Busting up Microsoft: Readers' views

When I asked in my last column why breaking up Microsoft is not being debated seriously in the current antitrust lawsuits readers rushed to respond.

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In a column last month ("Is it time to bust up Microsoft?"), I asked why breaking up Microsoft is not being debated seriously in the current antitrust lawsuits. Readers rushed to respond.

"I think your analysis is a bit too glib and lacks substance," wrote Tom Anderson, who nonetheless didn't side with Microsoft. Only about 5 of 33 responses did.

"Microsoft and Intel are the only two companies that seem to be pulling this silly computer age in the same direction," wrote John Dwinnell. "I have no sympathy for these other companies that are unable to successfully compete. If their products were really worth anything, market forces would surely be on their side and neither Microsoft or Intel would be where they are today."

Obviously, not everyone toed the Microsoft line, but this topic becomes ever more relevant as Microsoft's antitrust trial nears. Hoping to advance that debate, here's a sample of reader feedback from readers. But first, let's replay my original argument:

The most obvious break-up strategy would split Microsoft into three companies: an operating system company, an applications developer, and a media company.

Breaking up Microsoft might be more dangerous than keeping it intact, some think, because mini-Microsofts would still act as predators by duplicating Microsoft's utter lack of self-control and of a sense of propriety. Breaking up Microsoft would cut R&D spending too.

Unlike the AT&T break-up in 1982, splintering Microsoft won't unleash an entrepreneurial spirit, since Microsoft already has it. And busting up Microsoft would hit only half of the so-called "Wintel duopoly," the earlier column concluded.

Not to worry on Intel, suggested reader Scott Prive. Its monopoly is eroding anyway. "Intel cannot keep competition out of the marketplace as effectively as Microsoft. There's plenty of competition and fewer barriers for Intel's outdated CPU design."

Numerous readers pointed to Windows as the key element in Microsoft's power.

"Without the overwhelming advantages of a monopoly on the operating system, the other facets of Microsoft would be unable to engage in predatory practices," wrote Bob Ehly.

John Duff, apparently a civilian at an avowed Microsoft adversary, added: "Microsoft wields all of its power from Windows. Because it controls the operating system, it always has an upper hand in developing apps for it. Not to mention a monopoly-guaranteed multibillion dollar revenue stream to fund those projects."

Don't overplay the aggressive corporate culture, Duff urged: "The attitude means nothing without the monopoly. [Microsoft] would then just be a bunch of jerks."