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Meier, Dennis

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The Browser War: An Ethical Analysis of the Struggle between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The ongoing antitrust battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft Corporation presents technical communicators with two ethical questions: 1) Is it right, good, or fair for Microsoft to give away its Internet Explorer browser? 2) If Microsoft gains monopoly control over the PC browser market, will this be good for us? This article examines these questions using traditional rights-based ethical theory (Kant), utilitarianism, and John Rawls principles of justice, concluding that it is neither good nor fair for a company having a near-monopoly over a market to sell products below fair market value, nor is it good that one company stands to gain monopoly control over the PC browser market. When the discussion turned to Netscape, one Intel executive, who asked not to be identified, recalled Martiz [Paul Martiz, Microsoft Group Vice President, Platforms & Application] saying: "We are going to cut off their air supply. Everything they re selling, we re going to give away for free" [1]. "We re giving away a pretty good browser as part of the operating system. How long can they survive selling it?"--Statement by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft President and CEO [2]. "Our business model works even if all Internet software is free," says Mr. Gates. "We are still selling operating systems." <em>Netscape</em>, in contrast, is dependent upon its Internet software for profits, he points out.--Statements by Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman [3]. Only a monopolist could study a competitor and destroy its business by giving away products--Statement by Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems Chairman [4].

Meier, Dennis. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>TC>Ethics>Web Browsers