Gates' Loss: Consumers' Win?

The Justice Department ruling against Microsoft could lead to a major victory for the buying public, analysts say, because the software behemoth would have to stop the way it has manipulated the computer industry.

"They reduce the choices that consumers have," says James Love of the Consumer Project of America, "they foist on consumers an operating system that doesn't work very well if you use their competitors products."

The judge found that by using its monopoly power, Microsoft has been able to charge higher prices.

One case in point: a confidential 1997 memo revealed that although Microsoft could have charged only $49 for an upgrade to its Windows program, the actual cost was $89. ThatÂ's almost double the fair market price.

But many consumers don't seem to mind the fact that Microsoft dominates the world's computer systems, reports CBS MarketWatch Correspondent Stacey Tisdale. Some say Microsoft's one stop shopping approach to computers and the Internet has made the high-tech world a lot more user-friendly.

"For the consumer point of view, I would consider Microsoft a benevolent monopoly," says Robin Raskin, Editor of Family PC Magazine, who believes the software giant must make Windows a better, more reliable product - or else.

"If Microsoft doesn't increase their reliability of their operating system, whether it's WindowsCE on their handhelds or Windows on their desktops, they're in major trouble."

Meanwhile, the judge in this case has made it clear that that won't happen unless the Microsoft monopoly comes to an end.