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Microsoft Government The Courts News

A Look at Microsoft's Regulatory Problems 302

Posted by Cliff
from the looking-in-from-the-outside dept.
jrexilius writes: "The Economist has a great article on the state of the EUs anti-trust case against microsoft, background, and future troubles with google. One interesting comment was 'Microsoft is preparing to use its dominance in web-browser and operating-system software to promote itself in yet another separate market--search engines this time'."
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A Look at Microsoft's Regulatory Problems

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  • Fishy company (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krray (605395) * on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:02PM (#8145496)
    Microsoft's contracts with PC-makers required them to pay it for a copy of Windows for each PC sold, even for PCs that were sold with other operating systems, or with no operating system at all.

    This is exactly what REALLY ticked me off with them (in the IT adm position no less). I put up with their marginal quality on the desktop up until this point. Sure, part of me still wished I had gone OS/2 there as well, but I digress. I certainly still remember buying PC's that I had to pay the Windows tax on ... even though they still run Linux to this day (except one actually which is one of the Netware servers).



    Microsoft may some day conclude that the costs of constant regulatory battles--legal costs, fines, bad publicity, and bad relationships with governments--exceed the benefits of its Windows monopoly.

    One can only hope. In the mean time it's still Linux in the data-centers and my basement for that matter. OS.X on my desktop, thank you very much. And yes, they talk NFS and not SMB with each other as well. It's faster... You know what I've learned at the offices that have agreed to run Linux and/or Mac's? Within one year it's obviously cheaper and faster than before. Almost ironical after reading all the Microsoft funded ROI type studies showing the exact oppisite. I thought something smelled fishy.

    • Re:Fishy company (Score:5, Insightful)

      by October_30th (531777) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:07PM (#8145539) Homepage Journal
      required them to pay it for a copy of Windows for each PC sold, even for PCs that were sold with other operating systems

      Which, of course, is an exaggeration. Any such requirements come from the deal your shop has signed with Microsoft. If the contract stipulates that in order to get OEM discounts you must sell MS Windows with every piece of complete hardware you sell, that's a perfectly reasonable clause.

      • Re:Fishy company (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:21PM (#8145645)
        It might be a reasonable clause in the case of a competitive market where OEMs can pick any OS-vendor and strike a deal with them, but in the current world it doesn't work that way. If you sell PC-hardware, then you have to provide Windows. If you don't strike this deal, you go belly up. That's the nature of Microsofts monopoly, and that's why such deals should be illegal.
        • You go belly up because the market DEMANDS MS products. There are no MS thugs with guns forcing companies to sell MS. It's completely and entirely market driven. I have not seen one single successful PC company selling Linux pre-installed. Not a one. Even the owners of /. couldn't make it fly.
          • Re:Fishy company (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @06:07PM (#8146274)
            Sure, it's market driven. Save for the thug approach, all monopolies are market driven creations. MA Bell won the phone market, IBM the mainframe market. Purely market driven.

            This does however not mean that monopolies should be left alone, as at some point such a monopoly will start hurting. This is why there are different sets of rules for monopolists versus competitors in a market. For one, barriers to entry must go. One barrier to entry is the Microsoft tax we're discussing currently. It's been set up when MS was on its way to becoming a monopoly, but now that it is has succeeded, the barrier must go. With such barriers in place, there is simply no possibility of a competitor to enter the market, let alone succeed. It's a simple case of making sure that any PC vendor has access to the same pricing of windows as their competitors. MS can still set the price, but cannot play favours. They lost that privilige once they won.

            • The EU stopped those contracts with pc-makers in 1994. Why is Microsoft still the dominant force in the market 10 years later? They make a better product?
          • Re:Fishy company (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Ironica (124657) <pixel@boo[ ]ck.org ['ndo' in gap]> on Saturday January 31, 2004 @08:25PM (#8146984) Journal
            You go belly up because the market DEMANDS MS products. There are no MS thugs with guns forcing companies to sell MS. It's completely and entirely market driven.

            Oh, puh-lease. I suppose it was the market that drove MS's decisions to put fake error messages in Windows 3.1? That it was simply a market phenomenon when MS violated their joint development agreement with IBM by telling developers to code for Windows instead of OS/2? That the consumers demanded them to exploit dozens of cooperative development agreements with all kinds of companies, which were only made to send software engineers in to steal code and then incorporate it into Windows? Remember the Stacker settlement? They were a tiny slice of the pie.

            Anyone who thinks that Windows is the dominant OS because "it's just better" is fooling themselves. MS did many, many things that were at best unethical and usually illegal to obtain their dominant position in the market. They've been convicted of it, for crying out loud. Get over it: they're crooks. Just successful ones.
      • Re:Fishy company (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nathanh (1214) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @07:26PM (#8146707) Homepage
        Which, of course, is an exaggeration. Any such requirements come from the deal your shop has signed with Microsoft. If the contract stipulates that in order to get OEM discounts you must sell MS Windows with every piece of complete hardware you sell, that's a perfectly reasonable clause.

        Except for those pesky antitrust laws, sure.

        The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and DOJ (Department of Justice) got Microsoft into trouble for exclusive OEM deals back in 1994 [wired.com].

        The OEM exclusive licensing was part of the FTC investigation [stanford.edu]. From that link

        The major illegal practice cited in the complaint was that Microsoft imposes a per processor license fee on OEMs, which means the manufacturers would have to pay Microsoft a royalty for each PC they sold, even if it did not include a Microsoft operating system. See the section on OEM Licensing Issues for details.

        The FTC and DOJ didn't consider per-processor licensing to be "perfectly reasonable". Microsoft settled out of court rather than go to trial; they knew they would lose.

        That settlement led to the Microsoft Consent Decree. Basically Microsoft promised never to do it again. This attracted criticism from Judge Sporkin who said:

        Simply telling a defendant to go forth and sin no more does little or nothing to address the unfair advantage it has already gained

        Of course, Microsoft violated the Consent Decree in 1997 in order to destroy a new company called Netscape. The Consent Decree was worthless (as many people said it was).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:06PM (#8145529)
    For users, changing operating systems, and even browsers, can be quite painful. In the case of an OS, old apps might nor work, and you might have to learn a new interface, and there may even be a cost of purchasing the OS. For browsers, it's hard to become aware of alternatives (for regular folk) and a download (on dialup) may take a while. For search engines, though, it's simply a matter of loading a new page, and maybe changing a setting somewhere. Not to mention the fact that even common folk know about Google, and it's become a part of the language. MS can't just "win" the search engine war by pointing users there by default.
    • by Davak (526912) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:35PM (#8145736) Homepage
      MS can't just "win" the search engine war by pointing users there by default.

      To quote the article now:
      [Google] accounts for 35% of search-engine visits--compared with 28% for Yahoo!, 16% for AOL and 15% for Microsoft's MSN

      Do you really think that 31% of the population feels that Microsoft and AOL searches are better than google?

      No. Users do not know better. They just click, and click, and click -- until they find their answer. You and I and most of slashdot knows that google would probably give you the answer quicker and better. 31% of the people out there just blindly search with whatever the easiest search option is...

      Now Word and other Microsoft programs send information to various web sites to get translations, directions, and other additional information.

      MS and AOL may not be able to win by pointing users to their products; however, they can drain enough money from the rest of the field to drive some better products into the poor house.

      Davak
    • Surely you jest.. that staement is almost as bad FUD and flase BS as the statement that java makse s apps crash when the user stating that fact views flash presentations in a browser eachday ass most do not know that flash payer is in fact a java media player running java..:)
    • by shaitand (626655) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @06:50PM (#8146515) Journal
      Man are you off. You realize that most users STILL do not know the address bar exists or what it is for? There are a huge number of users typing web addresses they are given in the MSN or AOL search box.

      Since typing the address in the search box generally brings up the link they think that is how it's done and never know better.

      Trust me, these people are just using whatever is there, not changing to anything.

      True story. An old man called who had recently bought a windows pc from our shop. He said he was having trouble with his computer, so I talked with him about several minor issues, helped him get the bar back to the bottom on the screen (he had it docked on the left side and expanded to half the screen), typical user. At some point I suggest he use google for searching and gave him the address.

      A month later his modem went out and I went onsite for the service call, after fixing his modem I searched for cleaned off the spyware on his system and launched his browser. Msn.com. "So you didn't go for google eh?" I asked. "No I love it, I use it all the time!" he exclaimed and proceeded to tell me how great google is, I let him take the chair. I turns out he has been starting his internet use by typing www.goole.com into the MSN searchbar and then clicking it, then doing his searches from google.

      The guy though msn search was where you put web addresses and google was a search engine where you search for terms. I think I tried setting google as his home page but he didn't get it, I think he ended up having a kid or grandson change it back.

      Moral of the story, people are idiots. Just accept that and you will be much happier in life.
    • For users, changing operating systems, and even browsers, can be quite painful

      Too bad more vendors don't equip their consumer-level PCs with those plug-in drive trays - $20 extra? - (of course, that would create a whole other set of problems though) and offer a free, additional limited trial of Linux or another OS simply by plugging-in a different HD-in-a-tray. Don't like it/too complicated? Shut down, put the Windows tray back in, re-boot and return the smaller capacity disk and tray for a refund.

      Case
    • For search engines, though, it's simply a matter of loading a new page, and maybe changing a setting somewhere.

      Except that MS wants to change that. By putting their MSN toolbar on every IE window by default, they can bypass the need to even *go* to a page to search.
    • for purely browser based search, you are correct, but that is not what the article suggested.

      Try toolbar that searches local PC fielsystem, hotmail or outlook inbox, and/or the web and possibly news groups. That is not a low cost switching alternative.

      Try installed as part of of IE, OS, outlook (and exchange) and other apps with perhaps a hidden option in a config menu that most users cant find to "hide" the searchbox (how many users still have clippy no matter how they hate it).

      Again, its using pre-ins
  • Go Google Go (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Davak (526912) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:07PM (#8145540) Homepage
    Microsoft may have software on the majority of computers sold... but my god, we all use google.

    In the land of pirating with ease... the man who holds the data, not the software, will win.

    Bill isn't dumb... and realizes this; thus, the push into the search engine world.

    One more reason that I really like google.

    Davak
    • Re:Go Google Go (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ZuperDee (161571)
      Don't be so sure about Google--people also once said the same things you are saying about Netscape.
      • Re:Go Google Go (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:12PM (#8145573) Homepage
        And AltaVista, WordPerfect, Macs, and typewriters. Just because everyone is using Google now doesn't mean we all will 10, 5 or even 2 years from now.
      • Re:Go Google Go (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Davak (526912) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:24PM (#8145664) Homepage
        I disagree...

        Google has the data.

        Netscape had a physical piece of software.

        Google has one (the?) largest collection of web data indexed. One way they use and abuse this is the way they can give such targetted ads on web sites.

        Their little text-based ads rock the socks off other ads... Is it because people just are drawn to the little google boxes full of text? No... it's because the ads so closely related to what's on the page.

        Data is going to rule. Even microsoft realizes that google has beaten them to the punch.

        Could google screw up (like netscape)? Sure! Right now however... they are sitting pretty.

        Davak
        • Google has the data. The data is however free to be collected by anyone. Indexing isn't a big issue either for the likes of Microsoft. Just add that little MS-search toolbar in IE, and make a few 'adjustments' so that the google-bar doesn't link that well anymore between minor revisions of IE. Finally add a few links into MS-office to enable some search (if only to use MS-search to search the helpfiles), and voila, another market killed and gained.
        • Google is currently in the process of screwing up. The quality of their search results has decreased dramatically over the last year.

          A good example would be searching for information about a specific product -- say a dvd player, or a computer monitor. All you get are links to sites that aggregate links to places that sell the product.
          • A good example would be searching for information about a specific product -- say a dvd player, or a computer monitor. All you get are links to sites that aggregate links to places that sell the product.

            Unless you type "-buy" at the end...

  • As far as I know, Microsoft has only made money in areas where the company has a temporary monopoly, or where being aggressive temporarily makes a profit.

    Microsoft has a history of bad management, especially in thinking that the company can be aggressive toward customers, without paying any penalty.

    If someone had a monopoly on water, he would make so much money that he would make Bill Gates look poor in just a few days. To unskilled observers, temporary monopolies make those associated with them look like skilled businesspeople.

    When you are a billionaire, what is your biggest need? Is is to make more money? No, your biggest need is for connectedness with other people. By his aggressive behavior, Bill Gates has enforced disconnectedness, and he is in that sense a poor man.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:11PM (#8145571) Journal
    ... are that

    1) MS might be forced to either bundle competitors (Go Ogg!) or disable Windows media (which the commission don't seem to fancy)

    2) The commissioners claim to have learnt from the mistakes of other regulators when dealing with MS, and have pre-emptively included a number of 'you can't do it *this* way' examples in their recommendations :-))

    Simon
    • by PPGMD (679725) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @06:03PM (#8146256) Journal
      But you are neglecting what many users are looking for when they purchase a new system, they want something that when it comes out of the box does all of the basic functions expected of it.

      Among them is browse the web, watch movies, write papers, et al. But they most of all don't want to spend their first week downloading software, particularly if they are on a dial up.

      So if Windows XP was just an OS nothing else, you would need to download/buy a browser, file decompresser, media player, text editor, calculator, personal firewall, back-up utility, the list goes on. Poor old grandma would be spending several weeks downloading programs, assuming they including a basic ftp program, which the first week would be grandma learning how to use the put command.

      In the end though the end-user is going to expect the computer to come pre-installed with these things, since the margins are so low on the system builders end, that only really leaves the OS manufacturer to add these in, so it's only natural that it's including with Windows. Besides that fact, I do remember a version of Media player came with Windows 95, it was real basic, but it has been in there since then.

      I don't know about anyone else, but even for myself, it's still rather annoying setting up a new computer from a CD install, installing all the apps that I have on the other computer, even if I have the install executables available, it still takes time.

      • But you are neglecting what many users are looking for when they purchase a new system, they want something that when it comes out of the box does all of the basic functions expected of it... Among them is browse the web, watch movies, write papers, et al. But they most of all don't want to spend their first week downloading software, particularly if they are on a dial up.

        This also extends, at least potentially, to developers as well. The developer of some contemporary application wants to establish

      • "So if Windows XP was just an OS nothing else, you would need to download/buy a browser, file decompresser, media player, text editor, calculator, personal firewall, back-up utility, the list goes on."

        Except that an OEM could handle the preinstallation of those sorts of things, and when it comes to providing an app to "write papers," that is often what OEMs do. Think about it? Is MS Word--used for writing papers--bundled with Windows XP? Obviously not. Do computers from Dell, Compaq, etc. often come with W
      • Very good point, which is partially why most Linux, BSD, and even solaris distros come with extra CDs of apps. It really does suck to have to scrounge around on the internet to find the software to do the things you bought the damn computer for in the first place.

        Here is an idea. How about an application lock-box that is pre-installed that has a whole host of apps ready for use once authorization is acquired (if they are not free software). You could buy access keys via net or over the phone. Gives user
  • Winning Battles? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OS24Ever (245667) * <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:16PM (#8145605) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about everyone, but I'm not a Microsoft Hater, but I'm not a lover of them either. I don't think they 'won' the battle with the US courts, I think they bought the president. Pretty lame anti-trust slap on the wrist only after Bush comes into office. Prior to that it was looking like they were going to break into bitty pieces.

    Just my viewpoint.
    • I'm not a Microsoft Hater

      If you're extremely fortunate, you'll get the GNU/chair. ;-)
    • Re:Winning Battles? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by shystershep (643874) * <[bdshepherd] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:49PM (#8145822) Homepage Journal
      I don't think they 'won' the battle with the US courts, I think they bought the president.

      I can't think of much nice to say about Bush, but the Appeal's Court reversal of the break up of Microsoft was handed down in June 2001, only 6 months after Bush took office. Considering that the decision was made by appointed judges -- none of whom (AFAIK, but I'm almost positive) were appointed by Bush -- and not by the federal prosecutors or any other arm of the executive branch, I'd say that it's highly unlikely that the change of president had anything to do with this.

      IMHO, politicians are corrupt (or not) regardless of ideologoy/party affiliation, but I have a slightly higher opinion of our appointed-for-life judges who don't have to answer to any special interests once they're on the bench. I don't agree with the decision to overrule the break-up of Microsoft, but I don't believe that it had anything to do with politics or bribery (insulation from the policital process does not guarantee competency, after all).
      • Well if your only considering their office yes. But don't ignore other factors. Do you really believe the majority of ANY office holders income comes from salary? If you do your insane, it comes from kickbacks.

        The president has alot of sway with alot of interest groups, if he has enough to get the presidentcy (you don't really think YOU pick the president do you? Your manipulated cattle, who your manipulated to vote for is the real deciding factor) he has the ability to severely disrupt your kickbacks re
  • by Davak (526912) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:17PM (#8145621) Homepage
    Google has more data that Microsoft. Google is a better search engine than MSN. I don't think that anybody disagrees with this. However...

    The next step, inevitably, will be to integrate such search functions into Windows, on the grounds that it constitutes a core technology that should be part of the operating system. In his keynote speech at last November's Comdex show in Las Vegas, Mr Gates demonstrated a prototype technology called "Stuff I've Seen" which does just that. It allows computer users to search for context-specific words in e-mails and in recently visited web pages, as well as in documents on their computers.


    Microsoft has it's reaches into the majority of homes and businesses in the world. As broadband always-on internet becomes more popular, more and more services will really be clicks to other sites.

    Here I describe one of the ways that microsoft uses this in the new version of Word as a translation machine. [tech-recipes.com] The information goes out onto the internet and word brings you back the information pretty seemlessly.

    This is where Microsoft knows how to crush their enemies. By using easy clicks with integration, they can direct people to Microsoft search, translation, music, or whatever.

    As the article states, before long your searches and data will be references my Windows software in multiple ways. Windows doesn't just want the web integrated into your system... they want their web integrated into your system.

    Davak
  • by Some Clown (586320) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:20PM (#8145636)
    In the last few years there has been a lot of hype, at least with business folks, that Web sites like Yahoo, Google, MSN, Netscape would become big "Portals." on the Internet, driving all others into obscurity. It sounds like Microsoft to a certain extent may still believe this. You control the results of the search, you are in a position to profit from it. To quote the certain to come business advice:

    (1) Leverage monopoly to get into search engine business
    (2) ??
    (3) Profit!

    What I've seen in practice however, is quite different. It seems as if the new users tend to get sucked into the "portal" concept when they sign up with Earthlink, MSN, etc. But as they become more Internet savvy, they migrate and spend less and less time on those sites. It's like a giant ponzi scheme... once they run out of new people to sign up, they're done.

    I guess with the speed of the tech cycle right now, If Microsoft profits off of something like this for even a couple of years, then it's worth it (well, duh... Hmmm... case of the painfully obvious this morning.) Bottom line though, I think at this point Microsoft is still coming in well above negatives like costs to litigate, negative regulatory environments, bad feelings, slashdot insults, etc. Microsoft is a business, bottom line, as soon as it gets more expensive to work this way... they'll change strategies. As long as this is working, which it obviously is, they'll stick with it even if God himself came down and said stop.
    • The thing that I think most Portal Pushers miss is the difference between having content and pointing to content. New users eventually learn where the content is - even if it's just from having hundreds of bookmarks - even if they're not internet or computer savvy. By repetition even my grandma can now get to google for searching and the new york times website by typing "nyt.com" into the title bar. This is the same woman who calls me every power outage to figure out what button to push to get the "tv-pa

    • You control the results of the search, you are in a position to profit from it.

      And as you distort those results in order to profit and are perceived to do so, those results become just so much spam.
  • by ThomasFlip (669988) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:24PM (#8145669)
    As soon as Linux is ready for the desktop, Microsoft is going to hell. Nobody is going to want to pay for software let alone software which is strictly limited in variety. If Microsoft was smart, they would stop trying to suck every penny out of every company, and start producing software which doesnt limit a users choice. And with DRM in Longhorn, there is going to be even more incentive to migrate to Linux.
    • As soon as Linux is ready for the desktop, Microsoft is going to hell. Nobody is going to want to pay for software let alone software which is strictly limited in variety.

      The cost to consumer of Windows XP Home when bundled with a computer from one of the major players is about $50 [businessweek.com]. Yes the source is Balmer, so believe it as you like. As part of a $1500 computer, the price issue is pretty irrelevant. I think saying Linux is free on the desktop really won't get too many buyers to switch. The only thin
      • Cost will be *one* of the driving factors. If it's free, or cheap enough that tech-heads (not necessarily techs) can smuggle it into the office then it can succeed against the wishes of the central bureaucracy. Look at the way the micro-computers originally penetrated to see examples of this.

        Since Linux is essentially free (if you have one set of CDs, you can install it as often as you want), the cost barrier is minimal. Compare this with, say, Apple. If you really like a Mac, it's going to cost you qu
      • As part of a $1500 machine it is trivial. When a $50 OS is in a $300 machine, it becomes far more significant. Sure, typical Slashdotters won't find much to like in those $300 machines but the nastiest of them would easily outperform the K6-2 500Mhz rig I ran for four years. I've seen bargain machines as low as $269. That $50 is just the OS. That is just so the machine boots. If you want to actually do anything with the machine after it boots count on spending at least $300 for a minimal suite of prod
      • The cost to consumer of Windows XP Home when bundled with a computer from one of the major players is about $50. Yes the source is Balmer, so believe it as you like. As part of a $1500 computer, the price issue is pretty irrelevant.

        So when you're buying 1,000 computers for an office building, and you're $25,000 over budget...

        It sure can make a difference, and it will happen faster in government agencies, for a few reasons:

        - They're more price-sensitive in a lot of things: if there's no money, there's no
    • I'm working on not ranting down on Slashdot posts that I perceive to be stupid, soooo...

      "As soon as Linux is ready for the desktop, Microsoft is going to hell."

      Fortunately for Microsoft, that's a minimum of 5 years, millions upon millions of users, and real driver and software support away.

      "Nobody is going to want to pay for software let alone software which is strictly limited in variety."

      So you're saying that there is more variety of software for Linux than Windows? In what?

      "If Microsoft was sma
    • That may be wishful thinking. People generally don't want choice (or perhaps don't care) - they just want the path of least resistance. Whilst MS has a desktop monopoly, it doesn't matter what state Linux is in. Linux could be easier, faster and cheaper than Windows - but if Windows comes pre-installed, it doesn't matter one fig.

      People generally prefer the path of least resistance over freedom - it's a basic property of humans, just like it's a basic property of water to freeze at 0 deg C in a standard atm
    • As soon as Linux is ready for the desktop, Microsoft is going to hell.

      They are already there. Get you some Mepis [mepis.org] today. Mepis is a Debian based distro, much like KDE. It autoconfigures itself in a way that M$ with it's goofey propriatory reboot required drivers can only dream of. More interestingly, it has a graphical install that sticks the working and configured OS onto your hard drive. Click and drool has arived in free software and it comes clean, without security problems, and with all the goodi

  • by Ridgelift (228977) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:29PM (#8145703)
    But it does confirm that Microsoft is exploiting its desktop dominance in workgroup server software; and that, by "tying" WMP to Windows, it has overtaken its chief rival in the media-player market, RealNetworks.

    _Of course_ Microsoft will continue to use their position in the desktop world to compete against their competitors. They always have, and they always will. The fact ist the legal system moves at a much slower pace than technology. It's a simple formula:

    1) Use monopoly to compete against competitors now.
    2) Drag out law suits for as long as possible
    3) Make token settlement like coupons which continue to expand Windows penetration
    4) Profit & repeat.
  • by LippyTheLip (582561) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:40PM (#8145770)
    I found the following quotation in the article particularly enlightening:

    Microsoft has come to a critical juncture. It can choose to continue its war of attrition with regulators, constantly testing the legal limits and, when it crosses them, treating the consequences as the cost of doing business. Or the company could throw off its monopoly mindset and decide to compete, like most other firms are forced to do, solely on the merits of its products.


    If history is any guide, it is not difficult to predict which of these two paths Microsoft will take. On the other hand, there are a few examples of companies that have begun as monopolies and actually ended up increasing the value of the company faster after being forced to give up their monopoly position. For example, after the breakup of AT&T in 1982, the companies formed as a result have grown much more quikly. According to this article at Businessweek

    The breakup created an array of choices that consumers still find confusing. But it's widely agreed that it lowered long-distance prices and stimulated innovation. The companies created out of the Bell System, including those since swallowed up, are worth about $810 billion today, vs. $59 billion before the breakup. That 1,300% gain compares to a market-cap rise of just 140% for IBM over the same period.
    So... Microsoft splitting itself up would be good not only for consumers and competitors, but perhaps also for its stockholders.
    • I've always wondered... what exactally would it I've always wondered, split itself up into what exactally? an office and an OS busines?

      There is little if any future for either, the future is probably in their other 5 or 6 business units, many of which are currently unprofitable.

      If you split it up, are you not in effect just closing the company down? While that might be in the interests of this community, I'm not sure it does a good thing for the current customer base, the employees or the shareholders?
  • Cool Search Engines (Score:5, Informative)

    by iamwahoo2 (594922) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @04:42PM (#8145788)
    There are a lot of unknown quality search engines out there. One of the tricks with search engines is knowing which was is going to turn up the best results in a particular search. In addition to google, I highly recommend www.alltheweb.com, and dogpile.com.

    But one that I have really come to like is vivisimo.com, check it out, and after performing a search ecspecially take a look at the "preview" feature

  • Again? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Beer_Smurf (700116) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @05:02PM (#8145899) Homepage
    I am not going to debate the truth of this article.
    However we hear the same thing over and over.
    So I cannot begin to hold MS completely blameless.
    What I cannot understand is at this point, with their huge advantage just in cash reserves, why they cannot just do the work and make the best products.
    The potential they have to really do something awesome when put in contrast to their actual tactics it's just sad.
  • by WhoDaresWins (601501) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @05:16PM (#8145996)
    You know the whole issue of tying WMP to Windows being an issue is silly. Hello!, Windows Media Player has been included with Windows for free since Windows 3.1 days (yeah go ahead and check it if you don't believe it). So for many many years MS was including WMP with Windows and Real did not have a problem with it? Suddenly one fine day Real has issues with it? What has happened is that MS came up with a superior product ever since Windows Media 8 and started kicking Real's *ss. Who would want to use Real's intrusive annoying player when a better alternative was available?

    With Windows Media 9 Microsoft really started shining in the Media Player arena and Real instead of competing wants to run crying to momma. Get a clue Real! If you hadn't abused your users with the intrusive crap of player you had then no one would have looked for alternatives. As long as WMP was inferior, Real was in fact the one abusing its dominant position by shoving a pathetically intrusive player on its users. Guess what they did when they had an alternative? Real squandered away its lead when real (pun intended) competition was coming its way. I guess it was sheer haughtiness on its part that it thought no one could beat it. When it has finally woken up and realised that no one is going to give it a second chance, then guess what happens. WMP9 is what decimated Real since its a much superior product overall compared to Real. Now the irony is that WMP9 is not bundled with any OS but is a separate download. Yet inspite of that its usage is skyrocketing.

    The other story in all this is how Apple has been able to keep QuickTime alive and not face Real's fate. Well the QuickTime player also does some bad things (like adding itself to runonce reg key) but overall it respects its users a lot more. QuickTime and Windows Media are now the most dominant Media technologies on the net. So how come Apple is not complaining about Windows Media? How are they able to hold on to the market? Clue to Real: They actually compete. They care about their users and make a better player or better codecs (Apple has very good support for MPEG4). This whole media player tying issue looks like some kind of EU vendetta against a large US company. In fact the original case wasn't even about this till Real went crying to the EU comission. Makes me sick. What next? Tying of WordPad to Windows will become illegal since that hurts AbiWord? How silly can people get really.
    • I have to agree with you. These government regulators keep missing the point. Focusing on this software package or that is just Microsoft waving the red cape at the bull. The real monopoly action is their ability to dictate terms to OEMs and maybe even hardware manufacturers. Add to that, their virtual control of business communications which they are gearing up to maintain with a really stupid XML patent. As someone snidely pointed out earlier, no vendor has been a roaring success selling nothing but
  • A fine ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Axoiv (747887)
    300$-500$ doesn't seem like big enough fine to me. How much hasn't Microsoft robbed us consumers in terms of overprices for their monopolist software? 300-500$? That's for a year... Common guys...give them a fine.
  • This time for sure! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rspress (623984) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @07:12PM (#8146630) Homepage
    I don't think that MS will be able to buy its way out of their legal troubles with the EU like they did in the U.S. but you never know.

    The problem with a 600 pound gorilla is that if it does not get what it wants it will beat the crap out of you until you are dead and take it anyway.

    As far as their search engine is concerned, making it default will increase traffic to their site as so many windows users just go with what is already there for them. Of course we can trust MS to not filter content so bad words like Linux, Netscape, Opera, anti-trust and Mac will be available through their search engine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 31, 2004 @07:21PM (#8146685)
    There is another article in the same issue of The Economist (you need a subsctiprion to access) in which the magazine says

    Begin Quote
    [............]
    Isn't this simply a matter of Microsoft competing vigorously? The strange thing is that its products invariably succeed in PC-based markets where the dominance of Windows provides an advantage: office productivity, web-browsing, media playback and servers. Yet in other markets that have nothing to do with PCs, such as mobile phones, set-top boxes and games consoles, the company is far less successful. Odd, that.

    This newspaper has long argued, and still believes, that a break-up of Microsoft is the only remedy that would have any impact on its conduct, by removing its key weapon, Windows. At the moment that seems out of the question. How else might Microsoft be stopped from illegally exploiting its monopoly? By the long-awaited rise of open-source software such as Linux, maybe, though that seems unlikely. Perhaps the company will eventually conclude that the costs, in bad publicity and constant legal battles, of maintaining its monopoly exceed the benefits, and choose to divest or open up Windows itself. But that also seems implausible when there are large monopoly rents to be had. Some day a break-up of this too-mighty firm will again have to be considered.
    [end of article]

    End Quote
  • The Economist points this out in their article, and I agree. In fact, I consider it the core issue. Before I invest any time or money in developing an innovative product, I have to wonder whether MS will find it worthwhile to crush my efforts. Because they can and will, if th past is a guide.

    IMHO, governments adopting Linux is the ray of light through the clouds. If I target my applications to that market, then I need not fear MS. Sure, I will have to compete with all the rest of you. But we will com

  • by jonwil (467024) on Saturday January 31, 2004 @11:13PM (#8147909)
    1.they should be forced to reveal on a public website with no cost or licence restrictions their "propriatory" file formats. (exactly which formats would have to be decided by a sutable panel made up of legal people and technical people but should include all the office file formats like word, excel, powerpoint, access). Also, all their "secret" APIs (for example hooks into the shell) and all their "secret" network protocols (for example, the various windows-only authentication for MS IIS and MS proxy server

    2.they should be forced to make all their contracts with OEMs public and be banned from having secret contracts with OEMs.

    3.they should be forced to sell OEM windows at one price and one price only to ALL OEMs.

    4.they should be prohibited from restricting OEMs who ship (or want to ship, talk about shipping etc) systems with operating systems other than windows, systems with no operating system installed at all or systems containing windows in conjunction with one or more other opreating systems.

    5.same as for 4. but for application software (i.e. OEM pre-installs mozilla or netscape or whatever else)

    Basicly, force them open on the OEM desktop plus force them to give up the secrets that will allow their competitors (including Open Source) to talk to, interact with and share data with those products (windows, office, IE, IIS, MS servers, media player, MSN messenger and etc) that microsoft currently enjoys a monopoly on or that microsoft is currently using is monopoly power to push.

  • by tdwebste (747947) on Sunday February 01, 2004 @02:54AM (#8149100) Journal
    1) All data storage formats and application communication protocols need to publicly available at no charge. In other words make make "Open Standards" the law.

    Methods how to implement such data storage formats and application communication protocols could be perhaps patented, copyrighted or a trade secret. But NOT the data storage formats and application communication protocols.

    This is the only effective solution to the artificial bearers Microsoft has put in place to protect its Monopoly. This is not a Microsoft problem per say. Microsoft is just the best example of this problem.

    The Europe as the European Union is able to and should apply this law retroactively in to all Union Countries. This will give competitors to Microsoft sufficient market to be "economically" successful. The European Union can not force other or even suggest other countries outside the Union follow suit. And I strongly doubt that the US will be happy about this, because United States protected Microsoft because it is HUGE US company with even large political weight. However United States no longer controls the world. So I expect several Counties in Asia with large manufacturing and internal markets to adopt the European approach.

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