Thank you for the invitation to express a view on this issue. I don't pretend to know the fine detail of American policies on issues like free trade & competition, free enterprise, consumer rights, and monopolistic practices.
I can therefore speak only as a user of various softwares, and internet user (average 6 hours/week). I am an aircraft pilot by profession, and believe I am in the minority group of Mankind which subscribes to the idea that "most" machinery and tools of any complexity (except the really dead simple ones), come with instruction manuals for a very good reason. Consequently, now that the learning curve is flattening out, I enjoy the flexibility and precision with which I can create and manipulate documents in WordPerfect (v7) (using the 'reveal-codes' to full advantage). Furthermore, with Corel's influence, the graphical elements and philosophies evident in WordPerfect are nothing short of dazzling.
I do not, however, enjoy working in Microsoft's Word, which I believe is inflexible, awkward and clumsy. Word limits 'confusing choices' in the name of 'ease of use', and keeping the user 'on-track' - and like a train on a track, there is but one way to go. But Word has the numbers! I enjoy using Netscape (v4.04) as my internet access tool. It is a breath of fresh air compared with the convoluted, clumsy, and awkward (those words again) methods that Microsoft's IE requires to establish or change settings for a start!
And with the release of Win98 and it's integrated IE, I think IE will also soon 'have the numbers'. I cannot make a comparative comment on Operating Systems, as I have not used any other than Microsoft's. I can say, however, that I bet I'm not the only one who found the process of setting up (a) a DUN connection, and (b) a DCC - Direct Cable Connection, to be a very 'bitty', error prone, and badly explained set of procedures. Elegant it was not!
And as for paying a substantial amount of money for a collection of bug fixes just released on CD yesterday - as a registered buyer of Win95 in the first place, MS should have sent it me, and every other registered user, FREE! (Don't you love the reasons given on the product registration cards for registering - "So you can receive advice on product improvements, etc etc etc" - HA bloody HA)The point of the above ('30 second grab' references to WordPerfect and Netscape) is that it would be sad if innovative and elegant products like these were extinguished under a mountain of Microsoft mediocrity. It would be tragic if Microsoft were able to achieve it's desires of dominance by leveraged monopoly and sheer weight of numbers and therefore marketing muscle, rather than by genuine innovation and excellence. But, I'm a realist, and recognise that VHS won the war with Betamax (but not because it was better), and that Wintel won the war with Apple (same proviso). I also understand that a Microsoft shareholder would view things differently. And money talks, does it not?