The March issue of MediaNomics noted that in the
stories about the Justice Department's
antitrust case against Microsoft, reporters had failed to mention
what many economists had observed: The record of Microsoft's
feared ability to tie products to its operating system is spotty at
Well, network reporters are at it again. On April 21, when
Microsoft attorneys and the Justice Department clashed in federal
court, all three network evening news shows ran stories about the
case, but they all ignored Microsoft's
This is not to say the networks were completely biased against
the giant software maker. All either mentioned arguments against the
Justice Department case or ran soundbites from those sympathetic to
For instance, NBC's
Pete Williams, in addition to running a soundbite from a Microsoft
competitor, ran one from an antitrust historian, who argued that the
computer industry changes so fast that
"by the time the case was
over, whoever won, the computer industry would bear no resemblance
to the computer industry today. And it would end up describing
ancient history rather than current events."
While ABC's Peter
Jennings ominously warned that "millions
of everyday computer users are still anxious that the more
omnipresent Microsoft becomes, the more we computer users will have
to do things the Bill Gates way,"
his colleague Betsy Stark noted that
"Microsoft supporters say
with one standard to conform to, the cost of making a computer has
gone down, and so has the price of buying one."
And though CBS correspondent Bill Whitaker spoke of Microsoft
"force feeding its new
Internet software to the vast number of computer makers who use its
Windows operating system,"
he also ran a soundbite from Microsoft's
Rick Rule, who said that "the
issue here is ultimately whether, in our economy, we're
better off having the goverment get involved in making product
But they all simply assumed that Microsoft is powerful enough to
make customers buy what they don't
want. As Wayne Crews, fellow in regulatory studies at the
Competitive Enterprise Institute, has noted, such bundling fears are
"A popular myth today is that a savvy company can
routinely leverage a 'monopoly'
in one product to force on consumers a product they do not want.
Companies lack this ability,"
he writes. "Microsoft was
unable to sell consumers on its Microsoft Network rival to America
Online -- even though MSN
had been 'bundled'
with the Windows 95 operating system. Similarly, Microsoft Money
still lags behind Quicken."
Crews further notes that "Netscape,
not Microsoft, dominates today's
browser market, and retains every opportunity to maintain dominance
by satisfying customers."
As MediaNomics goes to print, the Justice
Department and several state attorneys general are set to block the
release of Windows 98. In reporting on these events, will the
networks continue to ignore Microsoft's
less-than-perfect record of tying products to its operating system?