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The Microsoft Antitrust Suit. Trust A trust is any large industrial or commercial corporation or combination having a monopolistic or semi-monopolistic.

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Presentation on theme: "The Microsoft Antitrust Suit. Trust A trust is any large industrial or commercial corporation or combination having a monopolistic or semi-monopolistic."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Microsoft Antitrust Suit

2 Trust A trust is any large industrial or commercial corporation or combination having a monopolistic or semi-monopolistic control over production of some commodity or service (Websters) So antitrust means against or opposing a trust Antitrust law protects competition, not necessarily competitors –for the benefit of the consumers (long run)

3 The Sherman Antitrust Act Original federal statute opposing trusts (1890) Named for Senator John Sherman Based on Congress constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce Regulated by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and/or the Federal Trade Commission Many states have similar statutes

4 Sherman if we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over production, transportation and sale of any of the necessaries of life

5 Two Criteria Monopoly power –having substantial market share (over the long run), i.e. enough power to control the market Exclusionary or predatory practices –acts which have no legitimate business purpose other than to stamp out competition

6 An example: United States v. Lorain Journal Co. The Journal (in Lorain, Ohio) would not take ads from businesses that advertised on the local radio station which represented the only competition for advertising revenue –Monopoly power: they were the only paper in town –Exclusionary or predatory practices: refusing to take ads had no legitimate business justification other than to eliminate competition

7 The Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General, Janet Reno Assistant Attorney General, Joel Klein The trial counsel, David Boies (a.k.a. Jaws, also lawyer for Gore in Florida Supreme Court)

8 Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates President and CEO, Steven Ballmer Lawyer, William Newkom

9 Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson

10 Questions 1. Does Microsoft have monopoly power? 2. Has it engaged in predatory or exclusionary practices?

11 Findings of Fact The judge has ruled the pertinent market to be that of Intel-Compatible PCs –so non-Intel compatible PC operating systems (e.g. Mac) are not seen officially as competitors –likewise for non-PC operating systems (e.g. Unix) in the market so defined, Microsoft has monopoly power and is likely to maintain it for some time to come (why?)

12 Platform Recall that the software between the user and the hardware is multi-layered The operating system provides a platform, the so-called application programming interfaces (APIs) upon which applications interact with the hardware This platform allows Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to focus on application software and not hardware idiosyncrasies

13 The Standard Bearer Microsofts dominance provided ISVs with a standard platform to build their applications upon Self-perpetuating situation: –The more standard it became, the more ISVs used it to write their applications –The more ISVs used it to write their applications, the more standard it became

14 Applications barrier to entry The overwhelming majority of consumers will use only a PC operating system for which there already exists a large and varied set of high-quality, full-featured applications

15 What price software? One criterion for establishing whether a company has monopoly power is its pricing practice. It is difficult to apply the standard rules to software Most of the cost is in development, almost none in production

16 Remember Establishing monopoly power is not enough Did Microsoft engage in predatory practices to maintain or extend its monopoly? The current allegations focus on Microsofts inclusion of its browser Internet Explorer (IE) along with its operating system Windows

17 Is a browser an application? Recall a browser is software used to gain access to and view files on the World Wide Web Part of the operating systems job is to manage files; these days those files may be on the web, so maybe the browser is part of a modern operating system But the browser is used directly by the user, so maybe its an application

18 Microsofts side The inclusion of IE is a matter of integration and innovation; it is: –what the user wants –what the ISV wants –consistent with past business practices (Office is the integration of word processing, spread sheets, and so on)

19 The DOJs side The inclusion of IE is a matter of bundling and leveraging Bundling is offering or supplying related products or services in a single transaction at one all-inclusive price Leveraging is the act of placing a less popular product in the same package as a very popular product

20 Give it away, give it away, give it away now The DOJ views the inclusion of IE with Windows 98 as giving it away, which would constitute predatory pricing Microsoft also gave IE to users of non-Microsoft operating systems, such as Apples Macintosh

21 Other alleged predatory practices Withholding crucial technical information Excluding Netscape Navigator from important distribution channels Developing and insisting upon the usage of their own implementation of Java

22 Three stages 1. Finding of fact –November 1999 2. Conclusions (ruling) of law –April 2000 3. Remedy (judgment) –June 2000

23 Findings of Fact (Nov. 1999) After a 76-day trial (no jury), Judge Jackson came out with his Findings of Fact, the first step toward judgement His view is very consistent with the DOJs and has been called a Readers Digest version of the governments Finding of Fact

24 Judge quotes: Microsoft possesses a dominant, persistent and increasing share of the worldwide market for Intel-compatible operating systems Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition.

25 Judge quotes (cont.): Microsoft needed to give its browser away in furtherance of the larger strategic goal of accelerating Internet Explorers acquisition of browser usage share.

26 Conclusions of Law (Apr. 2000) Not very surprising, given the Findings of Fact According to them, Microsoft did violate the Sherman Antitrust Act

27 Klein quote: "We are very pleased with the Court's ruling. The Court concluded that Microsoft violated the antitrust laws by abusing its monopoly power and attempting to monopolize the internet browser market. The decision will benefit consumers and stimulate competition and innovation in the high-tech industry."

28 Balmer quote: We spent the past 25 years thinking of ourselves as a small, aggressive company playing catch-up to industry giants, even though at some point along the way we became a large company. … values we hold dear opportunity for everyone, integrity, innovation, customer focus and partnership have been called into question today.

29 Remedy (June 2000) Breaking up Microsoft –Baby Bills One for Operating Systems One for Applications (incl. browsers) The big wigs cannot own a substantial stock in both (who will be the standard bearer?)

30 More to follow Directly to the Supreme Court? –NO United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit –No. 00-5212 (U.S. vs. Microsoft) –No. 00-5213 (New York, et al. v. Microsoft)

31 Technology Tutorial To speed things up, the Appeals judges were going to have a technology review But even basic questions like what is a browser? and what is an operating system? are controversial in this case And neither side wanted their point of view compromised by the review

32 Whats to come? Oral arguments in the Court of Appeals are scheduled for Feb. 26 and 27 After that: –Supreme Court? –European Union? –Individual and/or class action suits?

33 References 03conference.asp 64.htm 64.htm asp Newsweek, Nov. 15, 1999. The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 1999. The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 5, 2000. The Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2000.

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