Monopolies are not all cancers on societal and economic welfare. In many instances, a monopoly is not only beneficial, but necessary for serving the public interest. Clearly, not all areas of work are conducive to facing the rigors and risks of a competitive market. There is only one police force. There is only one fire department. There is only one air force.
At first, one might think that putting such areas into competition would serve the public good --after all, if a police force was in a competitive arena, efficiency would rise and crimes would fall. Under closer scrutiny, however, the defects of such competition are glaring. How would standards for police conduct be set? Would each 911 call be rushed by several officers from competing forces? When backup is called, would competing forces not respond? When all police officers are needed to stave a potential riot, how would officers from competing forces work together? Clearly, the public interests served outweight any losses in efficiency with such monopolies.
Do monopolies in the computer industry carry similar benefits? Can certain software products be considered natural monopolies, in which prices fall as market share rises? Although system software might seem conducive to natural monopoly status, there are differences which make such a classification suspect. On the other hand, Windows is the clearest example of a software monopoly with 90% of the market, but as will be shown, having a single product dominate the market allows for significant benefits to all both in and out of the industry. The benefits of a large user base and system standardization extend to both producers and users of computer and software products.
Amidst the pros and cons, costs and benefits of software/telecommuncations monopolies, the ethics behind them are not cut and dry. This section further delves into the ethics of such monopolies, with a focus on the biggest one around - Microsoft.