Re: Bill Gates and Nuclear Weapons

Ernest Prabhakar (
Thu, 23 Oct 97 09:03:22 -0700

Surreal indeed, as someone who does not wish to be archived put =

Obviously I'm biased, but that seems like an awfully whiny tone =
for WSJ to take. I mean, blaming DOJ for bad schools when =
they're focusing on enforcing consent decrees and anti-trust law, =
the way their paid to do. Of course, if you think the DOJ should =
preferentially be helping companies which really try to make life =
better for schools... never mind.

Is there anyone on this list who does NOT believe that computing =
could easily be 2000% better than it currently is? Is there =
anyone who thinks a MS-only world is the best way to get there?

Microsoft is a great competitor - let them compete! But let the =
rest of us compete, too. Or do you think we have not gained =
anything in innovation by breaking up AT&T?

-- Ernie P.

P.S. Not that I'm saying anyone would really try to ship another =
operating system on PCs, or anything like that....

Begin forwarded message:

The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition -- October 22, 1997
Review & Outlook
On Pestering Microsoft

Technologically, man has just come down out of the trees in the =
past 15
years or so. On almost every desk nowadays, and in almost every =
there is a computer, and more and more of those computers are tied =
a limitlessly expanding universe of other computers.
The world is much changed, in other words, and for the better.
Of course it is an exceedingly interesting question how much =
"better" could be if the Justice Department would just tweak this =
that aspect of Microsoft's marketing strategy. Why, instead of =
better, things might be 1,001% better or even 1,002%. With a tug =
and a push there, the combination of affordability, features and
performance might be a little more optimal for significant numbers =
consumers. But, wait. It might be a little less optimal for other
consumers. Oh dear. This is harder than we thought.
Still, if we tinker with pricing to take away a certain type of =
discount that Microsoft offers to computer makers, the makers =
might say,
what the heck, let's offer an alternative operating system to =
and see if anybody wants it. And so Justice a few years ago forced =
consent decree to change Microsoft's pricing strategy. Result: =
Never mind, that's because of the Internet. So what if we decide =
something wrong with the way Microsoft has gone about =
incorporating its
web browser into its desktop operating system? Can't we make it so =
customers might buy Netscape's browser instead? Then more people =
be patronizing a company that doesn't have a stake in Microsoft =
so everybody might make more use of Sun's Java, which might help =
sell more Internet servers that don't use Windows NT, so =
computing might take off as an alternative to Windows and then =
we'd be
free, free at last, from Microsoft, which has so darkened the =
hopes of
mankind, etc.
Well, at least somebody somewhere might be 1% better off.
In honor of this vague and speculative goal, which presumes an
impossible knowledge of technology, markets and the interaction of =
zillion factors, the Justice Department on Monday petitioned a =
court to
fine Microsoft $1 million a day until it changes the way its sells =
Solving the "problem" of Microsoft--just the most successful =
company in
a rapidly expanding new industry--might seem like a strange =
priority for
law enforcement. But maybe it's the same principle by which some =
prefer to treat the healthy, teachers prefer to teach the gifted, =
editors like to rework prose that's already fabulous.
No, we are not about to gush about Bill Gates, who strikes us =
as an astute reader of the opportunities and a CEO who perhaps has
slightly less propensity to be blinded by his own wishes than the
average CEO. He adapts well. He usually makes the right moves =
while they
still have some valency, though we suspect that in time a =
combination of
vanity, inhibition and rigidity will take its effect, as it does =
on most
people who begin life young but get older as time goes on.
He doesn't frighten us because he has $40 billion on paper, since =
wealth consists almost entirely of Microsoft stock and would =
rapidly if he were not intensely focused on his job. And yet, if =
he ever
shows the least sign of beginning to acquire chemical, biological =
nuclear weapons, rest assured, we'll be in favor of shutting him =
But at the end of the day, we'd say technology and free markets =
working out pretty well. Probably the least pressing problem =
facing the
people in Washington is how to make this aspect of our system work
On the other hand, in the decade and a half it has taken, without =
from Justice, to create the PC industry and the World Wide Web =
and, yes,
to make Bill Gates the planet's richest man, virtually zero =
progress has
been made in improving our schools, on which, by any measure, far =
human welfare and happiness depend. That government should take an
urgent interest in whether Netscape's and Sun's shareholders have =
happy or dismal experience of capitalism in the free market, yet =
care so
little about whether kids in poor neighborhoods have schools worth =
name, seems a cockeyed set of priorities. How do we explain this?
Well, start with lawyers. As Al ("Satan, whatever") Pacino points =
out in
"Devil's Advocate," lawyers are into everything now, as agents of
redistribution and toll-takers on every highway of life. =
success is evident, so naturally its competitors want Microsoft =
down while they nibble at its business. Standing ready to help in
Washington are the serried ranks of antitrust bureaucrats and
headline-hunting politicians, waving the inarticulate prejudices =
of the
antitrust laws and offering their services. We note that Bill =
fund-schmoozing safaris to Silicon Valley haven't slackened any =
the election, while Al Gore dances attendance on every shiny and =
thing to further his idea of what Americans want in a President.
Microsoft is where the money is, so Microsoft is the target. It's =
too bad that so many $400-an-hour brains can't be engaged in =
real problems instead.