Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft

Congressman Advocates Breaking-Up a Guilty MS 394

Posted by Hemos
from the it's-the-baby-bells dept.
Zulu_McDuffy wrote to us with an opinion piece by a Silicon Valley Congressman, Tom Campbell. He says that if "broad liability" was found in the anti-trust suit, the only logical thing to do would be breaking-up the corporation. What do you guys think? Is that the only solution? The alternative is regulation, which no one seems to be interested in doing.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Congressman Advocates Breaking-Up a Guilty MS

Comments Filter:
  • So if Microsoft does get broken up, how will its pieces do? Let's assume for a moment that there is no collusion and all the pieces play by the DOJ set rules.

    MS gets broken up into for companies covering four seperate software categories: OS, business apps, consumer apps, Internet. And then:

    Freed of the need to carry the rest of the company, MS OS continues to dominate the desktop OS market. Windows 2000 is shelved and Windows NT 5.0 comes out slimmer, trimmer, and more stable than its predecessors. Consumer Windows 1.0 is actually based on Win95/98 as the work of cleaning out all the DOS and 16-bit Windows code begins in earnest. Consumer Windows still isn't very stable but it's faster than the 9x versions and becomes a hit. WinCE gets taken out of PDAs becomes the OS of choice in sub-$400 computers. MS OS tries to buy Palm Computing. Although its market share drops to %70, the market has grown so large that MS OS quickly becomes the richest software company on Earth.

    Without the advantage of being able to hook its software into the hidden nooks and crannies of the OS, MS Business isn't quite so lucky. MS Business Office sees its market share quickly drop to below 60% overnight. Wordperfect is the chief beneficiary of this development and gets spun off into a independant company again. IBM fails to take advantage of this opportunity, giving MS Business some breathing room.

    MS Consumer flops around for a few years making money but being largely ignored by anyone in the industry.

    MS Internet sinks like a stone under the weight of its many useless and unvisited websites. MSN gets carved up and its best bits get bought out by AOL, Yahoo, and Excite.

    A new browser war erupts when all four Baby Bills claim to own Internet Explorer and each comes out with their own mutually incompatible web browsers. Marc Andreeson dies of alcohol poisoning while celebrating this development. Opera software becomes dominant browser company (OK, this one's a stretch).

    And what of Bill Gates you ask? Bill takes the money and runs. He buys himself a small Caribbean island and declares himself king.
  • I don't think that any good will come from letting mindless, spineless bureaucrats make the decision as to what constitutes an application and what the OS. At least as MS stands now, many of these decisions get made by engineers. I'll take that over politicos any day.
  • Heh, yeah, and make them all relocate from Redmond to San Jose!

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • OHH MY GOD!!! THEIR BRILLIANT!! UNDERLINES!!

    Wow, my SECOND grade teacher did that.. and in red also!!

    QUICK, GET ME A JAR SO THAT IF A PRECIOUS MICROSOFT BRAIN WERE TO BE RELEASED, WE COULD
    save it and bury it in siberia.

    I will say that they have definitly innovated on some features. They did pull together a nice _KERNEL_ for NT. But everything they do that I like, they screw it up in the end trying to be the end-all do-all.

    Pan
  • I fully agree, but in a different way.
    What *really* is the problem behind this is the closed nature of the source. Forcibly breaking up the company would just make more proprietary software companies. Some would survive, some would fall. In the end, we would probably just have better proprietary software companies.
    We need to let Microsoft ride their own delusions until they fall *really* hard.... It will happen eventually, but if we break up Microsoft, it will take longer.
  • Well first of all, hit 'em with big fines if they're really found guilty, and maybe file criminal charges against some of the individual people who committed criminal acts (e.g. perjury, fraud, etc). That much should be obvious. I want Gates' next book to tell all about his prison assrape experiences. ;-)

    But the real long-term solution is something that the government simply does not have the ability (or the right) to do: give consumers a clue. Windoze is Microsoft's property. It is not a general-purpose operating system, and 3rd parties have no guarantees that they will be able to sell products that work with it. They're just like Nintendo. I don't see anyone seriously complaining about not being able to sell Nintendo apps. Even if Nintendo had 90% of the game console market, it wouldn't be right for the govt to insist that they open up.

    Microsoft is only a monopoly if their customers (not their competitors) let them be one. Joe Consumer should realize that if he buys a MS OS, he will also have to rent MS apps on a biannual cycle. Understand that, and maybe you'll think twice about committing yourself to that mess.

    The worst thing we can do is regulate Microsoft and Windoze, because that will "legitamize" them and make them a Real USA standard instead of just a defacto one. That would be bad, because they simply just aren't worthy. The phone company was at least a natural entity that provided a useful product. Gates is just successful con man.


    ---
  • Although many of us would like to see Microsoft brought down, we want it more as a measure of revenge than because it would be good for the industry. Lets face it, the Open Source movement and similar mutations in the software development status quo are already changing the face of the software industry. Do you really think these things would have had as much impetus to get going if there had not been the spectre of Microsoft looming over everything? It is a simple, and compelling, example of the law of supply and demand in operation.

    The problem with regulation is that it affects everyone, not just Microsoft. We will all pay the price for it, and the only winners will be those companies with enough money to take advantage of the new regulations and use them to hold down the competition. In other words regulation will end up with the opposite result from what we want. There is plenty of historical examples of this.

    But 'we have to do something', so breaking up the 'monopoly' is a seductive notion. I would argue it is an idea with its own long reaching consequences, many of which will affect everyone for the worst. Not to mention the fact that there is no precedent I know of for breaking up a software company...

    I have been thinking about this subject for a long time, and have even written an essay on the subject; An Open Letter to Orrin Hatch [sff.net]. Subtitled "What I would say if I were asked to Testify at the 'Market Power and Structural Change in the Software Industry' Hearings..." I wrote this approximately two weeks before the hearings by the the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time (as now, although they are evolving) I had strong feelings about the government interfering in the Software Industry in any way, including going after Microsoft for 'Anti-Comptitive Practices'.

    Not that I am a Microsoft defender mind you. I worked there for two and half years (as a contractor) and have seen the place from the inside. It is both better, and worse, than its detractors imagine. I know more about them than I really want to. But I needed to make a statement from the point of view of the average software developer just trying to make a living and get the job done for the customer. And I don't think that government intervention will have a positive effect in that regard, any more than I really want to see Microsoft replaced by Sun/AOL, Oracle or even by a resurgent Apple.

    Replaced by Linux? Hmm... Now that might just be different story! But, like I said, this is already happening. The software industry, like most complex systems, is healing itself. I say we should let the economics sort themselves out and the best competitor win. I also say the Microsoft is no longer a good competitor because the rules are changing against them, just as they changed (to Microsoft's favor) in 1983...

    Jack

    P.S. I am working on a new essay, "The Decline and Fall of the Redmondian Empire" which gives more detail on why I think Microsoft, and the other software giants, are becoming uncompetitive dinosaurs. The one thing that might save Microsoft? Either strong regulation, or breaking it up...

  • No, the source isn't wanted, the opportunity to compete on an even footing is wanted. Computing has been given a massive boost over the last 20 years by open standards, M$ took these but never gave it's own standards back - look at some of the problems that the Samba team have had picking to bits their protocols.

    What is wanted is for wire protocols & file formats to be properly published. Properly is the key, they need to be well written, complete & timely, this is what needs to be regulated - that M$ does this properly.

    The unfair bundling deals should be made illegal as well, but this is commercial stuff that the business people will understand, I fear that they may not understand the problems of standards.

  • Errr... even though a full-blown anti-trust action against IBM never took place, IBM *did* operate under a consent decree from 1956 through 1996 that limited its ability to behave monopolistically in the hardware market.

    It is impossible to predict the exact impact that it had, but the growth of the computer hardware industry in the 1960's might have been significantly stifled if the Feds had given IBM the "freedom to innovate".

    To make the leap from "federal anti-trust action" (which has an approx 100-year history, and hasn't managed to utterly crushed the American Way Of Life(tm) in all of that time) to "bureaucrats dictating what code to write, who you can it be sold to (sic)" is just absurd. You might as well argue that a ban on assault rifles will lead to Green Berets kicking down your door to impound your pocket knife...
  • How about Access? We have alot of data in access that I'd love to be able to get at from an apache/perl combination. I know some of the office documents are 'documented', but some of their docs are really lousy too.
  • Office already runs on the next most popular
    OS: MacOS. Having Office on MAC didn't cause
    Windows to lose out. Having Office on some
    variant of UNIX wouldn't either.
  • Well, if you'd read the rest of the statement, you'd realize that I stated FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A MULTI PLATFORM USER. Since IE doesn't run on most of the platforms I use, it scores 0 on any scale. I agree, "Get a clue."
  • by Signal 11 (7608)
    I think the best thing we could do is to keep doing what we're doing right now. We've all seen first-hand the results of this trial - during it Microsoft has been alot nicer to competition, Linux has been allowed to spread, and OEMs are beginning to use non-microsoft products. Best thing we can do is keep the ball rolling - keep MS under scrutiny. Give them a slap on the wrist and put them on a LONG probation during which fines can be assessed with impunity should they violate the terms of their 'parole' in the industry. Make sure the fines are stiff enough to hurt.. and you've basically tied up Goliath.

    Sometimes the simple solutions are the best ones.

    --

  • I hope they do break them up AND force them to release source code...
    /*M$ code here*/
    and at the end, a little note:
    /*Copyright Steve Jobs and Co 1985*/
    hehehehehheheh
  • They own all of their code in the operating system. They could open that.
    However,
    By open, I don't mean GPL, or anything equivalent. I do think that they should be required to publish a current snapshot of the complete source (excluding proprietary pieces owned by another company, so long as they don't own more than 50% of that other company, either directly or indirectly). But this doesn't mean that I feel that they should be required to allow others to copy their code. I think that they should be allowed to copyright the snapshot (no trade secrets now, right. That's what they would really be giving up.) And that normal copyright laws should be applied from that point on.
    Then split the company into at least five pieces, perhaps alphabetically, by the last name of the employee, or some other irrelevant method. Give them six months to reshuffle personnel. Then split the ownership, split the companies, etc. Everyone should be allowed to choose which company their stock would be in (the more popular company would end up with more stockholders.. so that should even out). And we'd have (5?) monster companies rampaging around the countryside. But they would have a common heritage (the copyrighted source). And separate stockholders. Could be lively, but it would bring back the competition.
  • But the point is that the oil refinement companies which were split off of Standard *are* competitive with one another. The important thing is not the history of various companies' corporate tree's. Its whether or not those companies compete. And the oil refinement companies do compete.

    There may be many good reasons not to break up Microsoft, but the example set by Standard and children is not one of them.
  • Aside from the, ahem, legality vs. morality of Antitrust, I really don't want to see government stepping into technology (again).

    The last thing any of us need are bureaucrats telling us how to run our businesses, what components we may put in our own software, etc. I don't want to grovel to a congresman because I want to include a 3d shooter client in my Linux distribution, or label a window with a dirty word.

    Using the government to dictate how software is engineered (Internet Explorer with Windows OS's), how it is marketed (discounts for vendors installing Windows OS's, exclusive OS contracts with hardware vendors), is a DANGEROUS precedent to set.

    The clamor for government control of Microsoft is like begging bureaucrats to put leashes on all of us. I don't like that at all.
  • Why split consumer apps apart from commercial/enterprise apps?

    To stop them comming up with, say, an enterprise e-commerce server with ActiveDooDads(TM) and then having ActiveDooDads(TM) only work properly with their own client software.
  • Yes, but how do you keep the OS company from pulling an IE. They could integrate an office Word into the operating system, and state that it is an integral part of the OS. Seriously, I don't see how a browser, while very important, is anymore part of the OS than a wordprocessor is, which is equally important. So anyways back to my point, what exactly defineds an OS, and how do you keep the OS from creating more than just an OS. Also how would this stop aquisitions of such companies as internix or the destruction of java. Because I can easily see how a programming language or a POSIX interface is part of the operating system. So whats the line here?? it needs to be clearly defined what the MS OS company would be allowed to deal in.
  • by jelwell (2152)
    Ever since I installed the beta version of Windows 98 almost 3 years ago I have been saying that Microsoft has an unfair advantage over it's competitors because it can integrate it's products into the desktop so nicely (because it controls the desktop). Even before Internet Explorer came out I was shaking my head at poor Netscape who didn't stand a chance unless Netscape's Desktop (which I can't remember the name of - and it failed anyways) came out. The only advantage I could see then, and now is not their money, their numbers - it's that they can integrate their applications and break other products attempts at integration.

    The Operating System needs to be broken off from all the software development. No more "Can't package applications with the OS". Now it needs to be "Can't make applications."

    The Department of Justice tried regulation. They told Microsoft to regulate themselves. The government isn't in a position to watch internal company activities - they didn't know that IE would be bundled with Windows until it was too late. Neither is the government in a position to create a watchdog committee just to keep track of such things. Such a committee would be a heavy cost to taxpayers, and who would lead the committee? Richard M. Stallman I would hope. :)

    I know there are laws involving Monopolies. What are the various powers given to the Federal Government over corporations deemed monopolistic? Can they disband the company? I know they can break them up, I'm certain they could regulate them. What else can they do? It might be interesting to iterate over all the possible outcomes.

    But, how long for a retrial? Microsoft will come up with something to force a retrial if they lose this first bout. How long can they stall after the decision? I imagine that the Judge would say something like, "Pay 1 Billion dollars a day for every day after the first of January, if you do not abide by my ruling." Will they pay? Didn't the DOJ originally ask Bill Gates to pay 1 million dollars a day for everyday that he wouldn't come to testify (or stop lying or something?). Did they pay then, or did they sidestep the fine?

    I'd like to have more updates on the situation. Too bad there isn't a streaming net-cam in the Judge's chamber. Everyone in the computer world is with bated breathe waiting for the decision. However I recall hearing many times from various reporters, "Microsoft chose not to blah blah, so that their appeal will be stronger".

    Big Rant. Lot's of typos and flaming opinions. Don't kill me. Please.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • "IBM controlled the majority of the hardware market, not the software that made the hardware work."

    I think you're mistakenly referring to the IBM PC. This was not the subject of the anti-trust lawsuit. It was the IBM OS/360 mainframe, for which they sold the hardware and software. This was also before the PC industry, at a time when a "computer" meant a room size machine.

    And they controlled everything, not just the API and OS.
  • Some regulation wouldn't help. If they just broke up Microsoft, then another company could potentially do the same thing in 50 years from now. If they make some -->REASONABLE-- regulations, then something like this wouldn't happen again.
  • IBM controlled the majority of the hardware market, not the software that made the hardware work. Microsoft, even at the time IBM was "The Bad Guys" did a lot of the software. The reason IBM succumbed to market forces is because other people came along and made hardware that did the same thing, better, faster and cheaper and IBM lost their fight to control the hardware platform.

    Nobody can come along and do the same thing as Microsoft but better, faster and cheaper because they control their APIs and can change them on a whim to make sure that even if someone does try to come out with a Win32-compatible OS on the market, it will break against all of their apps with the next revision which they would certainly quickly release. Assuming they don't just outright sue the crap out of whomever is trying to market that clone OS on "look and feel" or some kind of patent or copyright issues.

    The reason that Microsoft can retain this control is because of their de-facto monopoly. They have marketed themselves into position that if you're NOT Win32-compatible, you can't compete. Linux isn't truly a competitor with Microsoft since it's not a "Win32 capable operating system." NOBODY competes with Microsoft in their market.

    In this "IBM Bad Guys" world, where we had IBM and Apple as the hardware vendors being the rough equivalent of Microsoft and Linux as operating systems today, don't think of Linux as an IBM clone that works better, cheaper and faster, think of Linux as the "Apple"-equivalent of operating systems - it's a completely different beast. Imagine that, in the "IBM Bad Guys" scenario, instead of being able to buy an IBM-clone, you had to migrate your entire business over to Apple to get away from IBM. You might do it if IBM screwed you over big enough, but the break-even point is very high, even if you're really sick of IBM screwing you. It gets worse if IBM keeps an eye on things to make sure that sticking with IBM is just barely less painful than switching.

    IBM lost the hardware wars while Apple won their fight for keeping control of their hardware platform. Now, a good 15 years later, look at the state of the IBM-clone industry versus the state of the Apple-clone industry and tell me which one is more energetic and vital. Now, replace "Apple" with "Microsoft" in this scenario and you see what people fear from a Microsoft-dominated computer industry.

    -=-=-=-=-

  • This just shows the whole fallacy of the breaking up idea.

    If Microsoft had been two separate companies, an "OS company" and an "Application company", before the start of the browser war, which of those two companies would have built a browser?

    Answer? The OS company. Netscape was touting their browser as a new computing platform that would "make the operating system irrelevant". It always was a bigger threat to the OS business than the applications business. Sure, maybe the application company might have built a browser as well (remember when it seemed like every company in existance was writing a browser?), but it still would have settled down to a battle between Netscape and the OS company, me thinks.

    The real solution is just to let companies compete in the marketplace. If Netscape had written the better browser, they'd still be on top today.

  • by JoeFaust (25587) <(joefaust) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @11:48AM (#1636559) Homepage
    I actually think that breaking up Microsoft would be a good thing. As much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft is here to stay. Linux isn't going to kill them anytime soon.

    That being said, I would like to see Microsoft produce some quality applications. They do have some. Visual J++ is my Java IDE of choice, and I'll take IE5 over Netscape any day.

    If the Operating Systems team was separated from the Application team, then maybe they'd stop trying to produce bastard hybrids and focus on one thing at a time. With some massive scope reduction, I think that all the talent at Microsoft could produce some killer apps.




    --Joe
  • Surprisingly enough, I've found that few of the comments so far on this discussion have involved "screaming". Somehow I have to wonder if you work at Microsoft or think Windows is "way kewl d00d" as compared to.. well.. practically anything else. =P

    At any rate, it's not our decision..? Do you really fscking think so?? Of course not, you fool, we're simply voicing our opinions. I can't remember the last time a Slashdotter likened himself (or herself.. or itself, in the case of some *peer*) unto God(dess) Almighty Him(Her)self. Do you?

    The government is supposed to step in when a business performs unfair business practices. Regardless of how misguided certain sectors of the U.S. government may be, I can only laugh at those who think that Microsoft has performed in all fairness with regards to its business deals, and believe that Microsoft deserves any pressure applied to it, especially from the DoJ.

  • There isn't a way that you could impose regulations to prevent Microsoft from doing what it's doing and still let other companies continue to compete the way that they have until this point. Aside from Microsoft, competition has been done wonders for the industry where it exists - AMD vs Intel, Hard Drive manufacturers, Monitor makers, etc...

    Microsoft is an exception to this, being that they've become the 90,000 pound gorilla among a playing field of 900 pound gorillas. They should be penalized severely should they be found guilty, but laws should not be enacted to prevent this from happening again.

    If a company one day possesses the power that MSFT has over the industry, then the government should act swiftly to rebalance the power of everyone, but until then, largely leave it all alone.

    Sweeping regulations would harm the entire industr would equate to punishing the entire school because the bully wouldn't stop beating up little kids.
  • This is probably flamebait, so take it for what it's worth.

    Does anyone else feel kinda uneasy about this?

    The US government (and the US sheeple too) seem to base their idea of what constitutes good policy around revenge. "You step on our toe, we kick your ass." In fact, that's a pretty good summary of US millitary policy for the last 250 years - or at least it sums up how all the battles/wars which the US has fought started. Wars which the US has lost (e.g. 1812 invasion of Canada, Vietnam) are probably remembered differently with hindsight.

    Disclaimer: It would be very easy for me to say how proud this makes me feel to be an Australian, but let's be honest. Any nation who adopts the position of "most powerful nation on Earth" (however that is defined at that point in history) would have done the same. That's human nature.

    Now don't get me wrong here. I'm as concerned about Micros~1 as the next person (and on Slashdot, it's a pretty safe bet as to what the next person thinks about this!), and to say that I'm annoyed as to what they have done to the software industry is an understatement at best. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth when the wolves start baying for blood. The only thing I can think of that's worse than a software industry being controlled by the likes of Micros~1 is a software industry being controlled by a lynch mob. I can almost see the pitchforks and flaming torches being handed out as we speak...

  • MS has done plenty of things wrong but do we really think the government can do better? Even given that market is made up of individuals who are idiots, is a government imposed solution better than a market driven one? As anti-MS as I feel viscerally, I'm not sure I trust the government to do anything right in this case.
  • Oh gimme a break. Nobody is punishing Microsoft for being successful. Only idiots keep trying to trot out that tired line. Microsoft is being prosecuted for breaking some pretty well-established laws. They are called anti-trust laws. They are part of what keeps our current system running properly. Without them the system probably wouldn't work. It would at least need significant changes to make it work, and then it wouldn't really be the same system. Just because the recent Republican administrations have resisted enforcing the laws doesn't mean they have disappeared.

  • Ah, but if we take a truly academic definition of what is an OS, and what is an Application, the OS, really does lose all of it's value. Picture all the low-level apps bundled with Windows being shifted away towards the Office Corp. (notepad, calculator, ftp, explorer.exe, etc). What you have left is a rather unattractive blob of code that boots your computer, but leaves it largely unusable. So Gateway would probably want to bundle some "apps" with that OS too, at least the basic stuff that would equate to what Windows 95 is today, to offer the same functionality to consumers. Where other companys could compete is, create other OSes that would supplant that layer, but what does this say for Solaris, Mac OS, BeOS, and other competitors? LOTS of apps bundled with the OS. And in the end, still total dominance for whatever company makes this "middle-layer" part of the OS or the user-level apps that give access to the low-level OS, in this case, the Applications division of Microsoft, Office Corp.

    So I basically think this split up think is bunk, and we need JAIL TIME.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • by norom (96976)
    "Significant regulation makes investors get real nervous real quick,"

    What an understatement. Watch the prices fall faster than a NT machine thrown out a window.
    ---
  • If you state his whole statement

    And, as a multi-platform computer user, IE isn't even as good as lynx, much less netscrape

    I believe he was referring to using IE on, say, Linux, Sun, AIX, etc. I'd say Mac but I think they have a port, and probably OS/2. But Netscape and lynx, run on a lot more platforms.

    Steven Rostedt
  • Allow anyone who wants to enter in a licensing agreement. I think that would be all that was required. As a general rule source code should be available, and I think this might be a good time to set the precendence. Not good having the government doing what the marketplace should have done. Stupid pointy hair IT managers are obviously responsible for the rise of the might M$. I'd really like to just ignore them and make them go away, personally.

    Just laugh at the vendor selling NT solutions, they'll get the picture eventually. Hopefully.

    .02
  • ..how do you figure one has a trial without government involvement? Did I miss something? Is the judicial branch of government no longer a branch of government but rather a group of vigilante crime-fighters?

    At any rate, if you believe that the U.S. government is worse than Microsoft.. you're first and foremost ignorant anyway, because obviously you have a problem distinguishing separate parts of the U.S. government. Ever heard of checks and balances? Apparently not. But back to my point.. you might as well just move to another country. And if you already do live in another country, you should probably just shut up. I'm thinking you do live in the U.S. though. Trust me, the U.S. government as a whole is not precisely one of the circles of hell, ok?

  • People tend to think in black & white. Reality occurs in various intermediate shades. If Microsoft is "guilty", the question is - guilty of what, and what must be the remedy? And what purpose will it serve?

    First of all, just about ALL the *specific* issues that were argued in the anti-trust trial (ISP arm twisting, browser bundling, etc) are already obsolete (did you notice how nobody is suggesting these days that MS should seperate the browser from the OS?) . This raises profound questions:


    * how must a monopoly in software be proven? And how can its misuse be proven?

    * And how must the remedy be issued, when you know for certain that by the time you make the judgement, the original complaints are obsolete in this fast moving industry.

    For starters, monopoly for MS is not as simple as it appears, since you're narrowing the industry to the "PC operating systems" arena. If you narrow down segments of industry, Oracle is a monopoly in the midrange server database market (HP tunes its OS to run faster on Oracle, is that a sign of too much power?), and IBM is a monopoly in the mainframe database segment (easily more than 90% of S/370 machines use DB2, both of them ibm products). Similarly, Palm may be said to be a monopoly in the handheld segment.

    I think if any of the above companies were subject to the same scrutiny as MS, there would be several issues of leverage of market share.

    Now...even if a company is proven to have a monopoly in that segment, and abuse it, what do you do? This is not like the telephone industry, where a product doesn't change for 20 years. The original issues are already obsolete.

    Keep in mind that one major reason for IBM's downfall was a 10 year lawsuit by the same Dept. of Justice. The case? IBM was bundling its mainframe hardware, OS, and database products. At that time, geeks were cheering on two young companies that dared to take on the evil monolithic empire - Microsoft and Apple.

    Well, guess what? 20 years later - IBM is STILL bundling its hardware, OS, and database products. Why is the DoJ not caring? Because it's a dead, obsolete market. The mainframe has been overtaken by the PC, and all the issues that were so fiercely argued decades ago, became irrelevant. It's the same deal. IBM caved in due to the lawsuit, which resulted in literally a warehouse full of documents they had to shovel around.

    Should IBM have been hurt so badly because it played rough in the mainframe market, knowing that it was an unquestioned giant (and not knowing that it was surrounded by nimble, faster velociraptors)? Because of the DoJ case, IBM had reached the point where lawyers were attending every meeting, and had to approve of every plan. It killed them. Did they deserve it?

    I don't think so. You may think MS is truly bad and evil, but the reality is they are just like any other company. And the reality is also that it's better for the govt. to stay away. This is very difficult to realise when you hate Microsoft so badly, but keep in mind that many young geeks hated IBM just as badly, and the point still stands - if you wound a company that will be obsolete in a decade or two because it played rough, it will always look unfair from a historical viewpoint.

    Keep the long view in mind. Breaking up the company may seem tempting, but you'll only hurt the industry - the same way the DOJ's interference in IBM's day-to-day affairs hurt the mainframe market nobody cares about now. Keep that in mind.
  • Although the libertarian in me hates having the government step in to meddle with businesses, it seems like breaking up MS is the only solution. Even if it's only split between Operating system and Apps, would there really be any bad consequences of doing this?

    Government regulations will never work in the computer industry, they're way too slow.

    Of course, if Microsoft is left as it is the Linux bandwagon will continue to be fueled by the anti-ms sentiment, which might be enough to eventually effectivley solve the trust problem.
  • It seems to me that most people, in their anti-microsoft frenzy, have forgotten about what got this whole circus started, namely: MS uses its knowledge of the OS they created to get an unfair advantage towards competition, as well as forcing their applications down our throats. Not to mention the fact that they like to kill off competition by giving away their own products for free, since there are enough other products to make money off anyway... So, provided they are guilty, what is the solution? Having them open-source the OS? This actually has nothing to do with the problem. Will we force every company out there in the software business to open-source their products then? Breaking them up? That would keep them from providing the apps company that would result from getting information from the OS company? Regulating them? Hmpf. What about the 'keep the internet uncensored' cries? As much as I dislike MS, a solution should be found which is fair, ie which we wouldn't be afraid to apply to other products, including Linux. Besides, as far as I can recall most Linux distributions come with versions of Apache, sendmail, pop3, you-name-it servers. A compiler. Whatever. Okay, they're open-sourced. This arguably also hurts commercial apps. The open-source vs closed-source debate is, in my opinion, moot...The only thing that matters is quality code...If it's open, very good. If it's closed, too bad... And yes, I _do_ advocate Linux use and throw out NT servers whenever I can... It seems there's a difficult and long road ahead (pun intended :))) ) .
  • Its a cycle tho...the phone companies are buying each other out again...they'll have to be broken up again soon too...but breaking up MS would proably solve the problem, too much power in anyone's (or company's or govs) hands is generally a Bad Thing (TM). And today money seems to equal power, so breaking them up into lots of smaller pieces would spead the money more.
  • Microsoft was not alone in getting us to the point we're at now. Look to Dell, and Compaq, and IBM, and HP, and so on. Look to Diamond and Matrox and 3Com. Every system manufacturer who offers only an MS OS preloaded, or who gives a significant advantage for preloading same, is collaborating with MS in perpetuating their monopoly. Every peripheral that comes with MS OS drivers and nothing else is putting their penny in MS's hat.

    I used to favor breakup, but now I'm leaning toward a more radical and direct solution:

    • Require all system vendors to offer a minimum of two choices of preloaded OS, if they offer any preloads at all. The different OS preloads must be on equal terms--same level of support, same hardware supported, and so on. Only the price difference in the base OS can be passed along.
    • Require all hardware that comes with specialized drivers to provide drivers for a minimum of two OS's. As an alternative, they could publish complete specifications of their device's interface. Any provided drivers must provide equivalent functionality.
    • Require all software that communicates with other software (like over a network) to be accompanied by complete and accurate specifications of the protocols and formats involved in that communication.
    • Require all software that saves data in files to be accompanied by a complete and accurate description of the formats of those files.

    The trouble we're having with Microsoft is only a symptom of a larger problem. If not them, then somebody else would be doing it.

    I don't like the idea of more laws, but it seems clear that the current laws have holes in them. If the above regs are applied to Microsoft as well as all of their competitors, it will deal with their abuses nicely. No need to single anyone out.

    Oh, what's that you say--MS are the only ones who would be affected by the preload and driver thing? Awww, too bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not true. MS released beta's for *TWO YEARS* prior to Win95's release. Every company that wanted to could have had Win95 targeted apps out at the same time (in fact, several did).

    Most companies took a 'wait and see' attitude to see if Win95 would be successful. MS didn't. That's the fault of MS's competitors.
  • I'm not sure who suggested it - perhaps Richard Stallman himself - but a friend of mine and I have been chatting about MS being forced to publish all of it's standards from now until eternity. No more of this proprietary BS.

    It started with Dr. DOS and it just kept rolling. If it wasn't for their underhanded tactics, they wouldn't even be around anymore. I say the DOJ should take hold of their short-n-curlies and pull like the dickens.

    After all, what has been been the root of their stranglehold? Taking something, butchering it, then forcing everyone to use it via FUD and calling it the "industry standard".

    My .02
    Quux26
  • 2) Remove all private interfaces between the operating system development group and all other software development groups at Microsoft

    You are hitting at the heart of the integrated product strategy at Microsoft. Consider the introduction of OLE2 in 1993. Microsoft released the operating system feature (OLE) as part of MS Office, and as a tool in VisualBasic. Users instantly had an example of the functionality and could go out and implement it themselves.

    Compare this to Apple OpenDoc. Apple released the API, but refused to 'integrate' it in ClarisWorks or the MacOS Finder. Result was that nobody really understood the possibilities and very few applications ever bothered with the API.

    If a brick wall is instituted between the MS OS group and the Apps group, the result is that most new OS APIs will go nowhere. Why would an independant Applicaiton company spend money implementing SuperDCOM+++, when the existing interfaces just work? Imagine, the Windows API could actually stabilize (and be reverse engineered)!

    This would essentialy kill Windows, Inc. as a software business, BTW. The "Stable API" model only works for UNIX because the companies don't give a crap about the commodity market and are chasing the very profitable high-end hardware market. The Unix APIs themselves have very little commercial value as software (see Linux).
  • Why must they necessarily be broken up by product?

    In my mind, the best way to proceed would be to split them into three companies, each taking the code for ALL Microsoft products with them. Evenly divide the cash and senior executives between the new entities.

    This way they are all on equal footing and must actually COMPETE with each other. Isn't competition what the whole thing was about in the first place?

  • A few reasons why I prefer IE5:

    1. It launches a hell of a lot faster. I don't really notice the differences in rendering time, just the difference in the time it takes to launch. Don't flame me, I am talking only of my particular system, YMMV. ;-)

    2. It has more robust support for frames.

    3. It has more complete and more robust support for Cascading Style Sheets.

    4. Overall MSIE5 handles mangled or poor HTML a lot better than Netscape. Some would say this is a problem with the people writing HTML, and I would agree. Not being able to fix their mark-up, however, I prefer to use a browser that won't actually crash when it encounters bad code.

    I know there are HTML purists out there who intensely dislike frames and/or CSS. I agree that they can be annoying if improperly used. However, if used correctly they can really make a page look nice and add to the overall experience of visiting that web site.

    BTW, I am in no way an HTML professional. I'll take care of the infrastructure and leave the applications to those who are good at it, thank you.

  • I would think that breaking Microsoft up into "Windows, Inc." and "Office, Inc." would be a good thing from Bill Gates' standpoint as well. In the long term, the combined stock value of two market leading companies is probably greater than Microsoft alone.

    Also, as you point out, they could focus on some of the decent server technology they have, and stop trying to produce their mutant network-centric "DNA" plan where everything on the network is tied insercurely and fragilely together at the Windows/Office client.
  • (Never fails...I never get to moderate during a good discussion like this one)

    This has been exactly my point since this whole thing started! Regardless of what you think about where Windows started, or how much Microsoft has "stolen" from other companies to make it, Windows is where it is today because Microsoft worked at it, and tinkered with it, and programmed it until it worked the way you see today.

    Microsoft has put time, money and effort into a program that many, many people happen to use (myself included). Sure, it has a lot of flaws, but it has its upside as well. How long did it take me to get VPN working under Linux 2.2? About 2 hours. Under Win 2000 RC2? 2 minutes.

    Point being, its a good OS with some good points, and no one, not the government, not private industry, should be able to steal the work of another company. As the previous poster said, should we ruin the jobs, and possibly lives (at least for a short time while they attempt to find other work) of Microsoft employees? Not everyone was personally involved with creating Windows, and, even then, do they deserve to be "punished," just because the worked for MS?

  • AFAIK (I use a Mac, so I don't have to deal with this) while Win9x appears to support long filenames, it's really a facade over the still-extant 8.3 naming system. Much like Windows is basically a very overgrown DOS.... Anyhow, if you wanted to name a file "Microsoft" (which is nine characters) the underlying file system would _actually_ name the file "Micros~1" plus some suffix. Presumably, as more files are created which use the same characters in the beginning, they go up, e.g. ~1, ~2, ~3...

    Finally you might get "M~999999" at which point the filesystem, if it hasn't already broken down probably would then.

    The reason for using it is probably to draw attention to the fact that MS has made the file system easier to deal with only if everything works perfectly. But in fact, it is a very half-assed solution. A better solution would have been a totally new file system which natively supported long file names. Give enough advance warning and only a few, generally unsupported apps will break when the change is made.

    In the Mac camp, we're currently in the warning stage although I can't think of any app (other than some MS ones, actually!) which follow bad practices like hard-coded pathnames and such.

    The short answer: When people say "Micros~1" they're deriding MS as lacking in technical ability, or at best lacking the balls to use it. And they're justified too, how about that?
  • I wold regulate them and the regulations wold be simple and enforceable.

    1 : Don't use any undocumented system calls. If any MS app is found
    to be talking to the OS in a way not known to other developers they
    need merely tell the FCC and MS must produce full documentation within
    a specified time ( 25 days is good ) or release the source code for
    the app in question.

    2 : Volume pricing only. You don't tell them how to price any item
    ( except for #3 below ) but all prices must be based only on volume.
    This means that if MS negotiates a deal with some small 10,000 box
    per year PC OEM for Windows and Office at $50, then $50 becomes the
    cap for Dell and IBM and they can only negotiate to go down to $40
    or whatever.

    3 : each item must have it's own price if it ever has it's own price.
    This means that if OEM A buys Office and Windows while OEM B buys
    Office, Windows and Encarta then the deference in price must be
    attributable to the cost of Encarta ( Assuming both OEMs have similar
    volumes ). Negative prices are not allowed and anyone who goes above
    the volume of the guy who got it for free is entitled to free licenses
    too.

    While #1 could increase the workload on the technical staff ( More jobs
    for neards is always good ;), 2 and 3 wold reduce the work for MS
    since it wold be in there interest to draw up price charts and stick
    to them. All those hundreds of negotiators wold be out of work.
  • Well, this may not actually be LEGAL, but I think the Government should break MS up into multiple pieces. OS, Non-internet app, and internet app, and maybe more. Then each piece of MS should be forced to GPL all their past and future codes, and give refunds for all versions of their old code. Then they should make Bill Gates resign from all boards etc., devalue their stock to zero, etc. etc. etc.

    Boy, I really hate MS don't I?


  • You replied just as I was,

    Sorry for being redundant :)

    Steven Rostedt
  • Copyrights anti-capitalist? Sounds like a bastardization of capitalist theory. In capitalism one is free to do what one wishes with the products of their labour. If I write a book, slave over it, and put all my productive abilities into it, don't you think that I have the right to sell that book to whomever like?
    Capitalism, after all, is based on trade, and it is not a sale if both the seller and the buyer both agree to this trade of value. You can't, or shouldn't be able to, copyright, patent, etc. ideas, but implimentations, yes.
  • As someone else said, breaking up Microsoft is like breaking up an anthrax spore: you get two of what you didn't want one of.

    Regulating Microsoft is like the IRS taking over the Mustang Ranch and still operating it as a brothel: the customers still get screwed, just not as creatively. (I heard the Mustang Ranch is going to be operated as a real ranch for real horses.)

    What's left? Bill Gates laughed at a million dollar a day fine. We don't want him to laugh at the proposed remedy; we want him scared enough to modify his behavior.

    How about a nice round billion dollar (US) fine?

    I'm serious. It's somewhere between a slap on the wrist and chopping a hand off. In and of itself, it doesn't prevent Microsoft from being bad in the future, but if future offenses can lead to future significant fines, it might get their attention. They might change their ways, they might agree to a settlement. I haven't heard any other proposal that, realistically could lead that way.
  • The big issues with a breakup would, arguably, be how.

    Consider first that the Gov't has approximately zero reason to demand that MS products be open-sourced in any way. Why?

    * Not everything used by MS is written there, or owned by them.
    * They've got patent-sharing arrangements with other companies, already. Lots of entanglements there, too.
    * They're MS's major revenue stream -- specifically, the Office and OS groups, really. A number of divisions are not profitable, IIRC. In Bill's shoes, if the Gov't did this, there's not much reason for Mr. Gates to not simply start the process of shutting down the company and refusing to sell, develop or support any of its products anymore -- which would NOT be a good thing for the hordes of people utterly dependent on MS software.

    Separating those two groups -- or, arguably more relevant to the lawsuit -- IE and the OS group, might be more interesting. If one wanted to go as far as that, actually.

    The other remedies of requiring open APIs (which exist to a degree, methinks) -- which would have to be permanently open by consent decree -- and explicitly forbidding bundling deals or punitive pricing with manufacturers may possibly achieve similar desired effects with less chaos.
  • i agree. breaking up microsoft won't do much, it will only provide a loophole for someone else to exploit and do the same thing. while i don't believe that people have paid enough attention to the trial, they have heard enough to know that there is a world beyond microsoft/intel. too bad i can't say that about the majority and aol, but alas! i digress. i have talked to numerous people who once thought that intel was the only chip maker and they now ask me about the athalon chips from amd. other people who thought only m$ made operating systems now ask me about linux and how they can get a copy of it. these people may not yet grasp that they don't need the newest and fastest as soon as it hits the market, but they do now know that there are alternatives.
    maybe switching to linux from microsoft is not the answer for some (the gods know that i have told several people (and in two cases companies) that they should stay with windows. it simply wasn't in their best interests to move. but they did have the knowledge to see if the other options were good for them.
    it seems that we can probably allow m$ to continue as a whole company. i certainly wouldn't want someone to say that my house was to big as one unit and that i have to cut it into 4 parts and connect it with sidewalks. the people now have the knowledge (it remains to be seen if they are intelligent enough to know what to do with it) to make their own decisions. microsoft just needs to be watched /closely/.
  • ..M$ has TONS of parts in other companies, in all sort of industries, if the company gets split where do these go? What side does Bill take (*coughMarketingcough*)? This thing is huge. The ramifications go on and on, like linux.
  • I've always thought that rather than breaking up the divisions, they should clone them. Make four companies that all have the same products and code to start with. None of them would have a monopoly in any area, and this would hopefully make them all document their api calls and respect open standards. If there were four Office apps, and one of them breaks backward compatibility with .doc files, people would just buy the other 3.

    Alternatively, I would be happy if the court ordered Bill Gates to take a pie in the face during every speaking engagement and product launch. But then, I'm a small, petty man in a lot of ways.

    Using Microsoft software is like having unprotected sex.

  • Companies like Redhat and Sun microsystems are marketing superior products for Free.

    Free as in beer or speech? While you can download RH Linux gratis, they are definitely out there to make a buck, as they are indeed a company. A highly respectable company in light of others (*cough* who were we talking about again? *cough*), but a company nonetheless. Certainly free speech though. Now, Sun.. Free speech? Ah.. I'm a little scared by the SCSL, myself. Not exactly free speech or free beer. So, since everyone knows about Red Hat Linux, but not everyone is a Sun fanatic, you care to give some examples to back yourself up?

    It's only a matter of time before microsoft will be forced to go open source, or give their software away free.

    Are you smoking crack?

    If the government breaks them up, then that will deter Companies Like AOL/Netscape and or Sun or maybe even Redhat getting together and making great things happen (*Definitely* to the consumer's advantage!!).

    Great things happen?? What the hell ..? AOL.. provides crappy ISP service. Netscape.. provides crappy browser that doesn't even bother to conform to the W3C's standards, opting instead to add more bloat (if a browser can't even render style sheets properly, and is supposed to, it's a piece of shit. pure and simple). Sun.. strives to make money hand over fist through extreme hype and overcapitalized marketing (quite unlike Microsoft, don't you think?). Red Hat.. not so crappy, though I won't say they make the best distro in the world. Good, but so far Debian looks to be the real badass around here. ;)

  • > Corporations are not created by governments they're created by individuals.

    You might want to stop by your local town hall and ask them who creates businesses/corporations?
    i.e. _HOW_ does a corporation exist in the FIRST place? People go to the government and ask them to create a corporation. The business license is "proof of ownership" that the corporation exists.

    (And yes you can engage in free enterprise without a business licnce, how do you think people did business before corporations existed? By Trusts.

    Cheers
  • Windows, Inc. -- Win9x, WinNT, WinCE

    Everything Else, Inc. -- err.. everything else...

    The point of this being that the OS should be separate from everything. Everybody should have the same access to it. That means development tool makers, application makers, etc. should all become property of another company. That company may choose to divide itself up or sell off some of the apps or tools, but that's up to them. As long as the company with the OS isn't making apps or development software, I'll be ok with it.

  • Let me mention something that must have occurred to Stallman (and others) like twenty years ago.

    But first, I agree that Microsoft should be broken up. Right now it's too easy for them to use the ubiquity of Office to prop up Windows sales; it's too easy for them to refuse to license VBA to a potential Office competitor; it's too easy for them to design Windows to give an unfair advantage to their own applications software--it's a self-reinforcing web of schemes to prop up Windows forever, giving them the ability, maybe, to dictate things to the world like The One True personal secure e-banking client. Which no one can really interoperate with unless they pay Microsoft.

    Breaking them up functionally would at least cut the links of that web, leading perhaps to things like Office for Linux. It wouldn't necessarily prevent the OS or Office companies from abusing their respective monopolies--so maybe Microsoft should be split into clones--but it's a minimally invasive start.

    Anyway. People have suggested that Microsoft be forced to publish their file formats and other interoperability standards.

    I think that's a bad idea. How could you legislate it? How would you define which file formats are important enough to require opening? Legalistically! But then twenty years from now, people will roll their eyes at what people thought a 'file format' was way back in 2000, and the rigid rule will be seen as hampering technology. And then there will be a rush to change the law, and software companies will point to how important they are to the economy, and how they should have input; they will be given input, and the rule will end up a stick they use to beat each other over the head with.

    Bah.

    Instead, we need to let open standards acquire the standing of common-sense morality. Really.

    I mean, the evil of closed standards is a given in the academic/old-school Internet/open-source world, but not always in the world at large. We think we have reasons to see it that way; we believe that closed standards invite abuse. Much of the rest of the world hasn't had reason to care--until computing threatened to upset everything, mostly via the Internet.

    When society organized itself in new ways in the past, new moral orders came into being. When municipal governments became large and bureaucratic in the Industrial Revolution, people realized that there was 'nepotism'--something as natural as doing favors for your family could become a corrupting influence. When the printing press came around, people realized that somebody had to retain the mostly exclusive right to copy texts. We take those principles for granted now, but they had to be invented.

    Hopefully by the time computing is really ubiquitous, people will have realized that society can't stand for the corrupting influence of closed standards, and using closed standards will be come to be seen as a bit sleazy and antisocial. I hope. (And then open standards will become a legal principle, taught in law schools!)

    I don't mean we should just sit around and hope that society changes in this way. More that Stallman and the GNU folks may deserve a lot of credit for creating the GPL, which allowed a particular part of the community of people who believe in open standards to get together, become strong, and to one day prove to the larger world that open standards really are an important social good.

    Or not. At least I hope I don't sound too much like Mr. Katz with my handwaving generalities and talk of sweeping social change.

    Rich K

    Another thought. Actually, I think there's something to the idea that open computing standards should become a principle taught in law schools. A law requiring open file formats or whatever would be clumsy and stupid and observed in the breach. A legal principle gets debated intelligently by law students and judges and in law journals and becomes part of legal reasoning. You could then sue somebody for having closed standards, without Congress or regulatory bureaucrats having gotten their grubby hands in the mix! I think.

  • If Microsoft's marketing dept. were removed they would be forced to compete on their products' own merits . Perhaps some sort of regulation discouraging unsupported and ambiguous claims of faster, easier, etc. could do the whole industry a lot of good. Of course, I wouldn't want to see huge disclaimers just tacked on for every little detail, but if at least some basis for hyped up claims about performance was required, Microsoft would have to focus on having something to hype about (which wouldn't be too easy for them :). Maybe they should also do something about their relation with some of the computer press (more than a few publications have gotten cozy with Bill to promote the platform they cover rather than reviewing MS on an objective basis).
  • Arguing that justice should not be dispensed because of it's effect on the stock price is silly- you're arguing that justice should _never_ be dispensed against a company, in effect declaring companies above the law.

    Besides, Microsoft's stock price is due for readjustment anyways- it's P/E of 65 is like 3x higher than the stock market average. It'll be worse when it actually happens- the stock market _always_ overcorrects. Can you see MSFT selling at $15 a share? You may...
  • Competition, yes, but 5 microsofts all with the
    source means 5x more versions of Windows.
    How does this help the consumer?

    Gee, nifty game x works on Company A's Windows,
    but the office package I want runs on Company D's windows, and the e-mail package work mandates runs on company B's windows.... Ugh.
  • I don't think breaking up Microsoft is an appropriate solution. Rather, their corporate charter should be revoked and their assets handed over to the Free Software Foundation. :)
  • This sounds like a really good idea whose time has come.
  • I think you're missing the point. Microsoft already "split" into divisions. But that's an obviously FAKE split. The REAL split that the DOJ would enforce is that Microsoft sell off all of it's application development teams. ALL, and the apps themselves. Then Corel could buy MSOffice - or whoever. Someone will spend a bucketload of cash on it, then Sun will laugh when that group dies a choking death when they realize how unfair the tie to the OS is when it's all gone.
    Joseph Elwell.

  • Linux could be orders of magnitude ahead of it's current state if everyone were working on a common distribution rather than wasting resources through duplication.

    Linux or *BSD could be orders of magnitude behind the curerent state if everyone took the current code as The Best Way To Do It instead of wasting resources submitting patches.

    Sometimes having competition and similar projects leads to very good things.

    --
    QDMerge [rmci.net] 0.4 just released!
  • I agree. I do not think breaking up Microsoft is the best solution, or even a viable one.

    Breaking up MSFT along product lines (i.e., an OS company, an applications company, etc.) would likely just result in a lot of little monopolies. True, it might force the OS company to be more open about their APIs, but even that could be circumvented.

    Breakup MSFT up into three identical but smaller MSFTs would likely cause no end of grief while not solving the actual problems anti-trust law was created to prevent -- in this case, high prices, low quality, unfair competition.

    Forcing them to port their applications to other OSes would require choosing those OSes, and likely result in poor-quality ports. No, that is not what a free market is about.

    Requiring them to open up their file formats and APIs might work. It would level the playing field quite a bit, I suppose. The problem is, even MSFT doesn't understand their APIs. Read their Windows documentation sometime; it is full of errors and ommisions. MSFT might also still be able to leverage their OS monopoly effectively with PC OEMs.

    I think the best bet might be to force MSFT to GPL [gnu.org] anything and everything that comes with the Windows disc (or the OEM kit, for OEMs).

    It has a certain appeal to it. It prevents them from doing anything with their OS monopoly, as any attempt at product bundling would have to be open source. It cripples a keystone of their monopoly. It also lets them keep their Office cash cow, so they can continue to "innovate" in a less critical market segment.
  • how must a monopoly in software be proven? And how can its misuse be proven?

    These are specific legal questions. DOes Microsoft have > 90% of the market, and are they using this monopoly power to compete unfairly, that is are they using this monopoly to gain market share in other areas? It isn't illegal to have a monopoly, but it is illegal to use that monopoly to extend control into other areas.

    but you'll only hurt the industry - the same way the DOJ's interference in IBM's

    I think that it is an open question as to whether this will hurt or help the market. The breakup of AT&T probably helped the consumer. Nobody has claimed that the breakup of JP Morgan's oil empire hurt industry, either.

    Do you have anything to back up your assertion that the Antitrust finding against IBM hurt the mainframe market?

    In my opinion it is an open question as to whether Microsoft's market power is hurting software innovation.

    Personally I don't think a breakup makes sense. What I think is going to happen is that the DOJ will place certain restrictions on Microsoft - no undocumented API's, publish the source code for Windoze, can't add certain types of features to
    the OS, can't give away software for free, etc.

    You may think MS is truly bad and evil, but the reality is they are just like any other company.

    I think that Microsoft is in fact not like any other company. Look at their margins - no other company has profits and margins like these, and this level of profitability is evidence that their monopoly position is hurting consumers by keeping prices much higher than they would be without a monopoly. To me this is bad.

    As far as your other assertions of monopoly, many don't hold water - Palm has only a 60% market share, with legions of competitors, including lots of Windows CE machines.

    Oracle's midrange competition includes DB2, Informix, MS SQL and others. Their market share is only 55% on UNIX. Not even close to a monopoly.

    As far as DB2 on 390's - perhaps that qualifies as a monopoly, but it's hard to say that IBM is using this monopoly to compete unfairly in other areas. You don't see IBM introducing products like SAP/R3 tightly tied or as free add-ons to DB2 for example - and this is what people are complaining about with Microsoft.

  • GPL Win32. The whole thing. Forcibly, under RICO if possible (with attendant penalties... that house would fetch a decent price at auction). Then have FTC stand ready to have Federal troops swoops down to remove from retail shelves and warehouses and destroy any MS OS product found by DOJ (with FSF advice) to have any non-GPL'd components (APIs in particular).


    A win in this case proves monopolistic behavior and opens MS up for the kind of successive waves of lawsuits that can destroy an incorrigible company, so I'm not worried if the initial financial penalties aren't too severe; over time they will be, never fear.


    GPLing all of Win32, though, forces them to enough of a semi-level playing-field that they'll never again have the total domination they once had. They'll be able to compete on quality, consumers will benefit from the ability of those who actually honestly need the stuff to work to be able to find and fix bugs and cruft, particularly the cruft caused by imperatives from Marketing and Billy-Gee, so that the product will actually improve over time, and MS will no longer be able to charge highway-robbery prices for the product because to do so would erase their invented-here and brandname-loyalty advantages to the point where viable competing distributions might emerge and flourish, something that would destroy them in short order.

    The ENIAC story actually has a vague precedent: the obstructive holder of a critical patent was punished for onerous behavior by having their patent lifted, for the sake of progress and common weal. This solution is somewhat less Draconian, thanks (again) to Richard Stallman's greatest achievement, the GPL.

  • Europe/Asia/etc. would love to have had Microsoft as a homegrown company arising from someone's garage

    Uh... several European nations are already conducting their own investigations into Microsoft's practices. As far as Asia goes, are you familiar with the Chaebols in Korea, and their impact on the Korean working class? Or the problems with the Japaese Bureaucracy and the kieretsu?

  • True...but the cost of entering the market is much, much lower with software. You simply don't need the infrastructure that you need with traditional monopoly-prone industries. It's a different ball park, that's all I'm saying.

    Interestingly enough, it seems to fall out like this: Huge competition crushers like MS can survive (of course). Small software companies tend to survive as well. It's the medium sized companies that get trampled...the small ones seem to come in under the radar. Once they get big enough to notice, they're in trouble.

    That sort of dynamic just doesn't appear anywhere else. More food for thought: Most small companies can't be considered to have entered the market in a meaningful way. Yet, they survive. I could quit my corporate job (as a developer) and make a fantastic amount of money as an independent developer of custom components(assuming I had the general business sense, which I doubt). That small entry into the software market would certainly be meaningful to me. Could I start a small cable company in the same way? An oil company?

    It may be decided that the differences are moot. I'm just saying that the differences are there.
  • No, but a freemarket can only properly work with a government there to apply law and order. (to a limited point)
    The governments job is to do 4 things.
    1. Provide a legal framework for markets.
    2. Encourage compitition with those markets.
    3. Correct for spillovers/externalities aka (pollution)
    4. and umm.. something else I forget (no wonder I didn't do to great on my macro economics class last week :)
    Anyways the point is with 1 and 2 that it is the governments job to promote compitition, which is often done through the legal framework. Peoples rights extend to the point where they are destroying other peoples rights.
    Bill Gates had the right and the ability to create an empire from a buisness out of his garage, but he doesn't have the right use his power to stop other people from doing the same thing. Accually he does.. to a point, as this is called compitition, but there is a fine line between compititing.. and having to power to litterly destroy and industry.
  • GMAFB. Wordprocessors dack in the CPM days were highlighting spelling errors.
  • Some time ago I saw a link to MICROS~1's "freedom to innovate" page I of couse took advantage of the offer to not only remind MICROS~1 that they have never innovated anything, not once, ever and to also e-mail to all my congress critters that, in my opinion, MICROS~1 should be broken up into seperate companies 1 to do OSes, 1 to do consumer apps, 1 to do commercial/enterprise apps, and one to do software develpoment apps.

    I got a nice letter back from my ChristianConservativeRepublican Senator saying he didn't beleive in gov't interference in the marketplace. Oh well, it was fun though.

    Clearly MICROS~1 is abusing their dominant position in the marketplace, and breaking them up would allow for competition based on the quality of the competing products, not based on whether MICROS~1 alows the competition entry to the marketplace.

  • I'd like to see simply the following occur:

    1 - HUGE monetary fine. take away their monopoly gains

    2 - Taking a note from Scott McNealy, make them abandon all investments in other companies (such as AT&T, etc...) and be barred from future purchases for a pre-determined period. Make them actually innovate, rather than just buying companies that create things that they think are useful.

    3 - Force them to publish their prices for all products, with the only discounts available being based on voluem. If Dell and Gateway both purchase the same quantity of Windows licenses they should both pay the same amount, regardless of what other software they offer on their systems.

    4 - Let OEM's do whatever they please to differentiate their products. If that means uninstalling IE5 (with Felton's utilitiy) so as to offer Netscape or Opera, so be it. Don't OEM's have to provide their own support rather than having their customers call Microsoft when they have problems? Microsoft says that allowing OEM's to do that would fragment the market, but in truth, no OEM would last long shipping a largely incompatible version of windows.

    5 - So far as the rest of their business is concerned, I don't think that forcing them to port their apps to other platforms or provide source code is a viable solution. But maybe in some areas they could clone divisions of microsoft and have them be their own companies that would compete against MSFT, such as the Office division. Give them access to all current, past and future (for 5 or 10 years) source code, to alleviate any concerns that MSFT will change file formats to protect themselves, and let them run with it....

    My two cents tims 6... 12 cents in total
  • Don't break them up along functional or product lines. Simply split them into three or four seperate companies, all starting with exactly the same rights to exactly the same intellectual property. Tell them that they can't merge or form alliances for the next n years. Presto, instant competition.

    --

  • I agree. Breaking up Microsoft would allow the "good" parts to flourish. Presumably the software division, or the "Office Products" division would continue to produce their fine office suite.

    Despite the horrific bloat in MS-Office, Word still blows the doors off of Word Perfect (and I use Word Perfect for 80% of my word processing nowadays...so I know what I'm talking about).

    On the other hand, does eliminating the close ties between software and OS prevent MS from leveraging their monopoly? I'm not so sure it does. I could see the OS division sill having too much clout. After all, there is nothing to stop them from giving preferencial treatment to the other divisions of MS or something like that.

  • by itsjpr (16533) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @11:56AM (#1636699) Homepage
    A guilty MS should only be required to open the file formats it uses. That's it. Linux will find its place without the help from the DOJ. Anything else the DOJ could do would only hurt other industry players later on.
  • by Masker (25119) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @11:57AM (#1636701)
    How exactly would the split work? Split into major chunks of functionality (OS, compiler, applications, hardware, misc. bits)? I guess that wouldn't be so hard, but to what effect? If MS Office only runs on MS Windows, and Office is the most popular office suite (remember that the Office suite == operating system to naive users), then what does it matter? For development purposes, if the VC++ compiler only generates MS Windows binaries, and MFC is a framework for MS Windows only, then there's no difference. Does it hurt MS financially? That's not the point of the suit, in my mind; we should foster competition, not simply punish MS.

    Besides, where do you split MS' applications between "core OS functionality" and "user application"? They've already tried to blur that line with IE4.0, and I wonder if naive users (and legislators) really know the difference between user-space applications and core OS applications. (Heh, what would be a non-core OS application in *nix? Anything in /usr/*/bin and /opt are "add-ons" and anything in /bin is "core"? =) )

    Nah, it would hurt them worse to do something like force them to port Office and VC++ to other operating systems (Linux, Solaris, BeOS, OS/2...). And to open the source of the OS, so that people can truly see what the hell is going on in there!

  • Do you have anything to back up your assertion that the Antitrust finding against IBM hurt the mainframe market?


    My point was that it was unneccessary. Ultimately, I think govt. should interfere only when it's absolutely neccessary.

    The lawsuit was that IBM unfairly bundled products (sounds familiar?) - basically, their hardware and software. Anybody who claims that IBM should have been broken up into hardware and software mainframe divisions will look like an idiot today.

    In my opinion it is an open question as to whether Microsoft's market power is hurting software innovation.

    That's irrelavent. We don't have courts to decide whether companies are hurting innovation.

    What I think is going to happen is that the DOJ will place certain restrictions on Microsoft - no undocumented API's, publish the source code for Windoze, can't add certain types of features to the OS, can't give away software for free, etc.

    How will this be enforced? Does the DoJ have talented programmers to carry out all of the above? MS seems to be having a difficult enough job controlling its software with 20,000 employees. This is the biggest problem I have with the "break up/enforcement" solution. It's a pie-in-the-sky answer. "The DoJ must make sure the APIs are fairly distributed." How? Do the DoJ lawyers even know what an API means? Do you want APIs being regulated by lawyers?

    I think this is the geek dependence on logic - you forget the implementation is in the hands of *lawyers* and *politicians*. I don't want either of them deciding anything about any kind of software.

    Oracle's midrange competition includes DB2, Informix, MS SQL and others. Their market share is only 55% on UNIX. Not even close to a monopoly.

    I said midrange database servers, not Unix. Midrange includes NT, which is Oracle's cash cow.

    In any case, it was an example. The point is that if you slice the 100 billion software market into various segments, you'll find monopolies in lots of areas. And my larger point was that govt. can't micromanage this. Nor can it manage the breakup or efficient regulation of how software industries should be run.

    You may cheer the govt. clubbing of MS, but ultimately, they are lawyers. They don't know the difference between APIs and OSes, they don't care. They will regulate what they want, and I think the clapping will stop soon. At some point it will dawn on people that they are are cheering govt. lawyers.
  • I think a split between MS-OS and MS-Apps would be a good thing for everyone. With the ability to let the Apps people look at and change the OS gone, it would allow much more real competition. An example I heard somewhere: If MS-OS wanted to integrate a browser into the OS, they would be forced to write App agnostic hooks into the OS that any browser could use, or the feature would be much less useful and much less worthwhile. With MS making both items, it behooves the OS team to only build the MS browser into the OS. This would have to be watched so the two new companies don't collude and effectivly become 1 company again but it would be the best solution for the industry overall. It eliminates the need for hefty regulation that might stifle other companies and it gives everybody a new reason to compete and innovate.
  • Well, maby its just me, but if I buy a computer from a retailer, I expect some webbrowser and wordprocessor included. Not because it comes with Windows, but because the seller realized it was nessesary. You do have a good point though, but btw you really can't expect IE to be on every computer anyways. I would suggest you include a base install of IE or Netscape with your package, as most companies that have web enabled software do. This leaves much less to chance, and you are adding value to the product, which is always important.
  • If you broke Microsoft into OS and Apps,
    you'd have two monopolies instead of one: Company one has a monopoly on desktop OS sales,
    the other has it on Office application suites.
    How does the consumer win?

    And where would you make the divide? Is IE
    part of the OS or the applications?
    Can the OS have an e-mail client (OE) or is that part of the applications?
  • Microsoft's "embrace and extend" method of ridding themselves of competition has always centered on their operating system. If you want to kill Netscape, make a browser part of the OS, etc.

    What if the government simply forced them to make only their operating system open source? Well, I think you'll see them doing an about-face on saying IE is part of the OS.

    But this would also prevent Microsoft from using their OS dominance to kill off competing products.

    99 little bugs in the code, 99 bugs in the code,
    fix one bug, compile it again...

  • But, breaking up is a rather intrusive and complex solution. My libertarian instincts cry out "no! no!"

    Instead, let's do what the governments could have done without the lawsuit anyway. Let's have Microsoft prohibited from licensing, directly or indirectly, new or renewal, their software to the Federal Government or any of the state governments that joined in the lawsuit. (Current licenses would be allowed to expire naturally [after two years if "perpetual"], creating an automatic transition period.)

    Suddenly, the employers of more than 10% of the American workforce would *have* to exclusively use alternatives to Microsfot, breaking any Microsoft dominion. Computer suppliers would have to pre-load non-Microsfot OSes to get government contracts. Documents intended to be shared with the government would have to be in cross-platform formats...

    And, since publically-financed schools and colleges are legally creatures of the states, they'd have to go non-Microsoft too. No VC++ or NT admin classes at your community colleges anymore, since they can't put that software on the lab machines. No more MS indoctrination in elementary schools.

    It'd be simple, effective, and relatively non-disruptive. It's even a decent compromise between anti-corpratists and free enterprise supporters.

    So, of course, it won't even be seriously considered.
  • Any government involvement in our industry would be detrimental to all of us. The best way to combat Microsoft is by letting market forces evolve.

    Do you guys remember when IBM were the Bad Guys? Microsoft didn't require government intervention and controls to eat their lunch. Market forces take over sooner or later. And the government's stupid anti-trust action against IBM was dismissed anyway.

    As formidable a threat as Microsoft seems, keep in mind that government action in any way threatens our freedom to innovate and to determine the course of our industry. How would any of us like bureaucrats dictating what code to write, who you can it be sold to? Keep all the encryption restrictions in mind. Now extend that to the rest of the industry. Bad news.

    Eugene
  • My first instinct is to avoid a breakup. Instead, have a ruling against Microsoft prohibiting them from licensing or renewing the licenses of their software in any way to the U.S. Federal Government or any of the state governments.

    That, of course, ends the "monopoly", since government is such a large sector of the largest economy on Earth. Entire school systems, as legally entities of state government, would have to kick Microsoft out of the classroom -- including colleges with clasess in NT administration or VC++.

    However, if there is going to be a breakup, might I suggest:

    At least five child companies. One with WinMillenium and Works/home apps, one with W2K and Office, one with W2K and BackOffice, one with the developer tools/environments, and one with the internet properties and WinCE.
  • People tend to think in black & white. Reality occurs in various intermediate shades. If Microsoft is "guilty", the question is - guilty of what, and what must be the remedy? And what purpose will it serve?

    I think the remedy question is very, very difficult. However, I think that it is an important one and something that should have a lot of critical thought put into it. In particular, the question of who is served is paramount. Microsoft is almost certain to be found guilty, but we need to determine if there are remedies that can cause consumers to become better off than they would otherwise be.

    First of all, just about ALL the *specific* issues that were argued in the anti-trust trial (ISP arm twisting, browser bundling, etc) are already obsolete (did you notice how nobody is suggesting these days that MS should seperate the browser from the OS?) . This raises profound questions:

    * how must a monopoly in software be proven? And how can its misuse be proven?

    * how must the remedy be issued, when you know for certain that by the time you make the judgement, the original complaints are obsolete in this fast moving industry.

    These comments indicate a confusion of the issues. The specific issue that is argued in the anti-trust trial - that Microsoft is using its monopoly in PC operating systems to stifle legitimate innovations that might reduce the power of that monopoly - is certainly not made obsolete by its success in drowning those innovations. (Don't believe that this is what the trial is about? Check out //http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f2600/2613.htm ) Asserting this is like letting a serial killer go free because all of his victims are already dead - what remedy is there for them? So, the original complaint is not obsolete, only some of the direct victims of the questionable Microsoft policies.

    Because of this, the second starred question is not clearly relevant. The "fast moving industry" line is a simple but common red-herring, if it is even true for operating systems. (We've all been waiting fifteen years for Microsoft to release an operating system that is as stable as MS-DOS, which was itself perhaps ten years behind the OS industry's front line.) The remedy question is perplexing, but it is certainly not clouded by the fact that successful anti-trust violations can destroy entire companies and even sub-industries quickly. Of relevance is that these violations can have long-term effects on potential software innovators, and it is this that the remedies must take into account.

    Also, just because no one you work with at your workplace is suggesting that IE should be separated from Windows does not mean that there aren't people who understand right away that it is a good thing to do. In fact, the inappropriate coupling of the two is one of the main reasons that I switched to Linux. And don't imagine that I think of Linux as a great operating system (yet). It is simply not an appropriate option for the great majority of people. (It's also not in the relevant market - it's provided for free by volunteers who might otherwise have better things to do - but that's another issue.)

    The first starred questions are more than adequately answered by the example of the above link. It can certainly be shown that a software property holder is a monopoly, and that that monopolist is abusive in an anti-trust sense. One can argue, largely against the evidence, that such a legal judgement does not apply to Microsoft, but one cannot argue with the bases upon which such a legal judgement is made, since they are a part of the law. The tests are fairly explicit, and involve determination of barriers to entry, the power to raise prices above (economic) costs, the legitemacy of product tying, and the foreclosure of markets. So, there are no real questions about what it means to determine that a software property holder is guilty of anti-trust violations. One can argue that all of anti-trust law should be thrown out as immoral, but probably more people felt that way before Microsoft came on the scene than after, and I won't deal with that question here.

    For starters, monopoly for MS is not as simple as it appears, since you're narrowing the industry to the "PC operating systems" arena. If you narrow down segments of industry, Oracle is a monopoly in the midrange server database market (HP tunes its OS to run faster on Oracle, is that a sign of too much power?), and IBM is a monopoly in the mainframe database segment (easily more than 90% of S/370 machines use DB2, both of them ibm products). Similarly, Palm may be said to be a monopoly in the handheld segment.

    I think if any of the above companies were subject to the same scrutiny as MS, there would be several issues of leverage of market share.

    It has not been determined that Oracle or Palm have significant barriers to competitive entry or the power to raise their prices above economic costs. Remember, market share is irrelevent to determination of a monopoly. In the case of IBM's mainframes, there has been no recent determination that anti-trust violations have occured, if it could even be shown that a monopoly existed for a market that seems so suceptible to lower-priced substitution. If any of these facts change, then by all means anti-trust enforcement should (and I imagine will) be applied.

    Keep in mind that one major reason for IBM's downfall was a 10 year lawsuit by the same Dept. of Justice. The case? IBM was bundling its mainframe hardware, OS, and database products. At that time, geeks were cheering on two young companies that dared to take on the evil monolithic empire - Microsoft and Apple.

    Well, guess what? 20 years later - IBM is STILL bundling its hardware, OS, and database products. Why is the DoJ not caring? Because it's a dead, obsolete market. The mainframe has been overtaken by the PC, and all the issues that were so fiercely argued decades ago, became irrelevant. It's the same deal. IBM caved in due to the lawsuit, which resulted in literally a warehouse full of documents they had to shovel around.

    Should IBM have been hurt so badly because it played rough in the mainframe market, knowing that it was an unquestioned giant (and not knowing that it was surrounded by nimble, faster velociraptors)? Because of the DoJ case, IBM had reached the point where lawyers were attending every meeting, and had to approve of every plan. It killed them. Did they deserve it?

    First, it must be noted that IBM is far from dead. In fact, evidence was introduced into the Microsoft trial indicating that its revenues were higher than those of any other company in the computer industry. However, it is true that it no longer engages in policy that violates anti-trust regulations, such that government oversight is determined to be required. Its mainframes are profitable but subject to substitution and it makes a nice, tidy business out of competing head-to-head, with no inherent advantage, in the brutal battle for desktop PCs. Is this the IBM "downfall"? It seems to be completely reformed, and as such, its example seems to be an odd basis upon which to insist that the anti-trust action should not have been taken.

    This argument, in its various manifestations, tries to have it both ways. On one hand, it proposes that IBM was unfairly hurt by the trustbusters. On the other hand, it insists that the enforcement was misguided because Microsoft came along and out-competed IBM in a way that had nothing to do with the anti-trust actions. Well, which is it? If Microsoft would have out-competed IBM anyways, then why was the enforcement such a blow? As it turns out, this is the center of one of the great ironies of the Microsoft anti-trust trial.

    Think about it seriously - if you were an IBM executive in 1977 just about to introduce a new product line, would you prefer to also provide an IBM operating system for the project, as had been done with all other IBM computing products up to that time, and which had always worked to IBM's advantage in such concrete ways that IBM was under anti-trust regulation for that reason; or would you rather license the operating system from some external source with no control over its eventual deployment or development? People often hypothesize that IBM simply dropped the ball, that they didn't realize how important microprocessor-based computers would become. But is that really a sensible conclusion? It seems like the largest mistake in the history of computing from our vantage point, and can it really have seemed like a much better decision at the time? Not to belabour a point, but would you ever, ever, in a million years, even without the benefit of hindsight make such a decision? Well, of course you might - if there were an anti-trust lawyer in the room with you as you made it.

    So what would have been the result with no oversight of IBM's activities? Likely, IBM would still control all aspects of most computers. They would have a full lock on both hardware and software, with vast barriers to entry that we can hardly imagine. IBM would certainly have easily crushed any attempt by a fledgeling Microsoft to innovate on and replace the operating system base. It's likely that Microsoft would never have even tried. We can doubt whether IBM would have ever needed to add a graphical shell, had ever needed to follow any outside networking standards. It is a world without vast sources of innovation - just ask Microsoft.

    The entire tragi-comedy appears in full splendour now. Microsoft is fighting tooth-and-nail against the very anti-trust activities upon which it was reared. It's like legal Oedipus. There's more - consumers now seem to have benefitted dramatically from the IBM action. Not only did it bring about the rise of Microsoft products, but also GUIs, clone hardware, WYSIWIG, spreadsheets, even PC databases. So we should always have regulators sitting in the offices of our most powerful computing companies, right?

    I don't think so. You may think MS is truly bad and evil, but the reality is they are just like any other company. And the reality is also that it's better for the govt. to stay away. This is very difficult to realise when you hate Microsoft so badly, but keep in mind that many young geeks hated IBM just as badly, and the point still stands - if you wound a company that will be obsolete in a decade or two because it played rough, it will always be unfair from a historical viewpoint.

    The humour here is that they are just like one other specific company. Who exactly is it unfair to from a historical viewpoint? Why exactly should the government stay away? Does anti-trust action really hate Microsoft, or does Microsoft just dislike the successful relationship anti-trust has with IBMom? There are thousands of sons who hate their father, and there are thousands of geeks who are just waiting to spring their innovations upon the world, delayed only by the power of the Microsoft they hate.

    Keep the long view in mind. Breaking up the company may seem tempting, but you'll only hurt the industry - the same way the DOJ's interference in IBM's day-to-day affairs hurt the mainframe market nobody cares about now. Keep that in mind.

    It is apparent from the historical evidence that severe anti-trust interference need not hurt consumers in the long term. However, this is not a carte-blanche for government takings, even against monopolists. Clearly, there are remedies that will be unfair to the shareholders of the monopoly firm. As well, there is no evidence to support the idea, jokingly proposed above, that consumers would be better off with constant government intrusion into the activities of the industry leader. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe that such regulation would be very bad for consumers, as Microsoft is careful to point out. However, the consumer benefits of some sort of action are becoming more and more identifiable, and significant legally determined violations of anti-trust law must be met by some remedy. It is perhaps not possible to select an anti-trust action that will, in concert with intellectual property and other law, cause the software industry to act in the consumers' interest without any requirement for anti-trust action to be taken again in the future.

    This is why the remedy question is so difficult. Of all the shades of grey, we have to find the one that most benefits the customer without unfairly taking from the violating, but merely profit driven, monopolist.

    Sons should not have to hate their fathers, and hackers should not have to hate Microsoft. Microsoft should not have to hate the Department of Justice, but what other option do we have at the current time? Clear customer benefit seems likely to result from any serious enforcement. Perhaps a better system of laws can be developed for software property that does not pit the industry leader against the trustbusters for doing what will naturally cause business profit. Until then, severe anti-trust action seems to be the best option consumers and the industry have.

  • by ChrisRijk (1818) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @12:07PM (#1636803)
    Just breaking up the company doesn't do a great deal by itself, I'd say, though that does depend on how and where you break them up. I think they should also be forced to openly and publically publish all their APIs, specs, development information, etc well in advance of any product release. MS currently use them to undermine their competition - force others to have over IP (interlectual property) or similar in return, threaten to or delay giving out information etc etc. Also, the price they charge OEMs for Windows should be based only on volume and other 'normal' things, rather than doing it all secretly. For instance, MS threatened to make OEMs pay $5-10 more unless they include IE (pre Windows 98 days), or if they do include any 'competitors' (ie Netscape). They also really screwed IBM over the price for Windows 95 because IBM wanted to continue selling OS/2 and Windows 3.1

    As a little aside, Scott McNealy (Sun CEO) said that he didn't think MS should be broken up - he said it could be like those horror movies where you cut the monster into bits each of which turn into a new monster ^-^. Also, he said that breaking up should only really apply when a company has a total monopoly - there is still competition remaining. Last I heard, Larry Ellison (Oracle CEO) was in favour of breaking MS up...

    One problem facing the DoJ is that most of their real options involves something that would cause MS's stock price to collapse. Since the US's stock prices have built up to a massive bubble, this could trigger the bubble to burst. However, that bubble is going to burst sooner or later, and the sooner the better really, though it'd be better if it was gentler...

    And finally, I can't remember the words exactly, but in the DoJ's proposed Findings of Fact, they said (with regards to MS's attack on Netscape) "First they said they did not shoot the victim, then that everybody shot the victim, then that the victim wasn't harmed" ^-^

  • At the turn of the century, Standard Oil had a monopoly on oil refinement. The U.S. government filed an antitrust law (under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890) and broke the company up. When they informed its CEO, John D. Rockefeller, of their decision, he merely laughed and said that the seven companies they broke Standard into would continue to dominate the market.

    Think he was wrong? Remember the last time you bought gas? Whose pump did you use?

    Standard never went away... they just renamed it. To Exxon, Phillips, Chevron, Amoco, Citgo...

    Microsoft will never go away if the government takes action. Only real, honest-to-goodness competition can bring down the giant.

    ---
  • I remain neutral on this issue right now...but I would like to point out some points to consider.

    The software industry is very much different from any other industry that has ever existed. One of the major differences is cost of entry, and a related diffence is required capital.

    The software industry is very inexpensive to enter, comparatively speaking. Once you are in the "software business", relatively little capital is required to keep the business going. Every other monopoly I've ever seen has been precisely the opposite! Oil, telecom, even IBM(as a "potental monopoly" at one point)! These industries are phenomenally expensive. Especially telecom. This is why telecom industries like to consolidate, and you see no small telecom companies(except a few artifically created ones, i.e. local government subsidized phone co's or LD resellers, who are still paying the big companies!).

    Look at Linux...it never would have worked if the required capital was anywhere near that of the traditional monopoly.

    What I'm trying to say is this: If Microsoft is to be considered a monopoly, that would be a significant departure from the traditional monopolies. There are many differences. They all need to be addressed before jumping to conclusions.
  • by IHateEverybody (75727) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @12:12PM (#1636837) Homepage Journal
    Window NT has turned into an unmanageable mess. WinCE is getting its head handed to it by the PalmPilot. MSN has reinvented itself how many times? Win9x crashes if you lean on it. And don't even get me started about Microsoft Word! Breaking up Microsoft might give the "Baby Bills" a focus that they sorely lack.

    A couple of the MS spawned companies might wind up with a combined value that dwarfs the current Microsoft.
  • If you broke Microsoft into OS and Apps, you'd have two monopolies instead of one:

    I liken it to the idea of breaking up a spore of anthrax. Want more Microsoft? Break it up. So what happens if we don't break it up? We'll get more Microsoft.

    Best bet is to investigate the people behind the anticompetitive deal making, not the company itself. Then the truly guilty parties might stand a better chance of being punished accordingly to the actual damages they caused. I doubt you will see this method promoted, because its not what they want you to hear.

    A breakup of the company means less attention away from those responsible, not to mention the promotions of many to oversee the new companies. A breakup just rewards those involved.
  • Breaking up Microsoft wouldn't accomplish anything.

    I think the best thing that could happen to Microsoft (or worst, depending on point-of-view) is to force them to publish complete API specs for all their products, including things like document formats, and then audit them on a regular basis to ensure (insure?) that their own products are following their published APIs correctly. Further, prevent them from trying to sue anyone who develops products that implement their APIs.

    This would allow for truly fair competition while not interfering with their place in "a free and open market." If Microsoft can truly "Innovate" then they will remain on top in the software industry. If it turns out they are merely leveraging OS monopoly and a faster, sleeker company comes along and pulls the rug out from under them, oh well, I guess they weren't all that innovative after all.

    I leave it as an excercise to the reader as to how to solve the technical problems of auditing Microsoft to make sure their products really do follow their own published APIs....

    -=-=-=-=-

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The problem is coming up with reasonable regulations.

    There is no question, it's only a matter of "when." In the future there will be another company like MS. It's only natural, there are simply too many people who don't understand competition and how you exactly compete in a capitalist society. I guarantee that most MS employees will simply point to stock value or profit or money and there are a large number of people outside of the company who do the same thing. No amount of regulation can change that and as long as that's the case there will be companies that do as much as they can to "compete" and "win." At the same time, for everyone of those companies there is probably 20, if not more, that take more pride and measure "winning" in their innovation, their ability to satisfy as many customers (if not all) as possible, their treatment of their employees, and their products. It's only the few dysfunctional companies that ruin it. When you try and make "reasonable regulations" you potentially hurt all companies if those regulations don't turn out to be so reasonable.

    In an industry that is this volitile, making sweeping regulations like that could be really bad. There are things that might make a lot of sense now that won't in 20 years, or it could be the other way and there are things that don't make sense now that will make sense in 20 years and because we would have existing regulations on the books it would be harder to pass them in to law in the future (remember where most political money comes from: companies and corporations)

    The right thing to do is to regulate MS, the offending party. When another company comes along, we'll regulate them too. To take a real world example, look at IBM. In the 1950s IBM was accused of antitrust crimes, IBM won but ended up with a concent decree against them. That concent decree wasn't entirely lifted until the mid 1990s. It said that IBM couldn't admit that products even existed until they announced them and they couldn't announce them until 90 days before they shipped. (That could have possibly changed the face of computing, MS was busy selling Windows 4.0 (aka WIndows95) in 1992 and IBM couldn't say much of anything about versions of OS/2 until they were ready to go. It has a profound freezing effect on the market) It also dictated some support requirements that bound IBM to support some products for what would be considered unreasonable amounts of time by today's standards. It was a huge hinderence to IBM and it has definitely cost them marketshare, not that it wasn't a good thing, it made it possible for companies like MS and Intel to become as big as they are. It wouldn't have changed a thing if all the other companies were bound to play by the same rules.

    The best way to deal with MS would be a similar concent decree. MS has done some good, they provide a huge common standard platform. Require them to publish all their interfaces and protocols, require them to keep quite about products until 180 days before launch (punnish them stiffly if they miss the date), make them change some of their licensing practices, perhaps require them to donate some infrastructure components to a standards committee. It doesn't punish them unduly and it's a reasonable punishment that won't be overturned on appeal, plus it's just good business. Breaking them up looks appealing but how will it change things? How should they be broken up? It may just multiply the problem if they aren't broken up correctly.

  • Yes, and another important point, which programs belong to the OS division and which to the Apps division?

    MS Office - ? simple, Apps.
    IE - ? simple, Apps (unless you're Bill Gates)
    Notepad - ? um, er, apps?
    Explorer - ? um, well, it's an exe, right?

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • People tend to think in black & white. Reality occurs in various intermediate shades. If Microsoft is "guilty", the question is - guilty of what, and what must be the remedy? And what purpose will it serve?

    First of all, just about ALL the *specific* issues that were argued in the anti-trust trial (ISP arm twisting, browser bundling, etc) are already obsolete (did you notice how nobody is suggesting these days that MS should seperate the browser from the OS?) . This raises profound questions:

    * how must a monopoly in software be proven? And how can its misuse be proven?

    * how must the remedy be issued, when you know for certain that by the time you make the judgement, the original complaints are obsolete in this fast moving industry.

    For starters, monopoly for MS is not as simple as it appears, since you're narrowing the industry to the "PC operating systems" arena. If you narrow down segments of industry, Oracle is a monopoly in the midrange server database market (HP tunes its OS to run faster on Oracle, is that a sign of too much power?), and IBM is a monopoly in the mainframe database segment (easily more than 90% of S/370 machines use DB2, both of them ibm products). Similarly, Palm may be said to be a monopoly in the handheld segment.

    I think if any of the above companies were subject to the same scrutiny as MS, there would be several issues of leverage of market share.

    Now...even if a company is proven to have a monopoly in that segment, and abuse it, what do you do? This is not like the telephone industry, where a product doesn't change for 20 years. The original issues are already obsolete.

    Keep in mind that one major reason for IBM's downfall was a 10 year lawsuit by the same Dept. of Justice. The case? IBM was bundling its mainframe hardware, OS, and database products. At that time, geeks were cheering on two young companies that dared to take on the evil monolithic empire - Microsoft and Apple.

    Well, guess what? 20 years later - IBM is STILL bundling its hardware, OS, and database products. Why is the DoJ not caring? Because it's a dead, obsolete market. The mainframe has been overtaken by the PC, and all the issues that were so fiercely argued decades ago, became irrelevant. It's the same deal. IBM caved in due to the lawsuit, which resulted in literally a warehouse full of documents they had to shovel around.

    Should IBM have been hurt so badly because it played rough in the mainframe market, knowing that it was an unquestioned giant (and not knowing that it was surrounded by nimble, faster velociraptors)? Because of the DoJ case, IBM had reached the point where lawyers were attending every meeting, and had to approve of every plan. It killed them. Did they deserve it?

    I don't think so. You may think MS is truly bad and evil, but the reality is they are just like any other company. And the reality is also that it's better for the govt. to stay away. This is very difficult to realise when you hate Microsoft so badly, but keep in mind that many young geeks hated IBM just as badly, and the point still stands - if you wound a company that will be obsolete in a decade or two because it played rough, it will always be unfair from a historical viewpoint.

    Keep the long view in mind. Breaking up the company may seem tempting, but you'll only hurt the industry - the same way the DOJ's interference in IBM's day-to-day affairs hurt the mainframe market nobody cares about now. Keep that in mind.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

Working...