By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-06-02 Print this article Print

There is an old Microsoft story that comes to mind. I dont know if its true, but it has Bill Gates screaming at someone over losing a $100 sale. And he was yelling not so much because Microsoft didnt get the money, but because a Microsoft competitor did. There is always a concern when MS starts giving away something that other companies sell. This is how PowerPoint was foisted on a world that had previously been happily buying (much better) presentation software from companies such as Micrografx and Software Publishing.
The "free" PowerPoint was included in the then-new Microsoft Office bundle, and you know how that worked out.
A number of years ago, at a time when it seemed that Japan was about to purchase everything worth having in the United States, there was tremendous concern about something called "dumping." This was where the Japanese were accused of selling a product, steel as I remember, in the United States for less than it cost to produce it. This was supposed to be how Japan Inc. planned to drive American steelmakers out of business, only to raise prices later. This isnt what Microsoft is doing—not exactly. The first copy of a piece of software is very expensive to produce, but every copy after that is gravy. Thats different from how the steel industry works, but whatever Microsoft has invested in anti-spam wont be earned back by giving it away. For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. As a customer, good, free software is clearly in my self-interest. But is it in my enlightened self-interest? Thats what the Microsoft legal battles never really addressed. And if I were a lawyer, I could take either side of the issue. There are valid points on both sides. I am not, for example, convinced that Microsofts blowing away competitors has been bad for anyone but the competitors themselves. But its also impossible to say what would have happened if the competition hadnt dried up so completely. The battle with spam is moving toward authentication. Click here to read more. On the other hand, no company has the "right" to stay in business if customers dont want to buy its products. Unfair competition, however, is to be avoided. But whats unfair about giving customers more for less, over and over again? I am undecided about this, but I do know one thing: The anti-spam industry may be the next group of Microsoft competitors to seek a judges answer. Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

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One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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