If You Define the Market Narrowly Enough, Monopolies Are Everywhere
from the fun-with-definitions dept
However, in recent filings, ten states and the District of Columbia argued that Microsoft is still a monopoly facing no serious competition from Google, Mozilla, or other firms. They're seeking to have federal monitoring of Microsoft's business practices under antitrust law extended until 2012. To make their case, they've stuck to the narrow definition of the relevant market they adopted in the 1990s, arguing that Microsoft has a monopoly for "Intel-compatible PC operating systems." I'm not sure that definition made sense in the 1990s, but it certainly doesn't make sense now. Microsoft's smartest competitors haven't attempted to launch a frontal assault on the company's operating system business. Instead, they've focused on beating Microsoft in related markets, including search engines, mobile phones, music players, and consoles. Companies like Apple and Google now enjoy commanding market shares in those markets, and their dominant position in those markets gives them considerable leverage and customer loyalty. If Microsoft forced its customers to choose between Windows or iTunes, or between Windows or Google, a lot of them would choose the latter. There's no longer any serious reason to worry that Microsoft's large Windows market share will allow it to squelch innovation in the technology industry, because Microsoft now faces a lot more competition on a lot more fronts than it did in 1998. The rise of web-based applications has made it far easier for companies to get their products into consumers hands, and the rapidly-growing mobile market gives companies some new platforms to target that aren't controlled by Microsoft. Most of this competition is outside of the "Intel-compatible PC operating system" market, but that definition of the market was always somewhat arbitrary, and it looks ludicrously narrow now.