Economist Franklin Fisher, the final government witness in the antitrust case against Microsoft Corporation, wrapped up his cross-examination today, stating that "'Where do you want to go today?' is going to be wherever Microsoft wants to take you." Fisher says that Microsoft's monopoly of the PC operating system business gives it an unfair--and illegal--advantage to push other technology on a unsuspecting public. He did agree, however, that consumers haven't yet been hurt by Microsoft actions.
"During most predatory pricing campaigns you could say consumers benefit: they're getting lower prices. It's what happens apart from that you have to worry about," he said. Fisher suggested that Microsoft could charge whatever it wants for Internet Explorer once it finally crushes Netscape.
He also offered up some interesting comments about companies such as Apple Computer and Netscape, which have alleged that Microsoft has tried to destroy their products. In both cases, Microsoft says that the companies were themselves to blame, either because of the technical inferiority of their products or bad marketing.
"That's like saying an attempted murder at gunpoint should not be considered a crime because it was shown the victim was going to die of terminal cancer," Fisher said.
Meanwhile, the written testimony of Richard Schmalensee, dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management, the first Microsoft witness, was released by the court this week. Schmalensee is expected to take the stand later this week. He says that consumers have benefited from Microsoft's low prices and that the integration of Internet Explorer with Windows is "pro-competitive," not anti-competitive.
Schmalensee says that Microsoft should be held to a different standard than powers in other industries because of the way that computer industry leaders can be ousted so quickly by smaller and faster competitors. Sloan uses WordPerfect as an example: The product was once the market leader and an industry powerhouse but it's now considered an also-ran.
Schmalensee summarized his massive 324 page testimony with the following bullet-points:
- Consumers have benefited from Microsoft's actions.
- Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly over the PC software market.
- Windows is not a choke point when it comes to software distribution.
- Microsoft didn't prevent Netscape from distributing its browser.
- Including Web functionality into the OS improves the platform and therefore is pro-competitive.
- Microsoft Windows is successful in the marketplace because the company keeps improving it.
- Netscape has not been hindered by Microsoft and has enough users to attract developers.
- AOL's pending purchase of Netscape could threaten Microsoft's position.
- Remedies proposed by the plaintiffs would hurt consumers and competition.