The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced they will hold hearings into the anti-competitive aspects of Microsoft's soon to be released (that is if the Department of Justice doesn't get to it first) Windows XP. Of particular concern are features designed to directly damage Real Networks, Eastman Kodak and AOL / Times Warner
Another area of concern is features that appear designed to leverage Microsoft's desktop monopoly onto the Internet, including features that support their .NET and Hailstorm initiatives.
So confident was Microsoft the Court of Appeals would let them off the anti-trust hook, they greatly intensified exactly the conduct that got them hauled into court in the first place, Now, with the prestige of the full Court of Appeals behind the guilty verdict, it's hard for anyone to pretend they're "just misunderstood".
This time they won't have to face a hostile Orrin Hatch (hearings will be conducted by Sen. Patrick Leahy), but the general tone will be much less accepting. In the previous hearings Bill Gates simply told the Committee it was not qualified to make judgments on technology issues. That's the same thing he told the courts, and the courts proved it wasn't true. It's unlikely the Senate will now accept being called incompetent by a convicted monopoly abuser.
This all adds up to very bad news for Microsoft, especially timed as it is with the DoJ's actions on the same issue. Microsoft is doing everything they can to stall off action against Windows XP before it goes out in October. Their approach, as always, is to do as much damage as possible, delay punishment as long as possible, and finally buy their way out.
Should the Department of Justice, or some other entity, get an injunction against shipment of Windows XP, Microsoft would be in deep hurt. They have stated they cannot let the Windows XP release confuse consumers during the release of XBox (due for the Christmas season), so the delay in releasing XP will be a long one. XBox is Microsoft's initiative to muscle it's way to dominance in consumer game consoles and will (if successful) provide future entertainment for anti-trust lawyers.
If Windows XP goes out on schedule, it is almost certain to result in another major anti-trust case against Microsoft. If it does not go out on schedule, it will severely impact Microsoft's upgrade revenue stream, and if modifications are forced, it will severely damage Microsoft's attempts to extend it's monopoly. Basically, they've painted themselves into a corner.
- Andrew Grygus
- Automation Access
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