Micro$oft Monitor

Published by NetAction Issue No. 3 June 13, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


500 Channels of Bill
About Micro$oft Monitor

500 Channels of Bill

This week's announcement that Microsoft Corporation is buying a $1 billion stake in Comcast Corporation is yet another reminder of the need for stronger enforcement of federal antitrust laws. If Justice Department officials don't take vigorous action to stop the Microsoft monopoly, it won't be long before we're surfing 500 channels of Robber Baron Bill.

Microsoft is on a quest to control both the technology that enables consumers to access the Internet, and the content consumers will find when they get there. As Bill Gates himself said in announcing the cable deal, increased network bandwidth is the key to convergence of the Internet and television -- which is crucial to his goal of delivering video, data, and interactivity into our homes.

The Comcast deal is the latest in a series of forays into media by Microsoft. In April, Microsoft announced an agreement to buy WebTV Networks, Inc. for $425 million in stock and cash. Recently, Justice Department officials asked Microsoft for additional information on the WebTV deal, but it's not apparent that the request will lead to action by antitrust officials.

In July of 1996, Microsoft teamed up with NBC to launch the MSNBC cable channel, and in March of 1995 Microsoft agreed to a joint venture with the film studio DreamWorks SKG. The company is also making forays into local news and advertising in conjunction with the Sidewalk Web sites being launched in several cities.

In Monday's announcement of the cable deal, Comcast said the Microsoft money would be used primarily to upgrade its network, but some reports speculated that the deal would also speed up the roll-out of @Home, the cable modem service, in which Comcast, TCI, and Cox have a financial interest. One analysis of the deal, written by Steve Lohr for the New York Times, noted that Microsoft sees television's switch to digital technology as an opportunity to move into the consumer electronics market.

The possibility of Windows becoming a consumer-electronics platform is a very scary prospect for cyber-consumers. As one industry analyst commented: Can you imagine your TV set crashing, then needing time to re-boot? Or tuning into the Discovery Channel and getting an error message to the effect that the DNS can't resolve the address?

Whether consumers are surfing the Web or channel surfing, NetAction believes we're entitled to real choices. But we need to act now to ensure alternatives to the Microsoft monopoly. Here is how you can help:

About The Micro$oft Monitor

The Micro$oft Monitor is a free electronic newsletter, published as part of the Consumer Choice Campaign http://www.netaction.org/msoft /ccc.html. NetAction is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology-based social and political issues, and to teaching activists how to use the Internet for organizing, outreach, and advocacy.

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Copyright 1997 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source. NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.