Antitrust Group Calls For Stiff Microsoft Penalties

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2001-10-05
 
 
 

WASHINGTON, .D.C.- Microsoft should face harsh penalties, including mandatory licensing and opening up much of its source code as a remedy for its illegal practices in the marketplace, officials of an antitrust think tank said today.

The American Antitrust Institute proposed 10 remedies for the case, which now sits before the U.S. District Court. Next March, the court is scheduled to begin hearings on what punishments Microsoft should face for illegally maintaining a monopoly in the operating system (OS) market. The AAI proposal has no legal impact, but is the first comprehensive framework to enter the marketplace of legal ideas since the case was remanded back to U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in August.

AAI President Bert Foer said he that was disappointed that the Department of Justice decided against seeking a Microsoft breakup, and that a behavioral remedy will be complex and difficult to enforce.

"The remedy must recognize that there is no longer any question that Microsoft has broken antitrust law," Foer said. "Only a carefully crafted, forward-looking remedy order will work."

The proposal includes:

  • Giving computer makers unrestricted control of the desktop and boot sequence of their products

  • Opening up the source code for DOS-based Windows, 95, 98 and Millennium Edition to third parties that can create niche products

  • Future Microsoft OSes must include Sun Microsystems Java virtual machine as a component

  • Prohibit Microsoft from subverting software standards to its own ends, thus ending its "embrace and extend" strategy

  • Microsofts new OSes must carry middleware applications of its competitors, including RealNetworks RealPlayer and Apple Computers QuickTime

  • Microsoft must open the code to its own middleware, such as Internet Explorer

  • Microsoft must make a good-faith effort to port its applications to competing platforms

  • Microsoft must end pricing discrimination in licensing to computer makers

  • Microsoft must open all of its Application Programming Interfaces

"We want to subject Microsoft to competition-not eliminate them from the market," said Norman Hawker, a Western Michigan University associate professor.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment.

The AAI proposal would follow a 10-year time frame of enforcement, said Robert Lande, a University of Baltimore antitrust professor. At the five-year mark, there would be a reassessment to see if Microsoft had followed the remedies. If so, the remedies would be terminated. If not, then a structural remedy would immediately be imposed. If Microsoft made partial headway during the first five years, then the remedies would remain for another five years.

"Microsoft will do its best to evade remedies," Lande said.

Direct fines are not possible under antitrust law, but if Microsoft was found in contempt of court, it could be assessed, Lande said.

Microsoft and the government are presently in court-ordered settlement talks and will be assigned a mediator if they cannot reach an agreement by Oct. 12.

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