Stave Off Microsoft?Capitalism is the economic arm of American democracy, the system we live under that makes certain the obviously organic hunger in some individuals for riches and power gets counterbalanced by an equally obvious organic obsession in others to tear the idol down.

In the computer universe, there's no denying that Bill Gates is an idol: Microsoft has positioned itself as the powerful gatekeeper to the wired world. It's an elevation that's been achieved as much by tactics as by weaponry. The speech to his troops: the easier the interface for customers, the better. "In the software industry," notes one participant in the tech wars, "the company is legendary for the way it targets a rival, dissects its strengths and weaknesses, then finds a way to devour its market. Think about Borland, Lotus, WordPerfect, and Novell. Each was mighty in its day, but they were hobbled after Microsoft set its sights on them."

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