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Take Your Choice: Apple or IBM, It's Still Microsoft

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My office has become an electronic dueling ground. On one side sits my Pentium computer; on the other, a brand-new Power Macintosh. Both machines claim to offer the best platform for desktop computing. In a few weeks, they'll battle for my heart.

For the moment, I shuttle between the two, loading new software here, typing in a macro there. This back-and-forth dalliance puts a new perspective on things. But no matter who wins the duel, the real victor will be an onlooker peering from the woods.

It didn't hit me until I started playing with the Mac how dependent we've become on a single software company. Look for Mac business software and you can't help running into Microsoft. Turn on a rival Pentium, or any IBM-compatible machine, and it's almost impossible not to bump into a DOS prompt or Windows logo, both courtesy of Microsoft.

These are vague misgivings, I know. But others are voicing them too.

Last month, US District Judge Stanley Sporkin rejected the antitrust settlement Microsoft had worked out with the Justice Department, saying it was too narrow. Signing it would have sent a message, he said, ''that Microsoft is so powerful that neither the market nor the government is capable of dealing with all its monopolistic practices.''

Many antitrust experts expect the judge to be overruled and Microsoft will merely get its wrists slapped. But Lotus President Jim Manzi suggests that antitrust laws be overhauled to take account of Microsoft's new kind of technology-based monopoly. Meanwhile, the chairman of Europe's largest computer dealer made headlines last week, saying he would not ship machines loaded with Microsoft's DOS. Imagine that! Making news for not including a piece of software.

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