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IBM Faces DOJ Antitrust Inquiry On Mainframes

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the goliath-syndrome dept.

IBM 190

Several sources are reporting that IBM is facing an antitrust inquiry from the US Department of Justice due to a supposed refusal to issue mainframe OS licenses to competitors. "Part of CCIA's complaint stems from the tech giant's treatment of former competitor Platform Solutions. IBM had little competition in the mainframe market when Platform Solutions, early this decade, began work on servers that could mimic the behavior of more expensive IBM mainframes, CCIA said. Platform Solutions, based on past mainframe agreements between IBM and the DOJ, requested copies of IBM's OS and technical information under a licensing agreement. IBM declined to grant Platform Solutions a license and prohibited customers from transferring IBM software licenses to Platform Solutions machines, said CCIA, which has members that are potential competitors of IBM."

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Here we go again (4, Insightful)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683007)

We spent years trying to get IBM to stop being a monopolistic and evil company, finally got them to change (a bit).
Then Ma Bell, resulting in them being broken up.

Now ATT/Bell is back to being a gigantic mega-company again, and IBM is back to the same stuff they tried against DEC and others.

The more things change...

Re:Here we go again (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683073)

A little controversial [thedeal.com] , are we? I saw this coming over a YEAR ago.

Neo-conservative business-backing Bush out of office. Neo/ultra-liberal business-choking Obama administration in. Businesses take advantage of what happens as the pendulum swings, and they fall under fire on the same note.

What a country!

Re:Here we go again (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683175)

Bush, however, was also a fucking moron.

A moron.

MOOORON!

O, holy FUCKING JESUS Bush was the sub-human RETARD who RUINED the UNITED STATES!!!

Re:Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683253)

O rly?

Re:Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685121)

ya rly.

Re:Here we go again (1, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683521)

Wait, who is choking business? Seems like it's IBM that's choking business, not government.

You libertarians apparently don't understand that government is answerable to the people, and corporations are answerable to the government. Don't like that situation? Then don't apply to the government for a corporate charter. Don't sell your stock in a regulated stock exchange.

And when the government doesn't make the corporations accountable for their actions, and stop their abuses, corporations can be 10 times the tyrant that an unconstrained government can be.

Re:Here we go again (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685427)

IBM is absolutely answering to government in this case. They heard the call of copyrights, something that probably would not exist without government intervention, and then attacked all competitors with copyright. Then, the government decides that its own laws on copyrights, which provide for this behavior, must be overridden with anti-trust laws, because IBM is apparently too big (not that I disagree). It's an upside down pyramid of laws that must be expanded because of the consequences of another law.

I'm for the repeal of all IP laws. Strike at the root of the problem.

Re:Here we go again (0, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683373)

Hmmm, look at who was running the government when abusive monopolies are formed and re-formed, and who is running the government when the DOJ issues antitrust tickets?

Re:Here we go again (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683643)

Hmmm, look at who was running the government when abusive monopolies are formed and re-formed, and who is running the government when the DOJ issues antitrust tickets?

Hmm, the previous IBM antitrust case was started under the Republicans, and dismissed under the Republicans. The behaviour that caused the previous case would have been happening under the Democrats (and presumably the Republicans, since it wouldn't have come to a trial if the behaviour had been stopped a year or so earlier).

The current case will be (if it is started t all) started under the Democrats, and the behaviour happened under the Republicans (and, presumably the Democrats, since they wouldn't bring charges if the behaviour had stopped last year).

No comment on who will be in charge when this is dropped, though at least part of it was dropped already, under the Democrats.

Your point was?

Re:Here we go again (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684541)

Your point was?

Republicans are lax about enforcing laws against corporations. They're only "tough on crime" when the criminal is a poor person, if the criminal is a corporation they get off the hook scott free. We're not talking about the legislature here, we're talking about the Executive branch. Clinton's DoJ prosecuted Microsoft, and Bush's DoJ let them off without so much as a slap on the wrist.

We had a Republican in the White House for eight years, during this time nothing was done about IBM's abusive monopoly. Now that there's a Democrat there there is some investigation being done (remember, Obama has only been in office for 9 months and this stuff doesn't move quickly).

Mind you, I'm no fan of either mainstream party, but the Democrats at least pay lip service to companies and peoiple making less than a million dollars a year. IIRC I voted for the Libertarian last election.

Re:Here we go again (3, Insightful)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683395)

The case was dismissed by a Federal Judge:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/technology/companies/08antitrust.html?_r=1 [nytimes.com]

CCIA is shill for Microsoft. Thats' why this is happening.

http://mainframe.typepad.com/blog/2009/10/press-reports-us-justice-dept-opens-ibm-antitrust-probe.html [typepad.com]

check out the spokesperson's history (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684437)

I don't know about the CCIA, but the quoted spokesperson does has published negative statements about IBM before -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Black#Nazi_Nexus [wikipedia.org]
  among such.

Re:Here we go again (3, Insightful)

Steeltalon (734391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683437)

What are you talking about?

The Mainframe market had competition. Up until around 2000 Fujitsu/Amdahl and Hitachi both had Mainframe systems (the so called Plug Compatible Manufacturers). They decided to bail out of the market because they didn't see enough profit in them. Since that point, the mainframe has had constant competition from smaller systems. This investigation is nothing short of ridiculous.

Re:Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683575)

Thought the issue was IBM bullying makers of software emulators. That certainly is competition.

Re:Here we go again (3, Insightful)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683819)

No its not. IBM has a monopoly which is not illegal. However, it may be abusing its monopoly position by denying others entry into the market. This market is distinctly different from distributed computing. The preponderance of high value (meaning money and profits) computing by large enterprises is still done on mainframes and they are all at IBM's mercy. It's difficult and very expensive to get off the mainframe. Much more so than it is to dump Windows.

Re:Here we go again (1)

BradleyAndersen (1195415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683447)

How about the govt stop allowing these companies to gobble each other up, then later on get their panties in bunches and tear down what they alone have built?

Re:Here we go again (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683481)

I'm not sure this case is quite the same. Even if IBM were every bit as anticompetitive in its attempt to corner the mainframe market today as it was some decades ago, it'd be much less significant of a problem, for the obvious reason that the mainframe market is a small fraction of the overall computing market these days. IBM actually probably has more of a monopoly on mainframes today than they did then, with the zSeries being almost synonymous with [google.com] still-available mainframes, but a big part of the reason is that it's not all that enticing a market for competitors to enter, even if IBM were playing really nice.

IBM? Mainframe? Anti-trust? ATT? Bell? ... OMFG! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683617)

Last night I went to bed in October 2009 and today it's October 1969 again!??!

And ... sheeee-it! It's 2 months after Woodstock! Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming!!! If there is a God, he's got a cruel, warped sense of humor.

Re:Here we go again (1)

KharmaWidow (1504025) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684083)

Darn, I thought you were going to say here we go again with another frivolous "all monopolies are bad" complaint...

Whats the point of inventing and innovating if you have to surrender your accomplishments to other companies. This is a load of poop.

Re:Here we go again (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684597)

Yeah, IBM ran the government out of money finally. Don't think any large company is a good guy. It's just a giant machine for making money and that's it.

If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (5, Interesting)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683025)

If Slashdot were old enough, this would be a dupe. This is exactly what IBM was slapped down for in the 1960s. The anti-trust case left companies like Itel and Amdahl able to produce and sell IBM-compatible mainframes running IBM software.

Re:If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683209)

Antitrust jurisprudence has changed a lot since the '60s. IBM's current behavior is most likely legal under current law. There is generally nothing wrong with unilateral refusals to deal, and I don't see how this situation deserves special treatment.

The problem here is that even though IBM's behavior is almost certainly legal, the DOJ could force IBM to spend a lot of money on essentially frivolous litigation. Anyone who favors the rule of law should be against these tactics. If the Obama administration wants to change the law, they should do it through Congress. The Congressional route is more efficient and fair, and won't punish companies for behavior that is legal under current law.

Re:If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (2, Insightful)

ZekoMal (1404259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683431)

The Congressional route is more efficient and fair when it isn't full to the rafters with inefficient corporate puppets that IBM can eagerly stuff full of cash to prevent any sort of trouble coming there way.

Re:If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (4, Insightful)

SparkyOfGenius (982525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684111)

This is not necessarily the case. Although it is correct to say that usually a company is under no "duty" to license out its IP, there are notable exceptions. One being, if a company has licensed its IP openly in the past and made assurances of future RAND licensing and a market/ecosystem has formed around it and then when it reaches a dominant position where the entry barriers are high (i.e. "installed base opportunism") and changes it strategy in order to make exorbitant profits--then antitrust might recognize a duty to deal.

In the mainframe space, IBM was under a consent decree (settlement with government) and government scrutiny until 2001, where it was deemed that due to changes in the IT world - the decree was no longer necessary b/c IBM faced new sources of competition. This competition never materialized--and in fact the few competitors who were in the market exited because they were no longer guaranteed interface specifications and licensing necessary to make compatible machines.

From the customer side, the vast majority of the world's corporate and public sector data is locked-into the mainframe--especially areas that require high-levels of batch processing--financial institutions, airlines, credit card companies, health care, social security administration, etc. It is incredibly hard to "migrate" off of a mainframe--sometimes impossible. This is why IBM can charge so much to legacy users--a gig of RAM on a mainframe costs almost $6,000--a little bit of a markup. In fact, mainframes apparently account for nearly a 1/4 of IBM's nearly $100 million annual revenue. The world is so tied to mainframes behind the scenes--IBM has even said on its own website: "It is no exaggeration to say that, without the Internet, many businesses would suffer but, without the IBM mainframe, the global financial system would collapse."

The companies at which IBM has allegedly taken this action against have all focused on helping customers migrate off the mainframe and allow this data to move to other, less expensive machines. It would definitely make business sense for IBM to do that--however, I also believe it is a likely violation of antitrust law--both here and in Europe.

Re:If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684667)

Not quite true.. in the 60's IBM got hit for applying engineering changes for the simple purpose of excluding interoperability between hardware .. had an IBM mainframe but wanted to by cheaper EMC storage.. would work until an IBMer saw and reported .. then all the sudden there would be an engineering change to the IBM hardware with would break the competitor hardware.

As was well as terminating support for any IBM software that was not running on IBM hardware.

Between the two, IBM did a fairly good job of being monopolistic .. until the DOJ got involved.

Re:If Slashdot were fifty years old.... (2, Interesting)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685281)

Well, given those circumstances, where's the DOJ Antitrust Inquiry into Apple for OSX licensing?

Between the us govt. and IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683031)

I'd bet on IBM.

Hell the US DOJ could'nt even tame microsoft a decade ago...

Re:Between the us govt. and IBM (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683227)

The more relevant history is that the government tried to tame IBM for a decade and failed.

Re:Between the us govt. and IBM (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684965)

But they did force IBM to loosen the strings just a bit when creating the PC... that created Microsoft... Wow we won!!!

Bad news for Apple? (5, Insightful)

Burdell (228580) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683067)

How is this different from what Apple does with OS X and Macs?

Re:Bad news for Apple? (2, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683105)

It's not.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (4, Interesting)

alop (67204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683121)

Technically, anything proprietary is monopolistic...

If you're the ONLY one making [mainframes/Macintosh/widget Z], wouldn't that make you an automatic monopoly?

If someone wants to make a work-a-like/compatible product to your proprietary product, are you bound to oblige?

Re:Bad news for Apple? (2, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683241)

What I'd find equally interesting is how such a decision could affect game console manufacturers. There are already third party/cloned NES,SNES, and Genesis systems but those are all for obsolete platforms that I doubt Sega OR Nintendo really care much about anymore.

However, it would be interesting to see a clone Xbox 360, or a clone PS3, etc. If the road were legally clear to make them (such as if a precedence were set by a lawsuit like this one), then I'd bet we'd see clones of such systems out of Taiwan within a year or two. Heck I'm surprised that SOME company over there hasn't made a 3rd party Mac-compatible motherboard.

It's the OS (3, Insightful)

poptones (653660) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683341)

Cloning a mainframe doesn't mean cloning the operating system. Cloning a mac doesn't mean cloning the OS - I can make a workalike mac but apple still wont license me the software. Game machines have built in non portable operating systems. XB360s have operating systems married to their disc drives! In order to clone a game machine I'd have to clone the built in operating system which cannot be done due to copyright restrictions.

What I find interesting is how someone can make a workalike mainframe without violating IBM patents on some CPU/management/I/Oprocessing hardware. AMD and Cyrix have been able to "clone" Intel functionality only because of past agreements and licensing deals and lawsuits.

Re:It's the OS (3, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683491)

Cloning a mainframe doesn't mean cloning the operating system. Cloning a mac doesn't mean cloning the OS - I can make a workalike mac but apple still wont license me the software.

I think that's the crux of the case though. Depending on how courts decide on the issue, refusing to license the software to run on compatible hardware from a third party could be construed as an anti-competitive behavior. Precedent was set with Bell for splitting up a company to solve the issue. It would be interesting to see a court ordered separation of the hardware and software divisions of both IBM and Apple.

Re:It's the OS (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684747)

I think that's the crux of the case though. Depending on how courts decide on the issue, refusing to license the software to run on compatible hardware from a third party could be construed as an anti-competitive behavior. Precedent was set with Bell for splitting up a company to solve the issue. It would be interesting to see a court ordered separation of the hardware and software divisions of both IBM and Apple.

What? IBM still has a hardware division ? I'm flabbergasted! :-)

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

flachasse (758060) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684205)

Most game consoles (and especially Xbox 360 and PS3) are sold under their factory cost, so cloning them is not really interesting, as you compete with hardware which is outrageously cheap to begin with. Obsolete consoles are cloned because it is the only way to get a new one. Manufacturers want to clone Macs and Mainframes because those are sold with comfortable margins, so making and selling a cheaper version of them is possible, while still making good money.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

rokstar (865523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684761)

What I'd find equally interesting is how such a decision could affect game console manufacturers. There are already third party/cloned NES,SNES, and Genesis systems but those are all for obsolete platforms that I doubt Sega OR Nintendo really care much about anymore.

It won't have any effect. Consoles are sold at a loss* with the expectation that you will recoup that loss in games sales, licensing, and peripherals. There is no market for cloned current generation systems because they are still being sold for far less than they cost to build. The barrier isn't the legal issue, its the fact that nobody is crazy enough to enter a market where you primary competition is willing to lose money on every purchase.

*Expect for the Wii, which is really just a gamecube with a wireless and bluetooth adapter tape to it

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684899)

Except that if cloned systems were created then software publishers could publish versions for the clones that weren't blessed by the parent company (and would provide no revenue to them). Depending on the pricing consumers might go for the cloned version that plays both the lower cost versions and the original versions as well. I know I'd pay an extra $100 for my console if I knew my games would all cost $40 at launch instead of $60.

There's also the issue that third parties are more apt to make certain compromises. Using bulkier technology for example one can often get equal performance at a lower cost, so they might be able to compete with a larger, less stylish version of the system that they can more easily and quickly assemble. Also they may be able to provide clone processors and the like at lower prices than the OEM is acquiring the real deal.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

rokstar (865523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685545)

Except that if cloned systems were created then software publishers could publish version for the clones that weren't blessed by the parent company (and would provide no revenue to them.)

I think if you were going to go to the trouble of developing a licensing strategy for your clone, you might as well just make your own new system.

I know I'd pay an extra $100 for my console if I knew my games would all cost $40 at launch instead of $60.

While you might be willing to pay more, most people turn to 3rd party products because they are cheaper than their 1st party counterparts. Also usually there is an understanding that they may not be quite as good. Which is another problem considering how poorly built some of the current generation consoles are. The failure rate for an Xbox is crazy high, and the PS3's is not great either.

Also they may be able to provide clone processors and the like at lower prices than the OEM is acquiring the real deal.

In the case of Sony, they design a lot of their components. The Cell was a joint effort (good luck finding a clone there regardless) but the PS2 chipset (emotion I think?) was their design. If memory serves, Microsoft asked either ATI or Nvidia to custom build gpu's for them, again making it hard to find clones for.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683619)

If someone wants to make a work-a-like/compatible product to your proprietary product, are you bound to oblige?

You can't stop them. All you can stop them from doing is using your trademarks, copyrighted material, and patented processes/devices.

If you have a monopoly on your widgets and abuse that monopoly, then you are in trouble with the DoJ and may in fact be forced to help your competetitors learn how to make widget clones.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684719)

As long the the new product was designed and built without the engineers (both hardware and software) having access to the original product, your are required to allow them to presuming they have negotiated the appropriate licenses for any patents.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683129)

It isn't different. I think it will be difficult to show that IBM has any kind of monopoly on computers nowadays. The classification as "mainframe" is now fairly useless since clustered computers (like what Platform is trying to use) serve the same role.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683169)

While the direct circumstance appears the same, the big picture is not. IBM enjoys having practically no competition in the mainframe market. Apple's desktop/laptop market shares plenty of competition with PCs. A company that builds desktops or laptops that isn't allowed to license OSX still has the option of obtaining a license of windows or installing a Linux distribution on their machine. This will prevent Apple from being forced to open OSX, at least from a monopolistic standpoint.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683247)

If Apple's and Microsoft's market shares were reversed, it wouldn't be different at all. But Apple by no means has a monopoly on PCs. This is about IBM abusing its mainframe monopoly. If Sun, etc were as big as IBM it would be ok, but it's not.

Apple PCs? (-1, Troll)

poptones (653660) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683383)

Apple doesn't even MAKE PCs - just ask any applehead and they'll tell you "I don't use a PC" or "I have an Apple AND a PC." Apple does not have a monopoly on PCs, but Apple does have a monopoly on the platform. How long could Microsoft get away with saying you can't run Windows on any PC you didn't buy from us? There's definitely a double standard going on there.

Re:Apple PCs? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683567)

PC is an acronym for "Personal Computer", and Apple does indeed make them no matter what Apple users think. A "monopoly on the platform" is just silly. Id has a monopoly on DOOM, but that's not the point - the point is that that they DON'T have a monopoly on PC games. IBM does have a monopoly on mainframes and mainframe OSes, and Microsoft does have a monopoly on PC operating systems. You don't have to own the whole market to have a monopoly, but you do have to abuse your monopoly to run afoul of the law.

Re:Apple PCs? (0, Troll)

prockcore (543967) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683815)

I agree with you, but in the MS antitrust trial, it was ruled that Macs are not part of the PC market, and that Apple did not compete in the same space as MS.

Re:Apple PCs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684287)

Who cares what Apple users think. Microsoft marketing thinks it. Haven't you seen the commercials about going to the store and buying a $1000 notebook? Or the "I'm 6 and I'm a PC" little girl doing the video?

Re:Bad news for Apple? (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683519)

Mainframes aren't really some insulated-from-competition class by themselves anymore, though. For almost all jobs where a zSeries is an option, there are other options [wallstreetandtech.com] as well. In the modern market, I'd see a zSeries as just one product offering in a competitive market, not a product class on its own.

What monopoly? (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683581)

I'm a little bit confused. What monopoly does IBM have? Aren't there 'mainframes' available from the likes of HP, Fujitsu, Sun, Siemens, and other companies? I suppose that might depend on the definition of 'mainframe'. I know there are certainly supercomputers, and "Enterprise Servers", and "High Performance Clusters", and such available from multiple vendors. Seems to me that the existence of other alternatives, even if they aren't defined as 'mainframes', suggests that all potential customers aren't locked into a single solution from a single vendor (if you've been *using* IBM already, you might be locked in by technical 'vendor lock-in' issues, but that does not a monopoly make).

Re:What monopoly? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684239)

You don't have to have 100% of the mnarket to have a monopoly. Just as Microsoft isn't the only company writing OSes yet is a monopolist, IBM has enough market share to be tagged a monopoly.

Re:What monopoly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684349)

Car analogy time!

A home PC is of "average horsepower", so think of it as your regular daily driver car. It gets you on and off the infobahn just fine, but is obviously not the only solution for computing. High performance PCs are just like your neighbor who goes out and buys a H2, BMW, or Lotus: It's a car, just a very nice car.

A supercomputer is like a high-end sports car. The Ferrari gets you from point A to point B very very quickly, but technically you could do the same thing with your home PC if it were just souped up enough (though, as in cars, build quality and support would suffer.)

A high performance cluster is like calling all your friends pooling their cars together to carry sacks of sand across the city. It works just fine, and it's cheap, but if someone's car is overloaded, that car breaks down and has to be fixed/replaced. A cheap cluster is the same thing, but using skateboards or scooters.

The mainframe is the Euclid Earthmover of comptuers. They're not always as fast as the sedan, but they make up for it by being able to handle huge amounts of data at once. The obligatory difference, of course, is that eventually the Euclid needs maintenance and someone calls the mechanic: The mainframe has a minimum of five nines of reliability: Many of these machines have worked for fourty years continuously. When code upgrades are needed, someone goes in with tested code and modifies the COBOL while it's still running, and the program doesn't skip a beat. Everything is redundant. Shoot a mainframe with a .45 and it'll likely just keep going and quietly report "Processor board #1E failed." to the operator.

They're the construction equipment of the virtual world, designed for heavy duty and reliability. You wouldn't want one in your driveway, though.

Re:What monopoly? (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685107)

Today's mainframe isn't much different from your average tightly coupled HPC cluster, architecturally it's very similar to blades coupled with Infiniband connections. High end, but nowhere near special any more. IBM tries to keep the actual naming of components differentiated from what things are called in the rest of the industry, and appears to hammer down hard on any benchmarks that reach the world to avoid the risk of their customers accidentally making comparisons with commodity hardware, but most of it actually is commodity hardware.

So, for the actual customers that remain on the Z machines, the definition of a 'mainframe' is always a Z machine, and IBM is pretty much in a monopoly situation. If they weren't caught in the lock in those lock in issues you mention, and did actual in-depth comparisons, there are certainly vastly cheaper alternatives that outperform on every aspect today (virtualization being the last one, but paravirt Xen pretty much nailed that).

Re:Bad news for Apple? (0, Troll)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683753)

If Apple's and Microsoft's market shares were reversed, it wouldn't be different at all. But Apple by no means has a monopoly on PCs. This is about IBM abusing its mainframe monopoly. If Sun, etc were as big as IBM it would be ok, but it's not.

But Apple does have a monopoly on Mac hardware - just as IBM has on IBM hardware. the fact that there are other platforms that run other OS's is irrelevant

One rule for all.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684901)

But Apple does have a monopoly on Mac hardware - just as IBM has on IBM hardware.

But IBM doesn't just have a monopoly on their own hardware, they have a monopoly on mainframes; they have enough market share to be a monopoly.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (4, Insightful)

h2okies (1203490) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683299)

IBM is a monopoly. There are no other competitors in the mainframe business. IBM just doesnt make the OS they make the hardware as well. They essentially broke every other competitors back by either pricing them out or buying them up. They became the defacto big iron supplier in the world and abused said position every time anyone came out with better faster or cheaper hardware than them, history has repeated itself. This position allows them to dictate the market place and pretty much kill off invention and improvement. The pc market place is full of competitors duking it out to make a buck and gain your business as a hardware supplier. The mainframe you have a choice for both the OS and hardware it is IBM or ...

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1, Troll)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684129)

IBM is a monopoly. There are no other competitors in the mainframe business. IBM just doesnt make the OS they make the hardware as well. They essentially broke every other competitors back by either pricing them out or buying them up. They became the defacto big iron supplier in the world and abused said position every time anyone came out with better faster or cheaper hardware than them, history has repeated itself. This position allows them to dictate the market place and pretty much kill off invention and improvement. The pc market place is full of competitors duking it out to make a buck and gain your business as a hardware supplier. The mainframe you have a choice for both the OS and hardware it is IBM or ...

There are plenty of other competitors in the large scale computing environment that compete quite well with IBM mainframes. And plenty of companies migrating to those competitors every year. IBM offers a stellar product with outstanding service, but that comes at an extremely high price. Many of its customers are not willing to continue paying that high price, so they migrate to other solutions. Just as Apple can dictate to the OSX marketplace, but not the entire desktop marketplace, IBM can dictate to the mainframe marketplace but not the entire large scale computing marketplace. Other competitors left the mainframe hardware marketplace because they did not want to invest the kind of money IBM was willing to. IBM's large systems division had a vision of where mainframes could go and they bet the farm on it. Through the '90s and the early part of this decade IBM introduced innovation after innovation for mainframes that left their competitors in the dust. Far from stifling innovation they led it.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684383)

IBM was accused of doing those things in the 50s and 60s. In the 70s, 80s, and early 90s they had plenty of competition in the mainframe market (Hitachi, Amdahl, Fujitsu, etc). By the early 90s the mainframe market was being seriously eroded by competition from other platforms. IBM responded by completely revamping their mainframe line (switching from bi-polar to CMOS technology), which allowed them to drop the price significantly, and remain competitive in the overall server market. The other manufacturers either did not want to make the investment in changing technology, did not want to drop their prices, or bought into the 'mainframe is dead' hype and exited the market.

According to IDC [idc.com] , non-x86 IBM systems (including z and Power) account for 43% of the non-x86 server market. IBM systems running z/OS (which this suit is about) account for just 9% of the server market, hardly what could be a monopoly.

Complaining that IBM has a monopoly on the System z market is about the same as complaining that Coca-Cola has a monopoly on the 'Diet Coke' market.

Do you really believe that invention and improvement have been 'killed off' in the server market? Even if you restrict that statement to your narrow 'mainframe' definition, are you really saying that the mainframes IBM makes today are the same as the ones they were making 15 years (or even 2 years) ago?

IBM is not abusing any position here, they are simply refusing to provide competitors with the gun to shoot them with. Any sane business (or person) would do the same.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

cabjf (710106) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683323)

Well, if no one else was really making computers anymore (and moved on to something else, I guess), it would be similar. That's the thing about a monopoly. You actually have to have one first. Having a monopoly of almost all mainframes and only licensing an Operating System and software for those mainframes is different than having a monopoly of a specific Operating System that is only licensed for specific hardware which in total is less than 10 percent of the personal computer market.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (3, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683371)

How is this different from what Apple does with OS X and Macs?

IBM is screwing with the big boys rather than screwing over "consumers". If someone tried to make an interoperable cell phone that was capable of running iPhone apps they would be shut down so fast your head would spin.

The entire PC industry started when someone reverse engineered the PC bios but those days are long gone and we live with laws like the DMCA, software patents, and other abominations that stifle innovation.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683489)

If Apple had an effective monopoly on desktop and laptop machines (as IBM does on mainframes), it would be the same. But since Apple has no such monopoly, it's completely different.

And don't make the absurd statement that Apple has a monopoly on Macs unless you're willing to call BMW a monopoly because they're the only company that can build BMWs.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683877)

And don't make the absurd statement that Apple has a monopoly on Macs unless you're willing to call BMW a monopoly because they're the only company that can build BMWs.

BMW is to other luxury auto makers as IBM mainframes are to other large scale computing solutions. IBM does not hold a monopoly on large scale computing solutions. There are plenty of companies that offer Linux and/or Unix solutions that compete nicely with mainframes. And every year there are an increasing number of companies that choose to migrate from mainframes to Linux/Unix. IBM is not necessarily a loser in these migrations, since it's one of the leading competitors in the large scale Unix market. You can even hire IBM to manage the migration.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

slack_justyb (862874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683775)

Because there are many vendors in the home computer market. Such as Dell, HP, Gateway, and so forth. Remember government labels things differently than say how the rest of the world would label it. As far as many regulators see it Apple = Dell = HP = Gateway...

The thing that gets you on anti-competitive charges, or at least one of the things, is how you behave in a given market. Apple created OSX, much how Microsoft created Office (I know it is a OS versus a piece of software, I'll cover that in a bit.) No one expects Apple or Microsoft to share their product with the competition. That would be like saying Ford should share their blueprints with GM. No, but Ford can't keep GM from building a car. Likewise, Apple created OSX, they don't have to share their code with anyone, just like Microsoft doesn't have to share the code to Office. The matter at hand is the code. Apple can not prevent Microsoft from coding (unless it is patented but that's not asking to open a big can of worms from "teh Slashdot" crowd) that would be anti-competitive.

Microsoft is free to implement any of Mac OSX's UI features that aren't covered by the twenty or so patents (just the obvious and really cool looking UI elements, they hold a ton of patents on their UI in general) they hold (that excludes MS from ever making a dock).
People are free to install Mac OSX so long as they agree to the licensing agreement, which prohibits you from installing on anything but a Mac.
IBM is just straight up refusing to license anything to competitors, they refuse you to make clone hardware, and deny first sale doctrine on their software products.

What Apple does falls within the bad but it is legal area (I'm sorry, I love Apple but the company is evil, I'll let the MacBois get me). What IBM is doing is pushing people out of their way and stone walling people. Apple is at the very least giving you a license, it just says you have no rights.

Trust me I don't understand it all too well either but I had a lawyer friend briefly explain it to me, after he was done I walked away with the knowledge that our legal system is a cluster fuck.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685083)

IBM can not 'refuse' to allow anyone to make clone hardware (as long as they don't violate patents). IBM can not refuse to let anyone run any OS they like on their hardware, or any cloned hardware. What IBM CAN (and is) doing is refusing to allow THEIR software to run on cloned hardware.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683783)

Or phones.. or a thousand other devices.

Re:Bad news for Apple? (1)

varmittang (849469) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685117)

Although Apple is the only one that produces Macs, it competes in the PC market. After all, Macs are PCs (AKA Personal Computers). PCs have a large market where no one has a monopoly or controls what gets purchased, or has a supply chain they fully control (hardware wise), so you can't claim monopoly on hardware. Also, Apple doesn't have to license their software to work with everything since you have a choice to choose something else, and everyone right now sells something else, so there is no monopoly on personal computer OS. IBM on the other hand can control main frame market since it is extremely small compared to the PC market, and every purchase is millions of dollars and only so many get sold each year. Since its so small, there are not that many OSs in the market giving IBM the ability to strong arm anyone in the market by not licensing their OS for other hardware other than the one they sell. This creates a monopoly since IBM is the only seller of main frame hardware and software, and if I'm not mistaken, they also produce their own hardware in house and then support everything in the end too through their consulting business end. Where as Apple can't strong arm any other personal computer manufacturer with their OS because there are some many different choices out there to choose from, and they don't produce their own hardware since they get it from Intel and Nvidia, and have Foxconn put it together much like all the other PC companies out there.

I might be wrong in a few spots but this is the basic idea of why one is almost a monopoly and the other isn't.

In other news... (5, Funny)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683111)

NASA announced plans to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the president announced that he was not a crook, and thousands of hippies descended upon Woodstock for 3 days of peace & music,

Re:In other news... (1)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683317)

ctrl-c, ctrl-c

God damnit, how do I break out of this loop!

Re:In other news... (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683391)

and thousands of hippies descended upon Woodstock for 3 days of peace & music,

Except this year it was called the ACL [ngepress.com] Music [austin360.com] Festival [kxan.com] .

Re:In other news... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684399)

Heh. I was reading the brochure for the upcoming System/360 system (pdf copy, sadly, we don't have the original in the collection) and then I came to Slashdot and saw this. Your post sums up my reaction quite well...

Interoperability (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683117)

I never understood how companies could get in trouble for not sharing interoperability information. If I was trying to shut out my competitors, I would offer the information as a license and just charge a stupidly high amount for it.

Platform Solutions: We want to make compatible hardware. Give us documents
IBM: No.
Platform Solutions: Fine, we'll sue.
IBM: Ok. Here is the docs. You owe us $1,000,000,000 to use them

It works well for keeping Joe blow from writing software for consoles, I don't see why it wouldn't work well elsewhere.

(unless some other company tried it and got cut down in court.)

Re:Interoperability (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683259)

I don't see why IBM should have to license anything they don't want to, especially if it's someone who is going to try and take business away from them. I wouldn't shoot myself in the foot, why should IBM be forced to?

Just because IBM mainframe/support is expensive doesn't seem like a valid enough reason to whine to the DOJ. The article even says that the original agreement made in the 70s is no longer in effect.

What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (0, Offtopic)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683493)

Apple makes a big point about saying that it doesn't want to sell Mac OS X for use on non-Apple hardware. IBM is essentially doing the same thing and not there is antitrust motion against IBM and not Apple?

Re:What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (2, Informative)

int69h (60728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683941)

Personal Computer companies: Many
Mainframe companies: IBM

I know the difference is subtle, but look hard and you'll spot it.

Re:What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684621)

Personal Computer companies: Many
Enterprise Server companies: Many

Apple's share of 'Personal Computer' space: Around 8% [arstechnica.com]
z/OS share of 'Enterprise Server' space: 9% [idc.com]

You can't compare some extremely broad class like 'Personal Computers' with an extremely narrow class like 'z/OS systems'. When you compare similar things you will find there is no difference at all. Look hard and you'll see that.

Re:What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (1)

int69h (60728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685635)

Enterprise server != mainframe though. Are you seriously trying to compare IBM's mainframes to say Dell's offerings? Mainframes are indeed a subset of enterprise servers, but let's compare apples to apples.

Re:What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683945)

The vast majority of our antitrust laws only apply to companies that are monopolies. Apple is most definitely not a monopoly. The DOJ is arguing that IBM does have a monopoly in the mainframe market, but I don't buy it. I think HP's mainframe sales alone are high enough to show that, and they aren't the only competitor in the field.

Re:What? Apple can do this but IBM can't? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684429)

It was mentioned above, by another poster.

Apple doesn't have a monopoly on the personal computer market. IBM has a lock on the mainframe market.

I see a business oportunity (2, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683503)

. Many mainframe customers would like to find cheaper alternatives, but IBM has prevented them from doing so, he said.

"There's a number of things they have done to numerous companies," he said. "In a time of economic troubles, government deficits and corporate problems, there's a lot of customers that [would find] a choice and lower costs really desirable."

Develop a "mainframe" computer - whatever that means these days, create an OS derived from Linux and develop a COBOL compiler and CICS system for it. I'm sure Websphere can be incorporated too.

Exactly, what's the big deal - technically?

Business: IBM's contracts run out, and move in with a cheaper alternative.

Re:I see a business oportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683561)

The "big deal" for a lot of companies is 20+ years of custom software developed specifically for IBM's very proprietary platforms. Unless you can provide a product that is very close to 100% compatible, many of IBM's current customers will not even be able to consider your solution as changing that many lines of code will be cost prohibitive.

It's not just COBOL either. There is plenty of code out there in other languages, including RPG.

Re:I see a business oportunity (3, Interesting)

azgard (461476) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683955)

In fact, there is project like that:
http://www.z390.org/ [z390.org]

But as a mainframe programmer, I can tell you, z/OS is horribly complex due to backward compatibility going back to System/360. So implementing a complete and reliable solution is not an easy task.

Re:I see a business oportunity (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684427)

Develop a "mainframe" computer - whatever that means these days, create an OS derived from Linux

After you've made a z/OS competitor derived from Linux, will you make a sports car from lego and a house from silly putty?

Do what MS does. (2, Insightful)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683559)

Give the hardware away for free with each OS licence sold.

Or in other words, the pricing doesn't change for legitimate customers, but these guys have to eat the cost of a full system plus their own hardware per sale. That'll stop it pretty fast.

Hercules is part of it, too (3, Informative)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683647)

The NYTimes story [nytimes.com] on the inquiry mentions that they're also looking at IBM's refusal to license their software to run on the Hercules [hercules-390.org] open source IBM mainframe emulator. It ill be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.

Re:Hercules is part of it, too (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683997)

I'd mod you up if I could log in right now

I think it would be in IBM's best interest to provide low-cost licenses for their OS and associated software (CICS, DB2, RACF, etc.) specifically to run on Hercules for hobbyist/educational/development purposes

Mainframe folks are a dying breed - riding on an open source alternative might help turn this around

Go Big Blue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29683707)

As a former IBM Employee, I say fight it! They spent BILLIONS developing the technology and now, they should feed thier competition. Yeah, Right! Let Platform Solutions write thier own OS!

Software tied to hardware (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683769)

I don't see a problem with it when you have a vendor that is providing a total 'solution'. If you don't like that way of doing business, just choose another vendor.

They're not the only ones... (4, Insightful)

jasen666 (88727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29683929)

Why is this different from Apple not licensing use of it's OS on non-Apple computers?
Wasn't Irix only licensed to run on SGI machines?
HP-UX? Others?

Dear I.B.M (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684029)

Please license VM and MVS under the GPL.

Yours In Tashkent,
Kilgore Trout

Monopoly my ass. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684141)

What is the definition of a Mainframe? A big fast machine with a shitload of features. High IO, bunch of memory. What's to stop any competitor from building their own mainframes? You can find systems that run the gamut from minicomputer to supercomputer and all points in between from all kinds of vendors.

Antitrust law is a relic of the Standard Oil/US Steel days and it's turned into a logically inconsistent hobgoblin used by competitors to whine about their competition.

First, a monopoly should be supply-side limited, not demand side. If there are 5 products of roughly type Widget available but consumers overwhelmingly choose Widget A, it's not a monopoly.

Second, monopoly law should be applied to physically limited resources that are judged sufficiently "important" to merit govt interference in consensual business. Oil, water, food, air, power, that sort of thing.

Third, frilly features or over-specific classifications should not define a monopoly. "Oooh whaaa! I want a Widget with features X, Y, Z that comes in RED and only vendor X offers it! Monopoly! Monopoly!"

In the words of H Ross Perot, folks it's simple. If there is nothing stopping a competitor from releasing a similar product or if there are already similar products it's not, by definition, a monopoly.

Re:Monopoly my ass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684619)

Normally, I would agree with you. But the software/hardware industry is unique due to the unprecedented complexity of its systems; for example, lack of interoperability is a big issue. Imagine having an old system built over an IBM operating system, and being locked in to that company when you want to upgrade the hardware.

Re:Monopoly my ass. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684831)

But what difference does that make really? Let's say there were 3 different mainframe vendors, with 33% market share. You can still suffer from lock-in.

Re:Monopoly my ass. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685391)

it's turned into a logically inconsistent hobgoblin used by competitors to whine about their competition.

No, it's used against monopolies who abuse their monopoly position.

First, a monopoly should be supply-side limited, not demand side. If there are 5 products of roughly type Widget available but consumers overwhelmingly choose Widget A, it's not a monopoly.

It isn't illegal to have a monopoly, it's illegal to abuse that monopoly.

Second, monopoly law should be applied to physically limited resources that are judged sufficiently "important" to merit govt interference in consensual business.

IBM itself has said that if all their mainframes quit tomorrow, the world's financial system would collapse. So I think that would qualify under your rules.

Third, frilly features or over-specific classifications should not define a monopoly.

It doesn't.

If there is nothing stopping a competitor from releasing a similar product

It may or may not be a monopoly, but again, monopolies aren't illegal. If you use your monopoly to stop a competetitor from releasing a similar product (say, by bullying all four of your suppliers) than it's not only a monopoly, it's an abusive monopoly that needs to be indicted.

This is basically the Apple vs Palm situation (2, Insightful)

bl968 (190792) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684323)

But if this was Apple vs Palm and iTunes instead of IBM and a mainframe OS, the fanboi's would be saying but Apple developed their software and have the right to deny the use of it to anyone else. Since this is IBM I bet the debate is going the other way... Lets go take a peek....

Daddy? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684723)

What's a mainframe?

Re:Daddy? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685323)

What's a mainframe?

Take out your cell phone and have a look at it. In 1972 it would have been more than a mainframe, as it's more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer at the time. Except the 1972 cell phone took a very large building to house.

A mainframe takes up a whole floor of most buildings. I had a class about ten years ago, the instructor was head of IT at the Illinois Secretary of State, and he took us for a tour of the mainframe that fed the Illinois State Police. It's pretty impressive to walk through a computer. "Here's the CPU, the hard drives are over there, this cabinet is the RAM..."

z/OS licensing (1)

TheLoneGundam (615596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685229)

There may not be a lot of competitors on the hardware front, but anyone who wants to engineer an IBM-compatible mainframe can consult the Principles of Operation manual and build one. This is about the allowing the OS to run on that compatible hardware - I don't know, legally, nor under the 1957 Consent Decree, whether IBM is compelled to do that or not. They did do it for Amdahl and some others, and it didn't seem to hurt them a lot - they seemed to always be 6 months ahead with hardware innovations (on most things, I won't get into details here). Maybe what IBM should do is license the OS to hardware OEMs again - but _only_ what passes for the "kernel": the basic z/OS, I/O subsystem, supervisor calls (SVCs), a few other bits which were public domain in MVS 3.8 and so probably can't be restricted. Then they can still charge money for the pieces that are depended upon by customers: Workload Manager, ISPF editors, database management (DB2 and IMS), CICS, JES2 (spooling and job scheduling), WebSphere, Unix Systems Services, etc. They'd still give away, I think, their z/OS ports of Apache and other open-source tools.

Wait, I was told the mainframe was dead?!?!?! (1)

Desmoden (221564) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685233)

How can you have a monopoly on something that is dead on gone? ;-)

Wait! (2, Funny)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685517)

So do we hate IBM now?
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