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Doing the Math in the Microsoft Anti-Trust Cases 407

coupland writes "Bob Cringely has posted this week's column and has made some interesting comments. He says that regardless of what happens in the EU, DOJ, and class-action proceedings, Microsoft can't lose. Why? Because they make more money by paying lip-service to the law and accepting the occasional fine than by complying. He even does some simple math to prove his point. Fascinating stuff."
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Doing the Math in the Microsoft Anti-Trust Cases

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  • by vudufixit ( 581911 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:08PM (#8750992)
    Bill Janklow was a recalcitrant breaker of traffic laws. He went on record saying, "Oh, I'll just pay the fine" even though he probably racked up enough violations to have his license taken away. He kept on "paying the fine" until his car met a motorcyle and the person driving the latter was killed.
    • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:09PM (#8751015) Homepage
      The 411 on Bill Jankow []
    • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:15PM (#8751078)
      Where are you from? I didn't know of anyone outside of South Dakota, who even knows about Janklow.

      But you are correct, he even got a large number of "warnings" while in office. Once he got elected to the house he should have gotten a driver to drive him around (espically if the health concerns he used in his defense were vaild).

      Oh, and to stay on topic. Yes, I do believe that one day MicroSofts flouting of anti-trust laws will actually get them in trouble. But, it took Janklow almost 30 years to get in trouble driving, so it might be a while.
      • by vudufixit ( 581911 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:28PM (#8751211)
        I knew about this because it was a national story. I honestly don't follow much about South Dakota, although I loved driving through and seeing the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in person.
        True, my comment wasn't especially relevant, except in the sense of it being an example of a powerful person who broke the law repeatedly and was content to shrug it off and "simply pay the fine."
        It's especially egregious in the case of politicians, because they routinely exempt themselves from justice.
        It's outrageous that a person ran through a stop signal, and killed someone. It's more outrageous that they were a persistent violator of traffic laws. It's even more outrageous that this was someone who makes laws and is sworn to uphold them.
      • If the laws stay as they are today, that is possible. But laws have a tendency to move towards support of the property holders.

        I would have expected an EU fine of x Euros per day until compliance is achieved. You simply can not put years of work into a one time payment.
      • He kept on "paying the fine" until his car met a motorcyle and the person driving the latter was killed.
      An apt analogy considering how many small companies Microsoft has killed over the years through its practices (both legal and illegal ones).
    • One night during my freshman year at university, as I approached a crosswalk, I habitually glanced both ways despite the walk light in my favor -- fortuitously, as it turns out. Off to my left, a car veered suddenly from left lane to right, dodging around the traffic waiting at the red light, then veered quickly left again. I waited. Sure enough, he arrived at my intersection just in time to pick off the last five or six pedestrians crossing before me, dragging one woman more than fifty yards under his fron
  • by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:08PM (#8750994)
    Any company that can afford the legal game and then postpone the trial and then appealing the decision will make more money by doing that than by complying. Considering they (Microsoft or any other company) can still use their current strategy during the time of the appeal, or before the final judgment is made (it took what? 5 years for the WMP case in Europe?), a couple of million of Euros is nothing compared to what they did in those 5 years.

    Judges should act quicker and allow for much less delay is anti-trust cases, because time plays against the ones they're trying to defend.

    • by Kirill Lokshin ( 727524 ) * on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:13PM (#8751054)
      Judges should act quicker and allow for much less delay is anti-trust cases, because time plays against the ones they're trying to defend.

      Innocent until proven guilty, remember? There's no reason that someone accused of anti-trust violations should have less of an opportunity to defend themselves than anyone else.

      Having said that, I agree that the length of time most (not just anti-trust) trials take is riduculous, especially when you count the years of appeals. The obvious solution would be to create some special court to hear the appeals in such cases (rather than having them go through several levels of appeals), but that would require messy changes to the judicial system.
    • by SheldonYoung ( 25077 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:17PM (#8751101)
      There is also another reason to postpone trials and drag the legal battle out as long as possible... deprecation and interest. A rate of 5% interest over 3 years on 600 million is approximately 100 million dollars. That's got to be like, what, a thousand bucks for every lawyer?
    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:47PM (#8751402) Homepage Journal
      This is why we need criminal penalties for the people, not the companies, who commit antitrust crimes. Microsoft isn't hurt at all -- but Gates or Ballmer would certainly be hurt by a prison term, regardless of how much money they have.

      And oh yeah, they should be in jail until their cases are decided, just like defendants in a murder trial. Let's see how much they try to delay things then.

      There's a certain amount of precedent. Martha Stewart is almost certainly going to prison, and Dennis Kozlowski will probably be in the same boat once the trial finally happens right. ('Course, if you're a corrupt executive who's good buddies with Bush&Co., you're safe ... but that's a whole 'nother argument.) We send executives to prison for enormously complex financial crimes that most people don't even understand -- it seems to me quite obvious that we should do the same to those who violate laws whose meaning and intent is entirely clear.
      • by chimpo13 ( 471212 ) <> on Friday April 02, 2004 @08:08PM (#8752065) Homepage Journal
        Which brings us back to Bill Janklow again. 100 days in jail for vehicular manslaughter. How much time do you think Ballmer or Gates would do?

        I'm surprised that Janklow even got 100 days. Tennessee Senator Koella was drunk, hit a motorcyclist and left him to die on the road. Koella served no time. And then they named the road after Koella when he died of natural causes.

        Martha Stewart is going to prison because she's not politically connected, and probably because she's female. If only she was in Skull & Bones...
      • Neither of the two cases you mentioned are valid precedents here. Martha Stewart's company hasn't being charged with anything; Stewart herself has. Her case was all about insider trading with respect to her personal, not corporate, investments. In Kozlowski's case, his corporation was the victim, not the beneficiary, of crimes which he personally committed.

        The problem is that the ways the laws regulating monopolies are written don't criminalize executives who actually make the decisions for the corporation

    • Are injunctions on product distribution not possible?


      A subclause stating that the above could only apply if the manufacturer was FOUND GUILTY ON MULTIPLE COUNTS OF ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOR AND IN MULTIPLE COUNTRIES / CONTIENTS would easily put a limiting
  • I did the math (Score:4, Interesting)

    by krray ( 605395 ) * on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:08PM (#8750996)
    Interesting take on things -- and I will say that I am no Microsoft fan. I was ticked when I had to pay the Windows tax to get a PC during the time period Microsoft got away with such tatics. Working in IT myself and being a business owner I will say that as a end user I do not trust Microsoft anymore. Not for a long time. WFW3.11 and NT had it going on back in the day. 95 came to market too soon (and no, I didn't buy). 98 wasn't any good until the se release. Me was nothing but a money grab. 2K is barely usable and XP is a joke (IMHO :).

    Funny -- of course the offices all run on Linux (and/or Netware to this day, thank you :). New desktops are either OS X or Linux based. Period. Where possible (CAD groups) the networks have been segmented off and there's little Windows worlds that, in a couple of my offices ... can't see the Internet. Ever. Yeah, I believe it has come to that (already). Funny, but the networks always ... just work. Always.

    There something wrong with this guys equations ... and I believe that it does NOT account for people like me. There's many of me out there it seems. I took my mom and dad off Windows years ago and they THANKED ME. Go figure. My contribution to the Microsoft coffers since 2000? $-0-

    It sure seems that with EVERY major computer type company you look at they're all going one Unix or the other. IBM is Linux. Redhat Linux (obviously :). Mac's are BSD based. BSD is alive and strong, don't think it's not... Novell has gone Linux. HP and Dell want into the mix directly. What do the best tv video recorders all run on?

    Microsoft obviously has enough money to be a around for a long while. Even while their markets are being eaten left and right. Windows is, well, a technological JOKE at best -- comparing it personally to any of the Unix's out there. OpenOffice sure isn't going away. Who knows WordPerfect may decently re-appear and there's always -X- company out there to come along. What else does Microsoft make money at? Not much.

    I see their bottom line continueing to be eaten away -- left and right. Mean while their costs will continue to sky rocket and things will be, well, fun to watch...
    • Re:I did the math (Score:5, Informative)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:19PM (#8751112) Homepage Journal
      "2K is barely usable and XP is a joke (IMHO :)"

      Those of us that use XP and 2k would not agree with you. They are both a hell of a lot more stable than Win95/98/SE/ME. 2K in particular is very popular with 3D artists who couldn't bear to lose a render to a crash.
    • Macs are Mach-based (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bonch ( 38532 )
      Mac's are BSD based.

      They run on a Mach kernel with some BSD userland tools.

      Microsoft obviously has enough money to be a around for a long while. Even while their markets are being eaten left and right.

      Heh, only on Slashdot do you see statements like this. "Microsoft's market is being eaten left and right!" I've been hearing that since 1998. Linux makes gains here and there, but it's mostly in markets in which UNIX has traditionally existed. Nobody's market is really being eaten except for UNIX. W
  • What a suprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imgumbydamnit ( 730663 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:09PM (#8751013)
    What whould you do if the parking ticket cost less than the parking meter?
    • Re:What a suprise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by awtbfb ( 586638 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:17PM (#8751092)
      We had a similar situation when I was at school. Paying to park at the meters for the bulk of the day was more than the parking ticket - which could only be issued once per car per day. The rule became, put coins in the meter if you'll be there less than 4 hours, otherwise, skip it.

      Of course, they may have wanted it that way since it requires less labor to process the ticket than it does to haul away all those coins.
      • "We had a similar situation when I was at school. Paying to park at the meters for the bulk of the day was more than the parking ticket - which could only be issued once per car per day. The rule became, put coins in the meter if you'll be there less than 4 hours, otherwise, skip it."

        The school I was at had an interesting solution to this problem. Every time you got a ticket, the new fine was the previous fine times 2. If you paid $10 on the first offense, the second offense would be $20, the third wou
    • I actually put this to use last quarter. I parked in the parking lot by my dorm, where parking passes were $70 and tickets were $25. I knew that unless I had to park there more than 3 times, it'd be cheaper to just park there.
    • At McMaster in Hamilton, Ont., it costs $15 for a full day of parking. If you park off campus, a ticket is apparently $12. And sometimes that'll get you closer to class.
    • In York Mills Station, Toronto, Ontario, parking costs $5 for night parking (if you want to go bar hopping). The fine? $4 if you get a ticket. Have I ever paid? Yes, I was fooled once? How many times have I parked there without paying? >10. How many tickets have I got? 5. You do the math..
  • by ajutla ( 720182 ) <ajutla at g m a i l dot com> on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:09PM (#8751014) Homepage
    They're Microsoft! What, were you expecting them to play nice?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:09PM (#8751016)
    Word on the street is that Sun will get $2 billion dollars of vouchers for Windows 98 and Office 97.
  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:09PM (#8751018) Homepage Journal
    Wednesday, March 10, 2004
    A plea for relief from Microsoft's escalating anti-competitive tactics. []
    An open letter to antitrust, competition, consumer and trade practice monitoring agency officials worldwide.

    The role of trade practice and antitrust legislation is to provide the consumer with protection from abusive business practices and monopolies. In one of the most serous cases of monopolization in the information technology industry, the agencies charged with protecting the competitive process and the consumer have utterly failed to stem the offending corporation's anti-competitive practices.

  • ... with Howard Stern.

    Previously, the FCC was limited to fining $27,500 per offense - and Clear Channel, pulling in many millions a year syndicating Howard Stern, would gladly pay the small fine knowing that the 'controversy' only increased his ratings, resulting in even higher profits for them. When the FCC recently changed their fine structure to $275,000 per station per offense, that could result in many millions in fines each time... which is what resulted in Clear Channel dropping Stern from most of their stations.

    In both this and the EU/Microsoft cases, small fines don't work, and large fines will either be appealled and reduced or attacked as being unreasonable. The only solutions that will actually change behavior are the ones that will cause serious economic harm, without seeming unreasonable - suspending licenses of non-complying stations, or forcing Microsoft to open code/APIs and unbundle apps (or even splitting up the different sections of the company.)


  • Well, Duh! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:13PM (#8751055) Homepage Journal
    Anybody who's followed Microsoft's legal hassles -- or the legal hassles of any big corporation -- knows this stuff.

    Back during the Watergate scandals, a big corp got caught making illegal contributions to a Republican slush fund. They had to pay a fine, of course. A reporter, noticing the paltry size of the fine, remarked to one of the lawyers, "I'll bet your fee was higher than that." The lawyer responded heatedly, "I should hope so!"

    But don't respond with a round of lawyer bashing. That's like blaming garbagemen for pollution. Instead, go out and elect a President who will appoint an Attorney General who thinks that anti-trust laws need penalities that actually hurt.

    • Re:Well, Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tsg ( 262138 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:33PM (#8751260)
      Instead, go out and elect a President who will appoint an Attorney General who thinks that anti-trust laws need penalities that actually hurt.

      These two are mutually exclusive. Anyone who can get elected will have had their campaign financed by someone that this hurts. Anyone who hasn't had their campaign financed by someone that this hurts can't get elected.
  • bah... (Score:2, Insightful)

    The article does have some valid points but there's some stupid stuff in here as well.

    In anti-trust law the actors are individuals, companies, and regulators. The clock rate of the overall system was defined no later than the 1930s when the most recent anti-trust laws were passed. The primary data bus is provided by the U.S. Mail.

    Holy mixed metaphors Batman! This just makes no sense. Actors and clock rates! Please... don't overclock your actors! Also what is the US Mail doing in here? Maybe I missed som
    • Re:bah... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tony ( 765 )
      Holy mixed metaphors Batman! This just makes no sense. Actors and clock rates! Please... don't overclock your actors! Also what is the US Mail doing in here? Maybe I missed something but I don't recall the USPS having anything to do with Microsoft's legal difficulties.

      An "Actor" may not be a person; it is an "object" that has an "action." ("Gratuitious" use of quotes provided by Qwerty(r).) He is comparing the legal system to a digital system; it kinda works, I guess.

      As far as the USPS is concerned: th
    • Re:bah... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:35PM (#8751280) Homepage Journal
      He is using metaphors, but they are certainly not mixed. They are apt! Apt, I say!

      Basically Cringely is arguing that the court system, whose timetables are based on pre-industrial information flows (i.e. the time it takes a man on horse and buggy to get the handwritten documents from the lawyer's office to a court house), cannot keep up with the hijinks MS is pulling in the relatively fast-paced digital age. By the time this particular case goes through appeals, etc., the story will be ancient in computer terms. MS will have screwed consumers 50 ways from Sunday in the meantime.

      As far as USPS, or European postal systems having to do with MS legal difficulties -- how do you think the documents were presented to the courts? Fax? Email? ;) Now, reflect and understand why the courts can't keep up with MS-BS.

  • by opusman ( 33143 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:15PM (#8751075) Homepage
    I thought Bob was unusually long winded this time. All he is basically saying is that Microsoft have so much money that no court-imposed monetary penalty can possibly be a problem for them. This is obvious I would have thought.

    Even a forced break-up, splitting up the OS and Office divisions, would probably not slow them down too much. Then you would just have 2 monopolies instead of 1.

    The forced open-sourcing of Windows is the way to go!
    • by SnappleMaster ( 465729 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:18PM (#8751111)
      "The forced open-sourcing of Windows is the way to go!"

      I hope to God you are kidding. Not only would this be completely unfair, but it would also be an admission that Open Source cannot compete with MS.

      If you think forcing MS to open source is fair, maybe you wouldn't mind if the state turned your lawn into a public park? Property is property.
      • If Windows was ordered Open source it would be a disaster, nobody would be able to connect to the internet with all the worm traffic
      • by tsg ( 262138 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:45PM (#8751378)
        Not only would this be completely unfair

        You mean, like Microsoft's anti-competitive practices?

        but it would also be an admission that Open Source cannot compete with MS.

        It would be no such thing. Whether the source code to Windows is open has no bearing on how other open source products perform, except how they interact with Windows components. But closed source products would benefit the same way.

        Property is property.

        Intellectual property is NOT property.
    • The forced open-sourcing of Windows is the way to go!

      That is a bit overkill and unnecessary. All they would have to do is open the APIs and File Formats which would allow interoperability with third party applications and that should be sufficient.
    • "The forced open-sourcing of Windows is the way to go!"

      And why's that?
  • Old news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:16PM (#8751081) Homepage Journal
    MS has been doing this for YEARS. He's just catching on now? What about DriveSpace and the lawsuit by Stac? MS had to change a little code and Stac went out of business. MS stole Apple's quicktime coded for windows 3.11 and all they got was a slap on the wrists. Makes you wonder how much crap they actually got away with.
  • Cringley is right (who'd of thunk I'd say that). Not only is the amount fairly trivial, not only can it get reduced or removed via appeal, but the interest they get off the profits from that market while they are appealing will pay for a good chunk of the fines.

    So, if punitive monetary damages aren't sufficient to hurt a company, how CAN a government wield a realistic prod to get them back in line? They can't tell MS that they can't sell - companies would go crazy. Tariffs and taxes are again just money
    • Jail time for the executives responsible for the decisions that led to the behaviour?
    • Where could you start, passing laws (or using existing ones) which do not support the monopoly or fostering corporate welfare

      Declaring that that these products post a threat to national security due to lax security and undue load on government and public networks

      Deeming that the supplier has berached US and international laws and is therefore may not validly apply for government contracts

      Declaring that no government agency may pay continued licence fees to a company which has acted illegally

      Declaring th

  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:17PM (#8751093)
    Why? Because they make more money by paying lip-service to the law and accepting the occasional fine than by complying.

    Sounds kind of like corporate corruption. If you are a corporate officer and you can pillage $100M and face a 10% chance of being caught and receiving a slap on the wrist (paying a $5M fine, being banned from being on a board for directors for five years, and publically announcing that you will stop breaking the law), what would stop you?

    In Microsoft's case probably most if not all of their $52B cash pile is ill-gotten and their EU fine is what, $620M? Most government taxes are higher than the 1.2% ill-gotten-gains tax.
  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:18PM (#8751107)
    I think a lot of folks equate monetary fines as the equivalent of punishment. I supposed that the EU and other such bodies might also think that monetary fines are punishing. However, as a psychologist, I know that punishment, by definition, reduces or eliminates the target behavior. I don't think that Microsoft even finds these fines as particular noxious. It's just a cost of doing business. So, if these legal bodies that go after Microsoft want to do something *punishing* so that they can reduce/eliminate certain behaviors, then they have to do something like putting executives in jail. Bill Gates might not care much about a $600M check, but laying down in a cell bed at night and wondering if his 300lb cell-mate is going to get romantic.....

    Happy Trails!


    • by rangek ( 16645 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @07:08PM (#8751648)
      Bill Gates might not care much about a $600M check, but laying down in a cell bed at night and wondering if his 300lb cell-mate is going to get romantic.....

      I know like everybody says stuff like this, but it is just not right. Being raped should not be part and parcel of a prison sentence. Yes, it was funny in Office Space when they joked about "pound-you-in-the-ass prison", but I am concerned about living in a world where rape is viewed as justice, even informally. While I may not like Windows and Microsoft and even Bill Gates, he certainly doesn't deserve to be raped for ruthlessly creating a monopoly in computer software

      In short, prison for executives who view themselves and their corporations as above the law? Absolutely. Should they have to make license plates or make gravel or pick up trash from the highway? That would be great. But raped? That is just barbaric.

      I know you probably didn't really mean you wanted Bill Gates raped for his crimes, and I am not trying to be the PC police or anything. I am just disturbed by how nonchalantly we seem to treat the issue of prison rape.

      • I couldn't agree with you more. Comments like the parent are part of what alienates this sub-culture from the mainstream. Bill has a wife and kids. Prison would mean separation from them, as well as separation from everything else he holds dear. I bet that Bill would change the way MS does business if he was faced with a real possibility of going to jail.
      • Agreed. Why is it that when women get raped, it's a serious offense, and considered "worse than murder," yet when men get raped it's funny?
    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @07:35PM (#8751822)
      The real cure is to eliminate the status of the corporation as citizen. This should enable the corporation's executives and board members to more easily be held *personally* responsible for the corporations actions, be it monopoly behavior or environmental negligence.

      It's hard to know if $600M means anything to Gates personally; it likely wouldn't effect anything he does, but the fact he was losing that money out of his own pocket might have a psychological effect.

      For the vast majority of CEOs, $600M would be a devastating personal fine; many may have enough squirreled away in "safe" places that they won't starve or be on the street(cf. OJ Simpson's "pension"), but they might also not be on a 200ft yacht or travelling in a lear jet, either.

      The next step is to make many of these corporate behaviors criminal offenses with jail time as a possible option. While no CEO wants to lose a personal fortune, even retaining a cushy cash safety net is meaningless if you're making license plates in an orange jumpsuit.
  • Related (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crawdaddy ( 344241 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:22PM (#8751148)
    In other news, I wouldn't care about traffic fines if they only cost a quarter.
  • Fight Club? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:23PM (#8751149)

    This reminds me of the scene in the movie, where Ed Norton's character explains that if it is cheaper for a company to pay fines, than to recall a potentially-deadly product, then they will opt for the former.

    This is one rather unfortunate downside of capitalism; it only works when government has enough regulatory power to compell companies not to harm its citizens. Once a government is in the pockets of business, the citizens are in big trouble.

    • a * b * c = x

      "Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X.

      If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."
    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @07:54PM (#8751955) Journal
      This reminds me of the scene in the movie, where Ed Norton's character explains that if it is cheaper for a company to pay fines, than to recall a potentially-deadly product, then they will opt for the former.

      But that's the way it's SUPPOSED to be.

      The company is in business solely to maximize profit. This makes it's behavior fit the definition of psychopathy/sociopathy - like about one/three percent of the population.

      The government is in business to co-opt vigilantism by providing a coherent and understandable set of rules, including punishments for non-compliance that:

      - convince most psychopaths/sociopaths that their best interests are served by following the rules, and

      - taking out of circulation any that don't follow the rules, once it becomes clear that they won't follow them.

      If the fines and other sanctions are low enough that businesses find it more profitable to be scofflaws than law-abiding, it's the fault of the GOVERNMENT, according its own legal theories.
  • Why not? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:23PM (#8751157)
    I think he dismisses the killing and maiming option far too quickly.
  • This happens.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:25PM (#8751180)
    It's my understanding that this happens very often in large corporations. There was a recent article on a large pipe manufacturer that refuses to comply with OSHA standards for factory safety because it's MUCH cheaper to pay an occasional fine than upgrade; don't think this is a tactic only big n' evil Microsoft uses.
  • by toopc ( 32927 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:26PM (#8751183)

    He seems to base his whole article around the idea that Microsoft appeals simply to postpone any form of compliance so that they can continue to make as much money as possible.

    I wonder if it occurs to him that maybe the appeal because they don't feel what they're doing is illegal, or at least feel the punishment handed out is too harsh.

  • Wasn't there supposed to be a panel of 3 or so outsiders brought on site to Microsoft to oversee compliance with the US ruling? What ever happened to that? Was it only a suggestion?

    I'm not saying 3 people could really change them, but are they actually there watching this unfold or has the oversight since been dissolved for some reason?
  • Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarkHelmet ( 120004 ) * <`ten.elcychtneves' `ta' `kram'> on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:28PM (#8751205) Homepage
    No need to read the article. Here is what it says in short.
    • Microsoft is too big to care about any small-time financial punishment that a government deals out to them, since they still profit heavily in the end.
    • Any ruling the DOJ gives Microsoft doesn't mean that Microsoft has to comply to it. This is much like giving somebody who steals 1,000,000 dollars a 1,000 fine, but not force them to give the money back.
    • That Cringely guy really likes geometry.

    Maybe it's me, but that article was waay too long winded to state the obvious: As long as Microsoft can turn a profit after any sort of penalities given them, they have no motovation to comply to any sort of antitrust regulation.

    That, and that Pulpit guy likes Geometry.

    • Maybe it's me, but that article was waay too long winded to state the obvious: As long as Microsoft canturn a profit after any sort of penalities given them, they have no motovation to comply to any sort of antitrust regulation.

      Close. But you missed the point of part of the wind: That complying with the rulings COSTS Microsoft more than the fines.

      So it itsn't just that the fines are too little to matter. It's that COMPLIANCE is TOO EXPENSIVE, and the fines are too small to shift that balance.

      Just lik
  • Cringly is generally correct, but he misses a very important point; MS's approach only works if the worst punishment available is a fine. In theory, at least, there are more drastic punishments available. The most obvious, and one that Judge Kollar-Kotelly should consider if she agrees that MS is failing to behave- is to break up the company. Breaking up the company was the originally proposed solution, but it was rejected as too drastic; if fines and behavioral constraints don't work then the courts sho

  • This guy sucks (Score:2, Informative)

    by The Bungi ( 221687 )
    Cringely is so far out there, so consistently wrong in amost every single slightly technical topic he tackles that I find it hard to believe that anyone still reads his crap.

    Don't believe me? Look up the last slashbork story that quoted him on anything remotely technical and read through the comments, preferably at +3 or so. Yeah, that hurts.

    Oh, but when he goes off in a bogus "M$ is teh suxx" rant, he gets airplay. I don't believe for a second he's got the scoop "from friends of friends" on what's goin

  • ...because of patent infringements. Patent infringements are like nukes in the IT world. Everyone has them, but no one will sue over them because, well, everyone has them. Also, given the number of patents out there, chances are every major company has inadvertently infringed on somebody else's patent. So here is how it goes down:

    Linux adoption continues to increase.

    Microsoft has a bad quarter.

    Microsoft panics.

    Microsoft digs through their 100s of patents, and find something that IBM unwittingly viol
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @06:32PM (#8751249) Journal
    0$ profit
    -$699 liscencing fee
    = -$699 net profit

  • "Justice may be blind, but she is also slow"..."Justice is blind, slow, and unequal"

    Hey, stop picking on poor Justice. Sure she may have put on a few pounds, is no longer nicknamed 'swift Justice' any longer and has clouded vision at times, but I'd still rather have her as my friend than my enemy.
  • Wasn't it Ford or GM who got caught with this sort of logic? Something about the payouts in lawsuits being less than the cost of a recall?
  • Digital Pollution (Score:2, Informative)

    by wtoconnor ( 221184 )
    Once again we see Cringley stating the obvious but phrasing it a little differently. The EPA fines many polluters each year but quite often the fines are much less than what the polluters make polluting. The gov't gets a little extra cash, the polluters continue to get rich and pollute and we breath foul air.

    So maybe we should view M$ programs as a form of digital pollution and turn them into the EPA. I know my health would improve if they fixed a few of their bugs:)
  • but his two previous articles about EDS/NMCI and the US Navy were much more interesting.
  • yup, I agree (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Cringely makes sense, as usual. I was explaining this same line of reasoning to my dad last night when he asked me about the "huge" EU fine. I just laughed and told him this will only make microsoft stronger.

    Microsoft, like any large company, is not a person, even though it is treated like one by the law.

    Microsoft doesn't care about the moral or ethical point of view. They just care about dollars.

    And the government can't punish microsoft by putting it in jail, that's not even possible. They can't do anyt
  • I used to work for a large chemical company.

    Ever so often green smoke would come up out of one of the smoke stacks. One time a worker looked up and said there's another 50K in fines.
    Went on to explain it was cheaper to pay the fine then get rid of properly.

    I have no idea if he was serious.

    • I was trained as an ecologist & environmental scientist. The stone cold truth is that, yes, it is often cheaper to pay the fine than to install pollution controls & employ the technicians to monitor them properly. The bottom line is the bottom line.

      Something even scarier is that businesses can buy "permits to pollute" & barter, buy & sell those permits within their respective industries.

  • by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @07:06PM (#8751621) Journal

    A little sauce for the goose [], my friend. /main552270.shtml []

    This is such a fantastically good idea. Imagine watching our congressppl(on both sides of the isle) try to explain why they can't quite support it.
    Hours of entertainment ensue.

    At your expense.

  • Divide and Conquer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Audacious ( 611811 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @08:47PM (#8752362) Homepage
    The only way to subdue a larger opponent is to divide that opponent's forces and proceed to conquer them. Microsoft and any other large corporation knows this and uses it against any legal strategy which is brought against it. Our government is just too afraid to use it against them.

    Remember that the original judgement order would have split Microsoft up. Remember also that they fought it tooth and nail because they knew that if it happened - then they really would have had problems.

    Remember AT&T was split up and we got better phone service. IBM had to split up and we now have microcomputers that are so cheap you could work at MacDonald's and still buy one. Microsoft should be split up so software can evolve the way it should.

    But then, Microsoft has enough money to buy anything and anyone. So the guy is right. When you are making so much money that you can thumb your nose at the law - who's laws do you live by? The answer is - no one's but your own. Someone giving you a hard time? Buy them off or buy someone who will remove the problem. And that doesn't mean you have to hire a hit man. You just need to hire/buy/create another company to put pressure on legislators, or do letter writing campaigns, or even just visit these people and hint that your company which brings vast wealth into the U.S. would leave and...well, I'm sure you get the picture.

    So did the DOJ of Utah. If you have forgotten, remember that Microsoft was in big trouble with the State of Utah [] for creating a company which wrote ficticious letters to them asking for leniency in their case against Microsoft. IMHO - that is a $10,000.00 fine for each and every letter written and a 5-10 in jail for each offense. Since there were litterally thousands of letters we should never see Mr. Gates or anyone else who was in charge of Microsoft at the time ever again. Yet - there have been no arrests even though Microsoft admitted they had done this.

    I think Mr. Roosevelt said it best:"...So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory."

    We need victory. True victory and not hollow lapdog lickings. But all we have gotten so far is a pat on the head.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Friday April 02, 2004 @11:55PM (#8753394)
    Finally, someone else sees this. I've seen for years how MSFT signs contracts with companies it needs software of information from. They usually end up with the product one way or another and the original owner attempts court action. Microsoft drags it out long enough that the other company has no more income and must settle for pennies on the dollar for what the technology would have been worth.

    Cringely takes this up to the monopoly cases and class actions but it's the same game. This is why I've been saying, since the mid 90's, that any company that works with Microsoft is on the road to distruction. Sure, you might find one or two companies that were bought out and survive within the walls of their Redmond offices but most are just crushed and their bones just tossed out with the trash.

    I still can't believe Sun Microsystems tried to use another legal document to settle with Microsoft. Look at all the stuff Sun and Microsoft agreed to. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! They should have just taken the $$$ and walked away. IMHO.

  • by stock ( 129999 ) <> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:09AM (#8753962) Homepage
    How should the Justice Department take on large multi billion dollar Corporations?

    Easy : never ever put financial sanctions on them. Only put regulatory sanctions on such Corporations. For instance take the EU vs. Microsoft case : a $600.= million fine is pocket money.

    So demand Microsoft to remove the Media Player with the sanction , that if Microsoft fails to do so in time, Microsoft would just loose their commercial chamber registration and license, and thus would be forced to stop doing business in Europe. Easy as it gets.

  • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @04:17AM (#8754421)
    The threat to Microsoft is not the fine. Its restrictions on bundling and opening up APIs, and its likely that these are going to imposed pretty much immediately. The reason these are significant is because of Microsoft's business model. They rely on sales, not services. This means that they need users to buy software and upgrades and they need to constantly expand to new markets. At the moment, these strategies aren't working very well. There are major complaints about support and licencing of existing installations and the attempts to expand look successful at first but are loss-makers: Last year MS server sales made a loss, and X-Box has always been hugely subsidised. Even worse for Microsoft, they are being threatened in their core market, as Linux on the desktop is starting to be taken seriously - especially in the corporate market. Microsoft is desperate to expand into the multimedia market: they want you to use Microsoft TVs, home media centres and portable media players. To do this they have to be able to sell XP embedded and bundle media player. These are key parts of the on-going EU investigation.

    Microsoft is a lot less strong than it looks - its all based on share value. If in a few years time desktop share starts to fall due to corporate Linux use, users are even more reluctant to upgrade yet again or purchase 6GHz machines with 4GB memory to run Longhorn, and they have no escape route into other markets because of EU action, they won't be a happy company.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant