Microsoft Settlement Promotes Competition, DOJ Says

Six years after the landmark antitrust settlement between the United States and Microsoft, the Department of Justice said Aug. 30 that the deal has benefited consumers by promoting competition in the middleware market. In a filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice stated that the agreement has accomplished the goal of removing "anticompetitive exclusionary obstacles" erected by Microsoft prior to the settlement. The Department of Justice originally charged Microsoft with unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in its personal computer operating systems by prohibiting consumers and computer manufacturers from removing Microsoft's middleware and cutting deals with software developers and other third parties to exclude competing middleware.

"The final judgments have been successful in protecting the development and distribution of middleware products and in preventing Microsoft from continuing the type of exclusionary behavior that led to the original lawsuit," Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett, in Washington, said in a statement. In the court filing, the Department of Justice cited Web browsers like Mozilla's Firefox, Opera Software's Opera and Apple's Safari as examples of increasing competition for Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

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News source: eWeek

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The most common thing I come across here when the subject of Microsoft anti-trust actions comes up is all the ranting about how these actions will result in more and better "choices" for the "consumer". But the statement of more choices in the future implies a lack of choices in the past – and that's never been true.

To be sure, Microsoft has been guilty of anti-competitive practices. But these government actions weren't instigated by "consumers" trying to get "better" products; they were brought by business rivals that simply couldn't compete and wanted to short-circuit the competitive process by getting governments to cut them a slice of the pie that they couldn't earn on their own – all the while preaching the phony gospel of "consumer choice".

But the fact is that not one of these companies did or do give a rat's ass about the "consumer": they promoted their own self-interest and got some government agencies to buy into it. Care to dispute that fact? How about you give me just one example of a single "better" consumer product that's grown out of these anti-trust rulings after all these years. Just one! Windows N? RealPlayer? Yeah, right.

As for the "choice" part of the equation – what a joke! Your average "consumers" don't "choose" anything, they buy whatever the computer salesman at Best Buy or Circuit City tells them to buy – and at the highest price he can get them to pay for it. They don't know or care about what software comes with their PC. They only care that it works.

On the other hand, those who actually know something about computers – and do care about what's in them – simply shove the default Microsoft products into the background and install whatever they think is better. They've been doing that forever, and it didn't take an incredibly costly anti-trust action to allow them to do it.

Now I'll be the first to admit that some of these anti-trust rulings regarding server interoperablity and such have some merit. Microsoft needed some pushing in that direction. But consumer "choice" or "protection"? Give me a break! That's about the biggest, smelliest pile of steaming BS I've ever smelled!

Go ahead! Bash Microsoft all your want! But if you're going to do that, find a legitimate beef and quit spouting all this "consumer choice" nonsense!

(Jeez, I hate that word: consumers. It brings to mind a picture of endless ranks of giant, mindless, snapping mouths whose sole purpose in life is to gobble down as much crap as our benevolent corporations can shovel into them.)

Octol said,
How about you give me just one example of a single "better" consumer product that's grown out of these anti-trust rulings after all these years.

You are exactly correct, nothing has grown out of these rulings because they were watered down to the point of being useless. If Judge Jackson's original ruling had stood, who knows? The heart of the Sherman Act is to protect consumers by preventing organizations or individuals from monopolizing, or attempting to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce in an industry. Jackson ruled that Microsoft violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

Who cares who instigated the litigation and what motives they had in mind. I don't and this is not what you should call "MS bashing" (Microsoft is nothing more than a company which provides technology tools for Christ's sake). I'm pretty sure that in the end it would have been better for the consumer and our industry if the original verdict had held instead of watered down by a DOJ that was under heavy political pressure to let this whole mess slide.

the stettlement with DOJ its useless, competition gains nothing and most of them now offer their products for free and microsoft still charging overpriced price for ie and windows...

If the DOJ did a better job we would have a better priced windows and more customizable, inmagine a modular version of windows, it would be so nice
EU got to do what US goverment couldnt... but in the end competition its useless microsoft will still have more marketplace and will always abuse its monopolitic situation to take advantage of this. and they will charge us for what we dont want to use and they will gain money theres no real choice there....

As a consumer, I don't know if I should care anymore. As long as Microsoft doesn't make it difficult to install other people's software (and they don't, UAC doesn't count) then they can add as much to the OS as they want to justify their ridiculous pricing.
On any Windows machine, I simply download and install what I want. IE 7 doesn't give me a popup saying "you are now installing our competitor's software, Microsoft has blocked this webpage" Windows gives me a good balance of control and freedom, and that's the way I like it.

This is from the my perspective. The industries' perspective is different.

The final judgment in the U.S. v. Microsoft case was so watered down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that it really didn't achieve anything anyway. If the USDOJ had the balls that the EU has, maybe we (consumers) would have more choice and better products. There does appear to be a glimmer of hope though coming from the state level. Even though I'm not a big fan of gov't regulation, competition in a market is almost always beneficial for both the industry and the consumer.

lbmouse said,
The final judgment in the U.S. v. Microsoft case was so watered down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that it really didn't achieve anything anyway. If the USDOJ had the balls that the EU has, maybe we (consumers) would have more choice and better products. There does appear to be a glimmer of hope though coming from the state level. Even though I'm not a big fan of gov't regulation, competition in a market is almost always beneficial for both the industry and the consumer.

Yes you are a fan of gov regulation. Your whole comment says you are except the last little bit.

solardog said,
Yes you are a fan of gov regulation. Your whole comment says you are except the last little bit.

I'm not a big fan of regulation... but I am a consumerist and long-time veteran of the technology industry, first. IMHO, Microsoft's monopolistic tactics have hinder the quality and growth of those two areas. Healthy and diverse competition is normally in the best interest for most business sectors. That is why the US has the Sherman Antitrust Act and other countries have similar laws. Microsoft was found guilt of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, but a friendly appellate court, heavy MS lobbying plus very large political $$$ contributions, and the inauguration of a corp-friendly Bush caused the USDOJ's cojones to shrivel up and fall off.

FireFox, Opera and Safari have NOTHIGN to do with the anti-trust ruleing.. it has more to do with MS not updating their browser...

Other browsers existed before firefox. These had nothing to do with tyhe ruling.

They should have just required microsoft to have a checklist of what you wanted to install when you install their OS.

Win 98 and below had it.