Microsoft Takes It to the Street

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If Microsoft sneezes, the U.S. economy catches cold. That's the word from Redmond, where CFO Greg Maffei dashed off an open letter to major financial analysts, software companies and other business partners over the weekend. Maffei insists that any Justice Department-mandated delay on Windows 98 will be bad news -- not just for the entire IT industry, but the economic health of the nation itself. "Regulatory authorities should not ignore the broad, two-way nature of the benefits that flow from our business," warned Maffei -- pointing out that the GDP gains $4 for every $1 spent on their software.

This widely publicized Wall Street broadside followed last week's "spontaneous" protest from computer manufacturers, and shows the software giant's scrambling to fend off an upcoming antitrust assault from state attorneys general and the DOJ. "This is just Microsoft flexing its muscles," says TIME Daily editor Joshua Quittner. "They're showing how deep their influence extends." One problem for the Redmond boys: If they're that powerful, doesn't it prove the DOJ argument that Microsoft equals monopoly?