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[P]
Department Of Justice no longer seeks breakup of Microsoft

By AmberEyes in News
Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 06:59:36 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

The United States Department of Justice has announced today (Sept. 6, 2001) that they are no longer seeking a break-up for the software giant Microsoft, nor will they try to prove that Microsoft illegally made their Internet Explorer web browser a non-removeable part of the Windows OS.


The Department of Justice says that it is still pursuing a motion to keep Microsoft from forcing computer manufacturers to keep Microsoft's icons and programs on the computer desktop, make exclusive deals with other business partners, and other requirements that Microsoft is imposing on sellers and distributors. The government says that rather than seek a break-up of the company, it simply wishes to change Microsoft's business practices by seeking conduct remedies.

A senior White House official has anonymously said that the United States President George W. Bush, though briefed on the Microsoft case, has left it in the hands of John Ashcroft, Attorney General, and not made any directions to the Justice Department about how to handle the case. Bush commented on the Department of Justice's ruling with the following: "I have made it absolutely clear that on issues related to lawsuits, ongoing lawsuits, I expect the Justice Department to handle that in a way that brings honor and thought to the process. I'm satisfied with the fact that John Ashcroft is doing a fine job as Attorney General."

On June 7th, 2000, U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson ruled against Microsoft, insisting that Microsoft be broken up, as well as change their business practices to allow computer manufacturers and sellers to customize their goods the way they wished. However, this was overturned by an appeals court when Microsoft appealed Judge Jackson's ruling.

A senior official in the Department of has also told reporters that Windows XP is no longer being targeted for an injuncture to block it's October 20th release date.

For more information, check out Yahoo's account, MSNBC's account, and the account written by Fox News.

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Poll
What do you think?
o The DOJ dropped the ball - Microsoft should be hit, and hit hard! 62%
o I think the DOJ is fine. We don't need to go harder on Microsoft. 16%
o Back off DOJ! Leave them alone! 12%
o Other (comment) 9%

Votes: 98
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
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o United States Department of Justice
o Yahoo's
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Department Of Justice no longer seeks breakup of Microsoft | 58 comments (53 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Self-imposed breakup (3.60 / 5) (#3)
by psicE on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 03:26:44 PM EST

The DOJ is right in dropping the IE bundling charges (that's just standard competition), and in pursuing the other charges, but I still think Microsoft should be broken up. By the DOJ's decision not to force a breakup, this would allow Microsoft (a la AT&T) to create their own breakup, with their own lines, and give themselves a strategic advantage against smaller, more nimble companies (Palm, etc.) If Microsoft voluntarily spun off MSN, X-Box/games/hardware, maybe Win9x (if someone would buy it), and/or handhelds, they'd be left with nothing but XP, .NET, and Office, allowing them to both avoid scrunity (no more monopoly leverage when you only have one market) and form strategic alliances without becoming so big that most employees are dozens, if not hundreds, of steps down the ladder in importance from their division VP.

AT&T (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by wiredog on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 06:42:04 PM EST

AT&T was broken up by order of the court after it lost the case. Happened in the early 80's

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Wrong breakup (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by psicE on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 07:10:08 PM EST

AT&T's doing a new breakup this year, remember? AT&T Wireless was just made into a public company a couple months ago, AT&T Broadband will either get bought or be made into a tracking stock sometime around the beginning of Q3 2002, and ATT Consumer (long distance and WorldNet) will be put in a separate division (AT&T Consumer) from the rest of AT&T (Business). This breakup was solely voluntary, and therefore AT&T got to make it advantageous for the company, instead of advantageous for the consumer (though IMHO that happens automatically when conglomerates break up).

[ Parent ]
I thought you were talking about anti-trust (none / 0) (#24)
by wiredog on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 07:47:02 AM EST

There have been several comparisons between Microsoft today and the AT&T and IBM cases of the early 80's. AT&T, and the resultant Baby Bells, benefited greatly, in the long term, from the breakup. IBM "won" when the Reagan administration dropped the antitrust case. It took close to 20 years for IBM to recover from the "win". I suspect that the same thing could happen to MS.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

They _will_ get hit hard... (4.25 / 8) (#6)
by warpeightbot on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 03:57:05 PM EST

by the likes of McNeally, Case, et al.... You heard it from me first, folks, the "OJ Effect" is about to set in. The legal beagles are on their way up I-5 from Mountain View, and Bill Gates' shorts are in their crosshairs.

Seriously, that Microsoft is an illegal monopoly is a matter of case law; that will not change. That's all the ammo ANYONE needs to put a vampire tap on the Microsoft war chest and drain it dry.

They're toast, they just don't know it yet.

And the really cool part about all this? It's gonna be AOL and Sun's lawyers, being paid by AOL subscription fees and Sun software license fees, instead of our tax dollars, that are finally going to dissolve the 800 pound gorilla's feet of clay.

--
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains.
    -- Shelley

Ehrm (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by regeya on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 05:48:31 PM EST

And the really cool part about all this? It's gonna be AOL and Sun's lawyers, being paid by AOL subscription fees and Sun software license fees, instead of our tax dollars, that are finally going to dissolve the 800 pound gorilla's feet of clay.

Maybe you could explain to me just why it's cool that the 799.9 lb. gorilla is taking the 800 lb. gorilla down.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

799.9 (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by cpt kangarooski on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 07:27:48 PM EST

Because that gorilla is slightly easier to take out. It may involve a lot of gorillas, but the idea is to eventually whittle our way down to ordinary gorillas... if we were fortunate, maybe even chimps or lemurs.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
2x405 (4.33 / 3) (#53)
by svampa on Sat Sep 08, 2001 at 01:45:12 PM EST

That is, two 405 gorillas takes down a 800 gorilla.

The second part is: watch those 405 gorillas, keep them fighting one against the other, don't let them grow up till they become dangerous.



[ Parent ]
Pole choice (4.20 / 5) (#8)
by X-Nc on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 04:07:08 PM EST

I voted for "Other" and here's why...

I think that education of users and businesses is what needs to be done. Once the people see that MS solutions cost more and provide less they'll vote with their feet (as we used to say in the old Fido days).

It's true that I feel MS should have been given an equal, if not harsher, punnishment that IBM did in the 60's. But even so, if we can peirce the vail of deception that the greatest marketing mechine in modern history has pulled over the eyes of the consumers they'd feel the pinch.

--
Aaahhhh!!!! My K5 subscription expired. Now I can't spell anymore.

monopoly (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by cpt kangarooski on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 07:28:12 PM EST

yeah, but the problem is that as a monopoly, MS is much more resistant to consumers attempting to abandon it than an ordinary business. as for IBM, they were never punished, (unless you're talking about the lease thing) but the roughly twenty years of harrassment made them cautious enough to again permit entry into the marketplace, notably in the realm of microcomputers.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
Kind of punishment (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by X-Nc on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 12:32:27 PM EST

IBM was among many other things,not aloud to patent anything it developed for something like 30 years. Imagine if MS had to make everything it developed Open (as in Software Libre). That would be very fun.

--
Aaahhhh!!!! My K5 subscription expired. Now I can't spell anymore.
[ Parent ]
ibm (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by Danse on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:06:50 PM EST

What IBM case are you talking about? The last anti-trust fight they got into resulted in 13 years of court battles and then the dropping of the case by the government, IIRC. Was there another one, or is my memory messed up about that one?




An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
oh well (2.90 / 10) (#9)
by spacejack on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 05:22:50 PM EST

At least Slashdot will still have a cause.

Umm, actually i think this is good... (3.85 / 7) (#11)
by Elendale on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 05:54:46 PM EST

I've never really favored the breakup. I'd rather see a breakup than nothing, but i think there are some much meaner things to do... like give anyone with a bone to pick about Microsoft a nice pointy stick and let them all poke the stupid, bloated company until it pops. This isn't dropping the case, this is dropping the breakup. This doesn't mean they WON'T drop the case- just that, if they do, this isn't it.

-Elendale (AFAIK)
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


What the DoJ wants (4.75 / 8) (#13)
by wiredog on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 06:55:20 PM EST

From the Wired article.
  • Microsoft can't give discounts to hardware or software developers in exchange for promoting or distributing other Microsoft products
  • state and federal government lawyers may come onto Microsoft's campus to "inspect and copy" any document or file they find relevant.
  • Microsoft would have to monitor all changes it makes to all versions of Windows and track any alterations that would "degrade the performance of" any third-party application.
Personally, if it were my company, I'd rather have it broken up. They could have had a dominant and unregulated OS company and a dominant and unregulated applications company. Instead they'll probably end up as a heavily regulated company.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
Where's the punishment? (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by marx on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 07:48:20 PM EST

These are restrictions on future conduct, but they're not a punishment for the crime. The US legal system has a philosophy of deterrence, but that's not present in that kind of sentence.

A concrete example is the Kevin Mitnick case. His punishment was x number of years in prison, and then he additionally was given some restrictions on his conduct. So these are the restrictions, but the punishment is still missing.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Punishment is not a concern in anti-trust. (5.00 / 3) (#18)
by Trepalium on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 12:10:39 AM EST

The entire purpose of anti-trust litigation is not to punish a company for ills it commits, but to find remedies to attempt to help the introduction of competition into the market. This is not about hurting Microsoft, but rather trying to prevent Microsoft from hurting competition.

I still think a far better means to fix the marketplace would be to prevent Microsoft from keeping their APIs, file formats, and protocols secret. They would still be allowed to "innovate", and license things however they pleased, while at the same time making sure that all that develop for the Windows platform, or develop product competiting against it. There's still nasty issues with software patents, but perhaps those can be restricted, as well.

[ Parent ]

Undocumented APIs and other old news (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by John Miles on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 05:03:54 AM EST

I still think a far better means to fix the marketplace would be to prevent Microsoft from keeping their APIs, file formats, and protocols secret. They would still be allowed to "innovate", and license things however they pleased, while at the same time making sure that all that develop for the Windows platform, or develop product competiting against it. There's still nasty issues with software patents, but perhaps those can be restricted, as well.

It's been a long time since MS relied on undocumented APIs and file formats to do their dirty work. Have you actually looked at MSDN, or are you just repeating once-valid criticisms that haven't been relevant since the Windows 3.1 days?

Also, it's tough to name a single instance of aggressive software-patent enforcement on Microsoft's part. Historically, MS has been the victim of the US's insane software-patent policies, not the benefactor.

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

Patents (1.00 / 1) (#22)
by craigtubby on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 07:15:54 AM EST

> MS has been the victim of the US's insane software-patent policies, not the benefactor.

And thats not going to change? what are the odd that they will stop the Samba team from implementing any patent protected parts in thier new networking code?


try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

Patent enforcement... (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by Znork on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 07:32:41 AM EST

Just a few weeks ago they were after one of the open video codecs. So it's not that tough to find instances.

[ Parent ]
In fact... (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by DeadBaby on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 06:45:02 PM EST

Using published APIs, Netscape could write a decent web browser using the IE rendering engine that would be FAR better than any of their current offerings.

If that isn't a case of giving developers new tools I have no clue what is.


"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
I think you miss the point (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by IntlHarvester on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:41:13 PM EST

<I>I still think a far better means to fix the marketplace would be to prevent Microsoft from keeping their APIs, file formats, and protocols secret. </I>

The core of the anti-trust suit is how Microsoft manages OEM OS contracts, including pricing and bundling. It does not cover how Microsoft markets and ships its applications, nor does it try to consider if Microsoft is a monopoly provider of Office Suites/Middleware/etc (and they probably are in Office Suites).

We all understand the core desire of "I wish I could open Word documents on my FooOS box.", but it's entirely outside of the scope of the case.

Furthermore, with the 'tying' bit of the case eliminated, many of the conduct remedies which resolve how MS market's it's APIs disappear.

(For example, right now they generally introduce a new API at the exact same time they introduce a product which uses that API. What if they had to give outside developers the same access to that API as internal developers - including NDAed read-only source code access. Not going to happen, unfortunately.)

[ Parent ]
The punishment is in the certainty and timing. (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by galazi on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 12:28:50 AM EST

You are right that Microsoft will not be "punished" any more by a forced break-up.

However, there was always some doubt as to whether the break-up would:

  1. really have been an effective punishment (resulting in two monopolies and perhaps an augmentation of shareholder value, eg. the sum of the parts of AT&T after it's original break-up were actually greater than the whole before the break-up, same with Standard Oil);
  2. have survived as a remedy after the case had finally made its way through the courts; or
  3. even if it had survived, been implemented for a decade or more.
By ceasing to attack Microsoft's tying of IE to its operating system and the break-up remedy (which may have been losing battles), the DOJ's strategy seems to be to cut its losses and concentrate on what it can achieve with more certainty.

The Appeals Court upheld Jackson's finding that Microsoft was abusing its operating system monopoly, and this is probably a battle that the DOJ can realistically hope to win.

By the time Jackson handed down his original judgement on tying IE to Windows, Micosoft's target in that case, Netscape, was effectively already beaten. My guess is the DOJ hopes it can regulate and control XP & all its associated tying-in and other anti-competitive practices before it has a chance to establish itself like IE, and it indicates this in its statement about focussing on, "developments in the industry since the trial concluded".

They therefore had to weigh up the alternatives of aiming for a very significant "punishment" where they had a low chance of successful implementation, or trying to achieve a much earlier outcome and start the "punishment" through regulation much earlier.

[ Parent ]

It hasn't happened yet (4.50 / 2) (#46)
by epepke on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 04:40:29 PM EST

They say they are seeking something like that.

The question, though, is how are they going to enforce it? They can get the police, a SWAT team, or the national guard to sieze documents, but all Microsoft has to do to get around the others is lie.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
That is because... (3.33 / 3) (#20)
by acb on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 03:30:49 AM EST

... Microsoft gave them a better deal for all their product licenses...


--- acb #kuro5hin
Who really thought a breakup would help? (4.44 / 9) (#25)
by ScottBrady on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 07:55:36 AM EST

I can say without a doubt that I am pleased that the breakup "remedy" has been dropped. How naive do you have to be to think simply splitting up the OS department from the Other Software departments would actually solve any of the problems that brought us to this point? For one, breaking up Ma Bell didn't do a whole hell of a lot of good, and secondly it doesn't address the fundamental problem with MS technology: they have everyone by the balls with their proprietary, undocumented protocols.

I want to see Windows clones. I want to see Office clones. I want to see other software companies have the exactly same level of access to every single one of MS's APIs. Don't confuse this with Open Source/Free Software. MS can keep their source as hidden or as "shared" as they want but when it comes to specifications for communication protocols they absolutely need to be open. Let the software compete on quality of implementation instead of by whoever holds the keys to the specification. Unfortunately, the underlying problem that created this mess is not MS; it's the U.S. Government's Intellectual Property system.

I guess it's analogy time. If I buy a Ford vehicle and want to change the wheels, add a spoiler, add a CD player, and replace the shifter nob with a nice big skull, I can head over to my local auto modification shop and either have them "trick out" my car are I can buy the parts and do it myself. Why is that? How is this possible?

It's possible because someone took Ford's car apart and wrote a manual about it. Then someone else used that manual to create new and better parts to replace the originals. All because (all together now) reverse engineering of a car is legal. And not only is it legal but it's also 100 times easier to do than reverse engineering software. The car sits in front of you to see. You can physically take the whole thing apart. The inner workings of Software are much more elusive. In some cases it may even be illegal to R.E. software.

I am truly amazed at the number of headaches in the U.S that are caused by Intellectual Property laws gone bad. Pay attention some time. You'll be amazed at the number of times you can trace some stupid event back to an IP law that would have been tarred, feathered, and throw out of town by our founding fathers.

--
Scott Brady
"We didn't lie to you... the truth just changed."
YHBT. YHL. HAND.

My point exactly.. (3.66 / 3) (#26)
by DeadBaby on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 08:43:29 AM EST

I guess it's analogy time. If I buy a Ford vehicle and want to change the wheels, add a spoiler, add a CD player, and replace the shifter nob with a nice big skull, I can head over to my local auto modification shop and either have them "trick out" my car are I can buy the parts and do it myself. Why is that? How is this possible?

You can do that with Windows. Download Litestep, mozilla, winamp purchase Corel Office maybe add a nice Norton Comander-ish file manager.. Bring all this stuff to a computer shop in a box with your computer and they'll trick it out or you can do it yourself.

I really can't understand what exactly you mean? All the DOJ remedies have involved, to use your analogy, making Ford buy the tricked out stuff and install it for you at their own cost. All these things you mention are "after market" and are not helped in anyway by Ford. In fact, most of the stuff changes from model to model just like Windows does.

In fact, this is such a perfect argument for why Microsoft should be left alone I plan to use it myself in the future.




"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
Breakup still useful. (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by crealf on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 10:38:07 AM EST

How naive do you have to be to think simply splitting up the OS department from the Other Software departments would actually solve any of the problems that brought us to this point?

It could definitly solve the problem of their shipping of free versions of applications of dangerous competitors with their operating system. If you had to insert a CD to install either Internet Explorer or Netscape, then Netscape would have had a fair competition (and maybe the browser wars would have extended to today).

I want to see other software companies have the exactly same level of access to every single one of MS's APIs. Don't confuse this with Open Source/Free Software.

MS API is not the problem. The problem is that along with the APIs, the main applications using them are shipped. This is how to kill competitors. This is illegal to do when you are a monopoly. This is what Microsoft did with IE against Netscape. They got warned by the State in 1995: don't do that. They did it again. And Bush administration apparently forgave them. Oh well.

[ Parent ]

Been reading much? (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by vinay on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:55:44 PM EST

What's this talk of the "Bush administration forgiving them?" Where'd they say, "oh, you can go now! run along!" Don't people read the news anymore? The DOJ has publicly stated that it intends to start with Judge Jackson's interim restrictions, which include (NYT, 7 SEPT 2001):

Among those restrictions, Jackson ordered Microsoft to divulge to outside developers technical information about how its operating systems interact with its software.

Furthermore, if you'd been paying attention, you'd see that the breakup remedy did not find favor with the high courts because it didn't follow precedent.


-\/


[ Parent ]
Been reading. (none / 0) (#40)
by crealf on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 03:23:02 PM EST

What's this talk of the "Bush administration forgiving them?" Where'd they say, "oh, you can go now! run along!" Don't people read the news anymore? The DOJ has publicly stated that it intends to start with Judge Jackson's interim restrictions, which include (NYT, 7 SEPT 2001):

"Among those restrictions, Jackson ordered Microsoft to divulge to outside developers technical information about how its operating systems interact with its software."

Which is exactly the point I have addressed in my post. Check it out.
BTW, what is the cost of publishing "hidden" API for Microsoft ? Well just "cp -av /home/shared/private/API /home/www/API-public", that is about $0 or so, considering Microsoft revenues. And this after for having committed further offense of abuse of monopoly, and arrogantly lying in front of the court. And in a outrageously successful way, since Netscape is effectively dead, and Microsoft is now leading the browser market.

The article also says that:

The Justice Department yesterday made a crucial concession in dropping the charge that it has been illegal for Microsoft to pursue its longstanding practice of bundling, or tying, new software to its monopoly product

which exactly matches my definition of "oh, you can go now! run along!". What Microsoft faces, is that its customers (OEM) could un-bundle some sub-products Microsoft is trying to force in the throat with their other products. Wow! Revolutionary! Wait... There is more to come: "Other sanctions, industry analysts say, could well include more open -- even published -- price lists for Windows' licenses". You're right. Bush administration is truely merciless, this is "zero tolerance" raised to the paroxysm.

In the meanwhile, I'm waiting for the punishments for anticompetitive practices.

[ Parent ]

Shipping software (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 03:53:54 PM EST

This is also why Winamp is so unsuccessful. Microsoft ships Windows Media Player along with all their copies of Windows, and so nobody goes out and botheres to download Winamp.

Oh. Wait. Winamp *is* successful. People download it and use it constantly. I don't even want to attempt to guess the number of downloads it's gotten. download.com alone lists almost 18 million.

And yet, a perfectly functional competing product comes with Windows.

See, *here's* why IE is used above Netscape. It's because it's better. It boots faster, it reads pages better. It looks better, runs better, doesn't crash as often, fits the Windows environment better . . . it is better.

I *could* rant on about what mistakes Netscape made, but I'd just be copying from Joel on Software. Brief summary, though - Netscape scrapped their codebase, and Microsoft used that time to rebuild their own. Netscape tried to exceed its bounds as a web browser (doesn't Mozilla include a COM clone now?) and spent an enormous amount of time on that, forgetting that what people really wanted was a web browser that worked.

Maybe Microsoft's position as OS Leader *helped*. But if someone wrote up a competing web browser that displayed pages as well as IE, worked as well, did everything you'd want, and was *better* in some actual way, *and* was free, then I'll bet you it would be extremely popular.

Note - please don't point me at Opera. Yes, it's fast, but it has ads and I don't like the interface very much. And it has trouble with Java and complex page layouts.

Bottom line - IE's the best web browser out there, *and* it's free. It's not going to be easy for someone to make a better product, and until someone does, I'm not going to agree that IE squashed its competitors on the basis of bundling alone.

[ Parent ]

The day that IE gets... (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by msphil on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 04:30:35 PM EST

...disable window.PopUp(), per-host/domain/network Java, Javascript, Cookie, and agent-string policies, I might agree that IE has finally caught up with Konqueror...

[ Parent ]
IE can do this (3.00 / 2) (#51)
by cooldev on Sat Sep 08, 2001 at 12:09:26 AM EST

If you want the above features just write a Browser Helper Object. You may not have the source, but IE is still very extensible. Those features shouldn't be very hard to write.



[ Parent ]
Shipping software. (4.00 / 2) (#52)
by crealf on Sat Sep 08, 2001 at 05:42:13 AM EST

See, *here's* why IE is used above Netscape. It's because it's better. It boots faster, it reads pages better. It looks better, runs better, doesn't crash as often, fits the Windows environment better . . . it is better.

Yes, it is... now.

Maybe Microsoft's position as OS Leader *helped*. But if someone wrote up a competing web browser that displayed pages as well as IE, worked as well, did everything you'd want, and was *better* in some actual way, *and* was free, then I'll bet you it would be extremely popular.

First of all, Microsoft position definitly helped to get their browser installed on all the machines. Second, certainly Netscape made strategic mistakes. But this is only part of the point. How was Microsoft able to offer IE for free ? Because it managed to cut the development costs to zero ? Not at all. It's really because Win95 users paid also for IE development (and actually most of the PC users). In other terms, Microsoft successfully forced a IE development tax on PC sales. This is ok as long as you are not a monopoly. And this is the key: Microsoft wasn't, Netscape could have team up with the other guys, under the same business model: free bundling (for instance if there was a 100% compatible IBM Windows 95). But more importantly, any other competitor would have tremedous troubles in this market. In addition, Netscape was lucky to surf on the Internet bubble craze, otherwise Microsoft bundling tactic would have been much more effective.

So Microsoft effectively skewed the browser market by offering one for free : who could afford competing with someone which has development cost of 0 (factored in), and automatic diffusion to most PCs in the world ? They killed the market when their browser started to run decently.

Consider also that Netscape was desperate to find a business model (Apache killed the Unix server market on the other end), and that Microsoft could afford some strategic errors: for instance they missed the Internet boat in the beginning, considering Internet mostly as crap, only to do a 180 degrees change of direction ; since there was no IBM Windows for instance, they didn't got harmed much.

Bottom line - IE's the best web browser out there, *and* it's free.

The point exactly. If it wasn't free and bundled, maybe *numerous* other companies would have fostered, competing on equal terms, offering good paying browsers, and in the end a few of them could have offered truely insanitely excellent browsers (for instance including at least: recording all browsing - with CD backups allowing full offline browsing, with on-flight indexing, one-click Google search, online google-like rating display for all the links of a page, and ability to safely share one full part of your browsing experience to another person [carefully excluding all the porn pages you visited and the like], etc...)

You are saying: after Microsoft killed the competition, the competitors didn't come out with good products, so it doesn't matter anyway ; I'm saying, the competitors didn't come out with good products *because* Microsoft killed the competition.

[ Parent ]

destroying market (4.00 / 2) (#54)
by svampa on Sat Sep 08, 2001 at 02:22:13 PM EST

This is from Jamie Zawinski resignation as mozilla project leader . He begins the letter talking about netscape history.

More concretely, this was when we realized that we had finally lost the so called ``browser war.'' Microsoft had succeeded in destroying that market. It was no longer possible for anyone to sell web browsers for money. Our first product, our flagship product, was heading quickly toward irrelevance.

M$ didn't make a better browser and won most shared market, M$ just destroyed the market in order to destroy Netscape. Who knows how the browsers could be now if there were still a browser market.



[ Parent ]
If it was illegal.. (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by DeadBaby on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 06:41:22 PM EST

Why did the DOJ drop that part of their case? It's been a witch hunt from the start... any legal case that starts off with one issue and that issue, in time, is admited to be invalid, yet the case continues is very bad.


"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
Symmetric break-up? (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by dirk on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 10:52:36 AM EST

How about, instead of splitting the company into an OS and an Apps company, they split it as both companies (or more) being OS and Apps? That is, all Microsoftlings would have a license to publish Windows and the other apps, and develop them independently. They wouldn't need to pay licensing fees (being co-owners) and would be prohibited from merging. That way, there would be at least two Windows' (if the name stays the same), Offices, etc., but they would be competing against each other, and others as well. What do you think?

[ Parent ]
I think that (2.00 / 2) (#34)
by IntlHarvester on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:31:49 PM EST

Corporate America would just pick "Microsoft #1" as their preferred vendor, leaving "Microsoft #2" to whither on the vine as a cheap 90% compatible solution. Then Sun or someone would buy MS2 on the cheap just to get access to all of MS's intellectual property.

If the intent is to transfer MS IP to a 3rd party, something like the IBM consent solution that requires open and reasonable licencing of patents could do the trick.

[ Parent ]
Ignore the rhetoric, what's the underlying message (3.84 / 13) (#29)
by jd on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 10:59:47 AM EST

The underlying message is that the DOJ has set a precident - the Federal Government can establish that a party is guilty of an offence, establish reasonable grounds for enquiry into other suspected offences, can have a court rule in its favour, have an appeals court ALSO rule in its favour, have a "change of management", followed by a "change of heart", followed by a complete dropping of any "remedy".

Ok, the DOJ has only officially "dropped" the idea of splitting Microsoft, but it has offered no other ideas. At least, not publicly. That, I believe, is because it either has, or will, "reach an Out-Of-Court Settlement", in which the DOJ sells what's left of its soul, and Microsoft gives nothing in return.

Publicly, what'll be announced over the next few weeks is the news that Microsoft and the DOJ have "reached an agreement, for undisclosed damages", or something like that. Disclosing that Microsoft has given nothing, done nothing, and will continue playing as dirty as ever would look bad, but simply referring to it as "undisclosed damages" or "an undisclosed remedy" makes it sound so much more palatable.

Since the Appeals Court reached its verdict, Microsoft has played foul on numerous issues, and there is no indication that it will change without some VERY stiff remedy. That is something we are unlikely to see, this side of 2100.

The problem I think a lot of people are ignoring is that Microsoft now sees Open Source and Free Software as a threat. So much so, they've deemed it "Un-American" and dangerous to business. In short, they've accused users and coders alike of being traitors, much the way Mcarthy did, in the 60s.

"So what?" you might say. "They can't ban it! It's protected speech!"

Errr, no. If it acquires the status of being dangerous to American Interests, it's about as protected as an ice-cube in the Sahara on mid-summer's day, during a heat-wave.

Open Source and Free Software =CANNOT= be fought conventionally, as the Halloween Document pointed out. That leaves the back-doors of politics. Simply classify assembly instructions as "encrypted material", and every "unlicenced" programmer out there is instantly in violation of the DMCA, for using tools to break the internal state of the machine.

"You're just being paranoid! That's Conspiracy Theory stuff!"

Where's the conspiracy? The law already exists, the Microsoft stated policy document also exists. This gives you the means and the motive. All that's left is the opportunity, and that would be provided by the DOJ letting Microsoft go. From there on out, Linux, K5, Slashdot, OpenBSD, GCC, et al, may as well be lined up against the wall. There's no "conspiracy", because it only involves one person making one decision. No cover-ups, no UFOs, no chocolate sauce. Just someone very determined to win on every throw of the dice, even if that means melting the dice of the opponents and possibly the opponents too.

"America's a free country!"

Convince Dmitry, or the people working on DeCSS (here and in other countries), or even people like Mitnick.

"Dmitry commited a crime! He should pay!"

And Microsoft hasn't? THEY have been found guilty, not Dmitry. Yet he has to suffer the humiliation of being an "internationally-known criminal", be confined by a prison system even the cockroaches avoid, and even if freed, be rendered virtually bankrupt. The guilty go free, and the rest suffer mental and physical abuse for fictional crimes?

"Ok, well Mitnick was DEFINITELY a criminal!"

Even there, most of his prison term was pre-trial. And people -are- technically "innocent until proven guilty". Being blocked from examining the evidence didn't speed things along for him, but it sure worked out great for the prosecution! An entire prison sentance served, AFTER which the prisoner makes a deal to admit guilt & go free, rather than be dumped into one of America's most notorious, dangerous hell-holes. Right. As if any one of us would do otherwise, guilty, innocent or purple. The film he must suffer with also depicts him as a violent, schitzoid lunatic. In five years time, he'd be lucky if he'd be allowed to flip burgers.

What? (4.66 / 3) (#37)
by vinay on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:47:53 PM EST

NYT Article states:

a federal appeals court ruling in June, which upheld most of a lower court's findings against Microsoft, strongly suggested that a breakup remedy was not appropriate in the Microsoft case. Typically, the courts have imposed breakup orders in antitrust cases involving government-sanctioned monopolies, like AT&T (news/quote), or when the monopoly was assembled in a series of mergers. Neither condition applies to Microsoft.

Sounds to me like the courts (besides Jackson) were pretty much against the idea of breaking up MS, because it didn't follow precedent. You don't help yourself either by stating, "Ok, the DOJ has only officially "dropped" the idea of splitting Microsoft, but it has offered no other ideas." How about this idea?

The Justice Department said it would use as its starting point the temporary package of conduct remedies in the final judgment of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was removed from the case by the appeals court for his negative comments about Microsoft to reporters. Beyond prohibiting Microsoft from negotiating restrictive contracts with PC makers and others, the package called for Microsoft to share technical information more openly with rival software makers whose products must run smoothly on the Windows operating system.

Sounds like a game plan to me.


-\/


[ Parent ]
Hmmm. (none / 0) (#58)
by jd on Mon Sep 10, 2001 at 09:13:08 AM EST

Nope. First, those were never intended as long-term solutions. Judge Jackson got stung that way before, when Microsoft flouted his previous ruling against them, arging that Windows 98 was NOT covered by the restriction prohibiting windows 95 from having an embedded web browser. (Despite the fact that 98 -is- exactly that.)

Give Microsoft some limitations, and they'll simply change some names so that they don't "technically" violate them.

This is why Judge Jackson =wanted= to add, as the final piece, a 3-way split of Microsoft, to prevent future abuse. The restrictions won't hold, we all know that. And arguably Microsoft will claim that their "Shared Source" policy meets all the requirements of the second part, already, even though you'd get more sharing out of a Grinch.

[ Parent ]

My predictions for the remainder of the year (3.00 / 7) (#30)
by jd on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 11:17:12 AM EST

  • Microsoft will "settle" with the DOJ.
  • George Bush will give Microsoft, it's directors, and William Gates III a total amnesty against any further lawsuits, civil or criminal, citing "National Interests" and using some energency power to push it through.
  • AOL/Time-Warner is bought out by Microsoft, after being surrounded by armed guards and a couple of surplus tanks. Protestors are given the traditional glasses of lemonade. (See "Windows Refund Day")
  • Open Source and Free Software are declared illegal. Linus Torvalds and his family escape capture and move to New Zealand, where penguins are more tolerated.
  • Illegal Immigrants in the US are caught trying to slip back over the border, after having realised that things really aren't so very different in the US.
  • George Bush out-sources the departments of Defence, Energy and Social Security to Microsoft. Black-outs become known as Blue-outs. IBM's entire staff discover that their social security numbers have been accidently wiped. After some mysterious power-surges, which destroy key sections of IBM's R&D division, Microsoft takes ownership of the company.
  • Microsoft later takes on Education, and makes it mandatory for all uniforms to have the paperclip logo. School suicides quintuple overnight.


What a surprise .... (2.16 / 6) (#31)
by CoolArrow on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 12:20:33 PM EST

my only comment to the whole misguided if well intentioned, expensive affair is - was I really supposed to expect anything to come of it?

---
"But the universe has no shortage of would-be gods ,and the machines of man are no match for the tests of time..."

Are they really a monopoly... (2.16 / 6) (#36)
by lb008d on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:43:47 PM EST

when users always have had a choice of what software to run on their computers?

Umm, they are (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by Rainy on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 03:52:23 PM EST

There's a bit of confusion in terms - there's 100% perfect monopoly when, let's say, you have a market of people with diabetes who will die if they don't take certain medicine, and you are the only guy who sells that medicine. Theoretically, you could charge them all of their life savings. In real world, there are no 100% solid monopolies. There's always a way to substitute some other product for a given product. For instance, if there's a gas monopoly, a consumer can still go and buy an electric heater, etc. What we usually mean when we say "monopoly" is that a company has a very significant amount of control over a certain industry, which gives it an ability to compete *not on merit* alone. IANAL, but i believe that being a monopoly by itself is not illegal, it is illegal however to use that possibility of competing not on merit alone. It's a sliding scale. There's no doubt that there's plenty of companies that abuse their monopoly status, and the only reason why they aren't sued is that the abuse is not strong enough to worry about. So the real question is not whether MS abuses their monopoly, but whether they're bad enough to be spanked, and if so, how.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Monopoly: yes, Textbook pure monopoly: no (3.66 / 3) (#44)
by bediger on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 04:03:56 PM EST

Does MSFT have a monopoly? It depends on what sense of the word "monopoly" you use.

Does MSFT have a 100% pure, Junior Highschool textbook monopoly? No. Does MSFT have a legal monopoly? Yes. Does MSFT have a practical monopoly? Yes.

Monopoloy isn't an absolute black/white state. Monopoly is a matter of degree. Non-religious economists recognize this. Take a look in a microeconomics text book for the terms "Herfindahl-Hirschman Index" and "4-firm concentration index". These are measurements of how "concentrated" a given market is, and they're not black-and-white.

"Monopoly" is sort of like "vacuum". You don't have to have a Junior Highschool textbook, 100% lack of atoms to get all or most of the effects of a vaccum.


-- I am Spartacus.
[ Parent ]
Another "Other" here ... (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by Robert Hutchinson on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 02:55:16 PM EST

Curse people's tendency to stop at the first pleasant conclusion they reach. The only way the DoJ would come anywhere near justice is if it started investigating the actual monopoly the government has provided Microsoft with for decades. Bundling the OS with the browser? They're pointing guns at us for writing down the large numbers they've worked so hard to add up!

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

Insert coins please (4.20 / 5) (#41)
by tumeric on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 03:30:18 PM EST

I haven't been following the case too carefully (and I'm not from the US) but according to this BBC article there was strong political involvement is this decision. The political contributions were well worth the money perhaps?

no kidding (3.50 / 12) (#47)
by anonymous cowerd on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 04:45:56 PM EST

Like anybody in his right mind ever imagined for one God damned second that G.W. Bush's Department of Justice, under John Ashcroft, was going to do a single damn thing against a huge corporation like Microsoft. If you didn't figure that out within twenty-four hours of the day that Scalia & Co. appointed the President, then - hey, whoa, wait, dja hear the latest news about Chandra Levy? Chandra Levy, that evil Demoncrat Gary Condit, Chandra Levy, ConditConditCondit the rapist/murderer/adulterer/child molester, Chandra Levy, Condit the Democrat, California Representative Gary Condit (D), Chandra Levy, Chandra Levy, ChandralevychandralevyCHANDRALEVY!!!

Microsoft was found guilty, the appeals court upheld their guilt, but guilty or no, absolutely nothing will be done against them. No fines, no structural remedies, no reparations for the companies they've steamrollered, not now, not ever, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. Period. Republicans, you know? Money talks. Shit, there are teenagers facing a hundred times more punishment for having tagged the back wall of an abandoned building with spray-paint graffiti.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

The one thing that really disturbs me about America is that people don't like to read. - Keith Richards

Microsoft Remedy (2.45 / 11) (#50)
by jglassco on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 10:00:19 PM EST

Microsoft should be put out of our misery. That is, they should be given the corporate death penalty, all officers of Microsoft should have all of their assets seized, no one who has ever worked for Microsoft should ever be allowed to work in the computer industry again, and that all Microsoft code should become public domain. Only then can we users take back what rightfully belongs to us (all your base belong to us). I'm serious.
Save the world, kill Microsoft!
And you're paying... (4.00 / 3) (#57)
by killalldash9 on Sun Sep 09, 2001 at 08:22:49 PM EST

the welfare checks for the thousands of Microsoft employees who now have no jobs?

Seriously, I dislike a lot of the things Microsoft does as much as the next guy, but give me a break. So many freaking anti-ms-at-all-costs activists go around saying they just want Microsoft to go away, but how much time do you spend trying to make alternatives feasable? And I mean feasable to be used in real-world situations right now.

If I took away all the MS Windows-run systems at my company and replaced them with Linux boxes, BeOS boxes, or FreeDOS :) boxes, my fellow employees would be clueless. Nothing would get done for months while they were reclaim^H^H^H^H^Htrained on how to use this nonetheless superior OS. How many CEOs are gonna go for that?



Only stupid people read this signature.
[ Parent ]
Microsoft isn't so bad. (3.00 / 3) (#55)
by Crashnbur on Sun Sep 09, 2001 at 01:14:00 AM EST

Microsoft helped to set standards in an industry in which, without those standards, the progress and financial boom which was just recently experienced (and stopped, NOT coincidentally as soon as the DOJ put the pressure on Microsoft) would have never occurred. Face it, technology needs standards. Microsoft provided those standards. I will not lie to you and say that they have always been absolutely fair about it, but business, like life, is not always fair. Microsoft played by the rules to get where they got, because they could afford to do the things they did. When other companies began to fail because of Microsoft's standardization of the industry, I say good for Microsoft, and good for the consumers. We had something solid to lean on and to depend on. Then the DOJ had to mess it up.

Then again, I am also of the opinion that the boys at Microsoft could work just a bit harder and better to develop better products...

crash.neotope.com


Put up or shut up, I reckon. (4.66 / 3) (#56)
by bediger on Sun Sep 09, 2001 at 05:38:23 PM EST

I have to note that I smell a MSFT shill here. There's just the right mixture of buzzwords and saliva to make my shill-meter's needle quiver.

Crashnbur writes: Microsoft helped to set standards in an industry in which Such standards as? I think you're using "standards" in a fashion quite different from common usage (RFCs and other published documentation). What do you mean by "standards"? Give examples, plenty of them, of the massive number of "standards" that Microsoft helped set. It should be easy, since you toss off a pretty strong claim as common knowledge.

The other alternative to giving plenty of examples of "standards" is to give a dictionary style definition that anyone can apply without referring to an authority (like you). Something like: "standard - a document easily available to its target audience that fully describes a protocol, format or process, so as to allow the reader of the standard to implement the protocol, format or process without reference to previous implementations."

the progress and financial boom which was just recently experienced (and stopped, NOT coincidentally as soon as the DOJ put the pressure on Microsoft) I'm going to have to call you on this - I haven't read anything from a real economist that the DoJ case caused the tech stock market implosion. Cite a published economist, or withdraw this claim.

Microsoft provided those standards Again, can you specifically list more than, say 5 standards documents? I mean fully documented standards, not stuff like "Word - it's a defacto standard". And don't bother citing anything to do with CIFS. Everyone knows that the MSFT standard for CIFS won't allow you or anyone else to write a working implementation.

Microsoft played by the rules to get where they got, because they could afford to do the things they did. That's just an out-and-out falsehood: they didn't play by the rules. If they had even remotely played by the rules, the Appeals court would not have upheld their conviction unanimously.

When other companies began to fail because of Microsoft's standardization of the industry, I say good for Microsoft, and good for the consumers. OK, now we're getting somewhere. MSFT standardizes the industry on it's own products. No other company can make MSFT products so the standardization causes other companies to fail. Very circular of you.

This is all very reminiscent of the old MSFT shill argument about how he/she/it/they can't use anything other than Windows because of the lack of "personal productivity software" on other platforms. When pressed, and when enough time or articles had gone by to make the connection to "other platform" difficult to make out, the shill ends up stating that "personal productivity software" means "MSFT Office" - no alternatives need apply.


-- I am Spartacus.
[ Parent ]
Department Of Justice no longer seeks breakup of Microsoft | 58 comments (53 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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