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Microsoft

ABCNews:Potential Recommended MS Break-Up 222

ThaJungle was the first to write us with the news that the U.S. Government may recommend a drastic remedy against Microsoft in its anti-trust suit. This would be the recommedation from the DOJ and the 19 states involved in the suit, not necessarily what Judge Jackson would recommend.
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ABCNews:Potential Recommended MS Break-Up

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Freeing/Opening Windows source code would
    CONDEMN mankind to having to suffer that
    crappy code for all eternity! It would never
    go away! You got BSOD's now, wait till every
    freaking company makes Windows! ARGHHHHH!

    The problem with Microsoft is that it forces
    us to use Windows, limiting mankind's progress
    moreso than any other factor in this day and
    age.

    BREAK UP MSFT but make sure they KEEP Windows
    in just one unit. Windows is pure evil, and
    it would spread faster if open.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just when Microsoft brings out a fairly stable OS (Win2K) ...

    65000 known bugs? That's "stable"?

    In any event: M$-Win2k hasn't been out in the real world long enough to be labeled "stable", yet. 65k bugs or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is it possible to force the three seperate companies not to cooperate?

    I suspect it's possible at some level. For example: they could be prohibited from establishing legally-binding special agreements betwixt one another. I think this will be a necessary ingredient in any successful breakup. Not a permanent injunction, mind you. Just in place long enough to insure that they truly do operate independently from one another for a time. Say, a year or two?

    There's little that could be done to prevent the "Baby Bills" from secretly cooperating amongst themselves. But in the scenario I suggest above: this would clearly be illegal. Opening them up to further legal actions. Let's hope that Gates and his storm troopers have had enough of the Courts for a while and would avoid such activities.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Have you noticed the verbiage? For example, from the Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com]:
    ... a plan designed to end the software giant's monopoly...

    All of the dominant media and tech news sites are wording such references this way. Or in similar terms. This implies that the news media, at least, has accepted as fact that Microsoft is indeed an effective monopoly. (If not a monopoly in absolute terms.) It must be driving Gates and his collective literally nuts every time they see such references--knowing there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

    After years of relentless (and in my opinion: usually undeserved) positive press coverage from the tech media, this must really grate.

    Bummer, eh Billy Boy? :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    yeah...I'm using it at work and haven't had a bsod or a hard lock up either. But...this thing is a major fucking pig. My work machine is a PIII 550 with 64 meg of ram and this is a FUCKING dog with win2000. I'm not even doing anything intese. Contanct management, word processing etc..very light stuff.

    It sure doesn't handle being low on memory very well either. Stuff just goes away..you click on the start button...nothing happens. You double click on an icon...nothing. Meanwhile I've got a 300 meg swap file so there is no friggin reason for it to run *out* of memory. Don't even try to run this dog in less than 128 meg of ram. Yeah it seems stable but at what cost..Hell NT4 was fairly stable and a hell of a lot faster...

    Also...if you want to impress the Unix crowd you need to talk about uptimes in months or years..not days.

    My expert review of Win2000: woof woof woof..

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If they tried to cooperate, they'd be harming themselves. Is the Apps company refuses to support Linux to help the OS company, they lose income. The stockholders sue. Unlike the government, stockholders aren't even a little bit slow to respond, and the heavy punishments handed out by American courts in civil cases are legendary.

    As for the old "by 1997, Microsoft will be irrelevant" argument has been repeated often and without the faintest hint of a result. Netscape had a web browser monopoly and couldn't resist MS. RealNetworks had a monopoly of their own and couldn't resist MS. In fact, MS is stronger and in a better position than ever before no matter what SlashDot readers may say about Linux taking over the world next year. It's all been said before, and the people who say it are always surprised by MS.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This allegations of there being special hidden API calls that Microsoft has put in Windows to make Office run better are not true. I used to work there, so I know why Office performs much better than WordPerfect. It's because they put a lot of effort into analyzing and optimizing the performance of all of their software. I don't think I can disclose the details, but there's nothing illegal about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just when Microsoft brings out a fairly stable OS (Win2K) the company gets wacked to pieces. On the plus side, the new software division might bring out Office for Linux ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hmmm.....break up Bill into pieces. Cool. Unfortunately, that would mean up to 30% of the U.S. economy would be controlled by his various body parts. "Hey Jim, you still working at Lucent? I hear they just got bought out by Bill's left arm." "Yeah, it's tough. But poor Smitty's office just underwent a hostile takeover by his @ss."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From the USA Today a rticle [usatoday.com]:
    Prosecutors are coming to believe that simply restraining the company's conduct ... might not be effective and could be more intrusive than a breakup.

    Not to mention: monitoring such a remedy would be more expensive for taxpayers.

    This was my thinking early-on - when the trial first started. While I have waffled on breakup-vs-other-remedies from time-to-time, I keep coming back to breakup as the most viable solution. Along with time-limited prohibitions against special cooperation between the resulting "Baby Bills." (As I note in a followup elsewhere.) This solution is the cleanest and the most easily administered, IMO. Plus it leaves the resulting companies free to innovate without constant oversight and intervention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 24, 2000 @12:51AM (#1114311)
    Everyone has been talking about two possible breakup senarios- "vertically", producing multiple companies with the same product lines, and "horizontally", multiple companies, each with a different product line.

    I say ... why not do both; make multiple companies for each product line. If we take the catagories from the article, we could have two Windows companies, two applications companies, and two internet companies. That way, not only will tying be reduced, but also each company would have to fight against another one, and we could avoid subversive, under-the-table dealings between the companies.

  • I believe for the consumer the best thing is to bust it up into smaller companies, but it's not going to happen, too much politics involved. The Ma Bell breakup back in the early 70's was a completely different story.

    I would be really interested by what Ralph Nader would have to say about this alleged recomendation.
  • Actually, I'd prefer a read-only source license. Reveals secrets without facilitating open source development.

    Of the options you've given, old-style BSD. I'd like to encourage forking, including proprietary forking, of MSFT OS and apps. I'd also like it to be impossible to convert or merge it to GPL. No copylefting here.

    Yes, this is punitive in intent.

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Scope out Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org]

  • There are some drawbacks (so IE is now obligatory, eh? So Office gets to be its own monopoly? So the Windows dynasty isn't directly touched at all?) but this is still the best move, realistically.

    Office and Applications would no longer be in as deeply ambiguous a position as they currently are, regarding Mac versions. They are used as pawns and there are actually good people involved in the work, but there is a constant undertone of either pressuring people to Windows, or making MacOS more like Windows- most notably in the reliance on 'self-repairing' software, which is a damned fragile hack and assumes the vendor is the one who arranges things on your computer.

    OS/Windows would presumably have access to programming tools, and the obvious move for them would be to 'dump' programming tools and porting aids on non-Windows developers. Linux toolkits that crosscompile to Windows, Mac version of VB, whatever. They'll also continue to raise havoc in other ways- again this is a 'realistic' option in that there's no way to make them nice or positive and whatever is done with Microsoft it _will_ continue to be vicious for the foreseeable future.

    It's nice to see "Microsoft stock plummets, analysts downgrade Microsoft". That is the only thing that, in the long run, will moderate its essential viciousness. In order for Microsoft to stop being vicious, it needs to _fail_ for a while and learn a measure of humility like almost any other business in the world. Economically they are like haughty, mercurial gods- the collapse of their bloated valuation, the decay of the Microsoft-worship of recent years is the most important outcome, and it _can't_ be court ordered. It happens as people begin to consider the idea of an actual _market_ existing for a change. Gasp, office applications not from Microsoft? That can't happen! Well, yes it can. Gasp, non-MS OSes? That too, and they could be supported by the old familiar Office you've gotten so used to. And that's how it goes...

  • by smartin ( 942 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @12:57AM (#1114315)
    This is clearly not enough.
    I recommend, shutting the company down, giving away the source code, dispensing the bank accounts to the Free Software Foundation, and public execution of the executive officers after an appropriate period of stoning. :)
  • Being broken up would probably be one of the better things to happen to Microsoft: the individual companies could work more independently, their "top management" could focus on just one market, their stock prices would soar, and they would still end up dominating each market and cooperating.
    FWIW, The Economist [economist.com], which is about as pro-market as one can easily imagine, has been arguing this point in the last couple of issues; they favour splitting MS into a couple of Windows companies and one or maybe more applications companies (by product line.) They further argue that this would be in the company's long-term best interest anyway, as it would `unleash a lot of pent-up innovation' as competition increased, and that after the short-term, it would be best for the industry.

    And the buisnesses co-operating isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. Colluding to the exclusion of other buisnesses would be disasterous, but hopefully market forces and the threat of further regulatory action would prevent that.

  • Long term, there are a lot of potential ill effects that could come out of a software marketplace which is regulated by a chamber of "wise men."
    Exactly right, which is why monopolies need to be challenged. Monopoly powers and anticompetitive practices destroy the free markets.
  • And I thought MS will be divided into 'sales', 'marketing' and 'legal' ...

    They'd have a hell of a hard time trying to convince anyone to buy shares in `legal'.


  • In this case, fascdot is right about the game theory outcome. If you write the thing out as a game, the rational outcomes all involve defection between former branches of micrsoft.

    It's not a two player repeated game, where there are various ways to get cooperation.

    To get results *as bad* as the current results, office and windows must cooperate *exclusively* with each other, and defect from all other players atr all times. However, once split, office gains from cooperating with redhat, solaris, apple, be, qnx, caldera, and just about everyone else outthere.

    Similarly, windows has gains from cooperating with correll, lyx, stardivision, etc.

    To get ongoing ms cooperation, it is necessary that the gains to office from cooperating with windows while defecting from everyone else exceed the gains from cooperating with everyone (or everyone but windows if there's an ultimatum from windows), and for the gains to office from cooperating exclusively with windows exceed that from cooperating with everyone.

    While the first possibility is remote at best, the second *could* happen if windows maintains a large enough market share, which is why I'm part of the minority that prefer a horizontal split (competing versions of windows). But there's too many lawyers who aren't also economists around for that to happen :) [But if someone wants to pay my hourly, I'll join in :) ]
  • > As a separate company, it would be impossible for the OS company to
    > tell OEMs that they had to install apps from the MS-apps company and
    > *not* from any other company.

    Not only that, but they'd have no *reason* to make such a demand . . .
  • Recall that one of the things leading to the break between the U.S. and England was when the crown started paying the salaries of the royal governors.

    He who payeth the fiddler, calleth the tune

    Even if there is a lump payment from MS to the govt for the supervision costs, the supervision still must be done. IT's intrusive, and will hinder innovation and product--MS would be stuck playing "MOther May I?" every time it wanted to make a change.
  • This wasn't a forfeiture action; thus they can't be deprived of the underlying property (the programs). In fact, it would be tough to make a forfeiture type case out of this--you'd really have to claim that microsoft was a criminal enterprise, rather than just making criminally crummy software :)
  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <hawk@eyry.org> on Monday April 24, 2000 @06:07AM (#1114323) Journal
    I am a lawyer, but this isn't legal advice. If you need legal advice, see an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

    Separate colluding companies is *not* worse, but substantially better than just one.

    The current cross-behavior makes sense only because the bottom line profits go into the same pocket. Thus it makes sense for windows to take a $30 hit for office to gain $50, and vice versa.

    With office and Windows owned separately, it would be necessary for office to *pay* windows at least the $30 to get them to take the hit. There's illegal behavior, and then there's illegal behavior that's easy to spot. This is the latter. It's reall hard to hide payments of 100's of millions between separate companies in these circumstances.

    BUt the bottom line is that separate companies are at worst a cartel (they wouldn't be here, due to the different products), and the absolute worst case with a cartel is the monopoly result. However, cartels are unstable, and actual results are better than monopoly.

    hawk
  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <hawk@eyry.org> on Monday April 24, 2000 @06:33AM (#1114324) Journal
    I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, see an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

    One more time. Everyone take a deep breath. Now repeat after me:

    "Open sourcing windows and office is not an option."

    OK, now say it again three times slowly.

    The court lacks the power to do this. It would be a taking of private property, banned by the Bill of Rights. The *only* way for the court to release the code without microsoft's agreement is for someone to pay the fair market value. I'm reasonably certain that that court does not have tens of billions of dollars in discretionaryfunds, so it would have to go to congress. And Congress is unlikely to allocate that many billion dollars to pay to a monopolist . . .

    hawk, esq.
  • It sort of reminds me of a game where a certain rich owner of a newspaper causes a story to be reported which causes a stampede on the stock market, artificially manipulating the price of a certain company's stock downward in order to make it a bargain, so that when the real story surfaces (that MS will get slapped on the wrist because everyone is afraid of the consequences on the stock market - anyone else's stocks go down today besides MSFT?), MSFT's stock rockets back up and rich owner of newspaper who bought at bargain basement prices can make a nice profit.

    Has nothing at all to do with the blatantly pro-MSFT stories, almost at the level of advertisement, WSJ has been reporting for the past 5 years.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • who? how? This is not a practical solution.

    I think Jail Time IS. Naughty boys need to be spanked!

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • It seems that most of the remedies proposed are missing the most important issue: how will the remedy prevent MS from using the same strategies on other products? Let's face it, the strategies they used for IE have pretty much accomplished their purpose.

    Any remedy that only focuses on preventing the IE strategies is doomed to fail, because MS is already looking at the next products that need help...

    The most obvious "opportunity" right now is MSN. They are already using the "MSN rebate" on hardware to try and tie people into using MSN. They've also hinted that they may change their app licensing strategy from "sale" to rental over the Internet (can you say "MSN"?).

    There are two types of tactics that we need to watch for:

    • Technological exclusionary practices; e.g., MS could make it much easier to update of Windows or MS apps if you've got an MSN subscription, even if they don't move to a "rental" licensing scheme.
    • Business exclusionary practices; e.g., MS could easily tie an MSN subscription to its sale of Windows to the OEMs.

    No matter whether the remedy is a breakup or strict regulation, it will fail miserably unless it is broad enough and forward-looking enough to prevent MS from using identical strategies on future products like MSN.

  • Methinks one of those words needs 'il' added to it. :)
  • People inside Microsoft want to buy more stock, but the value's too high right now. Start a few rumours, watch the value plumet, buy up surplus, and wait for the value to return.
  • Sure, they could all work together--but simple game theory predicts they won't.

    Not quite. Such collusion would be illegal (between any two companies, not just baby Bills). And the government would surely keep a close watch on MS.

    I think breakup is the best solution. Any regulation is hard to enforce and requires lots of supervision from the government. Besides, MS has a history of disregarding government's orders.
    ___

  • Hey, watch it! I live near Hanford (Tri-Cities).

    It's bad enough that I glow in dim light.

    That said, it would be nice to see if we can make the MS campus have the same properties as a lump of charcoal. :>


    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • This proposed breakup isn't because XXXX piece of Microsoft software sucks.

    This breakup is because XXXX competitor's software died in a larval stage because Microsoft smashed it to pieces.

    I can't say for certain whether or not a breakup will be a good thing, or how it will turn out. But in theory, this should benefit not only Mac or Linux users, but those who like to run Office on Windows as well.

    If you like Microsoft software, just imagine how much better it'd be if they actually had serious competition to worry about. Office would be 30% faster and leaner, Windows could run on multiple platforms, and you could substitute the IE web browsing widget with another if you so choose.

    Perhaps there never even would have been a Microsoft Bob...


    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • Say the MS-Office suite is split off as a separate entity from the operating system. All of a sudden there is no particular advantage to NOT port Office to other OSes. They can still port to Apple/MacOS AND they can now port to Solaris, *BSD, BeOS, Linux... whatever. It would be a distinct advantage for the Office "baby bill" to do so. (More ports == more sales).

    There will NOT be any advantage for the Windows (operating system) "baby bill" to try and pull any "incompatibility" shennanigans with other application makers including the other "baby bills".

    I think there will be an ongoing struggle as to how much they can call it "innovating". Say, something like, "innovating" Office in to IE.

    The real stranglehold MS has on the software world is not their OS, nor IE... it is Office. Office is NOT all that an incredible an application suite... there are others with equivalent functionality. The key to Office is its proprietary file formats. People and businesses that prefer other office suites feel they have to get MS-Office because all their clients and other businesses use Office. None of the file translators works perfectly between systems. Eventually something gets munged (Office will do that to its own files!!). I don't think they should open up the file formats for office suites... I think an open file standard should be established for ALL office suites.

  • I have been reading dozens of articles from various places that Judge Jacksons *doesn't* want a breakup, that its the corporate equivalent of the death penalty. States didn't want a breakup, either. Now, suddenly, a breakup is part of the plan?
  • Folks,

    Gawd, somebody at the DoJ has some sense!

    If Microsoft was to be broken up, I would have strongly favored a breakup along product lines in a horizontal breakup, NOT create a bunch of "Baby Bills" with identical product lines in a vertical breakup, something I seriously feared the DoJ might just try to do.

    The reason is very simple: this keeps product development advancing at a predictible pace. Because Windows will still continue to advance under a single standard, we don't run the risk of competing standards for future Windows improvements and the major risk of compatibility problems.

    One of the reasons why Linux hasn't advanced more rapidly in popularity is the fact you have a lot of competing standards for Linux above the kernel level. That does explain why most of the large computer companies that do preload Linux (e.g., Dell, Compaq, IBM, etc.) use Red Hat Linux 6.1 (and soon 6.2), since Red Hat Linux has become more or less the "de facto" standard for Linux; IT managers want to standardize on ONE commercial distribution of Linux for compatibility reasons.
  • After all, not even the genius of Bill could run a huge corporation effectively from a pram. And who would change his nappies ?



    --

  • Actually, the apps company would continue to make money; I'd bet Office is a bigger earner than Windows.

    The three-company split is extremely probematical, though; as far as I know, MSN has negligible revenues and losses for as far as the eye can see, and of course the IE browser is strictly a cash drain. I don't see how that company could survive for more than a year or two, depending on how generious its initial funding is.

    What I'm wondering is how the "Baby Bills" could become independent. This is not like the AT&T breakup, where management of the individual companies became in control. Bill would still be a controlling shareholder in all the babies, and he'd still be able to do what he would with them. If he was ordered to sell them off, I would assume that he'd wind up appointing his successors in management. If Gates took over one company and Ballmer the other, wouldn't they just continue working together as before? I don't think he'd hand over his company to his worst enemy or anything.

    Thoughts?

    D

    ----
  • Sure, they could all work together--but simple game theory predicts they won't.

    Simple game theory isn't good enough for me, especially when the playing field isn't level.

    With such a demonstrably bad actor as Microsoft both kinds of remedy are needed. To make a short proof by example: what about Kerberos? Even with the OS division hived off, Kerberos is still at risk from attack by NT servers and W98ME clients running "extended" versions of the protocol (read: intentionally compatible only with Microsoft products, and, to make matters worse, secret). Even with the IE division separate from the division that sells IIS (yes, they'll have to SELL it!), a conduct remedy is necessary to prevent those two Micro-Microsofts from cooperating, to their mutual benefit, by continuing to implement and support non-standard versions of web protocols, known only to the two of them. Etc. etc, there are many such strategems available for defeating the intent of remedies if they are purely structural. All these strategems need to be anticipated and addressed.

    By the same token conduct remedies alone are insufficient. This was more than adequately demonstrated by the way Microsoft (read: Bill) was able to weasel around the earlier consent decree on product tying.

    Both kinds of remedy are obviously needed. If any weaker approach is applied we'll just see the whole sordid affair playing out again 3 years down the road, wasting everybody's time and money, including Microsoft's.

    And don't think any of this is unfair to Microsoft - you live by the sword you die by the sword. None of this is going to harm Microsoft to nearly the same extent they harmed their competitors, their allies (e.g., IBM), and legions of poor, befuddled consumers (who have come to believe that crashing is just part of the normal behaviour you expect from a computer and that rebooting is part of installing an application).

    At worst the Micro-Microsofts will simply have to compete like normal companies from now on. That means, hmm, writing business plans like anyone else, getting capital from the same places everybody else gets it instead of extorting it from witless consumers, making deals that are beneficial to both parties and don't turn into the kinds of rape scenes we've seen in the past, going hat in hand to the bank, an so on. In other words, normal healthy capitalism.
    --
  • Microsoft will need to be broken into more than 3 parts, and they will all need new names. I'd like to suggest:

    Baby Bill #1: Nanosoft
    Baby Bill #2: Bill's Software Repair
    Baby Bill #3: Necrosoft
    Baby Bill #4: Steve's Drivethru Benchmarks Inc.
    Baby Bill #5: Zombiesoft
    Baby Bill #6: Black Hat Software
    Baby Bill #7: Microwas
    --
  • Under the Findings of Fact, it was revealed that not only did MS give IE away, but they actually paid AOL to take it (specifically, they paid off AOL's contract with Netscape). The purpose was to keep others from developing software for Netscape and thus protect the OS.

    As separate companies, the Apps company would lose money and the OS company would make money. There's no easy way to cross-subsidize losses in one company from another. Even if it was legal for the OS company to pay the Apps company for the collusion, it would be impossible to hide such a payment and stockholders would react accordingly.
  • The whole case was about how MS leveraged one part of the business (monopoly OS) to force acceptance of their standards and keep that monopoly. They had to wipe out Netscape as quickly as possible. They gave IE away; they paid AOL to take it; they forced OEMs to stop installing Netscape; they paid web developers to develop IE-enhanced pages.

    As a separate company, it would be impossible for the OS company to tell OEMs that they had to install apps from the MS-apps company and *not* from any other company. They couldn't use the copyright defense since they would be forcing OEMs to install software that would be owned by another company. Suddenly, OEMs would again be free to determine which were the best apps and install them. If Mozilla becomes a better browser than IE, OEMs would distribute it. Suddenly, MS would have to have a better product *before* everyone started using it. They couldn't use this leverage to make their apps the defacto standards.

    And how is the company that makes IE going to make any money? The more it's accepted, the more it costs the MS-apps company. With no income and a requirement to produce the best software, the Apps company would soon fade into oblivion.
  • Hmmm.....break up Bill into pieces. Cool. Unfortunately, that would mean up to 30% of the U.S. economy would be controlled by his various body parts. "Hey Jim, you still working at Lucent? I hear they just got bought out by Bill's left arm."

    I would like to see them chop him up, but I don't think they have the legal power to do that. Except maybe if they were in Texas.

    Most likely they would make one clone of Bill for each part of the company. That would just make things worse. Not only would we have multiple Bills (one is too many already!) they would all fight over who gets the only Steve Balmer. That would be a bloody battle and J. Random Consumer would get caught in the crossfire of "innovation".

  • I have been reading dozens of articles from various places that Judge Jacksons *doesn't* want a breakup, that its the corporate equivalent of the death penalty. States didn't want a breakup, either. Now, suddenly, a breakup is part of the plan?

    Two words: trial balloons. These possibilities are probably being "leaked" -- aka unofficial PR releases -- to see what reactions which people have to what possible solutions.

  • While the case was about as specific instance, I think it's indicative of a number of generally unacceptable business practices. Not all of them are related to bundling or tying.

    It could probably be argued that this case should not form the basis for more general remedies, and legally that may be true. But I still believe that in order to be effective, some remedy other than breaking up the company needs to be used.

    As for the effects of breaking the company up, since bundling has worked spectacularly so far, I see no reason why the Microsoft/OS and Microsoft/Office companies wouldn't collude to continue their current behavior: while the profits would get split up, their market dominance would remain. Sure, that's illegal, too, but it buys them another 5-10 years of litigation, and then probably some similarly ineffective remedy will be used. That kind of behavior can go on forever, with little financial consequence to the Microsoft companies and little change in their behavior. That's why I think something different is needed.

    But actually I doubt that much of anything is going to happen: both political parties are very-corporate friendly these days, and while Microsoft's competitors don't like Microsoft's business practices, they like the thought that they might be next to be hauled into court for their anticompetitive practices even less. And there are plenty of other examples of anticompetitive practices.

  • by jetson123 ( 13128 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:15AM (#1114361)
    Being broken up would probably be one of the better things to happen to Microsoft: the individual companies could work more independently, their "top management" could focus on just one market, their stock prices would soar, and they would still end up dominating each market and cooperating.

    Something similar goes for the other often-discussed remedy, open sourcing Windows (without making it freely redistributable). That would simply entrench Microsoft software further.

    Good remedies I can think of would be:

    • Supervise Microsoft's business and accounting practices and get them to agree explicitly not to make "precompetitive announcements". This worked for IBM (IBM is very cautious about product announcements even today because of past justice department investigations), and it ought to work for Microsoft.
    • Limit Microsoft's ability to manipulate earnings through creative accounting.
    • Prevent Microsoft from buying or investing in any other companies for the next five years. Microsoft has been buying up lots of companies that threatened to compete with them, limiting consumer choice and limiting the availability of technologies for other platforms.
    • Impose a stiff fine for their past misconduct, both to reimburse society for the financial losses and lack of innovationresulting from Microsoft's past misconduct and as a penalty; something of the order of Microsoft's cash reserves ($18b) would seem appropriate and would further limit their ability to engage in creative accounting and buy out competitors to extend their monopoly.

    Microsoft has been squashing the competition not through better technologies but through misleading marketing and announcements, forcing unfavorable terms on others, and buying out competitors, a direct result of their market position. That conduct has denied consumers better technology and choice, and that conduct needs to be addressed directly.

  • The point of this isn't to force them to make better software. It's to create competition in the arena's in which they have monopolies, mainly operating systems, but possibly office suites as well after hearing of all the "knife the baby" talks with Apple. No judge in the world is going to dictate a level of quality that must be achieved by a software company...
  • The real question to me is: what do you do with a rogue corporation?

    A thought occurs to me: thinking in terms of corporations is a bad thing, and it should not distract anyone from the fact that individual people are making willful decisions to break the law. Indict them!

    When the next CEO of Microsoft decides whether or not to break the law, one of the factors in his decision will be this: the expressions on Gates' and Ballmer's face when they were on "Hard Copy" crying about how they get their asses reamed every day in prison. The CEO will stop and think, "Do I want to keep this cushy CEO job, or should I risk going to prison?" I think that would have a profound limiting effect on how rogue a corporation can be.


    ---
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @04:49AM (#1114367) Homepage Journal

    They can't fine Microsoft enough to make them feel the pain

    Of course they can. The whole point of a fine is to make it hurt. They just have to set it high enough so that it does so, even if the overall magnitude of the fine is shocking and unprecendented. Think in terms of percentage of equity, rather than total dollars.

    (Heh, then when Microsoft cries that its total equity is overstated, put people in jail for fraudulent accounting.)


    ---
  • by Zach Frey ( 17216 ) <zach@@@zfrey...com> on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:38AM (#1114371) Homepage

    I am not a fan of giving a lot of power to a government. However, I do believe that the government must have the power to trump a corporation. Otherwise, the Bill of Rights may one day become a EULA.

    IANAL.

    My understanding is that the State that a corporation is charterd in does have the authority to invoke the "death penalty" by revoking a corporation's charter. The Feds do not have this authority, nor should they.

    However, (fortunately or unfortuantely, depending on your perspective), this ability of the States to demand good corporate behavior from their corporate "citizens" has been pretty much a dead letter. Politicians need (advertising) dollars to get elected, and corporations have those dollars. And if enough politicians did have the collective cohones to stand up to that, corporations can always punish the local constituents by moving jobs over a state line, which tends to make politicians unpopular with the voters, and thus ex-politicians.

    Men are ruled, at this minute, by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern, and therefore wish to enslave.
    -- G. K. Chesterton, "Utopia of Userers"
  • by King Babar ( 19862 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:16AM (#1114379) Homepage
    Breaking up a company does not cure the monopoly problem. Look at AT&T. They were broken up into one long distance company and several RBOC's (I think 7). However, if you wanted a telephone, you bought service from an RBOC and AT&T. There is still a monopoly, just more companies with monopolies in slightly smaller things.

    Aggh. Wrong. Why do people post if they have no clue. Presumably, because they never did live under the old regime.

    Once upon a time, there was a monopoly phone company, known affectionately as Ma Bell. Ma Bell sold you local telephone service, long distance service, and every freaking phone in your house. Wait; take that last part back: since Ma Bell charged you for extra phones and phonelines, most people only had one phone. Again, people actually didn't complain that much, since Ma Bell was seen as a benevolent dictator, subject to regulation, and the phone system was surely a natural monopoly, right?

    Wrong. I don't know about you, but today I've got local service from one company, long distance from a second, three good, cheap phones from companies that couldn't make phones for the US market before the break-up. I can dial around the long distance provider at will. I can get a cell phone from one of several competing companies. My real cost per minute for service has gone down a lot. I could have gotten high speed internet access service (ADSL or ISDN)from the local phone company or from one of four local ISPs. Ironically, perhaps, I chose to get a cable modem from ATT itself because it was cheaper and better. In a week or three, I'll be doing my own in-home wireless networking set-up using technology from Lucent, which contains parts of the old ATT that used to make the solid but boring monopoly-priced phones you had to use.

    Oh yeah: I inherited stock that used to be ATT shares, but ended up being stock in all the baby bells, Lucent, and now (after some financial dealings) Vodaphone Airtouch, a huge British wireless company. Needless to say, the babies and split-offs have done phenomenally better than the old ATT shares had done historically.

    I could go on and on, but the point is that the break-up of ATT is now a textbook case on why it might still be a good idea to break up companies that have monopoly power, even when they have good PR. Whether or not breaking up Microsoft is the best idea or not does not mean that the break-up of ATT was anything but a huge win for everybody concerned.

  • When I said "developers leaving in droves", I didn't mean "Microsoft employees" nor "companies who develop for Windows". I meant "individual programmers who are interested in a platform". I was WAY into MS 5 years ago (reading VB Journal and everything). Now I'm out. I see a LOT of other people doing the same. We're all sick of being jerked around.
    --
  • "Such collusion would be illegal..."

    So? What they are doing NOW is illegal.

    The way to get someone to do what you want is to make it profitable (in whatever currency he uses) to do so. We want Microsoft to compete (rather than crush). We make that behavior profitable by breaking them up.

    Some commenters have noted that this won't put MS out of business--no kidding. The point here is not to crush MS--it's to make them play fair. By making fairness more profitable (to reward the behavior we want) we also make MS money. Not much of a punishment you say--right, I say, that's why it's called a "remedy".
    --
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @12:55AM (#1114384)
    We all know that Microsoft maintains it's position not by superior products but by simple marketing. We also know that many other companies hold on to their (non-monopoly) positions the same way. In fact, decisions made on the basis of marketing rather than quality can be blamed for a lot of our problems, including Congress.

    So I propose the following remedy: Kill the idiots. We all know several idiots. Kill them. These idiots may include your boss (who decided to use MS PPTP for the corporate VPN), your coworker (who laughs when you can't configure a winmodem, and then goes back to installing Service Pack 6), your ISP (who asks if you run a Mac or a PC "You know...Windows"). Kill them all.

    Just think what a wonderful world it would be where you wouldn't have people claiming that "NT is standards compliant" or "Best viewed with [insert browser name here]".
    --
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:09AM (#1114385)
    I see a lot of comments about "how will a breakup keep the baby bills from conspiring together?" It won't--because it won't need to. Regular old market forces will do the work for us.

    For instance, let's say they break into OS, Apps, Publishing, Hardware. First move by Apps is to port Office to Linux. Countermove by OS is to remove optimizations for Office, making WordPerfect (and all the others) run equally well. OS also probably publishes API spec to lure developers back (who are leaving in droves right now). Publishing and Hardware, now free to jump on the Linux bandwagon, do so. Etc etc etc.

    Sure, they could all work together--but simple game theory predicts they won't. Together they could make a killing (just like they are now), but as separate companies the lure to "defect" (break the cartel) would just be too strong.
    --
  • by David A. Madore ( 30444 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:59AM (#1114389) Homepage

    Remember what happened to fishermen who tried to get rid of seafishes by cutting them in pieces? They ended up with many more seafishes.

    But Judge Jackson said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them software.
    And they say unto him, We have here but one Microsoft.
    He said, Bring it hither to me.
    And he commanded the DOJ to sit down, and took the Microsoft, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the companies to his disciples, and the disciples to the DOJ.
    And they did all have software, and were filled: and they took up of the stocks that remained twelve billion dollars full.

    (Gospel according to /dev/null, chapter 14.)

  • IANAL.

    All corporations have a will, which reads roughly: we pay off our creditors first, then sell off all our assets and distribute that to our shareholders.

    This would be straightforward with other corporations, but a bit tricky with Microsoft. Microsoft's biggest assets are the copyrights to Windows * and Office *, and it's those assets that we're scared of. If J. Random Software House bought these copyrights at auction, would they become the next Microsoft?

  • For the record:

    The fact that this was moderated up as "funny" makes sense. The fact that this was moderated down as "flamebait" makes sense, but less so.

    The fact that the idea of killing al lthe idiots has two upticks for "insightful" scares me a hell of a lot more than Microsoft does...

  • There are a few discussions here suggesting that, were MS to be broken up, the pieces would merely ally with themselves. This, of course, would be patently illegal itself as part of the ruling. The problem is: that hasn't stopped them before, why should it now? Remember, this trial is about a contempt of court proceeding; Microsoft is guilty of disobeying a court order. There is no reason to believe that another court order, of any sort (even a breakup) will resolve the issues.

    The real question to me is: what do you do with a rogue corporation? Microsoft's monopoly doesn't scare me half as much as their total disrespect for the law. The government can fine you and I, and throw our collective butts in jail, for committing crimes. They can't fine Microsoft enough to make them feel the pain, and they can't really incarcerate them.

    I don't believe in the death penalty for people, but I do believe in it for corporations--less bloodshed. The courts need the rights to do real damage to a company, possibly pulling their papers of incorporation or simply denying them access to stock markets such as the NASDAQ. Remember, these are govenrment-granted priveleges, not inherent rights (corporations have no inherent rights; no matter what the Supreme Court says, they are not people).

    I don't suggest that the courts try to do either to Microsoft...yet. However, I do believe that the courts need this sort of power, to be used only in the most extreme of circumstances, in order to give their rulings teeth.

    I am not a fan of giving a lot of power to a government. However, I do believe that the government must have the power to trump a corporation. Otherwise, the Bill of Rights may one day become a EULA.

  • by thal ( 33211 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:29AM (#1114396) Homepage
    Do you remember how Microsoft beat Netscape? They decided to develop Internet Explorer and give it away for free, when Netscape was selling their browser. If Microsoft had been two different companies then, the Internet one may not have been able to withstand giving away their product for free, because it wouldn't have the profit from the operating system. While the three companies could certainly still cooperate, they couldn't use their power in one aspect of the software business to take over another part. A broken off Internet department of Microsoft couldn't legally make itself totally unprofitable to be OS Microsoft's puppy dog, since it is a publically held company.
  • I installed Windows 2000 Professional 5 weeks ago, and haven't had to reboot due to error or installation of software yet (read: 35 days uptime). That counts as stable for me, no matter how much I want to toe the "Microsoft Sucks" line.
  • They can't fine Microsoft enough to make them feel the pain, and they can't really incarcerate them.

    Actually the senior directors could be imprisoned, but that is very unlikely to happen.

    I don't believe in the death penalty for people, but I do believe in it for corporations--less bloodshed

    What do you then do with the assets? Does Microsoft have a will or is it intestate?
  • When it comes down to it, the biggest question is what role you think coercion should play in the marketplace, and of what nature.

    Long term, there are a lot of potential ill effects that could come out of a software marketplace which is regulated by a chamber of "wise men."

  • This "solution" has been bandied about so often that it's obvious that it's the one Gates wants and has been promoting. Anyone remember a monopoly called AT&T and what happened to it? As "punishment" it was broken up into a number of smaller companies - AT&T long distance, Bell Labs (which became Lucent) and the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs). Holders of AT&T stock got shares in these newly created companies.

    The combined value of the individual companies now far exceeds the value of the original entity. From the perspective of the majority shareholder, this can only be a "good thing".

    Also, anyone been following how, like the T-1000 Terminator, the globs of the original phone system (Ameritech, Southwestern Bell, Pac Bell) are reforming back into the national monopoly? And they're doing it in the name of "competition".

    Choose some other remedy that has not been so extensively promoted in the national media...the media wholly owned and operated by wealthy individuals that doubtlessly own large amouts of Microsoft stock. Open Windows' source code...if only to hear the rollicking laughter from the coders who download it.

    But, whatever you do, don't throw Briar Bill in that briar patch.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:11AM (#1114410) Journal
    I installed Windows 2000 Professional 5 weeks ago, and haven't had to reboot due to error or installation of software yet (read: 35 days uptime). That counts as stable for me, no matter how much I want to toe the "Microsoft Sucks" line.

    Buy a Microsoft-blessed P/PC running Windows CE, Install ActiveSync under Windows 2000, and then see how "stable" Windows 2000 is. :(

  • What they are doing NOW is illegal.

    True, but separate companies colluding is worse. At least, it is a lot more clear cut than "abusing your monopoly position", so it would be easier to prove that they'd done it. This should make the wheels of justice turn faster.
  • The article writes:

    If Microsoft is broken up, it would be the first time the Justice Department shattered a company in this way since the 1984 breakup of telephone monopoly AT&T. Launched in 1974, the landmark antitrust suit against "Ma Bell" resulted in the creation of regional phone companies, sometimes referred to as "Baby Bells," such as Bell Atlantic, US West and Ameritech.

    I'm not sure the extent to which the DoJ was involved with this, but AT&T was not broken up because they were violating any laws. In fact, it was AT&T that initiated the breakup so that they could sell computers and the Unix operating system, something they were prohibited from doing by the limited monoply granted to them by the government.

    Why can't people ever get this right?

    -p.

  • by signe ( 64498 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @02:42AM (#1114420) Homepage
    Breaking up Microsoft is a good step. Frankly, it's one of the only ones that could be taken. However, It's not going to be enough. Instead of one big company holding 80% of the OS market and 80% of the desktop suite market, you'll have 2 smaller companies, one holding the OS market and one holding the app market. It's not much progress.

    At the same time Microsoft is broken up, the court should open the source code. Perhaps a new open source license would have to be devised for this, but it wouldn't be that difficult to come up with. By doing this, the court will cause competition to return to the market.

    Let's all get over our irrational thoughs of "Windows is evil!" It's not evil. It just performs poorly. Windows is not a bad OS, what's bad is that it's monopolized by one company. By opening the source, other people can work on making it better, less bloated, and more cooperative with other apps. And the code line will fork and be sold by different companies. It would also provide a huge jump to windows emulators.

    And what about the poor broken up Microsoft, which is now left with a pile of code that they have to share with everyone? Well, they keep claiming that they're innovators, that they drive technology. If that's the case, I'm sure they'll come up with something new pretty quickly. If not, and they were just lying to everyone, they'll dissapear. And of course, they could still provide a paid support structure for Windows and Office for those people that really like that security.

    -Todd

    ---
  • I think they are planning this already. Ever since Gates decided to step down as CEO and become "chief software architect". It looks to me like they are anticipating being broken in three along the following lines:

    %micro_split {
    'windows' => 'gates'
    'office' => 'ballmer'
    'internet' => 'beluzzo'
    }

    They know it will be illegal to collaborate *after* the split, so my guess is that the busy beavers in Redmond are working like crazy collaborating in anticipation of the split. It would not surprise me if they have already written business plans (and marketing plans, coming from MS) to last them the next ten years.
  • by dodobh ( 65811 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @04:31AM (#1114422) Homepage
    Let the customers choose to install the Os themselves! Let them handle Microsoft. The OEMs need not install any OS, if they so choose. This should drive away a lot of Microsoft's market on the desktop. And it will be easier than having to police M$.

    Just my 2c.
  • by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:39AM (#1114423) Journal

    I worked at Bellcore after AT&T was broken up in 1984, in an organization that wrote requirements for the regional Bell companies' networks. We were required to make those requirements available to all parties on an equal basis. Another part of Bellcore wrote support software based on those requirements in competiton with other companies. Naturally, the Bellcore developers wanted access to early versions of the requirements, and knew the people writing the requirements, so we got lots of calls from the developers.

    Under the terms of the breakup, we had to keep copies of every version of every document we wrote for seven years. These records, as well as people's paper and computer files, were subject to legal search in cases where we were accused of providing early information to any vendor, including the Bellcore developers. Failure to keep the records properly was a criminal violation. Giving out early info was a criminal violation.

    Everyone who was hired at Bellcore received training about these conditions within their first 10 days on the payroll. Everyone received annual training, just to refresh our memory, and the instructors always closed the day with the reminder, "If you violate the law, you go to jail." The DOJ did come in and check records in response to complaints by outside parties about improper Bellcore behavior. The threat of 18 months in a federal prison and a felony conviction on my record provided added incentive to behave properly.

    If a Microsoft breakup requires that the different parts do not share private information, it is certainly possible to establish record-keeping practices that will make it possible to track down illegal sharing. And after the first set of developers go to jail for either (a) improper sharing or (b) improper record keeping, I'll bet that it never happens again.

    One of the problems with the Bellcore situation was that with potential violations occuring because of the interactions between two parts of the same company, the DOJ and the court were in the long-term business of watching what was going on, which they did not like. I believe that the market forces mentioned above will work against conspiring by multiple former-Microsoft companies within a year or two, but only if they are different companies! If they are just different divisions within the same company, where there is a possiblity of increasing total profit by reducing the profit of one organization (ie, don't publish Office for Linux because the increased Office profits are less than the losses suffered by Windows), then the DOJ and court are stuck in the long-term auditing business.

  • by Duxup ( 72775 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @12:58AM (#1114427) Homepage
    I'm somewhat disturbed by the sighting of sources here. ABC news reports that The Washington Post and USA Today published 2 different accounts of possible action against MS. I would at least like to see them note that they have a source that can confirm this, or have some sort of source in the DOJ or something. For all I know the Post and USA Today are reporting that ABC is reporting that they reported . . .

    It sort of reminds me of that game where you whisper a message to the person next to you and they to the person next and without fail the message gets screwed up. I wouldn't be shocked if this all started with some attorney asking another attorney "Hey, do you know where I can get some really cool clip art?"
  • One test of the "fairness" of the Microsoft breakup is whether there will be anything left in the industry to compete with AOL. AOL bundles not only the AOL ISP and Netscape Browser products, but a broad range of mass media via Time-Warner -- and it is moving rapidly to vertical market applications on its combination of ISP/Browser.
  • Actually the current AOL disc has IE 5 on it.

    Interesting.

    Why did AOL purchase Netscape Communications?

    Netscape's web site had some advertising revenue but it was quite paltry at the time of AOL's puchase. Netscape was the primary source of testimony against Microsoft in the early days of the antitrust action -- prior to AOL's purchase purchase of Netscape, if I recall correctly.

  • The Justice Department and Microsoft have ratified a settlement proposal originally proposed April 1. Bill Gates is buying the Federal Government 2 million Macintoshes. The government agrees to stop using Microsoft operating systems and to leave Microsoft alone. Gates was quoted as saying "It's a Win-Win deal. The wholesale cost of the Macs is less than the drop the value of *MY* MS stock holdings since the previous announcement, and the Feds can go hassle\\\\\\negotiate with Steve Jobs for a while."

    Spokespersons from the General Services Administration indicated that most Federally-owned Intel-based PCs will be donated to public schools, helping to bridge the Digital Divide, and users who need to retain the hardware for special applications can either install Linux or FreeBSD. "This historic arrangement will also allow us to deploy Posix-compliant software on the most common end-user platforms in Federal use, which we've been trying to mandate for 10 years."

    A few details are not yet finalized, such as obtaining Sony Playstation 2 hardware for users needing supercomputer capability who don't want the non-exportable Mac G4 configurations.

  • 1) MS-0 Responsible for all zeros in the binary.

    2) MS-1 Responsible for all ones in the binary.
    ___

  • The court lacks the power to do this. It would be a taking of private property, banned by the Bill of Rights.

    They'd still have their property - it's just that everyone else would have a copy of it too :)

  • Collusion is much easier to prove that what MS has done in the past. So if the software division gets the OS guys to tweak an API so that Office runs and Notes doesn't, it'd be much easier for the DOJ to fine both of them and possibly levy criminal charges against individuals.
  • by tve ( 95573 )
    I don't get it. Could anyone please explain to me (?again?) how this would benefit consumers? Is it possible to force the three seperate companies not to cooperate?

    In my not so well informed opinion it would be much better to force them to open up their standards or to adhere to open standards and make a reasonable effort (to be determined by a team of impartial experts?) to be compatible with competing products. The last would be to prevent something like the let's-not-make-windows-compatible-with-dr-dos-thin g from happening again.

    Of course I always like to be corrected when my opinions don't make sense...
  • "Hey Mike, what are we gonna write about today?

    "Gee George, there's no riots in Miami today, and Elian is hidden from us."

    "I got it Mike, let's play speculation!"

    "Yeah ok......I got one, Elian spotted at local McDonald's sexually harassing female employees."

    "How about, New evidence points that the trenchcoat Mafia was worshipping Satan while listening to Brittany Spears before shooting up Columbine."

    "No how about an MS breakup speculation...here we go, People familiar with the case have said........

  • of course it's stable now. i'm sure virgin nt 4.0 was stable. just wait until the service packs and hot fixes muck things up for you. the sp1 for office 2k makes it so that you can't uninstall it. it asks for the office 2000 sp1 cd, even if you downloaded the update. basically you're dead in the water. and this is the best in the world? it makes me sick. free software i can understand if it's not perfect, but this? absolutely disguists me. please visit www.windowstolinux.com and give me some ideas. or better yet, hire me!
  • Will breaking up MS not just make them a more powerful force? See AT&T/Lucent/Misc Bells. They were split up... and now they are merging again ... hmmm.
    Aside from that. This means no anti-trust cases will stick in the future. Once they are split up, each company can monopolize on it's individual area and not be committing a crime.
    SL33ZE, MCSD
    em: joedipshit@hotmail.com
  • The problem was NOT that Microsoft had a monopoly in operating systems. Not only is having a monopoly legal, but operating systems are a natural monopoly. Because of the single API, it is more efficient to have one OS than 10, therefore, one OS dominates the general market and the rest handle niches were specialization trump the efficiency.

    The charge that Microsoft faces is using one Monopoly to try to establish another (forcing you to get IE if you get Windows... and as Windows is a monopoly...) and anti-competitive practices to maintain their monopoly. Netscape offered the use of a web browser to replace operating systems. Microsoft, in a competitive world, would make their operating system a better idea than the web browser, i.e. some sort of network software distribution model... like RDP and Multi-Win that they bought from Citrix. Instead, Microsoft used its cash reserves to run Netscape out of business. IE was created for ONE purpose, the destruction of Netscape and the protection of the Windows monopoly.

    By separating Windows and Office, the monopolies could not enforce each other. Microsoft Windows is a monopoly, by rigging Windows to support Office best (releasing the Win95 version of the Win32 APIs to the Office development team before competitors), they use this monopoly to get and keep the Office Suite monopoly... In face, this monopoly first existed in Office 95, which they gave an unfair advantage to. As a result, Microsoft Office is a monopoly. Well, they refuse to port this to another OS (the Apple port is half assed, intentionally), which reinforced Windows as the only OS to run Microsoft Office.

    If the OS and Application divisions were separate companies, it would be in MS-OS's interests to get as many office suites running best on Windows, because otherwise, they'll lose to other OSes. It is in MS-Apps interests to support every OS, because they want to dominate the Applications market, not lose it to cross platform competition.

    Some conduct remedies are required to prevent collusion (because obviously Monopoly rents are too nice, and they know each other...), but in the long run, this would work.

    Alex
  • by friedo ( 112163 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:41AM (#1114453) Homepage
    Breaking up a company does not cure the monopoly problem. Look at AT&T. They were broken up into one long distance company and several RBOC's (I think 7). However, if you wanted a telephone, you bought service from an RBOC and AT&T. There is still a monopoly, just more companies with monopolies in slightly smaller things.

    Breaking up Microsoft would result in seperate companies selling seperate parts of the MS product line.

    So what?

    People who have been using Word will still buy Word, people who have been using IE will still use IE. Further, it is still to each Baby Bill's advantage to simply license software to one another; nothing has changed

    In other words, breaking up the company does not introduce competition into the market. It just makes for several sub-monopolies.

  • It was also announced that Microsoft will have to return the souls of all of the companies they have acquired during the years. No word yet as to whether or not they will return all of the spines collected from their employees...

  • I do not think breaking microsoft up is good. Period.

    It will take to long, it is not really worth the effort.

    More effective solutions can be come up with

    Such as releasing key component ssource code, Office namely. Release them in an unrestrictive licsense.

    Jeremy
  • People who have been using Word will still buy Word, people who have been using IE will still use IE.

    That is, provided Sun-Netscape Alliance doesn't start an aggressive marketing campaign for StarOffice and Moz^H^H^HNetscape Communicator 6.

    Further, it is still to each Baby Bill's advantage to simply license software to one another; nothing has changed

    That's potentially illegal price discrimination, unless they're also licensing everything to users at the same price.

  • As I was saying:
    http://slashdot.org/articles/00 /03/29/2245207.shtml [slashdot.org]

    As I was saying:

    solution (Score:1)
    by roman_mir on Wednesday March 29, @11:46PM EST (#81)
    (User Info)
    Disallow MS to have closed standards.

    Open ALL Standards (not the code, just the standards)
    Enforce MS to KEEP their standards for at least 5 years in a row.
    Disallow MS to brake OTHER standards (Java, W3C etc.)
    Disallow MS to acquire other companies for 4 years, disallow MS buying technologies for 3 years.
    Disallow MS to interfere with OEMs by either fining them or rewarding. more later...

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:41AM (#1114462) Homepage Journal
    http://slashdot.org/articles/00 /03/29/2245207.shtml [slashdot.org]

    As I was saying:

    solution (Score:1)
    by roman_mir on Wednesday March 29, @11:46PM EST (#81)
    (User Info)
    Disallow MS to have closed standards.

    Open ALL Standards (not the code, just the standards)
    Enforce MS to KEEP their standards for at least 5 years in a row.
    Disallow MS to brake OTHER standards (Java, W3C etc.)
    Disallow MS to acquire other companies for 4 years, disallow MS buying technologies for 3 years.
    Disallow MS to interfere with OEMs by either fining them or rewarding. more later...

  • Instead of Microsoft execs meeting in a board room they will be forced to meet in back allies wearing black trench coats on sunday nights at 9:00 when it is raining outside

    "Anyone tail ya?"

    "Nah, there is a lot of fuzz out today though"

    "I heard that, our freind Bobby is setting up deals now to let the local fuzz into the OS market, pay them off you see, so they don't come hassling us"

    "Good idea" pulling out a brown paper bag "Here is the stuff, be careful with this, it's only into beta 2, remember if you get busted with it, you don't know where you got it"

    "Good, it will be quickly slided into the W2K kernel code, millions and millions of lines of code, who is going to be able to notice when it is all said and done"

    "Carefull man, I said that was beta 2 shit man"

    "Don't worry about it, sometimes you need to relax once in a while, if it crashes it crashes, don't worry our tech support can confuse and ward off any complaints by putting the user into a maze of phone prompts"

    "Remember you didn't get that from me"

    "Get what?"

    "HAHA good boy, tell Fat Tony hi for me"

  • It is kind of sad when a company that makes lousy software is more powerful then the entire govement of the most powerfull country in the world. Think about it, the US Govement has nucelar fucking weapons and a software company from Redmond is walking all over them like they are some bitches while Microsoft being the Pimp Daddy that they are... as the RATM song states "Take the Power Back"

    I want to see the super fly Judge Jackson put the snap down on these fools.


  • "no one got fired for buying MS..."

    I would like to work and have a job at a place where people DO get fired for buying from Microsoft...what has happened to ethics these days? Seriously, when everyone is a kid hacking on their Linux distro of choice, learning about computers, then they grow up. Then they have to get jobs, and in these jobs they "dis"-learn everything they learned as a kid, both about computers and morally.

    I once losed a job because I started debating with them about using Apache over IIS during in job interview... and it wasn't really a debate, I was just wondering what advantages IIS had over Apache in this envoriment and they couldn't name ONE reason, the best things I remeber from it was "Because it can be used to serve web pages to our users", "Apache can do that and it will run on a free operating system"... that awkward silence where you know you have lose the job...I don't want to work for a company that has a hard on for MS anyways...

  • USA Today is citing "people familiar with the case," while the Washington Post is citing "people familiar with the discussions." Sheesh.
    ---
  • Having put win2k up on some of my machines as an experiment, let me say that I am of the opinion that they should have their ad campaign say "This System really Rots" rather than "This System really Rocks". The only rocks are those in the heads of the folks that spend the absurd amount of money to convert to it. Usual gotta re-install everything and maybe it works and maybe it don't, etc. etc. Drivers are still wanting (even for some of the more obscure brands of hardware such as Intel and 3COM). Without their monopoly position acheived by squeezing other more inovative folks out of the market (remember Wingz?) this sort of crap would be laughed at. If they are broken up into a OS centric and non-OS centric areas, at least the non-OS products would have to stand on their own merits and might even become available for other platforms if they have any redeeming value of their own.
  • Yeah, just what we need. 3 Microsofts running around...

    The baby MS's would likely not be very independent of one another, and the whole thing would start again.

    I know that the company I work for has billions of dollars worth of "corporate alliances". Simply put, these coporate alliances are where each company invest hundreds of millions of dollars in each other and in return, they both work together on joint projects to increase both companies stock levels.

    My question is, what will stop Baby-Microsoft #1 from doing this with Baby-Microsoft #2 & #3? If the government doesn't do anything about this, it will be the same thing over again, only with two other stock symbols to keep track of.

    kwsNI

  • Is it possible to force the three seperate companies not to cooperate?

    If they continue to collaberate in violation of US Antitrust law, then they would have to be tried again on the new charges. Frankly, the prior poster was correct. There is just too much incentive for each company to renege on the agreement. (And what it is that Microsoft does best with respect to agreements?)

    Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected
  • by Dr.Nick. ( 147139 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @03:04AM (#1114481)
    Breaking the company up in this fashion would not serve the American people, but actually harm it. Splitting the company along product lines would not guarantee fair competition in the OS market, it would furthur strengthen it's stranglehold on corporate america.

    While the applications sub-company would no longer be bound to creating only windows apps,it is not a guarantee that they would build the flagship for any OS outside of windows. By splitting the company up on these lines, This is a punitive measure, not a corrective one.

    If the US Goverenment wants to correct the problem (Which IMNSHO is that I am forced to buy Windows to get IE, use Word and Excel and a bunch of other corporate-america-accepted-psuedo-standard software), they should take and make three or four Microsoft clones. Make them Identitcal, give them all the source code to all of the products. Make them COMPETE. Trust me, if there were 3 or 4 exact same companies, they would then have to compete to deliver and sell the product to anyone. Want Windows, no browser? MS#1 might not sell that, but MS#2 would climb up and sell that to ya... The OS could'nt be hijacked and controlled by One company, as each is vying for a quarter share of the marketplace they held as a unit....

    They must be made to compete If the states fail to do that, the rest does not matter.

    Thanks.
  • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @01:50AM (#1114491) Homepage

    After reading the ABC/Reuters report, it got me to thinking. [takes puff off of virtual ce-gar]

    Ya see, not counting the myth and inerta around Microsoft, what do we know about the rest of the industry?

    Operating systems are commodities.

    Services dominate, not shelfware.

    90% of all software is custom.

    UNIX = lingua franca; All major and most minor operating systems -- including embeded ones -- are based on some variant of Unix or are moving to it.

    Application vendors like Corel, and IBM's Lotus division aren't raking in money hand over fist.

    Most software companies have one-product or have a very limited focus.

    Most software companies have competitors, in the real sense of the word.

    Now, back to Microsoft...let's take it as a given that they will be split up. How much is are the parts of Microsoft actually worth?

    OS: Windows OS -- including W2K -- has a necessary limited lifespan as a profit center.

    Service: The poor service and arrogance -- second only to IBM of the 70s & 80s -- will have to improve, or the services will have to be charged for in inventive ways.

    Custom development: The language division becomes more important, as it will switch to reselling the unbundled GUI, API, and specialized modules.

    UNIX: If you can't beat them, join them. Watch those unbundled modules from the Windows client and server move to other operating systems.

    Applications: The application division will spin off many of the different parts to boost share value. I doubt that Office will be broken up, but FoxPro and other programs built in-house or bought along the way might pop up again as mini-Bills.

    Limited focus: With little to bind the "baby Bills" together, and stockholders demanding increased returns, MS's parts will disintegrate into the general computer software market to the point where it won't make any difference that it is or isn't a Microsoft product.

  • Although I do not work in antitrust, let me offer couple of things from a lawyer's perspective:

    1. As a general rule, Judges do not like to maintain continuing jurisdiction over a dispute. They like to come to a decision, issue an order and move on.

    2. In addition to the game theory explanation that was mentioned above as to why a breakup would lead to more competition, a breakup would create a type of private regulation. If individual companies do not act to maximize shareholder wealth then the directors of company are subject to a shareholder derivative suit. While collusion would maximize shareholder wealth, it will be almost impossible to hide this type of collusion from the DOJ.

    Remember boys and girls, capitalism works best when it takes the worst aspects of our society (greed, litigiousness) and turns them to the public good.
  • by Nilz ( 175429 ) on Monday April 24, 2000 @12:43AM (#1114507)

    And I thought MS will be divided into 'sales', 'marketing' and 'legal' ...

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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