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Microsoft

Massachusetts Holds Out On MS Case 407

Posted by timothy
from the finding-what-the-market-will-bear dept.
Cubase de Pilsen writes: "Massachusetts' attorney general said his state would not sign on to a proposed settlement in the antitrust case against Microsoft because it does not protect competing software makers." Several other state AGs as well are angling for more restrictions on Microsoft, but some are prepared to sign on to the current version of the settlement.
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Massachusetts Holds Out On MS Case

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  • Amen to that.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jea6 (117959)
    .... i'ts refreshing to see that the states won't punk out like the Bush Administration did.
    • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Winged Cat (101773) <wingcatNO@SPAMpacbell.net> on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:47PM (#2524095)
      It was expected that most would not. Still, depending on just how far the feds punk out...is there any viable way for the DOJ to interfere with the states' case? Say, harrass the attorney generals or bury their staffs under paperwork?

      It's also of note that the judge has to sign off on the deal being "in the public interest". If she comes to the conclusion that Microsoft has a demonstrated history of violating and/or ignoring conduct remedies, therefore a pure conduct remedy will probably be treated likewise, therefore such a remedy is equivalent to no remedy, and the lack of a remedy is not in the public interest...
      • therefore such a remedy is equivalent to no remedy, and the lack of a remedy is not in the public interest...

        Except that the high court(s) have virtually laughed at the suggestion that MS needs to be broken up - which leaves but two options - (a) fines and (b) behaviour rememdy.

        Thats it. Breakup is out. Its not going to happen. The appealate court said in pretty much plain english that it would never happen. That only leaves two options. A fine is useless. What else do you expect to be done short of a breakup?
        • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:3, Informative)

          by jeffy124 (453342)
          actually, the appeal courts ruled that Judge Jackson's comments to the media indicated a bias against MS, hence they threw out his version of a breakup remedy. The appeal court didnt explicitly rule out that a breakup was the proper rememdy, just that Jackson appeared biased in his judgement and that nullified his proposed remedy. It was the Justice Dept that formally ruled out breakup a few weeks ago.
          • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:3, Informative)

            by danheskett (178529)
            No, I am afraid you are wrong in some major ways.

            The Courts ruled on several issues:

            a. That Judge Jackson would be disqualified from futher action for the appearance of bias.

            b. That MS was indeed a monopoly.

            c. And that the remedy was not in line with the findings of fact or law.

            This article [go.com], one I quickly dug up, shows how skeptical the judges were of the governments argument for breakup. Breakup has been off the table effectively since the appelate court overturned some of Jackson's findings.

            The Justice Dept formally ruled out a breakup because MS has said from day one that no breakup will ever be accepted. Period. To get to the table the Justice Dept was forced to bend. Plus, of course, Bush is friendly to MS, so that of course played a role.
            • Well, even if breakup were out (and I don't see anything that outright forbids a breakup, just that the specific version of said remedy that Jackson wrote up has been tossed out because of its author), Microsoft could be fined, oh, say, its entire net worth.

              Or maybe the corporation could just be seized and dissolved, all its assets made property of the government (for physical stuff) or public domain (for intellectual property). Now, that would send a message, one that the Bush administration would have a hard time overturning - especially if the Supreme Court backed up the seizure. It'd help if it was spun to the public as "you get free Windows from now on": sure, the more knowledgable people (like most Slashdot readers) would know the further implications, including down sides, but most Americans would selectively perceive only that their neighborhood computer vendor could now sell computers for cheap, and given them a bunch of choices for what comes on it (even though they may well wind up picking what they already do: the option to perceive and ignore bad choices has inherent value, to them).
              • "Microsoft could be fined, oh, say, its entire net worth."

                Which would then be overturned in the SCOTUS as being a completely unreasonable punishment for whatever crime was commited.

                It's amazing how completely out of touch with reality people are.
                • Really? Prove that the company has demonstrated it has no intention of ever obeying the law when such interferes with its profits. Prove that the company has demonstrated, in Jackson's courtroom if nowhere else (and there's plenty of "else"), utter and sincere contempt for the courts and the law. Prove that it really has inflicted damages at least equalling its net worth.

                  That's all doable, though I'll admit the last one is not a cakewalk like the first to. That said, if all that is proved in front of the SCOTUS, even they might well uphold the punishment.
            • c. And that the remedy was not in line with the findings of fact or law

              That's just wrong.

              Since they threw out the remedy for bias, they never reached the merits of Jackson's proposed remedy. They cannot rule on an issue that is not before them, and they remanded for a new remedy after "vacating" not "reversing" on the remedy.

              All of the states and joined the DOJ in saying that they would not push for a breakup. There would be no reason for them to do this if it was a mandate from the Appeals Court.
        • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Decimal (154606)
          Thats it. Breakup is out. Its not going to happen. The appealate court said in pretty much plain english that it would never happen. That only leaves two options. A fine is useless. What else do you expect to be done short of a breakup?

          Not even a two-way breakup would really help. The companies still have the same leadership and thus the same tactics. What needs to be done in cases like this is throw the leadership out and replace them with people at the bottom. Or even offer the positions to leadership from other companies deemed non-competitive that Microsoft squeezed out of the OS market. If Bill Gates were to find out that he could lose ownership of his own company and indeed even be barred from entering Microsoft headquarters and owning Microsoft stock he'd unbundle software from Windows so fast you could see the bits fly.

          Sound harsh? That's exactly what the leadership at Microsoft did to owners of other companies with their tactics. They kicked the competition out market. In turn, the court should kick them out of their own company.

          Of course, they won't. But they should.
          • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:3, Informative)

            by jeffy124 (453342)
            sooner or later (i hope) the /. editors will post a review i wrote about a book that covers this case up through last January. I didnt mention this in the review, but the book mentions that Judge Jackson belief is that MS would be a lot better shape if Bill Gates had finished Harvard.

            Going along with your leadership comments and what was in the book, it's my belief that Gates runs the company head to toe, rubbing off on his top execs, and collectively causing the problems that the company has had with the FTC and DOJ for the past 5-10 years.

            my belief is that tossing out the leaders wont do anything, and it would make DoJ look bad. Assesing a fine that encompasses all of MS's gains that came as a result of their violation of the Sherman Act is a minimum (the current settlement lets MS off the hook financially), imposing guidelines on how the company should behave in the market concerning contracts (a consent decree of sorts), and mandating those leaders to take classes in business and legal ethics.
        • Re:Amen to that.... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by schon (31600)
          What else do you expect to be done short of a breakup?

          The perfect remedy would be to force full disclosure from MS.

          That is: All API's and file formats need to be accessible by the general public at least three months before it's released. No need to break them up, or to force them to reveal their source code. As any large company, they're already documenting their API's and file formats internally, so it's no extra work on their part.

          Historically, MS has used it's monopoly to hinder competition - this will eliminate that ability, and level the playing field completely - MS is free to "innovate" whatever it wants, it just has to give everybody fair notice beforehand.

          If MS uses an undocumented API function, they're in breach of federal law, and are subject to something harsh - maybe a complete seizure of all income until the three month period has elapsed, or $1 Million fine per unit shipped per day (this will "encourage" them to play along.)
      • is there any viable way for the DOJ to interfere with the states' case?

        Yep, they can stop paying for it. State attorney generals are going to have a hard time justifying the huge costs of continuing this legislation in a recession. Up until now, the Feds have been footing most of the bill.

  • go figure. (Score:2, Funny)

    by mikeee (137160)
    As a MA resident, I'm pleased by the principled action of my State's officials. That's just about a first.

    For about 10 years, the president of the state senate was the kid brother of the major local mafia boss. I kid you not...
  • Hmm.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by ShaniaTwain (197446)
    It'll be interesting to see what the next version of MS XP World Encyclopedia 3000 has to say about Massachusetts..
    • Probably be defined as: "Communist state that refuses to accept Microsoft's prowess in free market."
  • Last Days (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Whether or not the states hold out on the case, let's be honest with ourselves -- nothing except a massive increase in consumer intelligence and responsibility will save us from complete domination from Redmond.

    Let's look at ways to provide consumers with better options. For example, Mandrake 8.0 Powerpack edition comes with a number of games. 3 of these, including the enticing TuxRacer, crash my machine on startup.

    Until we can have a simple Linux install (which Mandrake has almost perfected) that doesn't come with any broken components (which they've flubbed), the regular consumer won't switch
  • I wonder... (Score:5, Funny)

    by YuppieScum (1096) on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:45PM (#2524085) Journal
    I wonder how quickly MS could enforce a "this product not for sale in MA" rule on their distributors & retailers...

    ...and I wonder how quickly said legislators would U-turn after having irate retailers and/or citizens pester them...
    • wont happen. MS pushes their products in school environments (like my own school, except for the CS dept). There are too many schools up there for them to do that. MIT, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, and many others
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YuppieScum (1096)
      Not "not for use" but "not for sale"...

      By denying sale in the state, they effectively circumvent the local legislators - and by encouraging out-of-state vendors to sell to people in MA they "prove" the market demands their products... very much a win-win if they can pull it off...

      Not that I'm saying this would be a good thing, of course...
    • Are you kidding? "Not for sale in MA"...well, gee, I guess they'll just have to sell boxen preloaded with Linux, maybe with Wine already set up so the customers can run most Windows apps.

      I think they know it'd backfire just that badly. But I wouldn't bet my life on Microsoft's intelligence...
  • good (Score:3, Informative)

    by jeffy124 (453342) on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:46PM (#2524089) Homepage Journal
    good for Mass to do that. I read that Sun [zdnet.com] was considering their own civil suit against MS if the current proposed settlement became reality. Not that that would do anything useful, IMO. Of course, MS still has to face Europe, and we all know how rough and tough they are gonna be.
    • Re:good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Phanatic1a (413374) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:14PM (#2524260)
      Don't knock Europe in this regard. They might not be very good at defending Chezchoslovakia against invasion, but they have the capability to be far, far harsher to MS than the US has ever been.

      First off all, it's a trade commission issue over there, not a years-long court case. They can even use Jackson's original FOF as evidence, and expand the scope of the ruling to consider MS's more recent behavior that the US court case was unable to consider. Then, they can just make a decision, and implement it. And, they've already figured out what .NET is supposed to do, and they don't like it one bit. Heck, WSJ had some EU drafts a week or so ago, and the EU was talking about fining MS 2 billion dollars/year unless they unbundle Media Player, and stopped using their OSes to promote MSN.

      EU Trade Law Fun Fact: Under some circumstances, bundling is just flat-out illegal. If you have Product A and B, you are allowed to bundle them, but if you do, you also have to make them available as separate products, and you can't charge drastically more for the separates. The French are making noises about going after MS for bundling DOS 7 with Win95, and under French trade law, that bundling actually constitutes fraud and actual executives actually do actual jail time for that kind of thing in France.

      Another consideration for Europe is that MS is overwhelmingly American in structure. About 90% of their structure exists purely in the US, and their profits therefore go mainly to feeding the US economy, and not Europe. It'll be a lot easier for the EU to dick MS than it would be for them to screw with GM or Ford.
      • i wasnt being sarcastic - sorry if I came off like that. Europe wont take their anti-trust case as lightly as the US suddenly is.
        • i wasnt being sarcastic - sorry if I came off like that. Europe wont take their anti-trust case as lightly as the US suddenly is.

          That's OK :-)
          Despite my comments [slashdot.org] on Prime Minister Blair the European Union as a whole looks likely to stand a lot firmer than President Bush.
          However if Microsoft were a French company, well, who could say what the EU would do then?

          - Derwen

    • Of course, MS still has to face Europe, and we all know how rough and tough they are gonna be.

      I assume that this is sarcasm in light of the track record [internet-magazine.com] of one EU country's leader [vnunet.com].
      However some European countries are flying the flag [ofset.org] for Free Software [schule.de] and open standards :-)

      - Derwen

      • OK, sorry for the bad etiquette in replying to my own post but I've just been sent a press release on the subject of government funding which is a good example of European states supporting Linux

        ---------- Forwarded Message ----------

        Subject: kmLinux-2.1.1 - New version of German Linux distribution for schools released
        Date: Sat, 03 Nov 2001 11:23:35 +0100

        http://www.lernnetz-sh.de/kmLinux [lernnetz-sh.de]
        kmLinux is a complete Linux distribution for schools. It is in development by the Landesbildungsserver Schleswig-Holstein http://www.lernnetz-sh.de [lernnetz-sh.de](a govermental organization of the Bundesstaat Schleswig-Holstein) in close cooperation with the Verein Freie Software und Bildung e.V. http://fsub.schule.de [schule.de](Union for Free Software and Education). kmLinux is very simple to install. In a single automatically done installation process not only the operating system will be installed but a lot of useful software and documentation too. The whole system is preconfigured as far as possible.

        kmLinux comes with a new installer which is able to automatically resize an existing windows partition (fat16/32). The software collection is very uptodate: kernel-2.4.12, XFree-4.1.0, KDE-2.2.1 (objprelink), kOffice-1.1, StarOffice-6.0beta, gimp-1.2.2 and Mozilla-0.9.5

        More (german) information you will find on the new kmLinux-Homepage http://www.lernnetz-sh.de/kmLinux [lernnetz-sh.de]. kmLinux is free! Under ftp://fsub.schule.de/pub/fsub/kmLinux [schule.de]you will find a ready to burn iso-image.
        --

        _______________________________________
        Landesbildungsserver Schleswig-Holstein
        Projektleiter OpenSource
        Klaus-Dieter Moeller
        kdmoeller@lernnetz-sh.de

        I did say it was OT, but what the hell - mod me down anyway ;-P

        - Derwen

  • by mpsmps (178373) on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:53PM (#2524141)
    I did (Jim Ryan of Illinois 217-782-1090). I talked for about 5 minutes with a women there whose job was tallying constituent input. She said that *every single call* she had received was against the deal. Because these are elected officials, a concerted (unanimous?) message from their constituency could have a big effect.
  • by mjh (57755) <mark AT hornclan DOT com> on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:53PM (#2524142) Homepage Journal
    It appears that the Atty General of NC is still on the fence about this one. Here's a copy of the email that I sent to our AG last Friday. Let's see if we can get him to act.

    To: agjus@mail.jus.state.nc.us

    Subject: Please pursue stiffer penalties for Microsoft

    Dear Mr. Roy Cooper:

    I am a citizen of North Carolina, residing in Charlotte (see my address below). I am writing to you today to urge you to object to the settlement offered between the US Department of Justice and Microsoft, and to continue to pursue more effective remedy in the case.

    Considering Microsoft's history of ignoring consent decrees, I hope that you will agree that another consent decree should be held highly skeptical as an effective remedy. The fact that Microsoft violated a 1995 consent was part of what prompted the current antitrust proceedings. How effective can the same remedy be, when its prior violations helped to protect and extend Microsoft's illegal monopoly?

    Microsoft has recently released Windows XP, a computer operating system with the explicit goal of extending their monopoly reach into web services. This is a clear violation of antitrust law, and a clear demonstration that Microsoft intends to completely ignore remedial actions to reinstall competition into the computer software market.

    As a citizen of North Carolina, I urge you to reject the current settlement and pursue an effective remedy to restore competition in the computer operating systems market, and prevent Microsoft from extending their illegal monopoly into other computer software markets.

    Sincerely,

    XXXX XXXXXX
    XXXX XXXXXXXX XX
    Charlotte, NC XXXXX

    Let's take advantage of this oppurtunity to express our opinions on what our state representatives should do.
    • Here's a copy of the email that I sent to our AG last Friday.

      Did you take the time to write it out and snail mail it, too? Otherwise you can be almost certain that it won't recieve more than a glance to make sure it's not a death threat. Expect a form letter reply, or email, at the very most if that's the case.

      (Want to really get noticed? Sprinkle some powdered sugar into the envelope. Of course, you may not like the kind of attention they give you...)
    • Write letters!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by matty (3385)
      It's much more effective to write letters. I've heard that many politicians mostly ignore email, unless they get a huge volume from unique addresses.

      The hand-written word carries a good deal more influence. Take the time to lick a stamp and mail out a physical letter, and it will carry more weight.

      P.S. I just realized that this post might sound like an insult to mjh. It's not. Snail mail does get noticed more, though, that's all.
  • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Monday November 05, 2001 @03:56PM (#2524162) Homepage
    In 1994, the feds signed a consent decree with Microsoft. This agreement did not alter MS's behavior, but it did give Microsoft unprecedented levels of information about the PC industry that NO ONE ELSE had access to. This gave them a strategic advantage that is still unmatched. This was the sole outcome of the 1994 consent devree.

    Pre-1994, MS licensed their software based on how many units an OEM sold. Sell 100,000 PCs, pay for 100,000 licenses, even if 1,000 of those PCs has DR DOS on them. The consent decree outlawed this practice. Microsoft then (and now) licensed their software based on model lines. Sell 100,000 Model 50s, pay for 100,000 licenses. OEMs could sell PCs with other OSs without paying the licensing fee, as long as the PCs were in a model line that did not EVER have MS software installed. Naturally, such model lines were rare.

    Pre-1994, Microsoft knew exactly how many PCs were sold by each OEM. Post-1994, they knew how many PCs were sold within each model line at each OEM. They could analyze pricing, advertising, hardware and software loads offered in each model line and determine what the public bought and how much they paid.

    No one else can match this level of intelligence. No one else knows what people use their PCs for to the degree of detail that Microsoft knows. This resulted directly from the 1994 consent decree. I'm waiting to see what advantage MS will gain from this one. I'm glad at least one state AG gets it; without stringent behavioral guidelines, MS will alter their behavior in exactly the wrong direction.
  • by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:00PM (#2524186) Homepage
    On the whole Micrsoft Monopoly crap, I think the most insightful thing I've read is this article [bbspot.com].

    The last paragraph says it all particularly well.
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:00PM (#2524189) Journal
    I'm not usually one who sides against Microsoft or roots for the government in this case, but the solution was completely useless and didn't do anything to remedy the actual problem that exists in the Windows space.

    A good solution would be to restrict Microsoft in those actions that they were using to crush competitors: exclusive and restrictive contracts with hardware manufacturers. Restricting MS from entering into these contracts would be a simple and effective method of freeing up the market place for other operating systems and bundled software. It would effectively eliminate their monopoly leverage point without taking away their de facto monopoly.

    Microsoft wouldn't need to release their business plans 5 years into the future, and they would be encouraged to keep their software current in order to remain competitive with other products that could possibly be bundled by OEMs.

    Dancin Santa
    • Actually it's a de jure monopoly now.
    • by Happy Monkey (183927) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:58PM (#2524461) Homepage
      I'm in favor of:

      A) Document all APIs, protocols, file formats, etc. This would seem to be the primary use of an operating system, and it would dramatically increase competition.

      and/or:

      b) Eliminate licensing altogether, and move them back to the standard copyright: No copying for distribution. You can make seventy-five copies and store them in your attic if you own a legitimate copy, but you can't compete with MS (for profit or for free) with their own software.
    • So basically you agree with the settlement, you just have not read the settlement so you don't realize it?

      Maybe you should go read the section titled Prohibited Conduct. Pay attention to subsection A and G.
  • by cbowland (205263) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:06PM (#2524224)
  • When you look at politics, always trace the money trail.

    Why are some of the states not "signing on"? Perhaps they, like many of SlashDot's audience, are unhappy that Microsoft won't be paying out as much cash as hoped...

    States like Massachusetts depend a lot on tax money. Like it or not, it's a by-product of their liberal government style, big promises means big governement costs, and like businesses, government always passes its costs on to its "consumers", i.e. taxpayers. But, raising taxes is not "in vogue", so they are constantly scrambling to find other cash sources to pump their constituents full of pay-ou... err, entitlements.

    Here we have Microsoft, the ultimate Tech cash cow, and they did a BAD thing, so naturally our government stepped to punish them. We cheer that the government recognized that they were acting against market forces, but government is cheering for new-found cash...

    Compare this to the government's recent lawsuit on Big Tobacco. They lost, the people won, right? The corporations were forced to pay millions for bad advertisements, and that money was supposed to go to the states for education, right? Where did that money go? Studies show at most 10% of the states have actually created anti-smoking programs with the money, everyone else threw it into the "general fund" so they could pad their pet projects.

    Don't be surprised that some states are "holding out", just understand that they aren't doing it for the reasons you think.
    • While I'm not naive enough to believe that political motivations are pure, I don't quite see the lure of money in this one. In this proposed settlement [usdoj.gov] (from the DOJ website) there is no mention of monetary fines. Now, if money were the only reason Mass. was holding out, wouldn't the other 17 states go "Oh, shit, we can make money off this? Why the hell are we signing this agreement?"

      That being the case, I think it's more likely that Mass. is holding out for better reasons. They see the loopholes in the current agreement and decided it would not be an effective barrier to Microsoft continuing its illegal practices.

      Proud to be an American from Massachusetts,
  • by fanatic (86657) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:14PM (#2524262)
    Here is a list of states suing microsoft (courtesy of Microsoft's "freedom to Innovate Network"):

    California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Utah, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin

    Here's what I sent to the Attorney General in my state:

    "
    I believe that any settlement that would have a chance of restoring competition to the computer industry would require at least the following:

    1) All terms must be enforced by a non-Microsoft party with full access to all Microsoft resources, including source code. Microsoft cannot be trusted to voluntarily comply with any agreement.

    2) All communication protocols used by all microsoft products must be fully documented. Such documents must be made available to any and all parties for any reason. Microsoft is not allowed to change their protocols until 90 days after documentation of such changes are made available to any parties requesting them.

    3) The previous term must also apply to all Microsoft APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

    4) Microsoft may not keep agreements secret. In particular, the terms of the current OEM agreements, currently protected as "trade secrets" must be disclosed.

    5) Microsoft may not use agreements with Computer OEMs to restrict in any way the addition of other software to the computers, along with Microsoft products. In particular, OEMs are not to be prohibited from selling "dual-boot" systems,
    where the system can be booted into Windows or into some other operating system, such as Linux or a form of BSD or BeOS.

    6) Microsoft may not use their licensing terms to stop users or developers from using Open Source software or Free Software.

    7) Microsoft may not meddle in the the legislative processes of Fderal, State or local governemnts or bodies that make recommendations to them, with their work on UCITA being a prime model of behaviour that is prohibited to them as a
    monopoly.
    "

    • Microsoft may not meddle in the the legislative processes of Fderal, State or local governemnts or bodies that make recommendations to them, with their work on UCITA being a prime model of behaviour that is prohibited to them as a
      monopoly.

      Corporations that meddle in governmental affairs should be treated like the felons they are.

      1) Felons lose the right to vote. Corporations should lose the right to lobby. Make it a criminal offense for anyone involved in government to be associated in their official capacity with a worker from that company or under that company's umbrella. It would be nearly unenforcable (more wine, Mr. Rumsfeld? Now let me tell you about our new missile system...) in all but the most blatant situations, though.

      2) Felons, once convicted, always have the 'mark' on their record, which is ultimately the worst punishment. One thing that would be nice to see, if not entirely constitutional, is for the SEC to 'mark' a company as having not played fairly, and adding a fee to any equity deals, or even capping the price of publicly traded share of the stock. The SEC is who lets these companies get so big, they need to start taking responsibility.

      3) Take a cue from Megan's Law. Have companies convicted of monopoly abuse be forced to carry notices on their products or wherever their products are sold, "This company has been found guilty of unfair practices by the US Dept. of Justice". But still, let them be sold. The American way is to let them compete, but also for the people to be informed.

      4) Have the FCC place decrees that keep the companies from advertising in broadcast media, or have their ads be censored for a period of X years. Convicts submit to this, businesses can to.

      A corporation lives and dies by its goodwill; when you start taking that away, then they'll really get scared. And when you take away their freedom to screw consumers, they fall in line rather quickly.
    • For someone with a username of fanatic, you seem to have actually spent some time comming up possible solutions, rather than just rants. I do have some comments on your solutions, which I've posted below.

      1) All terms must be enforced by a non-Microsoft party with full access to all Microsoft resources, including source code. Microsoft cannot be trusted to voluntarily comply with any agreement.

      I think this is in the proposed settlement. I saw something about 3 outside auditors. They need to be there, since if you can't verify that the settlement is being implemented, then it isn't an effective solution.

      2) All communication protocols used by all microsoft products must be fully documented. Such documents must be made available to any and all parties for any reason. Microsoft is not allowed to change their protocols until 90 days after documentation of such changes are made available to any parties requesting them.

      There would need to be provisions for bug and security fixes, so they could be implemented in less than 90 days, but this issue could likely be worked out as long as this can be monitored by a third party for compliance.

      3) The previous term must also apply to all Microsoft APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

      The trick part with this one will be internal APIs. Windows, like other OSs, uses internal APIs that are not intended to be exported to application or even driver developers. Hiding these APIs allows changes to be made to Windows without breaking outside developers code. These APIs exist so the the internal parts of the OS can communicate in a structured way, and are not meant for use by outside developers. Other people using those APIs would likely result in software breaking everytime Microsoft changed some inner working of Windows. There have already been enough examples of developers using functions that Microsoft did not consider to be part of a public API, and then the developers complaining whe Microsoft changed the API. The real problem will be determining exactly what needs to be public, and what Microsoft has a right to keep private.

      4) Microsoft may not keep agreements secret. In particular, the terms of the current OEM agreements, currently protected as "trade secrets" must be disclosed.

      I'm not sure the OEMs would like that very much. I think that they should have to share the details of such agreements with independent auditors, but OEMs don't want competitors to know details like what kind of volumes they are buying, or planning to buy from Microsoft. An alternate solution of having Microsoft have a fixed volume pricing schedule for all OEMs might be a more reasonable solution, though it wouldn't really be fair to void the current agreements Microsoft has made with OEMs (fair to the OEMs that is).

      5) Microsoft may not use agreements with Computer OEMs to restrict in any way the addition of other software to the computers, along with Microsoft products. In particular, OEMs are not to be prohibited from selling "dual-boot" systems,
      where the system can be booted into Windows or into some other operating system, such as Linux or a form of BSD or BeOS.


      I agree that OEMs should have the choice of selling "dual-boot" systems. I'm not sure that a lot of them will choose to do so because of increased support costs, but they should have the choice.
      The one problem I do see is that OEMs will sometimes bundle crappy software (because it was cheap). Microsoft should have some right to insist that it be obvious to the trained eye that the software isn't part of Windows. Microsoft does have a brand name to protect, and they should only have to suffer for the failures of their software. Otherwise they will have little encouragement to improve the quality of their own software. Their software is in need of some quality improvements, but they have been making some progress, and I would like to see that continue.

      6) Microsoft may not use their licensing terms to stop users or developers from using Open Source software or Free Software.

      I agree that Microsoft shouldn't be able to disallow the use of software based on it's licensing.

      7) Microsoft may not meddle in the the legislative processes of Fderal, State or local governemnts or bodies that make recommendations to them, with their work on UCITA being a prime model of behaviour that is prohibited to them as a monopoly.

      This is simply the prohibition of free speech. I can't support this remedy. Microsoft, and especially the people who make up Microsoft, have the right to speek their mind, and lobby for ligislation. Free speech is a constitutional right, and our government shouldn't even attempt to take that right away from anyone as a condition of a settlement in a civil case.
      • by fanatic (86657) on Monday November 05, 2001 @06:02PM (#2524821)
        For someone with a username of fanatic, you seem to have actually spent some time comming up possible solutions,

        Most of these (or maybe all) are not original with me, just given as an example.

        I saw something about 3 outside auditors.

        Not sure that's enough. Plus, whoever it is will have to have some technical savvy. Many auditors lack that.

        The real problem will be determining exactly what needs to be public, and what Microsoft has a right to keep private.

        The problem is that MS is notorious for having undocumented API calls that give them advantage. If it's callable from a program, it gets documented, I'd say. If it hurts MS, so much the better. They are guilty until proven innocent.

        7) Microsoft may not meddle in the the legislative processes....

        This is simply the prohibition of free speech.


        Yes it is. Individuals who are convicted felons lose the right to vote and to bear arms. This is a reasonable prohibition for a corporation which is a convicted felon. MS has proven time and again that they have no business influencing the legislative system. They have behaved in bad faith so often, it clearly is part of the corporate culture. (And while I'm at it, just what is Bill Gates's problem, anyhow. He's already the richest and one of the most powerful men on earth. Why is he willing to lie, cheat, steal for more? Are the jokes about the name of his company true?)

        I do agree that some of my points need work and you had some good suggestions - I'm not trying to be belligerent. But MS is BAD and they need to be slapped down HARD. And if it costs them some or most of their stock value or market share, well, that's actually a good thing. (Guess I'm a fanatic after all.)
  • by flez (463418)
    ...not a state. Get it right.

    (no, it doesn't really matter)
  • by Brian Kendig (1959) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:31PM (#2524367) Homepage
    Interesting commentary from macfixit.com on Microsoft's aggressiveness ever since the breakup remedy was thrown out:

    In recent weeks, we have seen Microsoft remove its support for Netscape extensions, forcing Apple to scramble to revise its QuickTime plug-in so that it would work with the Windows version of Explorer (and making us wonder if this also had something to do with Microsoft's desire to push its own Media Player [windowsmedia.com] format). At the same time, it omitted Java support from Window's Explorer [see previous item [slashdot.org]]. Then there is XP's reduced support for the MP3 format (again in favor of Microsoft's own alternative), plus the countless ways XP coerces you to MS-approved web sites [see this item [cnet.com]]. Add to all of this the recent controversy over MS blocking access to MSN by web browsers other than Explorer (see next item). We could go on. But you get the point. Yes, it certainly appears that Microsoft has been humbled by this lawsuit.

    My take on the court case all along...

    Microsoft's defense: "No, Your Honor, we're not responsible for murdering the victim! We only pointed the gun towards him and pulled the trigger -- it was his fault that he wasn't strong enough to deal with that! Besides, he was someday eventually going to die anyway! And there's no point in punishing us now, since he's already dead."

    DOJ: "Yes, you're right, we're sorry. We're going to punish you by telling you never to do it again! Here's your gun back."
    • by sheldon (2322) on Monday November 05, 2001 @05:19PM (#2524576)
      Well now that we've had the FUD. Let's dish out a dose of reality, shall we?

      XP doesn't have reduced support for MP3. It plays MP3s just fine, just like it has ever since Media Player came out. In fact it has enhanced support for MP3 over previous versions because you can buy a $10 plugin that'll let you encode in that format.

      If you don't agree... Prove it. Show me an older version of Media Player which had better support for MP3 than what ships with XP.

      Answer: You can't, because you are spreading FUD.

      Just like the Netscape plugin issue, the JVM issue, etc. FUD FUD FUD.
    • DOJ: "Yes, you're right, we're sorry. We're going to punish you by telling you never to do it again! Here's your gun back."

      No no- you mean:

      DOJ: "Yes, you're right, we're sorry. We're going to punish you by telling you never t... no... no, we're going to punish you by saying publically that it would be nice if everybody was nice, not implying that YOU aren't nice or anything, okay?"

      "Here- have another gun."

  • slow to respond (Score:3, Interesting)

    by n-baxley (103975) <.gro.syelxab. .ta. .etan.> on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:36PM (#2524392) Homepage Journal
    I sent an email to each of the State's Attorneys General indicating that I was opposed to the new settelment agreement and that I urged them not to sign. I sent the letter on Thursday, and aside form a couple of automatic replys, Florida was the only state to get back to me with a real answer. While it may have been an MS form letter, it at least addressed the issues, and didn't just tell me that they had recieved my email. I know email doesn't always get read in government, but I was pleased to see that Florida is taking a different approach. I'm including my mail and their response here.

    ME:
    Greetings,
    I am a not resident of Florida, but I wanted to send my
    support for your case against Microsoft. I think that
    the proposed settlement does not go far enough, and
    that harsher restrictions need to be made against
    Microsoft, and that particular attention needs to be
    brought to bear on the newly released Operating
    System, Windows XP. Please accept my support of your
    work thusfar on this case, and continue to do the good
    work you have been doing. Your work is much
    appreciated in the technical community.

    Nate Baxley



    THEM:
    Thank you for taking the time to email the Florida Attorney General's Office regarding our involvement in the case of United States v. Microsoft Corp. As you may be aware, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently upheld a federal trial court's finding that Microsoft had illegally maintained its monopoly.

    One of the many duties of the Florida Attorney General's Office is to enforce Florida's consumer protection laws, which require us to protect the consuming public and legitimate businesses from those who engage in "unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices" in commerce. (Section 501.202(2), Florida Statutes) The Attorney General is also authorized to bring actions to protect consumers against violations of state and federal antitrust laws.

    In accordance with our statutory duties and the recent Court of Appeals decision, we are currently working with the federal government and other states to reach an acceptable settlement to remedy Microsoft's antitrust violations. Our overriding goal in this effort is to restore healthy competition to the marketplace so that Microsoft can no longer use its clout to illegally impose its will on consumers and would-be competitors. The trial court has given all sides until today to reach a resolution with a mediator. If no settlement can be reached at that time, we will prepare for a trial that would start next March. We remain hopeful that a settlement can be reached, and will do everything we can to find a resolution that protects the interests of Florida consumers.

    Your input on this matter is greatly appreciated and will be considered as we enter the remedy phase of United States v. Microsoft. Again, thank you for your time and consideration of these issues.
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:55PM (#2524443)
    I don't want the government to force M$oft to clean up its act.
    I mean, it might work, and then we'd be stuck with this desktop monopoly for the forseeable future.
    I don't think people would've built all the wonderful new OSes (and jump-started moribund BSD back to life) if the dominant OS wasn't overpriced, amorally marketed, and basically lame.
    But a consent decree, that M$ will of course subvert or ignore as they have all previous such, should be a good thing.
    It'll inspire more people to work towards a better alternative, and better alternatives will encourage non-techies to get off the monopoly teat.
    --Charlie

    PS- Be kind, I forgot my asbestos underwear today.
    --C
  • CA and NY are key (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shibut (208631) on Monday November 05, 2001 @04:59PM (#2524466)
    Since the 2 big states are leading the effort, it is key that they NOT sign off on this. In particular, I think it is CA that hired that famous litigation attorney. Also, since silicon valley is in CA a refusal to sign by CA is particularly telling.

    I believe that if this drags on a little longer, unlike before, this will be a plus. The reason is that I've heard many economists on the government side hoping that XP will revive the economy as win98 did in 98. I think XP is not living up to that bill at the moment and in a month or 2 this will become apparent even to the DC big honchos. At that point restricting M$ won't quite look like shooting the economy in the foot...
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Monday November 05, 2001 @05:03PM (#2524485) Homepage Journal
    Well, since it's Massachussetts, obviously the well-funded lobbyists from Ximian are exerting some influence here. For as we know, Ximian is an extremely powerful megacorporation -- one of the few software powerhouses big enough to take on Microsoft. They have a lot of highly paid lawyers and lobbyists, and as a result they are very influential towards their state government.
  • Not by a long shot.

    Wired [wired.com] has an article [wired.com] about the settlement allowing dual-boots. An addition at the end says that Senator Pat Leahy intends to have Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to review the settlement.

    Also, the EU is still going forward with its investigation [cnet.com]

    Finally, Sun [sun.com] is mulling the possibility of a civil lawsuit [cnet.com] of its own.
  • by Kaya (173038) on Monday November 05, 2001 @09:36PM (#2525698)
    In addition to contacting your state's Attorney General, I recommend sharing your thoughts directly with the DoJ's Antitrust Division:

    From http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/contact/emails.htm [usdoj.gov]:

    If your comments relate specifically to the Antitrust Division's suit against Microsoft Corporation, please direct your correspondence to Microsoft.atr@usdoj.gov [mailto]

    Impress them with your eloquence. That's how democracy works.

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