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What is the Microsoft Trial Going to Mean for Consumers?Aired June 3, 2000 - 8:17 a.m. ET
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MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A federal judge's final ruling on the expected breakup of Microsoft could come next week. Government lawyers want a delay in their antitrust case, saying they wanted to explore areas of possible agreement with the software giant on secondary issues -- whatever that all means.
Joining us from New York to talk about the case and how a breakup could affect consumers is Steve Hamm, associate editor for "Business Week."
And, Steve, lets get right to the primary issue, shall we? What is this all going to mean for consumers?
STEVE HAMM, "BUSINESS WEEK": Well, it doesn't harm consumers in the short term, I think. If Microsoft is broken up, people will -- the different divisions of Microsoft will continue to do things to improve the operating system on the one hand, Windows, for either consumers or for companies, and, you know, most people get their technology from PC companies or from their ISV these days. So a little bit of disruption on the Microsoft side really isn't going to affect them in a very direct way.
O'BRIEN: Anybody who's sat in front of their computer screen for any length of time and seen that blue screen of death might be concerned that various pieces of the pie, so to speak, don't work well together once there's a breakup of Microsoft. Do you have any concerns in that area?
HAMM: No, I don't. And I'll tell you, as a matter of fact, I think one of the things that a breakup would do is it would get Microsoft's people to focus more and more on making a better PC. I mean, here we have these PCs, they've been around for, you know, a couple decades. They still don't work. I mean, PCs should work as well as your washing machine does, and as reliably.
O'BRIEN: Yes, can you imagine if you had to reboot your washing machine as much as you did your PC. You'd be pretty upset, wouldn't you?
HAMM: Yes, you'd tear out your hair.
O'BRIEN: All right, what -- let me ask you this. It seems to me there's a trend under way in the market in general right now which is moving computers away from the all-present, the all-doing, the all- seeing, all-wonderful PC into lots of little computers that do very specialized tasks, and left to its own devices the market might take care of the Microsoft size issue without any intervention from the federal government. What do you think?
HAMM: Well, it is true that Microsoft's position in the computer industry has been diminished. They dominate the PC industry as much as they ever have, but now they're in a bigger world. The Internet is really a mix of the computer industry, the telecommunications industry and entertainment, and Microsoft is less of a factor there.
But the great thing about the Internet is it's based on common standards, so communication, collaboration, getting entertainment across the wires can be done reliably, with good service. And, you know, I think there's some concern that, you know, that Microsoft -- from the government that Microsoft could kind of clough that up if they insist on trying to make everything work with Windows.
O'BRIEN: Well, so, is the government a day late and a dollar short on this?
HAMM: A day late and a dollar short? I would say no. I mean, they're really, you know, the case is partly about the PC industry, and it would have some positive affects on the PC industry if there were more freedom of innovation, if PC companies were less under the thumb of Microsoft. But at the same time, the Internet is a very important thing for our economy, extremely important for our economy, and the government is saying don't screw with this. And they're telling that to Microsoft, and that's a warning to any other technology company that tries to do the same thing.
O'BRIEN: All right, in so many words they're saying that anyhow. Steve Hamm, who is an associate editor with "Business Week" magazine, joining us from New York, thanks for being with us on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. HAMM: My pleasure.
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