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The Almighty Buck

Government Brings Antitrust Actions Against Rambus, Micron 257

Posted by chrisd
from the kursk-meets-rambus dept.
A Happy Plague writes "I work at a hedge fund and one of the nice ammenities are real time news tickers. At 11:34 EDT, a nice red line scrolled on my screen.."FTC Alleges Rambus Violates Antitrust Laws". The headlines followed..."...Anticompetitive Acts... Deceived standard setting organization...never acknowledged patents... deceptive conduct..." Too bad it takes a long time fo bureacracies to work, but they usually come around. Yahoo News has the story." Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president to get out from under this. In related news, Tricot writes "Over at Salon, there is a newswire article claiming that the justice department is investigating memory chip maker Micron for anti-competitive practices. Wow, if it's a monopoly, then it certainly hasn't hurt prices."
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Government Brings Antitrust Actions Against Rambus, Micron

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  • How do you know? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @04:50PM (#3731969)
    Wow, if it's a monopoly, then it certainly hasn't hurt prices.

    How do you know this? You have no way of knowing what prices might be were this not a monopoly (if it is ruled a monoopoly). You might consider the prices "fair" now, but who's to say they couldn't be better with competition?
    • "You have no way of knowing what prices might be were this not a monopoly (if it is ruled a monoopoly)."

      I think what he's saying is that prices are continually dropping. It's not quite the same as the RIAA who sells CD's for $15 no matter what the demand is.
    • How 'bout the fact that the memory manufacturers had to sell DRAMs for *LESS* than it cost to make them for months last year? Read all about it on Cnet ( http://news.com.com/2100-1001-271208.html) - DRAM prices fell by over 90% in less than a year. They're not getting rich, they're losing their shirts. Granted, Micron's poised to be one (and not number 1) of about 3 big memory manufacturers left, but everyone playing the memory game is racing as fast as they possibly can to try to get ahead - and everyone's staying neck-and-neck. The manufacturers are making DRAMs as cheaply as possible using the best technology available and they're just ekeing out a profit.

      If being one of three huge companies engaged in cut-throat competition constitutes a "monopoly" then I'd love to see a Microsoft monopoly.
    • This is in fact the bulk of the problem with antitrust. Alleging that Company X "harms consumers" requires a comparison of reality to fantasy. We don't know what Industry Z would be like "if there were competition", because Industry Z isn't like that. And NO, there are no valid economic models that can remotely accurately predict that.
  • by Marx_Mrvelous (532372) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @04:51PM (#3731982) Homepage
    So, I rememebr hearing about all this what, two years ago? When Rambus was going to the "the" definitive memory solutions. While DDR is certainly very successful, Rambus is still the premier memory technology. Now, it's always been clear to me that they've done this illegally.

    I wonder, if they persued this earlier if we wouldn't see Rambus out right now. DDR, IMHO, is the better, cheaper solution. A small push against Rambus two years ago might have been enough to force them from the market.
    • DDR is cheaper, but its not better. Don't believe the latency myth. RDRAM is better in virtually every real-world situation. SDRAM-DDR only ever comes out on top in pathological unrealistic kludgemark tests.
    • I wonder, if they persued this earlier if we wouldn't see Rambus out right now.

      I'm kinda glad they didn't though. Last month I picked up 256MB RDRAM for my system at only twice the price of DDR, but at least it is available. About 18 months ago, I was worried that my system was an expensive dead end, like the MCA PS2 machines.
    • Actually, a small push would make Rambus all that much richer. Rambus is trying to collect royalties on patents that it may have created through stealing information at the JEDEC against DDR Ram. So no, DDR may be more expensive today if Rambus was never challenged.
    • by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:17PM (#3732154) Homepage
      No, no, no... the anti-trust investigation has nothing to do with RDRAM.

      It has everything to do with SDRAM and DDR.

      Rambus was part of the JEDEC back when SDRAM standards were being developed. They withdrew shortly after the standards were being seriously discussed, but (allegedly) not before suggesting certain methods of doing things... which as it turns out they have patents on.

      Part of being involved in JEDEC, as with most standards bodies, is playing fair. You don't recommend that a standard adopt a method that you own the patent on unless you have fully disclosed that patent and have agreed to reasonable licensing terms. Rambus didn't do this. That's the crux of the lawsuit. And they're pretty well screwed here - Dell tried this many years ago and got toasted - their patents were ruled invalid because of exactly the same thing.

      RDRAM doesn't come into play. DDR does because DDR uses a lot of the same technologies that SDRAM does, which is where Rambus has its patent claims. Rambus allowed the standard(s) to be set, manufacturing to occur for a few years, and then served papers to every memory maker out there - telling them to either pay a royalty on these undisclosed patents or go to court for infringement. What amazes me is how many of the memory makers rolled over and played dead - only Micron, Infineon, and Hynix refused and counter-sued Rambus.

      Rambus probably would still exist even without these patents, simply because of the inane deal that Intel upper management signed a few years ago. They're finally working their way out of that boondoggle... of course, in the meantime AMD has gained market presence largely due to that mistake.
      • by McSpew (316871) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @08:02PM (#3733195)

        They withdrew shortly after the standards were being seriously discussed, but (allegedly) not before suggesting certain methods of doing things... which as it turns out they have patents on.

        Actually, to my knowledge, nobody has ever alleged that Rambus tried to steer JEDEC towards Rambus-patented technologies. Instead, Rambus remained silent while technologies were being discussed at JEDEC meetings that could infringe on its patents and even amended its patent applications to cover things being discussed at JEDEC meetings. In addition, Rambus didn't bail out of JEDEC until 1996, when its first SDRAM-applicable patents were finally issued.

        At one point during a JEDEC meeting, Rambus was asked point-blank if it had any patents pertaining to "two-bank designs." Rambus's representative merely shook his head no. Rambus actually had patent applications pending regarding two-bank designs and the representative who was asked about it knew this. Rambus later attempted to defend its silence on the topic by saying it believed it only needed to disclose patents that had already been issued, not pending ones. JEDEC's president says that Rambus is the only JEDEC member ever to misinterpret the patent rules in this way.

        For anybody looking to read the whole unseemly story of Rambus and its unparalleled greed, Fortune Magazine has the definitive article on the subject [fortune.com].

      • Rambus probably would still exist even without these patents, simply because of the inane deal that Intel upper management signed a few years ago.

        Uhhm, no. Intel signed this deal precisely because Rambus had these patents. You see, if Rambus's patents were to hold, they'd be able to charge an exorbitant licensing on DDR, which would effectively kill it and allow them to make RDRAM the de-facto standard (Rambus executive confirmed this hypothesis). Thus, Rambus would have been able to monopolize the memory market. What does Intel get out of it? Well, Intel owns a large amount of stock warrants in Rambus, which they'd be able to cash in when RDRAM reaches a certain market share. It appears that the warrants are now worthless, and Intel lost pretty penny on the whole affair. Serves them well!

  • Well hot damn they're just on an anti-trust streak arent they.
  • Anyone who hides patents and patent applications in order to deceive their fellow members, "working" with them to create a new memory standard, just to throw their weight several years down the line claiming everybody is infringing on those patents, deserves such a huge fine that the only memory they will be able to afford will be Post-it notes stuck to their PCs.

    • Yes, I agree, but did you read the article? The council for Rambus explained thier side of the story and it sounds to me like they have a strong case. Thats not to say that I beleive them, I just don't know how many fines they will ever see. As long as the government doesn't get out of hand with antitrust lawsuits, I think it is a good thing. It seems like they are paying way more attention to technology, and hopefully we will never have to see a rise of another Microsoft.
      • Rambus's council simply says they complied with the JEDEC rules and regulations -- which from everything I've read they did not.

        What do you expect them to say? "Yes, our client ignored those very rules that you are now prosecuting us for anti-trust violations."

        Note the reference to the Dell case. It's very much the same situation.
      • They have already been convicted of fraud, so they obviously didn't have that strong of a case...
  • The article goes to the point below:

    • The FTC said Rambus had concealed, while taking part in the group's work, that it held one patent and was seeking others that involved specific technologies proposed for, and ultimately adopted in, the relevant standards.

      By allegedly concealing this information, in violation of JEDEC's operating rules and procedures, and through other alleged bad-faith, deceptive conduct, the complaint charges that Rambus snookered JEDEC into the "misleading impression that it had no relevant intellectual property rights."

    Same old story of patents & intellectual property, monopolies, predatory business practices and crooks (dreaming of) pocketing everybody else money.

    The good news in their case, is that the memory prices isn't so bad at the moment. _pfew_

  • In other news Rambus Inc. today quietly dropped it's line of Alzheimer SDRAM memory chips citing customer complaints that 256Meg acted like only 64Meg of memory.
  • Micron consistantly lobbies Congress to increase the tarriffs on foreign RAM memories makers. Do you know why?

    Because Micron can't produce their ram as cheaply as their foreign competitors. So they get Congress to increase the tarriffs to a point where foreign produced ram costs about the same or slightly higher to purchase then Micron ram.

    I say boo fucking hoo to Micron. If they can't produce it as cheap as everyone else then they should get out of the business.

    How is this not a monopoly?
    • Didn't know that. Thats certainly very interesting, and bad.

      BTW, would you know why Micron wouldn't pull a Nike and just start purchasing ram from those foreign competitors, positioning itself as a memory brand rather than manufacturer? Or maybe their brand doesn't have enough value to allow them to compete in this fasion, as they'd just be middlemen? Or maybe there's very little value in brand in the memory market? That sounds plausible, but I'm curious to hear what you think.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You are behind the times. Micron was using that tack a couple years ago, now their production costs are among the lowest in the industry and they are driving foreign competition out of the market, and some of them are crying to their governments about it, just like Micron in the past in the US.

      Of course, if Micron drives enough other companies out of business (like Hynix, which is now in bankruptcy) they will be able to raise their prices since there won't be a surplus of DRAM as is currently the case. The weak PC market has hurt them all, but Micron's low production costs and low debt have them in a better position than some of the competition.
    • How is this not a monopoly?

      It's not a monopoly because there are still many competitors in the market. But yes, it is anti-competitive -- an unfair way to pursue an advantage over those competitors. I guess you could say they've been using unfair practices to keep their uncompetitive RAM manufacturing business afloat. :)

      I'm still wondering why Microsoft's trick of forcing the PC manfacturers to collect the tarrif on non-MS operating systems instead of lobbying the govt. to do it was not anti-competitive, myself...
    • >>Because Micron can't produce their ram as cheaply as their foreign competitors. I say boo fucking hoo to Micron. If they can't produce it as cheap as everyone else then they should get out of the business

      Yes there is a minimum wage here in the US, in addition to insurance, taxes, safety, and other concerns that you ob. I am happy that they actually do make some of their RAM here in the states, instead of offloading it to China of Tiawan where they can pay someone 1/3 as much and work them so much harder.

      >> So they get Congress to increase the tarriffs to a point where foreign produced ram costs about the same or slightly higher to purchase then Micron ram.

      You really want to say Boo-Hoo to Micron... And while you say that your employer will be outsourcing your Perl hacking job to 3 people in India who he can get for half the salary that he is paying you with. So Boo-Hoo to you. That is what Tarriffs are for. It isn't what it is always used for, but this is actual intent of having them. It is protectionary.

      At least they still make some microprocessors here. Not to say that AMD hasn't made factory's in Ireland simply because the Tax write-offs and other benifits outweigh dealing with OSHA and other parts of the federal government.

      Basically, Take Buisness 101, since is painfully obvious you haven't taken it.
    • How is this not a monopoly?
      How about "How *IS* this a monopoly?"

      Micron is the 2nd-largest DRAM manufacturer. Thus, they don't monopolize the market. They are physically incapable of producing that much DRAM, even if they had bought Nanya's guts once the banks finish with them. If Micron lowered prices, they would gain a bit of market share but would lose money. If they raise prices, module makers will ignore them. They have no control over the DRAM market. By definition, a monopolist does. I don't understand what part of that is confusing to you.
  • More.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @04:56PM (#3732022)
    Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president to get out from under this.

    More editorial bullshit. What if this was about Chinese space technology? Would we see the same statement with a link to a negative Clinton story?

    Sometimes slashdot.org is worse than the Yellow Times.

    • by Wee (17189)
      Right on! I wish I had moderation points left.

      I'm a card-carrying Libertarian and pretty much despise Bush as much as I despised Clinton, but even that "buy the President" crack was a little much for me. As if Microsoft was ever in any danger whatsoever from any government agency or lawsuit. Even if they could "buy themselves a President", they wouldn't have to.

      Some people just need a soapbox to stand on I guess. I'm betting we'll hear whining about the Bush/Gore election for many years to come... -B

    • More editorial bullshit. What if this was about Chinese space technology? Would we see the same statement with a link to a negative Clinton story?
      • Probably not, because Slashdot is generally more about tech stuff than general political stuff. Also, the slashdot community seems to tend to think that anyone getting into space is cool. However, such a statement/link combo would definitely be VALID COMMENTARY if 1) it were attached to an article about something China was doing that they shouldn't be doing and 2) Either Bill Clinton or Al Gore were currently president or likely to be president anytime in the very immediate future. As the latter is not the case, a link to a negative clinton story probably would not make sense. Anyway, it probably would not OCCUR to a slashdot poster (though it may be more likely such a thing would happen on kuro5hin) to make such a connection on a China story, but it might, there's no reason why it wouldn't, and i do not think anyone would mind.
      • George W. Bush is not exactly anti-china, and seems to be doing the same lets-ignore-human-rights-abuses-and-trade-with-chi na thing as everyone else since richard nixon. Speaking of which, that's an interesting point: the opening of relations with Communist China was begun by Nixon and expanded by Raegan, which between the two of them are probably the most conservative presidents of the last 50 years. There are many things to fault Clinton for, but his soft stance on China is not particularly one of them, as he was not much worse about this than previous/current presidents. (Although i will say, if Gore participates in the 2004 elections, you may critisize him for his support of China all that you like.)
      • The Bush Administration is very very open about their pro-business, anti-antitrust-enforcement stance. As Bush has many personal contacts in the business world, it is-- while cynical-- not altogether unreasonable to suggest this philosophy stems less from knowledge of economics and theories of promoting public good than it does from how Bush and Bush's friends would benefit from the application of this philosophy. Moreover, you absolutely cannot deny this: while Clinton was in office, a full-blown effort to have Microsoft taken down as a monopoly was going on. During the 2000 political elections, Microsoft donated significantly more money and lobbying effort to Bush than Gore. (Also, one can make a significant case that Ashcroft is too biased to be allowed near the Microsoft case [usatoday.com].) Once Bush was in office, this effort virtually ceased, and the people who were running the antitrust suit were removed and replaced with people whose goal at this point seems to let off Microsoft with the most minimal punishing possible. Before Bush entered office, the antitrust suit was characterized by the DOJ and the computing industry on one side fighting to have competition returned to the industry, and Microsoft on the other fighting to have things stay as they are; now it is characterized by the computing industry on one side fighting to have competition returned to the industry, and the DOJ and Microsoft on the other side fighting to have things stay as they are. Thus, i would say it is valid commentary that, whether the "bought" implications are valid, to say that GWB can be made to let antitrust violators off the hook.
      Your post has nothing to do with anything.
  • Here's some more... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marx_Mrvelous (532372) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @04:57PM (#3732029) Homepage
    This is what they are saying Rambus's actions caused: (quoting the official FTC release) increases in the price - and/or reductions in the use or output - of SDRAM chips, as well as other products incorporating or using SDRAM technology

    decreased incentives, on the part of memory manufacturers, to produce memory using SDRAM technology;

    decreased incentives, on the part of memory manufacturers and others, to participate in JEDEC or other industry standard-setting organizations or activities;

    and both within and outside the memory industry, decreased reliance, or willingness to rely, on standards established by industry standard- setting collaborations.
    • Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] has a discussion [infopop.net] about this story too, and I found this bit interesting:

      "Rambus is not the only memory company feeling the heat from the US government. The New York Times reports (free registration req'd and beware of the annoying Best Buy interstitial ad) Micron, Samsung and Infineon have been hit with a Department of Justice inquiry into anticompetitive practices."


      Call me crazy, but I find it kind of funny that 4 of the largest RAM players are being accused of anti-competition. Competitive anti-competition?? :)
      • Call me crazy, but I find it kind of funny that 4 of the largest RAM players are being accused of anti-competition. Competitive anti-competition?

        Yes, it's called "price-fixing", and it may even be the most common sort of anti-competitive behavior. Fortunately, it's also the least stable, as a single defector in an oligarchy can trigger a compensatory price-war. But a monopoly by a small group is no less dangerous in general than a monopoly by a single player.
  • but they grind to a fine dust.

    Thus, spammers should beware the FTC. :)
  • I'll buy the Rambus claim, but what exactly would make Micron a monopoly? If Salon is correct and Micron is the only US based DRAM manufacturer, I guess by definition that's sort of a monopoly, but I've never seen Micron (well, Crucial) exploit that power in any way.

    Does anyone have more solid information?
    • Micron is the only US based DRAM manufacturer, I guess by definition that's sort of a monopoly

      I guess Boeing is a monopoly then, since they're the only US-based manufacturer of large commercial jets...

      The FTC looked at that when the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas deal was inked, and they had some concerns. As Boeing poured millions of dollars in to lobbyists, eventually they decided that it didn't matter. Airbus, in Europe, was touted as the competition for Boeing.
    • What would make Micron a monopoly is buying the DRAM operations of Hynix (formerly Hyundai) and Toshiba. This makes Micron by far the biggest DRAM manufacturer, with something around 40% market share.

      The Hynix/Micron deal keeps falling through, but Hynix is out of money, heavily in debt, and is one generation behind in fabs. Micron, accordingly, isn't offering them much money. They need Micron more than Micron needs them. Unclear whether Micron will buy them, or just take over their market.

    • There is nothig in US law that says a monopoly is illegal. What is illegal is to use the advantage of a monopoly harm other businesses.

      If you make a great product and everyone only buys that, there's nothing illegal about it.
    • Read the article at Salon. Micron is being investigated for anticompetitive practices. You don't have to be a monopoly to engage in those kinds of tactics. Coke can engage in anticompetitive practices against Pepsi.

      BTW: Antitrust laws don't apply just to monopolies. They apply to any businesses that attempt to control markets in illegal ways. Oligopolies can violate antitrust laws just as well as monopolies. Specifically, they can do so by colluding to artificially raise prices or by agreeing not to compete in specific areas.

      Car manufacturers represent an oligopoly. There are relatively few competitors in an industry with a high barrier to entry. If car manufacturers all agree to make some option standard on all cars and raise prices accordingly, that's a violation of antitrust laws. The same thing applies if they all agree to stop offering some feature or option at all.

  • From the Salon article: Micron is the only DRAM manufacturer based in the United States.

    Since when is the US government looking out to protect foreign companies? If the anticompetitive actions were in the DRAM market, then the other companies aren't subject to US trust laws. It sounds anticompetitive to me for Micron to have to play by one set of rules while the rest play by another.
    • I'd be curious to see what trade agreements the US has with these foreign countries.

      Given how foreign investor clauses in trade agreements allow foreign companies to seek reperations and damages in other foreign markets when they feel theyre ability to turna profit is being hurt by governmental regulations (at least this is in NAFTA and WTO agreements) .. some other guy says Micro lobbies the government to raise tarrifs on foreign produced RAM. Could it be that if these foreign companies were gearing up to launch suit against the US government for violating some trade pact stipulations, that the US government decided it'd be better to go after Micron before they come under legal scrutiny from Microns competitors? It looks like Micron sought to buy out one of those foreign competitors, this could have just been the spark for a larger situation?
  • Micron sells great quality RAM directly to consumers at great prices. That is one monopoly I am willing to live with. Honestly, if they get fucked by this and they are unable to offer competitive RAM prices anymore... I'm gonna be pissed!

    -ryan
  • by b.foster (543648) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:02PM (#3732053)
    Most enlightened Americans believe that certain individuals in a society - such as murderers, drug dealers, and socialists - who actively work toward the goal of destroying the system they live in and prosper from, deserve to be removed from society so that they do not harm others. But, although the courts in America have long considered corporations to be the same as individuals under the law, they have been reticent to hold corporations accountable for the crimes they commit in a similar sense.

    However, as companies begin to lower their ethical standards and sink to the level of Enron, Anderson, and Rambus, the citizens of this fine nation need to stand up and demand accountability. Rambus should be a rallying cry, and it should be the pilot case for testing the resurrection of the corporate death penalty. Why?

    • Rambus produces nothing. The Rambus technology was licensed (albeit in a very unethical manner) from several other companies. Rambus has never employed a single engineer. They exist only to facilitate the creation and maintenance of an artificial monopoly.
    • Rambus is a threat to other businesses and consumers. Rambus has attempted to assert patent rights on several key, widely deployed technologies, such as SDRAM. This is a textbook example of extortion. Rambus did not create these technologies; they manipulated the sale of them so that they would be able to prosecute their competitors in court. An individual would rot in jail for doing something similar.
    • Rambus does not support alternative operating systems. Thus far, Rambus has refused to cooperate with the Linux developers who are trying to optimize performance on machines with RDRAM. This gives Microsoft an unfair advantage and again hurts the consumer by inhibiting choice.
    The list goes on, but the point is clear: Rambus deserves to get the corporate death penalty.
    • Fabulous troll.
    • Just curious- how would an os optimize performance for different kinds of memory? The hardware already takes care of the DRAM refreshes and stuff. I always thought that the type of RAM was really transparent to the os. Am I missing something?
    • Rambus should be a rallying cry, and it should be the pilot case for testing the resurrection of the corporate death penalty.

      What do you mean by "resurrection"? Anyway, how does one kill a corporation? You can't shoot it or behead it, since corporations are really networks of corrupt humans. If a corporate brand becomes useless, the humans would regroup under another brand (think shady marketing companie whose name changes every two weeks because they keep spoiling their name).
      • Here's some more info about corporate personhood [iiipublishing.com] and the corporate death penalty [reason.com].

        Basically, the idea is since corporations are deemed persons, incorporated under the laws of a particular jurisdiction, that their charter to conduct business be revoked if they committed grievous crimes.
      • Anyway, how does one kill a corporation?

        Simple. You revoke their charter (the government-created document that creates the entity of a corporation in the first place). If this is done, the corporation ceases to exist. It has been "killed".

        Now, I have no idea how complex the actual procedure that would have to crawl on its hands and knees through the bloated mass of federal agencies/corporations and middlemen would end up being, but the basic CONCEPT is quite simple.

      • Now, I have no idea how complex the actual procedure that would have to crawl on its hands and knees through.

        Simple. The corporation's assets are sold off and given to the creditors and shareholders. This punishment was used quite frequently back in 1800's if the corporation was deemed to be operating counter to the public good.

    • by dinog (582015) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @06:06PM (#3732506)

      I completely disagree. The reason we see this kind of behaviour is that the company is punished and the individuals that make these decisions are not directly punished.

      The solution is to find the person or people who made these decisions and prosecute them in a criminal court for the crimes (i.e. extortion, fraud) they have commited.

      As long as we only levy punishment at the company as a whole, those individuals at the top who make these decisions are going to get off scott free and continue to engage in these behaviors. Put one of these bastards behind bars for as long as he actually deserves, and the next one will think twice before engaging in this kind of behavior. People (not companies, not guns, not computers, not books, and certainly not ideas) commit crimes and people should be punished.

  • by nexthec (31732) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:02PM (#3732055)

    Micron Technology Inc., one of the nation's biggest maker of computer memory chips, said it, and other companies, are being investigated by the Department of Justice for alleged "anticompetitive practices."

    the key part is "it, and other companies" I firmly belive that micron will not be involved as a defendant, but as a witness and support of the FTC seeing how they pretty much told RAMBUS to eat their shorts and got the FTC involved in the first place.
  • Lentium 4 (gave up good pricing for the rest of its life), I might actually care about Rambus. I say, screw them. They need to be seriously beaten for what they're trying to do to the memory industry. Long live DDR, and RAMBUS can suc^H^H^H, I mean die!!!

    In other news, RAMBUS (RMBS (?)) sues Fisher Price for use of the color red and the word 'bus'.
    More at 11.

  • Is there an industry out there that doesn't have at least one corporation under investigation for some sort of heavy-handed business practices? I know, I know, this is Slashdot where we rattle our sabres at the big corporations. Still, I'm just curious to know if there are companies on the level trying to make a buck. When does this kind of story cease being news and become a red flag that we do something about?

    I am a fan of capitalism. Yet, it seems the folks in the wheelhouses of our fleet are lost at sea. Competition = capitalism. Squelching competition = fascism.

    Suggestion to corporate officers who would listen: forget the quarter to quarter BS, figure out what your companies are in business to do, lay out a plan to do that well for no less than a couple of years, and do only that. In the end you may not be the titan you dreamed of, but you sure as hell won't be testifying before a Congressional committee or holding penny stocks either.

    • Correction: Competition = Free Market. Fascism does not preclude Capitalism, in fact they often go hand in hand. Everyones favorite Fascist regime, Nazi Germany, was a veritable utopia for Capitalists (as long as the weren't Jewish).

      The goal of Capitalism is to maximise capital, generally by maximizing profit. Profit is limited by competition. Therefore: Capitalism and Competition are at odds. The goal of any true Capitalist is to establish a monopoly, putting them in a position to maximize profit, and thus amass capital.

      Aside from that semantic point, however, I totally agree with you. I think it is critical to the survival of our society that we make it easier to pierce the corporate veil, and thus hold the people responsible for their actions. Only then will we see a change for the better.

    • The problem is the old addage... Power corrupts. And the addendum, Power attracts the corruptible. Any corporation that is successful is going to attract people who want to profit from it. Many of those people will be willing to forego business ethics in the search for greater profit. The only way to avoid that is to put the reins in the hands of an honest, hard-working CEO, and those are hard to find.
  • "512K ought to be enough for anyone." At the end of the day, the consumer isn't going to be able to change the relationship between mass manufacturing and over/under pricing unless he blows up a RAM factory, in which case we're all screwed. Not that I mean to tell everyone to just eat your peas, but A. pricing isn't going to change until rambus is ultra-commonplace, and B. patent mongers are patent mongers, they're all just trying to be the next gemstar.
  • Give it a rest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by osgeek (239988) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:17PM (#3732155) Homepage Journal
    Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president to get out from under this.

    Isn't it a tad irresponsible to accuse Bush of being "bought" by Microsoft because his administration is hesitant to interfere with market forces -- even when your typical /. geek would prefer that he did?

    Republicans are normally slower to jump on the antitrust bandwagon. Accusations of impropriety are just way out of line, though.
    • That's the point, once there is a monopoly and anticompetitive practices, there is no longer a free market, and market forces no longer work.

      I'm a Libertarian, but only as far as I believe in promoting free markets. Once business takes up the task of destroying free markets, then, even as a Libertarian, I think it's time for some government interference.

      I call the laissez faire Libertarians "Simplistic Libertarianism", since their philosophy would destroy what they seek to promote as a basic tenent.
      • Woah, not saying I agree with the Bush administration's position on this. Just saying that alleging capitulation for a bribe by a "journalistic" web site is way out of line.
    • Besides, Enron paid good money for their president, they don't want some upstart software company taking any of the credit. :) (If you're offended by this intentionally humourous statement, I suggest you re-evaluate your life a little.)
    • "Market forces" (Score:2, Informative)

      by hrafn42 (227947)
      because his administration is hesitant to interfere with market forces

      Firstly, may I point out that the Bush administration's stance on steel tariffs and agricultural subsidies shows that it has no problem with interfering with market forces.

      Secondly, may I point out that Microsoft has been found by the courts to be a Monopoly. This means that it has substantial market power and that "market forces"="Microsoft's will" in this particular market.
      So what you are really saying is that the Bush administration is hesitant to interfere with Microsoft's will.
      Well, I suppose that's accurate. ;)
    • Allowing those artificial legal entities known as corporations is interference with market forces right from the get go. Income taxes are interference with market forces. Planning and zoning are interference.

      Is it ok to interfere with the steel and farming industry market forces?

      Get your prejudices lined up on the same side of the fence, you'll have less stress.
    • Not interfering with market forces is a very new concept. It's quite alright to 'dabble' in alternate methods of capitalist government, but history has shown time and time again that monopolies are bad, think Standard Oil, AT&T, for some big American examples in the 20th century.

      If the Republican party is happy to ignore so much that has been learned from history, and at the same time accept millions of dollars from today's monopolistic compaines then in my opinion they deserve every negative accusation that can by thrown at them!
  • by cgadd (65348) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:17PM (#3732156)
    I see the slashdot editors are in true form, never missing the opportunity to show their anti-republican bias by suggesting that President Bush was "bought" by Microsoft.

    A quick check of fecinfo.com's donor search shows that Bill Gates has donated generously to MANY democrats. In fact, in this 2002 election cycle, all of the donations shown are to democrats. But overall, Microsoft has given to both main parties and even some independent parties.

    Any idiot should be able to figure out that a republican president will be "pro business". Note that microsoft didn't buy a pardon, like some common criminals did from Clinton.....

    Oh, I forgot, this is slashdot, so microsoft and republicans are always evil.....

    • Yep, I agree. Every day I grow more and more tired of seeing /. editors use their mass audience as a chanel to spout their political views. Slant aside, they almost ALWAYS have something biased to say on every single article posted. I am reading less /. every day because of this. Sad.
      • Damn Right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by chrisd (1457) <chrisd@dibona.com> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:44PM (#3732322) Homepage
        What I don't understand is why people assume that there hasn't been a quid pro quo here. I mean, if someone donates money to a campaign, and a lot of it, even if it is not to the exclusion of the other party, and they get to have their way with the government, isn't that buying an administration? If it looks like a rose and smells like one... Now what's funny is people acting like I wouldn't accuse the Clinton administration of the same thing. Anyhow, slashdot "spouts" biased ideas all the time. For instance:

        Extreme Patents Bad

        MPAA Bad

        RIAA Bad

        EFF Good

        Free Speech Good

        Video Games Good

        Open Source Good

        I am completely okay with you disagreeing with my analysis of the purchasability of George Bush, but to say that /. should be unbiased in it's coverage is to ignore the history and goals of slashdot. And to assume a default democratic bias is in my opinion unfounded, I mean, look at our criticism of Idiot Senator Hollings a senator so completely purchased that he must have a barcode tattooed on his forehead.

        chrisd

  • ...thier pride lies in thier stock price. Which used to be over $120/share, is now a mere $4/share.

    Someone high up has to make a state of the organization address to some REALLY unhappy investors that were hoping that the $120-$16 run would come bouncing back.

    Too many falls like this may prove fatal.
    • that the $120-$16 run...

      erm, try $450-$4. i remember when RMBS hit that high...quite disturbing. i think VA's top out at $320 was more pathetic though, considering it was the day of their IPO, which opened at like $12 IIRC.

      see also:
      scroll down to March 13, 2000 in RMBS history [yahoo.com]
      Dec 9, 1999 in VA Linux's [yahoo.com]
  • by rlthomps-1 (545290) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:18PM (#3732162) Homepage
    Rambus has been pulling some rather blatant violations of anti trust laws especially with the whole JDEC thing... doesn't their upper management see that? It just seems so silly of them to pull this kind of stuff when they could continue their revenue growth based on the strength of legitimate business practices. Ethics issues aside, doesn't it make more sense to play right rather than take the risk of losing your Intellectual property and losing your money in court? [pcworld.com] They took a significant risk and lost with their legal strategy starting to crack.

    Is it a sign of a greater ethics issue in the industry or is it high level management who can't figure out how to solve a problem other than to pursue a costly and risky legal battle? I think its both, and investors should be wary about putting any more money into this company.
    • You are assuming that they were ever engaging in legitimate business practices. From outward appearances, the entire firm might have been no more than a bunch of con-men lawyers who figured out how to game the patent system.

      Also, take a look at their stock price over the past two years. It takes a lot of revenue growth to make up for your stock price dropping from ~$126 to ~$6. And that was before the FTC investigation. Now it's down to ~$4. Ouch. I wonder if anyone will buy their near worthless patents at the bankruptcy?
  • ...other issues besides nailing companies to the wall for attempting to prevent others from succeeding.

    There are tens of thousands of homeless people in America, a health care system that is bleeding money (pardon the pun) and a Cabinet that has NO problem overspending for things they hardly need (ie. ground-based antimissile lasers).

    If anything, it's likely that the millions of dollars in fines that will be garnered from hundreds of anti-trust suits will be used for nothing more than to line the pockets of those in the government that keep the focus away from the serious issues.

    I work in marketing and I feel that there is nothing wrong with a pure monopoly within a category, provided that the company is producing high-quality goods that satisfies the customers. If you allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to pump out inferior products in order to prevent a monopoly, all you will do is create a bad image for the product and everyone will lose.

    Granted, Microsoft engineers write bad code that is rife with bugs, but their products still sell -- because they're useful and allow for productivity. Remember all those pathetic side-scroller games that were pushed based on movie licenses? Same issue, different color.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Buy a President? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by I_am_God_Here (413090) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:21PM (#3732183) Homepage
    Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president
    What is that supposed to mean? Gates gave tons of money to Gore but not Bush. Every time Bush does something that helps a company you all act like he was paid off. Here is the truth. He is a republican and as one believes that companies should be left alone by the government. A good republican, and libertarians to, shoul alway fight for the repel of laws that inhibit fair business. Most non-techies don't understand that M$ is evil they just see another business.
    Thus Republican + Nontechie = doesn't worry about M$. For better or worse that is the way it is.
  • Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president to get out from under this.

    Isn't it pretty bad, that a comment like this can be made and many people, myself included, would agree to how right it is? If you calculate how much money is given to PAC's etc., than you might be able to argue that the United States has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Depending on who you paid and how much you paid, you do or don't get attention for your problems and a listening ear for your ideas. Now, Western countries (yes, other democratic countries also have this problem) might say to third world countries that they need to do something about corruption, and rightfully so, but the democratic West needs to watch out they don't fall into the same pitfalls.
    A government shouldn't let its policies to be determined by the amount of money that has been given to them. But hey, you may say that I'm a dreamer

  • You can find the actual FTC Administrative Complaint here. [ftc.gov]
  • by bigpat (158134)
    "Wow, if it's a monopoly, then it certainly hasn't hurt prices."

    Not only monopolies are guilty of anticompetive acts. Basically, any action that is "in restraint of trade" or "deceptive" by businesses are illegal.
  • by toupsie (88295) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:36PM (#3732260) Homepage
    Of course all rambus has to do now is buy a president to get out from under this.

    Uh, excuse me? What does President George W. Bush have to with RAMBUS much less the Microsoft case from this link? President Bush appointed the first African American, Charles James, to head the antitrust division of the Justice Department. Assistant Attorney General Charles James never has said that Microsoft should get away scott free, he just disagrees with breaking up Microsoft into two monopolies from one. His solution is to penalize Microsoft and force them to adopt different business practices that would remove barriers to competition from outside companies on their operating system.

    There is no need for these sort of comments on Slashdot story briefs. AAG Charles James has a long history of serving this country through its court system and to have a partisan sniper misrepresent his opinion in such a blatant fashion is repugnant. I don't know if its racism or just pure hatred towards the current administration that would allow this sort of misrepresentation to be published. It would be nice if Slashdot editors would review these submissions before they are posted and depolitise them.

    • by terrymr (316118) <terrymr&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:52PM (#3732411)
      if AAG Charles James believes microsoft should be penalized for their conduct why did he not include any penalties in the settlement agreement with microsoft ?

      Note that all the agreement contains is some (rather weak) restrictions of future conduct (for a short time) there is not one penalty for past conduct anywhere in the agreement.
    • It would be nice if Slashdot editors would review these submissions before they are posted and depolitise them.

      If you think Slashdot is intended to be a non-partisan news site you obviously don't read it very much. "News for nerds, stuff that matters." If you're looking for Bible-belt sensibilities you're at the wrong site, mister.

      The Bush administration is pursuing the Microsoft case much less strenuously than the Clinton administration did. This is fact. The Bush administration accepted substantial donations from Microsoft. This is fact. Chrisd has a right to believe the administration was "bought" by Microsoft whether it's fact or not. Or I'm sorry, should we delete the story because "toupsie" disagrees????

      Would you like us to file the tits off the Statue of Liberty while we're at it or do we have your permission to let them stay?

      • If you think Slashdot is intended to be a non-partisan news site you obviously don't read it very much. "News for nerds, stuff that matters."

        I really thought it was. If I wanted to discuss politics rather than technology, I would head over to the many extreme political discussion sites. Cheap pot shots on political leaders is best suited for those forums. Whether you are talking about the Impeached One or Chimpy.

        If you're looking for Bible-belt sensibilities you're at the wrong site, mister.

        I am a Catholic living in NYC...the complete opposite of a Baptist in Georgia. "We got them thespians livin' up har!".

        The Bush administration is pursuing the Microsoft case much less strenuously than the Clinton administration did. This is fact.

        So? There are some of us that think that breaking up one monopoly to create two or three other monopolies isn't going to solve the problem. Pretty much the solution being bounced around during the Clinton years. I am for competition in the marketplace. I use Mac OS X because of that -- outside the fact its better than Windows. Microsoft can be beat easily by better products and its happening. Apache creams IIS. I am sure you can come up with other product match ups.

        The Bush administration accepted substantial donations from Microsoft. This is fact. Chrisd has a right to believe the administration was "bought" by Microsoft whether it's fact or not.

        And Al Gore tooled around on Microsoft's campus and took donations as well and according to posters in this forum, more than Bush took in. What a news flash, a company betting on both teams. If Chrisd thinks that a single company can buy a Republican President in front of a liberal media, he's welcome to make the silly claim...just try to put it in the forum instead of the news summary. Its such a waste of time in the summary to divert the story from the real thrust.

        Or I'm sorry, should we delete the story because "toupsie" disagrees????

        Well if I were the owner of Slashdot, I would run things different. Guess what, I ain't and don't pretend too. I have no problem with the story. Its perfect for this forum, technology and the law. But throwing out hyperbole in the story brief is not necessary, it will come from people just like you. That's what's great about Slashdot as a forum. You throw out the story, don't taint it and let everyone else color the information then the moderators screw it up or enhance it.

        Would you like us to file the tits off the Statue of Liberty while we're at it or do we have your permission to let them stay?

        I guess is this lame attack on Attorney General John Ashcroft transferred on me. Ha ha! Let me give you a ticket on the political clue train. The fact that John Ashcroft has a problem with a nude statue behind him is not bizarre. When did you see Janet Reno stand in front of a statue of a nude man with a thick, flaccid, exposed "chubby" and conduct a news conference? Hillary Clinton has never stood in front of such of a statue nor can I recount a time where I have observed a female politician or major government employee do such a thing. The man has a restrained sense of public decorum when it comes to nudity. So do many women. In this day and age of in your face hypersexuality bombarded at us from the media and previous politicians, its nice to see a member of our Government acting like someone beyond a high school level of sexual maturity.

        • I won't get into a flame war with you as I think that your opinions are generally well-founded, I just tend to disagree. Here is one point where we are looking at opposite sides of the coin:

          There are some of us that think that breaking up one monopoly to create two or three other monopolies isn't going to solve the problem.

          Not sure if you are "old-school" or "newb" but many people who have followed this for a long time have seen how Microsoft counter-leverages their OS monopoly against their office monopoly. Roughly paraphrased my argument would be: Office 3.0 required DOS 6.0 which made Office 4.2 faster which required Windows 95 which made Office 97 faster which required Windows 98 ad infinitum. I could even name instances where Microsoft intentionally released OS versions that "broke" the operation of their primary competition but these things are decades in the past.

          Would you like us to file the tits off the Statue of Liberty while we're at it or do we have your permission to let them stay?

          I guess is this lame attack on Attorney General John Ashcroft transferred on me. Ha ha! Let me give you a ticket on the political clue train.

          No, this was purely metaphorical but I find it very funny that you found a literal application for my sarcasm. I assumed people were far too easy-going to complain about the Statue of Liberty's organ placement but maybe I was wrong?

    • Personally, I'm curious why him being black has anything at all to do with anything. Racism? The only one who said anything about race is you.
  • Remedy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ottffssent (18387) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @05:56PM (#3732439)
    Some facts:
    1. Rambus was part of the JEDEC.
    2. JEDEC rules require disclosure of patents.
    3. Rambus declosed no patents.
    4. (while part of JEDEC) Rambus suggested certain methods employed in SDRAM and DDR (that they had patents on).
    5. Now that SDR/DDR is well-entrenched, Rambus is suing for royalties.

    The obvious (to me) solution is to take a closer look at numbers 2 and 3. Rambus was required to declare their patents. They did not do so. Thus, they have no patents on the technology incorporated into JEDEC standards. Don't mess around with antitrust laws, just invalidate the patents in question and let them try to make a living on the technology they've got legitimate claims to.

    • Don't mess around with antitrust laws, just invalidate the patents in question and let them try to make a living on the technology they've got legitimate claims to.

      That doesn't "set an example" to discourage other companies from thinking they can do the same thing.

      If you don't punish such companies severely enough so they really feel it (make them worse off than if they hadn't violated the law), then other companies will happily make a "business decision" to violate similar laws, since the potential risk would be minor compared to the potential gains.

  • The tale of the tape (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Galvatron (115029) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @06:18PM (#3732583)
    Yep, according to their stock chart, 11:34 looks right [yahoo.com]. 36% decline in one day? Yikes! Well, it couldn't have happened to a more arrogant group of SOBs.
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @06:49PM (#3732759)
    How many times do we have to see he truth before it becomes crystal clear. Companies pull this stuff because they know they can get away with it. White colloar criminals know that the worst they have to face is a slap on the wrist and maybe a little bad PR down the road. Even Milkin walked away a millionaire with boku job offers.

    Most of the time the ringleaders are long-gone or retired before the dust even begins to leave the ground.
  • by ToLu the Happy Furby (63586) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @08:36PM (#3733327)
    The Micron story: First, the DOJ did not bring an action against Micron today. Rather, they sent a subpoena to Micron, seeking information for an investigation into possible anti-competitive behavior in the DRAM market.

    This has nothing to do with Micron (with global DRAM marketshare of ~18%) having a "monopoly" in the DRAM market; indeed, in addition to Micron, Infineon and Samsung (and probably others) recieved subpoenas today as well. While the DOJ has not made any public statements about this (that I've seen), it is extraordinarily obvious to anyone who has followed the DRAM industry over the past year or so that they are investigating allegations of dumping on the DRAM spot market. In particular, the spot price for DRAM (128 Mbit SDRAM chips in particular) declined by something like 75% last fall, in the absence of major new supply or significant shortfalls in demand. The resulting price was well below even the marginal cost of producing these chips.

    When the price suddenly shot back up a few months ago with the announcement that Micron had reached a tentative deal to buy the already-bankrupt Hynix, it became quite clear that the spot market price was being kept artificially low in order to try to force the ailing Hynix out of business. (The Micron-Hynix deal was later rejected by Hynix's board, causing--wouldn't you know it--another DRAM price war.) The whole thing was made even more fishy by the fact that DRAM contract prices (that is, the DRAM sold in monthly contracts to OEMs like Dell, HP, etc.) stayed way way higher than the spot prices; Hynix was mostly limited to the spot market in its attempts to desperately sell off excess inventory to try to raise cash to pay off their creditors (after all, who wants to sign a contract with a company on the verge of bankruptcy??).

    The obvious conclusion is that the other memory makers (Samsung and Micron are #1 and 2 in marketshare) dumped excess inventory on the spot market or even purposely sold at worse prices than they could otherwise get, in an effort to drive Hynix out of business sooner and thus reduce supply and cause prices to be higher than before. By itself, this is probably not illegal, because none of them has a monopoly. What would be illegal is if any of them colluded to keep the spot price artificially low. If they did that, they would be guilty of forming an illegal trust (that's why it's called anti-trust law, not "anti-monopoly") and engaging in illegal dumping or even price-fixing. Personally I would be surprised if this did not occur, but we'll see if the DOJ can find enough concrete evidence to bring a claim.

    [For those wondering how the DRAM market turned out--spot prices are way down again across the board, although 128Mbit SDRAM is not nearly as low as it got last fall. (256Mbit and DDR chips are close to record lows, though.) The difference now is that contract prices have finally come down to near-spot levels (in a normal market, contract prices are lower than spot levels), and, considering the recent warnings by Intel and AMD, it looks as if low demand may actually be to blame, not price-fixing.]

    The Rambus story: The short version of events posted here is more or less right: Rambus was a member of JEDEC while the SDRAM standard was being worked on; Rambus did not disclose any patents they had which read on the SDRAM design being discussed, nor did they disclose any intent to seek royalties on the standard; later, after SDRAM was standardized and became the mainstream DRAM type, Rambus sought royalties from anyone producing SDRAM or an SDRAM memory controller, which is to say almost the entire worldwide electronics industry. (Also DDR, which according to Rambus not only infringes their SDRAM patents but also a couple others on double-clocked operation in a DRAM.)

    Some memory producers (including Samsung and Elpida) agreed; others (specifically Micron, Infineon and Hynix) refused and were taken to court. (The threatened legal action regarding SDRAM controllers never really happened because Rambus was focusing on memory producers first.) In the first such case to come to trial, in which Rambus sued Infineon in Virginia, not only did the judge rule that Rambus' patents don't actually cover SDRAM/DDR, but the jury found Rambus guilty of fraud for sitting on JEDEC and failing to disclose their intent to seek royalties on SDRAM--which is essentially what the FTC claim charges. (Unlike the DOJ investigation I talked about above, the FTC is past the investigating stage and today actually filed a claim against Rambus.)

    However, it's not quite as simple as other /. posts make it out to be. For one thing, Rambus claims that they didn't run afoul of the JEDEC policy requiring attendees to disclose relevant patents, because they did not yet have the patents which they later accused everyone of infringing. What makes the whole thing really complicated is that these "SDRAM patents" were not new patents either, but rather extensions of a previous Rambus patent on RDRAM, which Rambus did have at the time. Basically, patent law definitely allows you to file an extension of an old patent which makes clear that a new product infringes your original invention even if it may not infringe the original patent. How this intersects with the requirement to disclose patents to standards bodies is rather cloudy. As we know, Rambus got convicted of fraud for this--probably helped by documents at trial which pretty much proved Rambus had this plan in mind all along. However the issue is currently on appeal. IMO the Appeals Court's decision on this issue will determine what happens with this FTC claim filed today.
    • Sorry to reply to my own post, but some additional news on the DOJ DRAM-industry investigation. First, since yesterday it's been announced that many other memory makers have recieved DOJ subpoenas, including Elpida, Toshiba, Nanya, Hynix, and even little Winbond. It's quite clear now that this has nothing to do with Micron in particular but rather the DRAM industry as a whole.

      Second, it's been noted that, sad to say, the DOJ generally only undertakes antitrust investigations in response to a complaint by a US interest claiming to be hurt by the alleged anti-competitive behavior. Since the only major party (that I can think of) hurt by the DRAM price war was Hynix, a South Korean company, it's difficult to imagine on whose behalf the DOJ would be investigating.

      Thus it has been suggested that instead the DOJ is investigating the jump in DRAM prices following the end of the price war (i.e. when the Hynix takeover was announced); Michael Dell in particular has publicly complained about high DRAM prices, so some have suggested Dell is behind the complaint.

      IMO, if the investigation is focusing on the SDRAM spot prices which shot up after the price war ended, it's misguided. That jump in prices was, IMO, the natural consequence of both the end of an artificial price war and uncertainty on the demand side as Intel introduced its first DDR motherboards and the market had to be sure to have adequate inventory of both SDRAM and DDR to cover for the possibility of either a very successful DDR ramp or a slow one.

      Now, if the complaint focuses on the rather outrageous gap between spot and contract prices which existed until it finally close in the last couple weeks, then it might get somewhere. On the one hand it's pretty clear that the pricing anomaly was that the spot price was artificially low, not that contract was artificially high. On the other, there was apparently good evidence that the major memory makers were indeed colluding to keep contract prices that high, so the DOJ might indeed find something to complain about...
  • The basis of the media reports I have seen on Micron et al are that they are being investigated for trying to lower prices in order to force out a competitor. This presumably relates to the Hynix situation last year. It is not about raising prices, but coordinated lowering. Specific allegatins will probably not be clear until any charges or suits are filed.
  • Remember when RAM prices nearly doubled? When 128MB of RAM went from $100 to like $185? Here's what happened, as I understand it.

    Micron is the only American memory maker. The rest are concentrated in southeast Asia. The governments of the countries those companies are in subsidize them like crazy. Our cheap RAM comes at the expense of Malaysian et al. taxpayers. Anyway, Micron, having to pay overpriced American labor and lacking any equivalent corporate welfare, was having trouble competing. So what else, they whined to the FTC. BAM! Gigantic punitive tariff slapped on RAM imports. And now they're being pursued for "anti-competitive" practices?

    Of course, using the violence of government to support your inefficient uncompetitive business certainly *is* anti-competitive, but you wouldn't think the US government would be ready to admit that ;)

...this is an awesome sight. The entire rebel resistance buried under six million hardbound copies of "The Naked Lunch." - The Firesign Theater

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