Sunday, June 10, 2007

Monopoly Lesson

Any fledging economics student should know that a monopoly is the sole entity that sells a particular product. By definition, monopolies have no competitors.

Why this is important is that sometimes one company will claim its competition is a monopoly--a contradiction in terms. But Google doesn't think so. It's talking to anti-trust officials concerning a built-in search tool in Windows Vista.

For those of you who haven't used Vista, when you bring up the Start menu there's a little input box at the bottom where you can type a search query. I don't use it. In fact I often forget it's there. But Google wants it to be easy to shut it off.

Some people shoot back that Microsoft is using its so-call "unfair" advantage as a popular OS to challenge other markets. But so what? Celebrities use their popularity to pose as spokespeople for products that are not the movie they star in or sport they play. Wegman's turned its egg business into a chain of major grocery stores that sell everything from corn to cooking pots. McDonald's now sells salads. Game consoles often double as DVD players.

And oh yeah, Google turned its popular search engine to place where you can also get maps, e-mail, and news. Let's not forget that all those services are free to boot. Talk about unfair.

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