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47 MS.vs. DOJ Tunney Act comments released

By chopkins1 in Technology
Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:02:56 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

"The Justice Department, complying with a judge's request, only released those comments on the settlement that it described as "major" -- those with long, detailed arguments -- on the department's Web site."

"The department has said it received about 30,000 comments, mostly via e-mail. The rest of the letters are to be published on the Internet and on CD-ROMs."

Some of the more notable respondents were:
SBC Communications, Inc.
Ralph Nader
Novell, Inc.
Palm, Inc.
Redhat, Inc.
Real Networks, Inc.
The U.S. Senate
Sony Corporation
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Dan Kegel (who had his open letter linked to via Slashdot.)


Having followed the MS vs. DOJ story since its inception, I was very interested when I read this article on CNN in reading the Tunney act responses.

You can read the CNN article at:

http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/industry/02/15/microsoft.antitrust.ap/index.html

or visit the DOJ web site:

http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms-major.htm

The above site has links to all of the released letters.

Some of these are a REALLY good read. I really liked the thoroughness of SBC Communications, Inc.'s letter:

http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms_tuncom/major/mtc-00029411.htm

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Poll
Which of the letters would YOU or DID you sign?
o Dan Kegel's Open Letter (This was the one I already signed.) 31%
o SBC Communications, Inc. 7%
o Association for Competitive Technology (MS sponsored) 7%
o AOL Time Warner 0%
o Ralph Nader and James Love 15%
o Consumer Federation of America, et al. 0%
o Sun Microsystems, Inc. 7%
o Other 28%

Votes: 38
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o CNN article
o DOJ web site
o SBC Communications, Inc.'s letter
o Also by chopkins1


Display: Sort:
47 MS.vs. DOJ Tunney Act comments released | 51 comments (42 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting to read various perspective on RPFJ (4.60 / 5) (#10)
by Trepalium on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:46:54 PM EST

Some of them are really in-depth, but most focus on limitations that their own business would be hurt by. For example, we have Novell complaining about the API portions of the proposal, and they suggest that the proposal would force Microsoft to do no more documentation than they currently make available in MSDN, and suggest that Microsoft can simply evade this entire section by either simply "declining ever again to offer middleware products separately from its operating systems", or not asserting trademark protection for them.

Real Networks, on the other hand, seems rather upset that the RPFJ does nothing to prevent Microsoft from continuing to squeeze them out of the market, and also complains about the many loopholes created where MS can evade any part of the judgement they choose. All MS needs to do is point out they were following the letter of the judgement, and because it's an agreement with the government, spirit or intent does not matter.

Then we have the letter from John V. Tunney who makes a big deal about the deal, which he believes violates the public interest because of all the allogations of back room deals and lobbying. It's quite interesting to read his take on things, and his intent with introducing "Tunney Act." He thinks very highly of having the public involved in such a trial.

Now lets all hope that the court heeds some of the issues and suggestions in these papers before rendering a judgement...

One "major" comment from a K5'er (4.88 / 9) (#11)
by Secret Coward on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:19:50 AM EST

One of the 47 "major" comments is from a fellow K5'er. Paul Johnson's comment is posted on the DOJ's web site here. For those wondering if non-americans could submit comments, there's your answer :)

I haven't read all of the comments yet, but so far, I think Mr. Johnson's is one of the clearest and it truely addresses the heart of Microsoft's monopoly. I was actually thinking about plagiarizing him, but I wrote my own comment instead.

Excellent... (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by Danse on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:19:13 PM EST

Paul's comment hit everything that I consider to be a major point that needs to be made with the Judge and the prosecution. I sent in my own comment about a day or so before the end of the comment period. I, too, focused on interfaces and business tactics, and I fully agree with Paul that the government should not be involved in the design or pricing of Microsoft's products. His comment goes into a lot more detail than mine did, so I'm very glad his was selected as one of the 47 that will likely have some impact on the outcome. I only wish there were more comments like his. That is to say more objective, coherent, and lucid comments.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Wow! I'm stonkered (4.75 / 4) (#25)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:49:31 AM EST

I was absolutely stonkered to see my comment in the top 47. I was even more stonkered to see what company I was keeping. Senetors, former senetors (including the Honorable ex-Senetor Tunny himself), global megacorps, professors of law and economics, and MS front organisations are all there, plus little old me.

Thanks for the compliments guys. This is seriously amazing.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

BTW I can spell "senator" (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:51:06 AM EST

at least under normal conditions. Today I forgot to proof-read. Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]
What obligation? (none / 0) (#34)
by stuartf on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 09:24:43 PM EST

It seems that Mr Johnson bases his comment on the assumption that Microsoft should be forced to help OSS developers. Why should this be the case? What obligation does Microsoft have to do this?

[ Parent ]
Redressing the balance (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:40:23 AM EST

Microsoft has deliberately crippled its competitors in the past. See the original Findings of Fact for details.

So now we come to the remedy. Your question shares its basic assumption with the rhetoric of the pro-MS comments to the DoJ: that even if MS should be limited because of its past behaviour, those limitations should not "unfairly" provide help to its competitors.

Given that it is for harm to competitors that MS stands convicted, it is hard to envisage any effective remedy which did not help its competitors. This is not "unfair" becaues the playing field is already tilted. The object of the remedy should be to tilt it back. Just how far that tilt should go, and whether it should now be tilted against MS as a punishment for past wrongs is a long question I am not going to go in to here.

Beyond the desire to punish MS for past misdeeds is the need for effective competitition, which is the real issue here. One of the few effective competitors to MS is open source, and and OSS is now firmly in the sights of MS. Left to itself MS will angle for restrictions that leave open source out in the cold. Indeed it would seem that many of the conditions in the RPFJ have been written with exactly that intent: it envisaged interface data being made available through the MS Developer Network (subscription costs hundreds of dollars a year) and allowed MS to veto inspection of this data based on business viability.

My comments sought to identify and neutralise possible strategies which MS might use to block OSS in the future. I identified particular issues where commercial software would have no problem but OSS developers would. But there is no need for these issues to single out OSS: just make a set of uniform terms for everyone which OSS can work within.

Paul.


You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Yep (none / 0) (#49)
by stuartf on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 05:50:38 PM EST

My comments sought to identify and neutralise possible strategies which MS might use to block OSS in the future. I identified particular issues where commercial software would have no problem but OSS developers would. But there is no need for these issues to single out OSS: just make a set of uniform terms for everyone which OSS can work within.

This is what I was getting at - by singling out OSS, you seem to be making the argument that poor old OSS developers can't afford much, so everything should be done for free. You also ignore the fact that the SDK's and documented API's are already available for free on the MSDN site. I have no problem with Microsoft charging for a CD subscription to MSDN (because MSDN isn't just the SDK's and API's, it's the range of product media as well, and licenses for the media), and continuing to do so if they are forced to completely open their API's and file formats.

Just because a group of developers may not be able to afford it is not really a good argument for forcing MS to give away MSDN subscriptions. And many OSS developers seem to get paid quite well...(and aren't those OSS companies supposed to be making money from services anyway? :)

[ Parent ]

MSDN (none / 0) (#50)
by Paul Johnson on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:42:30 PM EST

I've no problem with subscription fees for the MSDN. What I do have problems with is any kind of fees or other restrictions on information which must be made available under the final judgement. So keep the MSDN subscription fees and move the court-mandated disclosures somewhere else. I do see your point that MSDN does include licenses to certain products, and I have no problems with that.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

What obligation? (2.33 / 3) (#45)
by phliar on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 12:56:27 AM EST

Thus writes stuartf:
It seems that Mr Johnson bases his comment on the assumption that Microsoft should be forced to help OSS developers. Why should this be the case? What obligation does Microsoft have to do this?
It's the law. Plain enough for ya?

Free software is one of the competitors that Micros..t has hurt by its illegal, restrictive and anti-competitive practices. It has done so by

  • illegally penalising OEMs who want to include non-Micros..t products;
  • using proprietary and undisclosed interfaces between its operating system and its applications;
  • using proprietary and undisclosed file formats; and
  • using proprietary and undisclosed network protocols.

These practices harm consumers as well because anyone who wishes to communicate with a person using Micros..t products must also buy those Micros..t products; an equivalent product by a competitor will not do.

Therefore the proposed rememdy (proposed not just by Paul Johnson, but also by about 34 other groups on that list) is that Micros..t cannot do all these things. It cannot penalise OEMs, and must publish all interfaces between its operating systems and applications, file formats, and network protocols.

But if you'd been following the case at all, you'd have known all this. Let me guess: you work for a large software corporation in Redmond, WA? The corporation who wouldn't be able to write a remote-exploit-free "hello, world!" program? (Because that program naturally must be able to open Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, web pages, and addresses of remote machines if dragged and dropped on it, and of course it can be executed remotely by going through the http server to the universal-plug-and-play device manager.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Nice little conspiracy (1.00 / 2) (#48)
by stuartf on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 05:43:42 PM EST

But sorry, I don't work for Microsoft. Are you one of those sad little conspiracy theorists who see "Redmonds" under the bed? Because I post a simple question about someones comments, that makes me a Microsoft employee? You need to grow up a little. I'm not even going to bother responding to your comments, as you've both missed the point and then gone off on your wild little MS fantasy.

[ Parent ]
Favourite unintentionally funny comment (4.42 / 7) (#12)
by greenrd on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:22:21 AM EST

Appendix 1: Judge Jackson's Findings of Fiction

By Dr. Edwin A. Locke, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst
The Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has released his "findings of fact" in the Microsoft antitrust case. While his report did contain some correct information-such as the truism that a successful company tries to defeat its rivals-the central claims of his report are blatant falsehoods. Let us examine five of these fictions.

Fiction #1: Microsoft is a "monopoly." There is no such thing as a private monopoly. Only the government can forcibly prevent competitors from entering a market. Microsoft has attained dominance in the software industry, but dominance is not monopoly. Market dominance has to be earned through a long struggle, by providing better products and better prices than anyone else.

Dominant companies who falter (as did Xerox, IBM, General Motors and Kodak) will find their market share eroded, sometimes very quickly. There is no threat from these dominant players so long as their competitors are legally permitted to enter the field, invent new products, and combine with each other to gain the needed market power.

In a free market, a dominant position can only be sustained by continually providing new products and services that are better than other firms' products. Paradoxically, Judge Jackson recognizes this fact but condemns it. Microsoft's innovation, its continual product upgrades, its millions spent on research and development, are cited by Jackson, not as evidence that Microsoft has earned its position, but only as evidence of a conspiracy to "stifle" its competitors.

Fiction #2: Microsoft's "monopoly power" allows it to "coerce" its customers. A private company has no power to force consumers to do anything.

Yeah, yeah, just keep on smokin' whatever it is you're smokin', it must be pretty good stuff.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

Ayn Randism and copyright (4.25 / 8) (#13)
by Secret Coward on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:48:13 AM EST

This was one of the few (only one I've seen so far) comments that disagreed with the settlement because it was too harsh. Their philosophy is, the government should sit back and do nothing. How would these people feel if I started selling copies of Windows, and the government threw me in jail for it? Would they come to my aid and fight for my right to be competitive?

Seeing as copyright is just a government granted monopoly, would they object if the court declared Microsoft's copyrights unenforcable? How about if the court gave Microsoft a choice between keeping its copyrights or agreeing to behavioral remedies?

[ Parent ]

This has nothing to do with Rand (4.75 / 4) (#15)
by Jonathan Walther on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:19:33 PM EST

I saw nothing "Objectivist" about the statements quoted, nor did I see any true understanding by you of what Rand actually wrote and said.

To understand Rands views on competition, you must also understand the Law of Limited Competition. (qv Daniel Quinn) Once you understand thats what she is referring to, the pieces click into place.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rands hero didn't follow the Law of Limited Competition because he was in an environment where noone else did either, and to not do so would have made him go out of business because of government interference. But that's not reality.

In reality we have an anti-trust division of the government set to break up monopolies that are gained through breaking the Law of Limited Competition. Ayn Rand would have approved severe sanctions against Microsoft. She did say there was some role for government in protecting us from such evil monopolists and political favors being involved in industry.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Mea Culpa (5.00 / 4) (#21)
by Secret Coward on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:50:28 PM EST

I saw nothing "Objectivist" about the statements quoted, nor did I see any true understanding by you of what Rand actually wrote and said.

I got the Rand reference from the same comment that the original poster quoted. The author's claim:

The mission of the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism is to promote the social welfare of the nation by presenting to the public a moral foundation for individualism and economic freedom based on a philosophical analysis of humanity and human nature. Specifically, we seek to apply Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism to the understanding of human action and human relationships.

You're correct. I have never read any of Rand's books, even though Atlas Shrugged is sitting on a shelf just five feet from me. I simply trusted the author's implication that the reasoning in their post was based on Ayn Rand. I suppose I should have titled it "Free Market Extremists and Copyright".

I asked The Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism for their stance on copyrights, but they haven't gotten back to me yet.

[ Parent ]

Ah. I missed something too... (none / 0) (#23)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:13:14 AM EST

I didn't see that part in the original quote where the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism claimed to be trying to apply the principles of Objectivism. All I can say is, they are woefully misrepresenting Rand. No wonder so many people have knee-jerk reactions against her.

Capitalism needs no defense, if by capitalism you are refering to what Adam Smith wrote about; every human alive engages in it as naturally as learning to walk or breathing. If by capitalism they mean corporatism though, then they have already revealed themselves to be wolves in sheeps clothing.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
what? (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:40:28 AM EST

Do you have any evidence, textual or biographical, that Ayn Rand was actually referring to the work of Daniel Quinn? I'm not aware of any.

In any case, this seems ridiculous on the face of it. (for those who aren't obsessive trainspotters of political novelists, the Law of Limited Competition basically states: "you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war on your competitors")

Quinn's Law of Limited Competition, therefore, postulates a right to food, which is one of the things that Rand repeatedly and explicitly points out that it does not exist. I think you may be projecting your own views onto Rand here.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by 8ctavIan on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 07:49:20 AM EST

Ayn Rand said that she was principally a novelist. However her novels showcase her philosophy from a fictional point of view. I have read that a lot of people purporting to be Ayn Rand "followers" (a concept I believe she would have rejected - then of course I may be falling into the same trap of trying to guess what she would have thought as well) think that the DOJ suing Microsoft for anti-trust goes against Ayn Rand's philosophy. I would say that this is pretty much rubbish. Reading The Fountainhead, you actually get a clearer idea about this than Atlas Shrugged. I recommend reading The Fountainhead (and then re-reading it), but for a little background, in the book, there is an architectural firm called 'Francon and Heyer' that she portrays as representing everything that's wrong with the architecture. To me, the parallels are ominous, to use another Ayn Rand expression, with that of what Microsoft has come to represent in the world of computers and software.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

wrong in so many ways (4.00 / 3) (#36)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:16:28 AM EST

a concept I believe she would have rejected

She didn't; a quick google search on her name and that of Nathaniel Branden will reveal exactly how bizarre the Rand kaffeeklatsch got in the 1940s.

I recommend reading The Fountainhead (and then re-reading it), but for a little background, in the book, there is an architectural firm called 'Francon and Heyer' that she portrays as representing everything that's wrong with the architecture. To me, the parallels are ominous, to use another Ayn Rand expression, with that of what Microsoft has come to represent in the world of computers and software.

You haven't understood the Fountainhead at all. Although you might think that Microsoft resemble Francon & Heyer, you might do well to consider that the Superman of that book would rather die than accept a government contract. If you don't like Microsoft then the Randroidly correct thing to do is to become a Nietszchean hermit and then inspirationally redesign the entire software industry for the love of doing so.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

rms? (4.00 / 3) (#39)
by martingale on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 05:12:53 AM EST

Sorry to but in to your conversation, but did you just allude to RMS as a Randroid?



[ Parent ]
Comment from "The Center" (5.00 / 4) (#32)
by Secret Coward on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:54:46 PM EST

Asked The Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism about this. Here was their reply.

---

Thank you for visiting our website. I'll try to address your inquiry.

I read your public comment in the MS-DOJ anti-trust case [1]. I am curious about an apparent contradiction in your philosophy. You strongly support laissez-faire capitalism. I presume this means you think the government has no business getting involved in the free market.

Except for protecting property rights, none whatsoever.

You believe Microsoft should be unconstrained by any form of goverment regulation. You even say, "The only permanent monopolies are those supported by government force". Yet Microsoft's monopoly rests entirely on copyright.

First, Microsoft has no monopoly on any aspect of personal computing. There are other companies that make software, web browsers, and operating systems. Secondly, a copyright is a "monopoly" in the same way that any kind of property right is a monopoly. That is, you have no right to enter my house. I have "monopoly" power over it because I own it. Similarly, Microsoft owns its property and has the right to use and dispose of it as it sees fit.

Copyright is nothing but a government granted monopoly. Copyright is a restriction on the free market. In a totally free market, people would pay for the creation of intellectual property rather than copies of it.

This is just wrong. A copyright is a protection of the free market. Take Coca Cola for example. You have the right to know what's in Coke so that you can tell whether it's got, for example, poison in it. But you don't have a right to know the exact recipe, the process by which it's made, etc. If buying a can of Coke entitled you to that, as you seem to imply, then the product of the effort expended to create the recipe would be yours for simply buying a can of Coke. What would happen to the incentives of any inventor of a new soft drink, or of anything else for that matter, if he were told that his formula would become the property of anyone and everyone who bought his drink? They would disappear! He would have no incentive to create the drink because he would have no way to profit from his invention. And then all innovation and progress would stop.

Would your philosophy object if someone were to distribute copies of Microsoft Windows? How about if the court simply cancelled Microsoft's copyrights?

We would object to both acts.

Morally, doesn't the anti-trust case come down to the government placing restrictions on a government granted priviledge?

No. It comes down to the government attacking a right that it is obliged to protect.

I did not see these questions anywhere in your FAQ. Hasn't this subject come up before?

Never in quite this manner. I don't think I've heard anyone argue against copyrights before in the nearly two years I've been answering inquiries to the Center.

Thanks again for visiting our website. If you have any other questions for the Center, please feel free to contact me.

[ Parent ]

Typically weak answer re: Coke (4.33 / 3) (#41)
by isdnip on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 08:57:33 AM EST

The Coke analogy that the "Center" drew is truly weak. Coke keeps a Trade Secret, not a Copyright. So if I figure out just what goes into Coke besides sugar, nutmeg and lime juice (the key flavors), then I can sell it as my own "cola-flavored" drink. But I can't put a can of Coke into a copy-tron and get a perfect copy for say a penny.

Software lets me make perfect copies for almost nothing, so the government-granted Copyright is what protects the so-called property right, not secrecy of recipe or quality of manufacturing process.

[ Parent ]
Objectivists vs Reality (4.00 / 5) (#14)
by Znork on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:09:01 AM EST

I'm actually truly amazed at Objectivists, but I never know how to actually handle it. They live in some alternate reality, it appears, because their arguments bear no relevance to the reality in which I exist.

Only the government can forcibly prevent competitors from entering a market? I mean, yeah, I want what they're smoking too. As long as you can control and engineer incompatibility from a dominant position, as well as punish anyone who buys the competitions products through hitching prices for them, as well as ride out and sink any amount of cash into driving your competition out of buisness... if that isnt preventing competitors from entering a market, I dont know what is.

A private company has no power to force consumers? Ok, try this on for size "either you use Exchange as your mailservers or you will pay double your licensing fees for the desktop, and we know it will cost you even more to migrate somewhere else, and you've already built yourself into dependency on our products". The next day, "either you dump Oracle and use IIS, or we raise your licensing fees for Exchange"... etc etc etc.

Microsoft must be snickering at the Objectivists all the way to the bank. The ideas are naive bordering on hallucinations.

[ Parent ]
Microsoft and coercion (2.83 / 6) (#17)
by klamath on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:22:16 PM EST

A private company has no power to force consumers?
First off, the sense of the word "force" used here is similar to "coercion" -- the basic question is "can Microsoft coerce you into buying their products"? i.e. through the use of physical force or some variant. I think the answer is pretty clearly "no" -- but whether that means anything is debatable.
Ok, try this on for size "either you use Exchange as your mailservers or you will pay double your licensing fees for the desktop, and we know it will cost you even more to migrate somewhere else, and you've already built yourself into dependency on our products".
First off, if you (the customer) chose to become dependant on Microsoft's products and suffer as a consequence of that, that's your mistake and your fault. Just as selecting a single vendor for a mission-critical product has its benefits (reduced costs, unified support contacts, reduced employee skill requirements), it also has its drawbacks (e.g. the company goes out of business, or stops supporting a given product, etc.)

Second, this kind of behavior will obviously not pleasing to Microsoft's customers. So the question that their customers are left to make (i.e. are free to make) is: do I suffer the short-time expense of dropping MS products, or do I suffer the long-term expense of enduring increasing licensing fees, etc. For a lot of companies, the second option is better: there simply isn't a product-line comparable to Microsoft's in a lot of respects. But nevertheless, this is a choice that the consumer is free to make.

[ Parent ]

Choice? (4.85 / 7) (#18)
by Danse on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:57:57 PM EST

First off, if you (the customer) chose to become dependant on Microsoft's products and suffer as a consequence of that, that's your mistake and your fault.

I think this statement ignores some key differences between software and other products. Network effects create a whole different scenario than you would face with, say a set of tires. Customers don't just choose Microsoft because they think they have the best product, or they were convinced by some marketing tactic. They choose Microsoft because that's what everyone else uses and they need to be compatible. So it's not entirely their fault. It's an inherent drawback to having the vast majority of the world's computers running the same proprietary software. In that environment, consumer choice is already largely restricted. What we need is remedies that will allow other software to become completely compatible without facing legal retribution for it. That is what the states should be seeking in a settlement.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
fallacies of choice (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by martingale on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:31:49 PM EST

I'll try to respond according to your own line of reasoning.

First off, if you (the customer) chose to become dependant on Microsoft's products and suffer as a consequence of that, that's your mistake and your fault.
This statement is correct if and only if there is choice in this product's market. If Microsoft's product is the only one in this product's market segment, then you cannot choose to use Microsoft's product, instead you must choose whether to use a product of this category (there's only one, Microsoft's) or not. Equivalently, if a product of this category is a necessary component of your type of business, then you must choose to have a fully functional business or not. If an entity (Microsoft in this example) has influence over your choice to stay in your line of business or not, then its actions (whether directed at you or not) cannot be resisted (unless you leave that particular business).

People will come up with their own dictionaries, but I'm using Webster's because it's easy to include a link. Webster says that to coerce is to "compel to an act or choice" (2nd definition of 3), and to compel is "to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly".

Microsoft has competitors in many markets, but in some market segments its product is the only one. For example, Microsoft Office is the only product in "the market segment of those products which read and interoperate with MS Word and MS Excel documents". To repeat my point above, if in your business category it is necessary to "read and interoperate with MS Word and MS Excel documents", then Microsoft's moves in relation to this market are "irresistible" to you.

In those markets only where Microsoft's every move is irresistible to consumers (unless they leave the market), its conduct must be severely restricted to prevent damage to that particular market. In particular, Microsoft's own survival in that market should be subordinate to the market's survival.



[ Parent ]
choice and the free market (none / 0) (#22)
by klamath on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 10:43:00 PM EST

This statement is correct if and only if there is choice in this product's market.
Sure; but there will almost always be choice. In fact, the only time a single dominant company will emerge is when they offer a good or service that is substantially superior to what their competitors are offering. Thus, through being the best, they will be rewarded with a large share of the marketplace. This isn't a monopoly -- it's simply an extraordinarily competent company providing an extraordinary service. If, however, this situation changes -- and the dominant player no longer offers the best service for the best price -- the market will be open for competitors to enter and take advantage of this opportunity by offering consumers a better alternative, and thus remove the once dominant company.

In the Microsoft situation, consumers can always choose Linux, Mac or BeOS rather than Windows. If those alternatives are unappealing, is that somehow Microsoft's fault? Even without government intervention, Microsoft's dominant market position stimulated its rivals (namely Linux and MacOS) to develop more quickly, and to provide a more effective alternative for consumers who did not want to use Microsoft's products.

For example, Microsoft Office is the only product in "the market segment of those products which read and interoperate with MS Word and MS Excel documents".
Ah, but how did this situation arise? How is it that "interoperability with MS Word and MS Excel documents" is a very valuable feature, and interoperability with KOffice files is next to useless? This situation did not simply come about out of thin air. Microsoft's products achieved dominance in the marketplace because Microsoft had the best products. When Windows 95 was rolled out and already tens of thousands of developers were producing thousands of applications for it, Win95 was clearly the best PC operating system. Similarly, Office offered features that couldn't be found in any competitors products. These products achieved their current dominant position in the marketplace because consumers chose to buy them; and consumers chose to buy them because they were better their the alternatives.

Yes, it may be true that Microsoft used their dominant position in the OS market to advance their other products (browser, office suite, etc). In the short-term, this will understandably be somewhat unfair to Microsoft's competitors. But Microsoft's behavior is not to the advantage of the consumer. If, for instance, Microsoft Office isn't a good enough product to achieve dominance on its own, then if Microsoft use their OS dominance to supplement this, eventually the market will punish them. Evidently, consumers are eager to use an alternative to Microsoft's products; eventually, another product, whether it be Linux, MacOSX, or something else will take advantage of this consumer irration and remove Microsoft's dominant position. Sure, this won't happen overnight, but I can see it happening within 5 years.

As for the "operatibility with MS products" thing, you've got a point -- it does create a difficult environment for other companies to effectively compete. However, I still think that in the long-run, Microsoft will not be able to get away with that kind of behavior -- because it does not benefit the consumer, and they need the consumer to buy their products. It might take a little while, but ultimately the free-market will remove Microsoft from a dominant position.

There is also the fact that Microsoft achieved their dominance during a very unusual period of time; the incredibly rapid growth of the information technology sector is a phenomenon that has rarely been seen before. In the space of 10 or 15 years, computers have penetrated nearly every element of society. I think it's natural for there to be some opportunity for some people to take advantage of this unique situation. However, just as the IT gold rush had to end, so will Microsoft's dominance -- as the later is largely a product of the former.

[ Parent ]

rewards and responsibilities (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by martingale on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:38:59 AM EST

Nice response, but I'm afraid I have to disagree on some of your points.

Thus, through being the best, they will be rewarded with a large share of the marketplace.
Absolutely. In fact, I don't begrudge Microsoft their market domination at all. They've shown that they excel at a certain combination of business strategy and technical prowess, which is an evolutionary trait that no other company could beat. Clearly history has shown that what matters is this combination, whereas business acumen or technical superiority alone doesn't succeed as well. So I say: good for them.

However, having a large share of the market is both a reward and a responsibility, and your argument doesn't mention the latter. Obviously, I'm talking about sizeable markets here, with large numbers of customers, not the "bespoke software" niche (term coined by Neil Stephenson in Diamond Age). Microsoft, and any other monopoly before or after it, has a responsibility to keep the barriers to entry in its market as low as possible. This is the only way of ensuring that "there will almost always be choice" as you say.

Some software markets have high barriers of entry due to technical and safety requirements - I can think of certain types of engineering software, which precludes just anyone writing and selling in that market.

Most business and consumer software markets, which happens to be what Microsoft concentrates on, do not have such safety or technical requirements, and therefore are not served by high barriers. To pick some examples, if your letter doesn't print with the correct margins, you can print it again with slightly different settings. If your computer game crashes, you reboot, reload, and replay the level. Nobody gets hurt.

Microsoft do not keep barriers to entry low. By adding improperly documented interoperability features between their products, they force a new entrant in the market to match Microsoft's features before even being considered by customers, irrespective of the relative importance of those features in the market considered. So for example you might write a business email client for Windows XXX to compete with Outlook, and it'll have to communicate with Exchange's calendaring features before being considered. If the interface is insufficiently (or not at all) documented, you won't be able to enter the market because of the artificially high barrier to entry.

Where's the competition going to come from if say Microsoft stops actively developing (ie "stabilizes") Outlook? Are customers better served with another email client which can't do Exchange calendaring? No. Would customers be better served if Outlook continues to add features they want? Yes. Is Microsoft better served if it adds more features to Outlook? Perhaps, perhaps not. It depends upon how many customers will be willing to "upgrade" and how much they'll agree to pay for the upgrade. If there's too little projected revenue relative to other potential projects, the new features will get axed. This is an important point: even if in absolute terms the projected revenue from new features justifies their development, they may get preempted by some completely different project which has a higher marginal rate of return.

In the Microsoft situation, consumers can always choose Linux, Mac or BeOS rather than Windows. If those alternatives are unappealing, is that somehow Microsoft's fault?
In light of what I said above: Microsoft must make it easy as pie for Linux, Mac or BeOS (RIP) based software to take advantage of or replace completely its own offerings in a way which is seamless to the consumer (*). Bring those barriers to entry right down. This is obviously not in Microsoft's own best interest, but as I said in my previous post, their interest is subordinate to the market's best interest. Only if Microsoft loose their market monopoly can they again behave exclusively in their own best interest, to catch up so to speak.

Ok, this post is long enough already.

(*) This does not mean doing all the work for the Linux, Mac or BeOS developers, but simply not denying them the prerequisites, ie proper documentation. My rule of thumb is: if some guy in his basement could write it, then Microsoft aren't obstructing alternative developers in that particular market.



[ Parent ]
Parry, return (none / 0) (#33)
by Perianwyr on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 09:01:07 PM EST

What, it's MS's responsibility to engineer its own downfall?

[ Parent ]
parry, sixte, graze (none / 0) (#35)
by martingale on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 10:13:02 PM EST

What, it's MS's responsibility to engineer its own downfall?
If by "engineer" you mean "allow to happen" and by "downfall" you mean "loss of dominant market position", then yes.

Reread my argument: MS's dominant market position allows it to raise the barriers to entry in the markets it controls, thus limiting drastically the potential number of competitors, often to zero. Its responsibility (which lasts only for as long as it has market domination) is to keep those barriers low, to ensure competitors can exist if they want to.

Nobody is disputing that potential competitors exist, and want to enter MS's most lucrative markets. However, they can't because Microsoft

  • hides some information which would gain them a foothold, and
  • keeps changing the architecture upon which competitor's products rely, and
  • dumps below development cost similar software to its would-be competitors, until these are driven out or under.
This behaviour is quite acceptable from any company without dominant market share (ie anyone except Microsoft as of 2002), because these companies' actions have limited repercussions within the market. If Microsoft (as of 2002) engages in these tactics, the repercussions are felt throughout the markets it controls, the barriers are raised, and customer choice is limited to MS's offerings. That is why Microsoft's responsibility is to not engage in this behaviour, although it is the "best" survival strategy. It follows that the survival strategy it should adopt is "suboptimal".

I'll repeat it for good measure: if you don't allow competitors, then competitors won't magically appear down the road five years hence.



[ Parent ]
Barriers of entry. (5.00 / 3) (#28)
by Znork on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 05:09:33 AM EST

If you look, for example, on how OS/2 disappeared from the market around the launch of Windows 95, this was due to IBM being refused the license to sell Win'95 on their PC's until they dropped OS/2. Some quick anticompetetive action and Microsoft has ridden themselves of another competitor. Consumer choice didnt figure in to it at all.

In the Microsoft situation, none of the alternatives are very easy to get preloaded. You pretty much have to build your own machine to refrain from paying for MS products. No consumer choice involved, only pressure on OEM channels.

If Microsoft is not dealt with, you will in the future not even be able to boot a non-MS operating system on a PC. In my opinion the best (and most likely) route for them to go now is to integrade DRM technology on a bios and hardware level which will refuse to boot any non-DRM OS (oh, and they have a nice patent there...).

The trick is to not allow consumer choice. Making a product appealing can make people decide to buy a product. Threatening the OEM channel to produce only your products can leave far more people unable to buy anything but your product.

[ Parent ]
A monopoly (none / 0) (#40)
by QuantumG on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 06:03:13 AM EST

If there is one product in a particular market that holds most or all of the market share (such that other products are negligible) the company that sells that product is a monopoly in that particular market. Stop quibbling the point, Microsoft is a monopoly. Are they an illegal monopoly is the question we asked judge Jackson and he said they were (perhaps for all the wrong reasons).

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
you're (somewhat) incorrect (none / 0) (#42)
by klamath on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 03:29:26 PM EST

If there is one product in a particular market that holds most or all of the market share (such that other products are negligible) the company that sells that product is a monopoly in that particular market.
According to dict.org, a "monopoly" is: The exclusive power, or privilege of selling a commodity; the exclusive power, right, or privilege of dealing in some article, or of trading in some market;. Microsoft do not have exclusive access to anything; at best, they dominant certain markets, but there is no law or government agency that gives Microsofts privileges above those granted to their competitors. You're somewhat right, in that one sense of the word "monopoly" refers to dominance (for example, "you're monopolizing all the cake") -- but my usage of the word is also correct.

If you're going to be pedantic, at least do your research first.

[ Parent ]

read a law book (none / 0) (#51)
by QuantumG on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 11:22:50 PM EST

not a dictionary, now _you_ do some research.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Interoperability histories (4.66 / 3) (#44)
by RadiantMatrix on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:59:10 PM EST

Ah, but how did this situation arise? How is it that "interoperability with MS Word and MS Excel documents" is a very valuable feature, and interoperability with KOffice files is next to useless? This situation did not simply come about out of thin air. Microsoft's products achieved dominance in the marketplace because Microsoft had the best products.
Interoperability with Word and Excel files is important, not because they are superior products, but because a few key groups started using them as a standard. Since they were incompatible with other, similar software, in order to do business with a company standardized on Word, you needed Word.

MS has carefully cultivated that by continuing to change and extend its Office file formats in part to ensure that only Office products can work 100% with Office documents.

At this point, the quality of the product only needs to be minimal -- as long as there is no compelling reason to break format with everyone else, business will be forced to put up with Office products.

I will not argue that at one time MS had products superior to many of its competitors -- however, it is maintaining market superiority through exclusionary practice and not fair competition, which is unethical and illegal.

--
No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

[ Parent ]

Flawed (4.00 / 3) (#29)
by bleach on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 05:34:28 AM EST

Your argument is flawed. Have you actually bought a Microsoft product? Ever??

I would bet 99% of the people who use m$ products did not actually purchase them. I bet most people who purchased m$ products bought them WITH their computer.

If all the computers for sale only have m$ products, you are forced to use m$ products if you want to buy a computer.

I mean.. SURE I can build a computer from scratch and never pay m$ a dollar (which I do today). But at one time I actually did not know how to do that, and ended up paying for a copy of windows 3.11 when I purchased my 486.


#define CODE "\270\105\000\000\303";
int (*foo)();main(){foo=CODE;printf("I like to %d\n",foo());}
[ Parent ]
why? (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by klamath on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 10:46:11 AM EST

Your argument is flawed.
You say this, but I don't think you prove it. Why is my argument flawed? Because Windows is bundled with OEM computers? Hardly.
Have you actually bought a Microsoft product? Ever??
Not in the last 5 years; I think I still have an ancient copy of MS Excel. But I don't see what this has to do with anything.
I would bet 99% of the people who use m$ products did not actually purchase them.
That is an absurd statement. If 99% of Microsoft's customers did not purchase Microsoft products, Microsoft would not make any money, and therefore would not be in the dominant market position that they are today.
I bet most people who purchased m$ products bought them WITH their computer.
Perhaps if you only look at sales of Windows, this might be the case to some degree (I'd say maybe 60% of Windows sales are through OEMs). But for the rest of Microsoft's product line, almost all sales come from consumers purchasing products. But even when purchased from an OEM, the consumer is still paying for Windows -- it is added to the price of the computer. (and therefore, they are still paying for a product; and if the product they are paying for is not worth the price, this creates an opportunity for another OEM to provide better service by eliminating this unwanted cost)

As for this being unfair to competing OS manufactors, that is true to some degree. However, the fact is that even if OEMs allowed for other OSs out of the box, very few people would choose to buy them (for instance, Dell used to sell Red Hat on some of their workstations; due to low demand, they stopped this).

Furthermore, this is just another example of behavior that, in the long-run, does not benefit the consumer. If consumers want to use another operating system, and they are not given this choice by OEMs, this will provide an opportunity for another competitor to enter the market, and fulfill this demand. So while this kind of behavior from Microsoft will create a hostile environment to competitors in the short-time, in the long-term Microsoft will inevitably lose market dominance.

[ Parent ]

OEM Bundling (4.50 / 4) (#43)
by RadiantMatrix on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:51:57 PM EST

It seems that this thread is missing the problem with OEM bundling -- the fact that OEM bundling contracts are exclusive.

So, in order to obtain a PC without Microsoft product(s) installed, you need to buy piecemeal and assemle it yourself. In order to do that, you need to have some technical savvy -- anyone who's worked a support desk realizes that the vast majority of the computing population doesn't have that.

Besides, bu bundling MS product with every major OEM, and in the past abusing a relationship with Intel to force any OEM selling Intel to sell Windows as well, many people are unaware that alternatives exist. Either that, or they are led by MS FUD to believe that any alternative is inferior simply because it doesn't interoperate 100% with MS products.

The end result is an environment where MS has the power to crush a potential competitor long before said competitor has a chance to compete. That is illegal. Also, in bying most of the 5 (or so) computers that I currently run, I recieved a copy of MS Windows. I payed for it wether I wanted to or not, because the company I purchased the system from was required to supply a copy. If that isn't a display of MS's power, what is?

--
No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

[ Parent ]

To "some" degree? (2.50 / 2) (#46)
by phliar on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 01:57:15 AM EST

Klamath writes:
When purchased from an OEM, the consumer is still paying for Windows -- it is added to the price of the computer. ...

As for this being unfair to competing OS manufactors, that is true to some degree. However, the fact is that even if OEMs allowed for other OSs out of the box, very few people would choose to buy them (for instance, Dell used to sell Red Hat on some of their workstations; due to low demand, they stopped this).

This is frighteningly naive.

Are you aware of the exclusive contracts Micros**t forced all its OEM PC makers to sign?

A PC manufacturer could only install a Micros**t operating system on a system it sold if it paid Micros**t for a copy of Windows for every PC it sold. In other words, Micros**t says

"So, Mr Dell, you want to install Windows on those PCs you're selling? Fine, that will be $75 for each PC you sell."
See the difference? Each PC you sell, not each PC with Windows on it you sell.

So if I bought a PC from Dell with Linux on it, I still had to pay Micros**t for a copy of Windows for that PC, even though it was never installed.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

The interesting thing (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by epepke on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 01:29:01 PM EST

The interesting thing about the CMDC's comment, like the one from Joseph Bast, is that they support the settlement because it won't work. I can only find two (CompTIA and Nicholas S. Economides) who both support the settlement and think that it is appropriate and effective within antitrust law.


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


[ Parent ]
The article of real interest is (4.57 / 7) (#16)
by Jonathan Walther on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:01:20 PM EST

The article of real interest is the one posted by the 9 dissenting states. Since they are parties to the case, the judge will be giving much, much more weight to what they say they want than to any of the other Tunney Act submissions.

The 9 states in their Tunney submission don't make any requests; they just say the settlement is flawed, they disagree with it, and they are not going to make a recommendation until they can have "further discovery".

Maybe further discovery will bring to light their secret contracts with hardware manufacturers preventing dual boot machines?

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


Microsoft front organisations exposed (5.00 / 2) (#27)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 05:06:48 AM EST

One of the comments (the CCIA) includes this detailed expose of Microsoft's funding and lobbying efforts. I think all the organisations who submitted pro-RPFJ comments (with the possible exception of the Objectivists) get a mention.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

47 MS.vs. DOJ Tunney Act comments released | 51 comments (42 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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