SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, VOL. I: An outstanding piece by Megan McArdle
on why Netscape deserves to lose its civil suit against Microsoft, regardless of the dirty tricks playd by the latter against the former.
On her website,
Megan amplifies on her article and notes:
The funny thing about the Netscape/Microsoft battle is that it's possible to argue that it was Netscape that acted like a monopoly: sitting there fat, dumb, and happy while someone else took their market share away.
... They built a great product, but they were not as aggressive about improvements as Microsoft was, especially on the consumer side. Unfortunately, they got a little soft in the days when they were the only game in town. Confident that there was no real competition from Microsoft, they introduced a passable browser -- Communicator 4.5 -- and some reportedly iffy server software. ... Netscape pretty clearly thought that it could takes its customers for granted because -- well, because it was Netscape. That's monopoly thinking.
Netscape was too confident that users would continue to use its technology simply because it was already the dominant technology in the market. They took the wrong lessons from Microsoft. Microsoft is not the technology leader in the market (by a long shot), but that doesn't mean the company doesn't innovate. It focuses its innovation on consumer features, which is what makes it so successful. Netscape assumed that once it had established dominance, it didn't matter that much what the company sold because the brand and the network effects would carry it. That's an assumption Microsoft never made, which is why it's around today.
For more food for thought defending Microsoft against one of the most common charges levied against it - namely, that Microsoft is the beneficiary of "path dependence" (that for reasons unrelated to quality, an "inferior" product became standard and made it inefficient to switch to the "superior" competitior), see this summary in the Economist
of a book by Stan Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis called Winners, Losers and Microsoft.
(The most famous example of supposed "path dependence" is the QWERTY keyboard layout, which is supposedly less efficient than other models
but gained currency through historical accidents. Liebowitz and Margolis debunk that example,