OT Judge Pulls Plug on Microsoft Settlement

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Sat Apr 1, 11:53 pm

Judge pulls plug on Microsoft settlement

Any Windows of opportunity for an out-of-court settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case closed Saturday, when a U.S. judge gave up trying to mediate a deal.

"After more than four months, it is apparent that the disagreements among the parties. . . are too deep-seated to be bridged," Judge Richard Posner said in a statement Saturday night.

"I regret to announce the end of my efforts."

Posner refused to comment on the merits of the case, or the negotiating positions taken by either side.

Microsoft Corporation is being sued by the U.S. government and 19 states. They accuse the giant company of using monopoly power to reduce or eliminate competition in the computer industry.

In his initial findings last November, the U.S. District Judge hearing the case, Thomas Penfield Jackson, said he agreed with nearly all of the allegations being made.

But Jackson agreed to postpone his final decision so that both sides could have more time to reach a possible out-of-court deal. Posner was appointed by the court to handle the mediation.

In the past few weeks, Jackson warned both parties to hurry up or he would issue his ruling. Posner tried one last time before declaring the talks a failure.

Late Saturday, Microsoft expressed disappointment that the government would not agree to a "reasonable settlement."

Although no details of the negotiations have been confirmed, it's believed the company proposed changes that would have made it easier for competitors to produce software for its Windows operating system.

There were reports it was also prepared to stop giving preferred customers special discounts.

The antitrust lawsuit was filed in 1998, after Microsoft founder Bill Gates failed to reach a last-minute deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.

If Jackson rules against Microsoft, more hearings will be held to determine what sanctions to impose, including whether it should be broken up into smaller companies.

If Microsoft appeals the decision, the case could be tied up in court for several more years.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), April 02, 2000


I don't know about anyone else, but I saw a clip of Bill Gates' statement on the news. He looked anything but a man who had been humbled and would admit he had been wrong - smirking and unrepentant throughout his whole statement.

I hope he gets what's coming to him...

-- Deb M. (vmcclell@columbus.rr.com), April 02, 2000.

What's interesting is we have two villians battling it out here. We all agree Microsoft is just awful, and we also agree that the government's rather arbitrary abuse of power is awful as well. When the two square off, as far as I can tell, the "vote" here easily favors the government. Not that Microsoft has done anything that everyone else hasn't tried to do, it's just that Microsoft succeeded. Can't have success, so let's have more powerful government.

I guess the philosophy is, Let private citizens be themselves and make their own decisions without government interference and red tape, EXCEPT when we don't like what those citizens are doing. Then let's stop them. And THEN, we turn around and wonder why we're burdened with such an intrusive government! All we want is the government to get off OUR back, but stay on HIS back. Right?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), April 02, 2000.

I remember YEARS ago when Standard Oil Company was broken up into smaller companies by the Feds. I worked for them at the time. What good did that do? It changed the name of the payer on our paychecks, but while I still worked for Standard Oil Company, someone down the hall worked for Amoco Oil Company, and someone else worked for Amoco Chemical Company, etc. Lots of signs needed changing in service stations. Letterhead needed changing.

So, as *I* see it, Microsoft COULD have to change some letterhead, a few logos, etc.,but beneath all the changes, Microsoft will STILL be Microsoft. This cost the taxpayers HOW much, you say?

-- Anita (notgiving@anymore.thingee), April 02, 2000.

It seems like a gray area to me. It seems like a parent who wakes up one day and looks at their unruly 16 year old, and thinks punishment for something he did when he was 10 is going to help matters.

If the government were to have done anything, they should have done it pre-1995 by taking action against bundling of Windows and the office suite, and Microsoft's deals with PC makers. With the help of those and other anti-competitive tactics such as control of the operating system enabling them to beat competitors to the marketplace with their applications, however buggy the 1.0 releases were, Microsoft conquered the desktop. (Yes and also with the help of software which is friendly to users, bugs or no bugs) But the desktop is no longer where the action is.

The action is on the internet now. Open up Infoworld or any trade publication which is not specifically Microsoft-centric and you get a broader picture. Where is all this supposed stifling of innovation now? There is no doubt that Microsoft did crush a lot of the competition with the help of dubious tactics (just one example was the saga of the long rivalry between Microsoft and Borland. Even though Borland shot themselves in the foot, Microsoft took out both their kneecaps). But I don't see how remedies in the present are going to make up for that. The marketplace has changed so drastically, the remedies would be irrelevant.

As for keeping Microsoft in check from doing other things like taking over the worlds' stock exchanges well, yes....

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), April 02, 2000.

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