The government is a fact of life when you know what you are doing. When you are dominant, the government is your antagonistic partner, ready to shackle you if you are too strong.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

knows this. The company always anticipates that the government will try to stop it because of its manufacturing prowess.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

doesn't. It is unwilling to accept the role of the government in its business.

This morning when Intel settled with the

Federal Trade Commission

staff, the difference between the two styles of conduct was on display. Microsoft's outright antagonism of the government has landed the firm in the crosshairs of the

Justice Department's

scope. Intel's compliance allows the company to focus more on business and less on defense. Smart move.

Regardless of whether you think the Justice Department has a case, what matters is attitude. The Justice Department doesn't want to destroy Microsoft, it just wants the company to play ball like Intel did.

Microsoft's insistence in not playing ball is why the company is facing such a dire challenge from the Justice Department.

All of these problems would go away for Microsoft if it would just accept something that Intel accepted a long time ago: The only entity that can stop its dominance is the government, and therefore it must show the government both respect and flexibility.

Microsoft's rigidity is costly. I own the stock -- not big -- but I have no doubt that a less confrontational, more conciliatory stand would move this stock substantially higher. And it is never too late to adopt that attitude.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At the time of publication, his fund was long Microsoft, though positions may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column by sending a letter to TheStreet.com.