BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: MAY 3, 1999 ISSUE

Readers Report

Give Credit for the Mouse Where Credit Is Due

In ''Xerox'' (The Corporation, Apr. 12), you claim that Xerox Corp. created the mouse. That just ain't true. Douglas C. Engelbart (then of Stanford Research Institute, now known as SRI International) demonstrated the first mouse in 1968. I've had the pleasure of holding that first mouse. It's a clunky thing, about 3 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 2.5 inches high. It's made of wood and has two wheels, one each for horizontal and vertical movement--no mouse balls here. On top is one little red push button.

The computer industry moves fast--very, very fast. But we should never forget to whom we owe our debts. Xerox Palo Alto Research Center rightfully deserves much of the credit for developing a full-fledged graphical user interface, but almost all of it was built on pieces created by Engelbart.

Aahz Maruch
San Carlos, Calif.



Microsoft's Junk-Mail Filter

While I enjoyed ''Neck and neck in the browser race'' (Technology & You, Mar. 29), the author's characterization of the court's decision in our case against Microsoft Corp. was incorrect. The actual preliminary injunction, granted by Judge [Robert A.] Baines of the Santa Clara Superior Court, did not compel or even request that Microsoft unbundle its antispam filter from Outlook 5.0. Rather, the judge ordered that Microsoft ''shall be enjoined and restrained from distributing, licensing and/or selling, directly, any product (including any and all types of software), including without limitation, any commercial, public, trial or beta versions of software that include cards or notification messages to the intended recipient's standard electronic mail in-box....'' According to undisputed expert witnesses, Microsoft could have modified its E-mail filter to comply with this order (i.e., allow cards sent using our free service to get through) with just a few hours of work, and thus released their filter product.

As a recipient of much junk mail, I would welcome and use a functional junk-mail filter. The only reason I can think of that Microsoft might have pulled its own filter product (instead of simply allowing our cards through) is that the filter was injuring other companies in addition to Blue Mountain Arts Inc., and Microsoft feared resultant litigation. Why else would they choose to remove what they claim is such a potentially useful feature?

We applaud spam filters and firmly believe in the establishment of precedents that encourage their development in the free market. We did not seek nor win an ''injunction barring the inclusion of the antispam filter.'' Withdrawing the product was a unilateral decision made by Microsoft that neither we nor the courts played a role in.

Jared P. Schutz
Executive Director
Blue Mountain Arts Inc.
Boulder, Colo.



Car Shopping on the Net: ''Terrific''

It's about time that cars and pricing got demystified. And the Net is as good a place as any (''Old carmakers learn new tricks,'' Marketing, Apr. 12).

I just bought a GM Buy Power (BP) vehicle, a Chevy. It was a terrific experience. I tried Autobytel.com Inc. but couldn't get a written quote. Dodge and Chrysler offer a written quote. General Motors Corp. puts the vehicles and sticker online. The online Kelley Blue Book gave me invoice and manufacturer's suggested retail price for cars and options. Rebates and incentives were shown, too. Some great tools there.

Having contacted several GM BP dealers, I realize some are less committed than others. The local Pontiac place wouldn't even take the time to show me the cars I had picked out on the Internet. The Chevy dealer seemed to be with the program. Note, too, that GM got my business not simply because I am open to GM cars, nor only because of the GM BP program, nor just the great price. It was also because I have a GM-branded credit card that awards me ''dollars'' to use toward a purchase.

Although I was tempted by a Chrysler, my right brain wouldn't allow me to toss the couple of grand I had in GM card ''earnings.'' Those dollars paid the sales tax, license, and two years' insurance. With extra weekend rebates the car was more than 20% under invoice. Here in Silicon Valley, it is not uncommon for dealers to add 15%. So I congratulate myself for 40% off ''the local stick-it-to-yah'' price. No one begrudges an honest profit. The business has no one to blame but itself if it has made customers dread the shopping experience and thus open to alternatives.

Stephen P. Huntington
San Jose, Calif.



Media Warnings Are the Best Antivirus Defense

It is said that the number of ''Melissa'' cases in Japan is not as large as in the U.S. (''Melissa is sending you a warning,'' News: Analysis & Commentary, Apr. 12). The reasons seem to be:

-- The intensity of E-mail usage in Japan is still not as high as in the U.S.,

-- Ordinary Japanese do not get E-mail from abroad, and

-- Soon after the Melissa-virus news broke, a few antivirus companies distributed vaccine software free to customers, posted warnings on their Web sites, and offered free software for handling this virus.

As you wrote, ''it should be a wake-up call to wired organizations and individual computer users everywhere.'' To me, the first wake-up call was an article in a newspaper. In particular, the warning by the FBI prompted me to send a warning E-mail to my pals. Any non-American computer-mail users in the world are most likely sensitive to a formal warning by the FBI such as this. Whenever any serious E-mail virus is found, all the media must let us know as quickly as possible; to do so is the strongest weapon against the enemy of the world's Net-connected community.

Masatoshi Katsuhara
Hokkaido, Japan



The Submarine Patent Is a Ploy to Cheat Inventors

Like Thomas Edison, Jerome H. Lemelson has been unjustly vilified by those companies that wish to take inventions without compensating the inventor. And when the inventor bests them, they resort to McCarthyism for profit, with false claims of ''submarine patents'' (''A torpedo against submarine patents?'' Up Front, Apr. 12). If 21st Century Patent Coalition members were upstanding corporate citizens, inventors like Lemelson would not have to sue for compensation.

Lemelson is the greatest inventor of our times; only Edison and Edwin Herbert Land produced more inventions. I came to know Lemelson well, and he was an amazing man, not only for his inventiveness but also for his wisdom and willingness to donate most of his earnings to encourage the creation of and to nurture inventor-entrepreneurs.

The submarine-patent myth has been exposed by leading patent experts as a baseless fabrication created by and for those who would benefit from weakening our patent system. In fact, an alliance of more than three dozen National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and Nobel laureates has opposed the socialization of America's inventiveness under the guise of ''patent reform.''

Ronald J. Riley
Grand Blanc, Mich.



Tax Cuts? Actually, America Does Want Them

''Lower taxes? Oh, no thanks'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Apr. 5) is a study in statistical selectivity. Consider a couple of examples: The chart suggests that because taxes are marginally lower than in the mid-1980s, tax reduction is passe. You don't go back far enough: Since 1959, federal and payroll taxes have risen more than 70%. Federal, state, and local taxes now take 36% of the average worker's income.

Writer Owen Ullmann cites a CBS/New York Times survey indicating that more Americans want to preserve Social Security and pay down the debt than want tax relief. Why should this be surprising? Posed as opposites, these options elicit predictable responses. The reality is that we can have modest but still significant tax relief while enhancing Social Security and reducing our national debt. It's a question of phasing in the tax relief and doing so in a way that's fair to everyone. And it's worth noting that a recent Zogby International poll found that more than 70% of Americans support tax reduction.

We need an across-the-board 10% cut in tax rates to enable consumers to purchase goods and help companies make the investments in technology improvements, new equipment, and employee training they need. Such a cut would foster the growth without which our economic expansion cannot be sustained.

Jerry J. Jasinowski
President
National Association of Manufacturers
Washington



The B-School at Texas A&M is Up-to-Date

While we are pleased to be included again in your list of high-quality MBA programs, we believe your statement about the facilities at Texas A&M University Lowry Mays College and Graduate School of Business is inaccurate (''Second-tier B-schools: Worth a second look,'' Personal Business, Apr. 5).

The Mays MBA Program is housed in a four-year-old, $40 million complex that includes classrooms, library facilities, and an electronic information resource with over 2,000 databases. This endowed facility, the Barclay Center, is available to the MBA students from on- and off-campus. Most important, Mays has funded an annual update plan that ensures the resources available to our students meet their needs and demands.

John J. Dinkel
Associate Dean for Masters Programs
Texas A&M University
College Station, Tex.

Editor's note: The assertion that Texas A&M's facilities are outdated was based on survey feedback from 1998 graduates.



Wanted: Rules to Protect Online Privacy

After reading ''Privacy'' (Special Report, Apr. 5), I realize that the Information Age has brought us many wonders but has also made possible an unprecedented level of record-keeping and high-tech snooping into the lives of others. Today, we are surrendering our most intimate details to government agencies and big business for the sake of better living. We become worried when we hear our personal data have become the property of strangers through subpoenas, corporate mergers, police investigations, or hacker attacks. Therefore, government agencies and Big Business should establish regulations that keep private information private over the Net, and should notify a person when data are required; otherwise, they will lose the people's trust.

Akhter Hossain
Mobile, Ala.



New York Nursing Home Workers Are Well-Trained

Here in New York State, nursing home administrators must be licensed, while hospital administrators do not have to go through such a process. New York requires that nurse aides receive 100 hours of training to become certified, while the national requirement is 75. Nursing homes are inspected annually by state Health Dept. officials (''Long-term-care policies: 'A prepaid ticket to hell,''' Readers Report, Apr. 19).

Nursing homes have come a long way in the past 10 years. The people who work in nursing homes in New York care about their residents, and many go above and beyond the call of duty to provide extras for those in their care.

Carl S. Young
President
New York Association of Homes &
Services for the Aging
Albany, N.Y.



Alfred Rappaport was misidentified in ''Is greed good?'' (Cover Story, Apr. 19)

Alfred Rappaport was misidentified in ''Is greed good?'' (Cover Story, Apr. 19). He is professor emeritus at Northwestern University's Kellogg School and director of shareholder value research at LEK Consulting.



''What to do when your fund stumbles'' (Personal Business, Apr. 19)

''What to do when your fund stumbles'' (Personal Business, Apr. 19) should have said that, according to Morningstar Inc., the Windsor Fund had sunk to the lowest quintile among large-cap value funds, not mid-cap.



''Great service wasn't enough'' (Marketing, Apr. 19)

In ''Great service wasn't enough,'' (Marketing, Apr. 19), a description of Nordstrom Inc.'s stock performance did not account for a 2-for-1 split in 1998. It should have stated that shares, at a high of 26 7/16 in 1996, plunged to a low of 17 23/32 at the end of 1996 and have since risen to about 40.





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LETTERS:
Give Credit for the Mouse Where Credit Is Due

Microsoft's Junk-Mail Filter

Car Shopping on the Net: ''Terrific''

Media Warnings Are the Best Antivirus Defense

The Submarine Patent Is a Ploy to Cheat Inventors

Tax Cuts? Actually, America Does Want Them

The B-School at Texas A&M Is Up-to-Date

Wanted: Rules to Protect Online Privacy

New York Nursing Home Workers Are Well-Trained

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS:
Alfred Rappaport was misidentified in ''Is greed good?'' (Cover Story, Apr. 19)

''What to do when your fund stumbles'' (Personal Business, Apr. 19)

''Great service wasn't enough'' (Marketing, Apr. 19)

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