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DoJ Seeks Advice on Effects of Microsoft Breakup

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the small-unmarked-bills dept.

Microsoft 200

Goon writes " Here's an article at CNN about how the Justice department has hired a consultant to gage the effect of breaking up microsoft into 3 or 4 smaller companies. According to the article, it appears that this is what the DOJ is intending to do if a settlement is not reached."

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I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (1)

bvark (58049) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485299)

Given what happened to the shares of the AT&T companies after they were broken up, is there any reason to believe that he _wouldn't_ want the company broken up into four pieces?

Breaking Up Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485300)

Yeah, it may be nice to bring the giant down, but will breaking it up into smaller companies really be good for your average computer user? OTOH, the smaller Microsoft companies may all compete to see which of them is the most innovative ... the one that gets the most basic patents (e.g., numbers 1 and 0 used in binary code) gets a special party at Bill's mansion or a free flight to his tropical island. Or if he's feeling really generous, he'll pay to send Linus to Mars. Damn, that's all part of his cunning plan...

The effect of a breakup (1)

Ophelan (55379) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485301)

My strong point isn't the analysis of large corporations...could somebody share their professional opinion of what a breakup would result in? Granted, any damage to Microsoft is good, but I'm wondering if this would really have an effect as great as it has been made out to be.

Actually, it brings to mind some mythology movie I don't remember the name of...the hero-type character would attack the snake-monster thing, but upon severing a limb, the limb became yet another snake-monster. Granted, I'm not great on the details, but ponder a world with four Microsofts. :)

So, what do you corporate types think? (if corporate types exist on /.)


Starfish (1)

mice'n'cheese (118565) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485302)

What if it turns out that microsoft is like a starfish, you cut off one arm, it grows into a whole new "starfish". I dont know how breakups would work, im assuming that investers would receive stock distributed evenly over the four companies, hence keeping Gates in a good position to continue making boatloads of cash. Then, after things settle down the baby bills start talking and after a more favorable administration comes into power, and perhaps a few more things happen, they merge again.

well... (3)

Nemesis (78866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485303)

While the firm was hired to gauge the effects of a possible breakup, they were also hired to gauge the financial effects (on the US economy) of all possible solutions. They were not hired to exclusively research a breakup as the slashdot article title and scoop kinda hints at.

In a brief statement issued Thursday, the Justice Department said Greenhill & Co. would act as "financial advisor to assist the [antitrust] division in analyzing financial aspects of the full range of potential remedies in U.S. v. Microsoft, including conduct and structural relief."

On a different note, is anyone else getting tired of hearing about microsoft yet? =]

'If there's no settlement'? (2)

Digital_Fiend (41244) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485304)

Microsoft will be under fire for the next 5 years from various sue-happy organizations... "Windows crashed and my online girlfriend and I were seperated for 10 minutes... I'm sueing for *emotional distress*!", etc.

If Microsoft lawyers' know what's good for them, they'll settle, and settle now.


Re:I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (2)

reflector (62643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485305)

Who cares about that Bill Gates character and his shares?
The point of a monopoly remedy is to break the stranglehold that ms has and allow other companies to be able to compete in an open marketplace, it's not to diminish the net wealth of the jerk who runs microsoft. As far as I'm concerned, he's irrelevant.

breaking up is hard to do...

Re:The effect of a breakup (2)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485306)

Actually, it brings to mind some mythology movie I don't remember the name of...the hero-type character would attack the snake-monster thing, but upon severing a limb, the limb became yet another snake-monster.

That would be Hercules vs. the Hydra.

I read lots of Greek mythology as a child, but I was appalled to realise that I only remember whoe was involved in this battle because of the Disney movie. Help, there's something wrong with my culture...

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

Look into the future... (1)

Traverser (112588) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485307)

I remember when ATT broke up. The split was very effective at the time. But now, we have less service and baby bells are eating baby bells. Not much longer and we will be back to a single overall owner, with different subsidaries feining competition in different markets.

If a break up is to happen what would resist the
same from happening again?

I don't like to admit it, but microsoft has a large base and it would be near impossible for different parts not to communicate and make "magic" handshakes behind the closed doors.

Sliders (2)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485308)

Anybody watch Sliders? There was an episode where they travelled to this world were MS stock crashed and the whole market was set into ruin. But the thing is I would give ANYTHING to travel to that world, I mean the rebuilding process after such an event without Microsoft to stifle technology would be very rewarding in the end I think. Of course living through a depression doesn't sound like to much fun, but I would still love to go to that world, I mean sure there were terrorists killing people in the streets and tanks driving all over the place, but there was no MS! At least you can put on a bullet proof vest to protect you from terrorists, nothing can save you from MS. :)
But seriously, I've said it before. We have had companies broken up before. I am not to concerned about what is going to happen if MS were to be broken up. Quite frankly they could all be made to work as janitors at the RedHat building and quit make windows forever and I wouldn't mind.
I guess the most realistic punishment to expect wouldn't be a break up or any such drastic measure. M$ is looking to settle and I'm not sure the DOJ wants to drag it out longer than they have to. We'll probably see M$ get the same punishment that serial killers and the like get here in the good ol' U S of A. A Slap on the wrist and a "Don't do that again please". Let's face it we sure aren't famous for our top notch criminal punishing abilities.

Breaking up Microsoft (2)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485309)

I just can't see it happening. Evil Empire or not, Microsoft is successful as a company precisely because of the fact that it is a mondo-sized conglomerate.

Internet Explorer, for example, started as a loss leader. You simply can't seperate the browser and expect it to stay viable. It has to stay with the operating system. Microsoft Office became the defacto standard for spreadsheets and word processing. It *could* be branched off. Of the other two million products Microsoft controls, only MSN and the gaming divisions would be successful on their own. Visual C++ is successful mostly because of Microsoft's intimate knowledge of the platform.

In the recent past, people have suggested breaking the corporation up into 'Baby Bills'. This just wouldn't work. These smaller companies would duke it out for a while, and eventually one would come out on top. New monopoly, just like that.

I'm also opposed to Microsoft being forced to open their source code. Why? Because this != the code being under GPL/pick your favorite license. In the same vein, open source != free.

Give it enough time, and Linux, MacOS, or, most likely, something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM), I'm sure it will happen again.


Is a breakup really Bad News? (1)

owain_vaughan (102465) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485310)

Some people say Baby Bills would be just as powerful or eventually re-merge - but I reckon a few or maybe all the Baby Bills could be bought up by their 'competitiors' as a taste-of-your-own-medicine and then crushed into oblivion. Net result: No more MS.

Re:Look into the future... (1)

vectro (54263) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485311)

How can you say that? Long distance service has gotten more compeditive recently, not less. Witness the drop in rates. AT&T is presently offering 7 cents a minute, 24x7. It was only a few months ago they were offering 15.

Re:I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (2)

Mawbid (3993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485312)

It's not necessary for Bill to be unhappy about the measures taken in order for them to be effective. It's possible that a solution exists that makes everyone happy in the long run.

Sorry, I'm feeling optimistic today.

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (5)

vectro (54263) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485313)

Richard Stallman wrote an interesting piece about what might be the best punishment for Microsoft from the perspective of Free Software.

It can be found here [gnu.org].

Breaking up will be good for me and good for you (3)

joeler (45203) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485314)

Breaking up Microsoft will probably increase the personal wealth of Bill Gates and other top investors in Microsoft, as their stocks are split and those splits increase in value. Breaking up Microsoft will
create a new type of competition which will bring out the best in all of the individual divisions. Rather than rely on their monopoly power, they will become more dependent on thier own innovations. Microsoft competitors will do better as well, as they will have a better chance to succeed when they bring new innovations to the market.

Likewise, breaking up Microsoft will be cheaper for the taxpayer than paying the the costs on monitoring any consent decrees.Breaking up Microsoft is the best solution, some may not enjoy it at first but in the long run everyone will benifit from it.


My choice (2)

radja (58949) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485315)

all this break-up stuff and all. the way I look at it breaking up M$ wouldn't solve much. what WOULD help IMO is a nice long jail-sentence for a few of the high-up M$ suits. a 'normal' thief gets put in jail, and M$ has done a lot more damage than a stolen VCR and stereo.


Re:My choice (2)

vectro (54263) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485316)

Anti-trust violation is a civil offense. That means no jail term for anyone.

Besides, what Microsoft has done is a lot more subtle and complex that stealing a VCR.

Re:The effect of a breakup (3)

evilquaker (35963) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485317)

>could somebody share their professional opinion of what a breakup would result in?

Well, I don't have a professional opinion, but I'll give it a go...
From what I've read, there are two breakup scenerios being thrown around:

  1. Split MS into n "Baby Bills": smaller versions of MS, each with the Windows source code, and each with (some subset of) the various other departments (hardware, Office suites, games, etc.).
  2. Split MS into some combination of distinct companies, based upon some partitioning of the departments (operating systems, hardware, games, office suites, etc.).
The basic effect of 1 I see is that Windows (and perhaps Office, etc...) become fragmented. I don't see much of a direct benefit to Linux/Be/etc, until the versions of Windows become drastically different (which won't happen for many years, if at all).

The effects of option 2 are harder to predict, but it opens the door for things like MS Office being ported to Linux/Be/etc. The big problem with 2 is making sure that the separation takes place in more than name. I've heard (completely unsubstantiated and probably paranoid) rumors that secret channels of communication have already been set up in case of a break-up to keep the app programmers up-to-date with the new undocumented features of the OS, etc. Whether or not that's the case, it would be very hard to show e.g. that MS-App's decision to not port Office to Linux was based only upon Linux's market share, and not at least partly upon some agreement with MS-OS to help retain their desktop monopoly.

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (0)

frank249 (100528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485318)

I can see this happening and it is about time. Microsoft got too greedy and broke the rules. IE is a good case in point. Do you think M$ could afforded to develop IE and then give it away if it did not have a lock on the OS and Office suite markets? Even then it had to muscle companies to not offer netscape. Same for Office suite market. I would not mind M$ controlling everything if upgades for bug fixes were free instead of the same price as the original. Lets see how they make out when all they have is one chunk of the market to compete in.

Re:My choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485319)

So execution then?

Just keep 'em wondering (1)

thales (32660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485320)

Put lots of vauge restrictions on MS. Make sure that if you ask ten lawyers what they mean,you get ten different answers. Word them so some beraucrat (sp?) can change the rules any time. Isn't that what the goverment does best? ;)


Moray_Reef (75398) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485321)

Bill if you are reading /. (HAHAHAHAHA) move Microsoft offshore. I was going to rant more about how much I hate the US governments interference with the US economy and it total hypocrisy when it comes to international trade and how much the oppressors, err uh, government wont like losing all the tax dollars that MS moving offshore would cost, but why bother? I know that on linux bigot, err uh, /. anything pro Microsoft will get moderated down to -1 flame bait.

Re:Look into the future... (1)

Traverser (112588) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485322)

Because the phone company stops at the box. After that it is a major service charge. What was the cost for you to have a new phone line installed? PacBell DSL is another example of a telephone company loosing the idea of service. When was the last time you couldn't get a dial tone? Wasn't too long ago for me. Something about accidently cutting my service. I don't really care about paying 7 cents or 99 cents per minute. I want my phones to work.

Now back on topic. What's to say that Microsoft will not follow the same road. The Internet Division charging for extras in the browser. Or the Office Division selling individual components.

I know all these are reasons to leave the microsoft model. But this might be the future

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (2)

gordzilla (97994) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485323)

For those who read the link to Richard Stallman's suggestions re: Microsoft. I personally think option #1 would benefit the computer industry the most. Open up the API's and file formats... and give others an opertunity to develope with them.

Re:Breaking up will be good for me and good for yo (2)

x00 (82065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485324)

I'm afraid I don't follow this.. the breaking up of MS into baby Bills doesn't help matters, all you will be doing is creating seperate monopolies which will just continue functioning.

True this will limit how much MS can keep information to itself, but what we need is competition on OS and on applications.. Most regular home users and companies use Office, and you can only get that on MS OS's or on a Mac.

Where is the initiative to change that? Thats what needs to be focused upon, IMHO.

Re:The effect of a breakup (Another question...) (2)

hypatia (86372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485325)

If Microsoft was split into various 'bits' what happens to the international operations - does the DoJ have any jurisdiction? Are they likely to split from the parent company or split within themselves along the same fissure lines as the parent company?


JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485326)

I know I will probably get moderated down for being off topic again, and shouldn't respond to this typical display of pro-microsoft non-intelligent drible, but what the hell.
Heres the deal. The DOJ isn't interfering in business the are interfering in illegal activities. Microsoft has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to use their OS to block competitors. (Sometimes quite literally, remember when that "bug" in Outlook blocked email from the electronic postcard company that an MS deal fell through with). You have to differentiate the difference between business and law.
The mafia is a business too. Should we leave them alone? "Ahhh who cares if Don Colione just had two men killed, they owed him money, it's all business." I'm sorry I just don't buy that. If someone is breaking the law just because they are doing it under the name of a corporation doesn't make it right.

Another thought. (4)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485327)

There isn't anything stopping Microsoft from simply closing shop in Redmond and moving to Canada. I can tell you without any doubts that our (Canada's) government would roll out the red carpet for them.

Microsoft employs roughly 32,000 people. Generally well educated people, at that. The boost to the economy of a region would be astounding. Assuming 30,000 people at a low $CDN 30,000 per head, that's almost 1 billion in salary each year, half of which goes into the government's pocket. (That's another story...) Corporate taxes would be huge. Microsoft paid several billion to the US Federal government in Fiscal '98. The Canadian government would be all for it.

With regards to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US Government would be powerless to stop the importation of Microsoft products into the US. As IANAL, I'm not sure about the implications of Chapter 15 upon a corporation that changes countries during an ongoing monopoly investigation.

Anyway, here [canoe.ca]'s a link to a CANOE article from a month back that inspired this comment.


This is a good thing (TM) (3)

SmileyBen (56580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485328)

Before people get into the usual debates about whether the break up of Micro$oft will be the solution or not, I think this certainly shows a step in the right direction. The DOJ are obviously making sure they know what the options are, and rather than going 'Yeah, I think it'll be a good idea', they're investigating, and finding out whether the consequences will actually be god for the consumers (create real competition) or bad (if you break us up, we will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!).

Overall that they're making absolutely sure of their options and the consequnces, must be a good thing.

Browser OS dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485329)

The browser (IE) wouldn't have to be separated out on its own, cos Microsoft "proved" it was part of the O/S (their O/S, at any rate). That's lucky for them, because if they get broken up, the browser company would *not* survive unless it was cross-subsidised by other application sales, because of the prevalence and cheapness of other browsers. Its only so popular cos it was bundled with the o/s in the first place and it was there, so people used it.

M$ stock crashing (3)

Eythain (120617) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485330)

Actually this isn't such an implausible scenario, if ESR is correct. I heard him give his piece on "The seven bullets M$ has to avoid to survive the next eighteen months" when he was in Norway a couple of weeks ago.

According to him The DoJ trial was the *least* of M$ problems. I haven't seen a write-up of this, apart from a story in the Irish Times some days ago, but it was pretty hot stuff.

A short summary might be in order, I guess... Keep in mind that I'm just rehashing what ESR said, and don't have the sources for these numbers.

1)The US vs. M$ Trial
2)Private anti-monopoly lawsuits
3)Change in law making stock options an expence (turning a 4 billion profit to a 18 billion defecit)
4)A separate trial for illegal book keeping
5)W2K is in trouble, not only because it's late already, but because many of the Fortune 500 companies have given sentiments that they won't touch it before Service Pack 1 in early 2001.

In all of this the problem is that M$ needs to keep it stockprice rising. My interpretation of what that is (please note that this is my interpretation, I'm no economist, and I can't give ESR's piece verbatim) was that M$ has built their empire on this effect. As long as the stock prices are rising, people will see the stocks as desirable, hence increasing their value. Once that self-perpetuating cycle ends, you get a different dynamics. Those with stock options won't have the incentive of seeing their stocks grow, so they'll start to cash in. Which in turn will mean that M$ stock will become less desirable (being overpriced), and the effect would be similar to a stockmarket crash.

7) M$ is pricing themselves out of the market. This, according to ESR is the big one, as he said, even if M$ dodges all the other bullets, this is the one that will get them in the end, what they simply cannot avoid.

Hardware prices are dropping, whereas M$ needs to constantly increase their profits. Before much of this could come from the exponentially growing market for new computers, while now it has to come from higher prices for their OS. Simply put, you can't run a $500 OS on top of $250 hardware.

Please also note that these are *NOT* ESR's opinions, only my understanding of them. I hope he'll write up this piece himself, but until then I'd like to share this

So, in summation, if these predictions are anywhere near the spot, it is not really necessary to do more, M$ has made its own grave, and now it has to lie in it.


IMNSHO Baby Bills not solution. (1)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485331)

I'm not convinced that creation of lots of Baby Bills is the solution to the Microsoft monopoly. We would be left with a cartel of dominant players with a common interest rather than a one. This could even make the situation worse. One of the key barrier to new entrants to the OS market for desktops is the difficulty of supporting multiple OS's on a single PC. The fact that all versions of Windows actively work against the installation of a second OS is a key barrier to entry. The most effective method of opening any market is the removal of entry barriers. Therefore the DOJ should force Microsoft to include a boot loader which supported the loading of alternate Operating Systems. If the DOJ also forced a very tight deadline on this functionality, for example saying this must be present in the release of Win2000. Microsoft would be forced to licence existing technology from another company and therefore would find it much more difficult to subvert this requirement.

Re:Another thought. (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485332)

Well the US's power to stop a Canadian based MS depends on how bad they want it and what branches agree. I mean if MS just moved to Canada our government might get pissed off. And if MS is in Canada then they have less protection in the form of "what affect will this have on the US economy?"
If the government as a whole really wanted to stop MS then they could remove all MS products from all government computers. They could offer private institutes free computers that don't run Microsoft. They could mandate UNIX training classes in all of the high schools. I know all of these things of course are very far fetched and would never happen, but the US Government isn't someone I would want to have gunning for me.
Besides if MS is convicted or whatever and Canada takes them in wouldn't they be like harboring a fugitive or something? That could be grounds for a complete trade blockade from Canada. Hell we still haven't lifted the one with Cuba, so it's not like it is above the US. It would be very interesting to see if your Canadian government like MS's invasion of the country as much the it's major market blocked off.
*Disclaimer* I don't want anyone to think that any statements here were Anti-Canadian. They weren't.

Re:I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (1)

seaportcasino (121045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485333)

Hell, this would just make Microsoft so much stronger and more focused on each individual aspect of the software industry.
I would venture to guess that the value of the (combined) stock would double within two years of the split.

Re:'If there's no settlement'? (1)

seaportcasino (121045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485334)

You can believe in one thing for sure: a lawyer's greed. As long as they are getting paid by the hour they will stretch this thing out as long as possible!

not all open source.. (1)

Jose (15075) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485335)

I don't think anyone is (realistically) suggesting that MS completely opens up windows...just their some of their APIs. The way I understand it, MS only publishes info about parts of the internals of windows, leaving some "good" parts hidden so that only MS apps can take advantage of them. By opening up all of them, it would allow other companies to compete fairly with MS apps.

Re:Sliders (1)

seaportcasino (121045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485336)

I think it's rather presumptuous to assume that the fall of Microsoft would throw this country into a huge depression. As huge and as important a company it is, there is always another waiting in the background to seize the day. Probably Sun Microsystems would be my guess if Microsoft were ever to really falter.

Mini MSs / DOJ missed point (2)

mrpacmanjel (38218) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485337)

At the moment Micosoft is a huge single Entity(and growing!).
At some point the size of a company will limit how quickly it can react to market forces an make decisions.
To keep a company that size must surely involve 'bureaucratic red tape' to keep the company coordinated and run as smooth as possible.

Breaking up a company into smaller pieces will mean the new companies formed will be able to act quicker in the competitive field and in general each company will be in a 'healthier' state.
If each company decided to work together then nothing really has changed!
Maybe it was cheaper for Bill Gates to let the DoJ split the company rather than do it himself!

What I think should have been included is to 'open up' the Internet Explorer technology(i.e. source code, custom html tags..) because at the moment Microsoft seem to be enjoying the growth of a new monopoly.

Or maybe try and create an open source version of Internet Explorer!!??

Re:I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (1)

SmileyBen (56580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485338)

...but presuming Bill has any intelligence (which, I'm afraid, I'm sure he does) he knew why he needed to use the dirty monopoly tricks that he did, and will probably realise that without them Micro$oft may well be doomed.

They've already shown themselves to be pretty worried about this little Open Source OS called Linux, and if they aren't able to bundle, etc. Netscape and all the other should come back to haunt them...

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (1)

Cironian (9526) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485339)

Internet Explorer, for example, started as a loss leader. You simply can't seperate the browser and expect it to stay viable. It has to stay with the operating system.

Viable? Well, there were giving it away for free before, right? So the only financial gain for Microsoft is to gain market share through all ways possible, even if not legal, to push the people offering content to use the (expensive) proprietary Microsoft mechanisms. Of course an Internet Explorer Inc. would go straight downhill. But give that company all other MS pure internet products (IIS etc) and you have a company that will either rise or fall out of its own merit. (I suppose it will be the latter, but thats the laws of the market for you)

These smaller companies would duke it out for a while, and eventually one would come out on top.

Like when IBM was slowed by the government and MS arose? Yes, a new player will come after Microsoft. And I hope that one will be stopped from gobbling up the entire market as well.

I'm also opposed to Microsoft being forced to open their source code. Why? Because this != the code being under GPL/pick your favorite license. In the same vein, open source != free.

Yes. But this way, competitors could do what only Microsoft can do now (and does alot to give their products an unfair advantage), namely using all those hidden interface functions to get the most out of the OS.

Give it enough time, and Linux, MacOS, or, most likely, something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM),

Free software cant be threatened by whatever marketing tactics as it doesnt have to make profits, which is a good thing. But other commercial software companies shouldnt have to be kicked in the dirt by big Bill either. Lowering Microsofts monopoly power will help making the market a better place for everyone again.

Re:Mini MSs / DOJ missed point (1)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485340)

Or maybe try and create an open source version of Internet Explorer!!??

That would be called 'Mozilla [mozilla.org]'


Re:'If there's no settlement'? (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485341)

Hmmm, you might have something here. When I was unfortunate enough to be using Windows to learn COBOL I kept having to close my editor to use the compiler because MS has the "feature" of not allowing two programs to use the same file at the same time. Think I could sue for loss of time?
Come on I know there are some lawyers reading /. can you say "Class Action Suit" We could make millions. hehe.

Possibilities (2)

Dacta (24628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485342)

I personally am undecided as to if MS should be broken up. Perhaps strict govenment supervision (as per IBM) would work just as well.

If it were to be broken up, I see two possibilities:

  1. Breaking up along product lines. This would give us an MS Operating System (ie, 2000 & CE (or "powered or whatever they want to call it"), an MS consumer company with MS office, an MS developer company with VB, VC++ and SQL Server and possibly an Internet company with IE and MSN.
  2. Spliting along consumer product vs enterprise product lines. This would give us one company with MS Office, Windows CE, IE and maybe MS Access, and one with SQL Server, VB & VC++ and Windows2000. Maybe the first company would be able to sell some versions of 2000 as well.

Again, I am undecided about which would be best. Either way would make for a couple of interesting years in the market.

If the DOJ went the first way, and assuming the non OS companies had to "act in a cometitive manner" I can't see them ignoring the Linux market - the possible competitors for each of those companies (say Corel for Consumers, Borland & Oracle for Developers) are already shipping Linux products.

IF the second structure was choosen, I can see a very rapid rise in non-X86 PCs, because CE already runs on them. I think the enterprise company would be a pretty competitive propsition - I've used all the MS developer tools, and they aren't bad at all (okay.. VB isn't a great language, but it lets you crank out quick apps in no time)

The other possibility is settlement. Maybe MS will be forced to spin off it's office division, say. Imagine that IPO! Remember the Lucent spin off? I'd say MS shareholders wouldn't mind getting a bit of that action.

Decent and fair - that's what we want. (1)

NKJensen (51126) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485343)

People often talk about an idea somewhat like this: "MS products have an advantage over other products because they know of "undocumented" features and future plans in the MS OS."

Well, in case of a split-up of MS, all "MS-OS" should be forced to do is to publish the above info in the form of API-documents.

It should lead to some legal actions if the "mini-Bills" (or anyone else!) are caught using un-published info.

What we don't need is some clumsy government design as our common OS-API, right?

Best regards,
Niels Kr. Jensen

Another point is also to serve as a deterrent... (0)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485344)

... for the next monopolist. Indeed, Bill Gates is not the first monopolist, nor is he the last. If we give those guys the impression that they can get off with it with only a slap on their wrist, it will happen again and again and again. Even if,
for each monopoly, the situation will be "remedied" eventually, the monopolist will still have done enough damage to the marketplace in the meantime. So yes, "rewarding" Bill Gates' behaviour should be avoided at all costs.

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (3)

DaveHowe (51510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485345)

Richard Stallman wrote an interesting piece about what might be the best punishment for Microsoft from the perspective of Free Software.
Hmm. Interesting :+)
Forcing open publication of the APIs would be good in the short term, but has a couple of Big Drawbacks:
  1. It leaves Microsoft with an instant lead in products - MS can develop their own products against a new and different API, then release the API simultaniously with the product - everyone else is left to play catch-up (yes, this favours OSS over commercial software, as patches could be out in days, but many of MS's commercial competitors would take weeks or months to modify their product to handle the new APIs and file formats, and would probably want recompense for the effort.
  2. It makes MS an instant "industry standard" and reduces everything else to "MS compatable". I don't *want* MS to set the standards for how everything works, I want them to suit the job and the world, not a marketing plan. If we are going to go the Open API route, it should be a standards group designing that API, not MS.
Ok, rant over. If you are interested in alternative approaches, Cringely has put forward HIS masterplan [pbs.org] (no doubt it has just as many holes, just in different places)

I would look forward to the breakup (1)

jemfinch (94833) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485346)

Just a simple observation, but I would look forward to the breakup.

By separating the divisions of the company based on what they produce (for instance, breaking it up into MSOS, MSinternet, MS Office, and MSDeveloper, and MSGames) we could begin to see MS supports platforms that compete with Windows. If MSGames and MSInternet no longer have a loyalty to MSOS, what's keeping them from releasing IE or Age of Empires for platforms such as Linux or the BeOS?

I can't see how this would do harm to the economy or to people in general.


(of course, as an OT side point, how many people who use linux would use IE if it was released for linux?)

Better yet, just close MS (2)

Nemesis (78866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485347)

I was discussing the findings of fact with a friend, and what the possible solutions were. He said that he would just love to see Bill say, "ok fine, screw you all." and just shut down Microsoft in a day. No support, revoke the software liscenses so people had to stop using MS software(is that possible?), just shut it all down.

Its very interesting to think about what would happen... thousands of websites and servers would have to have their plugs pulled to avoid a lawsuit. Thousands of companies would instantly be shut down until alternative programs for other OS's were created. Hell, there are hundreds of companies that would just totally fail overnight.
Retail computer sales would practically cease, (would be a huge boone for the mac). What OS would take over as the OS of choice for retail PCS? Linux? HAH. While Linux is advancing in leaps and bounds, its no where near ready for Joe Sixpack to use and not be totally confused.

In the end, the world would of course move on, but for the first few months after such an event would be pretty rocky in the technology world.

Kinda makes you realize how important Microsoft is in the day-to-day operations of our technology driven lives. Even if microsoft could not revoke software liscense, their stock would be 100% worthless. Thousands of people would lose LOTS of money, stock holders and people who have mutual funds, ect. And if MS COULD revoke liscense, banks would shut down (my bank uses windows extensivly), online stock trading sites would lose 90% of their customers, ect ect ect.

I really doubt this sort of thing would happen, but its an interesting concept non-the-less. I'm really interested in hearing other peoples view-points on this sort of thing, so please reply!

What about Posner? (1)

warmenhoven (69215) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485348)

Wasn't it just last week or the week before that Posner was brought in to mediate between the two sides? And now the DoJ is looking to see what might happen if MS gets broken up. Sounds like MS is fscking up the negotiations almost as bad as they did the trial.


The DOJ would get an injunction to stop them. (2)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485349)

I don't think they'd do this for all sorts of reasons. But even if they tried it, the DOJ could have an injunction stopping them from running away from justice until it is served in an instant. And even if everyone who works for Microsoft moved, the intellectual property is owned by Microsoft US, so they need the US governments cooperation if they expect it to be protected.

Richard Stallman & Solutions (3)

Dacta (24628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485350)

http://www.gnu.org/philosoph y/microsoft-antitrust.html [gnu.org]

I think the first two ideas are very good. I'm not convinced about the third - I think it needs more explaiation. Sure, closed hardware specs are bad, but I'm not sure MS should be punished for them. If we have all the interfaces for MS software, reverse engineering closed source hardware should be easier, anyway.

Is Microsoft really that bad??? (2)

BigTed (78942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485351)

Is Microsoft really as bad as everyone makes out. Sure it is fun to bag them for money hungry, heartless bean counters that make crap products.
But it must be remembered that a lot of there products have brought the masses (for better or worse) easy *sic* to operate computers with easy to use software.

Surely breaking up MS will have a detrimental eefect on the company.
And if we want to advance technology wise into the future surely we want to encourage all technology companies. I realise that MS may have been malicious in the past but surely that can be reconciled without seriously harming a company that has brought the home PC to the masses.

PS. I wonder what word-processor this consult the DoJ have hired will use to type up his recommendation. $10 says its MSWord...

some good "stoppers" (1)

deno (814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485352)

There are several extremly important things which will stop Billy & co. from going anywhere. They are called money, Money and MONEY

  • For one thing, it would be extremely unvise to do anything which could turn US goverment and/or "public opinion", against them in the moment when they have been found "guilty as charged" and about to be convicted. Such a (stupid) move would also rise prospects for all the future anti-M$ processes, which would be a certain suicide for Microsoft.
  • Next thing is - such a move would probably (and rightfully) be interpreted as as "start of the end" of the M$ empire - I can allready imagine titles like "Evil empire expelled from the US" on slashdot, or "M$ tries to hide in Kongo" in the more pro-M$ press.
  • Third thing is - US is still the wold largest computer-market. And US has means to protect its market from foreign competitors, even if they are from Canada. As soon as US goverment has nothing to gain from M$ anymore, they will turn a blind ear to it and start helping the competitors. Just think what would happen if the goverment decides that "M$-monoculture" in govermental institutions will not be tolerated anymore, and sets some open standard requirements for formate of the electronic documents. By-bye Microsoft...
  • And finally, the profit margine on OS will soon

So, do not worry - whatever happens, M$ stays where it is. With some luck, they split in several divisions and all of the sudden it becomes possible to run former M$-owned programs on Linux & co.

Microsoft Moving Abroad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485353)

I for one would welcome Microsoft moving their operations out of the United States, because then what security features (yeah, features not bugs I'm talking about here) they do have would not be crippled by the stupid encryption export laws, at least affording some protection to those of us who live outside America. OTOH, I'm sure Microsoft wouldn't like to have to leave all the work they had done on encryption back in the U.S., but maybe its time for a major overhaul of their whole security architecture, so that they can answer their critics and give us the protection that they claim they already do (but don't). It would be nice to get a "service pack upgrade" that enabled all the features that the stupid US government makes them take out.

Re:Better yet, just close MS (2)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485354)

Well, this can't actually happen. MS can only terminate the license if you violate the terms of the agreement. It can't just shut you down on a whim (although if UCITA pushes through, they might get this kind of power).

So if MS shuts down overnight, we're left in a situation where millions of people are running software for which they have no vendor support. Oh wait, that's pretty much the way it is now, isn't it?

The biggest problem would be that no one else could provide the hotfixes to plug the endless stream of security holes in MS products that come to light every week. But assuming Melissa III didn't take down the nation's infrastructure, I don't think the fallout from MS's disappearance would be all that dramatic right away.

And in the long term, everyone would just migrate elsewhere. They all did it when 3.1 turned into 95, and most people are "expected" to do it again 95 turns into 2000. So without the iron fist threatening you with forced incompatibility if you go non-MS, I don't think the transition away from MS would be any more costly than the current parade of upgrades is.

The real trouble might be that if everyone switched over to [your favorite real OS], there would be so little immediate need for faster hardware that Moore's law would take a vacation for a couple of years.

Re:Sliders (1)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485355)

> Quite frankly they could all be made to work as janitors at the RedHat building and quit make windows forever and I wouldn't mind.

No, they'll do the Windows on the building...

I'll take that bet... (2)

Dacta (24628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485356)

I've heard that in the Legal profession (in the US at least) the WordPerfect (for DOS!!) file format is standard for all legal documents, and therefor WordPerfect is used in a much greater percentage of the legal population than in the normal business population.

I know it's offtopic, but I'd like to confirm this. How about a bit of slack, Moderators? I'll give you some of the money if I win.... ;-)

some good "stoppers" (last sentence) (1)

deno (814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485357)

Sorry for interrupted sentence. What i wanted to say was:
And finally, the profit margine on OS might soon become very low, because of the Linux & co. At that moment, Windows would become a stone on the neck of the Microsoft, instead of the money-maker.
Therefore, other divisions may be better off withouth OS-division in the future, although it wasn't so in the past.

Re:What about Posner? (1)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485358)

Whatever happens in mediation, the parties still have deadlines to meet in the trial very soon. It makes sense for DOJ to be exploring all their options now, just in case mediation falls through. So I wouldn't take this as any indication of how the talks are going.

Lines of fracture (2)

DaveHowe (51510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485359)

Assuming that MS is broken up into BabyBills, then I suggest the following:
  1. Windows OS
    The Windows OS MUST be completely separate from all of the other products - Absolutely no private contact. The Windows API published, and any changes to that API requested at scheduled "product advancement" meetings that have members of the product team, representatives from the other MS product teams equal in status to representatives of any other industry body or large software house. I *don't* expect membership to be free, but the MS reps will have to pay the same fees. Each member able to table a number of "change requests" per year, to be discussed and approved/rejected by an elected committee with 40% representation by the product developers themselves.
  2. The Bleeding Edge
    Products that are subject to rapid replacement (such as the recent rapid turnover of versions in the Compiler and Office markets) must have a reasonable duration "free" upgrade path - Say, two years from date of purchase. Products that have been discontinued and unsupported for the upgrade period fall into the public domain under a suitable OSS licence - suitable in this case allowing for NO commercial redistribution except where the product is on a separate and independently usable piece of media, clearly labelled with it's nature, that is included either nominally "free" or for a reasonable charge for the media. Maintainers to be chosen by the OSS community during a "handoff" period where control is still retained by MS.
    MS may well complain this makes *too* much proprietary code available for free - but if the upgrades aren't that great a leap, why aren't they just a Service Release?
  3. Chinese Walls
    Break apart any alliances that are detrimental to the industry as a whole - for example, Compiler writers and the packages that compile under them shouldn't have a clear line of contact - the temptation to add just one more "feature" to the compiler to make the package a little better than the rest is currently too great - if the package users had to buy their compilers off the shelf, this would remove this channel. I'm not saying they must not ever speak - just that "special" improvements to suit MS products over non-ms ones must stop.
  4. Platform support
    MS is currently leveraging it's Operating Systems by having major packages (such as Exchange) run only on that OS. All packages over a certain market share MUST support at least one _Real_ Unix (big metal systems like Sun, HPUX and so forth) and one other GUI (such as KDE, Mac or so on) from a list chosen by industry (the list, not the actual OS). For a larger percentage, more "minimum X-platform" support must be added - we are ADDING sales here, but admittedly broadening the amount of support needed - but as a larger market share requires more support personel, the number of those who can specialise per platform as second-line support staff also increases.
This is not a Statement of How Things Must Be, just how I see it - feel free to disagree :+)

Re:some good "stoppers" (1)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485360)

Point three, that the US would protect its market from foreign competitors... Under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, it cannot.

Chapter 11 allows countries to file lawsuits against the government of another NAFTA nation on the grounds that the defending nation did not give the company the exact same treatment as it would one of its own.

For more information on the implications of Chapter 11 of NAFTA, I reccommend reading this paper [citizen.org] (Acrobat req'd)
More information available at this [citizen.org] site.

All this aside, I don't think Microsoft is going anywhere either.


Re:Sliders (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485361)

Hmmm, not sure I'd trust them with that. You know how M$ + Windows = breakage. hehe.

Oh No, One Michosoft is enough !! (1)

Tuqui (96668) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485362)

- Disclosure of Undocuments API (Sorry for the Book Writers) - Govenment supervision over Non Ethics Tactics to push their New Products with the old ones.(aka IE) - Linux emerging OS share - And a Giant to turn down. Would do a Better CyberLife.

Re:Better yet, just close MS (1)

Nemesis (78866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485363)

I really didn't know if MS had the power to just revoke software liscenses, and in retrospect I guess there would be much more outcry against microsoft if such control was there. But this leads me to another question, having never actually read one of microsofts EULA's, there isn't a clause in there that allows them to change their EULAs at will is there?

I think the financial reprocussions would be VERY immediate though, as lots of people wake up to find that one of their major stocks just disapeared.

On a different note, of microsofts software support.. someone I know, who works at an un-named game company, had a rather large volume set on an NT server, to make daily backups of code, cutscenes, maps, and artwork easier and to provide for simple, mass quantity storage. For some reason which I dont remember, the volume shat all over itself and was totally unreadable. He called microsoft tech support at 3am, (it costs quite a bit of cash though), and an MS tech walked him through a bunch of recovery steps to repair the volume. A few hours later the volume was repaired and everything was fine again. If you got the cash, Microsoft will support you and hold your hand as much as you want, but I feel the average consumer is left out in the cold.

Good for the DoJ (2)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485364)

Many people who were saying the DoJ should force microsoft to open the source code were not looking at the long term. We all realize the value of opensource but allowing the government to force a company to release its intellectual property like that sets a dangerous precedent. Forcing an opening of file format standards would be ok but not all the source. I have a feeling that the route to break them up would be the best thing for the consumer.

shameless plug

Here is my original take on the whole thing. [linux.com]
/shameless plug

Breaking them up into an operating systems group and an applications group would be the best IMHO.

This of course would require a reevaluation in the future as the landscape of computing changes but for now it is the best solution. Fines don't mean jack shit to MS.

3-4 companies with everything (2)

slashdot-me (40891) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485365)

Break up Microsoft into 3 or 4 companies and give each full rights to the code. Ban all top execs from the baby bills for 8 years. After all, if the corp is divided along product lines each baby will still have a monopoly. Make 'em compete compete against each other. Maybe they could be named GatesWare, BillSoft, Victorinox, and Wenger.

(Score:2, Funny, Obscure)

Re:Is Microsoft really that bad??? (1)

Bill Daras (102772) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485366)

>But it must be remembered that a lot of there products have brought the masses (for better or worse) easy *sic* to operate computers with easy to use software.

If that is your reason for keping M$ together, I'll keep my Mac. Which beat them to it years earlier.

Re:IMNSHO Baby Bills not solution. (1)

jemfinch (94833) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485367)

Shhh....don't tell anyone, but the NT bootloader already loads other OSes...

Re:well... and..... (1)

GordonFive (9325) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485368)

This is true, the Article dosn't state that a breakup is the only option being researched. It says posible breakup.

Other options vary greatly, one being that Microsoft be forced to release the code to windows, or remove it from the shelf. Being as they are a "Monopoly", when it comes to OS's.

On the breakup side though, its kinda scary to think that there might be four different Distro's of Windoze in the mix.

Re:'If there's no settlement'? (1)

Digital_Fiend (41244) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485369)

Interesting. I don't see why that would be... each program just loads the file into memory and then it's done with it until, for example, you save the file.

I was using a text editor to write a program and then I would go into visual c++ to compile the file, and visual c++ would say "the file has changed, would you like to update the file?" or something like that. But I could still have the same file open in two programs.

I don't think the problem you were having was Microsoft's fault. :/


how about just breaking bill himself up? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485370)

You know, cut a leg off, then and arm. Volunteers?

Getting back together. (1)

Louis Blue (37759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485371)

Sure, the DOJ breaks up Microsoft, then each of those little corps work together to make what one corp did... At first, this would be good because the developers wouldn't have so much red tape, and products would get better. But the Microsoft Internet would team up in a billion dollar stock swap with Microsoft OS and we would be back to where we started, only thing is: Can you declare that four "rival" corps are a monopoly?

Microsoft WILL settle... (1)

scottj (7200) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485372)

the day that Rob releases the source to the latest version of Slash [slashdot.org] or the day that hell freezes over, whichever comes last.

But seriously, I think that a Microsoft breakup would be good for the industry. If some of that source were to be opened up, many hackers out there could create new tools for our beloved open source operating systems. Just imagine: a browser and a word processor on Linux that look, feel, and function exactly the same as IE and Word (well, I hope somebody would at least remove some of the IE bugs, though ;)

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (1)

kinkie (15482) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485373)

Forcing Microsoft to release its source code would have many pros and cons, which have nothing to do with Free Software.

Free Software (as in speech) is all about allowing people to improve on a piece of software, and make derivative works off it.
Forcing Microsoft to release the source code for its products has the purpose to make harmless the biggest weapon Microsoft has against its competitors: the intimate knowledge of the applications' (and OS') internals.

In fact I believe that, if such a road be taken, only the OS should be "uncovered" (I wouldn't call this "opened"), as THAT is the main leverage Microsoft has to create "superior" products on the applicative area. Also, I wouldn't advise for the OS to be released in Open Source-ish terms: it would be perfectly fine for the OS to be released only under NDA, and without the right to create any derivative work, but access to it should be granted to anyone requesting it.
This because the OS internals are (legitimately) an intellectual property of the writer, and that should be respected as long as this right is not misused (as Microsoft has done in the past).

This said, Microsoft already "failed" (in the Caldera vs. Microsoft lawsuit) to provide the source code to Windows 95....

Chinese Walls (2)

Bradley (2330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485374)

I think that the Chinese wall idea is a nice idea, but realistically unworkable.

Imagine that, as you seem to be inferring above, MSOfficeApps, Inc (Stuff like MSOffice, money - bascially stuff for businesses) was separated from MSDevelopment (the compiler/devel environments/etc). The office company would still probably be the largest customer of MSDevel, representing the most number of uesrs (correct me if I'm wrong)

A company should be able to talk to its largest customer. If this customer has a reasonable feature suggestion, then it should be implemented. And a feature requested by the company with the most number of users using its software would probably have a higher priority than one from a small developer with only a few customers.

The fact that that customer is an MS Company shouldn't change things.

MS, because of its size and marketshare, would, no matter how its broken up, still have to have these close ties.

Its very hard to distinguish between legitimate contacts and anticompetitive tactics, and I don't know how to draw the line in a clear way. Suggestions?

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (4)

evilpenguin (18720) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485375)

something else will take away Microsoft's monopoly. It's happenned before (IBM)

What you fail to mention is that a big part of the reason IBM lost its monopoly was a decade-long anti-trust investigation by the DoJ. IBM became a more conservative and careful company during this time, giving a number of competitiors considerably wider freedom of action.

I cannot understand how it came to be that the notion of "free markets" (meaning, apparently, comeplete lack of legal and government oversight) came to be enshrined as a faith. And make no mistake, it is a faith. There is no evidence to support the notion that a completely laissez-faire approach to economics produces anything resembling a just and equitable society. What it does produce is violent boom-bust cycles and a small class of plutocrats.

If you compare the present, highly regulated American economy to the American economy of any period prior to and including the Great Depression I think you will find a much wealthier populace, with a greater proportion of the population in the so-called "middle class." Of course there is still tremendous concentration of wealth. That's because wealth is power, and power will act to coerce the system to their interests. Of course there is considerable poverty, but much of this is due to failures of other social institutions, notably education. It is exacerbated by mental illness and drug abuse. I don't claim to understand the nature of these social ills. I have been lucky enough never to have been poor, so I don't pretend that I understand what it means, or why people find themselves there, but I do know that if we educated everybody and made a commitment to take care of those who truly cannot take care of themselves, things would be better than they are now.

Sorry, I've drifted rather far afield. I guess what I'm saying is, when you hear the blanket assertion that "free market: GOOD, government regulation: BAD," question it. I don't think it is really so. If you believe it, ask yourself why.

There is such a thing as a totally unregulated, unfettered, free-market business. We call it the mob. Ask youself if you want to live in a country where a business can do ANYTHING that is economically expedient, from dumping toxic wastes in rivers to assisinating rivals and then ask if regulation is all bad.

I don't like socialism or communism. I do not believe in state ownership of industry or in the elimination of private property. I believe in the profit motive, and in the connection between entrpreneurship and wealth. I believe that a rising tide raises all boats. But I also believe that there are larger social interests than amassing wealth for one's stockholders, and that part of the role of government is to be responsive to those social needs and thus to act as a check on the power of privately held money. That's why your vote is so important. Your vote is the only other currency out there besides the dollars. Sure, dollars largely control elections, but they still have to have your vote. Don't think for moment that monied interests aren't glad that voter turnout keeps falling. That weakens the vote currency and strenthens the cash currency.

It's all interrelated... Think...

Missing The Point (2)

mikera (98932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485376)

If MS gets broken up, then the new companies won't have anywhere near the monopoly power that microsoft currently enjoys. Any breakup would have clauses preventing the companies merging back together again (e.g. via stock swaps), so there would be no danger of them becoming a monopoly again.

All the baby bills would have an economoic incentive to cut prices, increase quality and outpace the others. That's why we want the breakup in the first place. Adam Smith's invisible hand simply doesn't work unless markets behave competitively.

If the baby bills tried to fix artificially high prices by collusion, they would be utterly screwed by anti-cartel legislation. Price fixing is illegal in most economically developed countries. They wouldn't be able to individually break standards, because breaking compatibility would really make them look like a bad investment.

My guess is that the baby bills would, after some initial confusion, end up targetting slightly different market sectors. One might aim at home users/education sector. Another may go for corporate contracts. Another may position itself for government deals. I would also predict a fairly rapid drop in prices as the companies each try to promote their windows version early on.

Breakup is good for the consumer, good for the industry and maybe even good for Microsoft shareholders in the long run.

It also has the great advantage of requiring very little in terms of red tape and goverment regulation. Once the breakup is done, the goverment can simply get out and leave competition to do its thing.

Re:Breaking up Microsoft (2)

evilpenguin (18720) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485377)

And I meant assassinating. I'm not sure what assisinating means... Must... get... coffee... Cannot... spell... without... caffiene... ;-)

Re:Decent and fair - that's what we want. (1)

mikera (98932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485378)

I Quite agree. The goverment is definitely not the one to mess with software design.

But they could do us all a great favour by writing some simple legislation that requires all APIs to be open. In the name of fairness, I guess this should apply to all companies, and not just Microsoft.

I can't think of a single situation where having a secret API is beneficial to the industry as a whole. The only point of secret APIs that I can see is as a tool of unfair competition or as a way to lock in consumers. Neither of these is good.

One the government have done their job and set the framework for fair competition in place, they should get out and leave the invisible hand to do it's job.

Re:Chinese Walls (2)

DaveHowe (51510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485379)

A company should be able to talk to its largest customer. If this customer has a reasonable feature suggestion, then it should be implemented. And a feature requested by the company with the most number of users using its software would probably have a higher priority than one from a small developer with only a few customers.
Oh, I don't doubt it - I just didn't think it worthwhile retyping the whole of the comment on the OS API for the compiler... What I am implying is that the MS Package writers, having requested an improvement or change to the compiler to accomodate what they need to do, would get a STANDARD PATCH that *any* of the compiler's customers could use - that way, any new features in the compiler can be taken advantage of by the package's competitors as well as the package team themselves. That way, improvements to the complier will benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one thin slice of it. As it stands now, almost certainly a lot of the compiler "patches" don't see light of day - they are for internal use only, and will only be released if a competing compiler has that functionality (and they can't sue them for decompiling the code).
The other factor is only assumed - that "improvements" that are requested by customers in markets MS is competing in would currently be notified to the DEV team for that market, regardless of if the compiler team go ahead and create the patch. I don't know if this happens or not, but it would be foolish to assume it didn't, if you WERE that competitor...

Microsoft horror movie (3)

marx (113442) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485380)

In nethack, there is a Troll class of monsters, that behave just like normal monsters, but is nearly impossible to get rid of. If you kill them, and leave the corpse, it will come alive again after a while, and continue hunting you. The only way to get rid of it is to eat the corpse, or put it in a box and lock it.

From reading these discussions I get the feeling Microsoft is a bit similar, I agree though. The name Microsoft is so ubiquitous that by simply having that name, you can sell almost anything (and thus achieve dominance etc. etc.), it's some sort of herd behaviour I suppose. It's like you need to bury the whole of Microsoft for a while, until people get the name out of their heads, and things can start over.

Re:IMNSHO Baby Bills not solution. (1)

mikera (98932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485381)

Just one point: producer cartels are illegal. The baby bills would not be permitted to co-operate in a way that allowed them to wield combined monopoly power. I'm sure whoever engineered the breakup would do so in a way that guaranteed active competition.

IIRC, in the US competing suppliers are not even permitted to *talk* about pricing arrangements with a competitor. Maybe a lawyer could clarify that one a little.....

Given that baby bills with equal access to the source code would have identical products and target markets, I would anticipate that they would be very fierce competitors. Prices would drop rapidly, and there would be a huge incentive for the baby bills to improve their products to gain a competitive advantage.

Re:The effect of a breakup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485382)

I agree with this...back in the day when big bad rockafella' got slapped with the whole monopoly thing, he knew he could profit from the issue as Microsoft can if its played out correctly. The Rock profited from it by plitting his company and Microsoft might not ever go away if they follow in his footsteps (Boooo!)

Re:'If there's no settlement'? (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485383)

Really? Well Leo Laporte just had the same problem on "Call for Help" a few days back, he couldn't access a file because outlook was using it. I've experienced this many times. Maybe it is an obscure preference I need to change? Or maybe I am just too used to Linux. I don't know, either way it happened. I was using Windows 98 if that makes a difference.

Changin' the Judge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485384)

It's true that there is a new election for President in USA?

It's true that the elected President will change all Federal Judges?

It's true that Microsoft is given a lot of money to one candidate?

What you think will happens?

Re:Breaking Up Microsoft (2)

bmetzler (12546) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485385)

Yeah, it may be nice to bring the giant down, but will breaking it up into smaller companies really be good for your average computer user?

Okay, wise guy. I'm waiting to hear. Why wouldn't it be a good for the average consumer?

Here are a few reasons why it would be good.

1. There will be no more forced bundling on OEM's, which will result in better usuability, and less support problems for consumers. (Here I would note the proper bullets from the FoF, but unfortunately, I don't have them handy :( )

2. Lower prices for consumers. This means that consumers would have more money to spend on other software for their computers. (Again, I'd point out the proper bullet...)

3. Better compatibility. Just like cars have a lot of intercompatibility, if Microsoft were broken up, that would, in part force the companies to have compatibility with other products. Right now, if I need to send a document to someone I need to find out what word processor they have, and then try to get it in that format.

4. You get the idea. Splitting up the company will force them to have different practices, thereby benefitting consumers.


Re:The effect of a breakup (2)

bmetzler (12546) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485386)

The basic effect of 1 I see is that Windows (and perhaps Office, etc...) become fragmented.

I disagree. Having multiple companies working on Windows compatible OS's will *not* fragment it. Just like, if the Windows API was documented and WINE supported it perfectly, that wouldn't result in fragmentation.

I don't see much of a direct benefit to Linux/Be/etc, until the versions of Windows become drastically different (which won't happen for many years, if at all).

The purpose of the trial is *not* to benefit Linux, or Apple, or BeOS, or Sun, although that is a probable side effect. The purpose is to benefit consumers. And consumers certainly will benefit when MS has to compete against other Windows to convince OEM's that their product is better.


Re:Breaking up will be good for me and good for yo (2)

bmetzler (12546) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485387)

I'm afraid I don't follow this.. the breaking up of MS into baby Bills doesn't help matters, all you will be doing is creating seperate monopolies which will just continue functioning.

Microsoft was able to force Internet Explorer on OEM's by threatening their Licensing Agreements. By breaking up the company, the company that own IE won't have another program that it can wield to force OEM's to use their product. IE would then have to lie and die on it's own merits.


Re:Breaking up Microsoft (2)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485388)

Free software cant be threatened by whatever marketing tactics as it doesnt have to make profits, which is a good thing.
I see what you mean, but I'm really not sure I agree.

What keeps free software viable? Mindshare. Why's Linux growing so fast right now? Because people are annoyed with the mainstream - specifically, Windows 98 and NT4 - and so want an alternative. Linux seems to many to be the most viable and can be tried for next-to-no monetary cost, so it's worth giving it a spin. Now, a percentage of those who try it will be programmers and will decide to help with one (or more) projects that make up the Linux-based OS that they use. So the development is enriched and perpetuated.

Imagine a world where NT was actually good, though. Big step I know, but try it :) Would people still be moving to Linux? Some, sure. There are always going to be people who will go for it on ideological grounds, or who find it better for their needs. But there's still that corporate fear of the GPL and open, community-based development so, without the technical advantage that Linux currently offers in some areas, how many would try it? Lots less. So you get less new programmers joining, less visibility because you don't have all this news about it and potentially lose programmers who get fed up with the perceived invisibility of the product. Eventually, this can kill the project.

OSS development can't go bankrupt but it can lose mindshare, which is just as fatal. It's a lot harder but it's perfectly possible.


Re:I'm sure Bill Gates is laughing now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485389)

Yup. AT&T was broken into more monoplies. Each RBOC got it's own little monoply. Of course AT&T invented something called Unix so you can figure they are a little smarter then the people who brought you BOB.

Re:The effect of a breakup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485390)

It isn't about damage to Microsoft!#$@#@. If you want damage to Microsoft look to the Caldera lawsuit which would bankrupt Microsoft. The other thing is who know how it will be broken up. Baby bills or lines of biz? The other other thing is that it will let the current Microsoft customers [IBM et all] to compete harder with Microsoft. IBM isn't pushing Linux because it likes Linus hair. They hate being the second/third company in the computer industry. You think they might like to tweak Microsofts nose a little?

Re:IMNSHO Baby Bills not solution. (2)

bmetzler (12546) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485391)

don't tell anyone, but the NT bootloader already loads other OSes...

Yes, it *does*. But Microsoft's license agreement with OEM's, prevents the OEM's from using it to dual-boot multiple preloaded OSes.


Break them up (1)

shitface (121619) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485392)

Well it is my understanding that Microsoft is worth more collectivly than as seperate entities. Given I read this in a article and though I believe it- I at the same time offer no proof. Some people have said that the AT&T split up may of hurt people intially but in the long run it was just a case of the rich getting richer.

Now it is time to discredit myself completely. I have heard that Microsoft may be split into five seperate parts. It seems that many Microsoft employees are rather involved in the triple-x (porn) industry. It is rumored that much of the success of ie 5.0 is because of the easy access to porn that Microsoft provides.

I am also thinking about sueing Billy Gates for make me a violent person. It is on his operatoring that I became addicted to the mindless violence of first doom and then quake. Besides the viedo games, I also am known to go into violent tirades when my computer crashes.

It's not enough (4)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485393)

a breakup would leave Microsoft (MSFT) with three or four viable businesses while still being the appropriate punishment for any antitrust violations

In what sense is this a punishment? If history is any guide the shareholders will gain from a breakup if anything, a la Standard Oil.

If split horizontally, the part of Microsoft that still owns the operating system will still be a bad actor, as will the part that owns the office products. If split vertically the companies will simply collude unless prevented from doing so by some sort of regulation - the sort of regulation that BillG has shown great willingness and skill at circumventing in the past.

At minimum the following needs to be accomplished:

Microsoft must be prevented from attacking its competitors and driving them out of business. (it's illegal for a monopoly to do this)

Microsoft must be prevented from subverting public protocols and standards

Microsoft must be prevented from extending its monopoly in office systems by means of secret file formats and protocols

Microsoft must be prevented from leveraging its operating system francise by means of secret/patented api's, protocols and file formats.

Microsoft must be prevented from using its monopoly position in operating systems and office applications to control the behaviour of OEM's, distributors, retailers, ISP's, online services, etc.

Microsoft must be prevented from using its ownership/control of internet access providers and carriers such as cable companies to force use of it's proprietary software and/or protocols.

How are these things going to be accomplished by a breakup? I'm very skeptical that a breakup will address these goals at all. In the end, further remedies will have to be applied or we'll see the same old thing all over again. Then what?

The US/Canada tax act (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485394)

You forget the tax agreement. The IRS would rightly claim that Microsoft was in fact being wound up and look for capital gains taxes. Whats the book value of microsofts assets? Lets see taxes on $500 billion. Then you do the same thing to all employees that leave the country. All thier stock options get deemed sold.

Re:My choice (0)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1485395)

... Which then brings in the question of whether anti-trust violation should be a civil or criminal offence.

Looking back at Microsoft's history I see very few redeeming features and would be perfectly happy if they were dismantled, their assets licensed to the three highest bidders for each item (or whatever) and Microsoft shares declared null and void. They've made enough of a mess of computing that I would happily see them removed from the equation.

However, with anti-trust law as it stands it's not possible to do this as the company can't have assets removed. Why, though? And why should the shareholders be allowed to profit from a company that's behaved illegally? Because it's been said many times that a breakup would almost certainly lead to substantial financial benefit to the shareholders. I would consider their behaviour no better than theft or fraud so why should they not be treated as a thief and a fraudster?

Disclaimer: I'm British and not a lawyer. Flame me if you want.


Re:Look into the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485396)

I can hear Obi-wan saying "Strike me down, and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

I don't think breaking up MS would be beneficial to competition for exactly the reason you stated. The last single company I remember that had as strong a market position as MS does now was AT&T. Uncle Sam thought he could bring that down by splitting the company apart, and that appeared to work for a while. Shortly after, though, the new Baby Bell's grew to be far more powerful than the old AT&T. Each of the Baby Bill's would gradually regain power, until you eventually have 4 (or however many) companies near the position MS is in now... and they will all undoubtedly cooperate with each other. Instead of a single company dominating most of the market, you will have several companies collectively dominating all of the market.

Re:some good "stoppers"-Point three, that the US w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1485397)

I guess that explains the problems with softwood? Grain? Need I keep going? Nafta has more holes then swiss cheese. Any smart trade lawyer could find some reason to drag things out. Lets assume Microsoft sues and wins damages. The DOJ siezes the damages to cover the damages caused by Microsoft.
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