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11.12.1974

AT&T and IBM

Now both pillars of the computer/communications business are under attack on antitrust grounds, and while the future is certainly cloudy at this point, users need to watch both actions carefully.

AT&T has joined IBM in the dock as a rejuvenated Justice Department seems more determined than ever before to press large antitrust cases.

Neither case, of course, is anywhere close to resolution, barring out-of-court settlements. The IBM case, slated to go to trial early next year, could take a year in court and the judge has indicated it might then take him up to a year to reach his decision.

The AT&T action is much further away, with Justice Department sources estimating three years before any trial could begin.

And, of course, after the initial trials of the cases there will likely be appeals that could drag on for years, with final decisions coming from the Supreme Court.

But even if the final resolution of the cases is not imminent, the possible outcomes need to considered by computer users in their long-term contingency planning.

If the government is successful in either or both of the suits, users will face a far different world in the 1980 than the one they face today.

In fact, the possible changes can hardly be imagined - seven IBMs instead of the present one, two Western Electrics marketing a wide range of communications products, a separate long lines facility with increased competition for the communications dollar.

To many the possible changes will seam catastrophic; to others the changes could mean a wider selection of services and equipment with resulting lower prices and increased performance. Of course, both AT&T and IBM may well be successful in their defenses, meaning little change in the business.

But if they are not successful, then only users who begin planning today will be able to effectively deal with the changed environment that would follow government victories.

The possibility of dismembering one or both ot these two major forces is too real to be ignored no matter how repugnant the idea is to many users.

Users should not just bemoan the suits, but should begin thinking of contingency plans based on all the possible outcomes and they should make their views known to the Justice Department.

Aus Editoral, Computerworld, Ausgabe Nr. 49 vom 4. Dezember 1974