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DoJ Seeks Advice on Effects of Microsoft Breakup 200

Goon writes " Here's an article at CNN about how the Justice department has hired a consultant to gage the effect of breaking up microsoft into 3 or 4 smaller companies. According to the article, it appears that this is what the DOJ is intending to do if a settlement is not reached."
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DoJ Seeks Advice on Effects of Microsoft Breakup

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  • Given what happened to the shares of the AT&T companies after they were broken up, is there any reason to believe that he _wouldn't_ want the company broken up into four pieces?

  • My strong point isn't the analysis of large corporations...could somebody share their professional opinion of what a breakup would result in? Granted, any damage to Microsoft is good, but I'm wondering if this would really have an effect as great as it has been made out to be.

    Actually, it brings to mind some mythology movie I don't remember the name of...the hero-type character would attack the snake-monster thing, but upon severing a limb, the limb became yet another snake-monster. Granted, I'm not great on the details, but ponder a world with four Microsofts. :)

    So, what do you corporate types think? (if corporate types exist on /.)

  • What if it turns out that microsoft is like a starfish, you cut off one arm, it grows into a whole new "starfish". I dont know how breakups would work, im assuming that investers would receive stock distributed evenly over the four companies, hence keeping Gates in a good position to continue making boatloads of cash. Then, after things settle down the baby bills start talking and after a more favorable administration comes into power, and perhaps a few more things happen, they merge again.
  • by Nemesis ( 78866 ) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @11:30PM (#1485303) Homepage
    While the firm was hired to gauge the effects of a possible breakup, they were also hired to gauge the financial effects (on the US economy) of all possible solutions. They were not hired to exclusively research a breakup as the slashdot article title and scoop kinda hints at.

    In a brief statement issued Thursday, the Justice Department said Greenhill & Co. would act as "financial advisor to assist the [antitrust] division in analyzing financial aspects of the full range of potential remedies in U.S. v. Microsoft, including conduct and structural relief."

    On a different note, is anyone else getting tired of hearing about microsoft yet? =]
  • Microsoft will be under fire for the next 5 years from various sue-happy organizations... "Windows crashed and my online girlfriend and I were seperated for 10 minutes... I'm sueing for *emotional distress*!", etc.

    If Microsoft lawyers' know what's good for them, they'll settle, and settle now.

  • Who cares about that Bill Gates character and his shares?
    The point of a monopoly remedy is to break the stranglehold that ms has and allow other companies to be able to compete in an open marketplace, it's not to diminish the net wealth of the jerk who runs microsoft. As far as I'm concerned, he's irrelevant.

    breaking up is hard to do...

  • Actually, it brings to mind some mythology movie I don't remember the name of...the hero-type character would attack the snake-monster thing, but upon severing a limb, the limb became yet another snake-monster.

    That would be Hercules vs. the Hydra.

    I read lots of Greek mythology as a child, but I was appalled to realise that I only remember whoe was involved in this battle because of the Disney movie. Help, there's something wrong with my culture...

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • I remember when ATT broke up. The split was very effective at the time. But now, we have less service and baby bells are eating baby bells. Not much longer and we will be back to a single overall owner, with different subsidaries feining competition in different markets.

    If a break up is to happen what would resist the
    same from happening again?

    I don't like to admit it, but microsoft has a large base and it would be near impossible for different parts not to communicate and make "magic" handshakes behind the closed doors.
  • Anybody watch Sliders? There was an episode where they travelled to this world were MS stock crashed and the whole market was set into ruin. But the thing is I would give ANYTHING to travel to that world, I mean the rebuilding process after such an event without Microsoft to stifle technology would be very rewarding in the end I think. Of course living through a depression doesn't sound like to much fun, but I would still love to go to that world, I mean sure there were terrorists killing people in the streets and tanks driving all over the place, but there was no MS! At least you can put on a bullet proof vest to protect you from terrorists, nothing can save you from MS. :)
    But seriously, I've said it before. We have had companies broken up before. I am not to concerned about what is going to happen if MS were to be broken up. Quite frankly they could all be made to work as janitors at the RedHat building and quit make windows forever and I wouldn't mind.
    I guess the most realistic punishment to expect wouldn't be a break up or any such drastic measure. M$ is looking to settle and I'm not sure the DOJ wants to drag it out longer than they have to. We'll probably see M$ get the same punishment that serial killers and the like get here in the good ol' U S of A. A Slap on the wrist and a "Don't do that again please". Let's face it we sure aren't famous for our top notch criminal punishing abilities.

  • I just can't see it happening. Evil Empire or not, Microsoft is successful as a company precisely because of the fact that it is a mondo-sized conglomerate.

    Internet Explorer, for example, started as a loss leader. You simply can't seperate the browser and expect it to stay viable. It has to stay with the operating system. Microsoft Office became the defacto standard for spreadsheets and word processing. It *could* be branched off. Of the other two million products Microsoft controls, only MSN and the gaming divisions would be successful on their own. Visual C++ is successful mostly because of Microsoft's intimate knowledge of the platform.

    In the recent past, people have suggested breaking the corporation up into 'Baby Bills'. This just wouldn't work. These smaller companies would duke it out for a while, and eventually one would come out on top. New monopoly, just like that.

    I'm also opposed to Microsoft being forced to open their source code. Why? Because this != the code being under GPL/pick your favorite license. In the same vein, open source != free.

    Give it enough time, and Linux, MacOS, or, most likely, something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM), I'm sure it will happen again.

  • Some people say Baby Bills would be just as powerful or eventually re-merge - but I reckon a few or maybe all the Baby Bills could be bought up by their 'competitiors' as a taste-of-your-own-medicine and then crushed into oblivion. Net result: No more MS.
  • How can you say that? Long distance service has gotten more compeditive recently, not less. Witness the drop in rates. AT&T is presently offering 7 cents a minute, 24x7. It was only a few months ago they were offering 15.
  • It's not necessary for Bill to be unhappy about the measures taken in order for them to be effective. It's possible that a solution exists that makes everyone happy in the long run.

    Sorry, I'm feeling optimistic today.

  • by vectro ( 54263 ) <> on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:07AM (#1485313)
    Richard Stallman wrote an interesting piece about what might be the best punishment for Microsoft from the perspective of Free Software.

    It can be found here [].

  • by joeler ( 45203 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:07AM (#1485314)
    Breaking up Microsoft will probably increase the personal wealth of Bill Gates and other top investors in Microsoft, as their stocks are split and those splits increase in value. Breaking up Microsoft will
    create a new type of competition which will bring out the best in all of the individual divisions. Rather than rely on their monopoly power, they will become more dependent on thier own innovations. Microsoft competitors will do better as well, as they will have a better chance to succeed when they bring new innovations to the market.

    Likewise, breaking up Microsoft will be cheaper for the taxpayer than paying the the costs on monitoring any consent decrees.Breaking up Microsoft is the best solution, some may not enjoy it at first but in the long run everyone will benifit from it.

  • all this break-up stuff and all. the way I look at it breaking up M$ wouldn't solve much. what WOULD help IMO is a nice long jail-sentence for a few of the high-up M$ suits. a 'normal' thief gets put in jail, and M$ has done a lot more damage than a stolen VCR and stereo.

  • Anti-trust violation is a civil offense. That means no jail term for anyone.

    Besides, what Microsoft has done is a lot more subtle and complex that stealing a VCR.
  • by evilquaker ( 35963 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:14AM (#1485317)
    >could somebody share their professional opinion of what a breakup would result in?

    Well, I don't have a professional opinion, but I'll give it a go...
    From what I've read, there are two breakup scenerios being thrown around:

    1. Split MS into n "Baby Bills": smaller versions of MS, each with the Windows source code, and each with (some subset of) the various other departments (hardware, Office suites, games, etc.).
    2. Split MS into some combination of distinct companies, based upon some partitioning of the departments (operating systems, hardware, games, office suites, etc.).
    The basic effect of 1 I see is that Windows (and perhaps Office, etc...) become fragmented. I don't see much of a direct benefit to Linux/Be/etc, until the versions of Windows become drastically different (which won't happen for many years, if at all).

    The effects of option 2 are harder to predict, but it opens the door for things like MS Office being ported to Linux/Be/etc. The big problem with 2 is making sure that the separation takes place in more than name. I've heard (completely unsubstantiated and probably paranoid) rumors that secret channels of communication have already been set up in case of a break-up to keep the app programmers up-to-date with the new undocumented features of the OS, etc. Whether or not that's the case, it would be very hard to show e.g. that MS-App's decision to not port Office to Linux was based only upon Linux's market share, and not at least partly upon some agreement with MS-OS to help retain their desktop monopoly.

  • Put lots of vauge restrictions on MS. Make sure that if you ask ten lawyers what they mean,you get ten different answers. Word them so some beraucrat (sp?) can change the rules any time. Isn't that what the goverment does best? ;)
  • Because the phone company stops at the box. After that it is a major service charge. What was the cost for you to have a new phone line installed? PacBell DSL is another example of a telephone company loosing the idea of service. When was the last time you couldn't get a dial tone? Wasn't too long ago for me. Something about accidently cutting my service. I don't really care about paying 7 cents or 99 cents per minute. I want my phones to work.

    Now back on topic. What's to say that Microsoft will not follow the same road. The Internet Division charging for extras in the browser. Or the Office Division selling individual components.

    I know all these are reasons to leave the microsoft model. But this might be the future
  • For those who read the link to Richard Stallman's suggestions re: Microsoft. I personally think option #1 would benefit the computer industry the most. Open up the API's and file formats... and give others an opertunity to develope with them.
  • I'm afraid I don't follow this.. the breaking up of MS into baby Bills doesn't help matters, all you will be doing is creating seperate monopolies which will just continue functioning.

    True this will limit how much MS can keep information to itself, but what we need is competition on OS and on applications.. Most regular home users and companies use Office, and you can only get that on MS OS's or on a Mac.

    Where is the initiative to change that? Thats what needs to be focused upon, IMHO.
  • If Microsoft was split into various 'bits' what happens to the international operations - does the DoJ have any jurisdiction? Are they likely to split from the parent company or split within themselves along the same fissure lines as the parent company?
  • by JohnG ( 93975 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:33AM (#1485326)
    I know I will probably get moderated down for being off topic again, and shouldn't respond to this typical display of pro-microsoft non-intelligent drible, but what the hell.
    Heres the deal. The DOJ isn't interfering in business the are interfering in illegal activities. Microsoft has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to use their OS to block competitors. (Sometimes quite literally, remember when that "bug" in Outlook blocked email from the electronic postcard company that an MS deal fell through with). You have to differentiate the difference between business and law.
    The mafia is a business too. Should we leave them alone? "Ahhh who cares if Don Colione just had two men killed, they owed him money, it's all business." I'm sorry I just don't buy that. If someone is breaking the law just because they are doing it under the name of a corporation doesn't make it right.

  • by legoboy ( 39651 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:33AM (#1485327)
    There isn't anything stopping Microsoft from simply closing shop in Redmond and moving to Canada. I can tell you without any doubts that our (Canada's) government would roll out the red carpet for them.

    Microsoft employs roughly 32,000 people. Generally well educated people, at that. The boost to the economy of a region would be astounding. Assuming 30,000 people at a low $CDN 30,000 per head, that's almost 1 billion in salary each year, half of which goes into the government's pocket. (That's another story...) Corporate taxes would be huge. Microsoft paid several billion to the US Federal government in Fiscal '98. The Canadian government would be all for it.

    With regards to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US Government would be powerless to stop the importation of Microsoft products into the US. As IANAL, I'm not sure about the implications of Chapter 15 upon a corporation that changes countries during an ongoing monopoly investigation.

    Anyway, here []'s a link to a CANOE article from a month back that inspired this comment.

  • by SmileyBen ( 56580 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:34AM (#1485328) Homepage
    Before people get into the usual debates about whether the break up of Micro$oft will be the solution or not, I think this certainly shows a step in the right direction. The DOJ are obviously making sure they know what the options are, and rather than going 'Yeah, I think it'll be a good idea', they're investigating, and finding out whether the consequences will actually be god for the consumers (create real competition) or bad (if you break us up, we will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!).

    Overall that they're making absolutely sure of their options and the consequnces, must be a good thing.
  • by Eythain ( 120617 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @12:39AM (#1485330)
    Actually this isn't such an implausible scenario, if ESR is correct. I heard him give his piece on "The seven bullets M$ has to avoid to survive the next eighteen months" when he was in Norway a couple of weeks ago.

    According to him The DoJ trial was the *least* of M$ problems. I haven't seen a write-up of this, apart from a story in the Irish Times some days ago, but it was pretty hot stuff.

    A short summary might be in order, I guess... Keep in mind that I'm just rehashing what ESR said, and don't have the sources for these numbers.

    1)The US vs. M$ Trial
    2)Private anti-monopoly lawsuits
    3)Change in law making stock options an expence (turning a 4 billion profit to a 18 billion defecit)
    4)A separate trial for illegal book keeping
    5)W2K is in trouble, not only because it's late already, but because many of the Fortune 500 companies have given sentiments that they won't touch it before Service Pack 1 in early 2001.

    In all of this the problem is that M$ needs to keep it stockprice rising. My interpretation of what that is (please note that this is my interpretation, I'm no economist, and I can't give ESR's piece verbatim) was that M$ has built their empire on this effect. As long as the stock prices are rising, people will see the stocks as desirable, hence increasing their value. Once that self-perpetuating cycle ends, you get a different dynamics. Those with stock options won't have the incentive of seeing their stocks grow, so they'll start to cash in. Which in turn will mean that M$ stock will become less desirable (being overpriced), and the effect would be similar to a stockmarket crash.

    7) M$ is pricing themselves out of the market. This, according to ESR is the big one, as he said, even if M$ dodges all the other bullets, this is the one that will get them in the end, what they simply cannot avoid.

    Hardware prices are dropping, whereas M$ needs to constantly increase their profits. Before much of this could come from the exponentially growing market for new computers, while now it has to come from higher prices for their OS. Simply put, you can't run a $500 OS on top of $250 hardware.

    Please also note that these are *NOT* ESR's opinions, only my understanding of them. I hope he'll write up this piece himself, but until then I'd like to share this

    So, in summation, if these predictions are anywhere near the spot, it is not really necessary to do more, M$ has made its own grave, and now it has to lie in it.


  • I'm not convinced that creation of lots of Baby Bills is the solution to the Microsoft monopoly. We would be left with a cartel of dominant players with a common interest rather than a one. This could even make the situation worse. One of the key barrier to new entrants to the OS market for desktops is the difficulty of supporting multiple OS's on a single PC. The fact that all versions of Windows actively work against the installation of a second OS is a key barrier to entry. The most effective method of opening any market is the removal of entry barriers. Therefore the DOJ should force Microsoft to include a boot loader which supported the loading of alternate Operating Systems. If the DOJ also forced a very tight deadline on this functionality, for example saying this must be present in the release of Win2000. Microsoft would be forced to licence existing technology from another company and therefore would find it much more difficult to subvert this requirement.
  • Well the US's power to stop a Canadian based MS depends on how bad they want it and what branches agree. I mean if MS just moved to Canada our government might get pissed off. And if MS is in Canada then they have less protection in the form of "what affect will this have on the US economy?"
    If the government as a whole really wanted to stop MS then they could remove all MS products from all government computers. They could offer private institutes free computers that don't run Microsoft. They could mandate UNIX training classes in all of the high schools. I know all of these things of course are very far fetched and would never happen, but the US Government isn't someone I would want to have gunning for me.
    Besides if MS is convicted or whatever and Canada takes them in wouldn't they be like harboring a fugitive or something? That could be grounds for a complete trade blockade from Canada. Hell we still haven't lifted the one with Cuba, so it's not like it is above the US. It would be very interesting to see if your Canadian government like MS's invasion of the country as much the it's major market blocked off.
    *Disclaimer* I don't want anyone to think that any statements here were Anti-Canadian. They weren't.

  • Hell, this would just make Microsoft so much stronger and more focused on each individual aspect of the software industry.
    I would venture to guess that the value of the (combined) stock would double within two years of the split.

  • You can believe in one thing for sure: a lawyer's greed. As long as they are getting paid by the hour they will stretch this thing out as long as possible!

  • I don't think anyone is (realistically) suggesting that MS completely opens up windows...just their some of their APIs. The way I understand it, MS only publishes info about parts of the internals of windows, leaving some "good" parts hidden so that only MS apps can take advantage of them. By opening up all of them, it would allow other companies to compete fairly with MS apps.
  • I think it's rather presumptuous to assume that the fall of Microsoft would throw this country into a huge depression. As huge and as important a company it is, there is always another waiting in the background to seize the day. Probably Sun Microsystems would be my guess if Microsoft were ever to really falter.

  • At the moment Micosoft is a huge single Entity(and growing!).
    At some point the size of a company will limit how quickly it can react to market forces an make decisions.
    To keep a company that size must surely involve 'bureaucratic red tape' to keep the company coordinated and run as smooth as possible.

    Breaking up a company into smaller pieces will mean the new companies formed will be able to act quicker in the competitive field and in general each company will be in a 'healthier' state.
    If each company decided to work together then nothing really has changed!
    Maybe it was cheaper for Bill Gates to let the DoJ split the company rather than do it himself!

    What I think should have been included is to 'open up' the Internet Explorer technology(i.e. source code, custom html tags..) because at the moment Microsoft seem to be enjoying the growth of a new monopoly.

    Or maybe try and create an open source version of Internet Explorer!!??
  • ...but presuming Bill has any intelligence (which, I'm afraid, I'm sure he does) he knew why he needed to use the dirty monopoly tricks that he did, and will probably realise that without them Micro$oft may well be doomed.

    They've already shown themselves to be pretty worried about this little Open Source OS called Linux, and if they aren't able to bundle, etc. Netscape and all the other should come back to haunt them...
  • Internet Explorer, for example, started as a loss leader. You simply can't seperate the browser and expect it to stay viable. It has to stay with the operating system.

    Viable? Well, there were giving it away for free before, right? So the only financial gain for Microsoft is to gain market share through all ways possible, even if not legal, to push the people offering content to use the (expensive) proprietary Microsoft mechanisms. Of course an Internet Explorer Inc. would go straight downhill. But give that company all other MS pure internet products (IIS etc) and you have a company that will either rise or fall out of its own merit. (I suppose it will be the latter, but thats the laws of the market for you)

    These smaller companies would duke it out for a while, and eventually one would come out on top.

    Like when IBM was slowed by the government and MS arose? Yes, a new player will come after Microsoft. And I hope that one will be stopped from gobbling up the entire market as well.

    I'm also opposed to Microsoft being forced to open their source code. Why? Because this != the code being under GPL/pick your favorite license. In the same vein, open source != free.

    Yes. But this way, competitors could do what only Microsoft can do now (and does alot to give their products an unfair advantage), namely using all those hidden interface functions to get the most out of the OS.

    Give it enough time, and Linux, MacOS, or, most likely, something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM),

    Free software cant be threatened by whatever marketing tactics as it doesnt have to make profits, which is a good thing. But other commercial software companies shouldnt have to be kicked in the dirt by big Bill either. Lowering Microsofts monopoly power will help making the market a better place for everyone again.
  • Or maybe try and create an open source version of Internet Explorer!!??

    That would be called 'Mozilla []'

  • Hmmm, you might have something here. When I was unfortunate enough to be using Windows to learn COBOL I kept having to close my editor to use the compiler because MS has the "feature" of not allowing two programs to use the same file at the same time. Think I could sue for loss of time?
    Come on I know there are some lawyers reading /. can you say "Class Action Suit" We could make millions. hehe.

  • I personally am undecided as to if MS should be broken up. Perhaps strict govenment supervision (as per IBM) would work just as well.

    If it were to be broken up, I see two possibilities:

    1. Breaking up along product lines. This would give us an MS Operating System (ie, 2000 & CE (or "powered or whatever they want to call it"), an MS consumer company with MS office, an MS developer company with VB, VC++ and SQL Server and possibly an Internet company with IE and MSN.
    2. Spliting along consumer product vs enterprise product lines. This would give us one company with MS Office, Windows CE, IE and maybe MS Access, and one with SQL Server, VB & VC++ and Windows2000. Maybe the first company would be able to sell some versions of 2000 as well.

    Again, I am undecided about which would be best. Either way would make for a couple of interesting years in the market.

    If the DOJ went the first way, and assuming the non OS companies had to "act in a cometitive manner" I can't see them ignoring the Linux market - the possible competitors for each of those companies (say Corel for Consumers, Borland & Oracle for Developers) are already shipping Linux products.

    IF the second structure was choosen, I can see a very rapid rise in non-X86 PCs, because CE already runs on them. I think the enterprise company would be a pretty competitive propsition - I've used all the MS developer tools, and they aren't bad at all (okay.. VB isn't a great language, but it lets you crank out quick apps in no time)

    The other possibility is settlement. Maybe MS will be forced to spin off it's office division, say. Imagine that IPO! Remember the Lucent spin off? I'd say MS shareholders wouldn't mind getting a bit of that action.

  • People often talk about an idea somewhat like this: "MS products have an advantage over other products because they know of "undocumented" features and future plans in the MS OS."

    Well, in case of a split-up of MS, all "MS-OS" should be forced to do is to publish the above info in the form of API-documents.

    It should lead to some legal actions if the "mini-Bills" (or anyone else!) are caught using un-published info.

    What we don't need is some clumsy government design as our common OS-API, right?

    Best regards,
    Niels Kr. Jensen

  • by DaveHowe ( 51510 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @01:05AM (#1485345)
    Richard Stallman wrote an interesting piece about what might be the best punishment for Microsoft from the perspective of Free Software.
    Hmm. Interesting :+)
    Forcing open publication of the APIs would be good in the short term, but has a couple of Big Drawbacks:
    1. It leaves Microsoft with an instant lead in products - MS can develop their own products against a new and different API, then release the API simultaniously with the product - everyone else is left to play catch-up (yes, this favours OSS over commercial software, as patches could be out in days, but many of MS's commercial competitors would take weeks or months to modify their product to handle the new APIs and file formats, and would probably want recompense for the effort.
    2. It makes MS an instant "industry standard" and reduces everything else to "MS compatable". I don't *want* MS to set the standards for how everything works, I want them to suit the job and the world, not a marketing plan. If we are going to go the Open API route, it should be a standards group designing that API, not MS.
    Ok, rant over. If you are interested in alternative approaches, Cringely has put forward HIS masterplan [] (no doubt it has just as many holes, just in different places)
  • Just a simple observation, but I would look forward to the breakup.

    By separating the divisions of the company based on what they produce (for instance, breaking it up into MSOS, MSinternet, MS Office, and MSDeveloper, and MSGames) we could begin to see MS supports platforms that compete with Windows. If MSGames and MSInternet no longer have a loyalty to MSOS, what's keeping them from releasing IE or Age of Empires for platforms such as Linux or the BeOS?

    I can't see how this would do harm to the economy or to people in general.


    (of course, as an OT side point, how many people who use linux would use IE if it was released for linux?)
  • I was discussing the findings of fact with a friend, and what the possible solutions were. He said that he would just love to see Bill say, "ok fine, screw you all." and just shut down Microsoft in a day. No support, revoke the software liscenses so people had to stop using MS software(is that possible?), just shut it all down.

    Its very interesting to think about what would happen... thousands of websites and servers would have to have their plugs pulled to avoid a lawsuit. Thousands of companies would instantly be shut down until alternative programs for other OS's were created. Hell, there are hundreds of companies that would just totally fail overnight.
    Retail computer sales would practically cease, (would be a huge boone for the mac). What OS would take over as the OS of choice for retail PCS? Linux? HAH. While Linux is advancing in leaps and bounds, its no where near ready for Joe Sixpack to use and not be totally confused.

    In the end, the world would of course move on, but for the first few months after such an event would be pretty rocky in the technology world.

    Kinda makes you realize how important Microsoft is in the day-to-day operations of our technology driven lives. Even if microsoft could not revoke software liscense, their stock would be 100% worthless. Thousands of people would lose LOTS of money, stock holders and people who have mutual funds, ect. And if MS COULD revoke liscense, banks would shut down (my bank uses windows extensivly), online stock trading sites would lose 90% of their customers, ect ect ect.

    I really doubt this sort of thing would happen, but its an interesting concept non-the-less. I'm really interested in hearing other peoples view-points on this sort of thing, so please reply!
  • Wasn't it just last week or the week before that Posner was brought in to mediate between the two sides? And now the DoJ is looking to see what might happen if MS gets broken up. Sounds like MS is fscking up the negotiations almost as bad as they did the trial.


  • I don't think they'd do this for all sorts of reasons. But even if they tried it, the DOJ could have an injunction stopping them from running away from justice until it is served in an instant. And even if everyone who works for Microsoft moved, the intellectual property is owned by Microsoft US, so they need the US governments cooperation if they expect it to be protected.
  • by Dacta ( 24628 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @01:19AM (#1485350) y/microsoft-antitrust.html []

    I think the first two ideas are very good. I'm not convinced about the third - I think it needs more explaiation. Sure, closed hardware specs are bad, but I'm not sure MS should be punished for them. If we have all the interfaces for MS software, reverse engineering closed source hardware should be easier, anyway.

  • Is Microsoft really as bad as everyone makes out. Sure it is fun to bag them for money hungry, heartless bean counters that make crap products.
    But it must be remembered that a lot of there products have brought the masses (for better or worse) easy *sic* to operate computers with easy to use software.

    Surely breaking up MS will have a detrimental eefect on the company.
    And if we want to advance technology wise into the future surely we want to encourage all technology companies. I realise that MS may have been malicious in the past but surely that can be reconciled without seriously harming a company that has brought the home PC to the masses.

    PS. I wonder what word-processor this consult the DoJ have hired will use to type up his recommendation. $10 says its MSWord...
  • There are several extremly important things which will stop Billy & co. from going anywhere. They are called money, Money and MONEY

    • For one thing, it would be extremely unvise to do anything which could turn US goverment and/or "public opinion", against them in the moment when they have been found "guilty as charged" and about to be convicted. Such a (stupid) move would also rise prospects for all the future anti-M$ processes, which would be a certain suicide for Microsoft.
    • Next thing is - such a move would probably (and rightfully) be interpreted as as "start of the end" of the M$ empire - I can allready imagine titles like "Evil empire expelled from the US" on slashdot, or "M$ tries to hide in Kongo" in the more pro-M$ press.
    • Third thing is - US is still the wold largest computer-market. And US has means to protect its market from foreign competitors, even if they are from Canada. As soon as US goverment has nothing to gain from M$ anymore, they will turn a blind ear to it and start helping the competitors. Just think what would happen if the goverment decides that "M$-monoculture" in govermental institutions will not be tolerated anymore, and sets some open standard requirements for formate of the electronic documents. By-bye Microsoft...
    • And finally, the profit margine on OS will soon

    So, do not worry - whatever happens, M$ stays where it is. With some luck, they split in several divisions and all of the sudden it becomes possible to run former M$-owned programs on Linux & co.

  • Well, this can't actually happen. MS can only terminate the license if you violate the terms of the agreement. It can't just shut you down on a whim (although if UCITA pushes through, they might get this kind of power).

    So if MS shuts down overnight, we're left in a situation where millions of people are running software for which they have no vendor support. Oh wait, that's pretty much the way it is now, isn't it?

    The biggest problem would be that no one else could provide the hotfixes to plug the endless stream of security holes in MS products that come to light every week. But assuming Melissa III didn't take down the nation's infrastructure, I don't think the fallout from MS's disappearance would be all that dramatic right away.

    And in the long term, everyone would just migrate elsewhere. They all did it when 3.1 turned into 95, and most people are "expected" to do it again 95 turns into 2000. So without the iron fist threatening you with forced incompatibility if you go non-MS, I don't think the transition away from MS would be any more costly than the current parade of upgrades is.

    The real trouble might be that if everyone switched over to [your favorite real OS], there would be so little immediate need for faster hardware that Moore's law would take a vacation for a couple of years.

  • > Quite frankly they could all be made to work as janitors at the RedHat building and quit make windows forever and I wouldn't mind.

    No, they'll do the Windows on the building...

  • I've heard that in the Legal profession (in the US at least) the WordPerfect (for DOS!!) file format is standard for all legal documents, and therefor WordPerfect is used in a much greater percentage of the legal population than in the normal business population.

    I know it's offtopic, but I'd like to confirm this. How about a bit of slack, Moderators? I'll give you some of the money if I win.... ;-)

  • Sorry for interrupted sentence. What i wanted to say was:
    And finally, the profit margine on OS might soon become very low, because of the Linux & co. At that moment, Windows would become a stone on the neck of the Microsoft, instead of the money-maker.
    Therefore, other divisions may be better off withouth OS-division in the future, although it wasn't so in the past.
  • Assuming that MS is broken up into BabyBills, then I suggest the following:
    1. Windows OS
      The Windows OS MUST be completely separate from all of the other products - Absolutely no private contact. The Windows API published, and any changes to that API requested at scheduled "product advancement" meetings that have members of the product team, representatives from the other MS product teams equal in status to representatives of any other industry body or large software house. I *don't* expect membership to be free, but the MS reps will have to pay the same fees. Each member able to table a number of "change requests" per year, to be discussed and approved/rejected by an elected committee with 40% representation by the product developers themselves.
    2. The Bleeding Edge
      Products that are subject to rapid replacement (such as the recent rapid turnover of versions in the Compiler and Office markets) must have a reasonable duration "free" upgrade path - Say, two years from date of purchase. Products that have been discontinued and unsupported for the upgrade period fall into the public domain under a suitable OSS licence - suitable in this case allowing for NO commercial redistribution except where the product is on a separate and independently usable piece of media, clearly labelled with it's nature, that is included either nominally "free" or for a reasonable charge for the media. Maintainers to be chosen by the OSS community during a "handoff" period where control is still retained by MS.
      MS may well complain this makes *too* much proprietary code available for free - but if the upgrades aren't that great a leap, why aren't they just a Service Release?
    3. Chinese Walls
      Break apart any alliances that are detrimental to the industry as a whole - for example, Compiler writers and the packages that compile under them shouldn't have a clear line of contact - the temptation to add just one more "feature" to the compiler to make the package a little better than the rest is currently too great - if the package users had to buy their compilers off the shelf, this would remove this channel. I'm not saying they must not ever speak - just that "special" improvements to suit MS products over non-ms ones must stop.
    4. Platform support
      MS is currently leveraging it's Operating Systems by having major packages (such as Exchange) run only on that OS. All packages over a certain market share MUST support at least one _Real_ Unix (big metal systems like Sun, HPUX and so forth) and one other GUI (such as KDE, Mac or so on) from a list chosen by industry (the list, not the actual OS). For a larger percentage, more "minimum X-platform" support must be added - we are ADDING sales here, but admittedly broadening the amount of support needed - but as a larger market share requires more support personel, the number of those who can specialise per platform as second-line support staff also increases.
    This is not a Statement of How Things Must Be, just how I see it - feel free to disagree :+)
  • Many people who were saying the DoJ should force microsoft to open the source code were not looking at the long term. We all realize the value of opensource but allowing the government to force a company to release its intellectual property like that sets a dangerous precedent. Forcing an opening of file format standards would be ok but not all the source. I have a feeling that the route to break them up would be the best thing for the consumer.

    shameless plug

    Here is my original take on the whole thing. []
    /shameless plug

    Breaking them up into an operating systems group and an applications group would be the best IMHO.

    This of course would require a reevaluation in the future as the landscape of computing changes but for now it is the best solution. Fines don't mean jack shit to MS.

  • Break up Microsoft into 3 or 4 companies and give each full rights to the code. Ban all top execs from the baby bills for 8 years. After all, if the corp is divided along product lines each baby will still have a monopoly. Make 'em compete compete against each other. Maybe they could be named GatesWare, BillSoft, Victorinox, and Wenger.

    (Score:2, Funny, Obscure)
  • I think that the Chinese wall idea is a nice idea, but realistically unworkable.

    Imagine that, as you seem to be inferring above, MSOfficeApps, Inc (Stuff like MSOffice, money - bascially stuff for businesses) was separated from MSDevelopment (the compiler/devel environments/etc). The office company would still probably be the largest customer of MSDevel, representing the most number of uesrs (correct me if I'm wrong)

    A company should be able to talk to its largest customer. If this customer has a reasonable feature suggestion, then it should be implemented. And a feature requested by the company with the most number of users using its software would probably have a higher priority than one from a small developer with only a few customers.

    The fact that that customer is an MS Company shouldn't change things.

    MS, because of its size and marketshare, would, no matter how its broken up, still have to have these close ties.

    Its very hard to distinguish between legitimate contacts and anticompetitive tactics, and I don't know how to draw the line in a clear way. Suggestions?
  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @03:02AM (#1485375)
    something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM)

    What you fail to mention is that a big part of the reason IBM lost its monopoly was a decade-long anti-trust investigation by the DoJ. IBM became a more conservative and careful company during this time, giving a number of competitiors considerably wider freedom of action.

    I cannot understand how it came to be that the notion of "free markets" (meaning, apparently, comeplete lack of legal and government oversight) came to be enshrined as a faith. And make no mistake, it is a faith. There is no evidence to support the notion that a completely laissez-faire approach to economics produces anything resembling a just and equitable society. What it does produce is violent boom-bust cycles and a small class of plutocrats.

    If you compare the present, highly regulated American economy to the American economy of any period prior to and including the Great Depression I think you will find a much wealthier populace, with a greater proportion of the population in the so-called "middle class." Of course there is still tremendous concentration of wealth. That's because wealth is power, and power will act to coerce the system to their interests. Of course there is considerable poverty, but much of this is due to failures of other social institutions, notably education. It is exacerbated by mental illness and drug abuse. I don't claim to understand the nature of these social ills. I have been lucky enough never to have been poor, so I don't pretend that I understand what it means, or why people find themselves there, but I do know that if we educated everybody and made a commitment to take care of those who truly cannot take care of themselves, things would be better than they are now.

    Sorry, I've drifted rather far afield. I guess what I'm saying is, when you hear the blanket assertion that "free market: GOOD, government regulation: BAD," question it. I don't think it is really so. If you believe it, ask yourself why.

    There is such a thing as a totally unregulated, unfettered, free-market business. We call it the mob. Ask youself if you want to live in a country where a business can do ANYTHING that is economically expedient, from dumping toxic wastes in rivers to assisinating rivals and then ask if regulation is all bad.

    I don't like socialism or communism. I do not believe in state ownership of industry or in the elimination of private property. I believe in the profit motive, and in the connection between entrpreneurship and wealth. I believe that a rising tide raises all boats. But I also believe that there are larger social interests than amassing wealth for one's stockholders, and that part of the role of government is to be responsive to those social needs and thus to act as a check on the power of privately held money. That's why your vote is so important. Your vote is the only other currency out there besides the dollars. Sure, dollars largely control elections, but they still have to have your vote. Don't think for moment that monied interests aren't glad that voter turnout keeps falling. That weakens the vote currency and strenthens the cash currency.

    It's all interrelated... Think...
  • If MS gets broken up, then the new companies won't have anywhere near the monopoly power that microsoft currently enjoys. Any breakup would have clauses preventing the companies merging back together again (e.g. via stock swaps), so there would be no danger of them becoming a monopoly again.

    All the baby bills would have an economoic incentive to cut prices, increase quality and outpace the others. That's why we want the breakup in the first place. Adam Smith's invisible hand simply doesn't work unless markets behave competitively.

    If the baby bills tried to fix artificially high prices by collusion, they would be utterly screwed by anti-cartel legislation. Price fixing is illegal in most economically developed countries. They wouldn't be able to individually break standards, because breaking compatibility would really make them look like a bad investment.

    My guess is that the baby bills would, after some initial confusion, end up targetting slightly different market sectors. One might aim at home users/education sector. Another may go for corporate contracts. Another may position itself for government deals. I would also predict a fairly rapid drop in prices as the companies each try to promote their windows version early on.

    Breakup is good for the consumer, good for the industry and maybe even good for Microsoft shareholders in the long run.

    It also has the great advantage of requiring very little in terms of red tape and goverment regulation. Once the breakup is done, the goverment can simply get out and leave competition to do its thing.

  • And I meant assassinating. I'm not sure what assisinating means... Must... get... coffee... Cannot... spell... without... caffiene... ;-)
  • A company should be able to talk to its largest customer. If this customer has a reasonable feature suggestion, then it should be implemented. And a feature requested by the company with the most number of users using its software would probably have a higher priority than one from a small developer with only a few customers.
    Oh, I don't doubt it - I just didn't think it worthwhile retyping the whole of the comment on the OS API for the compiler... What I am implying is that the MS Package writers, having requested an improvement or change to the compiler to accomodate what they need to do, would get a STANDARD PATCH that *any* of the compiler's customers could use - that way, any new features in the compiler can be taken advantage of by the package's competitors as well as the package team themselves. That way, improvements to the complier will benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one thin slice of it. As it stands now, almost certainly a lot of the compiler "patches" don't see light of day - they are for internal use only, and will only be released if a competing compiler has that functionality (and they can't sue them for decompiling the code).
    The other factor is only assumed - that "improvements" that are requested by customers in markets MS is competing in would currently be notified to the DEV team for that market, regardless of if the compiler team go ahead and create the patch. I don't know if this happens or not, but it would be foolish to assume it didn't, if you WERE that competitor...
  • by marx ( 113442 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @03:22AM (#1485380)
    In nethack, there is a Troll class of monsters, that behave just like normal monsters, but is nearly impossible to get rid of. If you kill them, and leave the corpse, it will come alive again after a while, and continue hunting you. The only way to get rid of it is to eat the corpse, or put it in a box and lock it.

    From reading these discussions I get the feeling Microsoft is a bit similar, I agree though. The name Microsoft is so ubiquitous that by simply having that name, you can sell almost anything (and thus achieve dominance etc. etc.), it's some sort of herd behaviour I suppose. It's like you need to bury the whole of Microsoft for a while, until people get the name out of their heads, and things can start over.
  • Yeah, it may be nice to bring the giant down, but will breaking it up into smaller companies really be good for your average computer user?

    Okay, wise guy. I'm waiting to hear. Why wouldn't it be a good for the average consumer?

    Here are a few reasons why it would be good.

    1. There will be no more forced bundling on OEM's, which will result in better usuability, and less support problems for consumers. (Here I would note the proper bullets from the FoF, but unfortunately, I don't have them handy :( )

    2. Lower prices for consumers. This means that consumers would have more money to spend on other software for their computers. (Again, I'd point out the proper bullet...)

    3. Better compatibility. Just like cars have a lot of intercompatibility, if Microsoft were broken up, that would, in part force the companies to have compatibility with other products. Right now, if I need to send a document to someone I need to find out what word processor they have, and then try to get it in that format.

    4. You get the idea. Splitting up the company will force them to have different practices, thereby benefitting consumers.

  • The basic effect of 1 I see is that Windows (and perhaps Office, etc...) become fragmented.

    I disagree. Having multiple companies working on Windows compatible OS's will *not* fragment it. Just like, if the Windows API was documented and WINE supported it perfectly, that wouldn't result in fragmentation.

    I don't see much of a direct benefit to Linux/Be/etc, until the versions of Windows become drastically different (which won't happen for many years, if at all).

    The purpose of the trial is *not* to benefit Linux, or Apple, or BeOS, or Sun, although that is a probable side effect. The purpose is to benefit consumers. And consumers certainly will benefit when MS has to compete against other Windows to convince OEM's that their product is better.

  • I'm afraid I don't follow this.. the breaking up of MS into baby Bills doesn't help matters, all you will be doing is creating seperate monopolies which will just continue functioning.

    Microsoft was able to force Internet Explorer on OEM's by threatening their Licensing Agreements. By breaking up the company, the company that own IE won't have another program that it can wield to force OEM's to use their product. IE would then have to lie and die on it's own merits.

  • Free software cant be threatened by whatever marketing tactics as it doesnt have to make profits, which is a good thing.
    I see what you mean, but I'm really not sure I agree.

    What keeps free software viable? Mindshare. Why's Linux growing so fast right now? Because people are annoyed with the mainstream - specifically, Windows 98 and NT4 - and so want an alternative. Linux seems to many to be the most viable and can be tried for next-to-no monetary cost, so it's worth giving it a spin. Now, a percentage of those who try it will be programmers and will decide to help with one (or more) projects that make up the Linux-based OS that they use. So the development is enriched and perpetuated.

    Imagine a world where NT was actually good, though. Big step I know, but try it :) Would people still be moving to Linux? Some, sure. There are always going to be people who will go for it on ideological grounds, or who find it better for their needs. But there's still that corporate fear of the GPL and open, community-based development so, without the technical advantage that Linux currently offers in some areas, how many would try it? Lots less. So you get less new programmers joining, less visibility because you don't have all this news about it and potentially lose programmers who get fed up with the perceived invisibility of the product. Eventually, this can kill the project.

    OSS development can't go bankrupt but it can lose mindshare, which is just as fatal. It's a lot harder but it's perfectly possible.

  • don't tell anyone, but the NT bootloader already loads other OSes...

    Yes, it *does*. But Microsoft's license agreement with OEM's, prevents the OEM's from using it to dual-boot multiple preloaded OSes.

  • by SurfsUp ( 11523 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @04:19AM (#1485393)
    a breakup would leave Microsoft (MSFT) with three or four viable businesses while still being the appropriate punishment for any antitrust violations

    In what sense is this a punishment? If history is any guide the shareholders will gain from a breakup if anything, a la Standard Oil.

    If split horizontally, the part of Microsoft that still owns the operating system will still be a bad actor, as will the part that owns the office products. If split vertically the companies will simply collude unless prevented from doing so by some sort of regulation - the sort of regulation that BillG has shown great willingness and skill at circumventing in the past.

    At minimum the following needs to be accomplished:

    Microsoft must be prevented from attacking its competitors and driving them out of business. (it's illegal for a monopoly to do this)

    Microsoft must be prevented from subverting public protocols and standards

    Microsoft must be prevented from extending its monopoly in office systems by means of secret file formats and protocols

    Microsoft must be prevented from leveraging its operating system francise by means of secret/patented api's, protocols and file formats.

    Microsoft must be prevented from using its monopoly position in operating systems and office applications to control the behaviour of OEM's, distributors, retailers, ISP's, online services, etc.

    Microsoft must be prevented from using its ownership/control of internet access providers and carriers such as cable companies to force use of it's proprietary software and/or protocols.

    How are these things going to be accomplished by a breakup? I'm very skeptical that a breakup will address these goals at all. In the end, further remedies will have to be applied or we'll see the same old thing all over again. Then what?

  • ...*almost* anything. Desktop OSes, office suites, mice, new standards...

    ...not that monstrosity called, say, "Bob".

    And last I checked, IIS was losing market share; WinCE was still being crushed by PalmOS in the PDA market...
  • by humphrm ( 18130 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @04:32AM (#1485402) Homepage
    The obvious answers--to restrict contracts between Microsoft and computer manufacturers, or to break up the company--will not make a crucial difference. The former might encourage the availability of computers with the GNU/Linux system preinstalled, but that is happening anyway. The latter would mainly help others proprietary application developers compete, which would only offer users alternative ways to let go of their freedom. So I propose three remedies that would help enable free software operating systems such as GNU/Linux compete technically while respecting users' freedom. These three remedies directly address the three biggest obstacles to development of free operating systems, and to giving them the capability of running programs written for Windows. They also directly address the methods Microsoft has said (in the "Halloween documents") it will use to obstruct free software. It would be most effective to use all three of these remedies together.

    A few points about Stallman's remarks:

    • Stallman says he proposes three remedies that would "help enable free software operating systems such as GNU/Linux compete technically while respecting users' freedom." Funny, I don't remember reading anything in Penfield's FoF (or in Antitrust law in general) that says that any stated purpose is to enable free operating systems, GNU/Linux or otherwise. Stallman seems to be taking a (flawed) position that the purpose of Antitrust laws is to protect the alternative parties (e.g. Microsoft's competitors, free or otherwise) While his suggestions go toward improving software for consumers, he seems more interested in making his own agenda easier to achieve. While free (beer or speech) software might be beneficial to consumers, there's no evidence in the FoF to support that a goal would be to strengthen the Open Source movement.
    • Requiring Microsoft to "publish complete documentation of all interfaces between software components, all communications protocols, and all file formats" is probably the best suggestion he makes. However,...
    • "Require Microsoft to use its patents for defense only, in the field of software." I don't see this helping anything, I think that this issues is not addressed anywhere in the FoF that I can find. Indeed, I think this is Stallman's own agenda handily finding it's way into reparations as a result of another document, the FoF, which doesn't address patent abuse at all, that I can see.
    • "Require Microsoft not to certify any hardware as working with Microsoft software, unless the hardware's complete specifications have been published" And then Stallman goes on to point out that this wasn't even Microsoft's doing! Gee, let's use the DOJ FoF as a milk-crate I can stand on to espouse my own agenda!

    I think that Stallman is ignoring the FoF where his personal agenda isn't addressed by it.

  • Just a quick note:

    Saying, "I'm sorry, I was evil before but won't be again" isn't a particularly good way of convincing a judge to let you go free instead of tossing you in the slammer for 10-20. The judicial system is largely there to judge you on what you have done, not what you will allegedly do.

    Bill Gates could distribute all his wealth to the major tech universities with no strings attached, tomorrow. He could use his wealth explicitly to torment people, being a b*stard by, say, ostentatiously buying up hordes of lottery tickets and Porsches. In neither case does this in any way affect the guilt of MS in the events focused upon in this trial.
  • Breaking up MS along departmental lines would be good from the standpoint of levelling the playing field for the application developers and other operating systems. It would also promote more open standards, since undocumented APIs wouldn't benefit anyone.

    As for secret communications between the companies, IIRC that's collusion. I don't know what the punishments for collusion are off the top of my head, but they're most likely to be pretty nasty.

  • by RISCy Business ( 27981 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @04:53AM (#1485414) Homepage
    To put it bluntly, see the subject. It won't work. It can't work.


    Microsoft is too big, and too powerful. What will a breakup do to them? Well, there's two options.

    One; the smaller companies will duke it out till one buys up the rest, and we're back to the Microsoft we all know and loathe.

    Two; the smaller companies simply 'collaborate' on everything (and I do mean everything) resulting in the same problem we have now; everything being tied together inseperably.

    A breakup is not the answer. The only answer that I can think of is market forbiddance. What do I mean? I mean Microsoft needs to be banned from certain markets. Productivity software, "full featured" web browsers, and proprietary programming languages.

    What good will that do, beyond limiting Microsoft's ability to compete (as I'm sure everyone sees it) and taking away some very effective revenue? It'll force Microsoft to stop stagnating and actually INNOVATE again. Yes, there was a time Microsoft was being innovative. FoxPro was the first relational database application that not only could spit out binaries, but ran on multiple operating systems INCLUDING Xenix286 and could spit out binaries for ANY operating system FROM ANY operating system if you got the runtime libraries! FoxPro was a great product. But it turned Windows specific, and became stagnant.

    Now, what is a proprietary programming language? I define it as any programming language that is specific ONLY to Windows. For example, Visual Basic, Visual J++/ActiveX, FoxPro, and MS SQL. Those of you saying 'well there goes everything down the drain' - wait.

    I would propose that if Microsoft converts a proprietary programming language to a non-proprietary language, ie; FoxPro for Solaris, AIX, Linux, *and* Windows, or a STANDARDIZED non-proprietary language, ie; MS SQL, Visual C++, that they should be allowed to sell it!

    But they must also be STRICTLY regulated. Microsoft is most certainly guilty of price fixing. They must be prevented from doing such ever again. Their prices must be regulated in a fair and just manner. Meaning that if they make, say, FoxPro for Windows $399, they can't make FoxPro for AIX $999. That's unreasonable. The costs of the software must be justified before their outrageous prices can be charged. ($1000 for NT4 Server in some situations?! That's gotta stop.)

    Those of you whining that stopping MS from doing "full featured" web browsers will kill them in today's Internet, hush now. It won't. A full featured web browser is one that integrates email, all kinds of other goodies, and also does http. Were Microsoft to make IE uninstallable, and remove Outlook Express, MS Wallet, and most of the other addons, then IE wouldn't be a full featured web browser. Netscape Communicator is a full featured web browser. Mozilla is. They provide everything in one package, tied tightly together. Untie those addons, and it's no longer full featured by my definition. This leaves Microsoft able to continue their development on IE and it's features with Windows whathaveyou.

    Productivity software.. that's one of MS' biggest markets. Why ban them from there? Because they abuse their market share. Look at Office 2000's cost. MS Word for DOS used to be less than $50. Now they can justify over $1000 for a productivity suite, while I can get StarOffice (bloated bugware it is) for $50, and I can get Corel's suite for about $200? I'm sorry, no. Not to mention the fact that it ties in with the OS on top of it. Those of you who whine that that's unfair, no - it's not. Charging you $1000 for an annoying paperclip is unfair.

    Just my $0.02 and opinions. Gotta run to get in on the VA Linux IPO now - they sent a second or third round of letters December *FIRST*. If you haven't checked your email, DO SO. Reminder to all you VA Linux IPO people, YOUR PAPERWORK (confidential indication of interest and limited use account application) MUST BE IN TODAY!

    Have a good one. :)

    -RISCy Business
  • I think it's rather presumptuous to assume that the fall of Microsoft would throw this country into a huge depression. As huge and as important a company it is, there is always another waiting in the background to seize the day.

    You are correct. The concern is that their stock options pyramid scheme is being emulated by other companies (whos stock prices "compete" against MSFT for investors and therefor value). That the scheme was not anticipated by finance law and is therefor of dubious legality (rather than being illegal outright) only serves to exhaserbate this problem. Depending on how large the pyramid grows (US$60 billion in options debt and growing geometricly), and how many other fortune 500 companies emulate this behavior, this could take down allot more than just MSFT. With any luck new legislation will be passed to prevent this, or the pyramid will collapse before the damage becomes too widespread, but alas, there are no garuntees of either.

    Worst of all, if and when this happens it could easilly destroy the public's faith in the equity markets themselves, precipitating a huge capital drain out of the financial markets altogether. In this worst-case scenerio you are talking about mutual funds and stocks losing huge percentages of their values (this could easilly mean retirement funds going bust or paying fractions on the dollar, money market accounts losing value, and so forth). It's an unsettling case of the Emporer's clothes all over again.

    What with an entire generation never having seen a bear market, and hedging at an all time low ("but that cuts into my profits, and the S&P's never go down!"), the results could be far uglier than one would otherwise expect. Add to that that an unusually high percentage of poeple have invested at least a portion of their savings in the markets to date, and you have an excellent recipe for an Albanian scenerio[1] all over again ...

    [1]Much of the Albanian population lost their life savings to a more primitive pyramid scheme when it collapsed a couple of years ago, resulting in widespread, violent unrest throughout the country.
  • Today, legal firms *are* being switched over, kicking & screaming, to Word. Not because they want to, but because clients keep sending them .doc files and wanting them back.

    [btw, the firm in question isn't a law firm, so you shouldn'thave covered that bet :) ]
  • I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your jursidiction.

    >If each company decided to work together then
    >nothing really has changed! Maybe it was cheaper
    >for Bill Gates to let the DoJ split the company
    >rather than do it himself!

    This would require actual trusts, which we haven't seen for a *very* long time. Roughly, the trust was formed by transferring control of a handful of companies to the trustees, who could then run them as a single unit, acting as a monopoly. The trust was necesary, as otherwise each firm would "cheat" by overproducing.

    The same thing would apply to the split pieces of microsoft. The interests of the IE and windows companies woudl be different. The only way to get them to operate as a joint monopoly would be to somehow hand over control of the joint unit.

    However, trusts are easy to catch; there are too many controls requried to keep a low profile.

    Hmm, maybe I should have labeled this with my economist hat instead of as a lawyer :)

    hawk, esq., also a professor of economics

  • The "bringing down of mirosoft" won't do the computer industry a single bit of justice.

    Have you *ever* worked in a Management position and seen how the typical computer user is?

    Have you *ever* seen how cost effective Windows REALLY is?

    Have you found anything EASIER to use then the standard Windows Interface?

    What does competing have to do with monopoly? Mac is stil around, i don't know why. OS/2 blew its chance because they sat on it, Amiga is hyperware and collectors art. SunOS and other Unices are always and will always remain high end and server OS's.

    Linux could *never* be used on 98% of the computers that windows currently runs on. Try telling your next door neighbor that just bought a computer that he needs to create a mount point, mount his cdrom and then install. try telling your neighbor that if he forgets his password he has to boot into single user mode, run vi to edit the password field and know what the hell he is looking for?

    Linux works great for workstations, for people that *know* what they are doing. Just like Palm Pilots work great for People that know what they want out of a PDA.

    But Microsoft developed a great OS, marketed the Hell out of it, it has its flaws, so does linux. Try playing hi end 32bit depth graphics games under linux and then tell me it runs better then the windows counterpart.

    Reboots shmeeboots, you guys must have crappy computers, my windows workstations run just as long as my linux. And patches/kernul updates, security notices are just as abundant for NT as they are any unix. Hell, i just had to install 275 patches on an HPUX system that already had hundreds to begin with.

    Every OS has its quirks.

    Just a damn shame in america we use our so called "justice" system to bring down the companies that are moving us forward. YOU HAVE A CHOICE. AT&T didn't give you a choice, therefore they were a monopoly. EVERYONE has had a choice to choose which DOS os they wanted. You have had a choice between Network OS's for years too. You could stil be running Novell or Banyan or whatever you wanted. But funny, you chose Windows.


    Simply because it works, and pretty damn well. I have a sparc 10 that sits around as a server, why? throw in a gui and you get all sorts of problems. I have stacks of SGI's at where i work, they sit around because nobody wants to bother em. The techies want them to throw up a shell server,but by some weird anomoly, they use a Windows box with SSH to login..

    Give Microsoft a break, let them run there business. They created this market. Why is it our responsibility to destroy it? What do we gane besides MILLIONS of people becoming un-employed or outdated at the instant of a splitup? what is there to go besides "linux r00lz mah fr0".

    I know linux kicks ass, but this is *NOT* about linux people. Its about MY RIGHT TO CHOOSE, and by GOD i choose windows :) AND i Choose LINUX, because LINUX solves my server needs, but doesn't come within millions of miles of solving my business and gaming needs.


  • Perjury, however, is a criminal offense.

    One of the interesting implications of this trial is that the witnesses are contradicting the marketroids. Either Linux is viable competition for Windows, or it isn't. If it is, then Microsoft is guilty of slander and/or false advertisement, both civil charges that can open them up to class-action lawsuits. If it isn't, then certain witnesses are guilty of perjury, and could be put away for at least a token amount of time--and the BMW crowd hates slumming in the Big House.

  • However, there is a big problem with this scenario and that is the compatibility issue.

    Everyone keeps bringing up some babble about compatibility, and I don't think it is the problem that people think would be.

    This of all the different printer models, and they all work the same to the user under Windows. Certainly having multiple options here did not cause incompatibilities. However, if one printer manufacturer had control of the printing subsystem in Windows, and wouldn't share it with others, then there'd be incompatibilities.

    Having a standard base is a Good Thing.

    Exactly. Incompatibilities are really only a problem if companies cover up/hide the interfaces need to interact. I can go to any gas station and be sure that I can fill up my tank, because the nozzle is always going to be a certain size. Consider the situation if Shell, Ford, and Tom Thumb merged and then built a gas dispensing system that was undocumented.

    Standards, cooperation, and documenation are important for products to work together. If there are incompatibilities, it's not the fault of multiple products, but lack of proper communication. The desired result of a break-up (#1) would be that the companies would do all they can to get vendors to write for their OS. Right now, Microsoft doesn't have to listen to anyone, unless they want to. With 2 or more vendors selling a windows product, they will be doing all they can to woo vendors to develop on their platform. This would involve sharing information, and working with the vendors. With of choice of similar products, vendors are going to work with the company that works closely with them. Microsoft will either have to start working with vendors, or lose out to someone who will. And only the strong live. So no incompatibilities.

    Only in scenario #1, plus the OEMs still need an operating system. I'll give you a hint -- for quite a while it's not going to be Linux.

    Nothing wrong with preloading Windows. But if the OS company doesn't have the browser, then they can't force OEM's to not bundle Netscape and others. Of course, I agree that #1 is the best scenerio. That way, if Microsoft refuses to allow OEM's to preload dual-boot systems, or some other abuse, the OEM will quickly go to the other Windows provider who should be more then willing to make the sale on the OEM's terms.

    Unbundling the OS from the hardware will result in better usability? Having multiple Windows flavors will result in less support problems?

    Yes. I say this primarily because the OEM's testified under oath that this was so. Instead of summarizing it here, I'll let you research exactly what the OEM testified. Suffice to say though, that 2 points are, when MS forced a certain OEM to bundle IE instead of Netscape, their support calls went up considerably, and they wrote a letter to Microsoft stating that if they could get windows from another source, they would gladly not have anything to do with Microsoft.

    Dream on. The compatibility will become a major headache for everybody involved. Note that it's the cars' user interface that's "intercompatible"

    I already explained my feelings about intercompatibility. And I might add that it's the Windows "interface" that needs to be compatible. That is not a very challenging task, to say the least. Somehow, there managed to be a compatible hardware interface. I don't see much more challenge to making a compatible software interface.

    I could see Microsoft *trying* to make it challenging, but I already explained that if multiple companies owned Windows, they'd be vying for customers by trying to do more for the customer then the other companies.

    Well, actually right now you can send the document in the MS Word format and be pretty sure everybody will be able to read it.

    Far from it. In fact, it was just a month ago that I sent in Excel 97 spreadsheet to someone, who quickly e-mailed me back to resend it because it was "corrupt". Well, of course, they were using 95. Now I have to find out before I send something whether they have Office 95, Office 97, or Office 2000. And those products are all sold by the *same* company. Now what was that you were saying about incompatibilities?

    If multiple companies sold an Office compatible suite, they'd have the same situation as windows companies. The customer is going to buy from the company that is willing to work with it, and all the companies or going to do their best to work more closely with the consumer then the others.

    It is in your scenario that you'll have to find out what your counterparty is using.

    Nope, communication. Companies who communicate will find their products more viable then those who refuse too.

  • Yes.

    I doubt that Gates is in it for the money. I mean, after the first $50 Billion, who keeps count? IMHO, he's in it for the control, for the power. I think that, if MS was broken up and prevented from remonopolizing (remonopolizing is a very real possibility), Bill will be twice as rich and half as happy.

    I'm not looking to make Bill less rich or less happy. To me, vengence is petty and irrelevant. I am interested in a remedy that allows competition to flourish in the software arena. I don't mind Bill making gobs of money, but I mind him making one penny of it selling crap.

  • Yes, splitting the company would likely stop the forced bundling, but the government can require Microsoft to stop their bundling process without splitting them up.

    I don't believe that splitting up Microsoft is needed. The trial was about anti-trust violations, and as long as Microsoft is prevented from violating anti-trust laws, justice is served. If it can be done with Microsoft staying intact, then that's okay with me. However, this will probably requirement a settlement, which Microsoft has stated they are unlikely to agree too, unless they are free to continue violating anti-trust laws. In the absence of a settlement, I think that the DoJ will push for breaking up Microsoft to be the best way to curb violations.

    I think that if Microsoft *is* broken up, it is going to be their own fault. They have opportunity to settle the case.

    Better compatibility? You've got to be kidding me. Did you use a computer in the late 80's when Microsoft had a lot more competion in the Word processor arena? Compatibility was a joke. It's actually much better now.

    Yes, I used computers back then. And I can't say I've seen any improvement now compared to then. We still have a different file format for every word processor, Wordperfect, StarOffice, Applix, AbiWord, Kword, Word 95, Word 97, Word 2000, MS Works. Notice the last four apps? These are all MS apps and yet all incompatible. I don't see how splitting Office into 4 different companies could possibly make it worse then it already is. Instead I see those four companies doing their best to keep current compatibility and to set the standard for others to follow.

    I however don't believe that those actions were the determining factors in them acheiving their current monopoly.

    I agree. They provided a low-cost OS when one was needed. Capitalism is wonderful. But that doesn't excuse their anti-trust violations that they had once they've became a monopoly.

    I don't think the AGs really understand the problem, or know how to solve it.

    I doubt that the AGs are doing much more then being a "spokesperson" for the case. The actual lawyers involved in the case, I dare say, have studied anti-trust law for a *long* time and probably know much more about it then you or I could ever imagine.

    Before you support the government splitting up Microsoft, think about wether you really like the idea of the government shuffling around the computer industry whenever a bunch of competing companies clash. The government is supposed to be looking after consumers, not helping out competitors because they can't compete, and some of their features are better, and customers should have the benefit of those features

    This case has absolutely nothing to do about competitors failures. I don't know how any can say it does. Unless, of course, you consider it a failure that Netscape was unable to get OEM's to bundle their browser because Microsoft prohibited it.

    No, this case was about me, as a consumer. It was about my ability to buy a PC from Gateway with Netscape preloaded. It was about my ability to buy a PC from Dell with BeOS *and* Windows preloaded. It was about my ability to buy PC's from IBM that had Windows 95 preloaded. It was about my ability to buy a Mac with Netscape as the default browser. It was about my ability to benefit from improvements that Intel made to take advantage of their processors.

    This case is all about the consumer. It has nothing to do with Sun, or Linux, or Netscape, or Apple, other then they happen to try to provide innovation that Microsoft denied the consumer.

    I dare anyone to deny my conclusions.

  • Nope, not for providing an OS.. but for breaking the law. I know (now) that this will not happen but still.. it's what I would rule if I were a judge.. too bad I have almost no knowledge of law (let alone US law) so to be honest it's a moot point :)

  • Each RBOC got it's own little monoply.

    That was the one bad thing about how the AT&T breakup was handled, it didn't go far enough, fast enough on the local service front. Long distance got competition much sooner, so consumers saw a big benefit there much more quickly. It has only been recently that CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) have started to challenge the RBOCs. As more and more CLECs come in and cable companies start to enter the local phone service market, we will finally start to see the benefits of competition in local service.

  • This would be disastrous for our economy. Are you aware how much microsoft stock there is out there? billions and billions. Much of this stock is owned by the middle class; is it really fair to them to take their assets in this manner?
  • I've been thinking a lot recently about this whole Microsoft monopoly thing, and the effects that the various courses of action could have upon the industry. Most of them, I don't like.

    I have been tossing an idea around for a couple of weeks now that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. I don't know if that means there something obvious that I'm just completely missing or what, but this seems workable to me.

    What I would like to see come out of the DOJ case is a ruling forcing Microsoft to adhere to an Open Document Standard for all of their documents. Whoops, that's right - there isn't such a thing. Yet. A part of this ruling would be to create a document standard, much like PDF, PS or possibly ODBC, for word processing documents and spreadsheets, etc. This would abstract documents from their creators, and enable people to truly choose whatever OS and application they choose based upon not what type of file their organization uses, but on the merits of the OS/application.

    Over a period of time, this will effectivly end the Microsoft monopoly. Individuals will not be tied to a specific platform because they have to use Microsoft Word or MS Excel. It will encourage innovation and competition, because the market is once again, wide open. With an open document standard, people can trade documents at their leisure, without the worry of what platform the recipients are using. As more people begin to adopt alternative OSes, corporations will begin to write more applications for these OSes. We're already seeing strong movement in this direction with Linux. Imagine how that trend would accelerate with a move like this. The only reasons I use Windows now is for the suite of Office applications and Developer Studio. Problem is, I spend a majority of my time in one of those applications. All Linux needs is a good development enviroment, the ability to easily trade documents with Windows machines and I'm golden. There are other solutions to the document sharing problem, but let's just face the music folks - they're hacks. There's PDFs and PS for sharing documents, but they're not editable. In order to be workable and accepted by the uneducated masses, things must be *seamless*.

    Take a second and imagine a WWW without HTML specifications. Or an Internet without RFCs. Compare that imaginary world to our current document situation, then imagine how tightly integrated things would be with a common document interface.

    As technology grows, the world grows smaller and smaller. Traffic increases, communication increases, but it is all stifled through document translation problems. The DOJ and Judge Jackson have an opportunity here to really make a difference with their ruling, but I know we all wonder if they have the insight to understand the effects of what is decided. A common document interface system has the ability to tie together the computing world at a level above operating system and application.
  • A. The typical computer user wants a consistent interface above everything else. The MacOS was the best operating system in this department for many years, and only lately has started to develop cracks with the introduction of things like QuickTime4. (Really a shame, though I'm not the biggest fan of macos anyway.)

    B. There are *many* interfaces much simpler to use than windows. If the intent of the user for instance is simply to run a set number of programs, a Command line interface, or a gui mouse driven interface, with a list of those programs displayed on the screen is about as simple as you can get. Considering that we are talking about the "average" user, I wouldn't recommend making access to utilities to delete files readily available at all. Nearly every "average" user who has asked me for help because software stopped working on their system did so because either they A. installed software that overwrote files. B. Accidently deleted files that were ciritical to the system. or C. Changed opperating system settings that the peice of software was dependent on. Getting back to the issue of "ease", the keyboard requires less motor precesion than the mouse does to select a menu choice, so it will initially be easier for someone with no experience using a computer (or mouse) to select from a list using arrow keys. Eventually a mouse may be desired, or if the person naturally has the motor skills to use one efficently.

    C. Linux certainly could very well be used on 98% of the computers that windows runs on, if you are willing to "cheat" when it comes to cloning unix in terms of the interface. If you want to get technical, linux is simply the kernel. Of course most people describe linux as the kernel plus the suite of utilities and software the often comes bundled with it. However it wouldn't necessarily be hard to make use of something like mtools, so that files on disks could be read whenever you insert them into the disk drive, nor would it be impossible to create a distribution of linux that automatically logs you in, and pops up a friendly menu with netscape, staroffice (or wordperfect), a mp3/cdaudio player, perhaps solitare. Granted, this would have the effect of taking away much of the multitasking capibilties of even windows, but you have to weigh that against simplicity. It really depends on what the end user wants. Does the average user really multitask that much? If they do, is it something they really care about, and can it be implemented in such a way as to allow users who want it to easily use it, but not be ubtrusive to users who don't? Of course, if the applications that the end user wants don't run on linux, that's another story entirely, though if you were to replace 98% of the windows market with linux anyway, you can bet that those voids would fill in fairly quickly.

    D. In the next paragraph you talk about "windows" staying up as long as linux, but you reference in the same paragraph windows NT, which means I'm guessing that this is what your speaking of. Considering the Average user does NOT use windows NT, it's a non-issue. I'm also familiar with HPUX, having supported several K and V class servers at my previous job. While there are many patches you can download and apply individually, you can of course download and install the various patch sets offered on HP's support site much as you would with service packs for NT. Installing, individually, 275 patches, even on a 10.20 box is rather unecessary. We never exceeded more than 100, and often times it was applied with a patchset, not individually. I don't believe we had any 11 boxes that had nearly that many patches applied.

    E. The case with dos is interesting. While you certainly had a choice of which dos you wanted to use, there are still the issues dealing with microsoft implementing code that caused windows not to run with drdos. Now, this is still up in the air, though if it indeed is true, then the end user did not have a choice as to which dos he could run, if he wanted to run windows, or any of the programs that require windows. It may be that the person didn't want windows at all, but simply wanted to run the newest version of microsoft word. This could not be accomplished without windows (possibly OS/2 as long as the program was 16bit). If windows couldn't be run without ms-dos, then they do indeed have to buy and run ms-dos to run that application. So you do indeed have the choice to run drdos in that case, but you only have that choice if you are willing to give up the peice of software you want to run. This idea, brought up in the finding of facts, (the applications barrier) describes the general situation better than I can here, and I'll leave it to the reader to make a discission regarding wether or not MS has overstepped it's bounds.

    And yes, I grudgingly chose windows until in windows95 one day it's bundled backup software did the equivelant of GPF bringing the system down and destroyed a backup tape of 3 years of graphics work I had spent countless hours working on. Soon after I switched to OS/2, which I ran for about a year. Due to the lack of a good web browser (Netscape 2.02 was horribly buggy at the time, and Web expolorer just didn't cut it for me) I decided to switch to linux.

    You make a couple good points as to the uses of various systems for different purposes. The highend unix's for servers for example. Windows however tries to appeal to both the novice user and the power user, and I don't believe it does so particularly well due to over simplification in certain areas of the interface for the power user, and complexities in other areas of the interface for novices. The benefit of linux in this case is that the interface is entirely and easily configurably (and legally!) by any vendor who wants to ship it.
  • Look at e.g. Beta vs. VHS wars -- only one could live.

    I think you just did a great job proving my point. VHS won, not because it was better technology, but because it was supported by multiple vendors. And yet I don't see any incompatibilities with my VCR because multiple companies manufacture them. Same with Windows. If Windows was broken into into multiple companies, that wouldn't cause incompatibilities *at all*. And the dominant players, would be the "VHS" ones. The ones that all worked together, not the "Beta" one, that tried to control the market.

    Certainly there will be a dominant OS, but there's nothing to prevent that OS from being developed, marketed and sold by more then one company.

    My point is that even if the interface exists, the complexity of efficiently interacting with something so complicated as an OS (or even a video card driver/hardware) is such that you really, really want a single standard base.

    Come ON!! You've talked about a "single standards base" several times now. But you seem to miss the point that if it's "standard" then it shouldn't matter how many developer's implement it. A call to say, send email, may look like this send_mail(char *to_address, char *body). And it'll be like that, no matter how many companies implement it in their OS. The number of different names Windows is sold under, isn't going to change the fact that a function call send_mail, implemented to send mail, will send mail.

    Netscape died a horrible death (I don't know of a fate much worse than being bought by AOL) and the whole browser thing is irrelevant by now.

    You would die a horrible death to is you had a product, but were prevented by your competitor from selling it. And I don't know what you mean by the browser thing being irrelevant. Do you only want to web to be accessiable from Windows machines??

    It was basically a pretext for the DoJ to go after Microsoft. Browser bundling is not an issue any more.

    It was an anti-trust violation. And it is the DoJ's responsibility to punish companies that violate the law.

    However, it is good to hear that you don't think browser bundling is an issue anymore. That should mean I won't have a problem buying a Gateway PC with Netscape 5 preloaded, right?

    when MS forced a certain OEM to bundle IE instead of Netscape, their support calls went up considerably
    And what does this have to do with breaking up Windows into competing flavors?

    If there would have been multiple companies selling windows compatible OSes, invariably, there would have been a company which would have been more then willing to let the OEM define the terms of the sale. The would have allowed the OEM to bundle Netscape, and other changes to make the PC more intuitive for the consumer, which would have reduced their support calls.

  • How does one go about choosing which version of Windows when one has nothing to base one's decision upon?

    Since the idea is that any one of the OS's can be replaced by another, each OEM will only sell one version. The vendor they license from will be the vendor that is willing to work with them the most. It'd be sort of like the processor market now. OEM's decide which lines will have Intel chips and which ones will have AMD chips. The consumer just buys the model they want.

  • RISCy Business wrote:
    A breakup is not the answer. The only answer that I can think of is market forbiddance. What do I mean? I mean Microsoft needs to be banned from certain markets. Productivity software, "full featured" web browsers, and proprietary programming languages.


    Productivity software.. that's one of MS' biggest markets. Why ban them from there? Because they abuse their market share. Look at Office 2000's cost. MS Word for DOS used to be less than $50. Now they can justify over $1000 for a productivity suite, while I can get StarOffice (bloated bugware it is) for $50, and I can get Corel's suite for about $200? I'm sorry, no. Not to mention the fact that it ties in with the OS on top of it. Those of you who whine that that's unfair, no - it's not. Charging you $1000 for an annoying paperclip is unfair.

    Three disclaimers:
    1) What I'm about to say is not a flame of RISCy Buiness -- it's simple disagreement.It sounds like he / she has thought about this and formed a strong opinion.

    2) I'm not a big fan of Microsoft products in general; Microsoft Word pains me daily, not to mention Outlook. But I don't agree with the prevailing wisdom /. that MS is of needs an evil company full of cretins. I have a feeling that their programmers and even some of the management ;) are probably good, smart people. I even have some firsthand evidence of this, but that's NHNT.

    3) All analogies fail at some point. My widgets thing below is strained, but it's only for convenience ...

    Here's why I disagree with the idea of "market forbiddance for Microsoft (or any company in any field, actually, so long as the business is not coercive): it places a roadblocks of arrogance and unctuousness in front of the businesses that are punished, and creates a favored class of the businesses that are ruled "the good guys."

    Like this: If you want to sell widgets, fine. If you're very successful, fine. If you start to sell proprietary widgets that only work with the widget-installers that you also sell, fine -- so long as there is no force of law or force requiring that people choose that combination. It's easy to imagine that if your combination is Good Enough for most people and (I know, the analogy is stretching, but bear with me in good humor, OK?) perhaps even become dominant.

    Now, someone else could come along with an Open Widget that works with universally available tools, can be re-designed without violating any patents or trademarks, etc ... but can't require that anyone give up the proprietary widget they're comfortable with and used to.

    Do you really want a Widget Commitee that determines what tools people ought to have available to them, "for their own good"?

    I don't find it logical that markets will benefit by being rigidified by regulation, no matter how well-intentioned. Five years from now (or even three years ago, for that matter!), for instance, how firmly will people stick to the often-promulgated view that Web Browsers and Operating Systems are wholly separable? See the Ask Slashdot topic of a month or so ago about what even constitutes an Operating System without bringing that pickle into the picture. Microsoft could (improbable to me, but hey? the future is uncertain!) decide to get into ... I dunno, cars. Quite aside from their having no inherent *right* to make them, Committees of Top-Down Decision Making for All simply aren't suited to making decisions that blur boundaries, cross boundaries of conventional wisdom, etc.

    By saying it's OK for the government to decide on what your organization's stucture is (or as this poster I'm responding to says, what markets you're allowed to enter), you're also implicity ceding the definition of the market to rule-making bodies. Even the idea of whether software is properly a product or a service is one that ought be left to those who deal with it.

    In fact, now I think I've arrived at my central criticism of those who would say the DOJ has legitimate power to decide "Well, Microsoft, you can sell a word processor, and maybe this spreadsheet, but only on different sides of the state line. And this combination product here is just too damn convenient for people to buy and they might cause themselves some tangible but hard-to-establish harm ... so you can't sell it, because it's too "full-featured." That is, they seem to share either a fear of ambiguity or too strong a belief in definitions-as-currently-understood.

    5 years from now, Microsoft could be gone, dead and buried, whatever the DOJ says. 5 years from now, Microsoft and Windows Solutions and Enterprise Software of Redmond and and Redmond Software Magic could all be laughing all the way to the bank. Breakup, no breakup, market rules that favor some companies over others ... market rules are like rules of physics -- they can be distorted by factors which exert influence over your area of observation, but they cannot truly be broken.

    Ramble, ramble, ramble.

  • What I find funny, is Word and Excel are $349.99 each, when purchased seperately. But the lowest end Office 2000 pack is $499, and comes with Access and Outlook. Go figure.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Make it illegal for a new computer to be shipped with an operating system AND non-essential software.

    The major hangups that the DOJ brought up were mostly issues where, firstly, that Microsoft was pre-empting the natural market for certain software by pre-including their own applications in those markets with their OS, and secondly, that MS was punishing OEMs for not shipping a certain pct of computers with an MS OS, and certain practices which encouraged the notion of competition in the OS market.

    How do we clear up these problems, encourage competitive markets, AND increase the ability of the consumer to choose?

    Not by an MS breakup, first off. MS is already adept at making beneficial agreements between themselves and other companies. The fact that lately they have been buying large (or full) stakes in companies in certain niche markets distracts public opinion from this. There's this primal instinct that says "break thing up -> will give thing pain", which is often valid, but ONLY in the short term.

    A breakup will annoy MS the same way a bee sting is annoying. They'll have to swim through paperwork, probably do lots of (nearby) relocating, and mostly just reshuffle deparments and positions. Once that mess is done, you make ten or so VPs and directors presidents of these spinoff companies, erase any explicit executive ties, give the little companies new names (and if the AT&T breakup is any indication, probably tacky names like "Micro Opsys", "Microbrowse", and "Pacfic Micro").

    Then after that mess is done, instead of having lots of departments all stuck under one roof, you have a gaggle of new allies trying to convince everyone of their independence while still being reliant on the former parent company and/or each other. Think Eastern Europe in the 80's and yuo get a good picture.

    Really, how much do you think that these Microsoft Bloc companies are going to be willing, or even practically able, to retask their product model such that they will NOT still be reliant on MS? It's not like AT&T where they are simply a holder of phone lines, where any other company could have their own as well, and be perfectly compatible with AT&T's. MS's carrier technology is proprietary, unlike common phone lines, and due to the wonders of modern communcations and sales distribution, is very easy for them to apply changes to en masse, in very short time.

    These software companies will not be willing to suddenly redevelop their products for OSes that theoretically will be competing with Win32 after the breakup. Most of their code is, as we've seen and heard, well entrenched in the innards of Win32 APIs. Do we expect them to yank it all out and retool it for other OSes, especially if they DON'T have an "in" with MS to include their software with Win32, and now that they no longer have MS funds available to inject into their development? I don't think so.

    The answer for them will be to solve one or both of those limitations: either 1, make deal with parent / OS company which continues the inclusion of their software with Win32, ensuring a stream of revenue, or 2, the parent / OS company will be solicited to make a large investment in this breakup company, giving them the revenue needed to expand development to other platforms. (Which we already know is counterproductive.) If MS's deal making is as good then as it is now, the result will probably be to include BOTH solutions as part of one deal (we'll invest heavily in you if you agree to let us include your SW on our OS release), because the OS company will naturally want to add value to its own product by packaging productive apps with it.

    The result is the same story we have now, except the primal urges that say "snip snip, slice slice" will be satisfied. And that's it -- no resolution of problem, just politics and whitewashing.

    How to resolve the problem? Prevent it from occuring. Sure, in the breakup scenario, MS will be annoyed, stung, and have cream pie on its face, but even if the MS problem goes away after the breakup, what happens if MS goes away entirely, and is replaced with another firm which does the same or similar thing, in the future? Another DOJ antitrust lawsuit? I don't think so. Public opinion is already pretty low towards the MS lawsuit. DOJ antitrust lawsuits will go the way of independent counsels and not reappear on the scene until MANY years later.

    Now, the reason I said you all wont like my solution -- to make this sort of machine + OS + apps packaging illegal -- is because it will also hurt our beloved friends in the commercial Linux field. Redhat might not be able to pre-package things like Netscape, or Gnome, or any such value-adding software. (Although, given the optional-package-install nature of RH installer, they probably could.)

    I'm not saying this bill could be defined by a simple one-liner, as I have put it, and no laws written are ever so simple. It would need to apply to packaging by OS (and/or system) manufacturers, not by resellers or private individuals e.g. selling their used computer. It doesn't need to apply to software included on external distribution media, like the collection of RPMS on the RH CD or even the games and junk on the Win95 CD. It doesnt need to prevent OS makers from including non-essential software with their OS or prevent OEMS from shipping machines with an OS installed. It only really needs to prevent the combined case, where consumers (and OEMs) are forced into an OS and a crop of apps with their new machine.

    In short, the chant for "tear 'em limb from limb" is just a knee-jerk reaction, and will in practice work just as bad as all knee-jerk reactions do. I think we "smarter people" of Slashdot can think of some more original ideas than that.

  • I think that we may be looking at this the wrong way at times. If we split MicroSoft into, say, 3 completely separate companies, we will not get the "starfish" effect. One company does JUST the OS part of Microsoft. Another does JUST the Office part. The third does JUST the Internet things as in the browser and the web server software which should be split from NT and Win2k (if it ever comes out). What will this do? The OS people will want everyone to write software for their OS. SO, they open up all the Hidden API's that Microsoft keeps hidden now. All of a sudden, Windows programs can do MORE and do it BETTER and with more STABILITY. The Office People will want everyone to use their Office Suite. SO, they port it to as many OS's as they possibly can so that EVERYONE can use it! The internet people will want their servers and browser to run on as many OS's and interface with as many 3rd party programs as they can. SO, they will port it and open it up to developers so that they can interface with it so that more people use it. Now I know that Microsoft does other things as well (like hardware) but you get the idea.

    What will be the end result? EVERYONE WINS! The other OS's, like Linux, will get the MS apps that everyone uses. This means that Windows and Linux will be on even terms and the superiority of one OS over another can be proven to the world. Not only that, Windows will have to WORK HARD to keep up to date and to be the quickest, most stable, and easiest to use OS. They will not be able to just sit on their asses and say, "Well, lets just count our money for a while. No one will go and use Linux because the apps that the world uses, and that we control, only runs on Windows." or, "We don't need to improve office. Competitors can't do what we can do because we are the only ones that know all the API's that windows uses."

    Also the split would not have to be regulated for more then 10 years, if that. Once competition gets in, there is no getting it out unless your actually better. No more sitting you your butt unless you want to move back in with you parents after your company goes under.

    In closing, splitting MS into separate Organizations is good for everyone concerned. Even Bill. Stock splits are great, aren't they Bill. :)

  • It's not like you were prevented from selling your product, it's just that your competitor was giving away its version for free.

    No, you are wrong. Giving away the browser free was just one of the things Microsoft did. And giving awa the browser, or even, I must say, bundling it with another piece of software is not wrong. Loki is bundling SuSE 6.3 with Quake III. Sun is giving away StarOffice. No problems with either of those.

    But Microsoft recognised that it wasn't just enough to give away IE. Indeed, OEM's were still choosing to bundle Netscape instead of IE. That's why they decided to make it impossible for OEM's to bundle Netscape. They did this by threatening to without licensing agreements if the OEM preloaded Netscape, and also by paying the penalties that the OEM's incurred by breaking their contracts with Netscape.

    That was an anti-trust violation. The OEM's business depended on Windows, and Microsoft used that to get the OEM's to do something they wouldn't have otherwise done. And that violation is the *only* thing the case is about. It wasn't about giving IE away. It was even about bundling, although the issue of bundling had to be defined in the case. If Microsoft had simply given IE away and bundled it with Windows, there wouldn't have been a case.

    As to which browser is better, currently IE is noticeably better than Netscape.

    Netscape 4.x maybe. But that's a dead product. There'd be something dreadfully wrong if IE *wasn't* better then Netscape. But Mozilla is a different story.

    Right now it is perfectly acceptable to supply the browser as part of the operating system (yes, MS won).

    Will this be the only point I concede on? :) I must admit, I didn't realize that the trial has had such an impact already. I gave Gateway a call, and was more then pleased to find that the sell their systems with Netscape *and* IE preloaded. Later all have to talk with all the OEM's and see what the response is. Certainly though, that is a good sign, that whether or not Microsoft is found guilty, that the trial has, for a time, hindered their ability to continue violating anti-trust laws.

    Netscape currently really, really sucks

    Well, I agree with you here too. It does. It didn't 2 years ago when it was released, because it was more or less up to date then, just like IE 4 was. However, I think IE 4 sucks too. IE 5 is just so much better. Mozilla will be better too, because it'll support all the current technologies. It's like going out and buying a '98 model car. That would've been great in '97, but not today.

  • Not much longer and we will be back to a single overall owner,

    So what if all the baby bells merge together??? There are other companies out there competing in both the Local and LD markets... MCI [] has a local telephone service now. Sprint and AT&T are also poised to enter the market, and AT&T isn't re-entering the market by buying a baby-bell, they are going to deliver television/internet/phone over (the former) TCI's cable lines. so, sure, the baby bells might form a new nationwide local provider, but their networks were made accessible to all kinds of ompanies when the Telecom industry was deregulated.

    The same is happening with power companies, they now are going to face competion in the local networks that they once controlled.

    Of course, the real problem is the fact that the two largest oil companies (mobil and ?exxon?) are going to merge... but even then, there is still BP/Amoco, Shell, HESS (which wasn't formed from standard oil) and others.
  • > On a different note, is anyone else getting tired of hearing about microsoft yet?

    Yeah. I'm tired of hearing people say: "I'll do it in Microsoft Word and mail it to you", "You have to use Microsoft IE to view the site", "Requires Microsoft Windows 95/98",,,

    Yessir, I'm really tired of hearing about Microsoft.

    It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?
  • Maybe I'm just paranoid, but throughout the case the government seemed to be more concerned with how Microsoft harmed competitors than with how they harmed consumers.

    I've been watching this case for a long time, and have not *yet* seen an instance that could be claimed that the DoJ was acting in the interest of competitors over consumers. The DoJ focused on the real issues involving anti-trust violations very well, as we can see in the FoF. Now, on the other hand, I've seen plenty from Microosft claiming that the DoJ was just being the bully.

    My concern is that the remedy the government forces apon Microsoft will solve the problem by forcing Microsoft to stop innovating.

    This won't happen. There's not even doubt here, that the DoJ will somehow prevent MS from innovating. It is just simply not going to happen. It would take a *lot* to have a sentence that would stifle innovation. Now hopefully the DoJ will at least somewhat force Microsoft to stop violating anti-trust laws, which I might add forces the competitors to stop innovating.

    You see, Microsoft was right, this case *is* about innovation. But not their innovation, and not the DoJ stopping their innovation. It is about the competitor's innovation, and Microsoft forcing *them* to stop innovating.

    Microsoft loses control of their APIs and can no longer decide how their OS will change and evolve, they will stagnate.

    If Microsoft is broken up, they will *not* lose control over their API. they'll have to treat how they "protect" their API's different, yes. But they won't lose control. They'll be innovating, they'll just have to innovate with other companies. I know that's hard to comprehend, but it works. There are lots over applications that interact fine with others. Most of the internet, for instance. There's nothing different about Windows. The Linux kernel is developed by multiple companies/hackers, and it seems to be holding together.

    If Microsoft has a natural monopoly, should the govenment be trying to break the monopoly, or simply trying to find a way to keep them from using that monopoly power illegally.

    Microsoft needs to settle the case before the verdict. They could, but they said that wouldn't if it infringed on their ability to violate anti-trust laws in the future. If they don't settle, the verdict will undoubtedly be guilty, and as a lack of willing compliance to previous settlement talks, I think the DoJ will see the only thing that will force Microsoft to comply would be to break Microsoft up.

    Also, keep in mind the the DoJ anti-trust lawyers are undoubtedly top experts in anti-trust law, and when their actions differ from our opinion, it is us that are wrong.

  • True, but if you were running a counterfiting operation, then technically your victims should get the money, not the government. So mabye we should just make microsoft send everyone who ever bought windows a $25 rebate?
  • If Microsoft lawyers' know what's good for them, they'll settle, and settle now.

    I don't think it's their decision.

    (I'm not the first to notice this, either - check this slashdot story [] for someone else's viewpoints (Question #7, by Otter))

    Looking at how the MS Lawyers handled the case in court, I think that Gates doesn't WANT to settle (he is, after all, a total control freak.) It's not the Lawyer's decision to settle, it's the clients' - and this one is too pig-headed and closed-minded to know what's good for him.

  • Maybe - there's lots of things that could be done here, though somethign like that would quickly get unmanageable I suspect.

    The point, though, is that Microsoft's actions are clearly illegal yet their investors are allowed to profit. This does not seem right and, while it may not currently be legal for the US government to do so, I would be delighted if it were decided that their IP assets transferred to a regulatory agency and then licensed to maybe 2 or 3 companies per package on, say, 10-year deals. This then removes Microsoft from the equation (Very Good Thing IMHO) and, if you want, provides a pool of money which could be used to partlially compensate Microsoft shareholders - say, give them 10% of the current market value of their shares back.

    Disclaimer again - I'm still British and haven't qualified as a lawyer since yesterday. I accept that I'm arguing about the law in a foreign jurisdiction which, while in this case affects me, isn't really any of my business. If you want to flame me about this, feel free (to clarify and avoid what happened two posts ago...)

  • I agree with that, except (playing Devil's advocate) it is hard to enforce this. Larger customers get special favours, access to pre-alpha versions often among them. I'm just saying that its a hard line to draw in a judgement. Someone will always find worthwhile exceptions.

    As it stands now, almost certainly a lot of the compiler "patches" don't see light of day

    Hm, like what? Speedup type things, or additional features? I know there's proof for the undocumented library calls (DDJ), but are there any for this sort of stuff, or are we all just being paranoid?
  • Hm, like what? Speedup type things, or additional features? I know there's proof for the undocumented library calls (DDJ), but are there any for this sort of stuff, or are we all just being paranoid?
    Well, I suppose it is VAGUELY possible they hand-code all these extra function calls to the undocumented stuff, but I suspect the compiler merely includes extra calls in its librarys, or during optimisation uses a "secret" call if it would make the program more efficient.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter