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Microsoft

Microsoft Antitrust Case Arguments Finished 252

Well, it's been going on for 11 months, but the DoJ and Microsoft's attorneys finally gave their closing arguments yesterday. Now Judge Jackson will put on his thinking cap and issue a preliminary ruling, hopefully within the next few weeks. The Washington Post has the full story.
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Microsoft Antitrust Case Arguments Finished

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Alternate OSs can compete against Microsoft? I agree that they can, but I think you simplify the issue too much.

    Yes, Linux and other OSs can compete, but with substantial disadvantages...

    * Limited choice: Look at the systems that don't have Windows in some form installed on them. Personally, I build my own but if I owned a corporation or had to get one in a hurry, I'd be hard pressed to walk in to a store and buy one. This is ofcourse changing, but slowly, and is still much more limited.

    * No specs = no support: Yes, I know, I can get great support, most things work very well, and Ieven help others, but just try and buy a webcam. I tried reciently, and not *1* I found in 5 local stores had one I could use. I'd have to order an outdated camera, or wait...to see if someone is sucessful in convincing the webcam chip makers to give out the specs.

    I could go on, though I doubt that I'll be the only one with these type of comments.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think that you misunderstand the term monopoly and its application to the MS vs DOJ case. Monopoly literally means one agent or firm, but in economics and in law it means something more than that. See, a perfect monopoly is about as easy to find as perfect communisim. And the people in economics and law know that. So sure there is a study of what how perfect monopolist would behave, but there is also the concept of monopoly power - think of it as a measure of degree of monopolyhood. And undeniably Microsoft has a lot of monopoly power.

    Of course to speak of that, one needs to define the relevant market. In the DOJ case it is the desktop OS market(which more or less means x86, but not exactly). The existance of other OSes that can run in that market does not perclude MS from having monopoly power. Of course look at the OSes that you listed, the *x OSen don't think of themeselves as desktop systems - maybe workstation, definitely server but not true desktop systems. BeOS sells itself not as a general replacement for Windows or MacOS but as a specialty OS for multimedia work. And MacOS is hurt by being bound to Apple hardware.

    Still whether or not there are other OSes is not sufficent to show that MS does not have monopoly power. We need to look at economies of scale and scope, price elasticities, marginal costs and average costs and other cool econ concepts. If you look at the ecomonic testimony in the trial, its easy to see that MS behaves very much like an monopolist - not perfectly, but that is beside the point.

    You do have a good point in that market share does not imply anticompetitive. However, looking at MS's behave one can find a seemingly boundless list of anticompetitve acts. Having market power is not anticompetitive, but certain ways of using it are. Tying is a good example - as is exclusivity. So shoving the browser into the OS is anticompetitive as is getting ISPs to only support/distribute IE. Of course there are many other examples that do not have anything to do with the browser. And it needs to be realized that anticompetitive behavior has no effect (or negilible) effect on the market if it is not backed up by market power.

    Open Source really hasn't changed MS's tune at all. It might some day, but hasn't yet. And again this is irrelevant to the trial because the trial is about past behavior and not future behavior (though the sentencing phase will take the future into account). OEMs may literally have a choice as to the OS to offer on desktop systems, but that doesn't mean that they have an effective choice. Do you really believe that Dell would not lose market share in a big way if it went with an *x os for its desktop systems? Do you think that they could negiotiate a deal with MS where they aren't charged for win98 on systems sold with another OS on them so that they could effectively sell both? Part of what makes a monopoly bad is that it allows a firm to abuse its suppliers and clients in a way such that the abuse is a stable equilibrium. The big OEMS would be better off without being bound to MS, but moving away from MS costs them in a big way.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Do you even know what this case is about? It isn't about browsers. Here's a brief summary from the SJM:

    • The Department of Justice and the attorneys general of 20 states filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft on May 18, accusing the software giant of anticompetitive conduct to protect and extend its monopoly over personal computer operating systems.

    Ask yourself first does Microsoft have a monopoly in PC operating systems. If you answered no, what is their market share in the OS market? Now, here in the US having a monopoly isn't illegal, but using your monopoly power to protect and extend your monopoly is.

    If you've made it this far, ask you self a few more questions:
    • Why did Microsoft bundle IE into the operating system?
    • Did Microsoft try to co-opt java by including windows only extensions?

    Really think about the answers to these questions. A conservative estimate of the costs of developing IE would be 500 million and other estimates have placed it at 1 billion (license fees plus dev). That is a lot of investment for a product you give away. Did Microsoft try selling IE? How did that do? Could HTML and the internet pose a threat to the microsoft monopoly?

    Looking at their behavior toward Java is even clearer.
  • I think splitting the OS groups from the App groups would be very helpful, as long as there was someone paying attention so they don't just join together again under some sort of fake agreement between two seperate companies. Splitting them would force the OS firm to do what is best for the OS firm, not what is best for MS. For example, if MSOS wanted to build browser functionality into Windows, the logical thing would be to build hooks into the OS that any browser could hook into and perform that same functionality. As it was with MS and IE, the OS group had zero incentive to let any other browser perform that functionality so they hooked the MS browser into the MS OS. Despite the "we're not bundling" cry by MS, that's exactly what happened, to the detriment of consumers. That's just one example, there are many more (such as the fact that Office changes Windows dll files that you can be sure the Wordperfect people don't have access to). You're right in saying there would be 2 huge semi-monopolies but at least they would be on somewhat even footing with the rest of the industry.
  • I wish there was a law about having to present facts in court, because FOLDOC does a better job than your average lawyer on the Microsoft payroll. Incidentally, I used Netscape 1.1 back then, and it was the best browser around. :)


    Netscape Communications Corporation

    (Formlerly "Mosaic Communications Corporation") A company set up in April 1994 by Dr. James H. Clark and Marc Andreessen (creator
    of the NCSA Mosaic program) to market their version of Mosaic, known as Netscape or Mozilla.
  • The definitive reference on RISC vs. CISC is this paper by John Mashey, http://www.inf.tu-dresden. de/~ag7/mashey/RISCvsCISC.html [tu-dresden.de], an expansion of an article that originally appeared in the March 26, 1992 _Microprocessor Report_. In short, RISCs are designed to pipeline (and multi-issue) efficiently, and generate fast code, using a set of operations demonstrated to be necessary for the relevant applications, under the assumption that you have good compiler technology. Therefore, they tend:
    • to have lots of registers
    • not to have ccomplex addressing modes (to have a "load-store architecture"; by contrast, there is a worst-case indirect-idexed VAX (CISC) instruction which can generate 43 page-faults before it completes executing. That plays hell with pipelining!)
    • have fixed-size (often 32-bit) binary instruction format, for easy decoding
    • possibly to have alignment restrictions on memory operations.

    One view of what Intel is attempting with its forthcoming Merced is to take these RISC ideas, and extend them by demanding that the compiler perform instruction-to-instruction dependency checking, and then format them into "bundles" of instructions that can all be safely issued at the same time.

    fwiw

  • heh, almost everyone I know that uses Microsoft is anti-Microsoft.

    No, not almost. I even know a lot of Windows coders. I don't think I know ONE person who is deep down, true-blue, go-to-bat-for-Bill-Gates Microsoft.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Well, part of the undocumentedness is obviously incompetence, not an attempt at occlusion.

    How do you legally FORCE someone to do something (and do it WELL), that they are incapable of doing?

    I think we'll see some injunctions about product tying, maybe some fines, and endless appeals, and flagrant abuse of the injunctions, and the Govt. not being able to do a damn thing about it.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Had Bill stayed at Harvard, we'd all be running OS/2 and LOVING it!

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • no browser is neccesary to download the browser of your choice.

    Windows 95 has shipped with a nice little app called FTP.EXE since day one.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Apple: You omitted how Microsoft quite skillfully killed the Apple platform - by making an end-run around all of the other office-suite vendors with MS Office for Mac, in terms of feature-creep, and file-format compatability (office heterogeneity), killing all serious competition, (WP was beat down pretty good, as was Claris and others). Then when all the other vendors either offered sub-par products or no products due to cancellation of development for the Mac platform - because they were starved for cash from competition in the Windows market, they released the infamously bad Office 4.0, and cancelled their product. Now there were no office apps for Macintosh - and the platform's last holdouts in the office space abandoned it.
    This is why the resumption of Office, Office 98 for Mac, was such a big deal, and is probably one of the greatest factors in Microsoft's resurgence. There's so much FUD and voodoo about translating office documents to/from WordPerfect and Claris/AppleWorks, that nobody will bother - even now that WordPerfect is free (no future), or that AppleWorks is actually an excellent suite for $99.

    Microsoft could kill Apple (again), if they simply announce no new Office version for Mac. They've already done some recent damage by delaying IE 5 for Mac until next winter.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Oh, folks would invest in R&D because since they no longer pay taxes, they'd have all sorts of extra money laying around.

    (never mind that they have to use that extra money for their own private police force, private investigators to investigate their uncertified doctors, private investigators to watchdog their private investigators, their own private chemistry lab to constantly test the air and water to make sure FreindlyCo isn't dumping toxic waste, and their own private meat inspector to make sure their food isn't infected with botulism, etc. etc. ad infinitum.)

    Like Kythe said before. READ the Libertarian platform. You'll be suprised.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Hard time. For every employee above the level of Manager.

    eh, okay, if you can get NT to boot on a 486/25 with 8 megs of RAM, you'll be eligible for parolle.

    This eliminates all those sticky questions of "government control" and how to split the company, and fines being passed on to the customer.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Pardon me, but Netscape WAS NOT giving away their browser untill MS started to. You could download Navigator and use it for free in an "Educational" environment. But for use in a comercial application you were suposed to purchase a full license.

    MS came along and tried to push their way into the market place with Explorer under the same license as Netscape. It wasn't working so they began bundling it with Windows and allowing download use with no restrictions. Netscape was then forced to begin to give away their browser for free use inorder to maintain their market share.

    Ex-Nt-User
  • I'll second that! I was just telling a colleague over dinner how bogus it is to be doing file i/o. It should be a criminal offense to ship an OS for 64 bit systems that does not use memory mapping of files as the basis of access to secondary memory. "Save" is a concept that should have been buried long ago.
  • I'd love to see a non MS world. Only if the alternative looked as good as Windows and had the same amount of apps.

    I'm wondering who computer companies need to target. Do people buy Windows machines because they use them at work and are familiar with them. Probably so. What percentage? I don't know. Would targeting coporations to change OS's help build the home consumer base. Probably so.

    Question: Why do corporations run Windows software? In order to break MS's dominance, corporate software needs to be written on different platforms. Which thanks to Oracle, IBM, etc., it's starting to.

    Microsoft got to be who they are today, because they got in to the desktop market early. They created a product that wasn't available on the desktop for the PC and locked companies into their product. If IBM had used the same strategic plan with OS/2, they might own 90% of the market.

    So, build good (functionality and pleasing to the eye) applications on an alternate OS, while maintaining compatibility with current infrastructures, and we might have a winner. Or we can convince all of the CTO's out there to dump their current infrastructure and rebuild. Why would a company do this? Just to spite MS? I don't think so. Obviously the only sound attack is to convince new companies to build around the "alternative" OS.

    From my orignal post, no one is going to want to build around an alternative OS until the software is easy to use, looks good, and costs little to maintain.
    but a larger distributer with an established customer base has the clout to do it

    Would they lose a lot of business because people looking for MS products just can't get it from them? MS has showed they won't settle for companies selling competitors products. So the distributor can't sell both MS and it's competitors. This is what the DOJ case should REALLY be about. Not the browser issue.

  • An operating system (sometimes abbreviated as "OS") is the program that, after being initially loaded into the computer by a bootstrap program, manages all the other programs in a computer. The other programs are called applications.

    Read Operating Systems, Design and Implementation by Andrew Tanenbaum

    Or check out whatis.com

    It's a textbook used in Operating Systems CS class (at least it was used at Arizona when I went there).
  • I believe that Linux is as popular as it is today, because of how everyone has turned anti-Microsoft.



    Almost everyone I know that uses Linux is anti-Microsoft. Yes, there are some people who like both Linux and Microsoft (me being one of them), but that's rare in my opinion.



    Now because of this hatred towards Microsoft, Linux is gaining coders that were previously Windows coders.



    It's funny how religious computers are. When I was 12 years old it was Vic 20's and C64's vs. Atari ST's, and Apple II's. Then it became Amiga's vs. Mac's and PC's, and now that PC's dominate, it's turned to OS's. Windows vs. Linux.



    As The World Turns...

  • I'll give you OJ, but the other two?
  • Jackson appears to be convinced that the AOL acquirement of Netscape is significant

    What makes you say this? I've seen a lot of press on that, but I still don't see how Netscape being bought by AOL has anything to do with how Microsoft bullies it's "partners".
  • There has always been other choices out there

    Not for the desktop. Linux isn't there. Who knows if it will ever get there. Not everyone likes to edit perl scripts and configuration files to get things working. It took me a long time to get comfortable with Linux. I used to install it, put Windows back on my machine, a year later, install a newer version of Linux, put Windows back on my machine.

    To this day, I still run Windows. Believe me, I hate Microsoft, but currently there is no other alternative to the number of apps, and the type of apps that run on Windows. Everyone talks about the quality of Linux/X apps. They might have less bugs in them then a lot of Windows apps, but they are just starting to LOOK good. Appearance is almost as important to a user if not more, than an occasional crash.

    I use Windows NT everyday, both at home and at work, and yes it does crash, sometimes. So does Linux. It's not always the OS, but rather the application running is poorly written.

    I've been using Linux off and on since '94, and I am extremely comfortable with it, but it's just not even close to being as easy to use as Windows is (most of the time).
  • Well MS needs to get profits from somewhere, so they can't possibly compete with Open Source software forever

    Sure they can, how does RedHat make their money? Through support.

    Solution: Give Windows away for free, and offer support contracts just like RedHat. MS would have to scale down, because their revenue would drop, but with owning 90% of the desktop market, they certainly wouldn't be hurting.
  • So I am not saying that MS must be allowed to hang deer carcasses upwind of Seattle, only that a company has the right to decide what it peacably does with its own assets.

    "Peacably". Yes, absolutely...

    HOWEVER: Microsoft has demonstrated time and again, with their disthonesty (astroturf campaigns, staged evidence, cooked and leaked memos), and the way in which they throw their weight around (Thou Shalt Not Ship Netscape, or else), that they cannot, or will not, use their assets "peacably".

    If someone repeatedly jabs you with a pointy stick, what do you do?

    Personally, I'm a 3-stage-approach kind of guy:
    1) Ask Nicely: "Please don't poke me, that hurts."
    2) Tell, not so nicely: "Knock that shit off!"
    3) Break out the can of whup-ass.

    I can promise you that MS passed stage 1 and 2 a long time ago. The DOJ's "can o' whup-ass" is removing MS's right to do what they will with their own ass-ets.

  • I don't think I'd paint the typical Slashdot reader/participant as a Libertarian. Either that, or they're not very familiar with what being a "Libertarian" means: even a short glance at the Libertarian Party's platform indicates diametric opposition to nearly all things government, especially interference in business. For example, the Libs would love to not only repeal antitrust laws, but get rid of the FTC and scale back the Justice Dept.

    That's why I find it rather comical to note Eric Raymond's justifications for the DOJ's going after Microsoft (or lack of outrage at the DOJ, take your pick). Since he's a self-described Libertarian who has written several papers on the matter, he should know better.

    I strongly suspect more people would renounce Libertarianism if they looked closely at the LP's positions, and really thought about the consequences.

    Kythe
    (Remove "x"'s from

  • Antitrust law makes illegal "combinations in restraint of trade," and "anticompetitive practices." Taken literally, that makes all businesses criminal, since by definition, they work to beat their competition and drive them out of business.

    Attempting to beat competition is not "anticompetitive". Attempting to prevent competition is anticompetitive, when one is in a position to do it. These are not really difficult concepts; they are the meaning behind antitrust laws. Perhaps you have an example of when they've been applied successfully using a different interpretation?

    Also, despite your assertions, all laws are open to some interpretation, no matter how "vague" or "specific", and all have qualifiers.

    In addition, the Constitution is not a law in the same sense as other laws. It is a limitation on the power of government, not a limitation on the actions of the people. Thus it is much less important that it be narrowly focused, since an overly broad interpretation will provide more freedom to the people while a broad interpretation of other laws leads to less freedom.

    This is simply untrue. The U.S. Constitution is a description of general principles of government. As such, it provides limitations on the rights and priveledges of all parties. Using your example, an overly broad interpretation of the 4th Amendment would allow the government to conduct what you or I might view as "unreasonable" searches and seizures -- surely, something you would view as "less freedom".

    Capitalism means the free market. A free market in which the Federal government is allowed to step in and stop companies who act "unfairly" is a contradiction in terms.

    This is a Libertarian interpretation, one which equates "Capitalism" with "free" with "lassaiz-faire". Furthermore, there is NO (non-idealistic) reason to believe a lassaiz-faire market is always superior; rather, history tends to indicate the opposite, in many cases. Ever hear of the "Theory of the Second Best"?

    Over the long term, monopolies are impossible in a free market, even without antitrust law.

    Perhaps over the VERY long term, individual monopolies won't last (though there's no real reason to believe they won't, either). However, I for one don't think a series of abusive monopolies are any better. Further, free markets are predicated upon easy entry into the market. If a market is cornered or coerced, it isn't free.

    Your faith in lassaiz-faire markets is quite idealistic. Check out "The Bigness Complex", by Walter Adams if you'd like an alternative point of view.

    Kythe
    (Remove "x"'s from

  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    This is actually quite hillarious, given BG's infamous "need to win". I'm sure other Microsofties (Ballmer comes to mind) could drug him or lock him up for a few days while they quietly accept the fine, though.

    It'd be pretty foolhardy not to have such a contingency plan for times like that.

    Kythe
    (Remove "x"'s from

  • But if you still want the free market, I'll work with that. Microsoft only has its monopoly because of government regulation. Their chief asset is a set of copyrights. In a free market, copyright law simply does not exist. Microsoft is a government protected monopoly.

    I'd like to point out that the Good Libertarian would respond to this by claiming all copyrights (in fact, all intellectual property protection) should be abolished completely.

    Unfortunately, Libertarians have yet to turn around and explain how reasonable investments in R&D would continue to be made, when any gains from such investments would be public domain the moment a product goes out the company door.

    Kythe
    (Remove "x"'s from

  • ...in some regard.

    If MS do get off scot-free, they will view this as a vindication of their position and they will once more push Windows onto PC's using discounts as the incentive. All their old practices (which have been slightly subdued in the last few months due to the case) will return, except worse since no-one will want to waste time on a case which has already been fought. Let's face it, if they win, it will make a lot of potential prosecutors back off, since MS will have precedent on their side.

    I don't expect some huge penalty to MS, but a good, solid wrist slap is in order for some of their past practices.
    --

  • As far as I'm concerned I'd rather see Bill Gates and the rest of his Microsoft Gestapo put behind bars where criminals like them belong. However, unfortunately there is no possibility of this happening as this is not a criminal case. I remain convinced that Microsoft and the people who run microsoft are indeed thieves, liars and back stabbers. Apparently being a thief, liar and a back stabber in the US is legal.

    Microsoft has a bigger fear from being found guilty than a potential forced breakup of their 4th Reich. Indeed, a guilty verdict would open the door for many companies and individuals to sue them in civil court because of damages due to the monopoly. Really, it's not a breakup they are worried about, its all the legal problems they will have to deal with after the fact.

    And I think they deserve every bit of it too. Microsoft officials have lied,threatened,bullied and stole their way to the top. As far as I'm concerned (though it won't happen) if Microsoft were to dissappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, the entire industry would be far better off. Really, all Judge Jackson needs to do to determine MS monopoly is to simply use Windows for even a small period of time. It's such a bloated unreliable piece of trash that it would amaze anyone with even the intelligence of a pissant, that 95 percent of all PC's in the world run it. And if that isnt proof of a monopoly, I don't know what is.

    Microsoft: You reap what you sow. With all the illegal criminal actions you have committed in the industry and have got away with for so long, It's pay back time.

    You can flame me all you want. But it is outright wrong for criminals to hide behind white shirts and ties and say what they are doing is ok becaue it's the capitolist way.

  • I fail to see how anyone can accuse a company of being anticompetitive in an industty where there's a concept like Open Source.

    Hmmm... I fail to see how anyone can get wet in a rainstorm when there's so much space between the raindrops.
  • DOS was a clone of CP/M bought by Microsoft from the person who developed it. And this is your example of innovation? Have any more?

    No, Microsoft does not have a record of innovation. It has a history of cloning, polishing, and bundling. But not of innovation. (ESR estimates that Microsoft has put the computer industry back about 10 years.

    Ben
  • > A lot of people stipulate that if the Windows licenses were revoked from these manufacturers, they would be done for. Kaput. Well, that might be so. Alternatively, those same manufacturers just might have a harder time. What if they put OS/2 on those machines?

    Well, I hate to harp on this again, but that's pretty wishful thinking. If Compaq, who was one of the ones threatened, made an announcement that they couldn't sell Windows anymore, but they'd be glad to offer their customers these OS/2 boxes (or Linux, or BeOS) they'd be done for.

    Companies have to keep growing to survive in the market, especially with competitors around like Dell and HP and all the other vendors. Compaq would instantly lose most of its revenue, partners, and customers. Not to mention the tanking stock, shareholder lawsuits, etc. etc.

    Even if they just had the price of Windows raised substantially, the effects would be less drastic, but they'd lose substantial profit on each machine and therefore customers.

    No matter the outcome of the trial, one very positive thing to result is that these manufacturers can load machines with Linux, BeOS, etc. without suffering reprisals from MS because MS is so carefully scrutinized.
  • > There has always been other choices out there, but the point is that computer manufacturers have always been so enamored with Microsoft's software that they've chosen to ignore the competition.

    You are completely ignoring the threat factor. MS was shown to raise the cost of Windows to those computer manufacturers who stepped out of line, be it to load Netscape Navigator on their machines or perform other acts of MS heresy. Windows is an essential facility for computer manufacturers (more proof of monopoly) and losing a Windows license would be a death sentence. "Enamored" ain't go nothing to do with it.
  • Warden spent the bulk of his time arguing that Microsoft does not have a monopoly, saying that any one of many new technologies, from the rival Linux operating system to Internet-based software applications, could quickly threaten the dominance of Windows.

    As my one friend put it, "We're not a monopoly, but anyone can threaten our dominance. Bu we're not a monopoly." Makes me sick.

  • Dunno... if there were real competition in the x86 market (at least, real enough to the perception of the suits at Microsoft), don't you think they'd try to port their software?

    (The only reason I don't include the Macintosh in there is because the original poster said x86.)

    --
    QDMerge [rmci.net] 0.21!
  • Windows 95 Gold installed IE2. Thus IE has been distributed with Windows in someway. This is one of the most foolish accusations made by the DOJ. I hope that Jackson will not consider this allegation since it is not true. He should consider all the other ones (which are true) and rule according to those. If he does rule on the browser one there is essentially going to be an automatic appeal. Not that there isn't already. This just makes it even easier.

  • Let's start with perjury. Microsoft executives, up to Bill Gates himself, have been caught flat-out lying to the court. This doesn't require a fine on the part of Microsoft, but in fact is a series of criminal charges against members of their high command.

    Fine, then we can charge him for that. That's a seperate issue however.

    From there, we go to violating an agreement that they signed to get out of legal trouble earlier. The Microsoft position on the "bundling" issue is that the definition of "bundling" is indefensible, and that they thus signed a bogus document.

    They signed that document to avoid being prosecuted for the same unjust laws they are being prosecuted for now. If antitrust law didn't exist, they never would have signed that document.

    From there, we go to violating an agreement that they signed to get out of legal trouble earlier. The Microsoft position on the "bundling" issue is that the definition of "bundling" is indefensible, and that they thus signed a bogus document.

    Antitrust law makes illegal "combinations in restraint of trade," and "anticompetitive practices." Taken literally, that makes all businesses criminal, since by definition, they work to beat their competition and drive them out of business. If that's not vague, I don't know what is. Now you might think that other parts of the law clarify that, but the fact is that government lawyers come up with new types of "combinations in restraint of trade" whenever a new bad guy comes along. It's elastic law, which means tyrranical law. Most of the things that Microsoft has done were not considered crimes when they were doing them. That's why the government emphasizes "patterns of behavior." Very few of MS's specific actions are illegal, but only "when taken as a whole" they are illegal. That seems to me overly broad.

    As far as predicting which things are and are not illegal, forget the reinterpretations. Using a monopoly position, as such, to either keep that monopoly or gain a new monopoly, is illegal. Having a monopoly position by virtue of superior products, and keeping that position by improving one's product, is not illegal.

    That sounds pretty vague to me. How much market share is a "monopoly?" How broadly do you define the market? How long do they have to hold the market? How much use of a monopoly in another market is acceptable? Taking the above literally, Microsoft should be prohibited from making software other than Windows, as should Apple. And who decides how much a given monopoly is based upon "product superiority?" That puts the courts in the position of judging the merit of computer products.

    Now you can say that the courts can figure this stuff out, but my point is that it shouldn't have to. There's no ambiguity abouyt what constitutes murder. There might be some uncertainty at the edges about which kind of murder a given act is, but if you kill someone and you were not being attacked at the time, you are guilty of some form of murder. Antitrust law defies simple summary. If you are asked to say which specific acts constitute "anticompetitive practices" or "combinations in restraint of trade," you can't do it. Because the law does not regulate specific actions but "patterns of behavior." And that's so open-ended that any successful company is open to harassment.

    I disagree. A law that is too specific can be worked around; the best way to avoid pseudocrime (acts which shouldbe crimes but really aren't due to a technicality) is to write a general law.

    OK, how about a law that says "no one may do bad things." We can work the details out in court.

    The point is that anything that can't be summarized in specifics (like murder or theft) should not be a crime. The law should be written in a way that given a set of facts, 90% of the people will interpret the law in the same way. This is because people need to know which things they are or are not allowed to do. Allowing the courts to decide after the fact whether a given action is illegal is a recipe of tyranny.

    Remember that the highest law in the land, the Constitution, is written up with a lot of vague laws. the vagueness of these laws is precisely what makes them useful two hundred years later.

    Generality is not the same as vagueness. "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech" seems pretty straightforward to me. You can pretty easily determine when a law abridges freedom of speech. Of course the Supreme Court has decided that there are other concerns that overrule the first amendment in some cases, but that's a problem with their choices, not the law itself.

    In addition, the Constitution is not a law in the same sense as other laws. It is a limitation on the power of government, not a limitation on the actions of the people. Thus it is much less important that it be narrowly focused, since an overly broad interpretation will provide more freedom to the people while a broad interpretation of other laws leads to less freedom.

    The DoJ is prosecuting Microsoft on antitrust charges because their other crimes are committed against specific entities that can and should prosecute them seperately. Note that Sun Microsystems is currently suing Microsoft over their Java implementation. Caldera is or was suing Microsoft over their efforts to sabotage DR/DOS. The DoJ trial is not the only thing landing Microsoft in court these days.

    Fine, and if those prosecutions are for real, specific crimes, I support their right to do so. But let's keep them seperate from this trial, which is not about specific crimes.

    I don't care about punishment, and I don't want to punish anybody. I do care about keeping capitalism working. Monopolies break the assumptions of capitalism, and thus break the capitalism.

    Capitalism means the free market. A free market in which the Federal government is allowed to step in and stop companies who act "unfairly" is a contradiction in terms. Over the long term, monopolies are impossible in a free market, even without antitrust law. Antitrust law is not a safeguard of a free market. It undermines it and makes it less free.

    As for Microsoft being a "wrench" in the gears, I think you might be suffering from myopia. From a technical standpoint, Windows is a mediocre product. But for most users, it is *still* the best choice for many tasks. The Mac OS doesn't have the software base and the commodity hardware, and the Unices are intimidating for the average user. I hope something better comes along to replace Windows, but for now I think the existence of Windows is a good thing. I'd hate to see that obstructed by government interference.

  • No one claims Sun has done anything wrong when they bundle their own version of ls without including a copy of an alternative version. Are they engaging in "anticompetitive practices" when they install their ls by default?
  • The concept of "dumping" is absurd. Please tell me how low Microsoft's prices have to be to qualify as "dumping."

    The per-unit cost of Windows is practically zero. A few bucks for the box and manuals, a couple of bucks for the CD burning, and that's it. IT WOULD seem that they could sell Windows for $20 and still not be "dumping."

    Of course, they need to recover their R & D costs, but then the question is, how much of those costs must they recover with each sale? This depends on how many copies they sell. But then that means that you can't define "dumping" without a coplicated formula taking into account R & D costs, demand curves, and the like. The concept of "dumping" becomes ridiculous.

    Besides, MS has made loads of money on Win98, so I don't see how it can be considered dumping in any case.

    Now, you might say that their prices are lower than those of their conpetitors, but so what? That's what compatition is all about. Do you really expect Microsoft to charge the same amount as each competitor in every industry?

    As for Netscape, keep in mind that both companies have been giving away their browsers for years, and both are doing just fine. It would seem that the fair market cost of a web browser is zero, the same way that the fair market cost of most web-based services is zero (recouped with ads)

    The point is that "dumping," particularly in the conputer field, is simply not economically meaningful, and is a lousy basis for the law. For every genuine dumping complaint, you get 2 complaints from mediocre companies who can't compete in the market place, and so are whining to the government to prop them up. Laws against "dumping" and "predatory pricing" should be repealed.
  • If I accidentally run over a kid. Did I murder that kid?

    If I intentionally run over a kid. Did I murder that kid?

    I didn't say all murders were exactly the same. Of course intent has something to do with it. That's not the point. The point is that assuming that a given action was intentional, it is pretty cut and dried what constitutes murder. Microsoft's problem is not that the violated antitrust laws by accident. Their problem is that they are being prosecuted for things that are not a crime for other companies, and that (at least prior to the previous lawsuit) was not considered a crime. No one has to worry that they might do something that later get reclassified as murder. Yet antitrust laws are so vague, that that's exactly what can happen to businesses. They do things that are considered legal at the time, and then a new administration comes in and decides to go after them. There's really nothng a successful company can do about it. Gaining a large market share is going to make you some enemies no matter how you do it. And so many successful companies get investigated for antitrust, when there was no way they could have known that they would be a target.

    Running over a kid accidentally is a difference of intent. I'm not saying that Microsoft did what they did by accident. I'm saying they didn't know and could not know what actions would be considered crimes until the Do(in)J took action. That's wrong.
  • How is the software industry any different from any other, so much so that it shouldn't be scrutinized by the government in the same fashion every other industry is?

    No different. I think other industries should not have to deal with antitrust either.

    Your assertion that "even if they did break a law, it's a stupid law to begin with" holds absolutely no water. I happen to think having to stop at a red light is outdated and stupid, too. I think I'll start running them from now on. Let's see how far that gets me.

    And that would be a stupid decision, because the law against running a red light is a good law and so you should be punished. I don't see how that's the least bit relevant. The fact that I object to antitrust law doesn't mean that I dislike all laws.

    The fact of the matter is, the antitrust laws in this country *are* specific and to-the-point. If they weren't, there would be countless cases prosecuted under them every year. I don't see too many going to court, do you?

    That's because only large companies are targets, and because the DoJ and state attorneys' general can bring antitrust suits. Study the history some time. You'll find that there are many cases in which people are prosecuted for categories of behavior that had never previously been prosecuted as crimes.

    Microsoft broke the rules. Now it's time to pay up.

    That's an incredibly concrete-bound mentality. Are you telling me that all laws are just? That's ridiculous. Legislators are mortals too, and they make mistakes. Your unwillingness to consider the merits of the specific law is disappoointing.
  • never mind that they have to use that extra money for their own private police force

    That makes no sense.

    private investigators to investigate their uncertified doctors

    There's no reason that everyone has to do this on their own. That's what the media and various research organizations are for. You could subscribe to a magazine, for example, that would rate doctors. And there would still be med-school diplomas. They just wouldn't be coercively enforced by the govt.

    their own private chemistry lab to constantly test the air and water to make sure FreindlyCo isn't dumping toxic waste

    Again, this doesn't have to be done on an individual basis.

    their own private meat inspector to make sure their food isn't infected with botulism

    If a meat packer sold meat with botulism in it, how long do you think it would last? In fact, meat packers would hire outside testing services to test their meat to prove it was safe, so they could get more customers.

    ad infinitum

    Exactly. All the wasteful, coercive, destructive things the government does would be replaced with voluntary private alternatives.
  • > Actually, you do. If you install some random shell, and renamed it to 'bash'

    Actually bash itself is a (free) replacement for sh. If bash is called as sh, it behaves just like sh. So it seems, at least in the unix world, that even something as integral as the shell is not integrated into the OS. The behavior and the standard are integrated, but not the specific app.
  • No, Sun is not engaging in anti competitve process by including ls... because you can remove it! Which was my whole point. I can *add* Netscape to Windows 98, I just can't remove IE.
  • I think the "ls" command is pretty useful tool, too. But on my Solaris 2.6 machine, I can replace it with gls.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Picture the (former) US telephone monopoly.

    Now picture people getting so fed up with them that they, as volunteers, build their own parallel phone system and let anybody use it for free.

    Now picture the phone company arguing in court that that is competition, hence they are not a monopoly...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I recently worked on a project, we came up with a cool system for modular multimedia components for use with education.

    We were approached by Microsoft for a deal. I referred my manager to the many documents explaining how anyone who goes into partnership with MS usually ends up *much* worse off.

    They also wanted us to dump the Unix servers and use an NT server farm!

    After much pleading to my bosses, they refused the deal. At this point MS bought our biggest customer and then proceeded to starve us of cash to put us out of business.

    It worked. I don't see anything that can happen to them as being unfair.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is simple - just make them document all network
    protocols and APIs.

    This would preserve Microsoft as a corporation and
    would allow a reasonable amount of competition.
    More importantly, it would set a precedent for the
    future on how to preserve competition. If someone
    truly comes up with a novel new protocol, they can
    get a patent.

    The only thing consumers really have to fear is
    Microsoft illegally tying one product to another
    with an undocumented network protocol; for example
    the Office 2K collaboration features which ONLY
    work with NT. Or the secret Front Page
    extensions. Microsoft has clearly laid this out
    as a probably tactic (see the Halloween document).

    Microsoft has the resources to stay ahead on a
    level playing field like this. SMB has been
    reverse-engineered and yet people still use NT
    server...

    Mark

  • The Alpha always has been, and will continue to be the hottest-running CPU out there. I've read that they dissipate *35 watts* of heat, which is nearly double what a Pentium can do. Sitting in the back room of our UNIX lab at school is a good way to keep warm - it's where all the old Alpha 233s are. The heat that comes off those things feels like a hair dryer. Without a CPU fan and a lot of internal airflow, those poor things would fizzle up in a minute or so. As for the other CPUs, I don't know, except to say that the Ultra Is tend to get a little warm, too.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • How is the software industry any different from any other, so much so that it shouldn't be scrutinized by the government in the same fashion every other industry is? Software vendors are in the business to make money, just like anyone else.

    Your assertion that "even if they did break a law, it's a stupid law to begin with" holds absolutely no water. I happen to think having to stop at a red light is outdated and stupid, too. I think I'll start running them from now on. Let's see how far that gets me. The fact of the matter is, the antitrust laws in this country *are* specific and to-the-point. If they weren't, there would be countless cases prosecuted under them every year. I don't see too many going to court, do you?

    Microsoft broke the rules. Now it's time to pay up.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Very simple. Do _nothing_ to specifically Microsoft the corporation, just hit all the _people_ running the show with serious jail time. Perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, etc etc. Put Gates and Ballmer and the _marketing/tactical_ brain trust of Microsoft literally behind bars, and who gives a damn how much money they have- some of the Watergate felons saw actual jail time too, and they weren't poor!
    _Jail_ actual people. Send a personal message of that nature. This wouldn't harm any theoretical capacity of MS to innovate, wouldn't mess up the industry with largely hypothetical troubles of government code auditing and checking, but there are two major positive reactions:
    • it would be a real wake-up call to these morons who figure that corporations get to be as sociopathic as they like, because nobody is accountable
    • Microsoft is already suffering rot, and would collapse at the loss of its main sparkplugs.
    A company has a personality, which is similar to the personality of its leaders. Microsoft's leaders are criminals, so Microsoft's personality is criminal. Remove the leaders and leave everything else, and eventually there might be leaders there who actually care more about producing products than they do about killing competition. The same programmers, artists, writers and possibly middle managers would be perfectly at home with the new personality. Never mind fussy legal corporate sanctions, which everyone is terrified about anyhow (a terror, mind you, orchestrated by Microsoft itself, and likely not worth the hysteria it gets). Instead, just nail the _people_ and send specific guilty-as-hell _people_ to jail. I think it is certainly likely that they can be reasonably charged with obstruction of justice due to their blatant attempts to subvert, lie to, and 'hack' the US judicial system....
  • I disagree. I don't think that the people actually doing the coding are rallying against anything (including Microsoft).

    Most of us code because a tool we need doesn't exist, or isn't good enough. A breakup of Microsoft doesn't change this at all.

    If anything, it might galvanize the open source community .... all of a sudden the spotlight would be equally distributed, less FUD from Microsoft, and less time spent deflecting stupid questions like "but who can we sue when something doesn't work?"

  • "Microsoft has done some really innovative things in the past. Without Microsoft, where would we be in the OS business today? They kinda were in it from the beginning....waaaay back with MS-Dos. I remember running MS-Dos on the PCJr. and it was cool back then to have a command prompt. No, for all of their faults, Microsoft has contributed in a major way to the advancement of computing."

    I sure hope you are being sarcastic, although I didn't detect that in your post. Because otherwise you are making me feel really, really old, and usually only my wife... well, skip that.
    But the general point is that personal computer hardware, OS, and software development were going on when Bill Gates was still in grammer school. If Digital, to name just one possibility, had taken their blinders off for just a few minutes and released a reasonbly-priced desktop PDP-11, which they considered and rejected twice, for example...

    Now this doesn't negate what bg accomplished, because he _did_ recognize the potential of what was going on and he _did_ negotiate a contract (for MS-DOS) that took IBM to the cleaners. Those aren't insignificant accomplishements and shouldn't be treated lightly. But bg and M$ didn't by any means invent the personal computer.

    sPh
  • "Is this a joke?! Look at where we are in the OS business today: the mainstream is hardly a step beyond the 70s in some ways, and mid-80s in others. I just can't believe this. The 90s are almost over and it's still an uphill battle to introduce 80s technology into the mainstream."

    How many times have I wished for a PC OS with 10% of the features of TOPS-20? Or Multics - that should be perfectly possible on today's hardware. But MS-DOS froze the state of the art at 1981 8-bit computing.

    Again, I don't blame bg for doing what he did - how many of us would have passed up the chance? RMS maybe, but probably very few others. But still, the wasted potential is awesome.

    sPh
  • But this would be at the expense of OSS!! No longer would OSS look as much of a good looking alternative to combat MS's monopoly - and I'm sure many of these companies will dump their OSS projects when they find themselves on a more equal footing with MS - it would be back to normal business practises (and no OSS.)

    Either OSS is a viable alternative on its merits or it is not. If OSS's success were dependent on the success or failure of MS, we'd be screwed. The beauty of OSS is that it will succeed for those who need it, want it, love it, etc, regardless of what the rest of the world does.

  • Simply put penalties on every inaccuracy.

    Require that the source code be released for any API that does not behave exactly as documented.

    That should be enough of a kick in the pants the keep the documentation accurate.

    The key point being that in lieu of inaccurate documentation the source code is a better, if not as accesible, description of the API. If an API is released as source code its entire source code tree must be released so that all versions of it are available.

    This is a nice middle ground between requireing documentation and requireing the code.

    The requirement of document or else seems nice enough and does not force the release of the
    source code. Of course we can rely on Microsoft to make mistakes in just about all of the documentation thus releasing all of the API source code.

  • > They never prevented Netscape from being installed.

    Wrong. They did exactly that by threatening to revoke Windows licenses or significantly raise prices for manufacturers who wanted to install it.
    They paid bounties to ISPs who dropped Netscape Navigator, too.

    Oh yeah, but of course that wasn't forclosing distribution because average Joe user was just expected to use his ... ummm ... bundled, unremovable browser ... to go out and download another ... browser. Hmm.
  • The last thing we need is a precedent for government harrassment of the software industry. The idea that Microsoft should be punished for out-competing its competition is ludicrous. Given the number of alternatives there are to Windows, and given that both sides give their browsers for free anyway, I fail to see how Microsoft has done anything illegal in this matter.

    Even if they have broken the law, we're talking about antitrust. Antitrust law is the most vague, overreaching, intrusive law that can be imagined. It literally gives the Feds the power to harrass any company that manages to get a large market share. And it gets reinterpreted every few years, so there's no way Microsoft can possibly predict which things are and are not illegal.

    I don't deny that Microsoft is sleazy, but sleaziness is not a crime. Laws should be specific and to-the-point. If the best charges they can dream up are antitrust charges, that tells me that either they are innocent of any real crime, or there needs to be new laws to address the specific types of crimes they have committed. But to twist antitrust law to cover whatever activity the current dominant player in a given industry is without warning is a very bad thing. There was no way Micrsoft could have predicted what would be considered a crime, since the things they are accused of doing have been done by many other companies with no legal repercussions.

    I just hope Microsoft gets off the hook. Even if they broke antitrust laws, they don't deserve to be punished.
  • I wouldn't balkanize them further into different companies for database, user applications, different levels of OS, since that unnecessarily weakens each business. If a breakup does occur [...], then each component should be kept strong enough to compete successfully but not so strong as to allow monopolist tactics.

    I think the idea of splitting Microsoft into companies that each have a seperate focus is a good one. Why couldn't a company that just markets a database be strong enough to compete? Oracle does very well as a database company, I thought? Or have I missed some other market they are in? Think of other markets? Does Ford make boats? Does a shoe store sell computers? Does my telephone company sell pizzas? Does the newspaper company sell coffee?

    However, I don't think that splitting up Microsoft into little bitty companies is going to solve much. The company that owns Windows will still be able to force OEM's to only preload Windows or suffer higher licensing costs. At least the company owning IE will no longer be able to use Windows to force OEM's to put the IE icon on the desktop.

    The only way to solve the OS anti-competitive behaviour is to split the Windows department into 3 or more companies and give them each rights to the code. That way there is a choice of Windows, and if one company tries to be anti-competitive, the OEM's would dump them for another company. This would also give the opportunity for OEM's to be free to preload other OS's (Be, Linux, FreeBSD), because they would no longer incur the wrath of one monopolistic OS vendor.

    Maybe the same thing would need to be done with Office. Same possibility for anti-competitive behaviour, but no signs of that happening yet. Maybe that'll only come when StarOffice gets more popular, and hasn't been needed to keep MS's dominance in that market yet.

    -Brent
    --
  • But that doesn't mean Microsoft will disappear. Look at AT&T and all the Baby Bells -- they're still alive & kicking, they're just not making as much money as they used to. That's probably what will happen to MS as well. So, the Linux/OSS community will still have a common enemy to fight; that enemy just won't have as many teeth as before.

    Ah, yes, if Microsoft was broken up, the baby MS' would still be strong. They just won't be able to use anti-competitive practices to keep their products being used. They'd have to be ethical. And an ethical company is not any "enemy". I think that if MS was broken up, the Baby Bills would just be a normal competitor, not an enemy.

    Linux and Windows side by side. Is that to good of a dream to imagine? I'd love to be able to take Linux and Windows as well as other OS's and compare them side by side and use whatever is technically the best for the job I need it for. Right now, Microsoft products I don't compare. Because I refuse to use products by a company that is unethical. That's not to say that Windows *would* be better then Linux. But at least I'd give it consideration.

    -Brent
    --
  • In other words they are saying that "The price depends on what else you might use" which is anti-competative. Simply saying "The price depends on the number of units of our product" isn't. Really it's should be none of Microsoft's business what other operating systems an OEM may be offering pre-loaded.

    Bingo!

    That's what Microsoft is being charged with. And that's why they are guilty. The hardest part will not be to get a guilty verdict, which I think is pretty much settled, but to "cripple" Microsoft enough so they can no longer say that.

    That's the difficult part. Because a guilty verdict means nothing if Microsoft is able to continue acting as they have before. A little $1 billion dollar fine means nothing to Microsoft.

    They have enough PR strength to "change" the outcome of the trial on the eyes of consumers. And Jesse Berst will do his part to convince everyone that a guilty verdict really isn't what it seems to be.

    Microsoft went into this trial not caring if they lost. I think they realized that it really didn't make any difference whether they lost because they knew the government couldn't do enough to "hurt" them and the could make the consumer think that the government was just a "big bad bully".

    -Brent
    --
  • Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, BeOS, and OS/2 (well, not anymore) are all x86 operating systems that can compete with MS for the Intel desktop. The fact is that MS has an ENORMOUS market share, but just because it's an established powerbase, doesn't mean it's anticompetitive, does it?

    They may be great OS's. And may be able to compete with Windows. But when Microsoft tells the OEM's that they have to only preload Windows or suffer higher licensing fees, then Microsoft has forced the OEM's to either preload other OS's which isn't a large part of the market *now*, although it could be later, and not be competitive with other OEM's, or not preload other OS's, in which case the other OS's can't compete.

    They may be great OS's, but if Microsoft prevents them from being preloaded by OEM's, they can't compete. Only a monopoly can force that. Microsoft couldn't do that if they had only a small share of the market. The OEM's would laugh them out the doors. So it doesn't matter how many OS's there are that can compete in the Microsoft market. If Microsoft is involved in anti-competitive practices then they are guilty. And that's what the trial is about.

    -Brent
    --
  • with users come lusers

    That's an A+ start to a sig. I'm going to have to remember that. :-)

    -Brent
    --
  • Or will some cash change hands and this whole affair just be swept under the carpet?

    In Microsoft's case it's more likely that some cash will change hands and Dell will quit preloading Linux.

    -Brent
    --
  • I completely agree with almost all of this post, particularly the spirit of it (see my post a little further down, re: microsoft punishment).

    But I have to point out a couple differences, especially the house-renting analogy (which is a good one).

    "If I say you can rent my house only if you agree to also water the lawn once a week, it's up to you to accept the exchange."

    What happens if it is more like...

    "IF I say you can rent my house only if you agree to have only dogs as pets, it's up to you to accept the exchange."

    Still looks pretty good, but what if -every- house in the area where you have to work has this agreement.

    Then you have a problem (unless you are a dog person). Basically then there can be no cats in this city, which is unfair to my cute little cat :)

    I suppose one could then build their own house, but that is at great expense.

    Or, as is happening now, if the market for houses which allow cats is large enough, perhaps a new house-builder will form up (linux cat houses) and build lots of houses for cat-lovers to live in.

    But then again you run into the trouble of, hey, what if all the land zoned for housing is taken up :)

    Rezone... (or perhaps take dog-only house owners to federal court).

    Of course, how a discussion about operating systems and questionable marketing strategy turned into a discussion of house pet merits, I don't know.

    as always my completely uninformed, kneejerk opinion which fluctuates hourly.

    i am sam i am. i live in a cave.
  • No, I do *NOT* worship Bill[tm] or his Empire[r].
    Actually, I severely DISLIKE Microsoft, however my loathing for MS is less than my love of Open Source.

    I think that a guilty verdict would do more damage to OSS than it would do good. Think about it - if they were found guilty, then the DOJ would put in place jurisdiction to level the playing field for other competitors.

    But what "competitors" would such laws help to leverage into the market? Sun, IBM, SGI and Apple come to mind to name a few...

    However - consider what tactics these companies are using to combat Microsoft - Open Source of course! Look at projects such as Apple Darwin and Linux4SGI ... all Open Source (of some form)!!

    If MS *WAS* found guilty, then the DOJ would put in place laws to help companies such as Sun, SGI etc.. get a more equal footing.

    But this would be at the expense of OSS!! No longer would OSS look as much of a good looking alternative to combat MS's monopoly - and I'm sure many of these companies will dump their OSS projects when they find themselves on a more equal footing with MS - it would be back to normal business practises (and no OSS.)

    In fact, looking at the growth of Open Source and corellating it to the growth of MS's monopoly - you see a trend - as the monopoly grows, so too does OSS. I'm not a statistician, but I'm sure theres some truth to this relationship.

    Then again, I would still be happy to see MS found Guilty - my point is that if they ARE - we shouldn't just jump to the conclusion that it will be good for us (the users/consumers).


  • everyone here keeps referring to microsoft being "punished".

    my question: is a breakup really "punishment"?

    i mean, you wind up with the interesting position that microsoft claims that their monopoly on O.S. doesn't help them to foist their applications on people; but then again they claim that having the O.S. and applications be different companies would be somehow bad for them. How?

    The obvious answer is that if microsoft can't use it's 90+% market share to leverage its other products, the other products won't be used, or else MS will be forced to promote the products on basis of their own merits, something they've up to now only done occasionally. But microsoft won't admit this, of course. interesting to wach their minds at work.

    Claiming that microsoft would be somehow be hurt by a split down the middle is, in fact, admitting that their strongest asset is their monopoly.

    I hope that MS gets cut up, just because that would free me from the "microsoft guilt" of using MSIE4.5 for macintosh. Although the "AOL guilt" of using netscape is pretty much worse, so whatever. A MS breakup would help _everyone_; it would destroy MS's more worthless products, force them to make the others better, and generally restore choice to things. My only regret is that it wouldn't really hurt microsoft's OS business; but that seems to be doing a pretty good job of destroying itself.
  • The need to win isn't just an ego thing, though. If the DoJ wins, it would bolster the other existing (and future) civil lawsuits against Microsoft. Billions of dollars in damages are at stake.


    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • What I read in (today's?) paper here in Albuquerque was that he donated 170 Gateway computers (presumably with 'Doze installed on them) to some schools around here. So now we get a generation of kids growing up, thinking that Windoze is "normal". Is this education, or indoctrination?

    "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." -- Lenin

    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • Now the verdict here could make things very interesting indeed for the software world. For all of its evils (Windows included), Microsoft needs to have a verdict delivered against it. I do not mean this as a "down with MS cuz it sux" remark. Microsoft has done some really innovative things in the past. Without Microsoft, where would we be in the OS business today? They kinda were in it from the beginning....waaaay back with MS-Dos. I remember running MS-Dos on the PCJr. and it was cool back then to have a command prompt. No, for all of their faults, Microsoft has contributed in a major way to the advancement of computing.

    In all seriousness, I actually looked up to the top of your post to see if Gerald Holmes had written it.

    Microsoft has done some really innovative things in the past.

    Some MS defenders sometimes claim Microsoft has done innovative things in the past, but does anyone ever cite an example? And when they do cite an example, is it anything later than the 1970s? Geez, I'll concede they made some fun BASIC interpreters back then; I used to use their ROM BASIC on 65xx, and I was impressed that they had quite thoughtfully made parts of their program jump through some pointers in RAM, so that you could change the pointers and hack how their BASIC worked, even though it was in ROM. That was neat. But since then? Not a goddam thing.

    Without Microsoft, where would we be in the OS business today?

    Is this a joke?! Look at where we are in the OS business today: the mainstream is hardly a step beyond the 70s in some ways, and mid-80s in others. I just can't believe this. The 90s are almost over and it's still an uphill battle to introduce 80s technology into the mainstream.

    Good god, so many wasted years... it's so sad...

    They kinda were in it from the beginning....waaaay back with MS-Dos. I remember running MS-Dos on the PCJr. and it was cool back then to have a command prompt.

    Well, that settles it: you're intentionally writing satire. There's no other explanation. Gerald Holmes has met his match.

    No, for all of their faults, Microsoft has contributed in a major way to the advancement of computing.

    Ok, I'll say one nice thing about something Microsoft has done in the 90s to advance computing: the inefficiency of their products has created some large markets for certain types of hardware -- RAM and hard disks would cost more today, if it weren't for MS. They've influenced the hardware industry. But don't ever forget: it was at our expense. Don't ever think that it was somehow "free."

    However, in the last 3-5 years or so, maybe longer, maybe shorter, they moved away from more of the pionering and development into the arm twisting business.

    Well, it has been publically very obvious since 1989 at the absolute latest. Insiders may be able to trace the roots back earlier....

    But to what extent? The breakup of the company? I dont think so. Fines? Yes. Say, lost profits to certain companies, punative damages to make sure they dont do it again. Deep punative damages.

    I agree with you there. I don't wanna see 'em broken up either, and figuring out the astronomical compensatory damages would be next to impossible. But there's one thing you left out, which must not get overlooked: we also need criminal indictments against the individuals who are responsible. Criminals should not be allowed to anonymously hide behind corporations.


    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, BeOS, and OS/2 (well, not anymore) are all x86 operating systems that can compete with MS for the Intel desktop.

    Yes, and usually when a user decides to buy a computer with one of those OSes, they end up paying for a Windoze license anyway due to per-processor licensing, or MS deals with OEMs that penalize them for selling competing products.

    BTW, I'm typing this message on a PC that is running OS/2 Warp. I never even booted the Windoze that came with it, but the company had to pay for it anyway. Smells like a monopoly to me...


    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • If a manufacturer wants to, say, put all his help pages into HTML, how can he do it? He can't, unless there is a standard browser built into the operating system.

    No, you need a browser somewhere on the system. You emphatically do not need one particular browser, though. That's why the W3C HTML standards exist, to allow an HTML document to be displayed by any browser that wants to.

    Easy method: during OS installation or afterwards, the user installs a browser that registers an IBrowser COM class. Until this is done the HTML help isn't available. If the user has no other browser he can elect to have MSIE installed as the default, but if he prefers Netscape he can skip MSIE and install Netscape. When Windows needs to display an HTML help page, it uses Microsoft's own COM facilities to instantiate an IBrowser object and uses that to display the help pages. If Microsoft has written standard HTML, the pages display correctly enough. And yes, I know about ActiveX. I tend to dismiss it, since I haven't seen any use of it on Microsoft's help pages that couldn't be duplicated using W3C-standard HTML tags.

  • No, exactly relevent. When Netscape screws up displaying of the help pages, who do you think gets the support call?

    First call would be to Microsoft. The first question they ask is "What browser are you using for help files?". When the user replies "Netscape.", the response is "We aren't Netscape. Call them.". Since the HTML source is readily available, Netscape can look and see whether it's standard HTML or not. If it is, Netscape has the bug and they fix it. If the HTML isn't standard, then Microsoft created the bug and they get to fix it. Simple, no?

    Why, in particular, do you oppose a browser versus any other aspect of the OS such as, say, Notepad? I mean, if you don't like it, don't use it.

    Because Microsoft hasn't made it impossible to not use Notepad. They don't claim Notepad is part of the OS, and force it's use for editing certain files. They have made it impossible not to use MSIE for certain things, even when alternatives are in fact available and Microsoft themselves created the means to make use of those alternatives. All Microsoft has to do to let any browser be used for their help files is interface to their own browser in exactly the same way they tell everyone else to interface to it for viewing HTML pages.

  • I'm not a lwayer. I haven't followed the evidence in the trial. I have idea of the legal merits of the government's case. Even so, if this were a jury trial instead of a adminstrative law procedure, and I were on the jury, I would have been deeply offended by two things Microsoft did that were widely reported. First, there was the misleading videotape -- even if Microsoft is right and the tape was factually correct, entering into a court of law and submitting evidence of "the same PC" before and after IE's removal with a tape that can be proved to have shown two different PCs would seriously damage their credibility with me. Next, in a grandstand move, to put up an empty sheet of graph paper and claim it was the analysis done by the government's expert economist is likewise insulting. The lawyer can call into question the accuracy and thoroughness of the witness without recourse to an obviously phony grandstand ploy. That was done for the court of public opinion.

    All of this said, while I long to see Microsoft broken up into seperate companies, I remain completely ignorant of the actual legal issues and quality of evidence in this trial. I have no idea what will happen, although I eagerly await the results...
  • A lot of folks seem to be confusing the term "monopoly" with "owning 100% of the market", and so see alternatives like the free unices, BeOS, etc as proof that MS doesn't have a monopoly.

    Sorry, but that's not the legal definition. Even if it were, when this all went to trial Microsoft certainly had a monopoly on OS preloads on x86 PCs -- that monopoly which they illegally used to leverage the success of their IE browser at the expense of Netscape, in clear violation of a consent decree Microsoft signed when several on-line service providers sued over the MSN icon on the original Windows 95 desktop.

    (These things are never as simple as the press makes them out -- remember the audience the press is writing for.)
  • Comparing this to the telephone breakup of the 80's is very worth-while. The US gov't broke up AT&T Bell into Long Distance (AT&T), and seven (I think) regional local telephone companies (Bell South, Bell Atlantic, etc...). This breakup was supposed to end AT&T's monopoly in the telephone carrier business.

    Did it work? In short, no. Only after a bit more legislation (the Telecom Act of 1996 [technologylaw.com]) have we begun to see some serious competition as far as local and long distance telephone companies.

    The Microsoft case has some similarities, in that Microsoft controls the OS market (analogous to the telephone wires of AT&T), and it has used that control to dominate the software market (analogous to local & LD telephone service). OK, maybe weak analogies, but stay with me. Both companies used their monopoly to prohibit competition in another related market.

    But there are differences, too. Specifically, AT&T's monopoly was complete & absolute, mostly because of the prohibitive high cost of entry into the market. To sell a competitive telephone service, you'd have to literally string up your own wires & lease your own land all over the country. That's not the case with Microsoft. They have some scant competition (MacOS, *nix, etc), and there isn't the high entry cost.

    I think the government remembers the mistakes they made in breaking up AT&T, and all the hassle they had to go through to get the Telecom act of 1996 through (12 years after the fact). So, my guess is if they do break Microsoft up, they'll do it with a vengence. I predict (& hope) that they separate the OS development/marketing/sales structures from the application development/marketing/sales structures, forming at least two different companies in place of Microsoft.

    But that doesn't mean Microsoft will disappear. Look at AT&T and all the Baby Bells -- they're still alive & kicking, they're just not making as much money as they used to. That's probably what will happen to MS as well. So, the Linux/OSS community will still have a common enemy to fight; that enemy just won't have as many teeth as before.

    -- Mid




    N.B. -- for a lengthy discussion of the Bell Telephone System, see the MIT HyperArchives [mit.edu]
  • Yes, and No. The problem is that a few years ago when microsoft was first on trial, it was rulled that microsoft could not bundle anymore software into windows than they already had. Given a browser is an important thing to bundle into and operating system distrubution, but it is not the operating system itself. Microsoft is trying to get around that language by saying that the browser is an intergral part of the operating system and cannot be removed. Bundling is generally a good thing, and I generally appeciate it when any operating system bundles packages that I like to use with their operating system. But Microsoft was banned from such practices, thus making it illigal.
  • You switched from Linux TO Windows? Your a sick man... I do have to admit that netscape has had some major instability issues since 4.0. But I would recommend you try 4.61 (not 4.60) its amazingly stable, it accually made a IE to Netscape convert out of a MCSE friend of mine.
  • Sure, and you need a wordprocessor to read many other documents. An operating system consist of a kernal, and hardware interfaces and a shell and or GUI (though a GUI really isn't part of an operating system.. but I'll let that slide). Please before you make any arguments about what an operating system consist of go to school and take a class on operating systems, I promise, you will learn a lot. (and no I havn't taken such class but plan too as soon as I can).
  • Antitrust law makes illegal "combinations in restraint of trade," and "anticompetitive practices." Taken literally, that makes all businesses criminal, since by definition, they work to beat their competition and drive them out of business.

    All businesses compete with anticompetitive practices?

    In point of fact, all corporations do not work to drive their competition out of business. Corporations work to maximize profit. If a company can eat so much of a market that it drives others out of business, that is collateral damage. This is entirely different from specifically driving competition out of business in order to reap more profits.

    For example, Coca-Cola presumably wants to increase the demand for Coca-Cola soft drinks. They may do this at the expense of Pepsi-Cola soft drinks (because they currently have no chance of destroying Pepsi-Cola), or the soft drinks of smaller soda vendors, or even at the expense of beer vendors. If they could sell Coca-Cola as a machine lubricant, they would do that. All of this maximizes sales, none of this restrains trade.

    If they have destroyed some smaller soft drink firms, they still have not attempted to do so. It is collateral damage. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been shown to take specific actions to destroy other companies.

    Most of the things that Microsoft has done were not considered crimes when they were doing them. That's why the government emphasizes "patterns of behavior." Very few of MS's specific actions are illegal, but only "when taken as a whole" they are illegal. That seems to me overly broad.

    The pattern of behavior is still a valid legal concept. If I were a seven-time widower whose wives had all died of "freak accidents", then this pattern itself is evidence for a charge of homicide against me. It is likely not enough to convict me, but it strengthens other evidence. The specifics of the IE/Netscape case are that other evidence in this case.

    BTW, if you are attacking the law itself, are you not attacking from a position higher than Federal law? The only position I know of higher than Federal law is morality. Do you suggest that we not apply the law to Microsoft because the law is immoral, though Microsoft's immoral actions are to be accepted because there is no law against them?

    Now you can say that the courts can figure this stuff out, but my point is that it shouldn't have to. There's no ambiguity abouyt what constitutes murder. There might be some uncertainty at the edges about which kind of murder a given act is, but if you kill someone and you were not being attacked at the time, you are guilty of some form of murder.

    Funny that you should choose that example. Kevorkian is currently in jail for an ambiguous murder. Pro-life and Pro-choice advocates are trying to change or defend the current definition of murder.

    The courts exist for ambiguity, because a law that is too specific can be worked around. You are correct in that a law can be too vague to be useful as anything but a bludgeon. As in many things, one must avoid both extremes. We merely disagree as to whether or not antitrust law is extremely vague.

    The DoJ is prosecuting Microsoft on antitrust charges because their other crimes are committed against specific entities that can and should prosecute them seperately. Note that Sun Microsystems is currently suing Microsoft over their Java implementation. Caldera is or was suing Microsoft over their efforts to sabotage DR/DOS. The DoJ trial is not the only thing landing Microsoft in court these days.

    Fine, and if those prosecutions are for real, specific crimes, I support their right to do so. But let's keep them seperate from this trial, which is not about specific crimes.

    My comment is in boldface, and was a response to a comment saying that the DoJ can't find anything more specific than antitrust to prosecute on.

    Capitalism means the free market. A free market in which the Federal government is allowed to step in and stop companies who act "unfairly" is a contradiction in terms. Over the long term, monopolies are impossible in a free market, even without antitrust law. Antitrust law is not a safeguard of a free market. It undermines it and makes it less free.

    I disagree with the lot of that. First off, a free market is not a capitalism. AFAIK, a free market is one where there are no legal restrictions on economic activity. In such an environment, one can legally engage in blackmail, extortion, unregulated gambling, pyramid schemes, and flat-out theft.

    A capitalism, OTOH, is a system where the regulations are set up to make it easiest to earn money by serving others. McDonald's makes tons of money turning hungry people into non-hungry people. It is a light, not heavy, grip on economic control. In a properly working capitalism, one can make more money selling good products than by, say, a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are cheap, and make more money in a free market, but provide the public with nada.

    Monopolies destroy themselves? Where? How?

    But if you still want the free market, I'll work with that. Microsoft only has its monopoly because of government regulation. Their chief asset is a set of copyrights. In a free market, copyright law simply does not exist. Microsoft is a government protected monopoly.

    As for Microsoft being a "wrench" in the gears, I think you might be suffering from myopia. From a technical standpoint, Windows is a mediocre product. But for most users, it is *still* the best choice for many tasks. The Mac OS doesn't have the software base and the commodity hardware, and the Unices are intimidating for the average user. I hope something better comes along to replace Windows, but for now I think the existence of Windows is a good thing. I'd hate to see that obstructed by government interference.

    MS Windows is the best platform out there for a lot of things. I own a Windows machine. The fact that it is the best doesn't imply that it is any good. A car with square wheels is the best car out there if Squarewheel Motors sabotages anyone who tries to sell cars with round wheels.

    The point is that Microsoft makes sure that Windows is the "best" by making sure that anything better dies young. Again, this is by design, rather than collateral damage.

    Here are some recent platform threats, and how MS sabotaged them.

    OS/2: Microsoft ran "astroturf" campaigns--defrauding the public by making complaints about the platform that were supposed to be from random users, but were in fact from MS itself.

    Also, they made deals with hardware vendors where the vendors would pay for every machine they sold, regardless of OS. This kept hardware vendors from shipping other OSs because they would pay double the licensing fee, and was the cause oforiginal antitrust lawsuit.

    WebTV (a way to get on the Web W/O Windows): Bought by MS. If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

    Macintosh: Really didn't have to do anything to knock them out; Apple did that well enough. Apple now has partnered with MS for a huge cash infusion: perhaps to make it look like there is competition for Windows?

    Netscape: Microsoft realized that Netscape allowed you to run apps on the Web, thus making the desktop irrelevant. They knocked Netscape off the map by giving IE away for free, and by giving vendors perks for not shipping Netscape. This not only is a direct attack against Netscape, but it paves the way for IE extensions, only served by MS Web servers, to give MS a chance to monopolize the Web server market by leveraging their desktop monopoly.

    Linux: Read the paper. Better yet, read Slashdot. Also, did you notice that the Big Guys started backing Linux only after MS landed in court? The timing wasn't coincidental: before the trial, vendors were afraid to do that and be denied licences, which would effectively cut them out of the PC market entirely.

  • The last thing we need is a precedent for government harrassment of the software industry.

    You don't need to harass the software industry to remedy the Microsoft situation. Microsoft has already shown that they have contempt for legal restrictions, so all the legal restrictions in the world would not affect them. A pure break-up would remedy the Microsoft problem without putting the government on the backs of the software industry.

    The idea that Microsoft should be punished for out-competing its competition is ludicrous.

    I fully agree. I also believe that the idea that Microsoft is out-competing its competition is equally ludicrous.

    Microsoft has lied (in court and "astroturf" campaigns), stolen (remember Stac vs. Microsoft?), and generally cheated their way to market dominance, and are currently using the same tactics to stay there. I personally cannot recall Microsoft ever gaining or retaining market dominance by creating a superior product.

    Given the number of alternatives there are to Windows, and given that both sides give their browsers for free anyway, I fail to see how Microsoft has done anything illegal in this matter.

    Let's start with perjury. Microsoft executives, up to Bill Gates himself, have been caught flat-out lying to the court. This doesn't require a fine on the part of Microsoft, but in fact is a series of criminal charges against members of their high command.

    From there, we go to violating an agreement that they signed to get out of legal trouble earlier. The Microsoft position on the "bundling" issue is that the definition of "bundling" is indefensible, and that they thus signed a bogus document.

    Elsewhere, they are on trial for their implementation of Java.

    Finally, there is the antitrust violation itself. They are using a monopoly position in one area (desktops) to produce a monopoly position in other areas (servers, Internet) by literally sabotaging the efforts of other corporations (rather than by making a superior product).

    Even if they have broken the law, we're talking about antitrust. Antitrust law is the most vague, overreaching, intrusive law that can be imagined.

    That is the most vague, overreaching statement I have heard in a long time. What do you mean by that?

    I can find very vague laws in the Bill of Rights, and some people would call them overreaching (look at the right to bear arms). I defend vague laws below. The Sherman Antitrust act is relatively precise.

    It literally gives the Feds the power to harrass any company that manages to get a large market share.

    The Feds have the power to harass any company, regardless of market share. It's called the IRS. But that's another story...

    And it gets reinterpreted every few years, so there's no way Microsoft can possibly predict which things are and are not illegal.

    Most laws get reinterpreted every few years, depending on new opportunities to commit crimes. A bunch of laws are getting reinterpreted to handle crimes committed on the Internet, for example.

    As far as predicting which things are and are not illegal, forget the reinterpretations. Using a monopoly position, as such, to either keep that monopoly or gain a new monopoly, is illegal. Having a monopoly position by virtue of superior products, and keeping that position by improving one's product, is not illegal.

    I don't deny that Microsoft is sleazy, but sleaziness is not a crime.

    Certain forms of sleaziness are crimes, and those are the forms that people prosecute Microsoft for.

    Laws should be specific and to-the-point.

    I disagree. A law that is too specific can be worked around; the best way to avoid pseudocrime (acts which should be crimes but really aren't due to a technicality) is to write a general law.

    Remember that the highest law in the land, the Constitution, is written up with a lot of vague laws. the vagueness of these laws is precisely what makes them useful two hundred years later.

    If the best charges they can dream up are antitrust charges, that tells me that either they are innocent of any real crime, or there needs to be new laws to address the specific types of crimes they have committed.

    The DoJ is prosecuting Microsoft on antitrust charges because their other crimes are committed against specific entities that can and should prosecute them seperately. Note that Sun Microsystems is currently suing Microsoft over their Java implementation. Caldera is or was suing Microsoft over their efforts to sabotage DR/DOS. The DoJ trial is not the only thing landing Microsoft in court these days.

    But to twist antitrust law to cover whatever activity the current dominant player in a given industry is without warning is a very bad thing.

    I agree. Fortunately, this is not being done here.

    Antitrust law is used here to cover activities used by the current dominant player in a given industry to sabotage efforts of other players, including the former dominant player in another industry.

    As for the "without warning", Microsoft has had plenty of warning. You cannot call a second antitrust trial a use of antitrust law without warning.

    There was no way Micrsoft could have predicted what would be considered a crime, since the things they are accused of doing have been done by many other companies with no legal repercussions.

    Other companies are not monopolies. Antitrust law prevents a monopoly from performing certain activities that are legal for other companies. These are specifically the activities that do not work unless one is a monopoly. Antitrust law is an attempt to reduce the tremendous power that a monopoly would otherwise have compared to its nonmonopolistic brethren.

    I just hope Microsoft gets off the hook. Even if they broke antitrust laws, they don't deserve to be punished.

    I don't care about punishment, and I don't want to punish anybody. I do care about keeping capitalism working. Monopolies break the assumptions of capitalism, and thus break the capitalism.

    Why do I care about capitalism? While I think that it's a good thing in and of itself, I also think that capitalism provides good products. And I, for one, am sick and tired of slogging through stupid broken software (or jumping through hoops to avoid same) to get my work done. In a properly working capitalism, the software would work better, period. And Microsoft is a monkey wrench thrown into the gears of that capitalism.

    I don't want to punish the wrench. I want to get it out of the gears, or turn it to dust, and get the gears working. Any "punishment" done to the wrench is simply collateral damage.

  • I don't know whether it's true that Einstein said that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest, but I'm proposing a rival: inertia, specifically corporate inertia.

    MS knows how to encourage it and profit from it, but that's their deal -- being clever is hardly a crime.

    If the businesses you deal with (say the clients at the agency I work for) all use MS applications and exchange their documents in less-portable formats because they don't see that this could ever be a problem ("Well, everybody has Word, right?!"), then one of the costs of doing business with them is remaining compatible.

    Besides this (fairly reasonable, I say, though misguided) trend to keep businesses MS-only, there's also a knee-jerk reaction of the Newest Fastest Highest variety ... do most business users need a 600MHz chip in their desktop PCs? Ha! (Do most business users need a *three* hundred MHz chip in their desktop PCs? Again, Ha!, but not as loudly. The PC Magazines usually advise readers to get 'current' technology (that is, not bleeding edge, but the Good Stuff nonetheless), even though in many / most cases that is overkill overkill.

    Same goes for computer companies. If they want to toady up to MS and agree to, say, exclusively offer MS operating systems on their machines, or agree to *not* install Netscape (or whatever), that's their deal. If I say you can rent my house only if you agree to also water the lawn once a week, it's up to you to accept the exchange. VA systems and a number of others chose not to take that deal; this limits their appeal to some customers and increases it to others. Choice, choice, choice.

    So when people complain that other OSes are not 'competitive' with MS Win9X or NT, it's important to point out that 'competing' is not the same as 'winning' ... having a market preponderance shows that the sum of decisions (some good, some bad, some neutral) which affects your product favors your product over the competition, for the moment. Markets are always.

    What surprises me is the vitriol and glibness with which large-scale intervention and oversight is accepted when it comes to MS. A lot of (even semi-positive) posts on MS start "Now I hate MS as much as the next guy, and I'd like to see Bill Gates thrown onto a pile of punji sticks then torturously baked, but ..."

    Live and let crumble, I say.

    timothy




  • An AC wrote:

    Picture the (former) US telephone monopoly.


    Now picture people getting so fed up with them that they, as volunteers, build their own parallel phone system and let anybody use it for free.

    Now picture the phone company arguing in court that that is competition, hence they are not a monopoly...


    And they'd be right, wouldn't they? Remember, the only true (coercive, protected) monopolies in this country are those instituted (like the phone companies of old) because it was thought that the government could decrease the inefficiency of having multiple and overlapping phone systems ...

    timothy
  • There seem to be a lot of opinions here on how best to subdivide Microsoft, right down to how many people should be in each of the resultant divisions.

    Consider that this means some sort of arbitrary decision by an outside authority, if such a breakup were actually to be effected.

    How far down the line would you like that kind of control to be exerted? If you own a business, do you have the right to organize it the way you want? I say yes. 'Size of business' is not a factor, morally, and it *shouldn't* be one legally, either. In fact, if you don't have that right, you don't truly own it at all, because ownership carries the right to organize according to the will of the owner.

    (A brief aside: this does require context. Mowing a profanity into your lawn will probably have ill effects on your neighbbors, but how you organize your home- based programming business inside your house oughtn't. So I am not saying that MS must be allowed to hang deer carcasses upwind of Seattle, only that a company has the right to decide what it peacably does with its own assets.)

    just thoughts,

    timothy


  • Microsoft lawyer John Warden criticized what he called the government's `astounding failures of proof,'' together with ``red herrings, lies, misstatements and omissions'' presented during 76 days of courtroom testimony.

    Pity these guys who work for the Gates, at least on this score (they are raking in the dough, but man this has to hurt them when they realize they're whores in the worst sense of that word). They have to stand up in front of a judge who has seen their clients lie, and get caught incontrovertibly in that lie. Moreover, their witnesses have said such things as "I don't know what 'piss all over'" means, and so forth. Then, of course there are the astroturf campaigns. What can they say in reply? It seems like the only place to go is claim that your opponents are doing it, because the opponents are saying the opposite of what your client is saying.

    What else can they come up with? "This case is motivated by jealousy." True, possibly: the DOJ might never have initiated proceedings had Ellison, Barksdale, McNealy, et al not pressured them to. But that of course has nothing to do with the merits of the case. Plenty of evidence points to the fact that MS has not only pursued the "top of the heap" location, but has used dirty tricks to stay there.

    Their clients have treated the rest of the world with contempt; they have treated the judge with contempt, and they have treated consumers with contempt. What do you say to defend such a client? I, for one, am glad for the fact that IANAL.

  • "Windows 95 has shipped with a nice little app called FTP.EXE since day one."

    I agree, its a nice little app. Fine for you or me, but if you think a typical Windows user even knows ftp.exe exists or is able to use it, please re-estimate the problem a little :).

    One of the most common questions I get when helping MS friends with new computers is "what is a directory?" They don't even know what an "exe" is because Windows Explorer hides file extensions by default. CLI tools usually aren't even on their horizon for a few weeks, and typically require line by line help over the phone to use them for a while. Just finding a file after it's downloaded provides a challenge to many. They aren't stupid, just totally inexperienced.

    I don't think this situation is healthy or good, but it is reality.
  • I agree with you that the browser bundling is a poor argument. Every OS distribution needs a browser enabled after installation, so that, if nothing else, the browser of choice may be downloaded easily. It's also good for making system upgrades and security patches available, and of course help resources. Whether the browser belongs in the OS, or in the file manager application, I don't much care as long as it's fully replaceable and easy to get working.

    But I think Microsoft put it very well when they suggested we need a hall monitor here. Microsoft has bullied and bought out its competition in a fashion destructive to an entire industry. To the point in this case, they illegally leveraged their desktop monopoly in order to supress competition in applications, it doesn't get any clearer than that.

    I wouldn't break MS up, I prefer a single large target, clumsy from it's own weight. Microsoft might be smart enough to break itself up if the DOJ doesn't do it for them. What I would do is insure that Microsoft ceases and desists from threatening to stop sales to distributors if they carry competing products. If possible, that should be made criminal, with Mr. Gates personally responsible for seeing it doesn't happen. We don't need to tolerate bullying in business. We can't if we expect free market to mean anything at all. We want to select for quality of product, not weight of gorilla.

  • call me optimistic, but i think the US government is going to do the right thing on this one.
    As bad as some parts of the government have been to us, the judiciaries always seem to come through, and i'm looking forward to the break up of M$.

    ---
  • Disclaimer: I like GNU/Linux and the GPL. However, I'm /not/ trying to bait anyone. :)

    Isn't the case supposed to be about the state of affairs when the trial first started? In that case, no OS you could possibly name would come even near qualifying as "competition" in the eyes of the average end-user (and no, most end-users are not hackers, for those with very odd perceptions indeed).

    As far as *BSD competing for the.. desktop? The BSD brothers are direct descendants from the original UNIX. The first of those three projects began in what, 1991? I think if they were going to capture the desktop of all places, they'd have "caught fire" by now. In the very early 90's NetBSD was certainly more functional than GNU/Linux, if only for the fact that the kernel had just been written, while UNIX code has been around for quite some time.

    GNU/Linux still isn't much of a threat to the desktop market. Most Linux "desktops" I know of that are made by a computer company that your average end-user would even know about (that is to say, VA and Penguin Computing do /not/ count) don't even have modems on the things thanks to silly "Winmodem" policies (just see Dell's site for an excellent example).

    GNU/Linux and *BSD are making significant inroads on the server side, and GNU/Linux is shaping up to take on the desktop.. But it's not happening.. yet. The hardware companies will have to fall further into line first. And they're, quite honestly, being sissies right now for the most part. Afraid to get into the pool because the water might be too cold.

    It's more like a jacuzzi, though, if you ask me. :)

  • I agree with this general assessment, but there is one problem.

    The core of the case originally revolved around the issue of what can be in an OS. I don't think this issue will disappear with the break up. The OS Company would probably continue to push forward into the development of IE integrated on the desktop, and perhaps even more applications we see as seperate now.

    I could see a couple of years after the breakup, a new version of the OS that contains an integrated browser/word processor/spreadsheet. They could claim its enhancing the functionality of the OS and we'd be in the same place as we are now.

    What could be done to prevent this situation repeating itself? Well that's the other ramification of the case. If the government gets to tell the OS Division what can be included or excluded from their operating system, then that gets into some serious legal issues for the rest of us.

    I don't know the best solution to this issue. Actually, scratch that. I think the best solution would be for MS to loose their market dominance through competition from things like open source projects. I just don't think its going to happen in the short- to mid-term.
  • Anyone with any rationality has to conclude that MS is innocent in this case. The DOJ picked the wrong case by focusing on browsers. A browser is a natural extension of an operating system, for the simple fact it is such a useful tool. If a manufacturer wants to, say, put all his help pages into HTML, how can he do it? He can't, unless there is a standard browser built into the operating system.

    Of course, MS semi-screwed up too by even getting near the fact that the browser can't be removed from the OS. Of course it can. What they should have focused on (which they did for awhile, I believe) was that it's an essential part of the OS because they want to actual use the tool in other standard parts of the OS (heaven forbid!)

    Of course, Slashdot is the wrong place to bring rational arguments regarding MS. :)

  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:10AM (#1667822)
    DoJ stiffs Gates one last time as trial closes [theregister.co.uk]

    On a somewhat different subject there's also this article: Nasdaq hacked through MS security hole [theregister.co.uk]

  • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:54AM (#1667823)
    Yes, I have seen this argument before and I pretty much buy into it. Microsoft seems to be pointing at Linux and the developments that have happened since the DOJ first filed this suit. It seems like a thin distracting tactic that Jackson is not likely to buy, but Microsoft seems to have realized that they can't win the case inside the courtroom, so they are taking their message to the outside world in some desperate attempt to sway public opinion in their favor.

    Anything that has developed since the DOJ first filed this motion should not have any bearing on this case. What happened up to the point of the case going to Federal Court and the evidence presented in the course of the trial are of course what the judge will weigh in making his decision.
    Microsoft knows they will lose on Jackson's decision. Microsoft appears to be trying to influence public perception to the point that it may benefit them in the appeal.

    The issue is not if Linux or anything else is a real competitive threat to Microsoft's dominace of the home and business desktop. The issue is if Microsoft used the _fact_ of its overpowering market share of the pre-installed commercial desktop OS business to illegaly position its other products at the expense of its competitors.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that the DOJ has a very strong case that this is in fact what did happen. Microsoft twisted arms left and right to make sure that IE was the only browser pre-installed on systems made by major suppliers. Then they went a step further by claiming that the OS was an integrated component of the OS itself, further entrenching IE into pre-installed systems and squeezing Netscape further out of the market it once dominated.

    Didn't Dell, Gateway and a bunch of others come out and describe the tactics Microsoft used? Isn't it odd that all of a sudden these major players are beginning to offer Linux systems, now that Microsoft's illegal practices have been brought out into the open and they can't continue to threaten to raise license fees or cut discounts?

    God, I'm not sure what will come of all this. Part of me wants Microsoft to pay dearly for their sins. Another part of me wants Microsoft to transform into a better company that makes decent products at reasonable prices and has ethical business practices. I guess as long as there is fair competition, Microsoft is stopped from continueing its dirty tricks, I'll be satisfied.
  • by CaptKeen ( 92992 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:01AM (#1667824) Homepage
    Now the verdict here could make things very interesting indeed for the software world. For all of its evils (Windows included), Microsoft needs to have a verdict delivered against it. I do not mean this as a "down with MS cuz it sux" remark. Microsoft has done some really innovative things in the past. Without Microsoft, where would we be in the OS business today? They kinda were in it from the beginning....waaaay back with MS-Dos. I remember running MS-Dos on the PCJr. and it was cool back then to have a command prompt. No, for all of their faults, Microsoft has contributed in a major way to the advancement of computing. However, in the last 3-5 years or so, maybe longer, maybe shorter, they moved away from more of the pionering and development into the arm twisting business. The arm twisting business, unfortunately, is a bad business to be in. Microsoft got caught. I've worked in one of the larger electronics superstores, and it was no secret to us that MS had made certain deals with manufacturers and if the certain conditions werent met (IE latest edition of a certain browser bundled, or LACK of another browser bundled) then those companies would loose the right to either A) discounts on the MS stuff, or B) access to the MS stuff altogether. Using scare tactics, MS controlled certain manufacturers (before the products hit our stores, MS didnt bother with us except to make sure we obeyed licensing). For this Microsft must pay.

    But to what extent? The breakup of the company? I dont think so. Fines? Yes. Say, lost profits to certain companies, punative damages to make sure they dont do it again. Deep punative damages. Splitting the OS part of MS from the Apps? I just don't know. I think it would make for a worse picture in the future in that area, not a better one. I think that with a forced split, the company would end up still working together, although not a closely as it had been. And what could the government do then? More fines. I'm just not convinced on the splitting part. I'm interested to see how others think the verdict should go. Could spark up an interesting debate.

    But I'm done rambling for now, I do still need to get that sleep, been up for too long. Later ./ers!

    -Captain Keen
    --
  • by JennyWL ( 93561 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:23AM (#1667825)
    Sounds like you subscribe to the "good enemy" concept--you know, a good enemy is one you have to stretch to your limits to beat. The problem seems to be that Microsoft can't be beaten by playing fair, i.e. competing on the merits of the product. This is because Microsoft DOESN'T compete strictly on the merits of their product (how could they?), and the kinds of "cheating" they engage in really make the most of their company's other advantages: they have the resources to seriously influence buying patterns through FUD and "creative benchmarking", they have the bucks to acquire competing technologies so they can incorporate or eliminate them, and they have the market clout to set defacto standards or to "embrace and extend", i.e. subvert, negotiated standards, as the Halloween documents revealed.

    Against these fairly awesome forces, the open-source community has what? Good sense (individually), good processes (generally), great code, and personal motivation. These are important things, but they noticeably don't include good marketing, solid representation in standards-creating bodies, and political clout. Yes, I said political clout: Microsoft would have been slapped down hard years ago if another organization with serious pull had gone after all the legal wrongs they've done.

    I agree that the open source seems to need something to rally against, but I don't think the Evil Empire is exactly it: open source began because people wanted code that was good, and free. So what they're rallying against is code that is bad, and/or expensive (and closed-source). Microsoft is a putrid example of all these things, and as the largest such example is an easy target, but if Bill Gates had stayed at Harvard and become a lawyer or something there would still be bad expensive code out there, and I believe the open source community would be just as fervently creating alternatives to it. In fact, I think the open source community will be continually pushed to better things as long as they remain the underdogs: almost any individual company could fill the "good enemy" role. If open source "wins", and closed source becomes the anomaly instead of the rule, then I think the community would struggle to redefine itself. But I don't see that happening soon, and breaking up Microsoft won't bring this about all by itself.

    Jenny
  • by =trott= ( 94164 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:27AM (#1667826) Homepage
    I think we'll all agree that the tech world evolves extremely rapid. For a company, keeping up-to-date costs heaps of money. Small wonder then that everyone is falling asleep over this trial. Strange that the DOJ doesn't seem to have taken this into account. Anyway, this could in theory have been settled quickly: 1) MS didn't have an internet policy to speak of, in fact, even tried to 'replace' it with their own MSN. (ridiculous as it sounds) 2) Netscape did have the correct amount of vision here and rose very fast among the hi-tech companies. 3) MS sees everything evolving, takes an existing product, puts on some fancy buttons and gives it away for free. (how's that for unprecedented) Now what would their motive have been here? The Netscape-AOL merger isn't proof of existing competition, it's a result of anti-competitive practices. The unethical business practices have been _here_, not afterwards... I mean, even installing an NT service pack gets you IE shoved down your throat nowadays...And which reasonable administrator puts a browser which has become so bloated on a critical server? (Although the time when Navigator fit on a single floppy is long behind us too now...)
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:37AM (#1667827)
    Government: "... and your honor, as we have clearly demonstrated Bill Gates is infact the anti-christ and should be immediately slain by a silver sword under a full moon on the fourth week of february".

    Microsoft: "... We will concede that Mr. Gates is a deity of extraordinary power and has been very 'innovative' in the area of computers. But the economic loss would be immeasurable if we were to kill him. We recommend breaking up into four seperate units - four horsemen if you will, who will ride fourth bringing Office, NT, W2K, and The Road Ahead to everybody!"

    --

  • Many have written in that, in a way, Microsoft is not guilty of the crime of anticompetitive behavior against netscape by integrating their own browser into the operating system. I repsectfully disagree, and argue that their punishment, in this case, did fit the crime, and that the government, though it punished Microsoft harshly for its actions, is justified.

    "Huh?" you say. They haven't been broken up, at least yet. They may even win the case.

    Well duh, people, look at all the news about Linux, and ask yourself how well Red Hat would have done if it weren't for the trial. Would there be Calderra and I-toasters for general sale at Best Buy now? Would there be the emphasis on alternatives? Would Dell have the guts to sell and support Linux on their systems?

    Yes, Microsoft has payed dearly for its crimes against the public-loved Netscape. And it's punishment isn't over yet. The trial IS microsoft's punishment, and they are guilty, guilty, guilty as the trial goes on. Don't be fools, this was the point. Breaking up microsoft, as the company often says, would make them just another player in the market like Sun or IBM. But they are already on the road there! They have lost their way, propelled by our legal system that punishes the guilty and innocent alike. Think twice before predicting the outcome next time.

    As most of us know already:

    The crime was arrogance.
    The judge, jury, and executioner is the justice system.
    And the punishment is a trial that will wreck you.

    Only God can save them now.

    -Ben
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:56AM (#1667829) Homepage Journal
    > Without Microsoft, where would be we in the OS
    > business today?

    Uh, I think you may have a distorted sense of history.

    I was working in software back in those early days of DOS. A few examples of operating systems that were available: Unix (System III and BSD 4.X), Xenix, Vax/VMS, Pick, TOPS20, maybe four or more different choices for the PDP 11 alone... Of course, for running on an eight bit system, you could go with CP/M, Turbodos, Apple DOS.

    The only thing that all these various systems had in common is that they were vastly superior to MS-DOS, which itself was just a clumsy attempt to clone CP/M. And, yes, they all had command prompts. MS-DOS only got a foothold because the IBM PC was an expensive status symbol for managers. However, these expensive doorstops sitting on people's desks attracted the interest of developers. IBM PCs didn't really become useful until Lotus 123, and even then MS-DOS wasn't any contributing factor. Start with riding IBM's coattails, throw in a little strong arm tactics and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • by cdmoyer ( 86798 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @12:50AM (#1667830) Homepage Journal
    That's what I wonder... so the government wins. Microsoft has used unfair business practices and is a monopoly of sorts? What happens then. A telephone style break up where MS is broken up into a bunch of smaller division. The IE division the 9x division, the NT division?

    As much as I am anti-microsoft... their dominance and accidental leadership seems to push the opensource commmunity to better things. Without the dominance of Windows, would a great Linux desktop environemnt like KDE or Gnome exist... I think not. The open-source community almost seems to need something to rally against...

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