Editor 28-Jan-02
The Microsoft Settlement- Comments

In compliance with the Tunney Act, part of our antitrust law, the proposed Settlement between the Department of Justice and Microsoft was open for public comment through 28 Jan 2002.

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The proposed settlement between the Department of Justice and Microsoft was published for public comment, and 31,000 responses were recieved. Of these, the DoJ considered 47 "Substantial".

Despite promotions, including offers of prizes by Microsoft backed organizations (you were entered in prize drawings for sending in comments favorable to Microsoft), the comments went 3 to 1 against the settlement.

Of the 47 "substantial" comments, only 5 were favorable to the settlement. Of those three were from organizations known to be financed directly by Microsoft, and one was from a libertarian "think tank" (Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism) that doesn't think anti-trust charges should ever be filed against any company no matter what. All the others were uniformly scathing.

Notable, was a comment submitted by a certain former Senator John Tunney, who claims to be somewhat of an expert on the Tunney Act (he wrote most of it). He claims (as do others) that Microsoft is in violation of the Tunney Act because their submittals of what government officials and departments they lobbied (or "contributed to") were incomplete, leaving out whole sections of the government with which they are known to have had contact.

You can read the comments for yourself. Many are detailed and throw a lot of light on Microsoft's unlawful (as proven in court) activities, and why the settlement won't end them.

[ UPDATE: 21 Feb 2002 - The Los Angeles Times reported that Microsoft vice president Richard Fade, in court deposition, has admitted that the DoJ settlement leaves Microsoft with more control over OEMs than it had before the settlement. Mr. Fade stated, "The net result is positive for Microsoft". He also stated that Microsoft's top 20 customers believe they've been hurt by the settlement.]

Some of the comments fell through the cracks and weren't published in the complete list. I know that because mine isn't there (admitedly it was submitted on the last day). So, for the record, here is what I wrote:

-------------------------

28 January 2002

To all concerned in the Microsoft Settlement:

I have been in the computer business for 20 years. Unlike most, who have eventually taken the path of least resistance, I still offer non-Microsoft solutions as well as Microsoft solutions. There has been no significant innovation in the PC industry for over a decade. Innovation in this once vibrant industry has been crushed by Microsoft's abuse of monopoly power. The current Settlement between Microsoft and the Department of Justice will do nothing to curb that power.

PC manufacturers are now unprofitable with the exception of Dell, which specializes in commodity products and does no innovation, nor even any real manufacturing. None of the manufacturers have any way of differentiating their product because Microsoft dictates strict uniformity. All they can do is vary the shape of the plastic faceplates on their boxes. By abuse of monopoly, the public is being harmed by loss of many formerly high paying jobs and by inability to choose superior products.

The primitive and troublesome Intel PC architecture should have been retired in the '80s, but it is still with us because Microsoft Windows runs only on that architecture. Even Microsoft's new XBox game machine uses this same obsolete architecture. The Settlement will preserve this antique for yet another decade. By abuse of monopoly, the public is harmed by having to continue to struggle with complex and unstable products, and pay people like me to fix them over and over again. By monopoly, I am harmed because I could be spending my time doing more worthwhile work that pays better.

A recent example of the impossibility of innovation is the demise of Be, publisher of a highly innovative competitor to Microsoft's Windows. Because Microsoft holds a monopoly, no computer manufacturer dares deliver a computer that does not include Microsoft Windows - installed and ready to go. Be made arrangements with a number of manufacturers to include its operating system as a "dual boot" option. None were delivered because Microsoft pointed out to the manufacturers a license clause that states that if Windows is on the computer, it must be the only bootable operating system. By abuse of monopoly, the public was harmed and deprived of a superior option. By abuse of monopoly, the employees of Be were harmed by destruction of the company they worked for.

An older example is the near demise of IBM's OS/2 operating system, still superior in design and quality to any version of Microsoft Windows. It is now used only in industries like banking, insurance and airline reservations where stability is critical and it isn't visible enough for the public to recognize that it isn't Microsoft Windows. Microsoft leveraged their monopoly power to suppress OS/2, threatening computer manufacturers and software developers, and covering it all up with nondisclosure agreements. By abuse of monopoly the public was harmed by being deprived of a superior choice.

Microsoft recognizes that the PC era is over. PCs won't go away, but they aren't where the action is. Monopoly power has crushed the life from that market. To feed its insatiable appetite for increasing revenues, Microsoft is now looking to leverage it's PC monopoly to similarly crush the life out of other markets. By abuse of monopoly, the public will be harmed.

Microsoft is leveraging its Windows / Office desktop monopoly to take over the market for network servers. To date they have been prevented from this by the poor quality of their products. Monopolies don't need quality, and thereby the public is harmed. Improving their server products just enough to make them viable, Microsoft is making it needlessly difficult for Windows users to access non-Microsoft servers. Their Active Directory feature, now required to access all the features of Microsoft Office, is deliberately incompatible with servers running other server operating systems like Unix, Linux, Novell NetWare and OS/2 Warp Server. The DoJ Settlement does not address this at all. By abuse of monopoly, the public is being harmed.

Microsoft is leveraging its Windows / Internet Explorer monopoly to take over the Internet by proxy. They encourage Web developers to use Microsoft specific development tools that lock out users using non-Microsoft products. Yes, these tools can produce standards compliant sites, but only in the hands of skilled developers who knows how to turn off Microsoft specific features. Most developers don't have these skills. Users of non-Microsoft products are increasingly locked out of Internet resources. It was public funds that built the Internet, not Microsoft, and it needs to be preserved for public use, not handed over to Microsoft as a money making machine, but the Department of Justice Settlement does not address this abuse of monopoly power at all.

I could go on and on with many other ways Microsoft has abused the monopoly IBM handed them, and how the Department of Justice Settlement provides neither remedy nor restriction, but it would get pretty monotonous. In conclusion, keep this fact in mind: Microsoft has never agreed to any settlement or contract that was not completely one-sided in their favor, or which they could not easily ignore. I challenge anyone to come up with an example contrary to this rule. Microsoft has agreed to this Settlement with the Department of Justice. You can be certain they have figured out how to avoid it restricting their illegal leveraging of monopoly power in any significant way.

The public has been harmed by Microsoft's abuse of it's monopoly over and over. Without strong measures to restrict them, Microsoft will simply accelerate their abuse and escalate harm to the public. The Settlement proposed by Microsoft and the Department of Justice does nothing to stand in Microsoft's way.

Very sincerely,
Andrew Grygus - owner
Automation Access
4542 Pennsylvania Avenue
La Crescenta, CA 91214
aax@aaxnet.com
voice: 818-248-2348
fax: 818-248-2380
www.aaxnet.com

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