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Microsoft

Supreme Court Rejects Microsoft Appeal 279

Geoff writes "I assume you've gotten a few zillion of these already, but since I don't see it on the front page yet, the Supreme Court has rejected Microsoft's appeal of the antitrust verdict." It should be noted that this was expected.
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Supreme Court Rejects Microsoft Appeal

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  • What? The Government actually works?? I love the legal system...

    But wait, what does this really mean? Microsoft will continue on its merry way... Whats the punishment? Or are we still arguing over what the charges are...???
  • the Supreme Court also ruled that Satan is evil.

    Of course they rejected it. Thank you very much Chief Justice Obvious!

  • to the LEGION OF DOOM!

    Lex Luthur has been said to be quite sympathic of the corporation's plight.
  • Good news... I guess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by huh69 ( 57503 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @10:53AM (#2405875) Homepage
    This seems like good news, but what, if anything, does this mean to the current findings of anti-competitive practices and what penalties will they be forced (if any) to pay. Seems to me that the jucicial system is willing to say that M$ is bad, but what are they doing to try and rectify the situation. Will they:

    1) Force M$ to open the Windows source, 2) Force M$ to had the source to a couple of other companies to try and force competition with a set group of compatibility standards, 3) Change their minds and break the company up into an OS company and an application company, 4) Provide yet another solution, 5) Slap them on the wrist and tell them "Don't do this anymore"

    M$ has so much history regarding their threat to competition, that the time has come to stop talking and start actually doing something to them. Maybe we need someone like Milo (Antitrust) to come along and bring them down... so to speak :-).
    • Breaking them up won't help - that will just create a Baby Bell situation where a couple (or lots) of MS Monopoly companies exist in each of their respective markets. What they need to do is enforce stiff monetary penalties (they are one of the richest companies on the planet) payable to the companies they screwed over (at least the ones named in the antitrust case). That would help force them to crank the price of WinXP (and their licensing schemes) to even more ridiculous price levels, thereby forcing companies to switch to a better, and cheaper OS.

      The M$ problem goes away. SNAFU once again. ;)

      • by 4of12 ( 97621 )

        What they need to do is enforce stiff monetary penalties (they are one of the richest companies on the planet) payable to the companies they screwed over (at least the ones named in the antitrust case). That would help force them to crank the price of WinXP (and their licensing schemes) to even more ridiculous price levels, thereby forcing companies to switch to a better, and cheaper OS.

        Well, yes.

        IIRC, MS has something on the order of $3e10 cash reserves, enough to make it the envy of every company that has sought a good credit rating from Standard & Poors.

        What that means, though, is that the monetary penalties would have to be stiff to an almost unprecedented degree. Something on the order of the tobacco company settlements, to give you some idea of just how stiff.

        They have enough of a market lock and cash reserves that it would take an extremely stiff penalty before they would raise the price of XP even more than they already have.

        Besides, am I mistaken, or are most corporate IT departments facing unprecedented increases in costs for licenses from MS and, for all practical purposes, looking to take those lumps? Sure Linux exists, but to their eyes not so much as an alternative that they would really take but more as a bargaining chip when they sit down with MS to negotiate how much they have to pay for Enterprise License Agreements.

        If I were a PC hardware manufacturer, especially in the current slump, I'd be pretty peeved that MS was about to swallow an even bigger piece of the pie from corporate IT budgets and leave the crumbs for hardware upgrades.

        No, I think the only resolution is to pry open the clo$ed interfaces that have been abused. All Office formats (including rendering rules), win16 APIs, win32 APIs, HALs in NT need to be shown the light of day, free for anyone to implement and free for anyone to interface into without the need for purchasing any agreements or worrying that the interface will subtly break their app.

        Let everyone innovate, and not just the company that happens to own the standards.

        Let MS introduce .NET, but give them, or anyone else, a drastically curtailed time window of monopoly power on it. Once it is running an installed on 80% of computers or, say, 17 months, force it open also as a standard.

        Let innovation be in implementations, with less emphasis upon the supposedly "new". Let's not accept the abuse of the term "innovation" as an excuse to lock down new technology indefinitely and to force payment for the right to use that technology long after it's innovative value has been established.

        The MS of old had a lot more incentive to innovate (improve their product) when there viable competitors breathing down their necks. That's no longer the case and hasn't been for many years.

        Actually, no court remedy would be necessary if a very large customer base, such as federal, state and local governments, mandated that all of their computing be done with precisely documented open interfaces. MS could choose to retain business from those clients if they were to open up, or else face the prospect of all those customers migrating to alternative platforms and applications based upon open standards. Such a move would seem logical, given how much ostensibly public business is locked up in proprietary .doc formats already. Imagine if the U.S. Constitution were only viewable from Word!

    • this has been said again and again. ms source is already open to anyone with a large checkbook. you can buy the source from them (although i'm sure there's a STRICT nda to sigh), and then they'll give you NO support for it (you've got the sources right). should a company be required to release openly all it's source code? i would think no more than a digital cable company who has a monopoly in a certain area should release the compression algoithms used for their channels. shouldn't anyone be able to build a box to decode those digital signals?

      how about as an alternative, impose a LARGE fine which will go to competitors (that's who was ultimately hurt here right?), as well as strict rules that they can't do the anti-competitive practices (allow oem's to install other browsers customize os, etc).

    • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:18AM (#2405975) Homepage
      First look at what the Government does NOT want to do:
      • Break MS up
      • Constantly have to oversee (babysit) them
      • (Presumably) prevent future abuses

      So what remedies would accomplish these goals? (Assuming the third is also a goal?)

      • Force MS to open up and document all APIs which they themselves use in any application
      • Force MS to open up and document all file formats
      • Force MS to open up and document all protocols

      Now what does this accomplish? It doesn't force MS to give up their precious source code. It makes anyone free to compete with MS. MS can't complain -- they must play by different rules since they have the monopoly over the standards -- so they should document them. Just as the phone company should open up the plug-and-electrical-spec format for third party telephone equipment. Conversely, MS is free to compete with anyone else who chooses to compete with them. If MS can build a better office suite than joe blow, then great, they should win in the market. They should just not win because of their monopoly. They should sink or swim based on the merit of their product. But in doing so, they can't prevent others from competing.

      Based on the remedies I describe above, others could build office suites, file servers, and Win32 programs on equal footing with MS. Who wins now comes down to product merit and marketing. But not strictly due to monopoly control.

      Similarly to MS not having to give up their valuable impleentations of these specs, it is expensive for others to create interoperable implementations in order to compete.

      These arguments all would make sense to the court.


      (of course, it's hard to compete with free implementations. heh, heh.)
      • In regard to DickBreath's "remedies":
        Force MS to open up and document all APIs which they themselves use in any application
        Force MS to open up and document all file formats
        Force MS to open up and document all protocols

        And where does this lead? Microsoft goes of and grudgingly does this. A round of competition starts. Microsoft then releases a new OS with a revised tool set and a new set of "standards." And they make any use of the old "standards" heavily penalized in the new OS. The industry cries FOUL and the whole thing ends up back in court.

        I heard a historical account of one of the first anti-trust lawsuits in us courts. It was about some shoe company that had monopolized the industry. It took the courts almost 20 years to get around to breaking up the shoe monopoly, with plenty of shennagians like this along the way.

        So Jambie gives a prediction: Court comes out with ruling, Microsoft complies and then subverts intentions of ruling and twists it to their advantage, thus ending them in court again. Repeat this cycle until the courts get miffed enough to take severe action.

        • I suppose I should have also mentioned...

          • Document all future API's, protocols, and file formats as well

          Documenting standards even if they are de-facto standards rather than o-fish-al standards from some standards body, can only be a good thing. MS doesn't have to give up any source code. They just have to compete on a level playing field. They can't play IBM's old change all the plugs and interfaces game of musical chairs. This year the disk drive is integrated into the CPU cabinet. Next year it isn't. Then it uses a different interface. etc., etc.
          • Yes, but the fact that they are required to document even "all future API's, etc." doesn't change the fact that they are defining the playing field. As long as they have that advantage, they can switch the field as quickly as others can adapt. Even though it's more costly for them, it's still a wonderful monopolizing advantage.

            They won't compete on a level field as long as they have any control over the field. I certainly wouldn't in their position. They don't view the market as a sport, they view it as a battle.

            • I agree with your comments about how Microsoft sees the game.

              I don't think MS would stay in control of the field forever though. Right now, they own the desktop. You must run MS Office if you are serious. By opening the specs up, then other office suites get a fair chance to compete.

              I believe that others can compete better. The only business model that MS knows is how to leverage monopolies. If MS could provide a better value product (either cheaper or better or both) then they deserve to win, pure and simple. My belief is that they don't know how to compete. Therefore they will fail in a competitive market. Therefore others will eventually set the standards. Perhaps -- gasp! -- either open standards, or maybe at least through industry cooperation based on recognition of the value of interoperability, or customer demand for it.
      • I like those remedies.
        I'd also like to see the ol' "No more requiring OEMs to use the MS boot loader" remedy. That's the real biggie when it comes to alternative OS competition (which IMHO leads to improved competition everywhere).
        • "No more requiring OEMs to use the MS boot loader" remedy

          I agree. But I would point out that if customers demand XXX-Office iinstead of MS-Office, then this problem will solve itself. Thus solving the compatibility with monopoly programs, that is Windows and Office, solves all the problems.

          There can be competitive Office. Competitive Fileservers. Competitive WINE! In fact, competitive anything that MS makes. Quite an irony given today's situation where if you make anything MS will come and compete with you and then kill you.

          Even, hypothetically, if the boot loader problem were not solved, this can be worked around. OEM ships a disk with two OSes loaded. The boot loader is MS's boot loader and will only load MS. But preinstalled on the desktop, or via. a floppy disk or CD is a program that boots into the alternative, which then replaces the boot loader. Or simply provide a bootable floppy that replaces the boot loader. What I'm saying is that this is not an insurmountable a problem as some paint it. But it would be worth fixing in the remedies for everyone's good (including Microsoft's).
      • Don't forget that the Appeals Court upheld the lower court ruling that "code mingling" between the OS and apps, and making MS apps non-removable, is illegal. Any meaningful remedy must address this, so that OEMs like Dell and HP, as well as end users, have the freedom to remove MS apps completely and put others in their place. I think that this is the real heart-and-soul of the case-- that there be a clean seperation of OS and apps.

        While I would applaud MS making the Office file formats open (in the sense that they be completely documented and that there are no restrictions on others' use of that documentation), I think it's a big stretch to get from any of the activities that have been ruled illegal to forcing MS to open the application formats.

        • I think that this is the real heart-and-soul of the case -- that there be a clean seperation of OS and apps.

          But without documented interfaces between those seperated pieces, they can keep us forever reverse engineering everything. What secret API's do they use? How does Word store revisions in it's documents? (only recently answered in Star Office 6.) What secret new nasty business do they sneak into SMB, Kerberos, etc., etc., etc.

          So while I agree that your point is good, you must still open up the playing field to interoperability. That is one battle that MS must surely loose. They simply cannot play on a level playing field. But as long as there are no interoperable apps, then Dell, HP, etc. will continue to bundle Office, even though they have the choice not to.
        • I think it's a big stretch to get from any of the activities that have been ruled illegal to forcing MS to open the application formats.

          Not really. The purpose of a remedy is to repair the situation. Why would a breakup be a remedy? All you've done is create two mini monopolies: one for OSes and one for Office. It could also be argued that opening up formats/protocols, etc. is part of what is required to make unbundling work. Otherwise alternatives won't appear, and voluntary bundling will continue by OEM's.
      • I just want to point out that this discussion tree is all shoulda-coulda, and has nothing to do with the current state of the trial.

        Force MS to open up and document all file formats

        Did anyone mention Microsoft Office at any time, anywhere in the court proceedings? No. While it's true that MSO is probably a monopoly product, no court of law has determined that. Your desire to read Word documents on Unix is valid but irrelevant here.

        Force MS to open up and document all APIs which they themselves use in any application

        This is a very important point, specifically because of Microsoft's tendancy to introduce new APIs at the same time they ship a product that uses them. Furthermore, their internal applicaiton coders have at least read-only access to source code and access to preliminary documentation. It would makes sense to create an equal access situation (which is effectively what a breakup creates).

        However, the Bush DOJ dropped the "comingling" portion of the case, and it won't happen. Sorry.

        Really, what the current trial boils down to is Microsoft's OEM contracts. The best that could be hoped for is an open contract system where Microsoft can't order Compaq not to ship Netscape or OpenOffice. There's nothing preventing them (at this point) from using their OS as a distribution channel for web browsers and 'middleware' (like the .NET runtime).
      • First off, I'm not an 'open source everything' person, as anyone who recognises me will know. And no, I'm not bigheaded enough to believe that more than a handful will recognise me, especially as I've recently changed signatures :-)

        Anyway. By definition, an effective conduct remedy requires oversight. Telling them to play nice without checking they do is a total waste of time. Bush & Co don't want to break up but can't realistically do nothing, so they're overseeing.

        Forcing open APIs, protocols and file formats is all well and good - but you need to check that they're accurate. Which means that someone needs to be able to get at the source and confirm that they're telling the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.

        If that's the case then, every time some new release is made then someone has to read the source, read the documentation and confirm that they're the same. This isn't going to be quick or simple. It requires a reasonable number of pretty well qualified staff to be employed by the US government, and it may well delay releases while they read and work with the source. It clearly slows Microsoft's business and so potentially harms their freedom to react, compete and innovate, while it's expensive for the government.

        By far the simpler solution is to require the source to be open. Not necessarily under a modifiable license, read only would be fine. But, force the source to be visible and the compiler to be declared and available, and you can check all you want quickly, simply and easily. Compile the source, compare binaries...

        I know it's going to be harder to get the information out from straight source than from documentation, so maybe more has to come out too. But that would seem the sensible baseline to work from. In terms of effectiveness and size of government involvement, it would seem to fit what the current US government would want.

        Even if it has Microsoft sponsoring IOCC as a recruitment challenge ;-)
      • As long as Microsoft has any patents or copyrights that they could commingle with their products, they can fend off any obligation for true interoperability.

        I.e., with Samba, they might document their protocols, but hold onto their patent for (really bad) password hashing and use that to exact licensing fees to interoperate with Microsoft servers.

        Or, with Word, they can document that you need to use some kind of ActiveX technology (monikers? ActiveX ClassID's?) to do document embedding. And yes, you can be free to support this file format as long as you happen to be reading the file on a platform that supports ActiveX and the Win32 API on an IA32 Instruction Set compatible system to execute the ActiveX components needed.

        There are so many ways that software can be designed and structured that Microsoft will always be able to entangle things in a way that will spoil the intent of open file formats and open protocols, and which will require massive oversight.

  • by RareHeintz ( 244414 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @10:53AM (#2405878) Homepage Journal
    Now that the DOJ has been ordered to back off, I can't see that the Supreme Court appeal is anything but a pro forma attempt to keep from having to negotiate which wrist gets slapped. Painful though it is to say, although I'd normally rejoice at Microsoft's misfortune, this barely even rates as news.

    Microsoft: Who do you want to sell your domestic policy to today?

    OK,
    - B

    • Remember, just because the DoJ has backed off, doesn't mean that the states can't seek independant remedies.

      If they push hard enough, they might be able to impose their view of what punishment should be.
    • by mwa ( 26272 )
      Actually, now that they are absolutely decreed a monopoly, with no further opportunity for appeal, it opens the door wide open for civil suits by any company that their illegal behavior harmed financially.
  • But it's not over (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iritant ( 156271 ) <lear@ofcourseimr ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @10:55AM (#2405886) Homepage
    This ruling means most of Judge Jackson's findings of facts are upheld. It means that Microsoft broke the law. And it means that Bill Gates and the people in Seattle were, quite simply wrong.

    But it doesn't mean a thing in terms of Microsoft's behavior, right now. Here comes Windows XP, clearly with Microsoft having set their sites on Real, Inc. Now we'll have to see what sort of a deal Bill can buy from the Bush administration.

    Quite frankly I'm surprised that the Bush administration is arguing for oversight, rather than breakup. Fox watching the chickens? I hope not.
    • Re:But it's not over (Score:5, Informative)

      by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:42AM (#2406174)
      This isn't a ruling at all, it's simply a refusal to hear a case.

      It was expected that this would be the case. But, again, nothing was upheld by the SCOTUS. The SCOTUS is simply stating, "Look, the appeals court appears to be dealing with this and we would rather let them do so for now. If that doesn't work out, then come talk to us again and we'll think about it some more."

      You are reading way too much into it. It's pretty much a non issue, and the most important thing happening is the negotiations at the appeals level.
      • Re:But it's not over (Score:3, Informative)

        by terrywin ( 242544 )
        Sheldon is correct. A denial of cert means
        nothing.

        "...this [Supreme] Court has rigorously insisted that such a denial [to hear a case] carries with it no implication whatever regarding the Court's
        views on the merits of a case which it has declined to review. The Court has said this
        again and again; again and again the admonition has to be repeated."

        (Justice Frankfurter, Maryland v. Broadcast Radio Sho, Inc. 338 US 912, 1950)

      • You are reading way too much into it. It's pretty much a non issue, and the most important thing happening is the negotiations at the appeals level.

        Instead of taking your word for it, I'll go see what my favorite news site [theregister.co.uk] has to say about it:

        Their decision at this stage is hardly unexpected, but knocks the stuffing out of the legal arguments Microsoft's lawyers have been hammering since Jackson put on his black cap. The Appeals Court caned Jackson for blabbing to the press, and threw him off the case, but decided that despite his (in their view) deplorable conduct his verdict hadn't been tainted by bias. Microsoft however embarked on a tortuous process of arguing that even the appearance of possible bias meant that the whole thing ought to be slung out, and that the merry dance should be started again.


        That will not now happen.
        Aw, too bad. My question for you is: does it hurt?
  • No matter what it is. Sure, this isn't major news, but at least the Supreme Court has the wisdom to see how Microsoft was conducting business was wrong.

    Now, I figure it's back to the lower courts to see what kind of penalty is recommended.

    Most likely, it won't fit the crime.
    • The Supreme court had the wisdom to see that
      overruling an 8-1 decision of a fairly conservative court will do no good to its
      own, already fairly shaken, reputation.


      It's good news because it means that the finding
      of fact are now the official undisputable truth as
      far as all US courts are concerned.


      But there's a long way to go before we see anything good coming from the case. It is too soon to party and too soon to despair.

    • >but at least the Supreme Court has the wisdom to see how Microsoft was conducting business was wrong.

      ...or maybe they just refused to even look at it.

      The high court declined without any comment or dissent to review the June 28 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals

      So, the appeal papers came back with a big red 'REFUSED' stamped on them. It isn't like they spent months and months looking over the entire case and came back and upheld Jackson's finding of fact.

      They didn't exercise much wisdom, they decided there wasn't enough merit in Microsoft's arguments to accept the appeal.
  • by mplex ( 19482 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:01AM (#2405913)

    This is the question I have been pondering for a long time now. There is no doubt that msft hurts other companies by integrating the best ideas in to the OS itself, but that must be a plus for the consumer. Yes, they will pay more for things they do 'not' need but I have found myself using most of the features in XP and I know I don't want to give them up. Integration with the OS is the key to their success, and you can not argue that you can do less with windows now than in the past. Anything that is gaining momentum towards universal acceptance like music and web browing belongs in the OS so the functionality can be extended across the board. Just look at all the places embedded ie is showing up for instance. Maybe they have put a lot of companies out of buisness, and maybe they need to open up more of their interfaces to spurt new ideas, but a breakup? I would be pissed. Despite what anyone says about microsoft stealing ideas, the best artists steal. In fact, linux is a unix clone. There is no reason not to use a good idea, in fact it should be the norm. It might even help the linux crowd after examining each programmers idea of the perfect interface. I don't think I could imagine something other than a monopoly controlling the operating system market. We don't need two or three different logic systems, one is complex enough.

    PS: I did use linux for four years on the desktop and have given up hope in that arena.

    • There is no doubt that msft hurts other companies by integrating the best ideas in to the OS itself, but that must be a plus for the consumer.

      I've said this before, but this idea is very much the Frankenstein Model of Design, with a bit of this, a bit of that.

      Your logic does not hold much water, since the implication is that the best way to build a company is buy using immoral, unethical, and sometimes illegal actions.

      Of course, with people avocating a morality nuetral perspective of life and business, this is to be expected.

      Which is lethally silly in the long run. You would expect survival and quality of life to be increased by improving judgement, not by suspending it. You can't just say "That stuff and those rules don't apply to us because this is just business."

    • by HalfFlat ( 121672 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:21AM (#2405990)

      Microsoft's abuse of its monopoly position has hurt consumers both directly and indirectly.

      Firstly, and most easily quantified, is the cost people pay for the operating system. Somewhere buried in the analysis that was floating about at the time of the trial, were the figures which showed that per-unit profits were not only high, but increasing over time. The argument is that this would not be sustainable in a competitive environment. In this situation, the only people benefitting were those with stock or some other interest in Microsoft.

      Secondly, past introduced incompatibilities have inconvenienced or cost consumers. Such things as the DR-DOS debacle, or the incompatibility of 'standard' Microsoft file formats, or even the apropriation of file name extensions have put pressure on consumers to go the whole Microsoft way. This costs more money (or encourages copyright violation!), wastes time and is generally unhelpful.

      Thirdly, the efforts which Microsoft have engaged in have slowed or stopped competition on a number of fronts. This has had an indirect effect on consumers through lack of options and alternatives. The situation with OS/2 springs to mind.

      One can trawl the archives for more quantitative data, and other ways in which this situation has hurt consumers.

      Another class of people hurt are developers, systems administrators and the like. Windows has never played nice in a mixed environment, and on occasion has been downright nasty. Mix that with the stability problems that have plagued many Windows versions, the lack of emphasis on security and so on, and it's a nightmare from a support point of view.

      Oh! And then there are Macro viruses, Outlook-propogated viruses, and so on. A whole bunch of daft security decisions that have very much hurt consumers. Why would people stick with such virus-prone software? Monopoly perhaps?

      I've been modded down before for being anti-Microsoft, but honestly, this is all based on personal experience and that information which has come to light through the anti-trust trials. This isn't malicious slander, it's simply true.

      • "Firstly, and most easily quantified, is the cost people pay for the operating system. "

        Overall, it is still cheaper than systems from its biggest competitor Apple.

        "Such things as the DR-DOS debacle, or the incompatibility of 'standard' Microsoft file formats, or even the apropriation of file name extensions have put pressure on consumers to go the whole Microsoft way."

        Hmm ... and Unix world with its widespread competition and no single dominating vendor is such a beautiful picture of compatible standards and things smoothly working across different vendors.

        "This has had an indirect effect on consumers through lack of options and alternatives. The situation with OS/2 springs to mind."

        If a company bigger than MS is unable to market their OS then maybe, just maybe their OS wasn't as good as MS offering (as far as consumers were concerned.)

        "Mix that with the stability problems that have plagued many Windows versions, the lack of emphasis on security and so on, and it's a nightmare from a support point of view."

        Do something about it, don't buy their OS and switch to Unix or Linux.You have that freedom.

    • Does Microsoft hurt the consumer? This is the question I have been pondering for a long time now. There is no doubt that
      msft hurts other companies by integrating the best ideas in to the OS itself, but that
      must be a plus for the consumer.


      well, pondering is often a good thing, but pondering "solved" problems from the standpoint of no education is eventually a waste of time.

      it is mathematically provable that monopolies hurt consumers. The price that maximizes profit for the monopoly is not the price that maximizes happiness to the consumer. in a competitive marketplace, it is.

      'K? it is mathematically provable. So, if your pondering does not lead to further understanding along those lines (or to an overturning of accepted theory :) then you've got to change your thinking, most effectively through learning. Microsoft makes fistfuls of dough at a very high ratio to money invested, and they do it without competition. It turns out that it is also mathematically provable that in competitive markets, no competitor will make fistfuls of dough at a high ratio to money invested.

      So, anything Microsoft "gives away" as a "benefit to consumers" must be seen in the light of the stuff that they do not give away that they make so much money from. The final thing that is provable in economics is that excess money that monopolists extract from a market would ordinarily be money that would belong to other people. Furthermore, it's not just a reshuffling of assets that libertarians think is "ok". By charging excess prices, monopolists also shrink the overall size of the market, destroying value that would belong to society at large. How many small businesses don't upgrade their computers because prices are too high? how many working class kids don't have computers because prices are too high? How many small businesses that could serve those markets simply don't exist? Many Many Many.

      stop pondering and take a class in microeconomics, preferably one that requires calculus as a prereq.

    • by Raul Acevedo ( 15878 ) <raul@c[ ]ara.com ['ant' in gap]> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:25AM (#2406018) Homepage
      First off, Microsoft kills off competition. You will never quite find out how the consumers could have benefitted, because Microsoft has eliminated possible new advances that could have competed with them.

      But more than anything, we are now seeing the most obvious, direct, and "see, they are clearly a monopoly" harm: raised prices [cnet.com]. It's even worse than just raised prices; it's clear that the advances in Windows and Office are really slowing down, so Microsoft is essentially forcing you to pay more for less. Microsoft is simply milking its customers, and even threatening them to audit them if they don't move to the new program.

      If that isn't consumer harm, then I don't know what is.
    • About a year and a half ago, I read a piece regarding Intel's soon to be launched 64-bit processor. An Intel engineer/marketing person(?) said that they were simply waiting for Microsoft to launch their Win64 Operating System.

      At the time, the Linux kernel and at least a few other operating systems were ready to go on the new IA-64 processor. Unfortunately, it didn't get launched. I believe that if Intel had launched the CPU then many of us would be posting to Slashdot with a 64-bit Linux/*BSD or other OS. As quick as possible Microsoft would then have released their Win64! product, which would have been buggy and filled with BSODs. After a few months patches would be released and things would begin to stabilize.

      Instead, we are still here sitting on our 32-bit systems waiting for the day when we can have true 64-bit power for our desktops. I for one, would love to see the 3D worlds that could be created with such a system. The amount of RAM that could be supported, the hard drive sizes and the impressive speed at which 3D renderings could be done would be beyond impressive.

      So, is Microsoft hurting the consumer? You could say that. I am a consumer, I would love to have my hands on an Intel IA-64 or an AMD Sledgehammer processor. In a way Microsoft is hurting me by keeping the 64-bit technology outside of my grasp. Of course, I could buy a "Developer's" workstation, only thing is, I don't have that kind of money.

      Then there is the idea of choice. I should be able to choose which components I want to run on the operating system I run. Of course, this option should be a choice available for power users. What if I want to rid my system of using Explorer for file management? What if I wanted to completly remove Internet Explorer? There are to many What-if's to put in here. Suffice to say, if Windows had more customizable features/services, similiar to Linux many people would be happier with the OS.

      --
      .sig seperator
      --
      • You can buy an Itanium workstation right now from Dell. [dell.com] You can run a beta version of Windows XP, or several versions of Linux. [linuxia64.org] Also, Windows NT ran on 64-bit systems years ago. Remember the DEC Alpha? That used to be supported. There's no "innovation" issue with the OS.

        I'm not an Itanium fan, because very long instruction word machines require a near-omniscient optimizing compiler to find enough concurrency in the code to keep the hardware busy. (Smart people are, at this moment, beating their heads against the wall on that problem. Assuming, of course, that the HP compiler team didn't get laid off.) Respected CPU architecture designers have looked at the thing and groaned. It's viewed as a move by Intel to move the industry from an open CPU architecture to a proprietary one over which Intel has a monopoly. Intel has enough patents on the Itanium to prevent cloning. The architecture is so wierd that it requires lots of new inventions to make it work, so Intel can get strong intellectual property rights by going this route. (By comparison, the AMD Sledgehammer 64-bit architecture is a straightforward extension of IA-32, minus some of the cruft.)

        But if you want an Itanium machine, you can get one. Although, unusually for Dell, the Dell product page doesn't mention price or have a "Buy" button, so Dell isn't serious about selling it.

    • yes.

      here's why:

      it is pretty damn near impossible to buy a computer in a mainstream store that isn't loaded with unneccesary and clunky microsoft products

      once you get said machine home and try to make any modifications to what is loaded on it or try to move anything around, the computer then crashes on an even more regular basis.

      if you are one of those weirdos who likes netscape, you suffer slow operation of the program, can't look at all websites because many designers are short-sighted enough to only test them in i.e., and generally have to put up with a lot of crap just to use a program that isn't microsoft in a microsoft environment.

      if you are barely computer literate and/or just want a computer to play around with, do homework on, etc, you are at the mercy of windows just because other operating systems seem daunting and microsoft is the most accessible system everywhere.

      so, yes, microsoft hurts the consumer by eliminating choice, by dictating to the consumer what they can and cannot use on the consumer's computer, and by driving other companies out of business, and thereby eliminating jobs and healthy competition which would serve to control prices.

      in short, bill gates is the devil. ;-)

    • "Maybe they have put a lot of companies out of buisness, and maybe they need to open up more of their interfaces to spurt new ideas, but a breakup?"

      And this does not end up hurting the consumer? When companies are forced out of business we loose their productivity and the products that they could deliver to the consumer. And I am NOT going to buy the argument that M$ takes up that slack. If the product fits in with their overall goals, then yes it will be implemented (and typically quite badly). Otherwise it goes in the round file or get sat on if it competes.

      "Despite what anyone says about microsoft stealing ideas, the best artists steal."

      Is this a troll? I would argue that the best artists innovate and bring together disparate ideas to synthesize a new whole. M$ clearly does not do this.

      "I don't think I could imagine something other than a monopoly controlling the operating system market. We don't need two or three different logic systems, one is complex enough."

      How long have you been using computers? This is exactly what the morons in charge of the Navy's IT21 program thought when they decided to standardize on Windows. Look at all of the problems and cost that the security and stability issues have brought on. Tell me that does not harm the consumer with the increased tax dollars required.
    • There is no denying that bundling helps consumers. Apple does it, Linux does it, FreeBSD does it, everyone does it. It's more of a matter of only having ONE vender for those bundled services. What if HP's customers DON'T want WMP, but instead need Quicktime as the default API for all multimedia services? Too bad, WMP must be the default. What if Dells customers don't want .Net on any of their machines and instead what a different service? Too bad, .NET must be prominent. Last but not least, as we have seen with a more recent worm that can be spread by merely opening a web page, there is little to no recourse you, I or and OEM has. In a choice driven market of bundled services, when a vender repeatedly bundles insecure services on their computers, their customers will have recourse and will be able to migrate to a more secure enviroment.


      How is this acheived? Simple. Give OEM's the same right of first sale that everyeone else has. Let any OEM remove or add any service from Windows they feel their customers don't want or want, then let the market decide.

    • Does Microsoft hurt the consumer?

      When did we stop being a nation of citizens and become a nation of consumers? The government is supposed to protect its citizens. Anyway...

      There is no doubt that msft hurts other companies by integrating the best ideas in to the OS itself, but that must be a plus for the consumer.

      There is more to helping consumers than just giving them (sorta) free stuff. Microsoft's tactics were designed to destroy competition. Competition is good for the public, it encourages lower prices, higher quality, and specialized products for different needs. Once a person or business is largely using Microsoft products, proprietary protocols and file formats create a prison that is very expensive to migrate out of.

      Furthermore, integration isn't the only crime Microsoft commited. Microsoft repeated took steps to actively deny people options. Restrictive agreements with ISPs to limit end users from using competing web browsers. Apple wanted to ship only Netscape with new versions of MacOS, but Microsoft leveraged their office suite monopoly to force Apple to make IE the default browser. Several computer manufacturers wanted to ship additional functionality for customers on new systems, functionality like additional ISP options and Netscape Navigator, but Microsoft used restrictive license agreements to stop them.

      Microsoft's tactics definately harmed consumers. The immediate gain of a web browser or similar additions doesn't outweight the cost.

    • A monopoly isn't a total loss for the consumer. Microsoft can squash competition but in doing so the ideas those dead companies had do survive in MS products. However capitalism is about optimality. Capitalism is a great system for distributing resources and it's good at achieving optima. But there are some situations where it fails and one of those is a monopolistic market. With MS we are a long way from an optimum. There's nothing like a good bit of competition to lower prices and really speed up technological development. This situation simply doesn't exist in the case of MS.


      So while MS's policies might be a plus for the consumer I'd personally like to see an even bigger plus.


      I have found myself using most of the features in XP

      This is a rare thing. I never bet. But today I will. I bet this is a false statement. I suspect you couldn't even list half of the features in XP. I suspect Bill Gates couldn't. So I doubt you have used 'most features'. Windows is big. Really BIG. But that's irrelevant.
    • > PS: I did use linux for four years on the desktop and have given up hope in that arena

      I assume this loss of hope to be recent so in this four years you've seen the KDE and GNOME projects grow to 2nd and 3rd generation, you've seen Free/Open software like Galeon, Konqueror, Nautilus, Evolution, GnomoVision ;), yada yada be released, grow through regular release, reach stability and become part of your adopted toolkit such that each month (or day for the Debian users) you update your machine and find the same apps filled with even more tweaks and features, stable enough for daily use and with no slowing in sight.

      You watch StarOffice be GPLd and head toward being a Free Word and Excel compatible option for everyone. In part due to this, you've seen the ever growing interest in the corporate linux desktop and now, with the growth rate of Linux on a marked increase in yet another IT arena(*), you've given up.

      (*) - aside LAN servers, web servers, clusters, embedded devices and development workstations.

      Did you just keep a 1996 Slackware installation on your 120Mb parition for 4 years or what?
  • by melquiades ( 314628 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:15AM (#2405960) Homepage
    REDMOND, October 21, 2001 -- Microsoft annouced today their new "Microsoft Court XP" software. The software settles legal claims using Microsoft Law XP technology, the company's new standard for legal systems. According to Microsoft's press release, the software is capable of establishing legal precedent, providing checks and balances against the "other three branches of government", and also "upholding the supreme law of the land."

    The software, which will be bundled with all new pressings of Windows XP, is Microsoft's bid for entry in the competitive court market. Entry will prove difficult, but a Microsoft spokesperson expressed optimism. "We are confident that our innovative concept can compete. Just think about it: checks and balances, like, who'd come up with that shit? Innovation, baby! Can't touch this!"

    According to the company's web site, Microsoft Law XP will be released under a "shared source" model in which selected plaintiffs and defendents using Microsoft Court will be allow to view the laws under which they are being tried, but not to modify or redistribute them. "We wanted to draw on the best of both worlds," said Microsoft spokesperson Craig Mundie. "We like the collaborative aspect of the Democratic model, but feel that its viral transmission of rights to all citizens constitutes a real threat to the intellectual assets of businesses."

    Some critics charge that the release, which follows closely on the Supreme Court's rebuke of Microsoft on October 9, is an anti-competitive move by Microsoft, and an attempt to use monopoly power to take over the market for legal systems.

    "This is more M$ FUD," said one post moderated +4 (Insightful) on Slashdot, "They're bundling this software with their OS, and the software keep reassociating itself with the 'legal action' file type. Sure, all the p0w3r u53rz will work around it, but most of those inept peons we call the public will file a suit, and end up using their software without even realizing they had an option."

    Mundie vigorously denied these allegations, calling them "the unreasonable accusations of a vocal minority."

    "I just want to emphasize Microsoft Law is an open standard," said Mundie.

    A source at Microsoft, on condition of anonymity, told reporters, "All your law are belong to us."
  • by neo ( 4625 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:28AM (#2406047)
    Microsoft's integration on the OS level is just being used to leverage an advantage. Applauding their supposed innovation ingores the obvious problems of single providers. Let's take music as an example.

    If we assumed that Microsoft would integrate music into their OS, then no other company would be foolish enough to create a music solution. It would crash and burn before the might of Microsoft. (There is the possibility that many companies might attempt to be bought out by Microsoft... but this is a different issue.)

    Now with only Microsoft as a provider, we are hindered by one development path. No one will innovate because there is no profit in innovation if Microsoft can simply copy what you have with an army of programmers.

    The end result is a single attempt at a solution where everyone must use Microsofts results regardless of merit.

    Contrast this to a system where the OS level is simply a layer and a music solution could be created by anyone and you see quickly that competition would give a better result. With many developers taking risks for the possiblity of profit, variety results in a better population of products. Eventually a winner emerges. Nothing had to change in the OS to make this happen... it's already in place with a seperation of OS and applications.

    Integration could easily be made possible for all developers, but this bites into Microsofts profits. They wont open integration to other developers because it's a huge advantage for their own products.

    I hope this explains it well enough.
    • I agree - you are right on the money. I feel your statements of "Simple OS Layer" and Microsoft opening integration are indirect cries for MS to FINALLY open source on its kernal(s).

      Imagine, what a cheap cost effective way for the goevernment to hand down punishment - instead of breaking up a company, or executing oversight committees - just say "open your source for windows by Friday" and shut the door on them.

      If Microsoft was worth its brass in development engineering, they would want open source kernals for Windows, so then everyone would have a platform to run their truly advanced software that integrates into Windows that makes it so unique and special - software like A MP3 player!! and A WEB BROWESER (oohhhh!!) oh wait A LOG IN WITH PICTURES!!!!

      Of course, MS could just be 95% marketing and 5% actual innovation..

      --cgeek--
      • By "open source" I assume you mean that all customers who purchased a license to execute their binaries would also have the right to view all source code for all binaries, and Microsoft would be obligated to distribute that source with the binaries, as well as make available for a nominal charge a compiler which would produce the provided binaries from the provided source.

        When MS says that revealing their source reveals their trade secrets, they're lying - all the secrets are right their in the binaries.
        • When MS says that revealing their source reveals their trade secrets, they're lying - all the secrets are right their in the binaries.

          Except that the copyrighted work, their source code, is protected by an encryption system known as "compiling"...

  • by eschasi ( 252157 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:28AM (#2406057)
    One of the most critical items here is that the Supreme Court `without comment or dissent' declined to overturn Judge Jacksons findings of fact that MS is a monopoly and acts in anticompetetive ways.

    This is important, people!

    It means that the last door on this ruling has now closed for good (well, as much as anything closes for good in the legal system). That opens up two critical items.

    First, the case that is now before the new judge is no longer contaminated by any doubt about the facts. MS, which might have been taking a delaying tactic in hopes of still getting the facts overturned, has lost that hope. That doesn't mean they won't delay as much as possible, but it does mean that they're now limited. As long as there was a possibility of overturning the findings of facts, they could spin delays to their hearts content. If a settlement was imposed, an injunction would almost certianly have been granted while the findings of fact were still in question. That finding is no longer in legitimate question, so that avenue is gone.

    Second, and probably more important in the long term, the solidification of the findings of fact opens the door for damage suits against MS. IMHO it was not a co-incidence that MS settled with DR shortly after the initial finding. But there are many more suits pending, and some of the plaintiffs have no reason to hold back.

    • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:50AM (#2406238)
      "It means that the last door on this ruling has now closed for good"

      No it doesn't. It means the Supreme Court feels at this time that the Appeals court is properly handling the case and they are going to let them continue.

      If the situation changes, if the Appeals court comes down with some ruling, whatever. Microsoft can appeal to the Supreme Court again.


      • If the situation changes, if the Appeals court comes down with some ruling, whatever. Microsoft can appeal to the Supreme Court again.


        On a new ruling, sure. But not on the findings of fact, which is what the post you're replying to was talking about.
  • by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:45AM (#2406201) Homepage
    Microsoft has lost their last hope of delaying a judgement. They have, with out a doubt, been convicted of being a destructive monopoly.

    This means they have no choice but to play nice with the current judge. If they try the kind of tricks they used in the trial Bill could wind up in jail. This also means that in any future suit filed against Microsoft they will go into court with Microsoft having to prove they weren't doing any of the things they did to get convicted the first time. This puts Microsoft at a HUGE disadvantage in court.

    This leads to the possibility that Microsoft will be placed under judicial supervision to ensure they do not repeat any of their crimes. How would you like it if Microsoft was forced to release complete details of all interfaces and be forced to make all net interface definitions public for 6 months before they could release an product that implements them? Happened to the US phone companies. It could happen to Microsoft.

    Don't underestimate the importance of this ruling.

    Stonewolf
    • Oh, but they won't (play nice). You are assuming that they, viewed as a 'corporate personality', are rational. They're not playing it like a court case, they're playing it like a crusade. What would you have said the odds were that they would fabricate evidence in court with so much at stake? And yet they did. Are you suggesting they will change?

      What I'm wondering is: given that Microsoft will almost certainly do something just as outrageous in the new court, will this present a problem for the new judge? It's almost as if they are intentionally behaving so outrageously that no judge could fail to be deeply offended- and then expecting to use the offended judge as an argument for their innocence. Though that would be a rational ploy, just a very cynical one- and I think that Microsoft actually means well, but is completely insane and to THEM, faking video evidence (thank you, David Boies) is 'higher truth' because the real truth is whatever they want it to be.

      Which means it's pointless to look for signs of cynicism from the Microsoft camp- indeed, they are doing all this 'in good faith'- and instead, the thing to do is keep an eye out for fits of insanity, and 'truths' that are wildly irrational and psychotic. And I think we'll be seeing more of those.

      Hell, if _I_ was trying to defend them I'd cop an insanity plea at this point. *G* for me, not for them! ;)

      • Oh! I agree with you. Microsoft is insane. They will not play nice. They will piss off the judge. This judge will stay quiet and nail Microsoft to the wall.

        I've been told by Microsofties during business meetings that if they don't get what they want in court they will move the company so they can ignore the ruling. This is of course insane. Even if they are not inside the US they sell in the US and they could be barred from selling in the US if they ignore the court.

        Stonewolf
  • Educate the masses (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:00PM (#2406319) Homepage
    The problem is that the majority of the world, i.e. your grandma with her new Compaq, don't see why Microsoft having a monopoly is a big deal. They DON'T CARE about what OS is on their PC, as long as it runs and emails their photos of their grandchildren and does their taxes without having to pay an accountant. Windows does that, so they're happy.

    I'd go so far to say that, to them, competition in OSes is a BAD thing, because they might have to learn something different. In general, people hate to learn, as all of you tech support and TA folks know.

    Let me emphasize this: We, meaning power users and geeks, are the ONLY people who care about this!!!

    Until the rest of the world knows a) what an OS is and b) why it's good to have more of them, will the M$ case mean anything. Until then it's a political liability for the feds, as they risk a populist backlash because "they made the computer harder to use".

    - Josh
  • No matter what the Supremes may say, SSSCA and W3C RAND have the essential effect of cementing Microsoft's monopoly and removing the only effective competition the marketplace has produced in the past 5 years.
  • Although I have always disliked MS for it's illegal business practices, there are far bigger reasons why this is especially important in this decade.

    In the next few years, the basic methods used to pipe IP around and assuure digital rights will be implemented and deployed.

    I have to admit, I am one of those crazy people who hoped that the internet would create a much more sane way of producing and distributing media, one that would eventually weaken the major corps that currently control the audio and video space (bertelsmann, vivendi, etc.)

    Yet dominance of a single entity in software infrastructure makes it (structurally) easy for other monopolies to join in or meld with that infrastructure.

    The idea of BMG and Microsoft teaming up on digital rights, with no competition, is an unpleasant thought. Regualr consumers, artists, midlevel producers, alternative producers...all left in the cold unless they want to play with (and pay) this media giant.

    The court decision opens the door to serious conduct remedies, including "fast track" government/legal action (without a trial) when future complaints are made.
  • REUTERS

    After the rejection of Microsoft's appeal in the historic antitrust trial, the case was sent back to lower courts for rememdy solutions. Lower court judge Bete Shitekopf brought down the heavy hand of the law. "I decided after much deliberation and consultation that the only fair thing to do would be to force Microsoft to give away copies of Windows XP and Office XP to anyone who wanted one. This clearly is the only solution to help consumers hurt by this monopoly."

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