer, to
                "preserve a consistent customer experience when using Windows."
  Doing so, he said, was comparable to Ford Motor Co.
                not allowing its dealers to "replace a Ford engine with a
  Toyota engine." 
                Gates did not mention that consumers already have a consistent
  customer experience, plus or minus a few bells and
                whistles, in any brand of car they buy. All have four wheels,
  seat belts, brakes and accelerators, and so on. 
                And unlike Microsoft, which encourages Internet developers to
  design Web sites that can only be viewed with its Explorer
                browser, no auto maker would try to restrict road access to one
  type of car, refusing others or flattening their tires. 
                Gates has also said that the ubiquity of Windows gives
  developers "the incentive and the
                certainty they need" to build products and thus keep the PC
  industry growing and
                innovating. But that argument rings hollow with the
  entrepreneurs who refuse even to start
                a software business for fear of bringing Microsoft crashing
  into their tents. Those who do
                invariably have an exit clause in their business plans that
  states, "... and then we sell the
                company to Microsoft" -- thus providing a steady stream of
  innovation for ... Microsoft. 
                That is life in the free market, the company's defenders say.
  But the Justice Department and a growing number of
                Microsoft competitors are questioning whether such a market is
  truly free. 
                Today, anyone who wants to be a player in technology or media
  has already made, or is likely to make, a deal with
                Microsoft (for a partial list of partnerships, point your
  browser to www.netaction.org/msoft/world/table.html). 
                Among these links in Microsoft's chain are financial
  institutions, Internet transaction companies, Internet access and cable
                television providers, game makers, entertainment and news
  media, giving the company growing control over multimedia
                Internet standards, server operating systems, enterprise
  computing and desktop applications. 
                Microsoft's defenders say that antitrust laws in the United
  States are outdated with respect to emerging technologies, and
                few would argue with that point. But that does not answer the
  question of whether it is possible, given Microsoft's huge
                holdings and its chain-linked business strategy, to compete
  with the company on its own turf. 
                And to date, no one has stepped forward to suggest changes to
  antitrust laws that would better reflect the realities of the
                information age -- laws that would balance free-market vitality
  against the prudence of allowing any single company to
                control so much of our digital future.