Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

The Post-Microsoft Era 525

On the Net, the notion that Microsoft is predatory and monopolistic is old news, but this was sure a stunner to most Americans, who've been reading all those adoring profiles for more than a decade. Judge Jackson's findings of fact drew big headlines and flooded the talk shows all weekend. Microsoft's fat stockholders won't have a happy day today either, as brokers and analysts weigh in after a busy weekend of reading. As one said on CNN yesterday: the judge's report isn't pretty.

Welcome to the Post-Microsoft Era.

For many of the people reading this, today offers a different reality than Friday morning, the demarcation between one period and, suddenly, another.

On the Net, the idea that Microsoft is predatory, ruthless, greedy and monopolistic is so endemic, so long ingrained, that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact almost seem to be merely affirming an obvious truth.

Off-line, in the parallel universe, it's a different story. There, where Bill Gates has been lionized as a mainstream icon and Millenial visionary, the findings are a shock. America's favorite new media executive, the one who made all this crazy new stuff seem safe and comprehensible to old-line businesspeople and adoring journalists, was de-constructed in the very cold-blooded, take-no-prisoners, business-like manner that's been such a hallmark of his own style.

It's almost impossible to find a critical profile or probing interview of the man in all of traditional media. Try it yourself. For years, the most powerful people in journalism and politics have made the pilgrimages to Redmond, kneeling before the great man, appropriately admiring the digital chips that change the artwork on the walls of his gargantuan home.

So the idea that his mythic company brutalized competitors and then brazenly lied about it in federal court for months is an understandable surprise, triggering big headlines, special TV reports, and a talk show blabathon - especially on CNN, MSNBC and CNBC -- that will only accelerate today when financial markets re-open and brokers and analysts get their sound-bites off.

This will not be a happy day for Microsoft or its many fat and happy stockholders. Investors and analysts have now had the weekend to digest Judge Jackson's brutal indictment of Microsoft and its business practices and, as one of them told CNN on Sunday, "It isn't pretty, I can tell you."

Judge Jackson, First Finding Of Fact: 'Three main facts indicate that Microsoft enjoys monopoly power. First, Microsoft's chare of the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems is extremely large and stable. Second, Microsoft's dominant market share is protected by a high barrier to entry. Third, and largely as a result of that barrier, Microsoft's customers lack a commercially viable alternative to Windows.'

The shock waves seemed to spread in concentric circles Friday, starting with media, moving through the computing industry, then onto Wall Street and, over the weekend, through countless Net chat rooms, mailing lists and messaging system conferences.

"Judge Wakes Up the Blasé Investors Who Shrugged Off the Antitrust Case," headlined the Sunday New York Times.

Judge Jackson's Second Finding Of Fact: 'It is Microsoft's corporate practice to pressure other firms to halt software development that either shows the potential to weaken the applications barrier to entry or competes directly with Microsoft's most cherished sofware products.'

The irony is that even before the Judge's ruling -- in which he officially found that MS had engaged in a longstanding bullying campaign to screw consumers, monopolize the software market, discourage competitors and slow new-product innovation - we were already entering the Post-Microsoft Era.

Bill Gates was slow to spot the Web explosion in the mid-90s. Even when he did, Microsoft's efforts to compete in the Web media, communications, electronic, portal and e-commerce fields have generally failed.

To be sure, Microsoft is a vast, enormously powerful company with staggering reserves, and notions that it will perish or disintegrate are silly. But the most exciting, significant and profitable evolutions of the Web have been happening at a distance from the company for some time. Microsoft no longer dominates business computing, and is much less feared and respected that it was even a year ago.

Although Microsoft seemed - arrogantly and unaccountably - to almost brush off the Justice Department's suit (the Judge openly sneered at Gates' testimony, and the company rejected a number of settlement opportunities and was almost brazenly contemptuous and dishonest in its versions of events), it seems fitting that this unspeakably rich and powerful corporation has finally been taken down by the one monopolistic entity left that's more powerful than it is - the United States government.

Whether it's a good or bad thing that federal intervention rather than the marketplace brought this about will be the subject of ferocious debate on the Net for a long while. Maybe this evokes the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

"There's no question that this lawsuit greatly influenced the company's behavior in the past year or so," a Silicon Valley writer close to Microsoft officials told me Saturday night. "They probably would have bought Amazon or eBay by now, if they weren't distracted or afraid of calling attention to their size or power. Microsoft was slow to get the impact of the Web - this is where all the real action is now - and in this world, if you're taken out of things for a year or so, that's like a generation in the off-line business world. It will be a long time before Microsoft can get aggressive about competing again, especially if they are, as they seem, so determined to fight. In the meantime, they're still making cheap and derivative products that cost pennies and sell for many dollars. That will be their fate for awhile, and they'll do well at it."

Microsoft will be preoccupied for a bit. The Judge's findings were not a final decision in the case. He hasn't yet decided whether Microsoft broke the law, or decided on any possible remedies or punishments (which could range from a forced break-up, a la AT&T, to fines or rebates to wronged competitors or consumers). There are sure to be a raft of lawsuits if the Judge follows through on his initial instincts and declares that the company broke anti-trust laws). Nineteen states joined in the federal government's suit against Microsoft, all of them drooling over a potentially favorable verdict.

Judge Jackson's findings were an astonishing series of declarations that made it clear that he didn't believe a word Microsoft's executives and lawyers had been telling him for nearly a year.

The government's version of events, he said - that Microsoft sought to monopolize markets, destroy competitors, put consumers at an unfair advantage - were true, almost in their entirety. There was not one finding that Microsoft could point to as favorable or hopeful to their case.

This brutal declaration was so completely at odds with mainstream journalism's long-running adoration of the man and his company that media consumers, politicians and investors have every right to be puzzled at the disparity between the Gates they've been reading about and seeing on TV and the man Judge Jackson has dramatically re-defined.

Thebitterness and elation expressed by Microsoft's competitors was almost unnerving. Fear and resentment towards Microsoft has been building and festering for so long the bloodlust was almost mob-like. [ this weekend demonstrated its growing primacy in technology news related to the Net, the Web and computing in general. Its coverage of the Microsoft ruling was quick, thorough and knowing.]

Saturday, Reuters reported that Net chat rooms from Yahoo to were teeming with analysis and discussion about the ruling, little of it sympathetic to Microsoft.

"Hallelujah!," exulted Ransome Love, chief executive of Linux operating system-seller Caldera.

As exciting as it was to see a federal judge smack Microsoft around, it's also tantalizing to wonder what might have happened if nature had been permitted to take its own course. Even though Judge Jackson's findings read at times like an open-source manifesto, OS advocates seemed a bit stung that Judge Jackson dissed the movement, saying he didn't consider Linux a serious competitive threat to Microsoft.

As happy as they were with his opinions, OS champions were also clearly disappointed that they weren't the ones who get to bring Microsoft to its knees without federal judicial help, something they're confident they would eventually have done.

Net libertarians also worried that the ruling legitimized the idea that the government needs to step in and regulate the Internet. History suggests they have good for concern. Judge Jackson's ruling was, in fact, by far the most significant and far-reaching intrusion into Net commerce by a federal authority, and represents a landmark judicial effort to begin writing Net law.

That could have lots of implications. Judge Jackson wasn't just curbing the power of a company, he was also seeking to redefine anti-trust law as it applies to commerce online.

And he was definitely plowing new ground. Traditionally, companies have gotten into anti-trust trouble when their monopolies become so vast they monopolize products and goods, prevent competition and innovation, and unfairly control and drive up the price consumers pay for those products. That was the rationale behind one of the first landmark anti-trust rulings, the one that broke up Standard Oil, and behind the decision that dispersed AT&T.

Net commerce works in very different ways, yet anti-trust law hasn't evolved. Microsoft didn't become a monopoly by jacking up prices, but by using practically the opposite tactic - in effect giving products away to obtain staggering market share. Gate's big idea was to make sure his company's software and operating systems were distributed so freely and aggressively they were on every desktop.

Once there, Microsoft could sell ancillary products forever, and play their primacy off against consumers as well as other companies. You can't buy Microsoft Word any longer, for example, without buying Microsoft Office. As Microsoft's operating systems controlled more than 90 per cent of the world's PCs, the company made billions by charging for related, bundled, updated or connected products. Judge Jackson is suggesting that this tactic - unique to the Net - may be monopolistic, thus illegal.

In addition, Microsoft protected this market share, according to Judge Jackson's findings, by ruthlessly buying, bullying or stamping out competitors and potential competitors. That's also against the law when done on so grand a scale.

This could conceivably be written off as old-fashioned, bare-knuckles competiveness. That the company refused to acknowledge such practices, and repeatedly misled a federal judge about them in a trial court, takes the case into another realm. In a way, this rattles investigators and regulators more than the accusations of monopolistic practices. It speaks not only to a manner of doing business, but to a willful refusal to accept responsibility or accept any authority but that of Bill Gates.

Judge Jackson's Third Finding of Fact: 'Through its conduct toward Netscape, I.B.M., Compaq, Intel and others, Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft's core products. Microsoft's past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and business that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft.'

Still, it would be premature to do too much gloating. Concerns about whether the marketplace should ultimately have been permitted to make its own findings of fact are troubling.

If the explosive growth of networked computing - the rise of the PC, the Net, the Web, e-commerce - has proven anything about government, it's that real innovation takes place far from regulators, bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians. The Internet was initially sparked by government-funded research, but began to take off once government got out of the picture.

When it comes to the Net, Congress mostly seems to legislate lunacy. It has never shown the slightest inclination to intelligently consider the many serious policy issues raised by the rapid growth of the network, instead passing block-headed decency acts and fussing about sex online.

It's hard not to notice that the computing and software industries, the Net and the Web, all began growing so explosively at a time when Wall Street, government and journalism were paying almost no attention.

The Web's stunning take-off in the past few years is almost a textbook case of how a creative environment can flourish when it's left alone. Innovators, programmers and entrepreneurs were free to think outside the regulatory, cultural and commercial boxes that dominate American business and culture. Judge Jackson's ruling may mark the end of that period as well as the beginning of the Post-Microsoft Era.

Even though the judge dismissed them as still-marginal, powerful and resilient techno-movements like Linux and open source ("I think he underestimates the competitive threat of Linux," OS advocate Eric Raymond told Salon Friday) were already nibbling away at the monolith from one end.

Raymond may be right.

This year Compaq, Dell and HP all started shipping computers with Linux instead of Windows NT. International Data Corp. estimated Linux's server market share at 17.2 per cent this year, about half that for Windows NT. This year, a number of prestigious companies, colleges and universities, along with Southwestern Bell's network-monitoring center in Kansas City, switched to Linux, which Business Week earlier this year called "Microsoft's Vietnam."

Culturally, the Web has roared past Redmond. So-called "" ads flood commercial TV. Mp3s transformed the way music is distributed and sold in America. Ebay has legitimized the notion of global shopping and retailing. George Lucas's "Phantom Menace" was initially marketed and promoted on the Net. "The Blair Witch Project" showed that the Web can now, under certain circumstances, make a movie a hit. Earlier this year, online "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" fans rebelled over the WB's post-Columbine decision to delay the show's season finale. The video and transcript was all soon over the Web. These events all heralded the fusion of the Web with the entertainment industry. In fact, entertainment has become the primary consumer use on the Net, followed by e-trading, e-commerce, sports and sex.

Microsoft is not at the center of any of these critical evolutions. Of all the countless sound bites, opinions, and interpretations pouring online and off in the media all weekend, one stood out. It was from Tim O'Reilly, the CEO of computer book publisher O'Reilly & Associates, who said: "The frontier of innovation has moved beyond the sphere that Microsoft controls. I think there is more competition for Microsoft than there has ever been."

One of the many questions journalism ought to be asking in the wake of the Microsoft shock is how it managed to award Bill Gates so much space, print and videotape - he was on the cover of almost every news and business magazine in America, usually multiple times - and completely misrepresent his essential character, goals and philosophy.

More significantly, how did so many journalists miss the brutally, perhaps illegally competitive nature of his company?

Bill Gates had some prescient, even brilliant ideas about controlling the computer desktop. But was he ever really a visionary?

This is, after all, a man who never once mentioned the Internet in his first best-seller, "The Road Ahead," and who concluded his latest best-selling book, Business@The Speed Of Thought with this soulless admonition: "The next steps, which can happen project by project, are to connect these knowledge systems with existing business operations systems, to build new business systems on the new architecture, and, over time, to replace older business systems."

Now it's Jackson's ruling that's a sure bet to grace the covers of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News&World Report, as well as a host of business and computing trade publications.

In public this weekend, Gates was conciliatory and statesman-like. In private, he was reported to be enraged and defiant. That might be expected from a man who's spent untold millions building a vast, digitally-controlled mansion and who acquired many of the personal notes, diaries and sketches of both Leonardo DaVinci and Napoleon.

Microsoft will almost surely continue to make billions peddling cheap, generally mediocre software products for many times what it's worth to people who now have little choice but to buy and use it.

But all this proves is that in this sphere, it's possible to be enormously rich and successful and still rapidly become marginal, even insignificant. This seems to be Microsoft's curious fate.

If Gates stood for anything the past few years, it may be the looming confrontation between individualism and corporatism so perfectly embodied by the past and present history of the Net.

The Net was founded by individualists - hackers, scientists, engineers, gurus, hippies, academics, teenaged oddballs and social innovators. Increasingly, they find themselves - as so many Americans do - at odds with vast, predatory, innately greedy corporations, with Microsoft by far the most enduring and visible symbol.

It's not that such companies are evil - corporations can't be evil any more than they can be moral. It's that they inevitably, as the writer John Raulston Saul once put it in his book "The Unconscious Civilization," cause us to deny and undermine the legitimacy of the individual as a free and dignified citizen in a given sphere, time or place. The pervasive effects of corporatism on the individual, warns Saul, are passivity and conformity in those areas which matter and non-conformism in those which don't.

Microsoft and its founder have stood not for innovation, but for the acquisition of other's innovations; not for the free dissemination of information but for domination of the market for information that's disseminated. Meanwhile, millions of computer users have struggled through mediocre and buggy software, paying significant sums for simple programs they may or may not need while being deprived of the incalculable benefits that might have come from silenced, bought out or intimidated innovators whose ideas never came to light.

Those traits aren't unique to Microsoft. Corporatism is perhaps the dominant and most noxious ideology of our time. Confrontations between individualism and corporatism may well be the primary political struggles of the 21st century.

This conflict now moves onto the Net.

Corporatism online comes into almost head-on collision with the individualistic traditions that comprise the Net's most enduring tradition, from its earliest hackers to the programmers patching together the open source and free software movements.

It's hard to feel much sympathy for a man as arrogant or rich as Bill Gates, but one can't spend the last few days, poring through newspapers, trawling through websites and watching almost dependably mindless TV talk shows without thinking there's something tragic about Gates, Microsoft and the fading Microsoft Era.

Reading and re-reading Judge Jackson's blistering indictment of the world's biggest corporation, it's impossible not to wonder what might have happened if a corporation like Microsoft had been free to transcend itself, to really step outside the conventional corporate box.

As it stands, Gates' legacy has just been written by Judge Jackson, but it could have been radically different. Think of the software a company with $22 billion in the bank (Gates himself has close to $50 billion, at least as of this morning) might have created, the advances it could have made in information technology.

Imagine the computers it could have given away, the schools it could have equipped, the tech support it could have provided to the millions of newcomers struggling to get connected, the innovations it could have funded, the programming codes it could have shared, the small, struggling entrepeneurs it could have fostered rather than squash.

In this sense, Gates becomes an almost Shakespearean figure and, indirectly at least, a tragic one.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Post-Microsoft Era

Comments Filter:
  • Cheers - To the fall of Microsloth.

  • but, this is the Supreme Court, so Microshaft can't appeal right? Who'd they appeal too? If some shocking evidance was found ("Win98 is based on the MacOS, so apple has the monopolly!") could they appeal?
  • Why is m$ stock going up?
    Friday afternoon it was down ~4. Now its down ~2 and has been climbing all day. Anybody got an explanation?
  • apple's 1984 commercial? judge jackson as the hammer throwing east german athlete? hmm.

    (note this an observation, not a message of system advocacy. so cheese it.)
  • I dislike Microsoft as much as the next user but do we really need rulings like this? Aren't Linux and the other open OS's rising on their own merits? I suspect that regardless of Microsoft's practices a year from now just about anywhere you go when you buy a computer you will be asked what OS('s) would you like with it.
  • more buyers than sellers
  • M$st stock is down ~3.2 %, not much. Every mutual fund in the US has a piece of it..tey can't just start dumping the thing..
  • Well, the predicted crash never really happened- as of 11:00 MSFT was down only $2. The real winner today is RHAT which is up $17. Sweet!

    Let's face it, there's still an awfully long road ahead for the DOJ and for linux as well. The news was more or less a buying opportunity for investors who managed to snatch up some discount shares when the stock bottomed out at -$6.

    The war's not over!
  • Here's one netizen who doesn't believe that Microsoft is "predatory, ruthless, monopolistic, and greedy." They certainly are greedy, (as are all businesses) but they acquired their position by developing products their customers want and marketing them effectively. They are in essence being punished for their success, for being "too competitive, and making "too much" money. Microsoft has done nothing that other companies don't do on a daily basis. They're just better at it than other companies.

    I think that consumers have benefited a great deal from Microsoft's products, and it sickens me that the government would bring them down to please the whiny mediocrities at Netscape and Sun.

    Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Flame away.
  • This is just a finding of fact and does really mean anything right now. By the time we actually get to the damage stage and what should be done it is very possible Microsoft won't be dependant on Windows at all. As far as their investors go, they knew what Microsoft was/is and their stock price won't be affected that much in the long term as long as they continue to make a profit and keep the shareholders happy.

    This is really a non-event. The only people who didn't see this coming were the ones that don't know anything about Microsoft beside their product came preloaded on their machine.

  • No, this is not a new era for mankind. I still got out of the right side of my bed and put my pants on one leg at a time this morning. My computer still ran linux, and a couple hundred million other computers still run windows, just like they did last friday. They still work with the same functionality(or lack thereof) as they did last friday. When Joe Consumer walks into COMPSUPERSTOREGALORE next weekend, they are still going to be presented with a variety of wintel options. This is a step, but this is not a revolution.
    -Matt Jankowski
  • It was down about 7% or 8% first thing, and has been climbing steadily since then, with blips to about -5%, currently it is -2.875 (-3.14%). I've been enjoying watching it side-by-side with Be, who have been up to +103 %, Go Be :-)
    As to why it has made little difference, well, as some of the comments have been saying, "It doesn't really change anything" - which I guess will remain true until the final judgement appears.

  • No it is not the Supreme court so Yes they can appeal. This is only the Federal court.

  • by Mark F. Komarinski ( 97174 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @06:14AM (#1552663) Homepage
    Jackson does mention Linux and BeOS as competition, but states that they (we) have the same issues of breaking into the market as any other OS vendor. The biggest issue is the "chicken and the egg" problem, where an OS isn't "worthy" until it gets the apps. It doesn't get the apps unless it's "worthy". MS has gone out of their way to perpetuate this view. Yes, it's changing because of Linux and Be, but it's taken 7+ years to get to this point. Any commercial organization spending this much time and money to develop an OS would have been bankrupt long ago. And *that* is the point that Judge Jackson is making.
  • Punishing someone for success removes the desire for success.
    The goal of capitolism is to make as MUCH money as possible. Microsoft just happens to have this knack.

    Luckily we live in a "free" society and you dont have to buy MS products if you dont want to.

    Most of the industry has decided that WinNT/98 is what they'll do because of the installed base. Why do car makers make cars powered by gasoline and not natural gas?

  • I thought this was at a district level not the Supreme Court. Please give me a link or a clue if I am wrong.
  • as Jon pointed out, the mainstream oftentimes portrays Bill Gates as the hero of the new computing era, whereas people on the net more or less portray him as satan himself. My Dad knows who Bill Gates is, but he doesn't know what he does... for him, Bill Gates is one successfull software-dude...

    It is wonderful that Judge Jackson has finally pointed out to the mainstream how Bill Gates runs his company and how he achieved his wealth.

    I don't want to interpret this as a new era, but it certainly means a great boost for the linux and mac communities. :-)

  • Katz is right, the 'off-line' people, who are not techies at heart, have admired Microsoft for a long time. They seem (those I know at least) stunned at the ruling that Microsoft has an OS monopoly.

    But the vast majority of these people have never used, (and many have never even seen) a non-Microsoft OS. That just floors me.
  • Someone might have already answered this, but no, this was only Federal District Court, I think. There's still a few levels of appellate courts before MS could conceivably be arguing to the Supreme Court. However, I'm not even sure (from what I've been hearing, IANAL) that an appellate court would hear MS' appeal...
  • You have no idea how wrong you are. Nothing can keep Microsoft from being the #1 software company for decades to come - you Linuxlusers may be all happy now, but you will find that nothing will change because of this lawsuit. OK so maybe Microsoft is forced to change its practices. Well they've changed them so much already that would change nothing. OK so maybe Microsoft is lots of $$$. Well, with Bill being good for $50 billion or so, they can afford it. 90% of the websurfing world will still be using Windows, Internet Explorer and Office when this is all over. Microsoft doesn't need dirty tricks to prosper.
  • This isn't the supreme court. It's district court. The appeal is first taken to a three judge panel, then the full district court, and only then to the supreme court.

    Microsoft also can ask for the law to change, legitimizing their practices through the political process.

    The appeals process is premature, there first has to be a final judgement rendered (which should be this spring). Only then can an appeal be drafted.

  • I sure as hell know that I benefited when they removed the OS/2 support from their C compiler and simultaneously refused to support all older versions of their C compiler.

    I know that it certainly benefited my company in its quest to maintain a suite of OS/2 applications to be suddenly left with only an unsupported compiler, with no warning.

    I'd continue on to describe the benefits I've personally felt as a consumer, but I don't the time...
  • Microsoft's stock is down only about 4% right now.

    Though anyone who competes with Microsoft is doing quite nicely today:

    Be Inc.
    Sun Microsystems

    The thing is, this is not really bad news for Microsoft... kinda like Clinton being impeached, we have no idea what is really going to happen.

    As for the fat, greedy shareholders of Microsft... they are going to be just fine. In fact, they would be wise to actually HOPE Microsoft is broken up. That would give them holdings in 4 or 5 extremely profitable companies, as opposed to only one.

    For instance, holder's of AT&T have done incredibly well since the breakup in 1984.
    It is a great thing to let these companies flourish autonomously... the best companies in the world today are extremely de-centralized. General Electric for example.
  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @06:19AM (#1552674) Homepage
    There was a time, a few decades ago, when the only telephone service in America was AT&T, except for a few, rural phone corporations.

    If you wanted a second phone, you could go to only one place, a Bell/AT&T shop, and pay an arm and a leg for a phone. True, the phone was so overengineered that it could survive being run over by tank, but it was very pricey.

    Long distance was pricey.

    Second phone lines were presumably pricey.

    My parents were hackers, in a weird sort of way. Their biggest find at a garage sale was a telephone. Telephones were rare at garage sales, and much cheaper than buying one from AT&T.

    They used their garage sale phones to wire every room of the house, but these were not AT&T authorized extensions, and the phones were not authorized phones, so if a repairman came over, we had to disconnect and hide the extensions.

    Substitute Miscrosoft for AT&T, and phones for applications, and you can see what might happen.

    In the future, you might get asked to switch word processors, this new competitor's word processor is 100% compatible, and cheaper too.

    Operating systems might drop to commodity prices, except for the worthy free ones.

    New ideas for computers might pop up and proliferate.

    Exciting times,

  • I would have to say you are right in the aspect that Microsoft has had advancements that have helped the consumer, and they are an extremely aggressive company. My problem is not that they make too much money but that they will do anything in their power to keep someone from competing with them if it seems a threat to their core business.. That is what they are on trial for, not because they are a "bad" company but because the way they deal with competitors is very possibly illegal.
  • I kinda wonder if the judge type up his big fat report on a Linux box. The way the media describes him makes him sound almost like a Microsoft basher himself. Then again, he probably had it typed up in MS Word. That actually would be a bit more ironic and funnier.
    Words of Wisdom:
  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @06:21AM (#1552679) Homepage
    This is really having very little effect on MS stock. Aside from an initial fall of about $5 due to overseas (and after hours) trading it's not being dumped in any spectacular way - much to my surprise.

    However if you think carefully about this, it's not too surprising. Fund managers aren't about to dump and run from one of their major holdings and major earners until something more happens. To them this is still just a minor blip.

    The last thing people want is a panic on MS stock. The reason being that MS stock is often part of a larger fund, and to see that price go down sees the price of the fund go down. Analysts know this, and aren't about to create a frenzy.

    I think also it's hard to see a negative outcome for Microsoft from this. We can only look at previous similar cases such as Bell (split up, but still getting bigger and stronger), IBM (punished, but still getting bigger and stronger), AT&T, etc. None of these companies have truly suffered at the hands of the monopoly police that would mean time to dump the stock. This is probably good news - stability in the stock market is good.

    I think the truly beneficial outcome of all this is to wipe away the squeaky clean image of MS from the American (and a lot of the rest of the world) householder's viewpoint. And to finally give the players a chance.

    Now we've just got to wait for someone to post how Red Hat are going to take their position :-)

  • Sorry, Jon, but Microsoft didn't become a monopoly by giving software away. It became a monopoly by making shrewd deals with computer manufacturers -- the same ones the Judge discussed as being rather unethical.

    Unless you're talking about becoming a monopoly in the web browsing market (not the case), the web server market (not the case), the music software playing market (not the case), you're wrong. Microsoft has a monopoly in approximately none of the markets in which it has given away software. (Not that it hasn't tried....) Perhaps if Microsoft were truly innovative, things would be different.

    Remember Windows refund day? There's the monopoly product.

    QDMerge [] 0.4!
  • The report was in Word Perfect format according to the news site I read. Operating System was not mentioned.

  • I've been reading that Microsoft might be broken into different companies, with one company doing OS work, another doing Office products, and another doing Internet work. My question is whether the Office and Internet companies could continue to create software using the undocumented API's that they are aware of in the OS.

    If Microsoft is broken up, I think they should be forced to release all the undocumented API information that is being used by their products, or force the new companies to use only documented API's.

    This could allow others to write more competetive office and internet server packages on the microsoft OS platform. (Not that I want the microsoft OS to be used, but competetion there would help!).
  • Microsoft is not "just doing what everyone else does", as anyone who had read the finding of fact can easily see. In an environment where the cost of every other component of the computer has dropped by a factor of three or so, Microsoft software has held steady in price. In an open and competitive market, this is clearly an impossibility. As for being punished for being "too successful", that's even more laughable. Do you see breakup talk regarding GE, or Disney, who both bring in more revenue than Microsoft? Of course not, because they don't behave the same way that Microsoft does.

  • *sigh*

    Once again, Jon, you're trying to whip up emotion out of nothing. This is not the end of the "War of the Geeks", where 'our boys' win out over the Evil Empire. Those of us who hate Microsoft have really gained very little from this. It's not V-Day!
    Microsoft isn't falling like the Nazi's, they are slowly (very slowly) becoming irrelevant like the Roman Empire as it declined. If you want to write a stirring story, portray the 'Geeks' as the barbarian raiders :-).
  • I doubt if he used MSWord - most lawyers use Wordperfect and if you look at the official site [] the text of the ruling is available as HTML, PDF and WordPerfect 6.


  • It seems like every major market analyst has re-iterated strong buy ratings on MSFT this morning. Perhaps it's because if it lost out, the market would crash???

    Face it - MSFT is the most widely-held stock on the market. It is the leading stock on the most widely-used index (the S&P 500) for investors. No-one wants to see it fall. If this holds up, Gates could probably resort to selling ice to eskimos and maintain the stock price!

    It appears that guy stating MS stock fraud wasn't too far off!

  • They certainly are greedy, (as are all businesses) but they acquired their position by developing products their customers want and marketing them effectively. They are in essence being punished for their success, for being "too competitive, and making "too much" money.

    You didn't read Jackson's "findings of fact" paper, did you? MS are most certainly not merely being punished for being too successful. It is probably true that Sun, Netscape, etc. would happily have done all the same things that Microsoft has done, were they in a position to do so, but that doesn't justify Microsoft.

    In general, I agree that Katz is a windbag, but for once in his life, this time he got it right.

  • One of the biggest problems with the mainstream press is its habit of analysing everything to death the instant anything interesting happens. Those analyses invariably look silly a month or a year later, because they are always made too quickly, before things really settle. That's exactly what is happening here.

    It is far, far too early to call this a "Post-Microsoft Era", either in referring to the trial or the effects of Linux. In regards to the trial, the true effects won't really be known for years, or even decades. It is silly to try to pretend that we know what this will mean for the future. We can't. We can just sit along and watch, and perhaps nudge our little part of it in the direction we want it to go.

    In regards to Linux, there are a number of huge hurdles to overcome before it can really be a threat to Windows in the desktop market. (And most of them are not technical.) This ruling probably helps, but who can really say at this point?
  • According to quicken [] as of 11:00am EST MS is only -2 13/16 points down, and slowly rising. This is not surprising to me, since a lot of people believe that MS has the resources to fight/appeal against the ruling. It now goes to the Supreme Court where they are more "business" friendly. MS will survive, the only thing that could really damage them is a break up. I doubt that will happen, and actually don't really want it to. Although I think that MS should separate their OS from their apps, things are changing so drastically, I don't think it will help. I really don't want the government to punish MS too badly. I like the idea of a long fight, because this gives the opportunity for competitors to get back to where they belong. MS will be too scared to attack in full force because of the law suit, and that is where I want them to be. Let MS fight only with quality (hee hee) products, and not with shady deals.

    Side note: Another thing that the Net has changed and wasn't mentioned is politics. Just look at Jesse Ventura, who ran his campaign only through the web. And he won!!!

    Steven Rostedt
  • I wasn't even aware Microsoft was gone!
  • POST-microsoft era? What a laugh.

    I don't think you people realize just how much money Microsoft has. When you have that much money, then the rumors of your demise are sure to be greatly exaggerated.

    Let's suppose that MSFT is forced to stop using it's Win32 monopoly as an unfair advantage. What would they do? If I were MSFT, I'd work hard to create a brand new monopoly. Perhaps my low flying sattelites would give me a wireless bandwidth monopoly. Perhaps my WinCE platform would give me a monopoly on embedded systems. Or perhaps I'd finish kicking the pants off Netscape and build myself a healthy browser monopoly.

    Think they would need the unfair advantage of a Win32 monopoly to do this? Wrong. When you're sitting on the worlds biggest pile of money, you can buy your way into just about anything you like. MSFT could afford to give all these things away for years and years and years, until there was nobody else left, just on the basis of the money they have.

    But, even if they failed to do that, would we then be living in a post Microsoft era?

    Nope. The first thing they'd do is release Office-2013 for Linux. It would be a hugely successful product, and they'd take home pots of money from selling it. Corel/StarOffice/Applix would still get crushed by the huge Microsoft marketting machine, able to bring more resources (ie: Money) to the battle than everyone else combined.

    Also notice that I said Office-2013--let's be realistic, that's about how long it's going to take for this decision to have ANY practical effect. It will be 2010 before this thing gets out of appeals, and Microsoft will be given a couple of years to implement the decision at that point.

    We won't be living in the post Microsoft era until that enormous fortune is somewhat diminished.
  • Unfortunately, the MS trial focuses on the wrong issues. MS lies to their developers (this is the entire win32 API... honest!) and they use unpublished OS tricks to improve their own applications performance. They change their products to intentionally break competitors products. They make their cross-platform products crippled for non-MS operating systems while promising comparable performance.

    In short, MS is guilty of massive, systemic fraud along a wide range of issues and across a long time span.

    MS shouldn't be the target of an anti-trust prosecution. They should be the target of a criminal RICO fraud prosecution.

  • IBM is oding fairly, too!
    In other words, all the "nasty" gusy who were more or less anti-MS.
  • by addison ( 80477 )
    Aren't Linux and the other open OS's rising on their own merits?

    Partially, and partially _because_ of MS's bloat and attempt to monopolize everything.

    But the preloads of Linux, the media attention? Wouldn't have happened without the DoJ trial.

    Notice that the Dell and Compaq preloads happened under a week after testimony what happened if OEM's preloaded other than Windows?

    I suspect that regardless of Microsoft's practices a year from now just about anywhere you go when you buy a computer you will be asked what OS('s) would you like with it.

    Why? How? That wasn't about to change. Why would someone support a 2-5% OS, and incur 100% increase in their 95% OS?

    Yes, we needed this ruling. Other companies did. Microsoft did. They've been believing their own PR - and now perhaps they'll start actually TRYING to make better products.

    Internet Explorer 5 is one of the few products that has advantages (still arguable) over the competition. Has file/print sharing been improved? Not really. What about stablity? Not really. Clustering? Nope.

    In fact, a lot of things about Windows have gotten far far worse.

    And as of 2 weeks ago -OEM's were not allowed to give you Windows, period. Only in a format that would ONLY install on your system.

    Many many better products have hit the road and been run over by the OEM preloads and secret contracts. Now - these are in the open, we've got a federal judge's ruling, and things (may) change.

    Perhaps Linux (or something else) would have supplanted Windows - that's unknown. But in the desktop arena, it wasn't making that progress (yet).

    And as things stand, if everyone who buys a machine next year from an OEM installs another OS - Windows records 50% of the sold/installed OSes.

    Lets not forget OS/2 has stomped Windows into the ground in terms of *sales* (not preloads). I imagine Linux is passing OS/2, or has. Certainly in terms of installs, (not preloads, or re-installs of preloads).

    Yes, we needed this. Despite the strength's of any of the competition.


  • IBM is oding fairly, too!
    In other words, all the "nasty" gusy who were more or less anti-MS.

  • I'm not a Katz-basher, but I have to disagree with the premise of this article. Calling this the "Post-Microsoft era" is probably a bit on the premature side. Gates is a very smart man (in a very evil-overlordish way) and I seriously doubt that this is going to mark an end of some sort for M$. Somehow Gates doesn't strike me as the type of person (unfortunate as it may be) that will just curl up and die when he loses his big marketing club that he can beat everyone over the head with.

    OTOH, hopefully this will set him back somewhat, and wake people up to the (better) alternatives that are out there. At the very worst, it won't have an effect one way or another, and any benefit to the OpenSource/Linux/BSD movement is better than none.


    "I love chess! It is like ballet only with more explosions!"
  • IMO none of the big guys would be selling systems with linux pre-installed if it hadn't been for the lawsuit. It provided the large OEMs enough protection from M$'s standard business practices to allow them some freedom to innovate.

    Recall that that M$ threatened to withhold Windows from Compaq when Compaq was considering pre-installing Netscape. Do you suppose that M$ would have permitted Compaq to offer systems with linux when they wouldn't even allow them to ship a competing application?

    If nothing else, the suit has accomplished this.
  • On this theory of better value via breakup isn't MS guilty of corporate malfeasance by not breaking up MS? The board of directors of MS is charged with maximizing shareholder value, not building a monolithic empire. If shareholders would get a better deal if MS broke up, the board is legally obligated to break up.

  • What's really scary is I've seen two people on here already defending Microsloth with hatred and virol. Sad.

    This changes nothing except a few opinions in the media. now they get a big new story to report.

    I don't think Linux was gaining as fast as Katz and Raymond hope. Both seem to hav his naieve idea that the "market" (spoken in tones that bring to mind worship) would have eventually evened things out is naieve and down right stupid. This is a corporation that _Controls_ the market. That's what a monopoly is.
  • ...indictment of the world's biggest corporation...

    Um, according to the fortune 500 index, last I heard General Motors was the largest with revenues of ~$161 billion.
    Microsoft rated 109 in the Fortune 500 index making ~$14 billion.

    They may be the largest computer software corporation tho.

  • The court is officially responsible for determining the facts. Then, as a separate matter, it is responsible for making a judgement based upon those facts.

    As a general rule, the facts themselves are very rarely disupted in an appeal, only the interpretation of those facts (the judgement).

    So this is in a sense more important than the judgement, because the judgement can be overturned upon appeal, but any appeal has to use these findings as its base.


  • Okay, I have problems with antitrust law-- I don't consider them right. But I also won't hold up Bill Gates as a visionary who creates "trailblazing" operating systems ( -- ugh!). But I'm going to put aside the moral and political issues for the moment and say this:

    I really wanted to see Linux kick Microsoft's ass. I wanted to see Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and other open source alternatives (even GNU/Hurd) take the place of Windows. And I think it would have happened.

    Let's take a look at the following: Western Union was in the business of communications. Messages were telegraphs sent via morse code over copper wires. Along came this goldurned telephone thingy-- it couldn't *possibly* compete with telegraphs! It was an interesting toy, but it had no practical value, and nobody wanted to use it. But telephones are now so commonplace that you have very few situations in which you need to use Western Union. So now WU isn't so big. Why? Because they forgot-- they were in the communications industry, not the telegraph industry. They forgot what business they were in.

    Or how about railroads? They're still a big method of transportation. It's still profitable to be in the railroad biz. But not as profitable as it used to be. Why? Because the railroad companies thought that they were in the railroad business-- not the transportation industry. Along came trucks. Trucks were extremely regulated in the beginning, due in part to the legislation and lobbying done by the railroads. But trucking won out-- it's a more common mode of transportation today. The railroads lost because they forgot what business they were in.

    Now look at Microsoft. They're in the software business, right? Well, that's the business they *could* be in. But they're in the Windows business, not software. And this Linux thing, this Open Source stuff-- it's the equivalent of trucking to railroads, of telephones to telegraphs. While railroads and telegraphs are still used to a small extent today, telephones and trucks are more common.

    Microsoft was on its way to doing massive damage to itself. It wasn't going to go away completely, but damned if it wasn't going to suffer like every other company that forgets its origins.

    But now, if the appeals exhaust and the DoJ has its way, Microsoft is going to be dismantled by the government. And that's a lot less exciting to watch. It's like watching all sorts of character development in a tragedy-- you know the hero's tragic flaw, and you *see* how his downfall will come-- only to have the hero killed by a bit player. It really *sucks*.

    Oh well... enough of my ranting. I'm not trying to advocate a political, social, or economic viewpoint here, I'm just saying that I'm going to be much less amused at Microsoft's slow death because of this. Such is life, I suppose...

    Just my $0.02

  • by jd ( 1658 )
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with regulation. Without -some- regulation, Microsoft would have been far more agressive than it was. Katz, himself, admits this. A more agressive Microsoft, unhindrered by any regulation, would have bought the entire games industry and most of the Internet as well.

    (Microsoft, together with Bill Gates, probably has more money than the net worth of Nintendo, Sony, the US Internet backbone, Netscape, Yahoo and the Bell companies, combined.)

    Can you imagine what life would be like, without regulation, and the only TV stations with licences are all Microsoft-run, the only pre-packaged food you can buy was all Microsoft-made, and could only be cooked in a Microsoft oven, the only software you could buy was all Microsoft-made, and the only Internet ISPs and backbones were all Microsoft-run?

    That's the soft of world we would have had, had there been nothing to slow Microsoft down. Before castigating the Government, Katz should remember that Microsoft was trying to run it's own global satellite telephone service, involving 1000 low-orbit satellites. With so many satellites, travelling so low in orbit and so close together, Microsoft would have basically controlled all space operations, globally, because they could control where and when it would be safe to launch.

    As you might gather, I'm no libertarian. I don't believe in letting someone wield god-like power on the hope (and prayer) that they'll be a benevolent God. Doubly so, when they've shown no signs of being a benevolent mortal.

    On the flip side, I agree that this wasn't unexpected to a lot of people. The idea of Microsoft being a monopoly is "old news" to a lot of people who have been on the Internet for a while.

    Last, but not least, Judge Jackson did NOT "diss" Linux, BeOS or other OS'. He made it clear that he did NOT see them as competition on the desktop, which they aren't, and only a fool would think otherwise.

    If ESR takes insult from the Judge's words, that is his problem, and has nothing to do with either what was said or implied. What was said was that Linux is not a desktop OS. It's not, it's a server OS, and most of it's sales have been in the server market, displacing both low-end Unix systems and Windows NT. BeOS is also not a general-purpose desktop OS, although it could be. Be, Inc, have chosen to constrain it. Stupidly, IMHO, but there you go. It ain't a rival for Windows 2000, however you cut it.

  • You're making one HUGE mistake in evaluating his ruling. It is NOT illegal to have a monopoly. It is NOT illegal to compete as disgustingly as you can to get that monopoly. Once you have a monopoly, you can even charge high prices. However, you CANNOT act terribly competitively once you get that monopoly.

    You cannot use your status as a monopoly to kill competition. That is what the law says, and that is what he found that Microsoft did (so his finding of fact is a pretty safe guess). You cannot use a monopoly to try to establish another monopoly.

    Basically, under Anti-trust law, your monopoly may be a cash cow, but you can't do much with it, because anti-trust law serves to protect competitors that will help customers.

    Microsoft was allowed to release Internet Explorer. They could probably give it away free, although that might have been considered dumping (but dumping requires P MC, not P AC, so unless you can prove a marginal cost for distributing another version of i.e., you can't prove dumping. Basically, according to economics, there are times you should take a loss on a product, but you should never set production so that you are losing money on a particular unit, just overall, i.e., high fixed costs) but probably not.

    Had Microsoft included IE on Windows and Office CDs, they probably would have been okay, although it would have violated anti-trust laws. However, by requiring customers to install IE, it potentially hurt them, because they lost an option and got nothing.

    Companies are welcome to bundle, but once you have a monopoly, you play by different rules.

    Imagine a small tow, with a few market, and only 2 roads in. Imaging that both roads are owned by he owner of the market and they are toll roads. If he jacked up the cost of bringing food in for suppliers going anywhere but his store, that would be antitrust violations, because it would prevent the market from competing assuming there were sufficient barriers to entry to build another road.

    However, if two market owners each owned a road, they could be as disgusting as they want as long as they didn't collaborate. Customers would be better served with a dozen suppliers, but there will be competition, because each owner will try to undercut the other. If the owners collaborate to rip off the customers, then that would be illegal collusions.

    If the market owner owned all the roads and charged rediculous tolls, he would be entitled to that. As long as he didn't use his monopoly to try to steal another monopoly (the grocery markets), he can profit from his monopoly. If he threatens unions or businesses that are trying to build a third road that he will starve them out while they try to build it, that would be erecting a barrier to entry to protect his monopoly. If he sat there as a fat cat making profits, and when the new toll road owners tried to make the same profits dropped prices to compete, then the market would be working as it should. If he dropped his road maintenance to a loss to drive out competition (so he could jack his prices up), he would then be breaking the law.

    You can compete as much as you want. However, as a monopolist, you can not use that monopoly as unfair leverage. You can profit all you want, but you have to fight competition when it arrives fairly. You can't use your existing monopoly to destroy others.

  • Luckily we live in a "free" society and you dont have to buy MS products if you dont want to.

    That's exactly the problem. Until the anti-trust case went to court, you DID have to buy a MS product if you wanted a laptop. If you wanted a desktop, you could avoid it, but only by avoiding all major vendors. That's not exactly free.

    Why do car makers make cars powered by gasoline and not natural gas?

    You can special order a car that runs on natural gas. You also have the option of moonshine for any car.

  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @06:46AM (#1552729)
    Here's some stock quotes: Microsoft [], RedHat [], Sun [] and Oracle []. MS is down but recovering, but all the others are up - Red Hat by 20%!

    At The Register, there is an interesting article: Judge: Linux can't break Windows monopoly []. See also, What will happen if Microsoft finally loses? [], Judge's ruling opens way for Caldera Win95 suit [], Caldera judge finds MS 'grossly misprepresented' facts [].

    At Reuters Business News, there is this report: Silicon Valley Cheers Microsoft Ruling [], I liked the quote from a Sun lawyer "The aura that surrounded Microsoft as this all powerful, inexorable force that always won has now been significantly diminished,"

    On Sun's website, on Friday, they put up this page: Sun Responds to Department of Justice vs Microsoft Case [], where they give their own ideas about what to do to MS:

    • Microsoft should be prohibited from buying the distribution channels of the future (e.g. cable and wireless) and from buying rather than inventing technologies. Microsoft's unfettered use of a cash hoard created out of monopoly profits is a competition killer;

    • The government needs to foster competition in the software industry by assuring that the technical interfaces of Microsoft's monopoly products are open;

    • Microsoft must be forbidden from entering into exclusive or preclusive agreements;

    • Microsoft must be required to make their pricing policies non- discriminatory and public.
  • We're more or less civilized nowadays, so we can't expropriate Microsoft and destroy them.

    We can break 'em up, but that's not going to make their OS into any less of a monopoly.

    We can slap 'em with fines and distribute the results to their competitors. I don't know how much good that will do; most of the affected companies are actually not doing that badly. Netscape is part of prospering AOL; Sun is, well, Sun; Oracle is, well, Larry Ellison; etc.

    The best solution I see is a breakup, but look what that did to AT&T. The original AT&T is being re-formed pretty darn quick nowadays. So was all that antitrust effort for naught?

    In the end, the only way to end Microsoft's dominance is to consciously choose to use non-MS products - which is not something antitrust law can control.

    I don't see any type of penalty that would actually make a difference in the way the world worked today.



  • I tend to agree a breakup of Microsoft might even prove beneficial to them in the long term. I don't think the judge or the government will go for that however.

    If a baby Bill was making Office and nothing else, they would still be able to bully OEMs and vendors with the threat of witholding sales. The upgrade treadmill would still be running using the same closed proprietary format. You could easily end up with three companies, all monopolies in their market, still needing further regulation.

    A behavorial remedy forcing Microsoft to play fair would be far more effective in promoting competition and getting Microsoft back on track. Holding Gates personally responsible for it's enforcement seems like it might work to me.
  • Well, this whole case was really about the desktop, wasn't it? It originally started because M$ bundled IE with Win9x. Maybe NT workstation could come into play, but it's really about monopolizing the desktop. M$ really doesn't monopolize the server market, because you've got *many* choices when it comes to that, Commercial Unices(Many of them), NT, NetWare, etc. This is really only where Linux could be considered a threat to M$, and that's why Linux shouldn't be considered a competitor to Win9x.
  • If I were a microsoft shareholder, what would concern me more were if The recent allegations of financial fraud [] were true. Most of Bill's wealth is in stock options. If MS became a nickel stock overnight... that alone would send brokers jumping out of their windows (no pun intended).

  • Point 1 - This isn't the post-anything; no verdict or penalties have been rendered, MS stock is not dropping as expected.

    Point 2 - MS hasn't lost anything except that Dell and Compaq, etc, are willing to risk distributing Linux boxes. MS still holds dominant & growing shares of IE, which, if unrestrained, they can leverage into making the web into a network of proprietary MS protocols. We Linux users can still use our Linux boxes in such a world, ... as long as we're okay with not being able to read online-newspapers, participate in online-auctions, or view online streaming videos...

    Point 3 - If you were the press, would you want to risk a lawsuit for libel from the worlds biggest corporation? It's no wonder the mainstream press has been slanted. (Well, that, and mainstream American culture glorifies greed and wealth over any other aspiration. Gates is certainly successful on -that- account.)

    In counterpoint to my own points - a guilty verdict is certain, given this finding of fact, and MS -will- be restrained in some way or another. Eventually. After the appeals process has been muddled through. What form of penalties and controls there will be, and what effect they will have, remains to be seen.

    In any case, at best, this is the pre-possibly-post-Microsoft era, for whatever that's worth.

    Oh, and go Mozilla, 'architecturally complete' M11 due out early this week. Features and stability work in coming months. :)

  • This is such a different world, and it's because of one of the things MS tried to argue: The internet.

    [As an aside, I think MS's arguments about the internet in relation to what's below are bogus because the internet simply wasn't positioned to affect MS's position at the time the case is looking at]

    Comparison's to other companies are interesting, but mostly irrelevant because of the internet. Before the advent of the internet it was fairly similar: The barrier to entry into the market was huge - you had to setup distribution channels, box manufacturers, disk duplication services, etc. This is similar in many ways to competing with AT&T - they had the infrastructure and you didn't.

    With the internet it's different. With a couple of million bucks of VC funding you can now become a killer company from nothing. Look at Netscape. That sort of growth simply wouldn't have been possible if they had to distribute their software through the normal methods. And many more companies are coming up using this same method of deployment.

    In short, the "exciting times" aren't here because MS gets slapped wrists - they're here because we can choose fantastic products quickly and easily over the internet. The slapped wrists is required though simply to stop MS from buying out that small company and stomping all over them.

    In all honesty I think MS are probably more afraid of people moving to Linux than anything else right now - I really don't think they know how to fight that one. Even PHB's are figuring out that Linux is fast, stable and cheap, and ignoring the FUD factory.
  • So a hundred people have pointed out already that the finding of fact doesn't mean anything, so I'll leave it alone.

    First, regardless of your current opinion of Microsoft, you've got to give them props. They may have pushed their little bundling/packaged deals for $profit$, but they did force the computing world to a new plane. How many years after the mac came out, did it take for intel boxes to get a decent user friendly interface? What about the concept of the office suite? OLE? (Hey, i'm talking 'bout mainstream stuff here, things my mom uses. Me? I use Xemacs for like, everything.) A lot of tech has come out of microsoft that people praise everday.

    Second, out of conflict comes change. Better yet, out of conflict comes evolution. And because of this, we are living in very exciting times. Microsoft has done a lot to create the current computing industry, and built up a large control in the process. Now is the time when the next phase comes along, where the next batch of little organisms come along and start to grow and evolve as well. Linux is now widely known becuase it is the young scrapper OS. The place where new and exciting things happen daily. Netscape, AOL, ASP's. The growth of application service providers will be very interesting to watch.

    Because of the microsoft conflict, there has also been a return to standards based architectures. This is a good thing.

    Think of it as a classic fairy tale story. The good king comes into power, build some roads, passes some good laws, but over time he is corrupted. Then along comes the Hero(s) to end his rule and bring back happiness and prosperity to the kingdom. The trick is going to be figuring out who the heros are.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • See this column [] by James Surowiecki in Slate []. (Disclaimer: Slate is published by Microsoft.)

    In (ahem) brief: Investors have been expecting the judge to rule against Microsoft for months. Therefore, before the judge issued the FoF, the MSFT stock price already took the effect of a negative ruling into account.

    Remember, a company's day-to-day stock prices are not based on what it "realistically" (in some ideal universe of rational omniscient analysts) is worth, or what it "should" (according to someone's moral standards) be worth -- they're based on what the investors think it's worth.

  • Microsoft didn't become a monopoly by giving software away.

    Microsoft didn't become a monopoly by adhering to any one strategy. And in some instances they do give software away. Not source code, and not to just anyone (they hand out lots of freebies to developers at seminars and such) but they do give software away. It's another shrewd business practice, and it's not illegal or even ethically questionable.

    However...they're not particularly innovative, and their claim that this finding will stifle innovation is ludicrous on the face of it. Most of Microsoft's "innovations" seem to be someone else's innovations that Microsoft bought out from under the innovators. And what they couldn't buy and assimilate, they attempted to stifle. And that is ethically questionable, and probably illegal as well.
  • The issue is not really whether other companies get to evade the APIs, but whether MS's current products do.

    If, say, MS Office somehow benefits through Windows functionality that _isn't_ disclosed to non-MS developers, then that's arguably a tad unfair. Any breakup into multiple divisions would just about have to come along with a consent decree prohibiting such behavior.
  • The general nature of Jackson's upcoming conclusions of law are fairly obvious. The question we should now be discussing is: exactly what should the remedies be? Since, next to Microsoft, we are the people who will be most affected by the outcome we need to make our voices heard. It's clear that remedies imposed on Microsoft must be of 3 different kinds:

    Reparative - repairing the damage. To the extent it's possible to determine the damage of course. This would also include the cancelation of benefits that Microsoft obtained by breaking the law - in other words, the confiscation of illegally obtained profits. Damages and illegal profits taken together are likely to amount to a very large amount - think in the order of $100 billion. Given Microsoft's current market capitalization in the order of $500 billion and other factors, this huge amount isn't out of the ballpark.

    Punitive - there must be a punitive component in the remedies so that there is no mistaking the message: breaking the law is not something that will result in the mere confiscation of profits. If this were true, then there would be no reason not to break the law - if you win, you win big, but if you lose you just have to give back the profits and try again. To send this message clearly, the punitive component of the remedies should equal the reparative component. Think another $100 billion.

    Corrective - There is one corrective measure that makes all others pale by comparison: force the source code of Windows (98 and NT) into the public domain. Most of Microsoft's illegal pressure tactics have involved playing games with the secret details of Windows software. The only way to end these games is to make the source code public. Does anybody object to the idea that it should be licensed under GPL? So that not only will it enter the public domain, but it will stay there.

    Naturally, other questions have to be addressed, such as "what about Microsoft's abuse of its monopoly position in office suites?" "What about the bartering of favors from online service providers in return for advantages that Microsoft can grant based on its monopoly position?" etc. etc. But let's not lose sight of the most important remedy: the source code must become public property.
  • Ok, good points about this finding of fact being a strong wake-up call to all the offliners who still think of Gates as a Real American Hero, and MS as the champions of Truth and Justice and Capitalistic Right.

    But I think Katz is way off the mark in trying to cast this as a case of the Government regulating the internet.

    History suggests they have good for concern. Judge Jackson's ruling was, in fact, by far the most significant and far-reaching intrusion into Net commerce by a federal authority, and represents a landmark judicial effort to begin writing Net law.

    How is this ruling a "significant and far reaching intrusion into Net commerce?" Is Miscrosoft Windows sold or distributed primarily over the internet? No. Are the competitors that MS is accused of crushing primarily Internet companies? No. In fact, this ruling has little or nothing to do with MS's forays into online commerce and content, and is explicitly about Microsoft's poor treatment of competing software development companies, who sell products (shrink-wrapped, in stores) that compete in MS's core markets.

    Judge Jackson wasn't just curbing the power of a company, he was also seeking to redefine anti-trust law as it applies to commerce online.

    Now we have an exploration of the "implications" of the foregoing totally unsupported (and mystifying, to say the least) claim. What does this finding of fact have to do with online commerce? Other than superficial things like "Well, I can download Netscape..." This case is about standard, old fashioned monopolistic behavior. I'm puzzled as to why Katz seems to think it has much at all to do with the internet.

    And he was definitely plowing new ground. Traditionally, companies have gotten into anti-trust trouble when their monopolies become so vast they monopolize products and goods, prevent competition and innovation, and unfairly control and drive up the price consumers pay for those products. That was the rationale behind one of the first landmark anti-trust rulings, the one that broke up Standard Oil, and behind the decision that dispersed AT&T.

    In fact, Jackson explicitly does not plow new ground, and, as would be clear to anyone who read and understood the finding of fact, took great pains to emphasize that this case is an anti-trust case which clearly and indisputably falls within the established bounds of US anti-trust law. Point by point, he lays out the ways in which Microsoft has engaged in typical, standard, monopolistic behavior; i.e. consumer harm through price-fixing, "bundling", market leveraging, and anti-competetive practices. The finding of fact is very clear and very readable, and, I thought, tried hard to avoid accusations of "Extending" or "redefining" anti-trust law in any way. But over and over, I see commentators talking about how the new tech economy is a totally mystifying and inexplicable market, and how anti-trust law does not apply the same way, and so Jackson must be "extending" or "redifining" that law. This is simply not true, and points out the ignorance of these commentators.

    Microsoft didn't become a monopoly by jacking up prices, but by using practically the opposite tactic - in effect giving products away to obtain staggering market share. Gate's big idea was to make sure his company's software and operating systems were distributed so freely and aggressively they were on every desktop.

    Jackson's finding also takes pains to point out that this is not true. When is the last time you got a Windows OS "upgrade" for free? He clearly explains that Microsoft unnecessariuly raised prices of it's OS (pricing Windows 98, for example, far higher than it's own internal economists stated would be profitable), in order to increase funds to support it's undercutting of prices in other markets, such as web browsers. To give away IE for free, MS leveraged it's monopoly stranglehold on the desktop OS for easy cash flow. This is classic monopoly behavior-- once you have a monopoly in one market, you can fix prices at whatever point they need to be in order to allow you to give away a product in another market and force competitors out of business. There's nothing new about this, as Jackson makes clear.

    The rest of the article, the analysis of Gates himself, and MS's legacy, I think is pretty much on target. But the part in the middle, that brainlessly spews the offliner's party line about this case being about the internet, and about tech commerce being unique and brand new and incomprehensible, just underlines Katz's fundamental lack of understanding of the technology. The only reason people think the high-tech market is different is because when they turn on their desktop, what happens is, for them, "indistinguishable from magic." Technologists might as well be shamans, for all they know, coaxing spirits to live inside beige boxes and animate flickering screens.

    But anyone who grasps the technology, also understands that this market is fundamentally no different from other markets, and the same laws apply to Bill Gates that applied to Standdrd Oil, and to Bell Telephone.

    Morning gray ignites a twisted mass of colors shapes and sounds

  • Can you imagine what life would be like, without regulation, and the only TV stations with licences are all Microsoft-run, the only pre-packaged food you can buy was all Microsoft-made, and could only be cooked in a Microsoft oven, the only software you could buy was all Microsoft-made, and the only Internet ISPs and backbones were all Microsoft-run?

    Such a scenario is only possible when government power is available to Microsoft, in order to enforce their monopoly. Without it, they would be forced to compete.

    I don't believe in letting someone wield god-like power on the hope (and prayer) that they'll be a benevolent God.

    Sure you do. You just limit god-like power to people employed by governments. Personally, I don't believe that the fact that someone has been hired by a government magically transforms them into some sort of all-knowing, eternally wise, super-human.

    Remember: Microsoft used government power to enforce the exclusive agreements they set up with OEMs and ISVs.

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page []

  • Katz wrote:

    Microsoft's fat stockholders won't have a happy day today


    This will not be a happy day for Microsoft or its many fat and happy stockholders.

    What he may fail to realize is that it's not just fat-cats who own MS stock. There are a helluva lot of mutual funds that have earnings linked to the DJIA. And, IIRC, MS is now a part of that. Any decline in MS stock will affect far more than just "fat and happy stockholders". It will also affect Joe and Jane Sixpack, if they have money in a mutual fund and are counting on it as retirement income, or to pay Junior's college tuition.

    Of course this does not mean MS should be forgiven all its sins "for the good of the common people" any more than they should be forgiven for the good of the fatcats. But it does affect common people, and that should not be glossed over.

    If the finding is correct, and MS really has been stifling competition (I think that's pretty obvious) then all the innovators who had been held back by the mighty Beast from Redmond will now be freed to innovate and compete, and any impact on the DOW, NASDAQ, etc. will be temporary. Let's hope so anyway.
  • No one forced you or anyone else to use Microsoft products, ever!

    You need to walk in to Best Buy/Circuit City, visit Dell online, Gateway, Microworkz,etc., etc. etc. and try and buy a normal home-use computer. Come back in 10 minutes and tell me how much choice you have. Try and buy a machine w/o an OS. Not take away all your years of computer experience and do it again.

    Not to mention that I haven't been able to use a full install 95 disk on a new machine in years, why? Because they all come with software basically licensed to ONLY THAT MACHINE. Monopoly power used to hurt consumers is Illegal, we'll see that when JudgeJ releases his findings of law.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @07:59AM (#1552861) Homepage
    I'll be quick: I have no doubts that Linux has been "allowed" to succeed as well as it has precisely because Microsoft wishes to spawn a competitor simultaneously as weak as possible yet strong enough to demonopolize the market.

    This is the same reason why MS gave so much money to Apple, and everybody knows it in the Apple world.

    Technological superiority is often not sufficient to drive technological progress. Yet Linux has gone far on its technical strengths. One wonders how much press Linux would have earned had Microsoft been willing or able to exert its full anti-competitive potential against it. The trial was dragged out long enough such that Microsoft believed it could create a nominally, minimally competitive market; the concept of making an "intrinsically unprofitable"(by their thinking) operating system their prime competitor was--is--their plan.

    After all, they reason, Linux supporters can't simultaneously claim MS is both a monopoly with no credible competitors and a company under seige by the mighty penguin.

    Judge Jackson couldn't make this claim, which is where the Open Source "dis" derived from. I will claim both, on the grounds that the only reason Linux has been able to place Microsoft under seige is the fact that federal anti-trust pressures have prevented MS from using their covert and illegal tactics against Linux. Linux alone, without the Federal Government laying down a competitive framework for Microsoft to operate within, could never be a credible competitor to Microsoft. Nothing and nobody could ever be.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • As to how the trade rags let this happen, it's pretty simple. MS buys a LOT of advertisements, and the last national level journalist who had even a shred of integrity was Walter Cronkite. The blatant corporate boot licking by such ilk as Ziff and Davis has been going on as long as I have been in the industry. What was going on was so apparent a three-year-old could have seen it.

    As to where we could have gone, my question is where could we have been had MS not stunted the industry's growth. We saw some amazing innovations in various competitors to the PC Platform. Would we have seamless voice and video over the net today, if it were not for the Wintel alliance's steadfast refusal to evolve because of "Backward compatability issues?" And did anyone else see the irony of the company that brought us the API of the week club trying to stay backward compatable with all their eight bit legacy code from a decade ago?

    The Wintel PC makers and the software people became complacent, each for different reasons. The industry needed a good shaking up and this should do just the trick. Does anyone NOT believe that Billy Borg's gonna get his Billion Dollar Behind spanked until it is red and sore? Even if nothing is done to punish Microsoft in this case, the lawsuits that are now going to come down on them now will leave them reeling for years to come.

  • Of course, by that time, the case would become meaningless, since Linux would take over the desktop world by then! :)

    Meaningless to our quest for total world domination, perhaps, but future losses don't negate past infractions.

    Microsoft may go completely bankrupt in the future, but that doesn't change the fact that they illegally stifled innovation in the past.

  • They certainly are greedy, (as are all businesses) but they acquired their position by developing products their customers want and marketing them effectively.

    Might I recommend you read the FOF's

    Judge Jackson does quite well in describing how "effectively" Microsoft marketed their products. In fact, he agrees that Microsoft's marketing of their products was adversaly opposite to how the products would have been marketed in a market that put the best interests of consumers first.

  • IBM could have easily gone with another OS oh so many years ago. It was their choice.

    Really, it was their choice? Okay, prove it too me. Which paragraph in the FOF does Judge Jackson state that IBM could have chosen to continue to preload OS/2 if they wanted too?

    We are beyond the stage where groundless rumors and opinions carry any weight. Take a piece of advice from me. From here on out, we'd all tend to believe you guys more if you'd include references to the FOF that back you up. If you can't, then what you say is just plain, fat lies.

  • I expected a sharper drop, but it makes sense- things are not _physical_ enough for the beleaugered company yet.
    It's now open season for class action lawsuits that can draw on the findings of fact for evidence- these will be slamdunks and should be considered as part of the punitive damages from the ruling. Expect _many_ of these.
    When MS's once-unassailable cash reserves are obliterated fighting these suits and losing constantly (FoF counts as evidence and is pretty bulletproof), _then_ you will see their stock price go to a quarter of what it is (since it's already split so much. The way lawyers are these days, it'll be kind of like the stories of pirahnas skeletonizing a cow in 30 seconds.
    I expected the stock to drop much more sharply this morning, but it looks like people haven't truly thought it through. MS's valuation _cannot_ be remotely comparable to when it was a monopoly unrestrictedly destroying the industry. That should be obvious. It's probably the hordes of class action suits (everybody and his brother will want to be in on that action) which will take it down the most. MS depends utterly on having those cash reserves. A penniless MS is beneath contempt...
  • You know, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Compaq or Dell had had the balls to tell Microsoft to get stuffed, they'd buy windows on the retail market and install it themselves. I mean, come on -- do you REALLY think Redmond would have followed through, and cut off a fifth of their revenue?

    Yes. It may have meant a 5th of their revenue *then*, but Microsoft was worrying about the future. If they would have allowed it then, it would have made it easier for Compaq to replace Windows with a different OS later.

    Do you really think that Compaq and others would have been able to pick up millions copies of Windows at retail $$, and still be able to compete. That would have raised the price of computers by at least $150. And then, do you really think that Microsoft wouldn't have known it, and prevented distributors from reselling to Compaq? Yeah right, that's the most absurd thing I've heard all morning.

  • By the time we actually get to the damage stage and what should be done it is very possible Microsoft won't be dependant on Windows at all.

    If you are using that as a reason why they judge won't punish Microsoft, you are wrong. What happens in the future can never change what happened in the past.

    This doesn't mean much at the moment (Score:1) by MISplice on 10:27 AM November 8th, 1999 EST (#12) (User Info) This is just a finding of fact and does really mean anything right now. By the time we actually get to the damage stage and what should be done it is very possible Microsoft won't be dependant on Windows at all. As far as their investors go, they knew what Microsoft was/is and their stock price won't be affected that much in the long term as long as they continue to make a profit and keep the shareholders happy. This is really a non-event. The only people who didn't see this coming were the ones that don't know anything about Microsoft beside their product came preloaded on their machine.

    Apparently, from reading the /. posts this morning *still*, there are quite a few techie people who not only didn't see this coming, but still refuse to believe that it happened.

  • By the time we actually get to the damage stage and what should be done it is very possible Microsoft won't be dependant on Windows at all.

    If you are using that as a reason why they judge won't punish Microsoft, you are wrong. What happens in the future can never change what happened in the past.

    This is really a non-event. The only people who didn't see this coming were the ones that don't know anything about Microsoft beside their product came preloaded on their machine.

    Apparently, from reading the /. posts this morning *still*, there are quite a few techie people who not only didn't see this coming, but still refuse to believe that it happened.

  • Wasn't there recently an article on Slashdot about an accountant/analyst who apparently discovered MS was using a dangerous pyramid-type scheme to inflate its stock? He suggested people sell their stock asap, before it works its way into the retirement system, etc....where it could do major damage if it collapses.
  • And of course each Linux distro would have to stop shipping Netscape. Be would have to stop shipping their browser too.

    Actually, Microsoft would have to stop forcing OEM's to bundle IE. OEM's could still choose to bundle IE if they desired to. But Microsoft couldn't penalize OEM's if they chose not to bundle IE, like Microsoft has in the past.

    Likewise, Linux distributions can choose to distribute a browser. Netscape does nothing to them if they choose not to distribute Netscape's browser, and has done nothing in the past.

    And again, if distributor's choose to bundle Netscape or another browser with BeOS, then that is their choice. BeOS can ship their browser if they want and the OEM's can replace it with another one.

    Microsoft can ship a browser if they want to. But if they prevent OEM's and consumers from installing their own and replacing IE, then that goes beyond normal competitive practices. Other vendors don't do that. Other vendors won't be affected by a decision about browser bundling because they haven't done anything wrong. Only Microsoft has.

  • Microsoft was on its way to doing massive damage to itself. It wasn't going to go away completely, but damned if it wasn't going to suffer like every other company that forgets its origins.

    You are absolutely right. Most companies do go through a very successful time and then slowely whither to a mere speciman. Microsoft will be pushed aside too as the computer market drastically changes.

    But that doesn't change the fact that Microsoft has done illegal activities in the past and *must* be punished for them. Future conclusions have no relevance to past actions.

  • But with linux resurected and innovation safely out of Microsoft's grasp, I got what I wanted from the trial. And now, that it is at this stage, I wish it would stop. So I'd recomend not punishing Microsoft.

    Okay, maybe the trial did pin Microsoft down enough to allow Linux to be popular. And maybe it did prevent Microsoft from stifling the freedom of innovation, for a time. But how do we know that after the trial that Microsoft won't go back to stifling other companies freedom of innovation?

    That's why Microsoft needs to be punished, in part, simply to guarantee that other companies will continue to have even a greater freedom of innovation, then they do now.

  • Microsoft also can ask for the law to change, legitimizing their practices through the political process.

    In future, perhaps, but ex post facto laws are not permitted. Thus a class action suit against Microsoft could still get lots of money out of them.

    One thing i haven't seen mentioned is that Judge Jackson hinted at at least one possible Microsoft sanction. He discussed the $89 cost of Windows 98 and that $49 would probably be a more reasonable cost in the absence of a monopoly. Given this, I would not be at all surprised to see Microsoft required to send a $40 check to everyone who purchased the Windows 98 upgrade, and possibly the Windows 98 SE version could be similarly impacted.

    Note: I Am Not A Lawyer.
  • And he was definitely plowing new ground. Traditionally, companies have gotten into anti-trust trouble when their monopolies become so vast they monopolize products and goods, prevent competition and innovation, and unfairly control and drive up the price consumers pay for those products. That was the rationale behind one of the first landmark anti-trust rulings, the one that broke up Standard Oil, and behind the decision that dispersed AT&T.

    Jon, before you lecture on the Standard Oil case (the archetypal antitrust example, to be sure) it's a good idea to learn a little bit about it.

    Standard Oil did not jack up prices. Instead, like Microsoft, they used their monopoly power to guard and extend their monopoly. Under Standard Oil, prices actually fell as Rockefeller shared the economies of scale. (OK, so maybe he was a bit more public-spirited than Bill.) It was, however, impossible to survive as an independent oil company because Standard controlled the infrastructure and the channels and exerted pressure on equipment manufacturers while engaging in predatory pricing to make the independents unprofitable.

    Sound familiar? Judge Jackson is on very familiar and well-tested legal ground here.
  • You know, the strangest thing about this case is that it's not about money. The only person who's going to be happy about a $ 10 rebate for Microsoft products is the pirate, and he's not going to be entitled to it.

    $ 10 is hardly even enough for a half decent lunch here in LA. :-(


  • It is having an effect on the stock.

    Volitility is all over the place, and trading volume is very high.

    You are correct, though, fund managers will not be dumping the stock all at once. This will happen over time ... perhaps as long as several months. If there is any truth to the allegations of stock manipulations presented in another article linked to by slashdot last week (or week before last?) this entire process could be distorted even more.

    It is very telling that MS stock is down in heavy trading (even slightly) with options volitility all over the place, while most other tech stocks (including the under-siege CORL, not to mention SUNW, RHAT, etc.) are up, in some cases way up.

    Your right, though, I would have expected (and relished) a more dramatic move in the price, but MSFT has defied reason for quite some time now, actually going up after unfavorable court rulings in the past, if you can believe that! Sometimes I am reminded of the Emporer's New Clothes...
  • I like the idea of forcing MS to publish its file formats and APIs.

    However, others have shown objections to MS hardware certification requiring disclosure actions from third parties - I agree with the folks who say that seems like a penalty more on hardware makers than MS.

    Incidentally, could you direct me to the page on where these ideas live? I wandered through the site and couldn't find it.


  • There's nothing wrong with hidden APIs; what is wrong is that Microsoft 'owns' those hidden APIs. The point was that M$ has a monopoly, and in that light, their actions in creating hidden APIs is to create artifical barriers in the market to prvent entry by new and strong competitors. If it were any other company, hidden APIs are not the problem.

    Morally and ethically hidden APIs are fine, except that in this case M$ has such power that by holding hidden APIs they prevent WordPerfect or Lotus from competing, and as such can be legally forced to disclose them.

    This is not true for non-monopolies.

    Hidden APIs are found with invisible debuggers, of course. :

  • Why would they need to compete? Once they were large enough, they could buy out start-ups that were creating potentially dangerous technology (to them), thus:
    • Removing the threat AND
    • Adding a new string to their bow against the competition AND
    • Taking the more skilled workers for themselves, thus not only improving their workforce but depleting the competition's.
    Keep doing that long enough, and you just won't have any significant threats to your superiority. Then, you do the same to larger players, bullying their management and head-hunting their star employees, until they're drained.

    Do deals with anyone too large to absorb or destroy, and you control the board in any and every industry you like.

    Once everyone's compliant with YOUR stuff, just change the terms of the agreements, knowing that those who've signed up HAVE to comply or risk being destroyed by market forces. Once again, absorb those you can, destroy those you can't, and ally with anyone who'll believe you.

    After a while, there can BE no competition. Anyone who tries to start up will run into several problems:

    • The total monopolist controls all related hardware & software, their APIs, and design, all of which have been adjusted to ensure competition is impossible.
    • The total monopolist controls most of the workforce, both those in it's hire and those in the hire of those who are working with it. Pitting the best of the best, worldwide, against a 1- or 2-man start-up is going to be a short scrap. And with few (if any) people for the start-up to hire, it's prospects for expanding are somewhere in the vicinity of nil.
    • The total monopolist controls most of the resources needed, either directly or indirectly. Winmodems, anyone? Intel (up to the point the clones became significant)? Even the memory addressing system that IBM used for PCs was of Microsoft's design, which effectively locked out flat-memory software.
  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @10:15AM (#1552975) Homepage
    The legal profession standardized on WordPerfect long ago, and never bothered re-standardizing on MS Word when the rest of the world moved away from WordPerfect. Thus it is VERY unlikely that his law clerk typed up the decision using MS Word.


  • AT&T got busted up, and in its place are a few strong baby Bells that have a monopoly over their respective areas with no hope of them leaving.

    That isn't really quite true, or is just a part of the picture. The failing of the AT&T breakup, if any, seems to be that it didn't go far enough, as you pointed out, in regards to the RBOCs. Long distance service has been much more competitive and consumers have definitely benefitted there. However, the situation in local service is now changing as CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) are entering the market. You should start to see local service improve and prices drop once the CLECs and AT&T (through their cable business) start to build their own competitive infrastructure.

    People are trying to cashing on the hope that whatever's left of Microsoft will still be a profitable company.

    It would probably be more profitable in smaller pieces, actually. If for no other reason than the individual peices would be less likely to keep speculatively entering further and further into divergent businesses that are unprofitable. Only a huge company that can use monopoly proceeds to subsidize unprofitable speculative ventures would be able to afford to lose money the way some of Microsoft's companies have (MSN, Slate, etc) until they can figure out a way to lock in enough customers to squeeze out competition in that market as well.

  • I was under the impression that MS's internal documentation is really no better than its external docs. It's easy to assume that MS is monolithic and that the Office programmers know everything that the GDI coders do, but of course this is far from the case. In a company the size of MS, you don't just walk up to whoever wrote the scheduler and ask her "Hey, is there a way to get a complete list of processes?" ("yeah, but it's not documented! use SuperSecretGetProcessList(HANDLE hSecretMagicMSHandle, DWORD *lpdwBuffer)muahahah!") or whatever.

    Apps written by other companies also use undocumented API calls - since you can list the exports from any given DLL it's not too difficult to find them, and sometimes guess what they do. Andrew Tennenbaum has done just this to make his Undocumented Windows books, for instance.

    The only real difference, however, is that if the Office development team uses an undocumented call, the OS development team will be unable to remove/change it as it breaks MS's other products. A lot of the time they end up documenting calls a few versions down the road, presumably because they're now in wide enough use that they can't change the implementation anyways.

  • I am sorry. When did JudgeJ's FOF become the only thing in the universe that is not "rumors and opinions". Fact is, he listened to opinions during the trial. If you are going to quote gospel, you better find something better than one judge's FOF.

    It's not called Findings of _Fact_, just for a whim. It is a legal documents stating the *facts* in the case. If you think you have a document that is more "factual" then the FOF, then please do tell me about. I'm willing to concede the issue if that is the case. However, I have yet to see anyone come forth with one. And until they do, the facts that Judge Jackson has stated are legally binding.

  • Ok, I've heard several references to "fat Microsoft shareholders". I hold Microsoft stock and am not fat.

    The word 'Fat' has more than one meaning. In the context you are using it in, it does not appear to be used to indicate that a particular person is obese, but rather that they are rich.

    Also, the reference is used in a derogatory manner. Are you implying that being "fat" means you are evil or less of a human being or something?

    At any rate, this whole comment comes out of left field, and has nothing to do with the message you are replying to. If you look at my posting, you will not find the word 'fat' anywhere in it. If you check my posting history you would also find me arguing that one should not take personal appearance as a sign of character in other threads, so your personal attack on me seems both out of place and unfounded.

    I've also heard several references to "this can only be done by monopolistic resources". Things can be done by resources - whether or not those are obtained through monopolies is immaterial.

    The point is that if a company didn't have a more or less guaranteed monopoly income stream in other markets with which to subsidize for a long time entry into other markets, they would not be able to afford to make such speculative investments. Basically, shareholders wouldn't put up with it unless the assumption is there that a company like Microsoft will eventually be able to leverage their monopoly power in one market to eventually squeeze out competition in other markets.

    Are most of you people so blinded by your hatred that you will fling any epithet that comes to mind randomly in a sentence to make a point?

    Are you so blinded by your love of Microsoft that you will apologize for anything they do? Just because you don't seem to have a large enough view to see how things are interrelated doesn't mean that other people are 'randomly' throwing in arguments.

    Ditto with Judge Jackson's "Finding of Facts". While I don't argue any of the "facts", the language he used suggests a person as un-opinionated and unbaised as Ken Starr

    Well, I don't think that is a valid comparision at all, but even giving you the benefit of the doubt you could say that perhaps, like Ken Starr, after dealing with an evasive, arrogant and sometimes outright untruthful defendant for so long, it was difficult for Judge Jackson not to be opinionated and biased. I also don't think you can definitively prove that either one of these people started out completely biased and opinionated, especially Judge Jackson. Ken Starr was essentially the prosecutor, so the fact that he was trying to get Clinton meant he was doing his job to a certain extent. It appears that in Judge Jackson's view that the government's case against Microsoft was just much more credible than Microsoft's defense. You can throw personal attacks at the judge all you want, but I don't see how that materially changes the reality of the situation.

  • Once everyone's compliant with YOUR stuff, just change the terms of the agreements, knowing that those who've signed up HAVE to comply or risk being destroyed by market forces.

    But, you're still thinking about thing in terms of government that is designed to assist business.

    Consider the following, provided by government:

    • Civil courts
    • Copyright laws
    • Police power
    These are all tools that are provided by government to Microsoft to assist them in their quest for monopoly.

    Now, I'm not saying that we should necessarily abolish the above, but consider: how would Microsoft enforce its monopoly if it was without these governmental resources (barring a private Microsoft police force/army...*shudder*)? Who would enforce the OEM/ISV agreements in absence of civil court authority? Who would stop Joe Blow from selling unauthorized copies of Microsoft Office?

    My point is simply that it is not as simple as government good, corporation bad. They tend to work together to crush the little guy. Governments need money to run...large corporations have lots of money; you have less. Not too hard to figure out who will always control whatever government power there is. So, I prefer the minimum amount of government necessary to prevent mayhem.

    There is no easy answer. If there was, we'd have figured it out long ago.

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page []

  • The problem is that if their were hidden API calls in MS Office, they would be discovered, and the information would be all over the net in an instant.

    This actually happened, BTW, in circa 1990 - I have not heard of it since.

    In my book, the issues is more of timing than of disclosure. Microsoft usually ships an API with a commercial product. If you are competing with Microsoft, you don't find out about the API until it ships, but by that time Microsoft already has a full product running on it. This puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

    The net affect is that 3rd parties are constantly playing catch up to the latest Microsoft API. Hypotetically, if the company were split in half, there would be less incentive to use new APIs (for both MS-Apps and competitors), and Windows' API would stablize quite a bit. Kind of like commercial UNIX, for example.

  • But does Microsoft have a monopoly on any software it gives away? The closest thing that comes to mind is special student pricing on Visual Studio products or the Office suite.

    I suppose you could put educational donations on that short list... but that's not how Microsoft achieved the monopoly. In fact, reading the FoF, it appears that growing the user base of Internet Explorer required some quick and dirty deals with AOL.

    QDMerge [] 0.4!
  • Actually we DO only prosecute unsuccessful criminals. The successful ones get away with it!
  • I hadn't seen that; it's an interesting piece. I don't think it's accurate in terms of how 'the public' will view Microsoft, but it may be accurate in terms of how companies will react.

    OTOH, they -do- follow through with threats to some extent. Not to the extent of revoking licenses, but they did hold back critical development information from IBM, and their sliding scale 'cooperativeness' pricing on Windows licenses is a well-established fact. So, their threats aren't -entirely- hot air.


"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye